THE GRUDGE

I’m not a massive fan of horror films. Blood and guts effects me in a visceral way that I find hard to convey to people effectively when they’re trying to joyously recount their recent experience of having almost sliced their own arm to the bone, or even just ripped one of their hideous acrylics down to the nail bed. Basically I just want them to shut the fuck up before I lose control of my emissions and either shit or spew myself. Slasher movies terrify me not only for the imagery, but also because some fucker out there has actually conceptualized this extreme violence, and most likely some other fucker out there has carried it out in real life. The cogs in my brain continue to churn over and over this sickening probability well into the night, the next day, and the day after that. The trauma doesn’t end with the film credits.

Japanese supernatural horror on the other hand…. That shit is fucked up and I don’t know why but I love it. The Ring. The Grudge. My belief in the supernatural exists but is undefined so I can maintain my psychological distance. I have a hard time believing that evil spirits hang out in a video tape, waiting ever so patiently for SOMEONE to press play so that the spirit can emerge with the sole purpose of freezing the face of a random Japanese teenager into a hideous distortion they will be cursed with forever more. Although, in all honesty, it really would be my worst nightmare. To start watching a film with my looks in tact, not only to be horrifically robbed of the pleasure of a film which turns out to be nothing but static, but to also have my face twisted and frozen. In one foul swoop – shit movie, eternally fucked up ugly face. I guess it’s a good thing that nobody even has a VCR anymore so the evolution of technology has saved us all.

Knock on wood. I actually am superstitious.

There is a girl I have worked with in a couple of clubs here in Melbourne. We called her The Grudge. This sounds like I’m just being a snarky bitch but if you’d ever seen or worked with her you would understand. She really was just like The Grudge. Her demeanor, her glide, her face slightly downturned to one side so that when she spoke to men she would have to gaze upward through one half of the long straight black curtain of her hair. The effect was both incredibly eerie and mesmerizing. I’d watch her from across the room wondering what the hell she could possibly be saying to get guys into the rooms? Did she speak at all? She would literally seem to just appear next to a man and one hand would lightly move, with such fluidity and grace, to place itself on the edge of his shoulder or arm. She wasn’t a crotch grabber, or an ear licker when she hustled. She didn’t press herself up on, or drape herself all over the boys. She actively avoided contact with most of the girls she worked with, and as a result, who she was as a person just added to the mystery of The Grudge. The club lights never seemed to find her in full. She was luminescent and somehow the light seemed to refract as if passing through her, creating a hologram effect. It was weird. Or maybe my imagination is taking poetic license. Whatever. Hologram Grudge sounds good to me. She would breeze by cold and pale, receding into the dark pockets of the club. Lingering there, glowing as a ghost would. Existing. Watching. Then, spotting a man, she would get going for a glide. First she was here, and then, she was over there! As if by magic.

thegrudge

Once I was with a customer and I left him at the bar so I could check my podium times on the roster backstage. I was gone for no more than 2 minutes and when I came back The Grudge had one pale frosty hand on the shoulder of my guy. At my home club, us girls will just let each other know if a customer has been waiting for us so that the intercepting girl doesn’t waste her time. It’s accepted and appreciated for us to do things this way. As I was midway through extending this one liner courtesy to The Grudge, her downturned head sharply clicked upward by only a 22 degree angle, so for the first time ever, I saw her gaze lock straight forward, burning into my eyeballs. A strand or two of her perfectly straight Asian hair became dislodged. All of a sudden she looked distressed. Nay, psychotic, as she began screaming into my face. A blood curdling scream. Over reactive, hysterical, guttural, horrific…. I don’t know if I could use enough adjectives to describe how much over kill was laser beamed into this moment, searing a firey hole into the fabric of the universe directly in front of the male toilets.

“I’M SPEAKING TO HIM NOW YOU CAN’T COME OVER HERE UNTIL I’M FINIIIIIIIIIIIISHED!!!!! YOU SHOULD NOT DO THIIIIIIIIIS!!!!!”

The exclamation marks could continue indefinitely as well but I’m curbing them at five per sentence. It was as if she were seeing herself in the mirror for the first time…in a Japanese horror movie. Insert grudge terror pic here.

