The Laundromat Floor

Where Drinking Tea Meets Waxing Lyrical

John Darnielle wrote an album called ‘The Sunset Tree.’ I chucked out some magazines.

There are so many ways to feel like a new person. Some dive into the surf at sunrise on New Years Day. Some start each Monday morning with a list of the ways they are going to be a changed being. One dear friend of mine periodically burns all of his superfluous possessions in an effort to start afresh. (The last of these I wouldn’t suggest if you live in the suburbs; it tends to freak out the neighbours, particularly if you accompany such a ritual with copious bourbon consumption and questionable dancing. But it works for him.)

 

For me, that feeling of starting again came from an orange bin-bag full of women’s magazines.

 

If I wasn’t such a neat-freak, I could quite easily become a feature of an episode of ‘Hoarders.’ I find ridiculous sentimentality in items; troll dolls, and paper cranes, and ticket stubs, and trinkets bought in Malaysian markets, and letters from people I’ll never speak to again. I’ve a shelf full of stuffed animals with whom I can’t bear to part, and I’ve kept all of the religious iconography that accompanies a Catholic upbringing, despite my now-avowed atheism. I don’t want to part with these things, and they all have their place: on pin-boards, and shelves, and windowsills, and boxes under my desk. Next to the boxes sat a teetering pile of magazines; another concession to an inherent hoarding reflex I can’t quite seem to overcome.

 

Until last week.

 

I sat on my bedroom floor, in denim shorts and an old flannel shirt, dusty from vaccuumming and greasy from window cleaning, and I pondered the magazines. Years of impulse train station purchases, years of Cosmos and Cleos and Grazias and Shop. Years of “ten sex tips to drive him wild” and “get that bikini body you’ve always wanted” and “here’s a list of everything that’s wrong with you and everything you’ll need to purchase if you don’t want to be such a failure and also you’re fat.”

 

Next to me sat a bright orange bin-bag.

 

Quietly, one pile became two. One the left: the Cosmos and the Cleos and the Grazias and the Shop magazines. On the right: the Frankies, and the Rolling Stones, and the Triple J Mags, and the Times, and the Inked, and the art and music and literature magazines that had slipped their way into the fray. On the left were the magazines that made me feel inadequate. The magazines that told me I was a failure. The magazines that made my strident feminist heart ashamed of owning. On the right were the magazines that inspired me. That made me feel creative, and worthy. That made my strident feminist heart swell with pride.

 

The pile on the left was shoved unceremoniously into the bright orange bin-bag, and hauled to the bin outside. The pile on the right went back under my desk. And I felt immensely better.

 

Now, late on a Tuesday night almost a week later, I’m sitting on my bed, and I’m flicking through an old Frankie magazine, and I’m listening to ‘The Sunset Tree’ album by The Mountain Goats (the brilliance of which I will proclaim until my dying breath), and I feel like a new person. I’m not skinnier, or healthier, or smarter, or more hard-working. I still have a lot of stuff. I haven’t dived into the surf, or made a list, or burnt all of my possessions. But I am no longer reading things that make me feel like shit, and maybe that’s enough.

All that’s left is the song I’ve sung; the breath I’ve taken and the one I must.

I’m listening to Johnny Flynn’s ‘The Wrote and The Writ’ blaring from my tinny laptop speakers, and I’m drinking bitter black coffee, and I’m wondering if I’ve changed at all.

I achieved things this year that I thought so far out of my (pessimistic and dull-thought) grasp. I wrote a thesis; I completed coursework; I earned First Class Honours; I earned a place in my department’s PhD program. I realised, once again and with brain-shattering clarity, how much I love what I do. I presented my work at an academic conference, and fell madly in love with the idea that somewhere amongst the noise and competiveness there might be a niche for me.

I fell in love with people, too – with new friends and with old friends, and with new lovers and old lovers. I drank gin, and soy lattes, and danced, and stayed up until 4am talking with people who know me well and persist in loving me anyway. I went on roadtrips, and holidays; I saw friends get married, and friends have babies, and friends fall in love, and friends get sunburnt and drunk and so very, very happy.

