Valentine’s Day: A Solo Survival Guide

Dear DD,

I hate Valentine’s Day. I just want to be able to leave the house without my own singledom slapping me in the face six billion times as the whole world celebrates what I don’t have.

How can I make it through the day without crying on the couch watching ‘She’s All That,’ or going on a jealous rampage, flipping candlelit tables and stuffing red roses into the drooling, lovesick faces of happy couples?

Signed,

Grumpy and Lonely in Karratha

 

Dear Grumpy and Lonely of Karratha,

First up, I am truly sorry that you happen to live in K-Hole. I’m quite sure it’s the only reason you are single. Secondly, Grumps mate, I feel ya! I’ve been there buddy. You might be very Happily Single for 50 weeks of the year but the fortnight leading up to V-Day you become Pretty Uncharacteristically Desperate. That entire aisle of red love heart themed merchandise at Woolies, the ‘for someone special’ tagline added to every ad on telly, the overheard plans of people in couples, the romance novels on decorative display at the local library – all this noise can test even the toughest of lonely hearts.

Despite the fact that Karratha is now a city and not a shire (controversial!) there’s still no cinema for you to see ’50 Shades of Grey’ at, there’s no cool anti-capitalist hipster bands playing anywhere and you probably don’t have any single mates to hang out with either. They’re probably on the east coast being each other’s Valentines, going dancing and having a great time.

Soz to add to your (probably constant state of) FOMO but it looks like you’re gunna have to get yourself through this one. Don’t let small town syndrome strike you down!

Just avoid the Centro Mall. Avoid restaurants. Don’t attempt to circumnavigate the CBD solo and unassisted. It’s not the day for self-dates reading a book in a cosy café corner, that’s if the café has any tables for one. You’ll cringe at so many cute couples you’ll end up a cranky cynic hell bent on preaching anti-consumerism to waiters who aren’t flirting with you, they’re just giving you good customer service.

In fact, don’t just avoid the ‘CBD’ avoid Karratha. The only way you can truly escape is to get outta town. Here are some simple steps:

Step 1: Ask some old people where to go and head bush for the day. Tell someone where you’re going and pack plenty of water, fuel, swimmers, good shoes, hat, suncream and the unhealthiest snacks you can find.

Step 2: Crank your favourite tunes and podcasts in the car. Call up those east coast single friends with your hands free headphone set thing. Stop whenever you damn well feel like it. Take some photos. Pick those flowers. Get as many Cornettos and boxes of Pizza Shapes from shitty roadhouses that you want.

Step 3: Drive for at least an hour. See that country changing. Pull over and stand on top of your car to get a good view. Walk over to that tree over there. Sit on that nice rock in the shade then close your eyes and do some breathing in and out for a bit.

 

tree sunset karijini pilbara

Take off your shoes and feel the sand. Call out to the country if you want. Step into that waterhole slowly. Keep going. Slow though, so you can feel it tingling up your body. Let that freezing cold water cover you all the way up to your shoulders. Stand there shivering for a while. Look up at those cliffs and how those trees just seem to grow out of the rock.

See those little clouds in that big blue sky above you.

Listen to those birds and that silence.

Take a deep breath in.

Close your eyes.

Duck dive down.

Go on! Put your head under the water, I dare ya! I can 100% guarantee it will feel amazing.

Lie on your back for a while, faff around in the water for a while, then repeat Step 2 in the reverse direction and sleep happy in the knowledge that tomorrow your photos will win the internet and chocolate prices will be slashed.

You’ll be right, Grumps, you right.

Best wishes,

-DD

The Story So Far

Dear Readers,

I’ve reckon I’ve cleared all of 2014’s stories out of the closet. Before I start to tell you about Tasmania, where I now live, I’ve selected some of my fave sentences about places I’ve lived since the beginning of this blog and squashed them into one story. Every line is a link to the original posts where the sentence/paragraph appeared, so get clicking!

I’ve been asked a few times for dating advice so that’s what I’m working on next. Please feel so very welcome to send me your love/dating/singledom/small town living queries in the comments or on Facebook! 

