Don’t. F*cking. Touch Me.

I was scrolling through Instagram this morning when I came across a post by one of the artists I follow. She was posting about how when she was out in town today, a man approached her directly and aggressively, so he could grab her arms and “look” at the tattoos there. As I read through the comments, almost every person that commented was a woman, talking about her own similar experiences. And naturally, I couldn’t help but think about mine.

The artist in question mentioned how she was disappointed in herself for “standing there like a lost lamb” instead of reacting, and I got angry. Not because she was disappointed with herself, but because some guy, some creepy random dude, had made her feel that way. The scary truth is that this shit happens every day. People get assaulted, accosted, inappropriately touched without their consent. And it happens each and every time, because someone has taken it upon themselves to intentionally invade another person’s space and push their boundaries.

I have had many experiences in my life where I have been touched by someone, stranger or friend, when I didn’t give my permission. One of the most notable of these had quite an impact on me. As a teenage girl, waiting at the local shopping centre for a friend of mine one day after school, I noticed an older man with long hair and a beard. I didn’t pay him too much attention, right until he came up to me from behind, stood close, buried his face in my hair and took a long, audible sniff. I nearly screamed, and ran. I was young, I was uncomfortable, I had been touched by a stranger in a weird and inappropriate way. To this day, I can’t stand to have people touch my hair.

I remember another night, a few years later, sitting at a bar with my best friend. I was wearing a dress that had a low back because it was cute, and it made me feel pretty, and it really went with my shoes. I was having a drink and a laugh; listening to the band and having a good time. Suddenly I felt a stranger’s fingers run from the top of my spine down to the back of my dress. I turned, realizing I had raised my hand. The man who had touched me tried to explain away his actions by saying “I just wanted to look at your tattoo”. Shaking, goosebumps covering my entire body, I told him to get away from me. When he again tried to tell me that he just liked my tattoo, I told him that his poor excuse didn’t give him any right to touch me. I saw him return to his friends and say something to them, after which they all turned to stare at me. I spent the rest of the night on edge. I didn’t wear that dress again.

But, don’t get me wrong here, it’s not just men I have experienced this behaviour with. A couple of years ago I was in line at JB Hi-Fi, waiting for some paperwork for the purchase of a tablet. Out of nowhere, I felt two hands grab my shoulders and physically spin me around. It was so unexpected, I nearly fell over, having to grab hold of a nearby display to keep myself upright. Seemingly oblivious to my near fall, was the woman who was grabbing handfuls of my dress and actually running her hands over my waist, my hips and my thighs. I yanked the fabric out of her hands and stepped away with what I imagine was a look of combined rage and shock. She then had the gall to get angry at me and said “I only wanted to look at your dress because it’s so nice. I was giving you a compliment.” I snapped. Long gone was the teenager who would run away from strangers. I told the woman to get away from me, and that if she touched me again I would hit her. I told her she had no right to touch me without my permission. I said it calmly, but I meant every word. She left, muttering obscenities under her breath, and I went back to me paperwork, acutely aware of the stares I was getting from the people around me.

The thing is, in all of these situations, the people who touched me didn’t seem to understand, or want to admit, that they were in the wrong. They each tried to justify their actions. Y’all, if you “only want to look” you don’t look at people with your hands. That’s now how looking works! I mean, I grew up being told “you can look, but don’t touch”. It was a mantra drummed into us as children, and where I once knew I wasn’t allowed to touch that Ballgown Barbie on the shelf, I know now that I’m not allowed to touch another person without their consent. So why is it such a foreign concept to some people? No one, and I do mean no one has the right to accost you. Not because of the way you are dressed. Not because of the tattoos that you have. Not because they like your hair, or your jewelry, or your fingernail polish, or your shoes. I’ll say it again for the people in the back; NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO TOUCH YOU. WITHOUT. YOUR. CONSENT.

No ifs, no buts, no excuses.

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A Strange Kind of Luck

I have a strange kind of luck. I have never won the lottery, and I never win any of the competitions I occasionally enter. I haven’t had much luck with jobs, or romance, or any of the things that are a general measure of success (whatever that means). I am frightfully clumsy, and will generally find a way to embarrass myself in any situation. So I wouldn’t at all consider myself a particularly lucky person. But what I do have, is a curious ability to avoid serious injury by the very tiniest of margins. It’s my superpower, if you will. Which, as it turns out, is quite a super power to have.

