To the gods of weight-loss: I wanted you to take it from my hips, not my cup size. Thanks. So much. But I also want to say that no matter where you distribute my weight as I get healthier and fitter - I’m still gonna think I’m fantastic.
To the gods of weight-loss: I wanted you to take it from my hips, not my cup size. Thanks. So much. But I also want to say that no matter where you distribute my weight as I get healthier and fitter - I’m still gonna think I’m fantastic.
(From left to right: Meena, Me, Magan)
As a woman who has carried a backpack of insecurities about men around with her for most of her life, I can quite honestly say that I have experienced a kind of masculinity within the last couple of years that has changed and healed me.
My two closest male friends, Meena and Magan, have shown me a side of manhood that has altered my perspective of men for the better. They have demonstrated a strength in conjunction with tenderness; a combination of qualities I had not really witnessed in guys throughout my life.
One of the greatest qualities that these two men possess is patience. The number of times I have fit the stereotype of hysterical female; working through my own issues - and the number of times I projected my own fears onto them - are innumerable. But so are the times they have listened, advised, or given long-lasting hugs.
I guess growing up around the unhealthy idea of submission in the Christian church - which I witnessed being exploited in nearly every Christian marriage relationship around me - I harboured anxieties about not meeting male expectations of being subservient or acquiescent enough. And the greatest anxiety of all was the one related to letting my voice be heard.
I remember when I first met Meena, I apologised for nearly every single thing I did or said; fearful of being abandoned by him because I thought I had offended him with my actions or opinions. So often I found myself with terror in the pit of my stomach - waiting for him to tell me he’d had enough of me. But time after time he reassured me that he doesn’t take offense easily, and that he’d be honest with me if I hurt him. He also seemed to listen to my perspectives on various topics - rather than so many of the men I’d known who had dismissed my opinion because I was a woman.
Over the last - nearly two - years of friendship with this incredible human, I have come to experience a kind of respect from him that has established, within me, a benchmark for how I will allow other men to treat me in the future. I have found safety within this relationship - and I have become a stronger and more honest person because of him.
As for Magan - he is my Noodles and Poetry buddy. We meet every now and then to share Chicken Mi-Goreng and Summer Days Ice-Tea at Esteller’s in Melbourne. But as much as the Noodles and Poetry are friggin’ amazing - what makes it most special is the connection we nurture. He has such an unaffected nature which humbles me when I’m in his presence. There is a circle of tranquility that surrounds him - so whenever I’m nervous and he happens to be with me, I find myself becoming calm.
Magan and I have chatted countless times through Facebook inbox - and his words are naturally like poetry. Throughout our early days of getting to know each other, Magan shared a fact with me about his Somali heritage - that Somalia is known as a nation of poets. And I believe it - because this man has poetry coursing through his veins.
When I apologise out of habit - he pulls me up on it. When I feel like I talk too much - he tells me that he likes to hear what I have to say. Sentiments I have not been used to over the years - but am becoming accustomed to, grateful for, fond of.
All of this to say: I once viewed all that is masculine through the lens of fear and disgust. But these two friends have embodied such vital human virtues inside the sphere of my relationships with them, that I have come to see that good men really do exist.
My heart is at rest with them.
And they are flagship twenty-somethings who will be examples of honourable and kind men to the next generation.
Meena and Magan, you should be proud of yourselves.
Because I am most certainly proud of you.
Title chosen by Carrie (because it’s true), but this is actually a guest post written by Karen, herself.
I was flattered when Carrie asked me to write a piece about my online business for her blog.
Carrie and I are cousins. Well actually I am first cousin with her mum, so I guess that makes us second cousins. Anyway, she’s family and I love her.
Divine Vintage Dresses
I run a boutique online vintage clothing store and specialise in the restoration of vintage dresses. I do have some other items in stock but my niche is vintage dresses from the 1920s to the 1980s.
I’ve always had a love of history and my love has always flowed between vintage clothing and old houses.
I remember my first item of vintage clothing. I was 18 years old and had just moved to Sydney from Melbourne.
There used to be an op shop around the corner from my work and I enjoyed frequenting the place. The purchase was a navy blue polyester crepe drop waist dress from the 1980s. It had a long tie around the neck that I would do up in a bow. My boyfriend at the time was mortified that I was so poor that I couldn’t afford to buy new clothes.