In this moment, I realized that I am not particularly good when it comes to confrontation with demons. My glib vocabulary and tinkling laughter evacuated the building and I was left with two raised eyebrows and an open gaping mouth, staring of its own accord at the spectacle. To be disgracefully honest, it was even worse than that as I’d only just had botox so my eyebrows were actually incapable of raising themselves. My brain was sending furious messages to my eyebrows to move skyward, and my paralyzed eyebrows were scrambling these messages to my nostrils, which, due to the scrambled directive and their own unique set of raising limitations, then flared out to their full capacity creating a generous circumference that had to be seen to be believed. Like a peacock fanning it’s tail, it was probably the most impressive nostril flare of my life. Her widened eyes and my widened nostrils were engaged in a face off. Literally. In the end my nostrils won by default as my customer finally regained his composure, lightly placed his hand on my shoulder and led me away, gliding across the floor in a state shock and triumph.

 

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The Big O

  
People often feel a little guilty about objectifying us girls when they visit a strip club. I guess that’s one thing to feel bad about if you’re an asshole about it. But it’s also condescending to think of strippers as victims of objectification. I mean really, no one seems to feel sorry for the 14 year old Kate Moss in that Calvin Klein campaign. It’s the very thought that turns it from an appreciation to an objectification.

It’s what a lot of women like to think so they can feel sorry for us and be safe because obviously we are all fucked in the head, which therefore makes us less appealing, and therefore less likely to steal the husbands or boyfriends of theirs that we have absolutely no interest in stealing. These concerned girlfriends and wives obviously haven’t heard that thing about how crazy girls are the best fucks in the forest because if they had they’d be increasing their benzodiazepine intake to allay their fears of members of orthodox or born again church groups; women living in isolation on self sustaining farms in bum-fuck-no-town-no-where bunking on mattresses stuffed with sustainably farmed organic straw in shipping crates collecting the hair shed from their bodies to reverently stuff the pillow of their long haired guru; and of course girls in mental hospitals who can be unpredictable and on all kinds of meds. And they certainly would not see the correlation between the benzo use of themselves and the latter. No need to worry so much about the strippers or the crazies. The kind of bitch who will go after your hapless man, powerless like a deer in tit lights, will not be contained to just one industry. That kind of bitch, is that kind of bitch, no matter how she makes her money.

It’s what a lot of men like to think so they can feel like nice guys when they ask you “What are you doing in a place like this? Doing a job like this? You’re such a nice girl. Funny. Smart. Beautiful. Sweet…” As though they are really, no I mean really seeing us as humans. As if you can’t be all of those things and take your clothes off for money. As if you can only be all those things if you star in Disney kids shows (ja cause Britney and Lindsay are such awesome idols for your children), or work with special needs kids, or work behind the counter at Baker’s Delight getting paid $12 an hour and stuffing your face with samples of sundried tomato pull apart bread all day long – I only say this because that’s what I’d be doing…. No offence intended for anyone who actually does work at Baker’s Delight. OMG and shit quality custard tarts!!! I would smash those all day every day til I was sweating sweet gooey custard that I could collect from my arm pits and scrape back into empty pie shells I bought from Woollies on a Saturday morning, refrigerate and then eat all over again in the afternoon.

On the nights that my humour is still in tact and guys ask me what I really do for a living, what income in a respectable trade I need to subsidise, I often tell them I work with people with special needs. People who dribble and sometimes even vomit on themselves, don’t understand social etiquette, have addiction issues, anger management problems, mental retardation coupled with sexual perversions, autistics from across the entire spectrum and people with Aspergers disease who don’t understand emotions and how their words and actions effect others.

“Wow! Really?? That’s so saaaaad. Those poor people. How long have you been doing that for?” Sometimes they get it. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I let them in on the joke. Sometimes I don’t.

“Yes, I really do work in community services…..in a way. Yes, sometimes it really does bring me down. It can be pretty intense. Yeaaaaaah.”

Sometimes nasty ladies of the 9-5 circuit come in and objectify us too. They sit at our podiums specifically to snarl and snigger at us and talk about our cellulite, or how their bff 4 eva sitting next to them is waaaaaay hotter than that girl on the stage, or how she has been going to Pole Divas for nearly 2 years now and is totally so much better at that descending angel inversion than that girl is…oh, and waaaaay hotter too. I imagine this last type of girl actually ends up demonstrating this inversion on a pole at 1 Oak in New York’s west side, or any which one of Melbourne CBD’s unsuspecting sign posts in the wee drunken hours of her “later that night” montage. Unashamedly displaying her g-banger and the half of her butt cheeks that drew the short straw and didn’t get to hang out the bottom of her skirt that night. This epidemic of pole rape is sweeping its way across many nations like wildfire. And it’s not due to globalization or climate change. I hope it never stops because it’s insanely entertaining and hopefully therapeutic cause these girls obviously have something they need to express that isn’t seeing the light of day or the dark of night frequently enough.

