Pilates teacher: You have what we call a “floppy” body.
Yogi: Your hips are really…open.
Personal trainer: You don’t have a lot of fat on you – it just all happens to be on your arms.
“You look like you’re on holidays!”
- my yoga teacher who never wears makeup
“Wowee, we’re looking very…casual.”
- my chiro, I think he might be gay
“You look nice today.”
- my boyfriend, he is obligated to say this even if I have been awake for 2 days drinking
“Are you ill?”
- my mother
#1 You start thinking about contents insurance.
You don’t own anything apart from a bicycle, a Nintendo 64, and the electric frying pan with the melted handle that your mother gave you when you moved out of home.
Maybe you should insure that junk, because it’s better than having nothing, right?
#2 Your personal comfort becomes more valuable to you than looking good.
You decide that you were stylish enough when you were younger and now it’s time to be warm and have free movement of your limbs when you go out.
I assume so, anyway.
I was never stylish at any age.
I wore hand me downs.
From my brother.
#3 Your hangovers become brutal.
They used to set in as a gentle headache, then ease off after a strong coffee and 4 hash browns.
Now they break down your door at 7am and smash you in the face with all the force of a date rapist.
#4 It becomes harder to keep the weight off.
You used to eat like a 12 year old boy, but you had an arse like one too.
Now you have an arse like Jack Osbourne.
#5 When you buy cereal, you choose the ones that promise to lower your cholesterol.
Whatever that is.
#6 You start getting along better with your parents.
You realise they’re not so bad.
You stop planning ways to spend your inheritance because you don’t want them to die so much anymore.
#7 When someone offers you free drugs, you say no because you have work in the morning.
I would never do that.
Me: Check out that figure skater!
Him: I could never have sex with her. She’s too graceful. It would be like putting tomato sauce on a really nice steak.
Me: Damnit, my pants shrank.
Him: Are you sure?
Me: Yes, I just got them out of the dryer.
Him: Maybe you’ve put on weight.
Me: I haven’t put on weight. These pants fit perfectly yesterday, now they’re too tight. Clearly, they’ve shrunk.
Him: They look the same to me. That’s all I’m saying.
Him (on the phone): Hey, I’m just at the pub with Annik. Yeah, she’s right next to me. What’s she wearing? Well she’s got what appears to be a curtain wrapped around her waist, tied with a piece of cheap rope; a faded non-descript black singlet; and sunglasses that definitely cost less than $15. In fact, I’m pretty sure she found them on the side of the road.
Him: I literally have nothing to wear. All my clothes are in the wash.
Me: You can borrow one of my shirts, if you want?
Him: It’s okay, all your stuff is too man-ish anyway.
Mum’s friend: I hate to say it, but your cat’s getting a little chunky.
Me: So’s your face.
When I was fifteen, I worked in the créche at my parents’ church. This meant I had to look after other people’s whining children and sometimes take them to the toilet and wipe their bums, but at least I didn’t have to listen to the sermon.
One Sunday, there was a new kid in the créche who seemed to take a liking to me. We played for half an hour and read some books together, then she said she wanted to draw a picture of me. I was flattered and sat on a beanbag in front of her, posing for my portrait.
“Now you have blue eyes…” she said, selecting a sky-coloured crayon. “And then brown hair… and a yellow t-shirt… and a BIIIIIG belly!”
“Church is finished,” I told her, holding in a scowl. “I’ll mind your picture until your parents are leaving. You can come back and collect it then.”
After she left to find her mum and dad, I scrunched her picture into a ball and threw it in the bin. Then I walked down to the takeaway shop and bought a large tub of hot chips. I decided I would not have children if they all turned out to be such nasty little shits.
Mum: Is that your new top?
Me: Yep. Like it?
Mum: It has horizontal stripes.
Me: Yeah, so?
Mum: You should wear vertical stripes, darling. They’re more slimming.
When I was in primary school, we were visited once a year by the Life Education Australia van. This was a caravan manned by chirpy women who used a giraffe puppet (Healthy Harold) and a nude mannequin (Tammy) to educate third graders on drugs and general health. I didn’t care much for Harold, but I was fascinated by Tammy and her womanly figure, which I would never develop. Her plastic skin had been shaven away on one side, exposing her plastic internal organs. I wanted to reach out and stroke her plastic liver, then tweak her plastic nipple. I was shy though.
