Don’t give love letters when you can talk to the girl instead

THE girl.

I’m not sure how to talk about her. I’m so confused I don’t even know whether to refer to her as The Girl or A Girl. The former suggests infatuation when I have barely thought of her in years. The latter seems impersonal, casual and off-hand.

I have been wondering for some weeks now whether I should write about what happened, or ignore the love letter incident entirely.

There is a small chance she would read this. And if she doesn’t, then there’s 90 per cent chance a family member or friend will. And to spare her and myself further embarrassment, I’ve wanted to ignore this entire subject.

But I’m a journalist. I write about other people, and dig up their pain, their issues, all in the name of truth. I’d be a coward and a hypocrite not to begin this. I’d rather be thought brash and awkward.

And besides, it covers the entire issue of leaving the Order, the frustration, the stress, the emotion.

But giving a girl a love letter? Who ever thought that was a good idea.

Not another teen movie

You ever meet a girl you like and want to get to know her more? Basically, I met this great girl while I volunteered in the Order.  I won’t bother attempting to describe her virtues – I’m sure I did this at length in a last letter of desperation.

It’s hard to be smooth, energetic and charming when you’re volunteering such long hours. And so when I did see “Sally” I suppose I was too shy to built rapport. I don’t think she saw me at my best and most relaxed.

She invited the Order members and I to her birthday party. I was definitely going. It was on a Friday night at a rooftop bar. And so begins the shittiest night of my year.

At that stage I’d barely been in a bar. And so after a 40 minute tram ride S-, B- and I arrived. A burly but gay bouncer asked us for I.D. I didn’t have any. My two friends walked inside and I asked them to give her my card. I went back home and searched for I.D. I couldn’t find my licence, but I did have an old uni student card. I arrived an hour late by the time I gave the card to a lady guarding the door.

“But it doesn’t say your date of birth?” she said.

I groaned. She sympathised. But wouldn’t let me in.

This is where an ordinary guy would have called it quits. But I liked this girl. And not showing up to her birthday party was not a good look. I ran home because the tram wasn’t coming fast enough. J- was at home alone watching movies. He was alarmed when he heard me shove my cupboard drawers to the ground in search for the hidden I.D. I’d almost given up when I found it.

I came back to the bar.

Ripped from Deadhomersociety.com
Ripped from Deadhomersociety.com

Both bouncers were at the door laughing, probably not knowing the other had turned me away. “I thought you’d never show up again,” they said.

“Here,” I panted.

“Good on you,” the gay bouncer said, handing it back. “Enjoy your night.”

I scoured the roof top bar and walked around it three times when I realised I had a problem. Nobody I knew was there. They had left without telling me.

“What’s wrong,” the first bouncer asked me as I was about to leave. “You just got here!”

“They left,” I said.

“Bummer.”

It was cold in Melbourne at night. I stood a few minutes wondering what I was going to do. In those days I was on no phone plan. I had a crummy Nokia and it had no credit left. I did not have Sally’s number and even if I did, it was 10.30pm.

But I had B-‘s number, and he should have still been with the group. And when you’re desperate for romance or something of the kind, you find a way. There’s a hundred 7/11’s in Melbourne CBD, or at least one on every corner. I bought credit and phoned B- hoping he would get back to me. I waited in the gutter.

“Hi, I can’t make it to the phone right now…” his answering machine began.

My voice message response was not pleasant.

And then I sent a text which began with “out of worst 10 nights of my life this would be one of them.” It’s a great way to keep friends. You should try it.

But B- was good. He texted me back shortly and said the party had moved to a nightclub. I’d never been to a club before (I was 20!) and it wasn’t in my comfort zone, but I found the place eventually, paid the $15 cover charge, and walked in.

nightclub
benchmarkbusiness.com.au

Sally was there, welcomed me, and we tried to  talk surrounded by  loud music, as dark dressed girls swayed on miniature stages in the centre of the room . But I was in a grumpy mood and wasn’t having any fun, so she found nicer friends. I waited an hour scowling at the random couple meeting and hooking up at the corner of the bar.

And then S- wanted to go home. I walked with S- to the tram, knowing I’d screwed up.

And I’ll tell you the next part next time, I swear.

 

Coping with my man boob (comedian, uni student, christian)

I WAS WALKING in a friend’s house with my shirt off. It was early 2007 , less than a year after graduating high school. My friend pointed at my chest and said, “hey, you have a man boob.”

I stared at my swollen left pec. It was true. I screamed at the monstrosity that was part of my chest while he laughed.

Fair enough. I’d screamed like a  girl with a sore throat.

And once I’d seen the boob I couldn’t ignore it. It ached. It hurt.  I couldn’t mark a football without me clenching my teeth.

