Hey oldie! Yeah, you! You’re officially invited to a seminar on Entering Your Thirties, situated in a nicely ventilated room with easily accessible bathrooms and protein-based snacks. The event is meant to start on the hour, but we’re aware you might be a bit late, because leaving the house now involves something of a circuit course of “check the heater, check the stove, check the lights, check you’ve locked the front door, did you really check the stove, what about the oven, better double-check the door’s really locked, and maybe check the heater once more on your way out.”
So we can assume you’ll all be a little bit late from your circuit training. Let’s not forget the fact that the walk from tram stop to conference centre will take a bit longer this evening because you’ve forgotten to do your double leg calf raises, which are a necessity handed down to you by your venerated Physiotherapist, ever since you injured your overly mobile ankles during a particularly energetic bout of Jewish folk dancing.
We also welcome those of you who might want to Skype into this meeting, and we thank you for your searingly honest RSVPs explaining this choice. Some of our favourite responses were, “I work 9-5, in order to spent 5-9 away from humanity” and “if a bold and risky entrepreneur suggested installing a toilet and fridge inside the structure of a bed, I would singlehandedly make that entrepreneur a millionaire.”
Other regrets coming in are from the perkier and fitter members of our over-30s who tell us that they must exercise without pause between the hours of 5pm and 10pm in order to stave off the inevitable descent into decrepitude and calf-weakness that yawns and flashes ever-temptingly before them.
We hope those of you who are left – you, who missed her train on the Upfield line, and you, who wants to avoid his housemates’ marathon viewing of Four Weddings – find this seminar helpful. We will be covering such topics as:
“I didn’t know I even had that muscle until it started hurting”
“Why can’t I eat with the gusto I used to?”
“I need to tell more strangers more often what they’re doing incorrectly”
and our most popular topic, “No more caffeine after 4pm: a night-terrors and micturition tale”
We look forward to seeing you at this exciting event, and hearing your many interminable anecdotes.
Sunshine is a controversial thing. Many people love it. Many people avoid it at all costs. Many celebrities have opinions on it, treating it like a too-smart antagonist in a David Mamet play. They shield themselves from it desperately, with creams and hats and glasses.
Sunshine causes burning and drying and crinkling, but it also provides energy (in literal and metaphorical ways), and little sprouts curling out of the ground ever-skywards, and it is also a useful signifier when trying to explain the sight, smell and (assumed, never tested) taste of jonquils.
Sunshine is something I have tended to avoid. I am sensitive to sunshine due to my pale Eastern European skin. Russian Jews are sensitive to sunlight the way in the same way we are sensitive to changes in people’s mood, feedback that is not couched in a compliment sandwich, and trace amounts of gluten.
As a result, I tend to enjoy the look of sunshine, and the jonquils it allows to pop defiantly out of the earth during the depths of winter, but I do not enjoy too much of an exposure to sunshine. For me, sunshine on skin is a sometimes-treat. Too much of it, and you’re spraying anaesthetic cream on your butt in a badly ventilated bathroom that night.
However, sunlight is something you really miss when you spend a winter in Melbourne. Melbourne has very very little sunlight during the winter months. You might find you’ve got through a whole week of grey days without once feeling a brush of its hot fingers on your vulnerable neck skin.
As a result, a lot of Melbournites find themselves progressively folding into themselves over the course of a long winter. After all, what are we but delicate little jonquils ourselves, trying desperately to pop our bright heads out of the soil and stay alive?
It’s easy to forget that sunshine ever existed, that it was part of your day-to-day, that hot rays once smiled down on you, sizzling your monobrow hairs and making your stockings give you sweat-itch on the back of your thighs.
Melbourne winter has warmth, like the sardine-packed South Morang line after peak hour, or a state theatre company filled with a mass of old people’s sleep-farts, but Melbourne does not give sun easily.
This is where Vitamin D comes in. A few months ago I was in my friend’s bathroom and noticed he had a bottle with 1,000 Vitamin D tablets. The little transparent bubbles clinked alluringly in their plastic tub. He told me, “they’re essential. You must.”
And can I just say: Vitamin D is a game-changer. You’ll notice the difference next time you do your sanity-power-walk in your lunch break, and you welcome the cloud-lined sky with a wink and a grin, instead of just another weary sigh.
Vitamin D is so much more than a funny euphemism for dicks regularly used by members of the gay and hag community. Vitamin D is what will get you through a Victorian winter.
