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Origins #27

13 Jan

I promised at the end of origins #26 that I’d give you some insight into how I grew up because it’ll become relevant to the story, so buckle your seatbelts, because my back story is so fully of Jerry Springer type shit that you probably won’t even believe it.

This one’s epic so don’t expect to get through it in one go…

My family

Like most people of my generation, I was born to a man and a woman. My mother had already had two daughters to her first husband before I arrived. They were 9 and 7 years old respectively when I showed up, and my little brother, also born to my father, would join us about a year and a half later.

So right off the bat, I’ve got two half sisters and a brother, but my father had already had a son to another woman, so I had another half brother. I only met him once though, so I don’t think of him as family.

I would eventually learn that when my mother was 19, she’d gotten pregnant to some handsome young foreigner who promptly skipped out on her, leaving her too embarrassed to admit the situation to her parents, and gaving that child up for adoption. So, technically speaking, I have another half brother out in the world.

But wait… there’s more!

My mother and father never married. In fact, my father was out of the picture before my brother was even born. My mother then found a man who already had 3 daughters of his own, and married him, making him my stepfather. His daughters were older than my sisters and lived with their mother, but technically this added 3 stepsisters to my already complex family.

Say what!?

So, technically I have 2 half sisters, 3 step sisters, 2 half brothers (one of whom I’ve never met and the other I only met once), and one full blood brother.

But when I talk about my family, I refer to my two half sisters as my sisters, and my full blood brother as my brother, and even though I called him ‘Dad’ most of my childhood, I refer to my stepfather as my stepfather, and only ever refer to my father as my father, neither of them ever get the title Dad these days.

The story begins

My sisters and their father

As I mentioned, my mother had her first son at the age of 19 but gave him up for adoption. That would have been back in 1968. Then in 1970 my mother met and married Les Harland, and they would go on to have my sisters, Erica in late 1970, and Kylie in 1972.

I don’t know when Les and my mother divorced, but I know that before that happened, Les molested both Erica and Kylie, and I know that he did this repeatedly. I also know he was a taxi driver with a gambling addiction, so what money he did make, burned through his pockets so quickly he might as well not have made any at all.

Sadly, I believe it was the gambling, not the sexual assault that caused the divorce. I’m not sure if my Mum knew of the abuse at the time but it became common knowledge in the family before the girls eventually moved out of home. Nothing was ever done about it and it drives me crazy.

My father, me, and my brother

I’m not sure how long my mother had to get by as a single parent of two young daughters, but I she must have known my father since at least 1978, because I was born in 1979. My father, Henry, was an alcoholic. I knew that since I was little, but it wasn’t until 2016 that I would learn that he was also violent and that he would sometimes come home drunk and climb into bed with my sisters, claiming it was all just a mistake the next day.

Come 1981, with my brother Alex still in her womb, my mother and father went their separate ways. I didn’t know anything about what caused the end of their relationship when I was a kid. All I knew was there was a time my father was around, and then he wasn’t around any more.

I was told repeatedly as a kid that because my parents were never married, making me a bastard. I think that’s why I always assumed I was the result of an accidental pregnancy.

My father didn’t disappear completely. He would visit us on Christmas and Easter and our birthdays. And then just on Christmas, and maybe our birthdays. And then maybe our birthdays. And then just text messages.

I know my father went bankrupt. I know he lost his drivers license for 10 years. I know I look a lot like him. I know he left behind his first son, and then he left my brother and I behind as well, and then he took up with a lady who already had two sons and was a father to them.

Love your neighbour

With my father gone and my mother with 3 children and one on the way, she had very little choice but to move into the cheapest place she could find. That would be a block of flats in one of the cheapest suburbs in Perth at the time.

Being the only parent, she had to work, which meant she had to rely on people to baby-sit. The problem was, my mother had moved to Perth from a small country town and didn’t really know many people, least of all in this new suburb, so she had to make friends with her neighbours and have them baby-sit us.

I would later learn that one of those neighbours who babysat us was imprisoned for molesting children.

The kids need a man in the house

My mother was of the opinion that children need a father, and I’m sure the idea of no being dependent on neighbours to baby-sit spurred her on too, so she made sure to find a man to play the role of father to her now 4 children. My mother married my stepfather, Des, in the early 80s, but I couldn’t tell you the year.

My first memory of Des, which might actually be my first ever memory, is of telling Des I’d race him to our new HomesWest (government) house.

I remember running my little legs off down the footpath. I remember that I beat him. I was about 4 years old and yet I outran a fully grown man. The fact that Des smoked at least a  pack of Winfield Blues every day probably had something to do with my victory.

Our new house was in a different part of that same, very poor suburb my Mum we had all been living in, but I remember being overwhelmed with excitement that we didn’t have to live in the flats any more.

Plenty of fish in the sea

So, how did my mother meet my stepfather? I didn’t find out until about 15 years later, but they actually met through a dating agency. Back in the day that was seen as a somewhat embarrassing thing, but my mother had four kids so I’m not surprised she went that path, but let me tell you why Des ended up going that route.

Des was mentally ill. I believe that was what caused his divorce from the mother of his daughters. Des had worked at a shoe factory for 30 years and had a mental breakdown along the way. I assume that either that caused the divorce, or that the divorce caused the breakdown.

Either way, he got a fortnightly needle in the bum to keep him in check, and he smoked all those cigarettes as a form of self medicating. He said they calmed him down. He’d sit there in a cloud of smoke lighting the next cigarette while he’s still smoking the current one, just to avoid the few seconds between them.

Us kids new that Des was sick, but we didn’t know exactly what that meant. We just knew he was ‘crazy’ and that he’d had electroshock therapy.

Like so many other parts of my life, it wasn’t until many years later that I’d find out the actual condition Des had. I remember very clearly reading the black typewritten text on the yellowed paper, it said “Schizophrenia”. If I hadn’t seen that document, I’m not sure I would have ever found out.

A big family in a little house

It was a three bedroom house so Mum and Des were in the master bedroom. Erica and Kylie were in one bedroom, and Alex and I in the other room.

We must have been there before I started pre-primary because I remember very distinctly one time Mum picked me up from Kindergarten to bring me home to that house…

As Mum took a right hand turn the door on my left swung open, not having been properly closed, and I rolled out of that open door. I don’t know if I was actually buckled into a seat belt or not but by caution or dumb luck I ended up tangled upside down in that brown, ratty, old, non self-tightening belt, dangling millimetres from the road. No harm, no foul, I suppose.

So if I was still in kindy, I was younger than 5, which means Alex was about 3, Kylie was about 12 and Erica was roughly 14. Until recently I remembered those early days very fondly. That would change as a result of the rest of what happens in the origins story.

It’s not like there weren’t bad times, I just didn’t think about them very often. I guess that was part of my technique of choosing to not care about things as a way to stop them affecting me.

Bad things

I’m not super keen to tell you the bad things, but I think it really helps explain a lot of why the rest of the origins story plays out the way it does.

For starters, I grew up around two girls who had been sexually abused, that in itself is a very bad thing. My sisters both struggled to cope with the fallout of being abused. Of course they struggled, they were little girls who had been violated and they wouldn’t have had the skills to properly process all the feelings that come with such a violation. They also weren’t taken to anyone to help them understand the situation, and worst of all, the perpetrator was never even arrested for his crimes. In fact, the police were never even informed that these crimes were committed.

Erica’s way of dealing with having been molested was to turn in on herself and become a very quiet, timid girl who just wanted to be alone as much as possible. Kylie went the other way. She became aggressive and loud and in-your-face, and she became quite violent.

Dealing with Kylie

Kylie, being 7 years older than me, had a significant height and weight advantage over me, and I’d been told I was never allowed to hit a girl, no matter what. That meant as futile as my defences might have been against someone so much older, I wasn’t even allowed to fight back. Unfortunately for me Kylie knew that too.

She used to torment me. She used to straight up torture me.

Kylie would learn all these martial arts moves and use them against me. She’d bend my arm behind my back and sit on me to hold me in place, then she’d punch me with one  knuckle pushed out to give me a “dead arm” or a “dead leg“, or one of each, or all four limbs at once, depending on her mood.

Then there were the pressure points, Chinese burns, the camel bites, the hair pulling, the ear twisting, the head locks, the good old fashioned kicks to any and every part of my body, but the biggest prize in Kylie’s eyes, was to get me right in the balls.

Logically I know there’s no shame in being Even though I know mathematically there should be no shame in that for me, it’s hard to ignore the fact that you were beaten by a girl, especially because Kylie would point that out to me while she was beating the shit out of me. She’d literally say things like “You’re getting beat up by a girl,” or “I’m just a girl, I can’t hurt a boy,” and my least favourite of all… “Are you gonna cry?” which would of course be said in repetition while she hit me over and over until the pain overwhelmed my tiny little body and eventually the tears would come out.

I hated the pain but what I hated more was someone forcing me to do what they wanted, and enjoying making me feel weak. The fact that I wasn’t allowed to fight back made it so much worse.

You might think that because Kylie tortured me that I didn’t care for her, but you’d be wrong. I loved her dearly. I hated that she hurt me, but because she was so smart she was fun to play games with and she was witty and funny and just fun to be around. Despite all the shit she put me through, she was probably my favourite sibling.