I began to hate boobs. Overrated, I say.

The condition is Gynecomastia. I went to the doctor to see what we could do about Bob. One boob. Get it? Doctors would hear about my symptoms and say, rather bored, “It’s quite common among men. Lift up your shirt.”  I would take a seat and remove my shirt. Then they’d see the boob and poke at it, disbelieved. “It is massive, isn’t it?”

It was normal size for a fat man. But it was attached to a young man who barely weighed 67 kilograms.

cropped boob

And the doctors hinted their accusations. “Sometimes cannabis causes this.”

I didn’t take pot. Why did everyone believe I was on the wacky-weed?

“Maybe alcohol.”

I didn’t drink back then.

“Do you have private health?”

Nope.

“Ooh boy. Well, we’ll put you on the waiting list.”

I’d been on the list about a year when I moved to Melbourne. When you’re a zealous Christian teenager and you aren’t cured through your doctor, then  you focus on prayer. I always walked to the front of the church every Sunday to have someone’s hand laid on my chest in the hopes that the fat would disappear somewhere. Their hands would burn – even tingle, I’m not bullshitting.

But burns did nothing. I used to mutter to myself at night KNOWING Bob would disappear the next morning because believing with no doubt in what God would do only made it so. Or so was my logic.

I was embarrassed to take my shirt off through my late teen years. I went swimming with my shirt on at parties and walk out with my hands wrapped around my chest.

I dreaded the pool parties. I went to the 18th of a girl I liked. It was Hawaiian theme which meant I couldn’t wear a jacket. After careful thought I wore my white shirt, kept a folded towel down the left side of my body, and pretended I had something better to do than swim.

Yes, a shirt wasn’t enough. In all seasons of humid Queensland weather I would wear baggy jackets or jumpers to uni to cover my man boob. I was scared thin material of a shirt couldn’t disguise it. I slouched. And when anyone touched me near the chest I flinched.

Dating in uni when you had a man boob? Sure, being 19 or 20 living two hours from your uni when you had no money was obstacle enough.

One time in Melbourne a strange woman was in the Order 614 kitchen (sort of like a soup kitchen for those who haven’t followed this blog). I walked into the kitchen as she was being asked to leave.

Before she passed me she stopped and stroked her hand down my chest.

She’d felt me up. And in doing so felt my boobie. She gaped at me. Served her right.  She strode out without another word while the others laughed. They did not understand the real situation.

In June 2009 the Order members went on a retreat for a few days. We were supposed to go on a bonding camp in February but the black Saturday bushfires burnt out our camping ground. So it was delayed to June.

The retreat followed one of the tougher times of the year. The Red Shield Appeal and the long hours that came with it was finished with. The retreat was one of the happiest times during the year for all of us.

retreat6

 

Except for MF. She missed out because she hit her head on the wooden cross kept in the church and needed stitches at the hospital.

That first night most of us went in the heated spa. It was a winter night in Geelong. The pool was freezing. But one of the idiots jumped in anyway. I can’t remember who.

Notice the shirt hasn't come off?
Notice the shirt hasn’t come off?

I stayed in the water a few minutes before crawling up the side and into the spa with the others.

When a gathering of young adults of mixed gender share a spa there is the urge for games such as truth or dare. Heated water seems to make us relax. It was a time we learnt more about each others sexual histories.

That’s when I took my shirt off and showed them my boob. It seems silly I could be embarrassed about it. Their reaction was not what I expected.

“Can I touch it?” one of the girls said. And when I let her, she laughed and said “wow, it’s so perky. I wish mine were like that.”

I was grateful for her risque compliment.

retreat7

It’s just one lump of flesh and somehow knowing my friends knew made the difference. They didn’t care. They never thought less of me. Coincidentally, this was the time I opened up more to them. Before that I kept closed about anything from the heart.

God didn’t heal my boob. It feels like blasphemy writing this. It sounds accusing. It’s not. It’s a fact with no religious ideologies seeking an explanation.

I suppose letting my friends know, the “it’s so perky”, played a big part in trivialising Bob the boob. I joined the world of stand-up comedy a year after I finished the Order. My fashion was still baggy jackets but at least I was in the spotlight. I stopped letting the boob interfere with my persona.

I suppose performing stand-up comedy was my way to become somebody else, my way of fighting a lack of confidence. I could influence a room of people with words and not by the shape of my body. After 100 gigs I forgot about my boob. My audience cared if I was funny.

Performing at the Loft, Gold Coast, in 2011.
Performing at the Loft, Gold Coast, in 2011.

In 2013 (five years after I first noticed) I received surgery in Bunbury Hospital, WA. The surgeon left a curved scar line under my nipple.

Bob was dead. It is strange how much this has changed me, but not necessarily in a good way.