Now you go out and get that D, baby girl.
There are a few things at WJLI HQ that are really important to us: regular sunshine, ongoing dog-access, and foods that double-bang the descriptors of both salty AND crunchy.
Sometimes we decide it’s time to stretch open our experience bank a little wider, to make sure that we are exposing you to all the important things that life has to offer.
This is all a pretty long-winded way of saying: I tried ear-candling for you.
I’m no stranger to attempted ear-candling. The last time I tried it was roughly 10 years ago, and it was not a success.
My mum had invested in luxury hair interventions for my sister and myself at a curl-centric salon in Waverley. The salon was helmed by a woman who dressed in all purple and wore her long mane of curly white hair long and free.
This woman told us that many women commit Crimes Against Curls, because we grow up in a culture that teaches us to restrain our mane. This was the worst thing we could ever do to our curls. Every time we tied our hair back with a restraining elastic band, we were rubbing those delicate follicles so raw that they became dry and snappable.
I didn’t even dare ASK her what she thought of rubber bands in hair. I wanted to walk out of there alive.
According to this Earth Mother of Curls, we should treat our hair as if it is a veil of chiffon, and our shoulders like a brittle rock. Gently splay out your curls upon the rock, careful of stressing, snagging, pulling or traumatising the hair.
I learnt a lot from this woman, so when she offered me a very reasonable upsell of “healing temple massage plus bonus ear candling”, I immediately said yes. The temple massage was extraordinarily healing, and helped me process the feelings I had around a very emotionally draining play I was acting in that week.
(Our university theatre society had decided that the best application of first year Drama student skills was a production of The Diary of Anne Frank, and I played the vain Mrs Van Daan, who progressively loses her furs and expensively cultivated looks over the course of the play, as a metaphor for the costs of fascism.)
After this healing massage, I lay on a soft floor for my ear candling. Earth Mother delicately plonked a beeswax tube into my ear canal, set it on fire, and went off on her lunch break. With no one manning my candle, I was lax in ensuring it had been dug deep enough into my ear. When we pulled the candle out afterward, it was completely dry and empty of even a small ball of wax.
Ten years passed before I attempted ear candling again. I thought, “What’s the point? It’s just like Rescue Remedy and oil pulling. Useless.”
Until one day, the health food shop in Northlands had a special “4 for 2 deal” and my inner Scrooge said, “if not now, when?”
And here’s the lesson I learnt about ear candling.
YOU GOTTA CRAM THAT BABY DEEP IN YOUR EAR IF YOU WANT IT TO DO SHIT!
With a deeply-filled ear hole, I finally experienced the big deal that everyone had been going on about all these years. Ear candling is UTTER MAGIC. It is a wholly mindful experience with an incredibly useful side-effect of clean ears. I now swear by it.
Let me tell you some of the best stuff about ear candling:
- The fact that you can listen to what it sounds like to have a fire inside your head
- The fact that said fire has the double duty of SUCKING WAX OUT OF YOUR HEAD AND TAKING IT SOMEWHERE NEW
- The fact that it is a beautiful trust exercise between you and whoever is facilitating your candling, due to the proximity of flame to your delicate eyelash hairs.
- The fact that YOU GET TO CUT OPEN THE CANDLE AFTERWARDS AND SEE WHAT DISGUSTING THINGS YOU ACHIEVED.
I don’t want to go into too much detail, but yes I do. Of course I do.
Imagine what 30 years of just cleaning your ear with just ear buds looks like. Pushing wax deeper into your ear canal so that it starts a new society up there and declares squatter’s rights. And then imagine a big cleansing fire coming through and razing that village to the ground. Ok, this isn’t a nice image to anyone except Liberal Party HQ, but try to remember this is about your ears, and not social policy.
At the end of a good candling, you will have a candle full of dusty hoovered skin flakes, and several hard balls of wax. The skin flakes look like what I imagine would happen if you beat up a really old tiny skeleton and it exploded inside the borders of your boyfriend’s sink. The balls of wax look like precious amber stones. They would look at home strung on a necklace, and they are heavy in volume, like a high-class Easter egg. When you drop them in the sink, they make a sonorous “clink”. They are heaven.
Ear waxing, for me, is now going to be filed next to “eating avocado” and “saying no to fun” as one of those things that you should have appreciated years and years ago, but what can you do about that now?