I loved her so much that seeing her accidentally run through a glass door and get all cut up left me so traumatised and upset that I urinated blood for a few days afterwards.

Dealing with Des

I knew Des was ‘crazy’ but I didn’t know what that meant, exactly, but I knew he’d act really weird sometimes and that I’d have no idea why. I’d say something that everyone else in the room understood to mean one thing, but Des would take it as a personal attack. Even as a little kid I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so I’d try really hard to word things as inoffensively as possible, but he’d always find new ways to be offended by me.

Des was one of those people who claim to be Christian but never go to church and completely ignore the basic teachings of the bible. Regardless, he was quite focussed on God and Jesus and the devil.

One day, very early on when I was maybe 6, Des told me that he knew that Alex, my little brother was second coming of Jesus, and that I was the Antichrist. I didn’t even know what the Antichrist was. I had to ask the guy at the Church the rest of us actually did go to what it meant, and he just said “the devil”.

So Alex was all that is good, and I was all that is evil. That’s a hell of a thing to hear when you’re barely old enough to tie up your own shoes.

Another important thing about Des was the fact that he was almost completely illiterate, which meant that I was able to read more than him by about mid-way through year one (5/6 years old). Des hated that. When I would try to read my little golden books I loved so much, he’d accuse me of trying to rub it in that I was smarter than him.

And Des sure didn’t mind giving a hiding. Any chance he got he’d belt my scrawny little frame until I was a blubbering mess. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep because I was so sore that night. Sometimes it was a few nights later before I could get comfortable again.

When Des hit me, it was terrifying. Obviously getting smacked is going to be scary for a little kid, but Des would get this look in his eyes. They’d bulge out a bit and it was like an animal was attacking you. I don’t know how else to describe it but the scariest part of all was not knowing if he’d stop.

Sometimes he’d at least start out trying to be playful. He’d tickle me and I’d laugh, and then he’d keep tickling me for too long and I’d scream at him to stop, but he’d keep tickling me. He’d hold me down and keep tickling me and he’d ask “what, are you gonna cry?” “Are you a little cry baby?” And, big shock, a little kid will cry if you do that to them long enough.

He’d pull that whole “Are you gonna cry?” thing when it didn’t start out so playful as well. Sometimes he just wanted to prove that he was stronger than me, so he’d just hold me down and poke me, or just say mean shit to me, or keep smacking me, or whatever else would come to his mind, but it was always with the same goal… of making me cry.

Dealing with Des, part 2

Des was violent, and certainly that was something I disliked about him, but physical pain dissipates so quickly. The things that stick with a kid, or at least this kid, are the things people say, and Des just loved to tell me things.

He’d tell me that I was ugly. That I was a “slow learner” (that era’s equivalent to retard). He’d tell me I was useless, and selfish, and greedy, that I was weak, that I had a stupid smile, and that I dumb, that I was stupid, that I was too skinny, and worthless, and on and on.

A couple of his absolutely favourites were, “No girl will ever want you.” and “You’ll never keep a job.

It’s hard to know how often he said those things. I didn’t like to hear them so I tried very hard to not let them in, and I managed to forget about them for a very long time. When I was reminded that I was told all those sorts of things, it felt like I must have heard them every single day of my childhood, but I’m sure it couldn’t have been that frequently. I can assure you though, that it was a very, very regular occurrence for me to hear those sorts of things.

Dealing with Des, part 3

I was not Des’ only target. Des didn’t like Kylie much either. Kylie was smart and the older she got, the harder it became for anyone to make Kylie do anything she didn’t want to do.

Kylie was a straight A student in primary school but that all changed when she started high school. All of a sudden she wanted to be with the cool kids and she focused her attention on that instead of school. Her grades plummeted and her lack of respect for authority started to put her at odds with Des.

They were at each other constantly. They’d scream at each other, and swear, and sometimes Des would smack her and if he did Kylie would fight back.

Our little 3 bedroom HomesWest home wasn’t big enough for the two of ’em, and I bet the whole suburb could hear it. I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that this battle escalated over time.

The peak of their battle happened while I was still quite young. I estimate Kylie being around 15 at the time, making me about 8.

I remember Des and Kylie yelling at each other. I remember looking at them while they screamed at each other. Kylie’s hair whipping about as she moved. Des’ eyes bulging in that way that always meant trouble. His white singlet yellowed from wear and from absorbing the smoke of innumerable cigarettes. The cheap, grey, dress pants and belt he always wore around the house even though he never went anywhere or did anything.

I remember his hands around her throat.

I remember her ripping at his fingers for all she was worth.

I remember the stance of a man in his 40s wringing the neck of a young teenage girl, with him the aggressor, leaning forward, and her the desperate, overpowered victim, in a pose of sheer terror.

I remember standing there in my pyjamas wanting desperately to do something, and I remember not being able to move. I couldn’t even make a noise.

I remember the moment he dropped her limp body and how it collapsed into the ground.

I remember believing my sister was dead.

It felt like hours went by.

And then she suddenly made this ungodly noise, this revolting, animalistic heave of inhalation. It might well have been the most awful noise I had ever heard, but to me it was the most beautiful sound that could ever exist, it was the sound of my sister coming back from the dead.

And do you know what happened next?

My mother told us all he didn’t mean it. My mother genuinely believed we could all just carry on living the way we had before.

That didn’t work so well for Des. He had another nervous breakdown. He went back to Greylands for about 6 weeks and got some more electroshock therapy.

Seeya later Kylie

Prize for the least surprising moment of this story goes to the fact that Kylie moved out almost immediately after Des tried to kill her. She went off to live with some friends and very quickly got in over her head with drugs and alcohol.

She met a man who somehow puts up with the chaos that she continues to generate even to this day and managed to have 4 children with him. The first was born when Kylie was 19.

Kylie accidentally killed their second child in her sleep by rolling onto him when he was just 11 days old. She told the rest of the world that her baby was a victim of SIDS. I didn’t find out the truth until 20 years after the fact.

Her other 3 children would go through a hectic upbringing surrounded by constant drug use and alcohol.

Seeya later Erica

Erica moved out within the same year as Kylie because she’d just finished year 12. She went off to live with my grandparents in a small country town. Erica had gotten progressively more religious as the years went on and the small town environment suited her well.

She would meet a man and have a child to him, only for the father of her child to disappear on her.

Due to her religion, Erica thought she should be able to forgive her father for molesting her, so when he came knocking looking for a place to live, having been kicked out by everyone else he knew, she took pity on him and let him move into her house with her and her young child.

I was very angry about it and made that well known, but people are going to do what they’re going to do.

It turned out that I was wrong about what would happen, but I was 100% right that letting that monster into her house was a terrible idea. See, as far as I know he didn’t touch Erica’s son, but he did leave his fucking cigarette lighter on the coffee table and leave Erica’s 5 year old son alone in the house with the cigarette lighter.

The house burned to the ground. Erica had no insurance.

I’m very thankful to say that the community rallied around Erica and her boy and they bought her a new house on the same block. I don’t tend to appreciate religion but I hope there’s a God out there who can reward those good people in the afterlife, and I hope there’s a devil to take care of Les Harland.

Where was my Mum in all this?

She was working.

Des got a disability pension but it all went on cigarettes. Just after he nearly killed Kylie he was smoking 100 cigarettes a day and his pension didn’t even cover his cigarettes at that point.

So my Mum had to work to cover all the bills, and holy shit did she ever work! She cleaned houses and was often gone for 12 or 14 hours a day, sometimes 7 days a week. Once a week she’d round Alex and I up to go deliver newspapers and we’d use the $4 we each made to buy our Red Rooster for dinner.

If my Mum could pick up some work washing dishes, or cleaning an office, or anything like that, she’d take it on. Whatever she could do, she would do.

My Mum made sure we had enough money to get by. Now, if you ever saw how skinny us kids were you might disagree, but we none of us starved to death. Sure, the other kids made fun of the holes in my clothes, and they made fun of how long I went without hair cuts, and that you my toes poked out of my shoes, and that I had to wear clothes I’d long since outgrown, but I’m still here and you don’t get much for being fashionable in primary school anyway.

One more thing about Mum working. Des would sit on the front porch waiting all day for her to come home. He’d sit there and stare at the street desperately nervous that this would be the day she wouldn’t come home.

He was right

Kylie left us. Erica left us. Turned out it was only a matter of time before Mum left us.

I’d finished school and had my first job when my Mum finally pulled the pin. Believe it or not, I didn’t see it coming at all.

My Mum and Des had never had a good relationship. They’d scream at each other and throw shit at each other and occasionally a plate or a coffee cup would explode on a wall between phrases like “You don’t fucking love me you lying bitch!” and “I’ve been working all day and you haven’t even done the dishes!” and “I’ll leave! I’ll fucking leave! Don’t you test me!”

You’d think the writing was on the wall in amongst the shattered porcelain, but I genuinely didn’t see it coming because they’d had this horrible, co-dependent relationship for 16 years by the time it finally broke.

I have no problem with my mother leaving my stepfather. It was the right thing for her to do. I wish she’d done it earlier.

