An anatomy of the darkness

woman walking in the dark

I’m training for a half marathon at the moment, which isn’t one of my brightest ideas nor is my lack of motivation getting me anywhere near ready.

I fear I will become the next You Tube sensation when I end up crawling on my hands and knees from the 15-kilometre mark – until a handsome stranger scoops me up and carries me valiantly across the finish line, of course.

What’s more likely is that I’ll be stretchered to the waiting medics and I’ll end up on a saline drip whilst simultaneously feeling like a dickhead.

Learning, or trying to learn, how to run 21 kilometres necessitates an hour or more of running-time several times a week.

Early mornings are out for me because I can’t be arsed getting out of bed early now that I work from home and these days I just have more choices.

So, it’s late afternoons that I sometimes manage to don my running gear and head off along the river to clock up the required meterage.

Recently, and rather oddly, I decided to keep running farther than the training program required because I was having one of those elusive moments in time when I actually felt reasonably fit.

Eight kilometres became 10, then 11, then 12, and then I realised that I had outrun the sunlight and I was still a good half an hour from home.

But my jubilation quickly turn to fear because running in the dark alone is something I avoid at all costs.

Now that’s not because I live in a dodgy part of town, but my river running route is mainly devoid of streetlights yet has an abundance of shady trees.

And that meant I had the fear because I am a woman.

From an early age, we’re taught not to walk or run home alone late at night because it’s not safe.

What our well-meaning parents don’t teach us is that this concern about our safety is not because there are monsters hiding on every corner.

It’s because we have a vagina.

And seemingly having a vagina is enough of a temptation for us to be secreted inside as soon as the sun goes down – unless we’re amidst friends with vaginas or penises and then the chances of us being attacked under the moonlight are greatly reduced.

It’s almost like we’re the opposite of vampires because we can safely wander around alone in the daylight but when night falls and the midnight hour looms, well, we need to be fearful of strangers lurking in dim corners pondering dark deeds.

It pains me that in the 21st Century, while it might sound alarmist to some, that this safety net is still fairly valid advice – especially late at night when silence has replaced the noisy cityscape of just a few hours before.

And its borne out in the statistics of women being mugged, raped or murdered because they “dared” to walk home alone in the dark. Some, like Jill Meagher, were only walking a few hundred metres but never made it to the safety of her home and her husband.

Two women have been raped in my neighbourhood in recent years and the perpetrators have never been found. One victim was walking to a bus stop at night when she was attacked by two men as she passed an alley way.

I actually ran past a spot this morning where a beautiful French student was raped and murdered as she walked home from university in the rain three years ago. Her naked and battered body was left where she died. Her dignity and life stolen from her by the criminal brutality of a stranger in the dark.

Those horrific crimes, and having been a woman for 40-plus years, means that I regularly Uber home from the entertainment precinct that is less than one kilometre away from my house.

I don’t want to run the risk of becoming yet another statistic who’s “guilty” of taking on the darkness and losing – and it really fucks me off.

That route during the day is picturesque and peaceful, but after the sun goes down and darkness has well and truly set in, it takes on a threatening demeanour that forces me to pay a driver, who is also a stranger, to get me “safely” home.

And it’s not as if I live my life in fear – rather I try to be as fearless as possible – but a dislike of darkened, silent streets is probably a healthy scepticism to have, even though I wish so very much that it wasn’t.

Clearly the answer to this is that people should stop attacking people just because they’re walking home alone late at night, have a vagina, and there are stars, instead of the sun, in the sky.

If only it was that simple.

I can only hope that my nieces will live in such a community in the future, but I fear that change won’t come about soon enough for them either.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll just have to continue living my single lady life for half of every day.

Or perhaps shift somewhere where there’s more daylight so I can even up the ledger to fit in more “female time” for running.

To catch a lip kiss thief

no_kissing

As the years pass on by, I’m still often surprised by how much I have to learn about myself.

It’s almost like I’m some type of human onion with layers that are slowly being peeled back to reveal who I truly am after decades of being on this earth. What’s that all about? Some of this information would have been helpful much earlier than middle age, don’t you think?

For me, I recently had an epiphany that while I like sex as much as the next red-blooded, horny Scorpio, I actually don’t really care for relationships much at all. This is perhaps why I’ve always been crap at them for my entire life – what a big waste of energy. But that’s a blog for another time because I’m still trying to get my head around that fairly important observation about myself.

What’s almost as important is a moment of personality transparency that occurred a few months back and one which I’ve been “researching” via asking my friends about it every since.

Here’s the thing: when I was visiting my dad and step-mum back in the homeland before Christmas, one night the topic turned into a discussion about how affectionate our family is. You know, we’re the huggy, kissy type who probably touch people (not in a sexy way) too often, too, I said to them both. We even kiss everyone on the lips, I exclaimed.

Then, my parents told me something about myself that I never knew before. Well, they said, it’s not a family thing. It’s a “you thing”. A you thing, what do you mean by that, I asked? It’s you, you’re the one who kisses everyone on the lips and we in turn have learned how to kiss you back that way, they told me.

I sat there in silence and may have had a swig of beer to take it all in.

So, you’re telling me, I said, that I go around and kiss all and sundry fair on the lips and generally, what, just get away with it?

Yes, they said.

Shit, I said.

How long has this been happening, I asked?

Forever, they said.

Shit, I said.

And that, my friends, was the moment when I learned that I am a lip kiss thief.