All you can do is the following thing: schedule a six-monthly appointment for ear candling, and begin harvesting a beautiful collection of your ear amber to share with your human/dog progeny one day in the future.
Sometimes, I like to talk to young professional friends about what a career in theatre is like. It’s illuminating to share experiences with them, and hear what their own career conditions are like. They talk about occasionally frustrating workmates, unimpressive pay at first, but a sense of ascension. Building up. Gaining more recognition with more experience.
When I tell them about a career in the arts, their response tends to be a mixture of envy and shock. Envy that we have a career where we can wear what we want, express our selves, be iconoclastic, create new things. Shock around the lack of progression, our state of being at the mercy of knee-jerk political whims, and most gravely, about the financial recognition.
There is particular shock around the idea of unpaid work. That we might work for months on a project, the amount of hours equivalent to a full time job, but those hours stolen from gaps where we should be sleeping, exercising, or seeing our loved ones. They are shocked to hear we might take away a few hundred dollars – if we’re lucky – from an experience like that. These friends come and see our work and are impressed by the display of deepening skill, a firmer sense of expression, and a burgeoning talent, all done in stolen hours where those who work a 9-6 might choose to pursue other things. We’re lucky this is our passion. But the fact also hurts us.
This week, I found out that a show I’ve been waiting to produce in Melbourne since I moved here is being canned. The company can’t afford it. They promised us the slot; they’ve now retracted that promise. If you’re wondering what it feels like: it’s like being dumped. The same erosion of self-esteem, the same fear of never getting back up again, the same flatness, depression, and creative numbness.
It is a great privilege to have your job be your passion, but it is utterly annihilating when your job exists in a climate and country that does not value your work. It makes you wonder if you have wasted your life. It is a truly awful feeling.
I am lucky to work in the youth arts sector, in addition to the independent theatre sector. Youth Arts is one of the few places that has reasonable funding. This doesn’t apply across the board. The current funding model from national bodies like Australia Council for the Arts have rewarded some companies and cut the funding of others, entirely at the discretion of the Arts Minister. I cherish the work I’ve been able to do in youth arts environments: helping young people tell stories, writing them plays that they can perform and deepen their skills by doing, and giving voice to the beauty of their difference. I would never have been able to do this work without my experience in the independent theatre sector. Similarly, if I ever ascend up the hypothetical escalator into the plush (but just as jittery) environs of main stage theatre, it would be my independent experience that has made me worthy of the job.
The Liberal Government is enacting a kneecapping of the independent sector in a way that ensures there will be no future artists of quality. If there are any left after the recent demolition, they will only be the ones who can afford to fund their own ascension. The rest of us will have given up. Found less-creative less-passionate jobs, but ones that reward us for our hard-earned work ethic, problem-solving capacity, and teamwork.
Funding the independent arts sector is the only way to ensure that we have artists who can graduate to main stage theatres. Imagine an Education Minister who closes down all schools and wonders why university applicants can’t read.
Please show that you stand with the arts this election. You can sign this petition, you can speak to your local Member of Parliament about this, or you can vote out the Coalition Government on July 2nd. You can share this post with people who might want to know more about these issues, and spread the word outside my bubble of arts people.
Thank you for reading.
You know those topics that you just assume you’ve written about at least once per year in the last 5.5 years of having a glamorous “Hot or Not” blog?
You know that feeling when you sift through said 5.5 years of archives and realise you have NEVER actually written about that thing? The feeling is shock and a need to remedy things, stat.
You know how sifting through archives allows you to start making thematic connections between the sorts of things you tend to write about, and in particular, the things you tend to (this blog, after all, being called Would Jess Like It) like?
I have found a pattern and it is: DOGS and FOOD.
Today’s post will be focused on food. Right now, food is at the forefront of my mind, because I am still recovering from a food incident that happened almost a week ago, and that incident is called: “two all-you-can-eat buffets in the space of 14 hours”.
Let’s rewind. For my 30th birthday this year, my beautiful friends (who know exactly what sort of things I like and dislike) got me a present that Jess Would Like. It combined all my favourite things: plush naps, abundant food, floral room fragrances, and strong women pulverising my muscles. That’s right: it was a 5 star hotel and spa voucher for a deluxe room, an incredible deep tissue massage from a woman with no mercy, and – not just one, but TWO – buffet meals.
I timed this birthday present with my boyfriend’s birthday to lessen the blow of no longer being nominally two years older than him, which was my favourite fact about our relationship to drop at social engagements and dog parks.