On the flip side of that female market there are also many feminists out there defending our rights as real people with real feelings and to them I’d like to say thanks for the sentiment of care but without delving into a muff that I don’t know that much about having never done that myself, us kids are alright! And if we aren’t, it’s not due to being objectified by strangers. If this were the case I’m pretty sure every girl who walks the street out there in pretty much every country, fat or thin, short or tall, would also be in a high risk category and worthy of an armed defence force and pamphlet literature containing A LOT OF UPPER CASE BOLD text.

To be honest, sometimes it’s a relief to be the object of my own heart’s desire. To just be a shell of a girl. Shiny and bright. Under lights that erase the imperfections of my body that I notice daily. Languid limbs dancing slowly to my own song on a pole in the middle of a snow globe. Suspended in time with glitter falling all around until the floor is covered in a life that seems brighter than the shit day you just had, the Aunty you visited in a hospice last week who’s skull is the most prominent feature of a face that once had a sparkle you’ll never forget. It can be your 20 minutes of peace that set, or your one accumulated one hour of happiness that day. Unless they play top 40 Katy Perry, Skrillex or any one of the empowering Pink ballads on the system. In which case your day is still fucked and the soundtrack to your nightmares has been decided for you by the DJ who is too busy getting a blowjob in the booth to care what kind of ear violation he is subjecting you to.

Objectification is in the eye of the beholder. Hold onto it, or let it go but please don’t spoof into my sparkle globe with your condescending cunt or cock confetti.

   

Saigon Sorrows

I wrote this in Febuary 2013.  It’s taken almost 2 years for me to hit the button that will force me to take just one more tiny step in processing the suffering that has coloured my blood since I was a very little girl. Dedicating it to my dad, from his youngest. I truly hope he never ever reads it.


For my entire adolescent and adult life I’ve felt sad and disappointed by my dad’s performance as my father. I felt as though he failed my sister and I. Often it was us who played parents to him as we traversed our way through his depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. His inability to happily exist within society and our family hurt me. Our adoration and love as children was never enough to make him happy. As a child of the 80’s, raised on Disney, and a teen of the 90’s and avid watcher of old romantic films, this was devastating. My sister idolized him well beyond the point where she realized he was not the man she thought he was. She moved to Sydney to live with him and my step-mum when she was 14. It didn’t work out. She was living in a half way house run by a kick ass nun (thanks for caring for my sister Sister) from her school by the age of 16.

Dad left Australia in 1997. He wanted to give back something to the region he felt he had helped to destroy. Vietnam was too much for him so he has lived in either Cambodia or Laos ever since. I was 17 when he left the country and I felt abandoned. Didn’t he know he was going to miss everything? Didn’t he care? He came to see me perform in a school production of West Side Story just days before he left. I was embarrassed for him to see that side of me. It seemed too personal for him to get a glimpse of me doing something I loved when he was about to up and leave us. It made me want to cry to think of him standing there and being proud of me. Having that moment where he saw his little girl through the eyes of hundreds of other people, but got to feel special, to enjoy the feeling of his heart swelling, because he was my dad. He didn’t deserve it. I wanted to cry at my own bitterness. I wanted to flip the bird and tell him to get fucked. I wanted to scream because I didn’t really want to tell him to get fucked. I really longed for him to show us that he was our dad who loved us more than anything, and to stay in the country to be close to us.