I wrote, ferociously, tripping over words in a rush to get them onto paper. I discovered Tumblr, and Doctor Who, and the all-embracing happiness that comes from finding like-minded nerds with whom to fangirl. (Yes, ‘fangirl’ in a verb. In my universe, at least.) I worked, and I slept, and I embraced the notion of the nanna nap with all-encompassing enthusiasm.

I added to my tattoo collection. I got a new piercing. I dyed my hair all manner of reds and purples and browns. I went to Homebake alone, and for the first time, felt as if I were truly a part of this mess we called the human race. I found comfort in my own skin, and I vowed to be happy as a pear-shaped, never-gonna-be-skinny, curvy woman.

I was no longer so unwell.

So I sit here, on the final day of 2011, and I listen to Jonny Flynn’s ‘The Wrote and The Writ’ blare from my tinny laptop speakers, and I sip my bitter black coffee, and I feel like everything is going to be alright.

Happy New Year, darlings and dearhearts.

Infinite (Im)Possibilities

I’m never going to be a size six, with jutting hipbones and thighs that don’t touch. I’m never going to have matchstick limbs, or narrow hips, or a bum that is proportionate to the rest of my body. I’m never going to have rock-hard abs. I’m never going to be taller than 5’4.

My hair is never going to be anything other than a thick lion’s mane of shaggy bed-hair and tangled, frizzy waves. My eyesight is never going to be 20/20. My teeth are never going to be perfectly straight. My skin is never going to be unblemished by freckles and scars and tattoos.

I could spend days, weeks, months listing off everything that isn’t perfect about my body. Can, and have. It’s remarkably easy to do – just look in the mirror and name everything that differs from this month’s Cosmo covergirl. Be prepared to devote some hours to this pointless, depressing exercise. (Unless, of course, you are actually this month’s Cosmo covergirl, in which case you can instead spend the time listing all of the ways the editors have Photoshopped your body into something rather unrealistic.)

I can’t do that anymore. For one thing, hating yourself takes a remarkable amount of time and energy; time and energy that could be spent on arguably more useful endeavours. Hating yourself saps your creativity and your happiness, until you are just a hungry, bitter shell. So to hell with all that nonsense. I don’t care what size I am, or how many calories I eat in any given day, or whether I’ve lost or gained weight since the last time I obsessively stepped onto the scales. (No more scales, period. Deciding how happy I’m allowed to be based on a number clashes with my distaste for all things mathematical.)

I may never be a skinny size six, or have lovely small thighs / hips / bum. Instead, I have a body that is fantastic at yoga, that can walk for miles and miles without tiring, that can rollerblade quite well, and that can even run if in the right mood. I have a body that is vegan, and mostly healthy, and that isn’t deprived of the occasional bit of chocolate or ice cream. I like my sometimes-unmanageable hair, and my thick glasses, and my freckles and scars and tattoos.

One day, I may even like my definitely-not-small thighs / hips / bum.

But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.

Armchairs, Tarantino, And A Certain Brand Of Laundry Detergent.

A year ago, I was slumped in the waiting room of my university’s Medical Centre, picking absently at my already-demolished fingernails. I’d not slept in three days, nor eaten in two, and in my brain there was a constant, muted, destructive whirr. The chrome seat was cold against my legs, and the pile of magazines next to me told me of Angelina’s tiny thighs (envious) and Madonna’s latest beau (less envious).

An extension on the essay is not a problem, but I’d like you to get a medical certificate anyway. 

A small, blonde woman peered at me. “Rebecca?” I nodded, and retrieved my laptop bag from under the chair. We turned left down the corridor. Her office was comfortable and bright, the window overlooking the trees of the central courtyard.  She indicated to an oversized armchair, and sat back.

Please go and see someone. 

It took her less than fifteen minutes to (re)diagnose me; another five to make an appointment with a GP  for me to talk about medication. We turned right down the corridor. He was a burly, gruff man. His window overlooked a car-park. I sat in a swivel chair as he drew me diagrams of synapses and neurons, and used Tarantino film references to explain just what what happening in my whirring, muted mind.