Take a couple of years ago. I was driving my car around a corner on a wet road, when my tyres gave way and suddenly I was hydroplaning. I spun into oncoming traffic, was narrowly missed by a car coming in the other direction, and ended up on the gutter. It was a quick accident, over in a matter of seconds, though it felt infinitely longer to me at the time. My car was written off after the accident, but I was unscathed. Similarly, a few years ago I fell asleep behind the wheel of my car whilst my brother was in the passenger seat. Again, it would have been for no more than a few seconds, but I awoke as I was drifting slowly off the road. I righted myself, and my brother took over driving.

When I use those examples, it sounds like my close calls are all car related. I promise you, I’m actually a very good driver! And I’ve had more than a few close calls that didn’t occur behind the wheel of a vehicle! Today, I had another flirtation with injury. One of the things I do at my job is cutting keys. I’ve been quite ill the last few days, and so I was wearing a cardigan to work to keep warm. As I was cutting a key for a customer this afternoon, the sleeve of said cardigan got caught in the machine and jammed. The super sharp cutter was millimetres away from the delicate skin on the inside of my wrist just before I turned the power off. Fortunately the only thing that got damaged was my sleeve. No trips to the hospital for me (touch wood).

I have countless stories of how I have managed to, by either my own foolishness or by universal design, end up in a situation that could be potentially harmful, and somehow managed to escape said situation without so much as a scratch. I am constantly amazed by the sheer number of close calls I have had in my life. Certainly more than the average person, I’m sure! Somehow, this strange super power of mine manages to save the day (and my life more than once).

I realise as I’m writing this, that I’m probably tempting fate. My next close call could be the one that results in severed fingers, or broken bones, or some kind of hideous injury that will take months to recover from. But for now, at least, I can say that I am quite alright and completely uninjured!

Two Shades of Grey

I don’t consider myself a particularly vain person. I don’t primp and preen, nor spend hours in front of the mirror basking in my own reflection. I mean, I do have very specific rules about leaving the house in trackies, but overall I think I’m fairly humble about my appearance. And yet recently I have noticed something that has, on more than one occasion, had me staring intently at my head in the mirror. You see, it has come to my rather offended attention, that my hair has started to go grey.

I am 26 years old. Still young, by anyone’s standards. And yet there, atop my brunette head, are the telltale signs that I am finally turning into the old lady I am forever professing to be. Only now when I make old lady jokes, there’s going to be a hint of truth to them! I noticed the first grey hair, right in the centre of the top of my head, perhaps two or three months ago. I made a joke, and moved on. After all, one grey hair is nothing. But then, yesterday as I was getting ready for work, I saw it. A second traitorous hair hiding at my temple. Cue feeling personally victimised by my own body, contemplating dyeing my hair (despite making a decision to let my natural colour grow out), and making plans to immediately go find the Fountain of Youth.

As my recent return to theatre will attest, I have a tendency to be a little dramatic. So, the emergence of these silvery threads amongst the dark (oooh, wasn’t that a poetic phrase), meant that everyone on my Snapchat list received a photo of the temple hair, unceremoniously yanked from my head. I announced plans for my impending funeral, because obviously two grey hairs means I’m old, and about to die. And there was at least two inches of colourless hair there; how the hell does grey hair grow so fast without my noticing? More to the point, why doesn’t the rest of my hair grow so fast? Rude.

I told myself that two grey hairs really isn’t a big deal. I could embrace it, like Tara Moss, one of my favourite badass babes. At 45, she is rocking her greys with grace. Total idol. But, on the other hand…guys, I’m 26! So I’m taking a moment to feel personally offended that my hair has the audacity to start greying. But then, on the other other hand, I can now totally join the ranks of super cool wizards, the likes of Gandalf and Dumbledore. Hey, maybe this going grey thing isn’t all bad!

Image result for gandalf the grey

Archie

Isn’t it funny, the random things you remember? Today I was driving to celebrate a relative’s 80th birthday and something popped into my head that I had all but forgotten. I don’t know why I remembered it, but all of a sudden the memory was as clear in my head as if it had just happened yesterday.

When I was small, there was a partular day my mum and I happened to be in the front yard at the same time the postman came to deliver the mail on his bike. I was younger then, and much more personable. Inquisitive and not intimidated in the slightest, I happily started up a conversation with this postman. His name was Archie, and he soon became someone we would look forward to seeing. Every day my siblings and I would wait for the mail to arrive, and for a chance to get to have a conversation with the friendly fellow we came to consider a friend.

I remember writing him letters, and drawing him pictures. We loved Archie, who always had time for a conversarion with a bunch of chatty kids, and who never seemed to mind our questions and stories. To my tiny self, Archie – with his broad grin and friendly character – was larger than life.