Healthy Harold taught us about the food pyramid and advised us to exercise regularly. He then launched into an anti-drug tirade and touched on the dangers of peer pressure as well as the legal and socio-economic factors involved with drug abuse and their long-term effects on society. I spent these lessons staring at the caravan ceiling, which was covered in tiny fake stars, and thinking about my silk worms, but the message was so strong, it seeped completely into my eight year old brain anyway. If anyone had offered me a cigarette, I would have urinated on their entire packet and rang the police immediately. If thirty of my classmates had stood in a circle and chanted “CHUG, CHUG, CHUG,” I would have tipped my bottle of beer down the nearest drain and raised my face to the sky, arms outstretched, before calling out the twelve steps and giving glory to God. I was completely staunch in my resolve: I would never drink or smoke. I would certainly never take drugs. I would be healthy. I would be happy. I would be like Harold.
Four years later, my great-grandmother died. She was ninety-seven years old, and had been in a nursing home for six months. I remembered the day she was put into the nursing home, because my father was very tense and simply told me, “She fell over.” But through eavesdropping on my mother’s phone conversations, I was able to piece together all the details: Nan had gotten out of bed during the night to get a glass of water, then she had fallen over on her way back from the kitchen, breaking her hip and smashing her head against the floor, knocking herself out. Unable to get back up after she regained consciousness, she simply remained on the floor and waited for somebody to find her. By the time my grandfather arrived in the morning to take her to church, she had ripped up half the carpet in her living room in an attempt to keep herself warm throughout the night. She had torn up her hands doing this, and managed to cut her arms on broken glass. She had also shat herself and was crying with embarrassment.
This single agonising, undignified event completely horrified me. “Why couldn’t she get back up again?” I asked my mother, interrupting her phone call.
“She’s just too old,” Mum explained, “The body starts to give up and stop working after a while.”
This distressed me deeply. The idea that I could one day find myself unable to walk or wipe my own arse was the most depressing thing I had ever contemplated. And the thought of my great-grandmother lying amongst broken glass on her kitchen floor, nursing a smashed hip and a bruised face, scratching at the carpet and defecating on her own muumuu was too awful for my pre-pubescent brain to handle. In that moment, I vowed that I would die the day after my 70th birthday. Or even sooner, if possible. I would never be found covered in my own shit and lying broken on the floor, because I simply wouldn’t live that long. I would die while I still had dignity and presence of mind. Hopefully I would still have my figure too.
And so, when my time came, I said “Yes!” to cigarettes. I said yes to alcohol and pot and pills and anything else that crossed my path. I still work out and eat properly and moisturise and sleep 8 hours every night, because I am vain, but I’m not going to make any effort to extend my life beyond the ability to control my own bladder. If being healthy means dying in a puddle of my own excrement with broken hips, then Harold can eat my arse.
Editor’s note: Any teachers or parents who are interested in having Annik speak at their children’s schools can send an expression of interest via email to education [at] annikskelton.com
I had just turned nineteen when a routine visit to the dentist suddenly took a nasty turn….
“Look at those wizzies!” Fred said, fingering my gums. “We need to take those babies out asap!”
“Are you sure?” I asked, feeling sick.
“Of course I’m sure,” Fred said, offended. “I’ve been a dentist for twenty goddamn years. Don’t worry, they’ll put you under before they get started.”
I relaxed immediately. Several painful things had happened to me under local anesthetic, so I was apprehensive of staying awake during any sort of medical procedure and wanted to be put under for most things, including having my legs waxed. However, up until now, nobody had ever offered me a general anesthetic, so I felt very excited. Furthermore, I would likely be prescribed some sweet pain killers to cope with the post-op agony. My love affair with pharmaceuticals stretched back to infancy, and I had developed quite a strong tolerance for most over-the-counter medications by the time I reached adolescence. An opportunity to legitimately obtain some harder gear was way too good to pass up.
“Will there be panadeine forte or similar involved in this?” I asked Fred, trying to keep my voice casual.
“Hell yes,” he replied. “Do you have any idea how deep your wisdom teeth grow?”