We had a 7.30pm dinner buffet and a 9.30am breakfast buffet, and I am still recovering. The whole situation reminded me of an important fact: you don’t get better at buffets. If you’re a true buffet enthusiast, they slay you every time. You lumber out of the restaurant groaning and belching, and then have to lie down for the next hour watching repeats of Will & Grace and realising that it’s not actually as progressive a show as you would think.
All that said, I’m definitely getting more skilful at buffets. I have a process for them, implemented via years of trial and error, and with input from my buffet senseis, Dad and Skye. So I thought, even if it’s inevitable that you’ll leave the buffet a hot mess, here’s my list of tips of getting the most out of it, to make the next week of recovery at least worth it:
- Start with the hot foods. As Des Bellamy once said, “don’t waste space on muesli”.
- Try new things. Who knew you liked congee with maple syrup until you tried it?
- If someone is offering you a cooked-fresh thing, always take it over the “simmering in a bain marie for hours” thing.
- Get triple the hash browns you think you need.
- Don’t take your time. If you pause too long between courses, your stomach will realise it’s full, and then it’s all over.
- Fill your pockets. Of course you need three types of artisanal mustard to take back home and a bag of nashi pears. Remember Marge Simpson in the Gummy Venus episode? Wear that sort of coat.
Please feel free to add any tips I might have forgotten. Let’s make this the canon of gluttony! Thanks for enabling me once again, beautiful friends!
There’s a great suburb in the north of Melbourne called Reservoir.
Reservoir is like Prahran and Malvern in one particular way and absolutely no other ways: you have no idea how to pronounce it unless you’ve lived in Melbourne for over 5 years.
Why is Reservoir called Reservoir? Because a bunch of reservoirs were built there back in the day, and the place was named after those reservoirs, in a grateful homage to their sweet water-holding abilities. So, why do we then pronounce Reservoir as “Reservore”? I don’t know. Someone please tell me. Please.
In Reservoir, there is a magical place called 24-Hour Kmart, and it is magical because IT IS OPEN 24 HOURS A DAY, YES, EVEN AT 4am.
So, what’s so good about a discount megastore that’s open in the dead of night, I hear you ask?
The first thing is: the convenience. You need to buy a tent at 5am after a night of projectile vomiting? 24-Hour Kmart. You need a fan at midnight because the summer heat refuses to break and you swear to god you’re going to kill someone if this bullshit does not dissipate soon? 24-Hour Kmart. My mind is constantly boggled by the fact that this HUGE WAREHOUSE of goods made by morally indefensible labour and ecologically devastating processes is accessible WHENEVER I MIGHT HAVE THE SLIGHTEST URGE FOR A CHEAP FAUX-UGG BOOT OR MASS PACKET OF EAR BUDS.
The second great thing about 24-Hour Kmart is: the fact it is a microcosm. On one night in 24-Hour Kmart I observed a woman in traditional niqab inspecting discounted outdoor furniture alongside a woman in a bright red body-con mini-dress with stiletto heels telling off her dropkick boyfriend for doing something shitty, alongside a pretty erratic and slightly abusive guy coming off some serious crystal meth yelling at the security guard.
Which brings me to the final great thing about 24-Hour Kmart: the staff. The most impressive staff members are the security guards. These dudes deal with the most fascinating and horrifying stuff, pretty much as soon as the sun goes down. You would start believing vampire werewolves existed after long enough in the job, because of the fact that your workplace is regularly frequented by human nightmares as soon as it becomes dark. For example, I saw one Security Guard ask to check a guy’s bags once. The guy yelled back at him “fuck you, go back where you came from” and walked off into the car park.
The 24-Hour Kmart staff have a tough job, and while they remain helpful and respectful, the strain of this job shows. Once I tried to return a faulty toaster a 11pm without a box or a receipt, and the woman there was so kind about the fact that there’s no way she was going to replace my toaster because only criminals try to replace stolen toasters without a box or receipt, “not that I’m saying you are, don’t get me wrong.” Her defense became a stunning and convoluted monologue rich in detail and reflexivity, and I enjoyed it, despite the fact that it didn’t get me the goddamn toaster I needed, which was the only thing I actually came to Kmart for, as opposed to the $47 worth of cushions and clever vases that I have just purchased.