Hope you’re all going swimmingly,

-DD

 

Mt Gillen, from ANZAC Hill

 

In my first year in Alice Springs I’d lie awake at night with wet towels on my head. Whenever I’d feel the slightest hint of a breeze I’d jump up and squash my face up to the fly screen and smile.

I tried to teach myself the harmonica. I lived next to a major intersection, railway and ambulance station. In the summer months a drinking camp would establish itself in the nature strip across the road. Lots of romantic bluesy background noise for my lonely harmonica.

I slowly got used to the smell of my own sweat and the fact that there were no recycling facilities. I discovered the joy of swimming in an outdoor 50m pool with the sunset reflecting in the water.

 

alice was luxury pools and glass filled dry riverbeds

bylaws and bushlaw, humbug and friendship and centrelink

alice was red dust in freshly washed white sheets

 

alice springs

 

I wasted most of my daydreams on unattainable break dancing Maori Mormons- polite, hilarious, could spin on their heads, sing four part harmonies and they were saving themselves for Jesus. Or their wives. Either way, not for me.

The first two messages I received on online dating sites in Alice went like this:

So, wat u do for work, jus art n shit? I work for dept justice yep that means prison warden lol. Prison! What a lolfest! ROFLfest in fact! Spelling aside, where am I supposed to go after my chosen career had been summed up with ‘n shit?’

I drive trucks got my own truck so we cud go 2 ayers rock if u want cud be good way 2 get 2 no each other but sorry it wud hav 2 be 1 way unless u wanna come 2 adelaide A free 6 hour one way trip to Uluru with a complete stranger with no appreciation for punctuation? What a great idea for a first date!

I met a cowboy at a rodeo. We held hands and walked out of the dance hall. There was a fork in the road. ‘Your swag or mine?’

 

30062012538

 

In the Pilbara I met pissed big burly mining dudes who considered accidental eye contact as an invitation. They ogled in a manner just as irritating as sandflies attacking exposed flesh at Beachville. Unforts these dudes were impervious to Deet.

Off-chops middle aged women said nice things like “Damn girl, you’re a GREAT dancer and your tits look FUCKEN HOT in that dress, sweetheart!”

I discovered mornings.

The world was waking up and it was bigger and more wonderful and closer than I remembered.

 

I know You Can’t Hurry Love. You Just Have To Wait. But I started to think that maybe the middle of the desert on the wrong coast of the country was perhaps the wrong place to wait.

It’s hard to play the field when you live 7 hours away (by plane) from said field.

I wanted someone to meet me backstage after my show with a bunch of corny flowers they picked out of a nearby garden on the way to the show. Someone to make playlists for and to miss when I’m away.

‘Oh, but it’ll happen when you least expect it!’ say my happy-in-love friends. Git fwarked.

 

melbourne city at night

Melbourne was this overwhelming metropolis with excessive buildings that stretched upwards and squashed sideways and hid the skyline. I’d been transported to some other world. From my world where there was no postal service, no Triple J reception, no tofu in the supermarket, no traffic, no good reason for anyone to wear anything other than thongs, shorts and a T Shirt and no good reason for there to be any more than 5 people in a room at a time.

I loved crossing the road at Flinders Street Station. All those people, all in one place, all going somewhere. I felt part of the human race.

I watched the dressed up and the drunks strut and stumble along Swanston Street. Was everyone playing this game except me?

I’m gunna Get Back On The Horse. There Are Plenty More Fish In The Sea. I’m going to canter along on that damned horse whilst casting my fishing rod out into a nearby river. Or I sit on a horse on a fucken fishing trawler. I’m a horseriding fisherwoman.

Schmoebs (August 2014)

 

Today I floated in the ocean

I let it take me where it wanted me to go

Which wasn’t far at all

But I gave in anyway

 

Then I shat, showered and shaved and did my hair and put on a dress

To go over the road to watch a footy game I didn’t follow on telly

because: small town

 

 

Most days I wear baggy shorts and loose cotton teeshirts

because: old religious ladies and teenage boys and cultural sensitivity and sun smart and heat

 

 

I am a man here in the desert

I am practical and I am hard

I think that’s bullshit sometimes when people talk

I cover my flesh and let my leg hair grow

I drive around listening to gangsta rap and Tina Turner with twelve year olds

I avoid eye contact as I hand over bags of food and mumble sorry for your loss

 

 

I told my parents I was taking anti-depressants. It was a weird conversation.