That’s where the love began. Within twelve months of that purchase I was travelling to Europe to check out the fashion and history of my ancestors.
The idea for starting my own online vintage clothing store came when I attended a conference on Property Investing (my other love). One of the guest speakers gave a talk on how to generate an income through online selling by targeting a niche market. Here was the opportunity I was waiting for, a way to turn my passion for vintage fashion into my dream job.
It’s all about preserving history
My website is www.divinevintagedresses.com. Here you will find a range of vintage dresses from different eras that have all undergone some type of restoration work. But don’t mistake restore for reconstruct. Restore means, like for like replacement, keeping it as close as possible to its original form.
I love the look of the dresses, the way they move and the feel of the fabric. It’s like a journey of discovery with wonderful surprises along the way. Who wore it, why was it made and what are the stories it could tell? When I’m fortunate enough to acquire a piece with the label intact I’ll do as much research as I can to find out about the history of it.
I also love to create vintage inspired pieces, picking up vintage patterns whenever I can.
All of my sewing skills have been self-taught and no matter how much I know, I know, I know there’s still so much that I don’t know!
A lot of it comes from how the fabric looks when it is draped over my dressmakers’ dummy and what it’s like to manipulate. The fabric tells me how and where it will be used.
As a child I would create clothing for my Barbie, taking my inspiration from other items of clothing I’d seen on my older cousins. It was the ‘70s and there was no shortage of style.
Eventually I would give my creations their own label, Eugenie Bouquié, taken from the name of my 2nd Great Grandmother. My love of history extends to tracing my family tree to discover that Carrie and I are from French descent, Bordeaux to be precise.
Given my love of history it seemed only fitting that I would combine France, family and fashion into my own clothing label.
Finding the time to create my own items, as well as restore vintage pieces can be challenging at times but it never stops being fun. Sometimes I have to remind myself to finish what I’ve started before moving on to the next piece.
The dresses I create are also one-offs and I make them in an average Size 8-10-12. Unfortunately with mass-produced clothing imported from overseas I cannot compete on price, but nor would I try. All of the items in my store are unique and of extremely high quality.
They have stood the test of time.
(Katie and I)
You know how, like, in the days of yore - or whatever - years would receive a name? Like ‘The Year of the Great Flood’, ‘The Year of a Thousand Giants’, or ‘The year of 365 days’. You know, stuff like that? Well, if I were to name 2013, it would be ‘The Year I Died’. Optimistic, right? Full of promise and hope and all that.
This is the most confessional piece I’ve ever written. And I feel a fear that is very real swirling around in the pit of my stomach as I put fingertips to keyboard. I’ve made the choice to write about something that has been a massive secret that most people around me - or in the communities that I am a part of - would have no clue about. But I cannot, and will not, carry this secret with me into 2014. There are few people who know the full extent of what has taken place in my life over the last 12 months. And they are the ones who have pulled me through this when I didn’t think I could get through it on my own.
But I best start at the start, hey? In October of last year, a friend - Katie - and I made a huge decision which was to alter the course of our lives in ways we weren’t then able to conceive of. I - for 6 years - and Katie for 3 - were part of a religious cult. Each person was targeted differently based on how our leader could hurt or manipulate us best; physical violence, coercion, the female leader’s inappropriate conduct with male youth, and psychological manipulation were used to control people and put us in situations we didn’t want to be in. I was forced to do things I didn’t want to. Things that hurt other people and myself.
Last year, I wrote ten poems which eventually became a part of a chapbook called Charcoal and Red Lipstick. Much of it was written about an abuser in my childhood and teen years, about a man in this cult who took advantage of me, and about the cult leader, herself, who - til this day - still haunts me.
Leaving this group was one of the scariest things I’ve ever had to do. And I am so thankful that I had Katie by my side. We couldn’t have gotten out without the strength of each pulling the other through. And the bond we share after having such a powerful mutual experience will make us close for life. Not just because of how we had to have each other’s back in the face of the terror we felt as we began the process of leaving. But also because of the aftermath. The aftermath has been the real killer. My whole family was a part of this group and, thankfully, they left not long after I did. But the damage was already done. The leader of this group had ripped us to shreds as individuals and destroyed our family unit. Sadly, this is not my story alone. It has happened to multiple people in the span of the ten or eleven years that this group has operated.