Look. Life is a complex and beautiful thing. With joy comes sorrow, with summer comes winter. Similarly, with the joy of 24-Hour Kmart comes the horror of 24-Hour Kmart. If you want the convenience of late-night spatulas and early-morning sports bras, you have to put up with a few doses of world-weary staff, heinous customers, and unnecessary overspending.
If you ask me, it’s a small price to pay.
Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living!
You said it, Dolly. As did you, Lush Cosmetics.
Us at Would Jess Like It HQ have been doing a lot more office work lately, in the pursuit of More Boots, Handbags and Posh Meals, and Also the Minor Factor of Keeping A Roof Over Our HQ.
And, look, it’s not that bad. I get to work with a Receptionist whose vibe is “Vintage Glamazon from the 50s and 60s”, and she rocks a new outfit every day and accompanies it with great phrases like “cruisin’ for a bruisin’”.
I also like the fact that my office has leftover pastries pretty much always, leading to the same conversations with my colleagues at least 3 times a day:
1: “Oh, you sprung me! I couldn’t resist a mini-donut!”
2: “You enjoy it! Oh, I wish I could have one too!”
1: “Have one, gurl!”
2: “I’m trying to be healthy!”
1: “It’s only a mini donut!”
There’s only one thing I strongly dislike about office work (apart from the obvious factor of having to do work when I could be watching Empire and browsing Moschino’s Instagram page in bed for the rest of my life):
The commute to and from it.
Here’s a few hideous things about commuting in a major city in peak hour:
The disgusting people.
Some people do the weirdest shit. Last week, a corporate-dressed guy was waiting for a train next to me, and eating a bunch of cut up fruit in a Tupperware container. He would pick up each fruit slice, slurp its pith and juice, and then HURL THE PEEL ONTO THE GROUND IN FRONT OF HIM. This was on repeat for 10 minutes. Which brings me to my general gripe of –
Some of you are aware of my new policy, which is: if a gaggle of corporate dudes are bro-ing their way down the sidewalk together in one line, like the popular kids from Mean Girls, I refuse to get out of their way.
In the past, I would get out of their way promptly, make room for them by walking into gravel garden beds, due to the fact that socialised misogyny led me to unconsciously think I had less right to a sidewalk than these guys.
Ever since I realised my internalised self-hatred, I made a vow to never do it again. This makes a lot of my walk through the CBD more fun, but also more adrenaline-packed and dangerous. (This is because they hardly ever move out of your path until the very last minute, which makes me think they will be taken by surprise when The Revolution comes).
Calm down, Dutton. This isn’t what you think. I am kvetching about the sort of people who see me waiting on Flinders Station platform, near the yellow line, for the train to show up, and come and stand DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF ME AS IF I WERE NOT EVEN THERE.
One of the problems with imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy is that a lot of unhappy people are forced to trudge home with other unhappy people, and sometimes their unique unhappiness spikes into someone else, and sparks fly, in a not-good way.
Tonight, on my way to the train, I witnessed the tail end of a struggle between a middle-aged man and a young hipster on a bike. I don’t know what they were fighting about, but as the hipster rode away he yelled, “”I’m not scared of you. You’re just a stupid old man with no fucking life!”
We all craned our necks to see the stupid old man lacking any fucking life, but I couldn’t work out who he was in the crowd of sad-looking dudes.
And that’s the riddle right there, isn’t it. Maybe he was yelling it at all of us.
The first thing I want to say about the Dog Lovers Show is: what a grammatical quandary. Where does the apostrophe go? Is there an apostrophe? Does the show belong to us, the dog lover? Is there one of us, or are there many of us? (Stupid question: there are way too many of us; more on that later). Is this show just for people who have bestiality dispositions? Why would you host an event for these people?
The motto for this show is “for the love of dogs” and features a very excited young woman herding a mass of Yorkie Terriers, one of whom is barely noticeable in the scrum of fellow teacup dogs because he is crammed between her two hands. Just his little light brown nose peeks out. Does she love all her dogs except for this one? What did he do?
The Dog Lovers Show took place last weekend in a big exhibition building in Melbourne. There was a long list of terms and conditions to read on their website, for those of us who like to do pre-expo research so as to have the best experience ever, because why wouldn’t you want to be over-prepared at all times? (Also why wouldn’t you google the menu of every restaurant you ever go to, in advance, so you can know exactly what to order the minute you sit down, because, really, spontaneity is nice and all, but only when it comes to things like designer bag purchases. Food and dog lover shows are way to important to treat so flippantly).