What I do have a problem with is how my Mum finished things up. She just didn’t come home.

She didn’t fucking warn me and it was days before I knew what had happened to her. That was pretty stressful but it only got worse when she finally did contact me because she told me she’d spoken to HomesWest, the government housing body who she rented the house through and told them she was moving out. You have to have a certain number of people staying in your house to qualify for HomesWest and with Mum gone, we didn’t qualify any more.

So not only did my parents just break-up and my Mum had gone missing for days, I was now due to be evicted, effectively scheduled to be homeless.

For fuck’s sake.

Seeya Grandad

It’s difficult to cram a whole life into a single post but this story just wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include my Grandfather.

I’ve told you about my father, the alcoholic bankrupt. I’ve told you about my sisters’ father, the child molesting gambling addict; and I’ve told you about my stepfather, the schizophrenic stepdaughter strangler and all round child abuser.

As far as male role models they left a lot to be desired, but that didn’t matter because I had my Grandfather.

When World War II broke out my Grandad was too young to go, so he lied about his age and went anyway. He was shot through the knee and captured and was a prisoner of war for five years. He eventually gets back to Australia and he goes home and starts a farm, and does alright with that farm too. Not bad for a bloke who can no longer bend his left leg!

And as the world progressed, so did he. When he bought a Datsun ute, all his mates had a go at him for buying a Japanese vehicle. He said, simply “The war is over. We need to move on.”

And for a man who’d been through so much and worked so damned hard and seen his daughter make such bad decisions with men, he was nothing but adoring of his grandchildren, regardless of how they came about. He was always ready to have a laugh and always had a joke to tell.

I don’t know if the other kids felt the same but he made me feel special every time I saw him. He called me a special nickname that nobody else in the world ever called me and he’d pick me up and put me on his shoulders like fathers do in the movies. He played cricket with us into his 70s!

I got the short straw with a lot of things, but I had a legend of a grandfather and I’ll be forever thankful for that.

But my Grandfather left us too.

It happened just after I found out my Mum had left Des and I found out I was staring down an upcoming homelessness. Des got a call at home from someone looking for my Mum to let her know her father had been rushed to a hospital in Perth.

Des relayed the message to me when I came home for  my break in my shift at the pizza store. I wanted to call the pizza store to cancel my shift so I could go to the hospital but Des wouldn’t let me use the phone. He told me that my grandfather was ok, that I’d be able to see him tomorrow, that I should let him get some rest.

I argued but I was going to need all the money I could get for when we were evicted and Des seemed so certain that my Grandad was alright and that it wasn’t urgent and I was due back at work and I didn’t know what to do, so I went back to work.

When I got home 4 or so hours later, Des told me my Grandfather had passed away while I was at work.

I was devastated.

A few days later I found that document with Des’s diagnosis that I mentioned earlier. That word Schizophrenia answered a lot of questions.

The leftovers

I didn’t talk much about Alex. He was a good kid but a bit socially awkward. I love him but I didn’t treated him very well. I wasn’t nearly as violent to him as Kylie was to me, but we had our fair share of tussles and I always won, except for the time he chased me AND GOT ME with a steaming hot iron.

After Mum left us, I moved in with friends. It was great fun but after a few years I went back to study and moved in with my Mum, my brother, his wife, and their newborn child.

About a year and a half into that Mum tells me that she’s buying a house and that her, my brother and my brother’s wife would be going thirds in the mortgage.

That meant… I had nowhere to live… again.

So I moved in with some people I’d met through my studies. One of them used to many drugs and slipped into a drug induced psychosis which lead him to believe I was trying to hook up with his pregnant girlfriend, which wouldn’t be such a big deal if he hadn’t studied Muay Thai Kickboxing for 15 years and collected all his rage into a fist and king hit me while I was cleaning up after one of his parties.

He knocked me out and fractured my skull in the process. I don’t know how or why I didn’t fall over while that happened but he guy who x-rayed my skull said I’m lucky I didn’t because I would have very likely died.

After that I started a small business, played in a few bands got involved with that girlfriend I was with for 6 years. Literally nothing happened in that 6 years except for me getting fat, working really hard, driving my car at the race track and finally getting my job at Everlong.

Now back to the actual story

I hope this was remotely interesting to read. I think it’s necessary information for what’s ahead in the origins story and I’ll refer back to this a lot to help things make sense as the story continues.

Hopefully you feel like you know me a little better. I wasn’t lying about the Jerry Springer shit, was I?!

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Origins #11

3 Mar

I was still there in my bed with my boss’s daughter, and I was proud of myself for admitting that I had a crush on her instead of holding that information back and leaving her to cry in the belief that I just wanted to sleep with her. If you’ve read up to here, I’m sure you think it’s a bit weird that she somehow thought I was just trying to sleep with her considering I’d put in a fair bit of effort to avoid having anything happen with her, but hey, I was pretty drunk and that didn’t occur to me at the time.

Oops

Something I have remembered since posting last time was that, at some point after Rene and I had arrived at my place, I’d asked her about her sister Laura’s relationship. I’d pointed out that it seemed like something was off there. Rene told me she didn’t know much about it and seemed a bit down about me asking. Turns out Rene knew more than she was letting on and had taken my curiosity as further evidence of her belief that I was interested in Laura.

In hindsight, I guess that was another reason why Rene was so certain I was into Laura. I was into Laura. I’d say I liked her about as much as I liked Rene, but in a different way. It’s tough to explain because I knew Laura much better than Rene. I’ll tell you right now though, most guys would be falling all over themselves to get anywhere near either of these young women, but up until this particular night I’d done a brilliant job of behaving myself around both of them.

You have to ask me out on a proper date!

Anyways, I’d just finished admitting to Rene that I’d had a crush on her for a long time and she’d lit up with joy at hearing it. It’s not like I confessed to having an undying love for her, either. I’d only told her that I’d liked her for a long time and that I wanted to get to spend some time with her and get to know her better but Rene reacted like all her Christmases had come at once and we kissed some more as a result.

Rene stopped crying again and we went back to kissing and whatnot but we were still talking the whole time, and she started telling me how she’d made all these moves on me and asked why I’d never made any moves back. Rene pointed out that she had added me on Facebook, got my work email and started emailing me, gotten my mobile number from her sister and started texting me and even after all of that, I still hadn’t asked her out.

I told her, “You’re my boss’s daughter.”
“So?”, she asked.
“So I need my job”, I explained.
“But you never even asked me out”, she insisted.
“I’m not going to hit on my boss’s daughter. I invited you out to everything and I just figured that was as much as I could do, but you hardly ever came to anything”, I pointed out.
“But you never asked me out on a proper date, just the two of us!”, Rene said.
“I figured you could tell I was interested. You knew I couldn’t ask you out, I figured you’d ask me out if you wanted to see me.”, I told her.
“I was pretty sure that night you told me my ex in France was an idiot. But you have to ask me out now! You have to ask me out on a proper date!”, she told me, practically bouncing up and down with excitement.
“Alright. I’ll ask you out on a proper date.” I told her.

Rene was grinning ear to ear and kissing me with some serious passion after that, but even as drunk as I was, it all sounded like a weird way to go about it to me. I mean, we were in bed with each other and there she was demanding that I ask her out on a date? It’s not like I would have minded asking her out, but we were well past the ‘asking out’ stage of things.

But I’d been drinking, and she’d been drinking, and the whole thing was a bit of a mess. So I figured, if she wanted me to ask her out, I’d ask her out.

Drunken singing

We were making out and laughing and having all the stupid, drunken fun you tend to have when you’ve been drinking all night with someone you’re interested in. We started talking about all sorts of things, like the music we like and what we loved about the 90s and probably a bunch of other shit that I honestly can’t remember.

I do remember that we laid out in that bed playing songs off our phones and singing along to them between kissing and touching, and more singing, and more kissing, and more singing. At one point, I’m loathe to admit, I grabbed my ukulele from beside my bed and tried to play a tune for us to sing to, but I was too drunk to play, so gave up on that idea pretty quick.

It might sound lame, but of everything that happened that night, singing along to those songs together was my favourite bit. I was digging that we had so much in common. There was something awesome about being in bed with this girl I’d liked for so long and that we’d ended cuddled up, singing along to John Farnham songs, and making out like teenagers.

The Roller Coaster Continues

emor

Unfortunately, it wasn’t too long before Rene started crying again.

“You want something serious, don’t you”, she sobbed.
“What are you talking about?”, I asked her.
“You said you want something serious”, she repeated.
“No I didn’t, I said I want to hang out with you a bit and get to know you”, I explained, confused.
I continued, saying, “I couldn’t even think about getting into something serious anytime soon. I just want to hang out with you under the radar, get to know you properly and see what happens.”

And that was the absolute truth of the matter. I wasn’t looking to go from zero to 100 with her. Shit, I didn’t think I really knew Rene well enough to think anything beyond maybe going on a date with her. I wasn’t thinking about the future, aside from the very risky situation I was going to be in from a work perspective.

Like I said in an earlier post, all I was really looking for was to get to hang out with someone I thought was cool. I thought Rene was cool, so now we could get onto the hanging out with each other part, and eventually I’d get to know her well enough to see if there was something more than a basic attraction.