296.34. Major recurrent depressive disorder, severe, with psychotic features.

I’m one of the lucky ones – it only took three months, and minimal trial-and-error, to find a medication that worked for me. An SNRI, which is much like the more common SSRI but less mainstream. Even in my medications, I am a hipster. It’s not perfect; the depression snaps at my heels on occasion, and the psychotic symptoms still bare their teeth menacingly, but from an increasingly greater distance. To assume that a pill can cure mental illness is naive at best. It is, instead, a cushion with which to buffer against the worst of the illness, and with which to smother the most extreme and debilitating of symptoms. My particular brand of depression, for example, comes with auditory hallucinations: I don’t hear voices in my head, but rather I hear external voices as if someone was standing next to me, or as if I’ve left a television on in the next room. Essentially, I lay in bed, feeling utterly miserable and hopeless, and I can hear someone sitting near my wardrobe, telling me how worthless and pathetic I am. Fantastic way to pass the time, I assure you.

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises.

I promised myself that I’d write something one year after that first appointment with the small blonde lady and the large gruff man. No matter how I was, no matter what had happened, I’d write it down. So I have. I eat, and I sleep, and I write, and I socialise, and I don’t listen to nearly as much heavy metal music. I’m not reading Helen Razer’s Gas Smells Awful: The Mechanics of Being a Nutcase on a daily basis, and I rarely spend all day staring at my bedroom wall any more. The whole process has left me with the remnents of some odd and somewhat endearing symptoms: the smell of a certain laundry detergent will leave me giddy with delight, while a specific brand of pasta sauce can still reduce me to a weeping, shaking mess. It’s hard not to be amused by the black humour in such ridiculousness. But such side-effects are gradually fading into background noise, and I am increasingly exhibiting signs of mental stability that are distinctly uncharacteristic. Most remarkably, I feel like a person, rather than a shell or a zombie. My default setting is no longer sadness, but rather a vague sort of contentment in which I take great pleasure. I’m so much more productive than I have ever been; far from losing whatever ability I had to write or study, I have instead gained the most unexpected energy and concentration. I am, in short, breathing and living and thriving and bustling along nicely.

About fucking time.

I Don’t Have The Energy To Be Angry. I’m Tired, And I’m Sad.

I am not a second-class citizen.

I have an Australian passport. I am able to tick ‘Australian citizen’ on any and all pieces of paperwork that come my way. I work, and I study, and I live here, and have done so for my entire life. I pay taxes, and I study at an Australian university, and I vote in every election. I am middle class, Anglo-Saxon, and reap the benefits of living so close to Australia’s largest urban centre. I am, on most accounts, a fully-participating member of Australian society, and for that I am incredibly thankful.

But yesterday, just for a moment, I felt decidedly on the outer of society. Yesterday, you see, Prime Minister Julia Gillard re-affirmed her opposition to same-sex marriage. In an opinion piece written for The Age, Gillard said,

“I support maintaining the Marriage Act in its current form, and the government will not move legislation to change it. My position flows from my strong conviction that the institution of marriage has come to have a particular meaning and standing in our culture and nation and that should continue unchanged.”

First, a brief history. The Marriage Act to which Prime Minister Gillard refers is the Marriage Amendment Act (2004), which was introduced by then-federal Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock. Primarily, it added the following amendment to the Marriage Act (1961):

Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.
Certain unions are not marriages. A union solemnised in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman; must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia.

In doing so, the Marriage Amendment Act (2004) formally legislated against same-sex marriage in Australia. It is this amendment that Prime Minister Gillard supports, despite the most recent Neilsen poll citing public support for same-sex marriage at 68% (a number which increases to 71% among Labor Party voters.) There is a certain kind of bravado required to stand so stringently against public opinion and the opinion of much of your party; ‘bravado’ is, of course, the most polite synonym for ‘stupidity.’

What Prime Minister Gillard fails to recognise is that culture is not a static entity; that cultural institutions are subject to change and development as a society progresses. To argue that same-sex marriage is dichotomous to Australian culture is to ignore the most persistent of Australian cultural pillars – tolerance, acceptance, and the ability to understand that Australian society is a multi-faceted and beautifully diverse actuality. We do not question female suffrage, or the right of Indigenous Australians to be recognised as Australian citizens, or the right for married couples to seek divorce, or the ability of single parents to raise healthy and happy children. We pride ourselves on our acceptance of the above, and go so far as to cite them as evidence of our cultural progressiveness. Yet there was a time when allowing only Anglo-Saxon males to vote was ‘tradition.’ There was a time when preventing divorce, even in cases of extreme abuse, was ‘tradition.’ There was a time when single parents were viewed as inferior and dangerous; this, too, defended by ‘tradition.’