Anyway. One of the rules of the Dog Lovers Show was that you could not BYO-dog, BYO-puppy, or BYO-furious-and-confused-cat. This show was for lovers of OTHER peoples’ dogs, and we don’t care how much you love your own dog! (Except for the fact there are lots of things here for you to buy your dog, pretty please, and plenty of courtesy ATMs on premises).
Another rule of the Dog Lovers Show pertained to patting and otherwise. Each stand had a laminated sign on the wall establishing a few key rules when it came to dog-interaction. Talk to the owner before touching a dog, ensure the dog is totally fine with any sort of dog-loving you are proposing, and calm the fuck down, I know you’re excited, but for the dog this is just another long day in a moist room having to be leader and spokesdog for its species, and it really doesn’t give a fuck about you and your novelty bichon frise t-shirt.
The excitement of this consensual petting zoo lasted for a few minutes, until we realised how flagrantly Utopia was being disrespected. Kids were running up to dogs and grabbing their butts with glee. Their parents were right behind them, patting heads TOO VIGOROUSLY for the taste of a small-terrier expert like me. There was a throng of dog lovers humming around every dog, forming an impenetrable and overwhelming circle of attention for each dog.
Look, I get it. Dog lovers shows only come once a year. The room was thick with pent up excitement, as well as the erotic energy of Dr Harry Cooper being in the building. People were meeting every flavour of dog out there, and emotions were running wild. The dogs were tired, but were also acting as ambassadors for their breed, teaching people what these dogs are like, so that if these people get the same breed dog one day, they know everything important about care and temperament.
While parts of the day were overwhelming, I regret none of my exorbitant ticket price, except for wondering who made money out of it. I learnt a lot about how smart kelpies are, I made eye contact with a celebrity dog, and I got the new profile picture of my dreams.
Would Jess Like It? …sorta.
Let me draw a scene. It’s December 2015, AAMI Park, Melbourne. This is a big stadium where sports things happen, as carried out by people who have thick jaws, make dubious life-choices, yet have impressive co-ordination skills.
But not tonight. Tonight, AAMI Park is filled with women between the ages of 6 and 66, as well as a handful of middle-aged men auditioning for the role of “beleaguered Dad”, and many of my favourite local homosexuals.
AAMI Park is packed to the gills for an event that we’ve all been waiting for. We’ve had our tickets to this concert for a YEAR. You know when you see artists put out tickets a year in advance and you go, “really? You think you’ll still be popular in a year?” Well, in this case, the answer is “of course I will be, I’m Taylor motherfucking Swift.”
And fair enough, Taylor motherfucking Swift.
For a year now, we’ve been clutching these hot tickets in our sweaty little paws, preparing our gaping maws for some roars and guffaws, the sort of sound that will lift AAMI Park into the air in a way it has never been lifted before by a sport event, or so says this bitter dweeb.
Taylor presents a wholly satisfying show, featuring such highlights as lit-up wristbands, videos about white feminism, and a revolving walkway that I want to see speeded the fuck up.
We chair-dance our way through a lot of the concert, but we all know what we’re waiting for. There is one hit that is synonymous with Taylor Swift, and every six-year-old girl that is literally here or who is living inside one of us much older people is waiting for it.
We all know what’s going to happen with “Shake it Off”. It’s too big a hit to do early. It can’t even be the fake ending of the show. Of COURSE it’s going to be the encore. Taylor’s going to do some reliable crowd-pleaser like Bad Blood, fake an exit, and wait for us to bray ravenously for her blood unless she comes back out to deliver The Hit.
She lives off these wounded animal cries of deep desire. They keep her fed when she runs out of chia seed and amaranth granules.
Taylor lets us warble desperately a little longer, while she changes into the most triumphant unitard she owns. Our small group of my sister, her wife and myself wait patiently. We know what’s happening. No point braying about it. Let the hoi polloi run their throats ragged. We have some $6.00 Twisties to eat.
And while I eat, I notice something around me. Families are streaming out of the arena in great swathes. Mouths are set in tough lines as mothers and fathers drag children who don’t know any better out of the stadium.
And I just think: what’s the conversation going to be like in the car?
Kid: Why didn’t Taylor sing “Shake it Off?”
Parent: Because she saw you were in the crowd, and she hates you.
Fair enough, parents. Lie to your kid, get home by Lateline. Good work.