I lie to people and confuse them until they stop asking questions

Rene calmed down again and stopped crying.

We continued to talk, and I truly cannot remember how we ended up getting to this, but at one point Rene explained to me that she was an exhibitionist.

OK, so I’m with this girl I think is gorgeous and she’s already indicated to me that she likes things a bit rough in bed, and then she tells me she’s an exhibitionist. I was surprised to hear that but I was also very excited. I don’t think I’m a pervert, but I sure  am a very, very sexual person, and one aspect of that is that I like to do things that are a bit risqué. I definitely don’t want the girl I’m with to be skanky by any means, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be a bit naughty and fun, so to hear that this girl who I genuinely liked for other reasons was also a bit naughty was a huge added bonus.

And then Rene told me that she thinks she’s nowhere near as good as her sister Laura, that Laura has her shit together and that she’s doing so well, and Laura’s so pretty, and Laura’s this and that and whatever else. I, of course, tried to point out to Rene that she’s pretty awesome herself and shouldn’t compare herself to Laura, but Rene responded by telling me that she makes mistakes all the time and ruins things.

I don’t really remember exactly what she said, but I know Rene told me that she was still in contact with the guy she’d moved to France to be with, even though he’d cheated on her and she’d moved back to Australia broken hearted, she had kept in contact with him. Not only had she kept in contact with him, she was now playing the role of mistress behind the back of this douchebag’s new girlfriend.

I remember telling her, “Well, stop that shit, then!”

Again, I’m not sure how we got onto this, but Rene ended up telling me that she makes a lot of mistakes and it really upsets her. I don’t remember much of the conversation but I do remember her telling me, “I lie to people and confuse them until they stop asking questions.”

Idiot

Trust me, I know very well that I should have taken these things as red flags. I know I’m an idiot for not doing so at the time, but I was drunk and as far as I knew, I was with a beautiful, intelligent, fun, sexy young woman who happened to be going through a rough time and also happened to be full of red wine and cocktails.

Everybody says stupid shit when they’ve been drinking, so I wasn’t judging her for any of what she said. I guess I did take some of those statements on board though, as I certainly kept an eye out for certain things she’d mentioned about herself in the months to come. You’ll hear all about that soon enough.

But it’s not like Rene was the only one saying or doing stupid shit that night. I was on a roll, myself.

I’d managed to completely miss the fact that Rene was worried that I was interested in Laura and had contributed to making her cry as a result, repeatedly as the night went on.

I’d drunkenly pushed my boss’s daughter up and down some serious hills in a freakin’ shopping trolly, the most dangerous of all vehicles. I’d let the night get out of hand by not staying sober. I’d ended up in bed with my boss’s daughter, for fuck’s sake. I hadn’t stopped it and called her a taxi, I hadn’t told her we shouldn’t do anything, I hadn’t walked out of the room when she flashed me. I’d done a lot of stupid shit that night myself.

But I had one more awesomely stupid thing to say.

I totally understand why I said it, but that doesn’t mean I actually understand why I said it. Oh god. I actually have to tell you what I said. Ahh fuck it!, here goes…

I don’t exactly remember when but at one point in the night when I was in bed with Rene, I half whispered: “I want kids.”

I know.

embarrased

I know it was a moronic thing to do, but if you remember from Origins #7, I’d been talking with Rene’s sister earlier that day about how important it was to let people know what you want out of life before you get involved with them, and I didn’t mean that I wanted kids with Rene, I just meant that, at some point in my future, I’d like to be a parent. And somehow, as a result of all that rational logical, sense-making, I was pretty drunk and it just came out.

I totally get that it was a stupid thing to do, and even as I write this, I feel very much like this…

shm1Oh lord the shame I feel for admitting that I said that. Let’s never speak of it again. Ahhh shame my old friend, what would life be without you?

You want to know the worst part? I’m pretty sure I said that after Rene had her little freak-out about me wanting something serious. I just don’t know what I was thinking. I do think my little revelation was on the mild side in comparison to admitting to being an exhibitionist, or intentionally confusing people until they give up asking question, or playing the mistress, etc, etc but it was still a really embarrassing thing for me when I was forced to think back on it later.

Nearly there

As it turns out, there’s still a little bit more of that night that I have to tell you about, including more confusion, weird encouragement and weird rejection. Catch ya then!Crazy bitch tip: If you move to another country to be with a guy and he then cheats on you, don’t talk to him anymore because he’s clearly a massive douche.

Origins #6

17 Jan

So, last time, I was telling you about how everything seemed to be escalating. It really was. It was such a strange time for me. Things seemed to be going equal parts good and bad at the same time. The good parts were off the charts in the good way, and the bad parts were off the chart in the opposite direction. There was very little middle going on.

Goodbye to my car

I forgot to mention earlier on that I was now stuck without a car to get around in. That might not be a big thing where you’re from, but in Perth, that means you’re pretty well screwed. The public transport here will get you where you want to go but it’ll take an inordinately long time. As an example, some mates asked me to fill in for their sports team for the night. I’d normally get to the stadium in half an hour. On public transport it took me an hour and a half, and someone still had to pick me up from the train station! So the round trip was 3 hours to play a 40 minute match. See, I was without a car because, just before I went to Europe, I ran into one of those cops who’s just a cop because it allows him to get away with being a dickhead. There I was driving along in my 1970 Ford Capri doing the speed limit and behaving myself when Officer Cock-Knocker decides he’ll show off to the new recruit partner by pulling me over and having a bit of fun with the fact the has a uniform and a badge and I don’t.

Look at that terrifying death trap. Better pull him over.

Look at that terrifying death trap. Better pull him over.

I pull over when the blue lights flash behind me and Mr Plod is on the attack straight away “What are you doing with this Capri?”, “Is this vehicle stolen?”. “Of course not”, I tell him, “I’ve owned this car for 5 years”. I’m pretty confused why he’s asked such an attacking question to start proceeding. Then he fires out  “This is a British car, why does it have an Australian spoiler on the back?”

Ahhh…. It starts to make sense. Between the accent and these questions it occurs to me he’s English, and he likes his English cars. I explain that this is an Aussie built Capri and the spoiler was an option here. He ignores that bit of rationality and continues pointing out things he doesn’t like about my car. Not things that are illegal or make it unroadworthy, just things he doesn’t like. He asks me why I’ve got bigger brakes than standard and I make the mistake of informing him that I’m going to replace the original V6 motor with a V8.

His whole face went red! I thought steam was going to come out his ears!

It turns out this particular Englishman was a huge Cosworth fan and the idea of me modifying an original Ford Capri GT with anything but Cosworth parts was sacrilege to him. He ranted at me about how “You can’t just modify a piece of motoring history however you want!”, and “You’re disrespecting the British legacy of the Capri!”. All the while I’m just thinking, “Mate, this is my car, I’ll do what I bloody well want with it.”

I was slowly converting the Capri into a race car but the changes I’d made at that point were all to improve safety of the car for the road. Bigger brakes so I can stop in shorter distances, wider tyres for more grip, new seats that actually go further than half way up my back, a limited slip differential to reduce traction problems, etc, etc. All those changes will come in handy once the car is relegated to track use only, but in the meantime I had a car that was much safer to drive on the road than it was when I bought it.

Mr Uniform didn’t give two shits about how much those changes improved the car from a safety perspective. He was unnervingly irate at the fact that I had dared modified a classic Capri and was being weirdly aggressive in his posturing. His rookie colleague seemed a bit put-off by it all too but said nothing. Mr Blue Lights tells me he’s heard enough and tells me I’m getting a Yellow Sticker.

A Yellow Sticker is a defect notice which requires you to take your car to the licensing department for an evaluation. It costs a few hundred dollars to and you only get 10 days to have it done. If you don’t get it done you can’t drive the car on the road anymore. The awesome part was that this happened about 2 days before I was going to Europe and I had absolutely no time to get the car to the pits for the check, so when I got back from Europe, I had a car I wasn’t allowed to drive.

Once I got back I did take the car to the pits but the guys there are really pedantic and you’re not going to get a car from 1970 past them without a shit-tonne of work being done on it. It’s difficult enough to get a modern car past the pits, and even though the mechanic that was looking over my car was quite complimentary about the condition of it, he pointed out things like the headlights not meeting modern brightness requirements and things like that, and it just worked out that it would cost more money to keep the old girl on the road than it would to get the new engine in and get all the other work I’d been planning done. Doing it that way I could kill two birds with one stone by getting it all done at the same time. I sent the Capri off to my mates to get the work done but it was going to take months.

So that left me without a car.

I love that car. I love that she’s a conversation starter. I love that people smile when they see her coming down the road, and that kids get wide eyes and ask their Dad what it is. I love that some bloke literally tried to negotiate buying it off me as we drove down the freeway as he yelled from his car through my passenger window telling me that he’s always wanted one. I love how well that 40 year old engine sounds as she out accelerates more modern cars with ease. But more than all that, I just loved being able to get around and it really, really sucked to have to go without my own mode of transport.

Goodbye favourite band

Ever heard of the band Powderfinger? If you’re not from Australia, the answer is probably a big, fat nope. That’s a damned shame because they were an absolutely fantastic band.

