- Looking at your own poo was important because it told you whether you were healthy or not.
- Female pleasure was considered essential for conception to occur, so if you got knocked up in a rape you could never press charges because obviously you enjoyed it, you swampy whore.
- When you were dying, the priest would announce it at church and then everyone would come to your house to stand around and watch you die.
- If you didn’t die “properly” and went under screaming, crying, or freaking out, you were considered a huge pussy and would have to kill more time in purgatory than people who died more pleasantly.
- Rich people didn’t eat garlic because it was considered peasant food.
- Vaginas didn’t really exist. Girls just had inverted penises and if you jumped up and down enough, it would eventually fall out.
- It was considered “womanly” for an unmarried man to sleep with a lot of women, so in order to maintain his masculinity he would bum dudes instead.
- You could swaddle your baby and hang it from a tree all day while you were off ploughing fields and nobody would think less of you.
- Generally speaking, there was never any need to take a bath.
- Women had no souls, just like black people and slaves.
- People would take a dump in most places. There were no toilets anywhere and no real concept of cleanliness, so you could poop pretty much wherever you wanted and not be embarrassed about it like I was. If you were royalty you might have a “toilet” on one of your castle’s turrets where you could shit off the side of the building and your shit would slowly run down the wall into the shit-filled moat below.
- It was a pretty gross time for everybody.
aka I am doing Open Uni again.
“Third time lucky, then?”
- my mother
“Honestly, nobody even cares anymore.”
- my friend Keira
- supportive boyfriend
Earlier this year I decided to go back to uni to finish my bachelor degree. I’m not sure why. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My first lot of exams was reasonably traumatic. Here is a summary:
Exam #1: Gender, History & Culture
- Wake up late
- Injure eyeball while putting in contact lenses
- Cannot ride bike due to the rain
- Cannot find taxi due to the rain
- Phone a friend and make them drive me
- Accidentally slam my writing hand in the bathroom door
- Arrive 10 minutes after the exam has started with throbbing hand
- Mistake a pair of boobs for a bum and write half an essay on dual gendered identities before realising what was actually in the photo and having to rewrite the whole thing.
Exam score: 83
Overall grade: Credit
Exam #2: Australian Studies: Images of Australia
- Arrive on time to realise exam is open book and I did not bring my books
- Decide to go home and get books, sacrificing valuable writing time
- Run up the hill of death in Ultimo, through the pissing rain, trying to find a cab in morning peak hour
- Am too unfit and have to stop to rest while precious minutes tick away
- Stand in the rain for 10 minutes trying to find a taxi
- Find taxi
- Lose it to some lady in a power suit
- Find taxi
- Drive all the way home, get books, drive back to the exam venue
- Hand over $40 in taxi fares
- Sit exam, which started 20 minutes earlier
- Hate life.
Exam score: 80
Overall grade: Distinction
I ended up withdrawing from the following study period two days after the census date, forfeiting roughly $1,400 in HECS but not really caring.
When my mum gets back from Turkey, she will read this and be disappointed in me.
Me: Sometimes you just find yourself in the men’s room at Q Bar at 6am on a Sunday morning and you think, “What am I doing with my life?”… Know what I mean?
Dr Riley: Not really.
After I failed uni, I decided to give community college a go. So every Monday night, I left my mind-numbing accounting job and hiked over to Redfern to attend a creative writing class.
On the first night, the teacher introduced herself and informed us that she had written three books.
“How long did it take you to get published?” I asked.
“Oh I haven’t been published yet,” she said, “But I will.”
At the second class, we read a Roald Dahl short story and were told to write about a place that made us feel peaceful, then swap papers with the person sitting next to us. I wrote about a garbage dump and then passed my notepad to Austin, the British guy next to me, who I instinctively knew would be a massive wanker.
“This makes no sense,” he told me, “I can’t hear the protagonist’s voice properly. Just read mine so you know how to do it next time, innit?”
At the third class, we were given a handout that was literally titled The Formula for Writing a Story. This included ingredients such as a “seemingly insurmountable obstacle” and a “catalyst for change” as well as “external and internal conflict” and characters that “evolved” and achieved a “worthwhile goal” in the end.
“I dunno about this,” I whispered to Austin, “I just wanna write dick jokes and stuff, you know?”
“If you’re not serious about being a writer, then why are you here, innit?” he replied.
For our big project, we all had to write a short story and then email it to the rest of the class, who would each give personal feedback the following week.
One guy wrote a meandering, pointless tale about a journey to the centre of the earth that never ended and involved stunningly dull characters. He scored a 9 out of 10.
Another girl wrote about a GP who drugged and raped his patients, until one of them went crazy and cut off his penis with a pair of scissors, then proceeded to feed it to her dog. She received an 8.
Austin wrote some bullshit crime scene story featuring a feisty heroine and got an 8.5.