Until then, I’d just presumed that my family was overly familiar and that I’d surrounded myself with friends who also liked a bit of “kiss on the lips” action every time we saw each other.

On my return to Australia a few weeks later, not truly believing this overly affectionate revelation about myself, I tested this information with two of my best friends.

Now this part is important because I have many female and male friends. Some of these male friends are my female friend’s husbands and we’ve been having a big of a hello “friendship snog” for years and no one seemed perturbed by it at all. I just presumed that’s how my tribe greeted each other.

So, when I posed the question to my friends – who are wife and husband – that my parents had just informed me that I’m a lip kiss stealer, the bloody (but lovely) bastards agreed with their assessment.

What are you saying, I asked?

That you go for the lips every time and we don’t really have time to out-manoeuvre you,  they said.

Shit, I said.

How long has this been going on, I asked?

For decades, they said.

Shit, I said.

My friend, let’s call him Blair because that is his name, said he’s not a lip kisser much at all (apart from with his awesome wife) so my over-the-top kissy greetings had been a bit of a struggle in the beginning of our friendship. Now, he intimated, he just knew that I’d go for the lips every time and he’d made a kind of peace with it.

When I saw them yesterday, in jest, he actually turned his cheek at the last moment so I just sat there with my lips pursed and waited for him to say hello “properly”. Then I said, I must write about this – and so I am.

Since this disclosure, I’ve talked about my “kiss issue” with a few more friends, who’ve all agreed, plus I’ve tried to be better at assessing whether a lip kiss is appropriate or not.  Although, let me be clear, I don’t kiss professional contacts, well, until they become friends and then it’s lip action all the way.

Lord know what this says about me. Perhaps, my statement at the start of this blog about not being good at relationships means that I’m starved of affection so I just go around planting platonic kisses on anyone who I’m close to – and for all these years they’ve let me.

I’m hoping that means that there’s really no problem with me being a lip kiss thief and I don’t have to do something radical like change my behaviour because I fear it’s far too late, and much too entrenched, for that.

Plus, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to.

Wiping the slate clean

wiping the slate clean

I recently went to my first laser tattoo removal appointment – five years after I’d first darkened the clinic’s doors.

Let me be frank: It is much, much, much worse than getting tattooed in the first place. I suppose it’s my penance for the decisions I made all those decades ago.

Five years ago, the nurse told me so many horror stories about the procedure that I decided to never go back there again – plus my boyfriend at the time had lots of ink so I hated mine a little less.

I’ve written about my tattoos before, so I won’t go over old skin ground, but I recently came to the realisation that I am finally done with my skin art.

The decision was partly helped by my “oh so hip” ’90s arm-band now looking nothing like its original incarnation. In fact, it looks like a stripe of blobby blackish ink coupled with a last gasp attempt at green and yellow.

When I first got it, I always wore sleeveless shirts to show off my 20-something version of “politically aware” artwork that was a resplendent mass of peace signs and sunflowers. Today, I usually buy clothes that hide it.

I never see the tattoo on my shoulder – so original it was chosen off a tattooist’s wall when I was 18 or 19 – so until the nurse took photos of it, I’d forgotten what it even looked like at all.

I’m glad I waited five years to start treatments, though, because technology has advanced so much that the pain level has “improved” from excruciating to merely agonising.

Because I’m an idiot, I decided to get both of my tattoos removed at the same time, which means double the dose of fun every six weeks for more than a year. It really does seem like some kind of cosmic joke – especially since it costs 10 times more to get them taken off than it cost to get them put on.

The nurse thought my “once was an armband but now looks like I’ve drawn on myself with a magic marker when drunk and delusional” tattoo would hurt the most – yes, there is a pain scale – so we started with the tattoo that I reportedly still had on my shoulder.

Unfortunately, her estimation was wrong because the pain was so intense that we had to resort to seven second laser bursts, while I helpfully kicked the wall and therapeutically said “fuck” quite a lot.

As it turned out, the mess that is my arm tattoo hurt much less but maybe I was in shock by that stage.

The odd thing is, once the laser is done with blasting the ink into smithereens back into your blood stream, the pain miraculously disappeared and unlike tattoos there wasn’t a solitary drop of blood.

The whole procedure, probably took all of four minutes.

That was five days ago and I know that the last time I spent so much time looking at my tattoos was when I got them in the first place.

The tattoo on my shoulder is miraculously one-third disappeared after the very first session but its lines were always fine and really quite dainty considering an outlaw motorcyclist probably did it.

My arm-band ink coagulation, well, if I look very hard (which I do often) has possibly and hopefully faded ever so slightly. That one, they tell me, will take many, many sessions to fade away, which really is wonderful news.

The weird thing is, if I could go back tomorrow and do another session, I would – even though it was as painful as an abscessed tooth.

Alas, they won’t let me because it takes weeks for your skin and your immune system to recover from getting hammered repeatedly by a laser.

It’s annoying to me that the one tattoo I never saw is the one that’s going to go first but at least I know that it works, right?

I know I had 20-plus good years of having tattoos and I still don’t regret having them in my life – unlike a number of my past boyfriends.

It’s just that once I made the momentous decision to wipe my skin slate clean, then I have to be patient for that to become a reality.

Perhaps it’s the latest evolution or metamorphosis of me, which of course takes time.

So until that day comes, after many more sessions where I’m painfully reminded of my adolescent folly, I guess I’ll just have to keep swearing a lot and kicking walls until I eventually come out clean on the other side.