For a long time there, Powderfinger was my favourite band. They dominated the charts here in Australia for over a decade by putting out 5 #1 albums in a row, and by taking out Triple J’s Hottest 100 2 years in a row. They even got 4 albums in Triple J’s 100 Australian albums of all time, including getting 2 albums in the top 10 and taking out the top spot. That’s right, Australia voted Powderfinger’s album Odyssey Number Five as their favourite Aussie album of all time. Personally, I don’t even rate Odyssey Number Five as their best album and I don’t really care about all the awards they got, I just love their music and I was completely gobsmacked by their ability to reach in and touch that indefinable thing that is being Australian.

I can’t explain it. I just know they captured something intangible about Australia and that era and somehow translated it in a way that hit me in a way very few other bands have managed.

My favourite Powderfinger album is Internationalist. It came out in 1998, when I was a little 19 year old pizza delivery boy. It might sound strange, but I learned a lot from that album. One of the common threads on Internationalist is that of people falling prey to watching their lives slip away, day by day. Internationalist hit me right in my head and stuck there.

Because I was working 60 to 90 hour weeks delivering pizzas at the time, I had a lot of time to listen to music, and Internationalist was in extremely high rotation on my car’s cd player. I think that’s a big part of why I took so much from that album. It influenced the way I thought about the world and how to live and still does right through to today.

I’m a musician myself, and in addition to influencing the way I see the world, Powderfinger has also had a massive influence in the way I approach making music and the sort of music I want to make. It was pretty sad news then, when Powderfinger announced they were calling it quits midway through 2010. As is the way with the retirement of musical acts in Australia in recent history, though, they decided to do a farewell tour. It was particularly disheartening for me at the time because they weren’t over the hill, they’d put out a stellar new album called Golden Rule just a few months beforehand. Anyway, I was really disappointed they were calling it a day, but at least I had my ticket to see them one last time. I’m not sure if anyone else will relate to being so horribly bummed out by their favourite band breaking up, but it was big deal to me.

Hopefully it’ll make sense why I’m telling you about this as the story progresses.

Goodbye great manager

Before Gus the devil monster, demon manager came on board, my team had been lead by a really nice bloke. His name was Mike Monarch. Mike’s a bloody champ.

Under Mike’s leadership we’d developed a system that was bringing in about $2,000,000 a year for Everlong. That’s a pretty damned good outcome considering our team was only 5 people at the time. After that project, Everlong decided to chase a few ‘big leads’. One of these big leads was a tender for a massive contract with a mining company. Getting all the documentation in for a tender like that is a massive amount of work and Mike was shifted over to that project and my team was left twiddling our thumbs.

There were good points to being left to our own devices. One of which, was that I had the chance to write some software to make maintaining that million dollar system much simpler. Another was that there was very little stress at work. The downside, however, was that our team couldn’t work on the projects we wanted to (projects which we believed would help make the company money) because we nobody in the team had any authorisation to lead us.

I would often lead the team to do simple little projects. They were just little proof-of-concept projects to show that we were able to create things that we believed were able to bring in an income and we could knock them out in a few days, so I wasn’t concerned with getting in any trouble for taking over the team. But to really do anything worthwhile, like redeveloping the system to work properly on mobile devices for example, we’d need to spend months in development. I wasn’t getting paid to lead the team and I didn’t want to be blamed for taking over the team and doing whatever I felt like, so instead of being unified and progressing projects, we each worked on whatever we thought would be useful.

In hindsight, I really should have taken over the team but I’m just not the sort of guy to go trying to steal power. Everyone would always come to me for guidance anyway and I’d been in the industry long enough to know the right moves. The years that have passed since have well and truly proved that I was on the right track, but hindsight is 20/20 and there ain’t much I can do about it now.

Mike realised we needed someone to lead the team while he was away, so Everlong advertised for a project manager, and in came Gus. What a talented imposter he must have been to get that job! I didn’t like him from the get-go but everyone thought he was ok, so I tried to convince myself I was wrong about him and just get on with my job.

Man, was I an idiot to not trust my gut! It wasn’t long before Gus had started manipulating everyone in the office. He was triggering in-fighting by making underhanded comments and blaming them on other people. He was sucking up to Tim Everlong. He was sneaking his way into the Everlong family’s trust and quietly bad-mouthing Mike and complaining about how little we had to show for the recent months. He was blaming Mike specifically for the lack of productivity and he must have done a pretty good job because Mike was ousted from his job as Gus’s boss, and Gus was given the higher position, leaving Mike in some bullshit demotion job where he was in charge of very little and bombarded with enormous amounts of stress on a daily basis.

Mike went from being a happy, easy-to-talk-to guy who was in good shape and good spirits, to slowly becoming an out of shape, glum, quite, ghost of himself who would occasionally try to force the edges of his face upward into a smile, but was otherwise an automaton with red eyes and a defeated expression.

That was really tough to watch happen to such a nice guy. I would have liked to have done something about it, but we were now under Gus’s complete control, and that was such an unpleasant situation that I was relying on my reserves of patience and ‘just put up with it until Gus actually learns how to do his job’-ness that I didn’t have much time to do much to help Mike.

Goodbye great job

Losing Mike as our manager and having Gus in his place was the key thing that turned my great job into a chore, then into a punishment, and eventually into a torture, but more on that later.

Goodbye Flash

Steve Jobs screwed me over! Well, really Adobe screwed me over and Steve Jobs just chose not to let them screw Apple over too.

See, I was a Flash Developer for a very long time. I did (and still do) work with Javascript, PHP and various other technologies but I had found that Flash was the best technology for the majority of projects I needed to develop in the early years of my career, so I focused on become very, very good at Flash.

At the time I was focusing on Flash development, Flash was available on 99.5% of all internet enabled devices. That made it a pretty safe bet as far as I was concerned. In addition to that, Flash was the only way to achieve all the fancy shit I was trying to build. Back then, if you wanted audio, video, interactivity or animation in your project, your project was going to have to be built in Flash.

For a long time I reaped great rewards by specialising in the use of Flash. I cranked out a lot of work that nobody else in Perth seemed to be able to get anywhere near. At one point I built a complete web browser in Flash! I know this is all nerd-talk but it was really quite cool being one of the top specialists in such a useful technology.

And then the iPhone came out.

The iPhone was the first phone to give you the real internet on your phone. Before that you could maybe read a bit of text from a few specific websites, but the iPhone showed you the actual internet! It showed you the web the same way it looked on your desktop.

Well… almost.

One thing the iPhone didn’t include was Flash. For a while there, that meant that you couldn’t view any videos or animations on your iPhone. Everyone just assumed that Apple would put Flash on the iPhone sooner or later but the iPhone was such a huge deal that many developers were clamouring to make sure their websites could be viewed properly on the magical new devices.

I became quite interesting in the idea of building apps for the iPhone and was trying to chase that up, but Apple won’t let you develop software for their systems unless you use a Mac. I didn’t have a mac and they weren’t keen on buying one at work, so the best I could do was try and find a way to output a Flash app as an iPhone app.

It was right in the midst of this when Gus decided to make us work like maniacs on stupid, useless shit all day everyday. That left me with no time to learn different technologies at work, and so exhausted and dejected when I’d get home from work, that the last thing I wanted to do was more work at my computer at home.

In early 2010, Steve Jobs goes and puts out a letter about why Flash is shit and will never go on any Apple mobile device. The shitty thing about it is, he was absolutely right about those things. And the reason Flash had all those problems was because the company that distributes Flash, Adobe, was more concerned about having Flash everywhere than they were about having Flash be any good. Adobe had bought Flash from another company called Macromedia a few years earlier, and everyone involved in Flash development had pretty major concerns at the time.

Turns out, we were right to be concerned because Adobe really drove Flash into the ground and left Steve Jobs with no choice but to choose not to include it on the iPhone, and in the process completely smashed my specialised skills.

So I owe Adobe a big ‘Fuck you’ and I owe Steve Jobs a punch in the face, because that left me without a specialised skill only a year and a half after the Global Financial Crisis kicked in and ruined the world economy. I therefore owe a lot of shitty bankers a punch in the face too.

The outcome of that situation was that I was pretty stressed about not being able to find another job if that situation was to arise. That’s not a good situation to be in when you’re working for a guy like Gus.

Gathering steam

All of these things had happened in the lead up to the end of September, 2010. All of these things, and everything else I’ve been yapping on about in my previous Origins posts were all coming to a head in September 2010.

September 2010

As I mentioned previously, Rene Everlong had been communicating with me a lot. So much so that her dad, my boss, had mentioned that she brought me up in conversation at family dinners. He pointed out that Rene had challenged me to a match of Wii Tennis and thought I had no hope of beating her. I had, of course, already told Rene that I would demolish her. I’d been playing that game a lot and I was damned good at it. It’s funny thinking back, Tim even seemed a bit perturbed by the fact that Rene and I had been communicating out of work but at the time, I was certain I’d done nothing wrong, so I was in no way concerned about that.

The invitation

Rene had been working at a job her father had gotten for her at a company not too far away from my office. That’s part of the reason she had become a regular visitor at my office, and more specifically, at my desk. Part of Rene working so close by meant that she was being included in any social invitations that were going out to my work crew.