I wrote about this arsehole landscaper I dated during highschool, and how I would intentionally go for average-looking and unintelligent guys so that I could lord over them and bask in my superior looks and intellect. When the time came for the class to discuss my story, I was asked to read it aloud, despite nearly being drowned out by the other students’ laughing at my awesome jokes. When I finished, I received a standing ovation and Austin slapped me on the back.
“This is an excellent piece,” the teacher announced, “But there isn’t any inner conflict. The protagonist is completely at ease with herself. This is just meaningless fodder, and it needs more substance before any publisher would even look at it.”
“But the protagonist is me,” I argued, “And I don’t have any inner conflict. I feel great.”
“Well. I’ve given you a 4 out of 10, nonetheless,” the teacher said. “There just weren’t enough elements of the formula present for me to mark you any higher.”
“Tough luck, innit” Austin said sympathetically, as I returned to my seat.
“Fuck you,” I replied.
After class, I walked outside and threw my story in the bin. Then I went home and deleted Austin from Facebook. I never went back to community college and I didn’t write anything for two years. I held onto the teacher’s contact details though, just in case I ever do write a book. I want to send her a copy of the hardback edition and sign, “LICK MY BALLS, IN YOUR FACE” inside the front cover.
I was sitting in Dr Riley’s office, thinking about who I would invite to my funeral if I had the option, when he interrupted my train of thought by suggesting I participate in a month-long outpatient program at a nearby hospital. I was immediately alarmed, having only heard the term “outpatient” used in relation to treatment for eating disorders and drug addiction. I had flirted with both those things, but more out of boredom than anything else. I certainly didn’t need to participate in any sort of formal treatment.
“What kind of program?” I asked Dr Riley suspiciously.
“Oh nothing too intense,” he replied. “It’s a full-time day course involving a lot of group therapy. The main focus is on anxiety and anger management.”
Anxiety and anger management? I could see where he was coming from with the first part. I had spent roughly 8 months prior to this hiding under my doona watching Dawson’s Creek all day and refusing to answer my phone or empty the letter box. On the rare occasions I left the house to get food or cigarettes or a bottle of vodka, I wore baggy clothes and went shopping at odd hours to avoid as many people as possible. Doing your groceries is usually a fairly stress-free task, but if I found myself caught in the after-school rush at Woolworths, I would suffer dizzy spells and heart palpitations. By the time I ended up in Dr Riley’s office, I had gained 15kg, dropped out of uni, quit my job, and moved back to my parents’ house because it had become evident I was incapable of dealing with the basics of life. I was twenty years old, and while I could score 98% on my statistics final and organise lavish birthday parties for my friends, I couldn’t get it together enough to open my mail or wash my own clothes. So I could see why a little anxiety therapy wouldn’t go astray, but anger management? Was he being serious?
I put down my magazine and sat straighter in my chair. “I don’t really think I need to learn how to manage anger,” I told him. “I dont have any.”
“Ah but that’s the problem!” Dr Riley said, “You need to learn how to express your anger, rather than being in denial about its existence in the first place.”
“But what if I genuinely don’t have any?” I asked.
“You do,” he replied. “It’s there, you just can’t feel it.”
This troubled me deeply. If not feeling something meant that my brain wasn’t letting me feel that very thing, who knew what might be lurking underneath the surface? Maybe I was feeling all kinds of things, but my brain was blocking those emotions and tricking me into thinking they were never even there? Maybe I was compassionate? Maybe I cared about the environment? Maybe I was a lesbian?
I stared at Dr Riley for a few seconds. Then I tilted my head back slightly so that I could look down on him from across the room. “I don’t feel the need to rape children,” I said. “Should I go and do a course to learn how to express that too?”
“Please be serious,” Dr Riley said. “I think you’ll find that if you simply let yourself feel things, they won’t be all that bad.”
He had no idea. My feelings (the ones I knew about, anyway) were all-encompassing, omnipresent, and dangerously powerful. If they were all let out at once, my head would explode, the nearest 12 blocks would lose power, and every small animal within a 10km radius would drop dead. Planes would fall out of the sky, the ground would tremble, and Sydney’s elderly population would overheat and wither in their nursing home beds. A national crisis would be declared and a large-scale emergency team would need to be assembled to clean up the mess, and it would all be Dr Riley’s fault.
“I’m not angry,” I repeated.
“There are certain emotions which are healthy and normal, and their absence indicates a problem,” Dr Riley replied.
“Don’t you think that’s a little arrogant?” I asked nastily. “Who the hell are you to declare what the entire human population should or should not be able to feel?”
“Look, you know I can’t work with you when you’re being inflammatory,” Dr Riley said. “I need you to calm down if we’re going to talk about this outpatient program properly.”
“We don’t need to talk about it properly. I’m not going.”