Without going into too much detail here, I have lost relationships with most of my immediate family. I still have contact with my mother and two youngests siblings. But my dad was out of the picture long before we joined this group. And after we left it, some of my siblings wanted nothing to do with me because they had renounced their faith and I still wanted to keep mine and reminded them of her - a woman like no other. A true monster. I will not give her name because I am unsure of legal ramifications. Katie, my brother, and I received threats when we tried to report them to the denomination and to the international network they are a part of. We were too scared to go to the police at the time.
I had nightmares about her for months; waking my family up by screaming in my sleep. Eventually I had to leave my family and my hometown for various reasons that I won’t share publicly. But friends came out of the woodwork to help me. I moved three times in two months, found myself a place to live, and a job. But, one night, the loneliness of my bedroom was amplified by the knowledge of why I was living alone. The traffic from outside was unbearable as I lived on a mainroad and my window was broken - and my dodgy landlord wouldn’t fix it. Not to mention it was freezing and I was battling a painful throat infection. I wasn’t able to sleep, I had to get up in four hours and that’s when I had the idea to end it.
Again, without going into too much detail, I tried to kill myself. What ensued was two weeks of being handed from hospital to CAT team to doctor to doctor to doctor. My close friends were my next of kin and, if I didn’t value my own life up until that point, seeing them value it for me was one of the most life-changing experiences I have ever encountered. And then my beautiful Aunty allowed me to come stay with her.
At this stage, I was a zombie - doped up on medication, traumatised to the point that the past and future were literally black. The present was mere existence; awake but not alert, breathing but unable to decipher the world around me or comprehend much. I had no emotion at all. I exercised like crazy every day, ate well, spent as much time as I could in nature. The days and nights were beautiful and I only felt like I was a part of something when I smooshed my feet in the grass and lay down under the trees. I had never believed in Mother Nature before then. But throughout the first two weeks post-suicide attempt, I saw her hospitality; she nurtured me. As I ran my hands along the rough bark of a tree I was trying to create a connection to replace the family I had lost. I looked at the sky a lot. I didn’t think about God or ask those deep questions that the vastness of the sky seems to stir in human hearts. I just looked at it. I guess it felt like a roof over my head.
I had no capacity to nurture my other relationships or build new ones. I went on an official break from poetry stuff. I cancelled gigs, collabs, and turned down features. I had to stop performing, generally, because I could barely talk or move. I could only socialise with the close few who had walked with me through those dark weeks because they already knew my story. And in small doses at that. But one of the psychiatrists I saw told me after about two weeks that it was probably best for me to at least focus on my poetry because it gives me something to occupy my time. And I decided to take on her advice. Then the next day, I got a text from Luka Lesson asking me to perform at his book launch for ‘The Future Ancients’. He didn’t know anything about what had been going on in my life, but I swear it was providence. Of course I agreed to - and made his launch date the day I’d start getting back into performing poetry. It gave me a month to breathe easy, and something to look forward to.
One day, after I had gone for my morning walk, I lay down and put my iPod headphones on. I listened to a poem called ‘Search’ by a wonderful poet named Joel McKerrow. These were the words he spoke, “They say a girl who walks the edges of this world will find herself…if she looks for long enough.” And, immediately, a spark lit. I can’t say it was an emotional response. But more like a sudden resolution emerged from within. That I needed to walk the edges of the world to find myself, no matter how long it took. I knew I needed to buy a big, thick notebook and start a journey. Then out of nowhere these words came to me: Rummage Through the Aftermath. I knew that this would be my next project. I don’t know one hundred percent how I’m going to put this all together, but I have some ideas. And I intuitively felt that I needed a creative mentor to help me to bring this project full-term. So, of course, who better than our Slamalama Mama herself, Michelle Dabrowski. In 2014 she will be my midwife, and I will be her pregnant writer lady person.
Now, months after my attempt, I have moved in with my wonderful aunty on a long-term basis. I’m still trying to get used to being treated with love and respect; always waiting for the ugly agendas of others to rear their ugly heads. But realising more and more each day that this is just me projecting my fears on to them. The stability and love is unnerving, but heart-wrenchingly beautiful.