‘Tradition’ is a weak and ultimately ineffective defence. Those that argue for ‘traditional marriage’ are inadvertently arguing for a version of marriage abhorrent to our modern sensibilities: women as property, no state involvement in marriages, no legal recognition of marriages, no marriage for those not belonging to a specific church or religious group, no interracial marriage, a preference for marrying within the family, arranged marriages, and the marrying of children to men sixty years their senior. And yet, ‘traditional marriage’ persists as a political policy.

Next month, I’m travelling to Brisbane to attend the wedding of a dear friend and her lovely partner. In so many ways, their wedding goes against ‘traditional marriage’ – my friend’s involvement in the world of theatre and the arts means that the wedding and its guests are invariably going to be colourful and left-of-centre and wonderfully odd. They may be a Christian, opposite-sex couple, but this wedding will not be your standard bland suburban affair. For the most part, I am so very excited to attend the wedding, and to see my darling friend get married to her perfect match. There is, however, the smallest tinge of sadness that lurks at the back of my mind, and it is that sadness which so thoroughly consumed me yesterday while reading Gillard’s column in The Age. Marriage is not an institution that I am able to participate in; despite the fact that I am an Australian citizen, and over the age of eighteen, and of sound mind, the right to marry is denied to me, simply because I would be marrying someone of the same sex as myself. It is hard not to feel like a second-class citizen when you are denied access to an institution that so many of your friends and family and colleagues and acquaintances can participate in without a second thought.

I am not a second-class citizen, except in the eyes of my Prime Minister.

When Thesis Writing Attacks.

I handed in my Honours thesis a few weeks back.  One sleep-deprived afternoon, a week before my thesis was due for submission, I sat in a café and spent four hours rewriting parts of my thesis as a series of haikus. Thesis writing, you see, is less a test of research capabilities, and is rather a way to find out just how tenuous your grasp on sanity can become without ending in riots and/or crying.

 

“When disillusioned / listen to The Redfern Speech / it will make you weep.”

 

“Conservatism / taking Australia backwards / Menzies and Howard.”

 

“The Light on the Hill / the foundation of Labor / and of Keating’s reign.”

 

“Why am I writing / everything I write is shit / I hate everyone.”

 

“Paul Keating, P.M. / Howard, the ‘mangy maggot’ / Keating was a BAMF.”

 

“1949 / everything was fine until / Menzies came along.”

 

“Fear is no reason / to revert back to old ways / and miss the future.”

 

“Dear Robert Menzies / you inspired John Howard / Unforgivable.”

 

“Dear Mr Chifley / You screwed up in ’49 / Well, at least you tried.”

 

“Dear Mr Keating / Oh, I love your vitriol / Never, ever change.”

 

“Fuck you, John Howard / fuck your conservatism / and also, you smell.”

Body Modification, Or, Things I Do Which Make My Long-Suffering Mother Shake Her Head In Resigned Disapproval

Three piercings, nine tattoos, and hair colour that came from a box.

By body modification standards, that’s rather tame. My piercings are very mainstream; one hole in each ear, and one brand-new, hours-old, still-throbbing hole in my right nostril. My tattoos are slightly less traditional, but there’s nothing above my shoulders or below my hips, nothing on my hands and nothing offensive. Certainly nothing that a cardigan can’t easily hide. After all these years, I still get a kick out of revealing the tattoos to unsuspecting acquaintances. Apparently, I don’t look like the type of girl who has a half-sleeve and five other tattoos scattered across her arms. It’s the cardigans, I think.

By the standards of most of the virgin-skinned public, however, I am something of an oddity. I wear skirts, and glasses, and usually have my head firmly entrenched in a dog-eared paperback book. I’m quiet, and I did well in school, and I work with children, and I’m polite to old ladies on the bus.  And yet, my favourite thing in the world is to get a tattoo; to feel the scratchy, searing quickpunchquickpunchquick of the tattoo machine as it stabs ink into the deepest layers of my skin. With each new addition, I feel more at home in my own body, which is hard to explain to anyone who has always felt that way, without the need for ink and needles and such permanent art.