But after this quite reasonable sighting, I was exposed to another type of early-exiter, one I’m still trying to understand. These are the families who waited for Taylor Swift to re-emerge onstage, like some glamorous annoying peacock, waited for her to start singing her HUGEST HIT, and then, the moment that GODDAMN FIREWORKS STARTED EXPLODING is when they dragged their kids out of the stadium.
I’m wracking my brain to work out the reasoning they give their kids in the car:
“I know that you might think you want to hear your favourite artist sing the biggest hit of last year live, with pyrotechnics and screaming. But you know what’s even better than that? Getting into the car park exit queue 5 minutes before everyone else. You get a real smooth line down Punt Road. We’ll be home in ten minutes flat, so you barely have to wait to cry yourself to sleep.”
Hi David. Thank you for asking me to answer this question. Did you know we’ve been friends for almost 5 years now? Yeah. We met at playwriting camp in December 2010 and now it is now 2016, so let that tell us whatever we need to know about Friendship.
A little while ago I approached you with a problem, which was that I was totally burnt out as a playwright and never wanted to write again. I couldn’t give a single shit about theatre, recognised my place in the ecology of the Australian stage (stinky amoeba) and was starting to question why I had entered into such a flippant and unreliable industry as my life’s pursuit.
You had a solution to these issues, which was: take a break from theatre and write something else. Here are a series of essays you should write, Jess. Here are all the topics, now go nuts. One of the topics is “My Friend David is Frantically Trying to ‘Make It’, This Is What He Should Do” and so it’s time to answer that for you right now.
HURL YOUR BODY INTO A LARGE BODY OF WATER EVERY DAY WITHOUT FAIL
This is the first and most essential act you can perform and every other tip is secondary at best.
“But Jessica,” I hear you ask, “what if I have curly hair that doesn’t like to be wet and washed every day? Sometimes curly hair needs to regenerate oils, rather than being brutalised with salt or chlorine every day! How do I do a daily swim and ALSO look after my hair?”
The answer is to prioritise body of water over happy hair. Also, no one cares what you look like; they care about the sparkle in your eye that comes with interacting with big ass bodies of water that make you feel small, strong and part of something bigger than yourself.
Because: YOU ARE SMALL AND TINY AND DON’T MATTER
One of my favourite phrases of yours is “we will all be forgotten fifty years after we’re dead.”
This attitude took me a little while to reconcile, particularly because I am a fan of old dead poets whose words are still dolefully recited in the present day; poets who inspire nerdy conferences where people like me pick apart semantic choices by day, then drink whiskey and bump uglies by night. If it weren’t for these old unforgotten dead writers, I’d have not one line of verse to whisper huskily into a hottie’s ear as daybreak dawns over their floor-bed.
But of course, these writers, the ones who history remembers, are the exception to a rule. They are the rose petals that floated to the top while the heavier scum sunk and moulded on the base of the bathtub we call “literary history.”
I bet Shakespeare had heaps of colleagues who were amoebas like us, watching his stratospheric rise to fame, all “why am I not making it while this guy is raking in the shekels and the sheilas,” but we never heard about those guys because THEY HAVE BEEN FORGOTTEN, ARE SMALL AND TINY, AND DO NOT MATTER.
You know what though? Maybe they had other things going on. Good at gardening, generous lovers, knew how to cook an artichoke a la Romana. Those things have been forgotten, too.
There’s that great Hallmark quote along the lines of “people forget what you do, but they never forget how you made them feel.”
Wrong. They forget that too. Everything is forgettable, unless you’re Shakespeare. And there was only one Shakespeare. So stop worrying about that and get back to your gardening.
BUT THE HUMAN URGE TO STRAIN AND REACH FURTHER IS ALWAYS ALWAYS THERE
Production is not just the act of being human – the husky whisper of poesy in cool dawn-dew mornings – but it is a creative urge too. If you’re born with a generative streak that tells you to write and make and share, then you can’t ignore that urge. You just need to find a blend of routine and self-care and water-dipping that lets you get out of bed in the morning with minimal amount of existential pain.
This is where it becomes about the work you make, rather than the mechanics of making it. Are you making work that is meaningful to you whether you have it produced professionally or not?