I don’t even want to do a good job anymore, I just want to do it and then go home, wherever that is.

I don’t give much of a shit about anything now

I can’t think of things to say

I can’t pretend I’m happy to see people in the morning

I am not in my real life

 

 

In the city, I used to think about what I wore almost every day

I would even do my hair and strut around walking to the tram in time with the music on my iPod.

 

 

But up here I have seen some zebra finches and two early whales on morning walks.

 

Things are generally OK here I guess.

 
28072012737

Flying Back West (July 2014)

How many times have I crisscrossed this country?

I love long flights. I love long train trips and drives too but right now I’m in the air again.

Above the world, separate from real life. Suspended in time and space.

Needless fussing limited by battery life and baggage space.

 

I finish reading Josh Santospirito & Craig San Roque’s ‘Long Weekend in Alice Springs’ about cultural complexes.

 

By Joshua Santospirito from 'Long Weekend in Alice Springs'

Illustration by Joshua Santospirito from ‘Long Weekend in Alice Springs’

 

I remember Joseph Campbell’s commonalities between myths across cultures, Baba Brinkman’s exploration of Darwin’s Origin of Species through rap, Vonnegut’s humanism, Freakonomics and a bunch of other half absorbed ideologies.

I put down on paper thoughts that aren’t new or revolutionary but are discoveries or remembrances of a stimulated brain.

 

photograph of clouds

From thirty thousand feet in a floating metal bubble through a tiny window I watch the clouds and the colours below them and wonder how many people really know how red and big and beautiful this land really is.

Below are big messy brushstrokes of red painted into the black scrub leaving waves of sand dunes exposed. Rivers carving snakes and tree root shapes. The spinifex and scrub dotting the plains, patterns of red and sometimes yellow or a white salt pan and rocky outcrops standing solitary, little mountain islands pushed up from the seabed. This was underwater once. Patterns made by wind and rain and ocean and long forgotten grumbling lava pushing and grinding

 

Slowly

 

Over thousands and millions and millions of years

Silently slowly moving, yawning, breathing, crackling, bubbling

 

Even now

But so slowly and quietly and alone

And with such little fuss

That no one would ever know except scientists and storytellers

Stories that have been dreamt and sung and danced and painted and known and kept and sometimes told and taught

Stories that make sense of it. Of the country. Of the people. Not just this country, but all countries.

Stories that become myths or rituals or texts

All requiring faith that there was once more than just us and flora, fauna, fire, water, wind and rock

All creating each other, shaping each others’ evolution

We once made sense of things with stories

Stories to make meaning

Of how the earth was formed and where we came from

Of how to live our lives, of why we’re here, what to avoid and aspire to, what to hope for and fear

Stories about sex and death, flight and fight, fear and love

Astronomy, physics, maths, psychology, geology, anatomy, economics, sociology, art, philosophy tell these same stories as we keep searching until we can explain

 

Everything

 

I haven’t yet decided what to believe. Other than science. And stories.

 

central australia

Silent Speed Dating (May 2014)

Everyone’s sitting on rugs and cushions on the floor in the back of a Brunswick yoga studio. They’ve got the same scorecards and name tags as regular speed dating. A shorter guy with smiley eyes arrives late. I hope I get paired with him.

I get paired up with everyone except Smiley Eyes Guy and we play a mix of non-physical tantra exercises (looking into each other’s eyes) and improvisation games, like in high school drama. After each game we get two minutes to talk, which thankfully is mostly about the exercises, so I don’t have to explain the whole not-working-thing when I’m asked what I do for a job 18 times.

I’m paired with a curly haired man who has a look in his eye which not only says “I’m listening to you” but also “You intrigue me” and by the time we’re done with the exercise “I’d like to see you naked.”

We have to stand 5 metres apart and look each other in the eye. Intriguing Eyes Guy had to maintain eye contact whilst gradually walking closer and closer until he could ‘feel’ that he was too close. Once he’d reached that spot, he had to say one word. He was one step away from me when he said “Close.” I had to do the same thing, walking slowly towards him maintaining eye contact. I got close enough that I could feel his breath on my forehead and it took all the restraint I had NOT to pash him right there. The sexual tension in the air was rather thick. Looking him square in the eye, I took a deep breath and said “Now.” Luckily we didn’t have to debrief after that one, but went straight into a group exercise called ‘The Forest.’