I waved him away and sat back in the chair, already planning how this tooth extraction surgery would pan out. I would get to go to hospital for the first time ever, and the novelty of this would be so intense that it would outweigh any negative aspects of having my teeth wrenched from my head. After the operation, I would stay at my parents’ house, where I would lie on the lounge and watch Dawson’s Creek for a week. Of course, this didn’t differ very much at all from my regular life, except that now I would be doing it while I was fucked up on codeine. Further, I would have my mother and father around to wait on me. It would be like a holiday that didn’t cost any money, just teeth.
The big day arrived and my mother drove me to the hospital in the morning. After I registered with reception, I was taken into a consultation room and instructed to remove all my jewellery and hair accessories.
“I’m having my mouth operated on, not my pony tail,” I told the nurse.
“This is standard procedure,” she replied defensively. “Now, how much do you weigh?”
“That’s a little personal,” I protested.
“We need to know your weight in order to figure out how much anesthetic to give you,” she explained.
“Oh. In that case, put me down for 80kg.”
After I left the consultation room, I was shown into a pre-op area and given a gown to change into. My mother paced around the room, looking anxious.
“Don’t worry, Mum,” I told her, “I’ll be fine!”
“Oh it’s not that,” she said. “I’ve asked your father to tape A Country Practice and I’m worried he won’t remember.”
After I undressed, I was put on a bed and wheeled to the operating theatre. Once there, a man inserted an IV into my arm, smiled, and told me to count backwards from ten. “Ten…” I said, and promptly passed out.
When I came to, I was in a room with several other girls lying in beds. I panicked straight away. Was this an abortion clinic? Had I just gotten breast implants? Been hit by a bus? Donated an organ? I flagged a nurse and grabbed her arm when she came to my bed. She patted my hand reassuringly and adjusted my gown, which had slipped down to my belly button. I hadn’t even noticed, I was so out of it.
I woke up again about half an hour later. This time, my mother was sitting next to me. “Are you ready yet?” she asked. “I’ve been here all freaking day, let’s hit the road.”
When we got home, I strapped a pack of ice around my jaw. Then I took four panadeine forte and got into bed. I woke up at 3pm the next day and prepared to move to the lounge. But here, my holiday began to divert from the original plan. Codeine made me simple-minded and unable to follow the swift, verbose dialogue of Dawson’s Creek. I kept falling asleep during each episode and waking up confused. And despite using the ice pack, after 24 hours, my jaw had swelled incredibly and my head resembled a peanut. My plans to recover glamorously, lying on the couch and entertaining visitors while my parents fetched me ice cream, had been thwarted by the fact that I was too embarrassed to let anybody see me. My brother came home from work and sat on the coffee table, studying me. “You kind of look like you have Down’s syndrome,” he said. “Except uglier.”
“Fuck you,” I replied, too drugged up to think of any other response.
“I’m going to get my camera!” he said and went to his room.
I took two more panadeine forte and sank into the couch cushions, mentally willing my jaw to shrink.
The swelling did go down eventually, but it took exactly one week. One horribly long week of avoiding mirrors and keeping the blinds closed. Even after the pain in my jaw subsided, I couldn’t leave the house because I now had a deformed head. My brother invited his friends over to show them how ugly I had become. The ironing man looked at me sympathetically, the way one looks at a failed suicide who has inflicted hideous scars on themself but somehow scraped together the will to live, even with a face like a dropped pie. However, I was nowhere near that stoic. I wrapped big scarves around my face, even when I was home alone. And I flat-out refused to move back to my share house until my head had regained its normal shape. I realised that my face was the most important thing in the world to me, and I made a lifelong commitment to protect it. I would wear helmets and mouth guards and goggles and hats and sunscreen forever, because I knew I would never have the strength of character required to live with a crooked nose or a third degree facial burn. Oh I was born with blemishes like everyone else, but I was blessed with imperfections that I could mostly hide with clothing, make up, and lies. The Week of Ugly made me realise how lucky I was. Sure, I might have been dealt short-sightedness, scoliosis and terrible migraines, but at least I didn’t have a head shaped like a fucking peanut.
Wanker at party: Hey She-Skelton, you look different tonight.
Me: I’m not wearing make up. I just came from the gym.
WAP: Oh no, it’s not bad. I mean, you don’t look totally ugly.
Me: Just get me a beer.
WAP: Oh, okay.