I invited everyone out to see The Expendables, for example, and Rene said she’d come along. I was a bit excited at the prospect of hanging out with her in that scenario and she had been telling me how much she was looking forward to it. Then the night comes and she sends me an sms half an hour before movie time saying that she can’t make. Whatever. I was a bit disappointed I guess but I still got to see all those 80s heroes bumble their way through a terrible plot while stuffing my face with choc bombs, potato chips and soft drink, and laughing my arse off at the ridiculousness of it with the other 7 people from work who had made it along.

Now, I’m sure I mentioned earlier that we had a few social traditions amongst the crew at Everlong. One of them was Tuesday Steak Night at the local pub, and the other was Friday arvo drinks, also at the local pub. Often we’d go for dinner after a Friday afterwork drinks session and take up plenty of seats at any of the many awesome restaurants surrounding our local pub.

The pub we went to was called The Chesterfield. It was a brilliant pub. Cruisy atmosphere, cool staff, cool patrons, great food, great restaurants nearby, easy to get to from work and walking distance from home. What more could a guy ask for?! Rene was well aware of our Friday arvo drinks tradition having come along a few times with her sister for a quiet drink before heading off to whatever fancy evening affair they had planned and leaving us to continue in our merriment sans their company.

One particular week in September, Rene sends me an email from her new job explaining that, while she had only been there about a month, a new guy had come on board, and she thought he was a bit off. She said something about thinking he was suspicious or weird and that she was hoping that, if she brought the people from her work down to The Chesterfield for Friday drinks, I could suss him out.

I don’t know what she expected me to do as far as sussing out this bloke, but if your boss’s daughter implies that someone is making her uncomfortable at her job and asks for your help with that, you say yes, don’t you? I mean, shit, we were going to be at The Chesterfield anyway, what harm could it do to agree to give this bloke a once over and check for any psycho tendencies? So naturally I told Rene telling that her and her colleagues were welcome to join us at The Chersterfield for a few post-work bevvies and that I’d let her know what I think of the new guy she mentioned.

And that was the start of one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made.

Next time…

Alrighty, maybe I didn’t quite make it to the night the pin was pulled to the grenade this time, but all of this stuff is really important to the story. Things are really going to start cranking up In Origins #7.

Origins #5

2 Jan

I’d just turned 31 and was settling back into life after a big holiday.

Life wasn’t exactly what I’d expected but I thought I was in a fairly good situation given where I’d started. I’ll tell you more about why having a decent job and a shitty little apartment counted as doing pretty well to me when I explain how I grew up, but that can wait for now. Anyway, I’d just hit 31 and started thinking about where my life was at. I’d also just hooked up with an attractive woman who was 9 years older than me and fallen into a friends-with-benefits relationship with her.

Cougar town

It was pretty cruisy. I don’t think we ever even went out for a meal together. Angelica would come around to my place late-night, 2 or 3 times a week. We’d have some fun and that was that. I don’t think either of us were under any illusions that it would go anywhere. From a sexual experience perspective, it was perfect for me. Angelica was experienced enough to know what she was doing and adult enough to not be self-conscious. I was experienced enough to keep up, but I still learned a few new things along the way as well.

I wish there were more women in the world like Angelica.

Gus oozes on

Back on the work front, I was just trying to weather the idiot storm until something or someone brought some change to the situation.

Gus, the project manager who had loaded so much stress on my shoulders in the previous year continued to do a poor job as a manager. We thought Gus was being pressured by Tim Everlong to get our division to be more productive. The impression Gus gave us was that our division was hanging in the balance, potentially ready to be shut down, so we had to work like crazy for a little while (already over a year) to make sure we all kept our jobs.

Unfortunately for those of us who worked below him, we didn’t realise what Gus was really up to.

One of the methods Gus would use to ‘inspire’ us was pinning a printed out image of a flounder (that’s right, the fish) to the desk of whoever he decided had been floundering. Floundering in this case was meant to suggest that you weren’t doing enough work. So you’d come into work, already dejected just to have to be there, and after days of bashing your head against a brick wall in an effort to achieve some ridiculous, pointless, and often impossible work request and discover that fucking printed picture of a flounder on your desk. I don’t think I’m easily affected by things like that but when you’re already stressed and frustrated, copping an insult on your desk for everyone else to see is a pretty gut-wrenching thing. I certainly didn’t like it, but it hit other staff even harder. One lady started speaking very, very loudly about how offensive it was and I’m certain that I saw more than one other staff member cry as a result of seeing that flounder on their desk.

Seriously! Who does this shit? How is that supposed to positively improve an already declining office morale?

Unqualified

I remember going into Gus’ office one time and catching him listening to project management podcasts. I thought he was listening to them to keep himself up-to-date but he proceeds to tell me that he doesn’t have any project management qualifications, and he’s trying to catch up on that.

That explained a few things.

Actually, that explained a lot. An incompetent manager is a very dangerous thing, but Gus wasn’t just incompetent, he was controlling and manipulative. I didn’t realise that at the time because he was so bad at his job. I just thought he was incapable of managing things well. I wish I’d been paying more attention to him and had picked up the fact that he had a little plan of his own that he was slowly implementing.

Time marches on

Work was shit but I was going out for heaps of dinners and innumerable drinking sessions and that was a great way to help me stop thinking about how shit work had become. Angelica was making regular visits at the time as well and what we were getting up to was another good way to just be in the moment.

At the back of my mind, it had dawned on me that I should start thinking a bit more about where I want to be in life, and what I need to do to work towards that. While everything I was doing outside of work was fun, it was temporary. Aside from some happy memories there was nothing left of it afterwards. I think that’s what your 20s is for, and because I’d spent my 20s running my own business, I missed out on a lot of that. I guess I was trying to catch up a bit but it was mostly just a way to distract myself from the difficulties I’d been dealing with at work.

I know it sounds like I’m bitching about the job I had. The job was only shit because of Gus. I really loved working with my colleagues. I loved that I could walk to work from my place and I loved that I got paid a good wage. It really was just how terrible a job Gus was doing that was making the job so unbearable.

A little ray of sunshine

One little ray of light in my workday was chatting with Laura Everlong in the morning everyday. I didn’t know exactly what was happening but I felt like we were becoming closer. There was something I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but I knew she was being more open with me. I was getting the vibe that Laura wasn’t with her boyfriend anymore, even though she mentioned him often.

It’s difficult to convert that vibe into words. I just knew there was something changing there, and I liked it. I liked Laura a lot. I was pretty good at not allowing myself to get too much of a crush on her but I admired her and thought of her as a rare mix of soft, elegant, strong, and beautiful.

Messages start coming

At the same time, I started receiving text messages from Rene Everlong. I didn’t give her my phone number, so that was a bit interesting in itself, but they were tame little messages so I didn’t think too much of it. She’d tell me how she’s training for a fun-run, or that she saw me crossing at some traffic lights, or whatever.

Whenever a message came through from her, I’d smile and think “She’s such a goofball”. I liked her and I liked that she was messaging me but I didn’t want any trouble so I was always only cautiously courteous in my replies. Rene had also taken to emailing me at my work email address. The emails were getting longer and more friendly as the weeks went by after the work party.

Between the emails, text messages and random facebook stuff I was probably talking to Rene 4 or 5 times a week. On top of that, she’d often stop by at my office building for a chat because she worked so close by and her sister ran our office. Looking back, it’s easy to see there was an escalation of communication between Rene and me. The messages were increasingly friendly and personal. They were coming through more and more often. There were little hints about times and places of where she’d be and what she’d be doing.

Even with all the communication, I still had it in my head that if Rene wanted to go out with me, she could ask, otherwise, nothing was going to happen.

What I wanted at that time

Turning 31 had made me think about things and the most important insight that came out of that was that I didn’t want to waste my time. I was having fun with Angelica and I was having fun in my social life but I was also conscious that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life just drifting around.

I’d always known deep down inside that everything would work out. I’d always had a confidence that I can’t really explain. I just knew I would get what I wanted. After turning 30 and realising that things hadn’t yet panned out however, doubt had started to creep in.

Doubt is an extraordinarily dangerous thing. I’ve always been a ‘go with the flow’ sort of guy but that little bit of doubt had pushed me to decided I better start making things happen. I figured that if I didn’t start pushing for the things I wanted, I might never get them. I was still confident I’d get what I wanted out of life, but I was trying to take on board the sentiment that you don’t get what you want unless you make things happen for yourself.

What making things happen meant to me by that point was finding a nice girl who I had a real connection with, and have some fun going out to dinners and shows with her. To me the long term wasn’t so important, I figured being with a girl who I was really into was the most important part and I could figure the rest of it out later.

I had enough money rolling in that I could afford to show someone a good time and still cover my mortgage, and I wanted to share my time with someone in a more intimate way than what had been happening with Angelica. As fun as that was, I was after an emotional connection.

Passing thoughts

I wasn’t hung up on any of this stuff. It was there in the back of my mind but I wasn’t thinking about it very much. I was more focused on getting by and trying to enjoy life. I still assumed things would work out if I just play it smart and do what I should do.