“Will you actually consider this, rather than being so stubborn about it?” he said.
“Actually, you know what? I think this is really helping, cause I’m feeling pretty pissed off right about now,” I said, gathering my things.
“Are you sure you want to finish up on that note?” he asked, looking bored.
“Yes I’m sure. You can shove your anger management course.”
As I left the office, Dr Riley smiled and shook his head, and I felt furious.
I have always felt nervous when people make notes about me. What was so heinous that they could write on a permanent file, but couldn’t say to my face? When I was a child, I wanted the doctor and the dentist to make their notes on sheets of butcher’s paper spread out on the floor, using coloured textas. Maybe we could draw a Venn diagram or do some brain storming together. Then we could stick it on the fridge and I wouldn’t have to spend every night during the third grade sitting up in bed, fretting over what all these people were writing about me.
I didn’t feel that way with Dr Riley though. He was so smart and highly regarded in psychiatry that he didn’t have to cut his hair for work. He kept ugly artworks in his office and wore light pink pants and nobody gave a damn. He took the tough cases too – people who punched walls during sessions and went home to slit their wrists, then came back to the surgery covered in blood and babbling apologies. I had to wait 4 months just to get an appointment.
When Dr Riley made notes about me, I felt special. It was like being interviewed by a famous journalist. I wore distressed jeans and big sunglasses to my sessions. I put my feet on the lounge and made jokes about his other patients.
“I don’t think you’re taking your time here very seriously,” he said at my second appointment.
“I guess I’m just not a very serious kind of girl,” I replied, winking.
Dr Riley rolled his eyes and made some notes. Presumably something along the lines of, Well dressed, biting wit, fascinating and charismatic. I tossed my hair and turned my head so that the better side of my profile was facing him, in case he wanted to make a quick sketch of my features.
By my third appointment, however, Dr Riley was making so many notes that I began to feel nervous again. When I tried to look at his notepad, he gave me a stern look and tilted it away. “These notes are just for me,” he said, and resumed writing. I scanned the room anxiously, looking for something personal. Dr Riley knew so much about me, and I knew practically nothing of him. I needed to restore the balance. I had to get some reciprocal dirt to even things out. I spotted a bicycle in the corner of the room, leaning against one wall, helmet sitting on the seat. Aha! I thought, He’s a cyclist. Interested in fitness. Probably worried about his weight. Finding it harder to keep the pounds off as he gets older. Definitely projecting that onto his patients. Was probably sexually abused as a child. Is no doubt a latent homosexual. May be inclined to violent episodes. I should leave now, this guy’s more nuts than I am.
“You know what I think the problem is?” Dr Riley said, interrupting my diagnosis.
I liked the way he said “the problem” and not “your problem.” It made me feel like I had no responsibility in the matter. It caused me to visualise an obnoxious self-sustaining problem floating in the room; something we would tackle together. I found this comforting because I am inherently lazy.
“What’s the problem?” I asked, looking closely at my cuticles.
“You only have two conscious emotions or states of being. You’re either shit, or you’re okay. That’s it. That is the full spectrum of your feelings as an adult. Shit or okay, shit or okay. Shit… Okay…”
“Hmmmm.” I considered this for a moment.
“Well?” Dr Riley asked, “How does that make you feel?”
“Okay,” I replied.
“I thought so,” he said, and went back to making notes.
I did not officially study for my Higher School Certificate, but I obtained a reasonably high UAI because I had written my maths formulae, history dates, English quotes and legal studies cases on clear plastic and stuck them on the back of the toilet door. I then stared intently at them while I crouched on the bathroom floor on early mornings, nursing the worst of my study-leave hangovers. And so, armed with these surprisingly excellent results and the world at my feet, I enrolled in a Business degree with a major in Accounting. If you had asked me why I wanted to be an accountant, I would have said something along the lines of, “I like Maths and I don’t know what else to do.” Indeed, I did enjoy the odd equation, and the approximate 5% of my course that involved Maths was reasonably enjoyable. However, the remainder of my classes and lectures proved to be rather dry, so I decided to make do with the textbooks and my ability to improvise.
This worked well for my first year and my sparkling academic record continued. However, at the beginning of 2006, my interest in the course began to wane. Depressed and directionless, I chose to spend my days drinking gin and watching Dawson’s Creek rather than studying. Miraculously, I passed my third semester, and then during the fourth, I…….failed. I went to my exams and stared at the paper and I didn’t know any of the answers. I couldn’t even make something up, because I had failed to absorb the basic grains of knowledge that I could have then elaborated on to construct some kind of response. So I handed in my blank paper, went home, poured myself a gin and tonic, and watched Dawson’s Creek.
After that semester, I deferred my course for a year, then never went back. And to be honest, the only thing I really regret is my $11k HECS debt.