My heart is to break the silence for cult members and former cult members. And I am excited to announce that I will be studying Holistic Counselling at the Phoenix Institute in Melbourne starting next year. I want it to be a stepping stone toward other studies which will train me in helping people get out of cults or rehabilitate once they’ve left.
My heart is coming back alive. I am still fragile in the most human way, and learning to be comfortable with it. But I am also starting to see the wisdom and strength that these hardships have fashioned in me. I am proud of what Katie and I did because it took a lot of courage. Although, most days I struggle to see that because I still hear this woman’s voice in my head. But I know that with time - and in learning to change the way I think - her voice will grow quieter, and hopefully disappear forever.
This is just the most brief of all brief overviews on my story, but as I said: I am working on Rummage Through the Aftermath; a project that I hope to release in 2015 with the help of one so many of us call Slamalama Mama.
To the amazing relatives and friends who have been a part of my support network - thank you. And to the poets who inspire me - thank you.
I would love for you, the siblings who aren’t a part of my life anymore, to know that I love you and miss you and hope that one day we can have relationships again.
I would also like to share two links.
1. The link to a website for The Cult Information and Family Support organisation based in Melbourne. I have received a lot of support from these guys and hope to not just be supported but, one day, be a supporter as a part of this group. If anyone reading this entry needs help, please contact them - you will not be left in the lurch. Support is everything. Thank you to Rowan Lewis who got me on to these guys. I have always admired and respected you from Tabor days, and am ever grateful for you linking me up with the contact details.
2. The link to David Ayliffe’s story. David is a member of CIFS Australia. I have found a massive support and encouragement in this man. Our first conversation was the conversation I’d been waiting to have all year. He gave me this advice: be kind to yourself. And it is the greatest advice I think I’ve ever received. And, David, I thank you for using your voice to break the silence about this stuff. I have a lot of respect for you and hope that, one day in the future, I can encourage and empower others the way that you do.
Love Caz xx
"When did the body first set out on its own adventures? Snowman thinks; after having ditched his old traveling companions, the mind and the soul, for whom it had once been considered a mere corrupt vessel or else a puppet acting out their dramas for them, or else bad company, leading the other two astray. It must have got tired of the soul’s constant nagging and whining and the anxiety-driven intellectual web-spinning of the mind, distracting it whenever it was getting its teeth into something juicy or its fingers into something good. It had dumped the other two back there somewhere, leaving them stranded in some damp sanctuary or stuffy lecture hall while it made a beeline for the topless bars, and it had dumped culture along with them: music and painting and poetry and plays. Sublimination, all of it; nothing but sublimination, according to the body. Why not cut to the chase? But the body had its own cultural forms. It had its own art. Executions were its tragedies, pornography was its romance."
I am reading Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood at the moment (the book from which the above excerpt is taken), and these words have haunted me ever since I drank them in. I drank them. Then I went back to the beginning and drank them in again. They feel to me as though a curious child is pulling at a loose thread on my favourite top to see what will happen. My reaction to that scenario, of course, would be to push the little one’s hand away and say, ‘No, honey. If you do that, the whole thing will start to unravel.’
"Executions were its tragedies, pornography was its romance," words written in context of horrific violence, live coverage of lethal injections, and child porn; online in a Dystopian future - available, and ubiquitous, as a form of entertainment. Especially for the two best friend teenage boys we come to know throughout the book: Jimmy and Crake
I sit in bed late at night after a long couple of days. In weeks gone by, I have conformed to every stereotype about hysterical females. I made a reckless choices out of confusion and got myself into trouble. I took ownership of my shit and made sure I handed the shit of the other person involved right back to them on a silver platter. The disconnect between intentions and actions that exists within me and, at times, manifests itself in unhelpful ways is something that, I know, is not unique to just me. You must be wondering why I’m writing this after referencing Oryx and Crake.
Well, here’s why it makes sense to me: we talk about Dystopia like it’s a futuristic, Speculative Fiction-specific concept - maybe it’s because we can’t handle the thought that we have little Dystopian dinosaurs eggs waiting to hatch on the outskirts of our humanity. Maybe we forget that as evolved as we think we are - all it takes is a moment of weakness or vulnerability to become a slave to our basest natures; numbing ourselves from nagging memories, pain we can’t kill, emptiness we can’t fill. Maybe we opt to anesthetise ourselves with apathy because we can’t (or won’t) face the responsibility of taking ownership of our own mistakes, or humbling ourselves to acknowledge that, as good as we think we are, most of us have actually made corrupt decisions at some point in our lives. Secrecy and shame are the companions of personal, un-owned corruption. And, speaking only in reference to my own personal experience, they eventually breed selfishness or deeply entrenched indifference - which I guess is a form of selfishness.