One day, someone else showed up to deliver our mail. He didn’t stop to say hello, and he barely seemed to notice us at all. I was devastated, and even though I looked out for him for a while after, Archie never delivered our mail again. I don’t know whether he got a new job, or moved away, or simply got put in a different route. But for a few months there, he was a part of our little world. And today, as I was driving to catch up with extended family I’d not seen in many years, the memory of my childhood friend made me smile.

People Watching

Yesterday I went to an all day music festival. Some great Australian bands played, headlined by Suzi Quatro. I only went as a last minute thing, as the original ticket holder couldn’t go and asked if I wanted to take the spare. It wasn’t a bad day, despite the heat, and I had a pretty good time just chillin’ and blissing out.

When there’s a crowd of such magnitude all congregating in one place, the people watching aspect is almost as interesting as the live music. One thing to note, is that the bands that played yesterday were largely from the 80’s and 90’s, so the crowd was predominantly people in their late 30’s and older. The younger ones seemed less interested in the music, and more excited for the prospect of getting dressed up in matching outfits and getting day drunk. But it was the older people there that really caught my attention.

Whenever I attend a music gig I can’t help but notice the usual suspects. Not specific people, but rather the groups of people. There’s always the overly loud, brash middle aged men who draw attention to themselves (not to mention many filthy looks) by being as crass and obnoxious as possible. There’s the older women seemingly desperate to recapture their lost youth, wearing short shorts, and push up bras under sheer tops, hugging each other while they raise their lighters and drunkenly serenade back to the musicians. And then, of course, there’s the couple who can’t help but have a full on domestic right there in public. Yesterday, I was quite literally surrounded by all of those particular groups.

People, as a whole, are quite fascinating. The way they carry themselves, the way they dress (or don’t dress, as was the situation yesterday for many concert attendees), the way they interact. I can’t help but watch. Then again, a lot of the time people are just plain awful, as I discovered when I went to leave and found that someone – or more accurately, a few someones – had pissed all over the side of my car. I mean, there were toilets, and even trees if they got really desperate, but they decided instead to urinate, in a line, right on my car. Out of all the hundreds of cars there, they chose mine. Just my luck.

As interesting as people can be, I’m definitely one to sit on the sidelines and watch, rather than interact. I guess you could say people watching is my favourite spectator sport. Not being a people person means that observation is key, so long as no one tries to talk to me.

How I Awkwarded Myself Into Buying a Giant Cup I Didn’t Want

Do you ever walk away from a situation cringing internally about how awkward you were? It happens to me pretty regularly. Honestly, if I ever need inspiration for an awkward character, I need look no further than my own reflection. My entire life is a string of humiliating experiences and cringeworthy encounters.

Today I had a day off, so I drove down to a nearby cafe. I stop into this particular cafe from time to time because they make an excellent soy hot chocolate, and you’d be surprised how difficult it is to get a good one in the town I live in. I walked in with a firm idea in mind regarding what I wanted. See, in addition to my takeaway beverage, I wanted to buy one of the reusable cups they sell. I eye off the display every time I walk into the cafe, and keep intending to buy one, so today I thought I would.

I approached the counter and placed my order for a large soy hot chocolate, and then enquired about their cups and I said I would like a black one. This is where the miscommunication, and my inability to clearly explain myself threw a spanner in the works. See, I wanted a small cup. My daily takeaway beverage is a chai, and I only ever have a small because too much sugar sets me teeth on edge. The small size in this particular brand of cup is perfect for what I wanted, and it never occurred to me that there would be sizes other than the small and medium cups on display.

My mistake lay in ordering a large hot chocolate. My intention was to buy my larger drink, and then also buy a small cup. Instead, the girl interpreted it as me wanting my hot chocolate IN a large cup. She told me they had no black cups in the large size, and indicated to a blue one instead. Instead of explaining that I only wanted a small cup, I got flustered by the unexpected information and said “a blue one is fine!”

The girl behind the counter then disappeared to grab one before I had time to correct myself. By the time she came back with a large blue cup, I felt too embarrassed to explain that I really only wanted a small one, and in black. The barista asked if I wanted my drink in the mug, and having resigned myself to buying the large cup, I said that was fine. The girl who served me then said they would need to wash it first if that was the case and I, by now flushed with embarrassment and desperate to not be any more hassle, blurted out “I’ll take it however it comes!” I think I startled the barista a little, and the girl serving me was probably silently begging me to get out of their tiny space in case my awkwardness was infectious.