(Caveat. Of course you want your work to be produced. It’s a reptilian urge that we try to shake loose but we can’t. Urge for production and reproduction is why we do things like learn new hobbies for people (such as following Auspol or listening to white dudes rap). These connections, these hints at being needed and important speak to the little part of us that resonates with the highest levels of Maslow’s Pyramid of needs, despite our best efforts to transcend it.)
If we focus too much on production as the arbiter of artistic fulfilment, our gaze moves away from the act of making art that matters, and instead lands on the vagaries of production engines: the politics within a theatre company, within government policy, within the arts world more generally.
All this said: it hurts when the world doesn’t say, “Jess Bellamy, you are a smart bitch and the world will benefit from your sassy words.” It’s easy to take it personally. I know that I have. What’s helped me with this feeling is the following analogy:
Every arts powerbroker in the world is essentially an overwhelmed tourist walking through the masses of people milling about the entrance to the Colosseum in Rome. These tourists don’t make eye contact with strangers, because those strangers are going to try to aggressively sell them a selfie stick, which NOBODY wants and NOBODY should ever buy. You’ve spent enough money on tourist shit. You barely had a budget to start with. Some dickhead called from a street gang called Bandito Brandis robbed you this morning.
After half a day in Rome, these hawkers get so intense that you stop making eye contact with these people. You look past them, or deflect their advances with a swift “NON”.
This is a shame for a few reasons: the first is that the selfie stick sellers tend to ruin street selling for the guys with African handicrafts and counterfeit Chanel wallets. We tend to ignore those guys too, because we assume everyone is as pushy, or their offering is as vapid.
It’s also a shame because maybe selfie sticks actually provide something beautiful and exciting to society. No longer do tourists have to try to make friends with other tourists or locals in order to cajole them into taking a photo of themselves and/or their lover. Instead, they stay self-contained, self-reliant and isolated. Which is ideal for the upcoming ecological apocalypse, where friendship and weakness will do nothing but slow you down.
Basically, to bring this analogy back, our power-brokers are being transformed into a washed out mess of cynicism that has been ripped down the middle and hangs in ragged pieces. They can’t look people in the eye, because they’re so tired of having to say no or be disappointed. They regret the fact that they might be missing out on the next great thing, but not enough to interact with every fucker who looks at them too long or with the wrong sort of gleam. Instead, their gaze tilts up at the sky for direction. They search for a creative bat signal to beam out and tell them about something important or beautiful. A new idea, an exciting voice, a rare perspective flashes out with such force that its shape in the sky is undeniable.
It’s too difficult to keep craning their necks upwards, so they tilt down to see which part of their city is the source of this light and sound. The potential for what might come out of this exploration is enough to risk re-entering the disappointing world.
Our job, therefore, is to flash our words at the sky until someone is so impressed by them that they want to look at us dead on and say “keep talking to me; I’m all ears, eyes, and pricked up goosebumps around you.”
Our job also is to ensure we are offering something much more exciting than a selfie-stick for sale, because there is no battery in that malarkey to beam anywhere even remotely close to the sky.
The challenge we face is having enough rocket fuel to beam up our signals for as long as we can, and to trudge along with enough water packed on our backs to stay healthy in all the right ways. Our job is to keep making, keep creating, and keep getting better, while recognising that sometimes the sky is very full and even very bright messages can be dulled by the camera-flash cacophony that surrounds us.
JUST HAVE YOUR LUNCH SORTED FOR THE DAY
When we were in Manila, I discussed some of my existential career woes with Max, who didn’t share them. He said “as long as I’ve got something to eat for lunch every day, then I feel like I’m doing OK.”
This was beautiful and inspiring and very true. We are ambitious people, and of course we want to push our way ahead, because we have important things to say. But sometimes, an eye on the long game occludes a healthy present. Can we find a healthy compromise that entails planning for the future alongside art-making as a constant reinvention, but also enjoy the sense of play, of the unknown, and of huge potential that is essential to our career?
I don’t know, but I do know that lunch is important. I also know that your voice is important and the world needs to hear it. I’m aware that you’ve been flashing your light at the sky for a long time, but I want to assure you that people are seeing it. It gets tiring, though. I understand very much.
I wish you more jet fuel, more salt water and a hearty lunch every day.
Good luck my friend. We’re all going to need it.
(Cross imagery not a metaphor for anything)
 It is ok to be given one by your sister-in-law’s sister after her trip to Korea, but that is the only exception. If it runs out of battery, then you should not buy a new battery.
 There will, however, still be poetry, so we can get our feels on there.