Despite feeling a bit doubtful about some things, I was feeling very confident about others. I was managing to find ingenious solutions to the ridiculous bullshit Gus was asking for. I was getting a lot of interest from women too, and not just women I knew. Women were flirting with me everywhere I went and I was feeling very, very confident as a result.

I guess the fact that I’d lost 20kg in the previous 2 years was helping, and all the positive attention I’d been getting had given me a bit of a swagger in my step. All I needed to do was to get the situation with Gus sorted out, find a cool girl, and life would be glorious.

And along came September

I mentioned how everything was escalating with Rene. It wasn’t just with her. It was with Laura, with work, with my social life, my self-reflection, it was everything. My whole life was ramping up towards something.

And that leads me to September 2010, the month my boss’s daughter stayed the night at my place. I’ll tell you about that next time.

Crazy bitch tip: Think about what other people are going through before you dump your crazy shit on them and expect them to solve it all for you.

Origins #4

21 Dec

I’d just gotten back from Europe. I didn’t want that party to end. I didn’t want to slot back into the stressful, pressured, mindless existence my life had been before I’d gone away.

I tried to keep the party going by making sure that my friends and I were going out as often as possible, that we weren’t missing any chances to take part in the fun that life has to offer.

shuttingthisbitchdownReally all I was doing was trying to fight off the stress that I knew would take over again and leave me hating waking up, because waking up meant I’d have to go in to work.

Holiday talk

In the first few days back at work, everyone wanted to know all about my trip. I remember that Tim Everlong and his cousin, Jeff (my project manager’s manager), kinda cornered me to get some details out of me about the fun I had. I was trying to keep the various romantic/sexual escapades I’d gotten up to fairly quiet but they both wanted to live vicariously through me and eventually convinced me to give them some of the details. They loved hearing about it and I figured “Who cares? It’s not like they’re going to run into any of the girls I was with.”

It’s not like I went crazy over there anyway. I mean, I hooked up with about 6 girls in the 6 weeks I was there. If anything, that’s probably less than you’d expect given the circumstances.

Christmas in July, in August

I’d only been back a few weeks before it was time for the my work’s mid-year party. The party was August 4th, 2010. I know this because I was double-booked between my work party, and attending my good friend Kym’s 30th birthday.

As with every other work party, Rene Everlong was there. Rene was very keen to talk to me, even more keen than usual. The second I see her she calls out, “Hey, I’ve saved you a seat! Come sit here with me!”Of course I go and sit with her and we’re chatting away. I’m answering all her questions about my trip and somehow we start getting into some other territory. Rene asked me “What are things a girl shouldn’t do on a first date?” and “How is a girl supposed to let a guy know that she likes him?”, and a lot of other things about dating and relationships. My answers were pretty straight forward, “Don’t be rude to your waiter”, “If you like someone, ask them out”.

flirting-hintsI got the vibe that I was supposed to take those questions as hints but I just kept the conversation rolling because I’m not exactly going to get very flirty with my boss’s daughter at a work function, now am I?

The conversation went all over place. Rene mentioned that she has a fear of commitment because she moved to France to be with a guy, and he went and cheated on her. I told her that I have the same issue, but mine comes from the failure of my parents’ relationship, and from the following failure of my mother’s relationship with my stepfather. I explained that I’ve seen the chaos that happens when relationships fall apart, so I’m very careful before I let myself get in involved. It was nice to get into such a personal conversation with Rene and understand her a little better.

I was double booked, so I had to head off but just before I left, I told Rene that the guy in France is a complete idiot for cheating on her. A huge smile took over her face and I realised I might have just let the cat out of the bag a little. I didn’t mind, though. If I hadn’t worked for her father I would have asked her out, hell, I probably would have kissed her, but the situation prohibited such things and I just gave her a little hug and headed off to the other party.

My 31st birthday party

As it happens, my birthday is in August. Just a few days after the work do, it was time to go out and celebrate my 31st tour of the sun, so out went the invites to the 10th anniversary of my 21st birthday party. I sent the invite out to everyone I work with and all the rest of my friends. The invite was something along the lines of: “Pub crawl. Starting at Pub A. Proceeding to wherever we end up. Come one, come all!”

I didn’t really think about it, but that invite also went to my manager Laura, and her sister Rene. I was pretty surprised to see them both at pub #5. I try not to drink at all around the higher-ups at work, so seeing my manager at my party was a bit nerve-wracking, especially because the bouncer decided I was too drunk to even be allowed into this particular pub. Being the adventurous and foolhardy bloke that I am, however, I just jumped the little wall and flopped into the party right along side the manager of my building. Hrmm. Hindisght’s an interesting thing, isn’t it?

Anyway, my nerves about running into my manager were quickly squashed when I realised Laura Everlong was at least as drunk as I was!

Rene was stone cold sober as best I can remember, but I was a good 5 pints in by that stage. I remember doing a bit of cheeky flirting with Laura and she was flirting back, which was fun and completely harmless. I know I spoke with Rene a little bit, but the only thing I really remember is that I asked her if she was a lesbian.

I know it was a joke and was some sort of effort to check if she was still single, but geez it seems like a stupid thing to go asking your boss’s daughter when you’re drunk. Whatever, that’s the least of my concerns as you’ll learn from the rest of the story. Anyway, Laura had to be at some event the next morning and the rest of my party brigade were ready to head off to the next pub, so we said our goodbyes to the Everlong girls for the night.

As the night progressed, the group grew smaller and smaller, until eventually there were only a handful of us left. One of these people was a woman named Angelica. Angelica was a friend of a friend, quite beautiful and though you wouldn’t know it to look at her, she was 9 years my senior. Angelica had been quite flirtatious with me through the night but I assumed she had a boyfriend and was just doing that thing that girls do when they go out, y’know, where they act like they’re single but they’re just enjoying the attention? It turned out that Angelica was, in fact, single and her flirtiness was not as toothless as I’d expected. And… well… I spent the later hours of my birthday learning that Angelica had a great apartment right there in the city, and that it had a really comfy bed.

It’s strange, later the next day I noticed some scratches down my back. If I didn’t know better, I could have sworn that a cougar had gotten hold of me.

31! What the hell does that mean?

It started to kick in that I was 31, not married, had no kids, was not any sort of world-famous success, and that in general my life had not turned out quite like I had expected.

It’s not like I was desperate to have a wife and kids but I had always liked the idea of meeting the right woman and cranking out some ankle biters. I assumed that would have sorted itself out by the time I hit 30, but there I was at 31 and it was still not even on the horizon. To be fair, I had specifically decided not to get married to my ex even though I know she would have said yes if I’d asked her. We would have had kids and bought a house and all that, but I knew she wasn’t the woman I was supposed to marry, so I didn’t. Instead I ended up 31 with no wife and no kids, sort of by choice.

Career-wise, things were going relatively well. Sure, my job was torturous and soul-destroying, but at the time I thought the higher ups would identify that my project manager, Gus, was an incompetent psycho and give him the boot, or that he’d eventually learn how to do the job properly and stop overloading me, and everyone else, with work. Either way, I figured my job would get back to normal sooner or later. The pay was good and I was a little extra proud that I was making that much despite never getting a degree.

From a wealth perspective, I knew I should have accrued more by that point, but I’d spent my money on experiences and I was ok with that. I had my shitty little apartment and that meant that my money wasn’t entirely going to waste. Over time I knew it’d be worth something, and I’d always have somewhere to live as long as I continued to pay the mortgage.

Hey! wasn’t this a story about you ending up in bed with your boss’s daughter?

Yeah, yeah. I’m getting there.

Tune in next time for origins #5, where I’ll tell you about how my chance run-in with a cougar became a regular mauling.

Crazy bitch tip: If you like a guy, you’ll have more luck with actually asking him out than you will by firing hundreds of carefully planned and targeted facial expressions at him.

Bitch in business

18 Dec

Alrighty. I’m going to start by pointing out that I’ve worked in plenty of offices and that I’ve been running my own business since 2003. I’ve also worked in some very large organisations and have managed projects that had prices with lots of zeros at the end. Maybe I have a right to talk about business, maybe I don’t. And I understand that, according to a lot of people, the fact that I’m a 35 year old, white, male means that I’m speaking from some delusional and privileged perspective, but I did grow up dirt poor and had absolutely no support from my family, so like it or not, I reckon I’ve earned my point of view on this particular topic.

This is apparently what it's like to be a young, white, male. I must have missed the meeting when I was getting by on toast and water, until the toaster broke.

This is apparently what it’s like to be a young, white, male but I must have missed the meeting where they were supposed to throw all that easily attained money at me.

I’ve worked with all sorts of people and I’ve watched as my friends from school have progressed into the working world and where they’ve ended up now, which is about 15 years later. One thing that’s become increasingly clearer to me is that you don’t have to be a bitch or an arsehole to get ahead. As a matter of fact, I’d say the opposite is true. I won’t pretend it’s as easy for a woman to get herself established in business as it is for a man, but just because it’s extra difficult for women doesn’t make it an easy task for all the men who want to do well.

I think there are a lot of people out there telling themselves that success is more difficult for them to achieve than it is for everyone else and I think that’s a big load of bullshit. I think that’s just people discovering that something is more difficult than they anticipated and making excuses for the gap between how tough they thought it would be, and how tough it really is.

