For the rest of that first year in Alice Springs I wasted most of my daydreams on unattainable break dancing Maori Mormons. I worked with them on a dance piece for the cabaret, which involved me and a few ladies dancing with shopping trolleys, which they would then crump on top of. They would rock up on push bikes wearing helmets, black suits* and name tags, fresh from door knocking. These guys were polite, hilarious, could spin on their heads and they were saving themselves for Jesus. Or their wives. Either way, not for me. But did that stop me from having romantic fantasies about them, visiting them at their workplaces and conniving physical contact? Jesus, no! “I just think it would make more narrative sense if it was ME that you somersaulted over and carried around, instead of your brother…”
One rehearsal as we waited they were playing guitar and singing four part harmonies. I was quietly pinching myself to be the only girl treated to such a show. One of the other girls in the cast wandered in and somehow began a conversation which led to announcing that she thought I was 34 years old. “Oh no, I mean, it’s not that you look 34, it’s just the way you dress.” I was 22. I left the room and never wore that outfit again.
For a small outback town the pace of relationship building in Alice was frenetic. Even building friendships was different, the place was so transient. Two of the friends I had invested a lot of time and energy into left within that first 12 months. My blonde BFF and I didn’t have much to say to each other anymore. I had a few gig buddies I’d met on dance floors but had never sat down and spoken with them. People came and went so quickly, from out bush or interstate. Every night out was a rare opportunity to connect- the pressure was on.
After a year I moved out of the loft and didn’t see my friend the optometrist every day anymore. The two lovely friends I’d known from the east coast had moved back to the east coast. My closest friend for a while was my 55 year old work colleague.
I made friends through the cabaret and joined a dance crew. I had new housemates and inherited their friends. For some reason there were so many attractive single women in town and so little men, let alone good ones. Whenever my grandmother calls me she will always ask if I’ve “met any nice boys yet?” but in Alice she helpfully pointed out that “Well, if you can’t find a man I’ve heard there’s a really big lesbian community in Alice Springs, SO YOU CAN ALWAYS TRY THAT.’ Thanks Gran. Progressive, but ultimately not helpful. Maybe it was time for me to turn to the internet to help…
Using my real (rather unusual and recognizable) name would be too brave, so JaneinAlice was born into the online world. Who is JaneinAlice? Her cringeworthy profile reads exactly like this: “I’ve never really tried this online thing before (this was true at the time but has remained unchanged) so not really sure what to write… I’m 26 and I’ve just moved here to Alice. I like being creative, meeting new people, learning new things, reading, swimming, camping, dancing and lots more than I can fit on here so if you’re up for a yarn drop me a line.”
Oh, please. I like being creative? Up for a yarn? Drop me a line? This was how I was expecting to attract members of the opposite sex? When asked to describe the kind of person I was looking for, I wrote something that went exactly like this: “An entertaining gentleman who can hold a decent conversation, spell, laugh at my jokes and make me laugh.”
My request for good spelling came much later as I learnt to be more picky, but in these early days I was ‘open minded’ not ‘judgmental.’ I listed my hobbies as dancing, live music and camping. Yet when I searched for males seeking females I didn’t search by hobbies or description. I searched by location. Anything within 500kms was fair game. Only half a day’s drive away, which is nothing comparatively, I mean, we used to drive 300 ks to a nice afternoon picnic spot, I’d drive 500 ks for an entertaining gentleman.
By the time I left Alice I had been on nine dates with dudes I’d met online. Six were particularly memorable, but none were my future husband.
Date 1 never actually happened, but he was selected because of his cute profile pic. He had piercings, a cap, stubble, a wicked grin and a bit of a skater vibe going on. He didn’t bother with any online chatting, straight up gave me his number and we arranged to meet up. Fair enough, I thought, maybe some guys aren’t good at online communication and are better in person. In a manner that will seem familiar to my regular readers, he texted an hour before with a text that just said ‘cant make it 2nite, sori.’
Eager to keep going with this new social experiment, I got back online and found that there were now three men seeking women located within 500 ks! In fact they lived in Alice Springs! I jumped straight to giving one of them my number who had a nice looking face and said he liked reading. He texted me straight away asking what I was doing that night. I happened to be dancing in a show which I invited him to. I hadn’t shown him my photo, so I knew what he looked like but he didn’t know what I looked like. How strange and thrilling to be dancing for an audience that may include my future husband!
As soon as I saw him at interval my hopes sunk down into my dancing shoes. I understood why he only provided a headshot. Angry at myself for being so superficial I thought I’d give him a bit more of a chance and arranged to meet him after work the next day. I was moving fast.
He managed a pub I’d never been into and never returned to. I had to ask for him at the bar and he showed me to a table in the dining area. His staff probably thought I was being interviewed for a job. During the strained conversation I feigned interest in his car, just to fill the air with sound and kill enough time until it was socially acceptable to leave. I estimated this time to be 31 minutes, making Date 2 the shortest date I’ve ever experienced. He took me to the car park to see his car. I know nothing about cars and didn’t know the right questions to ask about it. I may have complimented the colour. He was generally a smiley guy, until I asked why he left Victoria for Alice. His face fell completely flat and he said he just got in his car one day and drove. He stared me straight in the eye and with zero expression on his face said “… then I got to Adelaide and I JUST KEPT ON DRIVING.”
We parted ways with a non-committal ‘See ya round!’
*What is it with guys in suits? Maybe it’s just such a rarity in my line of work and in the places I live that whenever I see a dude in a suit it’s like a slap of well-dressed masculinity in my suit-starved face.