I wish we could hear alarm bells ring every time we start to consider ourselves ‘more evolved’ thises or thats; pride comes before the secret self-loathing we feel when we fail to be the kind of people we think we are. Or the people we think we’re more moral than, more talented than, more deserving than.
Baby Velociraptors hatch subtly; cracking their egg-shells with self-righteous indignation or unhealed wounds that have become the driving force of our lives whether we like it or not. They are the harbingers of selfishness and apathy. And I think we’re all kidding ourselves if we don’t think that each of us carries the potential to spark a justly fought revolution or to give birth to Dystopia right where we stand; and that it’s not so much in the future but, perhaps, closely at hand.
Margaret Atwood’s words are a clarion call to self-awareness and conscience; personal and collective. They are also a warning that we’ll only be recognised as walking/talking executions or porn flicks if we don’t stop separating our minds and souls from our physical existence. For example I, like so many others, have used porn as a substitute for romance and intimacy. Where bodies are real but untouchable; where emotional connection and satisfaction is imagined, but impossible.
I am daring myself to become more alive and more awake than ever before; I want to un-desensitise myself to the jokes people around me make about sexual violence, the gore I’ve seen on TV, the materialism I’ve bought into as a consumer - before my conscience shape-shifts into a canvas painted black; unmoved by the pain of others, detached from a holistic self; dead to the concept of listening to my life’s call and responding to it.
It’s time to start being horrified by things again.
In the last year, I have made the mistake of being friends with people who are entertained by real-life violence; who normalise it by joking about it, or making grotesque memes about it. The kinds of people who watch foreign executions that have gone viral for fun, “What’s trending?”, “Oh, nothing much, just a guy getting his head chopped off. Can’t wait to share it with my friends!” These are the people are open about watching snuff porn; talking about it as casually as they would check their Facebook account for new notifications. People who listen to hip-hop that talks about bashing the shit out of fags because they don’t care about the content as long as the beat is dope. I’m all for trying to accept people for everything they are, but I also ignored my own discomfort and desire to verbally disagree in order that they wouldn’t feel judged. But I see it as my own failure that I cared about hurting their feelings when they didn’t give a shit about the kinds of things they were endorsing, popularising, and normalising. Internally, I was revolted. But there was always this fear of being seen as ‘too PC’ or ‘judgmental’ if I disagreed with someone’s attitudes toward whatever. But the point is: if it’s ending human life - or if its hurting someone outside the realm of their consent - it is fucking wrong. I think that our unchecked apathy as individuals and as a society are the birth-mothers and sperm-donors of a very real Dystopia that is emerging like a newborn reptile; poking its head out to look at the world it will ravage when it grows up.
It is absolutely, necessarily, beyond high-time time to start being horrified by things again.
I’m waking myself up. And I am open to having other people wake me up; shake me out my complacency if it starts to set in again. I am hoping to have the courage to listen to my conscience instead of fearing rejection.
"When did the body first set out on its own adventures?" Snowman thinks; after having ditched his old traveling companions, the mind and the soul, for whom it had once been considered a mere corrupt vessel or else a puppet acting out their dramas for them…" I, for one, hope that I get better at forbidding my body take me out on its own adventures without first consulting with my mind and soul - at least then I know I’ve been trying to hold together the skeleton and flesh for a hopeful present and better future. Not just for myself, but for the world.
I decided to turn my comic/movie character pick-up lines into memes. This first one is a little something I like to call “Sexy Magneto”
So honoured to be a part of this video! Malibu Barbie Can’t Frown by the incredible Heather Marsh!
This is a poem I wrote as a gift to myself - as a reminder to practice being present, and to be kind to myself. Love xx
The ever present ache;
The past she can’t to escape.
The ever present ache.
She berates herself, like:
"You are an adult. You can’t afford to lose your shit right now.
Pull yourself together.
Why can’t I just be fixed right now?’