Business is competition. People treat it like a sport. They get all worked up about gaining as many ‘trophies’ as they can, except in business terms a trophy is a high-growth quarter, or landing a big account, or putting out a product that does really well. Let’s not forget that if it were easy to do these things, everyone would be doing them.

There are literally millions of other people out there trying to be successful at business as well. You don’t get to be successful in anything ultra-competitive without working your arse off at it, purely because everyone else who is after that same thing is working their arse off for it, too. If you want to be a success, you have to earn it. Moaning about what’s holding you back is just a good way to waste time that you could be putting towards earning the success you’re chasing.

Expect a lot of this vibe in the business world

Expect a lot of this sort of vibe in the business world

Of course things need to change and women need to be given a fair playing field, but the reality is, the people who are already successful want to retain all their wealth and clout, so fair or not, they won’t be giving up any of that power they have without a fight.

Yeah, I have run into some absolutely atrocious people in the business world, and yes some of them have done well. It’s funny though, they’re always the most unhappy people. They’re manipulative, controlling, bitter, little butt-holes and they’re never just arseholes at work, they’re just as horrible in their home and social lives as well. They’re monsters, pure and simple. Think of them as cannibals. Sure, they’re eating well, but they end up lonely pretty quick.

Cannibals: if they're well fed, you can bet they're lonely.

Cannibals: if they’re well fed, you can bet they’re lonely.

The way those little monsters get ahead is by cheating. They take credit for other people’s work. They start in-fighting within an organisation to try and benefit from the fallout. They fuck with people’s heads just to try to keep them from noticing the other dodgey shit they’ve been up to in an effort to get more power and more control. I’ve seen men who act like this and I’ve seen women who act like this.

The undeniable fact is that it’s far easier to win when you cheat. Look at old one-nut Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France ‘champion’. He took out 7 ‘victories’ by knowingly breaking the rules. Sure they’re taking them away from him now, but you’re never going to know the names of the people he was competing with that were actually playing by the rules, because that scumbag stole all the glory they were entitled to. That same shit happens in business. Ethics go out the window when the dollar signs start showing up.

Lance Armstrong: Cheats to win, doesn't have the balls to admit it ;

Lance Armstrong: “champion”

 

What’s awesome though, is that there are still people out there being successful in their chosen field who manage to keep their ethics and not waste their energy complaining about gender inequality, racism, religious prejudice and whatever else. Life isn’t fair. Business isn’t fair. Don’t expect it to be. Don’t waste time complaining about it. After you’re successful, that’s when you should start fighting for equality, because nobody can tell you you’re just a whinger if you’ve already succeeded despite the inequalities that exist.

It is possible to get ahead by being a bitch in business, but doing so will probably make you an unhappy person, so what’s the point? What’s the gain if you’re cashed up but you’re soul-crushingly lonely because you can’t trust anyone, and they can’t trust you.

This belief that being a bitch is the only way for women to get ahead in business is just a flat-out lie. I’ve worked with some extremely successful women who are straight-up lovely, easy going people. The became successful because they understood that they needed to work harder and smarter than everyone they were in competition with. They did that, and shock-horror, it worked out in their favour.

Being a bitch is a bad thing. You don’t have to be a bitch to assert your opinion or disagree with someone. It is possible to be female and make a point without coming off like a bitch. We call it being assertive. When you were a kid, did you do what your mother said? Of course you did! And why? Because she had an air of authority about her!

Have an air of authority, like this, but with less spoon and angry pointing.

Have an air of authority like this, but with less spoonage and minimize the angry pointing.

That’s what some people are missing when they go into business and that’s what causes them to feel trodden on. It’s not just women who experience this. Men have the exact same problem. When a meek and quiet guy tries to talk at a meeting, he’ll be talked over. When a ‘soft’ person tries to negotiate with someone aggressive, the soft person comes off second best because they’re not on the attack.

When you start getting into the business world, you have to get it out of your head that people are going to be nice to you and treat you with respect. They will mock you and tease you and try to hurt your feeling because they’re trying to beat you. They’re trying to crush you so there’s one less person to compete with. Don’t stand for that shit. Get that air of authority about you. Make it clear you’re not going to be pushed around. That doesn’t mean you have to be a bitch, it just means don’t be a pushover!

To clarify:

  • Speaking up when you need to speak up is not being a bitch.
  • Voicing your opinion is not being a bitch.
  • Not backing down when you shouldn’t back down is not being a bitch.
  • Demanding to earn as much money as anyone else who does the same work as you is not being a bitch.

Versus:

  • Spreading rumours about a colleague or competitor is being a bitch.
  • Making jokes about the size of your colleagues or competitors genitals is being a bitch.
  • Giving a colleague or business associate the ‘cold shoulder’ or ‘silent treatment’ because you’re unhappy with them is being a bitch.
  • Getting annoyed at the only guy in your team because he doesn’t think your personal drama should impact your ability to meet a project’s deadline is being a bitch.

And, finally:

  • Expecting to get ahead in business without having to outdo your competitors isn’t exactly ‘being a bitch’ but it’s not going to get you anywhere.

Crazy bitch tip: Instead of focusing on being a bitch in business, focus on doing a better job than your competitors.

Crazy bitch bonus tip: Very, very, very few white women can rap well enough to do it on a music video.

Origins #3

3 Dec

So, to continue on from origins #2… after all that stress I was really looking forward to Europe.

If you’ve never been to Europe and the opportunity comes up, go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go.

An international escape

I’d always dreamed of seeing Italy and France and Germany and all the other amazingly beautiful locations in Europe. The reason I decided on Europe specifically was that I’d already been to America in 2006, to Britain in 2008 (with a brief taste of Paris) and had realised that I didn’t want to die without seeing Venice, so I decided I’d better go there next.

It's difficult to be stressed out in Venice

It’s difficult to be stressed out in Venice.

I wanted to get the best bang for my buck that I could, so I’d jumped onto a Contiki tour. A Contiki tours is basically a big party that happens to take place on a bus as it travels through some of the most beautiful destinations on Planet Earth. Contiki’s are a right of passage for Australians. If I remember correctly, well over half of the tour group were Aussies and everyone was ready to go off like a frog in a sock.

What the hell does any of this have to do with the boss’s daughter?

Absolutely nothing. That’s sort of the point. I didn’t think about either of my boss’s daughters the entire time I was away. I barely thought about work at all, and when I did it, it was not in a good way. After the first week, work, and everything else to do with ‘home’ was a long forgotten past that was completely drowned out by the fun I was having every day.

Misadventures in alcohol

I had a lot of fun with a lot of cool people in a lot of beautiful places, but I drank too much on my Contiki tour. I wasn’t alone. One guy drank so much beer he get a yeast infection in his armpits from literally sweating beer all day everyday. There were many mornings where the whole bus was echoing the words “I’m never drinking again” but by lunchtime we were all looking for pubs.

I was on that tour for 28 days and I reckon I was completely sober for maybe 4 of them. I lose my inhibitions when I drink, and that can be an issue. Sometimes I forget what happened when I was drinking, and wake up certain I’ve offended everyone and that I’m the worst human to have ever lived. This tends to take the fun out of waking up with a beautiful woman.

I tend to have no problem making friends in tightly packed social environments like a tour bus, and it’s not like I was a pariah on this Contiki, but I was struggling more than usual. I wasn’t connecting with people as much and I didn’t realise it at the time but I was just too stressed out to be my normal social self, and all that alcohol was only making matters worse. Even though I wasn’t thinking about work, all the stress related to it had burrowed into me so deeply that I was still physically stressed even when I wasn’t thinking about it, but I had no idea that’s what was going on.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I honestly had the trip of a lifetime and made some really good friends, but I drank way too much and acted like a goose sometimes. Turns out I drank so much that when I came back, I started getting withdrawals. So… alcoholism is a thing and apparently can hit you within just 6 weeks of heavy drinking. I don’t recommend it.

You can’t go home again

You can’t just spend 6 summery weeks with awesome people, doing whatever the hell you want as you drunkenly wander through Europe’s most beautiful cities, and then slot back into a never-ending winter while working in a dreary little office for an angry little troll. It just doesn’t work!

All that living reminds you that there’s a whole fucking world out there to enjoy. And all that socialising reminds you that there are actually people in the world who know how to have fun! Do you remember what it’s like to have fun!

These are dangerous things to be reminded of when you’re having a tough time at work. These thoughts were in direct contrast with the project manager who wanted me to be his obedient little slave. I had pretty much forgotten about stress by the time I’d returned, and then this little tick was trying to suck all the life back out of me again. There are some people who just shouldn’t exist, and to my mind, Gus the project manager is one of them.

More to come

Obviously I didn’t tell you all that for no reason. It will become more apparent as we go on, I promise. The most important parts are that I didn’t think about Rene Everlong at all while I was away and that the stress from my job had gotten so bad that it was still impacting me even when I was running amok through Europe, even though I hadn’t realised that at the time.

Catch ya next time in Origins #4

Crazy bitch tip: If you want to get all your craziness and bitchiness out in a non-stop party, a Contiki is great way to go about it because everyone is so blotto they’ll barely even notice.

 

 

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