The men spread out around the room and stand still with their eyes closed. They’re trees. The women walk through the forest and to whoever they “feel drawn towards”. I stood near Intriguing Eyes Guy and Smiley Eyes Guy then realized the other women were TOUCHING the trees/men. I went and gently nuzzled my forehead into the back of Smiley Eyes Guy’s neck and we both breathed deeply together. Then I held Intriguing Eyes Guy’s hand for a while. I am historically not so good at restraint, so for me both of these little touches were totally hot.

Throughout the evening I had two simultaneous thoughts: 1) this is fucking weird and 2) this is fucking awesome.

Afterwards I got Intriguing Eyes Guy’s number and went out to dinner with Smiley Eyes Guy and some others. He’d been to lots of tantric workshops before and explained it wasn’t all about sex, it was a whole way of looking at the world. He was an engineer who was high on universal love. I drove him into the city afterwards and recited erotic poetry to him in the car. I’ve never seen him again but every now and again he comes up in my Facebook feed with memes like this:

tantra energy

I like that people like him exist in the world. I genuinely hope universal love is still working out for him.*

A couple of days later I met Intriguing Eyes Guy at the Fitzroy Gardens. We strolled and discussed work for a while then the conversation turned to tantra. Apparently I had lots of potential. Normally I get bored with the whole “Do you like stuff?” conversations on dates, but as he was explaining to me how everything is made up of energy so really everything is connected and how I just need to widen my perspective which he could help me with through guided meditation and how did I feel about some exploratory play at a more private location… I thought ‘Jeez dude, can’t we just talk about books we like a bit first?’ I was intrigued, but the following week I met The Author, so I never did find out what tantric exploratory play involved.

 

*When I contacted Smiley Eyes Guy about this story, his response was “Your words are clean and real, I like that! But lets get down to business, what’s your next step on the inner path to abundant unconditional love?” What a great human being!

Letterbox Liaisons Part 3 (Feb 2014: Melbourne)

The night after Letterbox Liaison Lad’s movie night, I went on a blind date set up by one of you, a very Dear Reader who I’ve never met! This Reader contacted me on Facebook, asking if it was ok to give my email address out to a single friend of hers, a primary school teacher she thought might be a good match for me. I agreed and that day The Teacher and I emailed each other back and forth seven times! Highlights included acknowledgements of the awkwardness of the situation (being set up by someone I’ve never met), willingness to engage in rhyming responses, use of the word ‘soz’, puns about ice cream and swearing. Seemed pretty ideal.

I met The Teacher on a Monday night at the Kodiak Club in Fitzroy, which had ambient lighting, excellent music and not too many people. Ideal. The conversation flowed and the laughs were loud and numerous. Ideal! He was into drawing comics and it happened to be his birthday. Then we went to N2 for icecream and held hands. It was so ideal that we kissed on a street corner, said we’d like to see each other again then parted ways.

The very next day I got a text from LLL inviting me to the movies that night! When it rains it pours!

As I walked over to LLL’s house I wasn’t sure if this was a date or friend hang out. After watching ‘12 Years A Slave’ at NOVA we got Brunetti cakes and ate them in the park #socarltonrightnow. It got cold so we went to his place for soda water (me) (party water!) and tea (him) and yarned about dating with him and his housemate. I told them about my Melbourne three point plan but neglected to mention the third point.

The following week I dropped a note in LLL’s letterbox saying ‘The third point of my three point plan is to go on dates. So… Do you wanna go on a date with me?” Five days later he sent me a Facebook message saying he’d prefer to be friends. A day later, I got an email from The Teacher. He would also prefer to be friends. A day later, I tried to take myself to Los Amates Mexican restaurant. They didn’t even prefer to be friends, they just told me they were too busy for a table for one, even though I could see two empty tables in the background. It was Valentine’s Day.  I stared at her blankly for a few seconds then turned and walked away with my head down so no one could see my eyes watering.

When it rains it fucken pours, eh?