The thing is, I’m aware that it probably doesn’t sound all that embarrassing but standing there in that little cafe, unable to properly verbalize what I wanted, was absolutely, horrifyingly uncomfortable. The notion of actually asking for a small cup, after the girl had gone to the trouble of getting a large one, felt like I was being a burden, and made me increasingly anxious. Which of course only made the words stick in my throat even more. Go figure.

My cheeks burning red with mortification, I paid for my drink and the mug, and silently stepped away from the counter. While I waited, I considered the fact that had I have just been able to get my stupid brain to work, I’d likely have saved myself $35 and actually ended up with the item I wanted. The giant hot chocolate filled cup came out moments later, and I scurried out the door as quickly as I could. But not before I babbled nervously about how I didn’t mean to make things difficult. So now I can never go back (ok, perhaps a tad dramatic), and I have a massive reusable cup that I will probably never use. Ah well, what’s a socially awkward girl to do?

Common Things I Hear as a Shoe Repairer

I’m currently back working as a shoe repairer. Also a watch repairer, and a qualified engraver. And since I’ve been back, I’ve begun to hear again, all the things customers tend to say when they approach my counter. Some irritating, some funny, and some that leave me speechless for one reason or another.

“Do you repair shoes here?”
No, that wall of shoes behind me, and the giant sign out front advertising that we do, in fact, repair shoes, is all just there to trick you. This question always gets me, because its akin to walking into a coffee shop, and asking the barista if they serve coffee.

“Are you going to do a good job?”
Firstly, yes. Secondly, I’m very good at my job, and I take pride in my work, so to reiterate my first point…yes. This is one of the more regular questions I get. For some reason, when handing shoes over, people get paranoid that their items will come back in a worse shape than when they dropped them in. But the whole point of my job is literally to do the exact opposite; I’m a repairer, not a destroyer.

“But I only need one heel.”
This question often arises because people think it will be cheaper to only replace one of a pair. Whilst often one heel is actually more worn than the other, I have to repair them by the pair to make sure they’re an even height.

“Can’t you fit my shoes in? (I’m only here for the day)”
Sure. If you wanna call the ten people who brought in shoes ahead of you, and explain to each of them why you deserve preferential treatment, I will happily do your huge, time consuming job today. My biggest frustration with this question, is the sense of entitlement some people have. I don’t mind fitting in smaller jobs here and there, in between doing other shoes (while I wait for the glue to heat for example), but so often people come up, and as a result of their own poor time management, can’t wait around. They then get mad at me, because I genuinely don’t have time to do the work they require in the timeframes they demand.

“You’re a girl”
Yes. Yes I am. I generally get this from middle aged men, who still live in a time when women were deemed incapable of doing anything. I had a customer the other day who I assume meant to say this very thing, but fumbled his words and instead, ended up asking me if I was a girl.

“Do you actually work here?”
Yup. Hence the uniform. And…y’know, the whole standing behind the counter thing. This is a combination of asking if I repair shoes, and commenting that I’m a girl. Implied in the question is that I can’t possibly be employed as a repairer, and that I must simply be here to serve customers.

But don’t you need a man to supervise you?”
Well, now that you mention it…no. I have nearly three years experience, and managed various stores in the city, so I’m fully qualified and perfectly capable. Further examples of people not acknowledging my skill, on the basis that I don’t have a penis.

“Did it take a lot of training?”
People are always fascinated by how one gets into a job like mine, and because of the skills involved, are equally curious about the training it took to get to where I am. With the company I work for, it was mostly on the job stuff, with an assessment at three and twelve months respectively.

“That’s very expensive. Can’t you make it cheaper?”
This, I imagine, is common of many retail stores. Most of what we do has set pricing, standard across all stores. It takes into account time required, materials, and skills involved. There are always special circumstances and exceptions, but it’s not a regular occurrence.

But that’s not what the other girl said”
I’m sorry to tell you, but I am the other (and only) girl. And FYI there is no way I would ever say that the $80 repair job you have can be done for $15. This is another one particularly common in retail. Customers assume that a) you don’t communicate with your work mates and b) that you’ll take them on face value. In some cases, I concede that one customer may be given conflicting information by two staff members, but more often than not in my experience, it’s just a case of the customers thinking were dumb. We’re not dumb.

Do you know where the toilets are?”
This one comes up a lot, because I work in an open kiosk, in a busy shopping centre, and I guess I’m an easy point of access for questions unrelated to my job. Though sometimes, I can’t help but have a little chuckle to myself when they ask where the supermarket is, because my shop is literally right out the front of the supermarket.

I could honestly write a book about all the strange things I hear at my job. But for now, I’ll leave you with just a blog post!