The mistakes she can’t erase.
The one’s she’s lost, but can’t replace.
The ever present ache.
She lights a purple candle at the end of the bath as the water runs.
She undresses and plants her feet flat on the shaggy mat beneath her -
Or more like she’s trying to figure out where to plant herself.
The naked, candle-lighting, bath mat woman
Knows that this moment in this pristine bathroom
Has the potential to become a sanctuary if she lets it.
That this moment is a light blue see-through sphere - enlarging before her; beckoning her to enter.
She knows that what she chooses to think about in the next few seconds
Because this moment is calling
For her to learn to be gentle
She presses play on her iPod in it’s dock on the bench;
The sounds of bittersweet acoustic guitar strums, soft percussion, and divinely inspired ambients
Fill the room - accompanying the voice of a Pakistani woman pouring forth Sufi poetry in song.
Turning off the tap, she gets in
And feels the heat envelop her skin
As she submerges herself into the water.
She closes her eyes
As if to say
"Come to me, come to me, Spirit of Calm"
"Come to me, Spirit of Tranquility.
My heart is a clock
And it’s tick-tocking constantly
I need someone or something
To slow me down.”
So she sets her mind to the music;
Her mind swept up in the music.
The sound of the time-lapse world that rushes around her
Dissolves into rhythm and drum beat.
Good-bye quick footsteps on hard city concrete.
Good-bye flashing green pedestrian crossing signs.
Good-bye worry about how she’ll make the rent next week.
To the words of Sylvia Plath as they exhale themselves into the melody:
She breathes in
And breathes out.
And breaths out.
Then she says to herself:
Didn’t happen overnight.
So let it unravel gradually.
Healing is a process
Let it come to you slowly.
If that’s what you need,
Let it come to you slowly.
While scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed, I came across a link posted by The Body is Not an Apology. It was to a website called The Grace Project. Essentially it is a collection of tasteful nude photographs portraying the grace and beauty of women who had undergone mastectomies.
I looked through each of the photos and found myself experiencing a myriad of emotions that I’d never really felt while just thinking about mastectomies. But to actually look at these women; naked, scarred, and breastless - it scared me. A lot. And I decided that I wanted to do some reflecting on why.
My first honest thoughts regarding these women was: their bodies now look like men’s bodies. The thought of not having my own breasts horrified me because - as I looked at these women with completely flat chests, or breasts with massive scars where their nipples used to be - I realised that my own breasts are deeply tied into my own sense of feminine identity. And the question gnawing at me - the thing that I had to face was: if I didn’t have breasts, could I still see myself as a woman?
The thought of writing beyond this point is hard for me because I feel I’m being confronted by my own, perhaps, skewed views of what femininity really is? Does my vagina, do my breasts make me a woman? Most people would say that your genitalia and sexual characteristics determine your gender. But - in my way of thinking - hermaphrodites, for example, are a perfect example of how sexual characteristics don’t mean jack in certain contexts.
Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely identify as a woman. And I am confronted now with the reality that probably 50% of that is most likely related to the fact that I come with fully furnished female-specific sex organs, 25% of it related to the way I was raised as a girl, and 15% of it connected to the ideas of femininity and womanness that I have been drawn to/adopted.
But what if I didn’t have breasts? The Top 5 questions to myself are:
1. Would I believe that I am worthy of being called ‘woman’?
2. Would I still be sexually attractive to a men?
3. Even if I could manage to meet a man who is sexually attracted to me, would I be so ashamed of my flat chest, and the permanent, thick reddish-pink scars where my nipples used to be, that I wouldn’t alllow him to be sexually intimate with me?
4. Would I ever be able to stop grieving the loss of body parts that are so innately tied in with my sexual identity?
5. Would other people recognise me as ‘feminine’?
These are musings that have just recently been triggered by The Grace Project. And, in all honesty, I don’t feel that I can answer them. They are questions that linger, and will probably continue to do so because I most certainly can’t answer them as a woman who has never had to lose her breasts.
I hope that day never comes. And I most certainly hope that I can now begin the process of letting go of some of the rigid ideas I’ve had about my sexual characteristics being the ultimate proof of my womanness. These reflections have provoked me to seek out a deeper understanding of what femininity is - separate from my body parts.
This just confirms my belief that Entourage is the best show ever.