Ever since I was a child, I’ve been an overly sentimental person. In my parents’ house, in the bedroom that still looks exactly how it did when I left home five years ago, in a cardboard box on the shelf inside my wardrobe, all of my past lives are stored. Every card, letter or note I received from preschool until I moved interstate is immaculately kept, a telescope peering into the way things were.
I was 13 the first time I wanted to save a boy. He was a year older with a litany of issues, from substance abuse to manic depression and self-harm. We were both kids, and I thought loving him was enough to erase all the things that plagued him – his broken family, his best friend who had committed suicide, the monsters only he could see and feel.
Of course, it didn’t work out that way. He fell deeper into his issues, and I felt myself falling with him. In the end, neither of us won – I experienced my first heartbreak, and he was no better for my efforts.
Fusion isn’t new, but in 2016, it’s reaching insufferable new heights.
We’ve got the phorrito (pho without broth is like a sushi donut without a hole). We’ve got a rainbow of bastardised hummus variations (honestly, do you just mean dip? I think you just mean dip). A place near my old house served ‘Viet-Mex’ cuisine, including rice paper rolls with refried beans and burritos with vermicelli. A friend once saw Caesar salad sushi on offer, complete with croutons and dressing. Cheeseburger gyoza, ramen burgers, Indian nachos, Greek yum cha…
Why is ethnic food so much “cooler” when presented in this Western context? Have you colonialists no shame?
I grew up in a very conservative Vietnamese family. No sex, living together, holidays or sleepovers with partners before marriage. On the rare occasions when overnight stays were permitted, the boys slept on the couch. Growing up, my sisters and I expected that we’d live with our parents in Sydney’s sleepy northwest until we were married. There was a lot of sneaking around.
I unexpectedly moved cities at 23 for work. I had a long-term boyfriend, and when he came to visit every month or so, my mother asked if we slept in the same bed. In those early days, I could picture her wringing her hands as her voice gently shook. Sometimes she cried.
Eventually, she didn’t protest when we said we were going overseas together. She let me go to his family Christmas interstate – something I had been forbidden to do for the first three years of our relationship. Slowly, things were changing.
“KEEP yer PAYNTS AWN.”
So went the battle cry of Pam Stenzel, or “Pants-On Pam” as we called her at my all-girls Anglican high school. Every week in Christian Studies, we were forced to watch her abstinence-only, pro-life diatribes. With her twangy American accent, she was a real-life version of the sex ed teacher in Mean Girls (“Don’t have sex! You WILL get chlamydia… and die”).
We never learned about contraception. We never learned that sex could and should be fun. We never learned about any kind of sex that wasn’t heterosexual. We never learned about the importance and nuances of consent, or how to talk about sex with partners.
All we learned was that we shouldn’t be having premarital sex, and if we did, the consequences were all our fault. We were shamed into fearing sex and, coming from a conservative Vietnamese family, I wasn’t hearing anything different at home.
“I sincerely hope you get raped to death by a rusty knife.”
A lovely thing to see in your Twitter mentions, and one that, as an outspoken feminist online, isn’t all that uncommon if you’ve spoken out about something recently. But racking my brains, I couldn’t think of what comments of mine had drawn MRA ire lately.
I started playing the cello when I was three years old. Its large wooden body dwarfed my tiny one, and every week my father would drive past gardens, me peering out the window to watch dogs running leashless and looking for magnolias, shouting “Another one!” every time I spotted the pink blooms. This was the route to my cello teacher’s home – a Russian woman with wild hair who taught me how to make the instrument sing.
My childhood was a blur of eisteddfods, radio performances, at-home concerts and orchestra rehearsals. My hands ran up and down the instrument’s slender neck, and adults cried when I played, but all it was to me was A grades and practices with my mother accompanying on piano, telling me what the music should feel and sound like. I liked pop punk bands and dead white guys singing about weird things – it didn’t mean much to me.
In the last week, Factory X has come under fire after receiving the lowest possible rating on a report on Australian fashion ethics from Baptist World Aid Australia, covering policies, suppliers, auditing and worker conditions – placing them below companies like Kmart.
This stands in stark contrast to the fairly ambiguous social and ethical compliance policy on the Gorman website, boasting “safe working conditions”, “sustainable living wages” and “fair and equitable treatment”.
Though Gorman was not included in Factory X’s assessment as they have separate supply chains, the parent company received the F grade for choosing not to participate in the survey – which begs the question, why stay tight-lipped if you’ve got nothing to hide?
Recently, I met a girl who I immediately recognised as the current girlfriend of one of my short-lived exes. She was wearing a cute dress and was bright, friendly and funny.
Against the advice of my friends, I told her about our “sausage sister” connection. Amazingly enough, she did not lunge at me and maul my face off. Instead, she broke into a smile and said, “No way, I’m so glad you told me!”
I initially bonded with one of my closest friends under similar circumstances. We’d been acquaintances for years but were never close – until she dated my first boyfriend after me, and asked me to dinner following their breakup. The meal started with awkward small talk, but when we addressed the elephant in the room, the walls between us melted as I offered her advice based on how I’d gotten over the same guy years earlier. Two years on, we catch up whenever we’re in the same city, and chat frequently on Facebook. We barely ever talk about him now.
My 10-year high school reunion was on the weekend. I didn’t go – I’ve lived in a different city to the one I grew up in for the last four years, I know what everyone’s up to these days because I’m an expert Facebook stalker (please, someone endorse me for this skill on LinkedIn) and, most importantly, there probably wasn’t a Romy and Michele-style three-way dance routine featuring a teenage dweeb admirer turned dreamy millionaire, so really, what’s the point?
Last week, I saw photos of my high school crush, who I spent two tragic years trying to impress over MSN with pretentious conversations about Radiohead and poetry, getting married.
At 17, I thought that by 27 I’d have it pretty figured out. Long-term relationship, if not married. With kids. And a house. That I owned. Stable job (to afford the mortgage for the house that I owned). Maybe a book or two under my belt. Definitely a dog.
The reality? I often say jokingly (but not really) that I’m going through my quarter-life crisis. My life is pretty much the Friends theme song, if Friends was about a girl whose love life is less stable than the imaginary child of Bridget Jones and Taylor Swift. I don’t have kids or own property. I’ve only recently started working in a job I love after years of career uncertainty, and make a little extra on the side doing the freelance writing hustle. I’ve got 99 problems and mental health is definitely one. No dog, just a demonic cat I adopted on a whim after being unceremoniously dumped last year.
And honestly, I’ve never been happier.