When I was 21, I moved to Sydney for uni. He had given a list of orders written with military precision to my mother and my ex-stepmum to sort through his things from his storage unit. My sister and I were to distribute everything amongst us women and set some things aside that dad particularly wanted. Some of these were obscure….antique silver mandarins, antique daggers, my grandfather’s war medals. We didn’t know where they were and couldn’t find them. He came home to Australia and accused my mother and stepmum of conspiring to steal his belongings. I told him he was being ridiculous. That mum had never asked him for, nor had he given her anything. He lost his shit in the middle of Oxford Street at lunch hour. Shouting that I was a nasty little bitch and that we were all against him. I turned around and walked away. A few days later he called mum to tell her that she had done a bad job in raising us, that my sister and I were not good people. Deceitful and selfish, horrible little women, a far cry from Louisa May Alcott’s cherubs. These incidents, his absence of 15 years and his tendency to flip out when he returns home have all contributed to the demise of our relationship. From that day on Oxford Street, I was no longer daddy’s little girl. He doesn’t even know the half of it.

As I type – tappy tap tap – I am in Ho Chi Minh city. The streets are overflowing with civilians buzzing with festivity for Tet, the New Year celebrations. Years ago my dad told me he had returned to Vietnam in the hope of tracking down some of the Vietnamese people who had befriended him during his time here in the American/Vietnam War. He came from a fucked up 1950’s nuclear Australian family. Standard. My grandmother was a tortured soul who needed attention more than anything else. She would walk my dad and uncle to the country bus stop and in floods of tears she would tell them that when they returned from school, she might be gone. Forever. What a gal. My grandfather had been in the navy in WWII and was a violent drunk. He busted my grandmother having an affair and thought my father was the child of another man. He picked on my dad. Dad had brown hair, sad brown eyes, and big ears. He didn’t like sports like his younger brother, he liked books and languages like some fucking faggot. My grandfather had an ill temper and once flew into a rage and knocked my 12 year old dad out cold. It wasn’t until I was born, with blonde hair and blue eyes, just like Poppa, that he believed my father was his son by blood.

I have always known that my dad treasured the bonds he made in Vietnam. The Vietnamese taught him their language and they got along great. I have the photos of his time in the War. Serious children with rifles almost as tall as they are. Him smoking ciggies and playing cards with other soldiers. I’ve always known he was damaged goods. At times as unpalatable as the 14 year old cans of tinned tomatoes we found in mum’s cupboard last Christmas.

Just before he left Australia he wrote me a letter telling me that he had had a Vietnamese lover. Dad had held him in his arms as he died. I can’t remember exactly what happened. I only ever read the letter once and then buried it in a box with all my other letters from over the years. The shock of finding out my father had had a male lover was overwhelming. The pain of knowing what he had suffered and lost was even greater. I chose not to acknowledge it. We have never spoken about the letter he wrote me and sometimes I wonder if I imagined the whole thing.

A few years ago dad told me that he came back to Vietnam in the hope of finding some of the locals who had befriended him. He went to the War Museum and there he saw the names and faces of every single person he was looking for. They had all been murdered in various horrifying ways over the course of the War. Men, women and children. Today I visited this museum and I was quickly reduced to tears. The pressure from the heat and my heart left me struggling to breathe as I floated my way up stairs and around rooms walking through the terrors that woke my dad every night that I remember with him. I looked at photographs and read captions. I saw faces contorted by suffering and also hope. With each name and face I couldn’t help wondering who my dad had been looking for? Which faces did he find on those walls? I imagined his heart racing as he wandered the exhibits, breaking over and over again with every familiar face he saw. I finally understand the weight of my father’s sorrow. And it is as heavy as fuck. I finally understand that tenor in his voice when it used to fall really low, low, low. Down to a whisper. The film of water over his eyes that was sometimes inexplicable. The heaviness of his spirit.

I’m glad I finally faced my own fears and came to Vietnam. I’ve always wanted to come, but never have. I’ve kept it at a distance, knowing that it would be a very personal experience. I have found and placed another piece in the puzzle that is my father. Dad gave me all his old albums from the storage unit and they are filled with photographs that he took of my sister and I as children. You can feel his love shining at us through the lense. He was not perfect. He often was not there, even when he was in front of us. He didn’t cope with us growing up and holding him accountable for his failings. But he loves us and deserves forgiveness and a real chance to bear witness to our lives and to be a proud father. Cause actually, my sister and I turned out alright and I know that might make him happy to know.

Except for the whole job thing. I don’t want him to see his little girl through the eyes of the thousands of other men who have gazed upon me. A lot of them have known me better than he ever will. I’ve spoken to some of them about the things that matter most to me, that make me laugh or break my heart. He’ll always be my dad. I will always love and respect him. I accept him as he is. But he will never know me as I am.

Dad pic