I’m petrified of needles, which further adds to confusion. It took fifteen years and two (lovely, strong-armed) friends holding me in place to get my ears pierced; another seven years to work up the courage to get a tiny stud in my nose. Even then, I had to make the piercer promise not to show me the needle. She looked at my tattoo-speckled arms, then looked back at me. Sometimes I even manage to confuse those who are well-versed in body modification. I like that.

Tattoo machines (never call them guns, only machines) aren’t needles in my mind. They’re pointy, stabbing implements of pain, but it’s so entirely different to piercing that I’ve no fear of it. Obviously. I’ve more tattoos planned, so many more everyday that I fear running out of available skin. No more piercings though, I don’t think – that  is a kind of pain for which I have no willingness to ever seek out again.

Body modification doesn’t make anyone special. A tattoo doesn’t make you a special little snowflake, nor does a piercing make you unique. It’s not about individuality for me, and it’s certainly not about standing out from the crowd. (I’m at my happiest when I’m invisible in a crowd, when I can slink away with a book and no-one can bother me. It’s a miracle I’ve anyone around me at all, really, let alone to have been fortunate to find similar-minded folk.) Body modification is about looking in the mirror and being comfortable; not happy, few people ever are, but content. It’s about being about to breathe in the skin you’re in, as horridly cliché as that sounds.

Three piercings, nine tattoos, and hair colour that came from a box.

It Makes Us Feel Like We’re A Part Of Something.

“Why are you contributing to this thing that you don’t think is very good?”

“I fucked up.”

A chance encounter with 14 year old paparazzi prodigy Austin Visschedyk was the inspiration for Adrian Grenier’s 2010 documentary Teenage Paparazzo. Grenier, the film reveals, was Visschedyk’s first ever paparazzi-style photo; meanwhile, seeing the young boy snapping away amongst a seasoned and frantic paparazzi pool prompted Grenier to delve into the world of celebrity photography, and the industry that drives it. The documentary itself is beautifully constructed and presented. Intersecting the story of Grenier and Visschedyk’s relationship are broader socio-cultural theories of celebrity and the media, with insights from professors of humanities and celebrities alike. The celebrities in this documentary provide startlingly profound musings on the antagonistic relationship between fame and paparazzi; even Paris Hilton, not normally known for her analytical stylings, questions the type of culture that would allow a fourteen year old boy to be working in such a fierce and demanding industry, and similarly, the type of mother that would allow her son to be doing so at 3am every night. When you find yourself agreeing with Paris Hilton, you become starkly aware of the strange nature of Visschedyk’s entire world.

Visschedyk’s mother Jane is a complex character in Grenier’s documentary. Permissive of his lifestyle, Jane seems almost to parent laissez-faire, and at points you feel that she needs to be reminded that her son is not yet an adult. Her narrative redemption comes towards the end of the film, as Grenier sits down with Visschedyk and his mother to watch the documentary. Jane’s reaction to seeing her permissiveness on-screen is encouraging; far from excusing her son’s (and her own) behaviour, Jane questions her role as his parent. Though we do not see if these questions manifest into real-world changes, her reaction is nonetheless powerful.

For Visschedyk, there is redemption at the very conclusion of the film (a great relief to the viewer, who could be forgiven for wanting to slap the young paparazzo numerous times throughout the documentary.) A year after filming, Grenier visits a licence-wielding and post-pubescent Visschedyk; it quickly becomes clear that his deeper voice and taller visage are not the only changes that a year has rendered on this young man. Far from desiring fame of his own, Visschedyk now delineates between his work as a paparazzo and his personal life. The exploitation of what his job entails no longer sits so comfortably with Visschedyk, and he notes to Grenier that there is a difference between photographing celebrities and the more morally questionable work of the paparazzi.

It is Grenier, however, who shines as the real star of this documentary. His transformation is just as profound as that of Jane and Visschedyk: beginning as a celebrity who wants to turn the cameras on to those that usually wield them, the end of the film sees Grenier desiring nothing more than to be a friend to Visschedyk. The underpinning motivation for the film similarly morphs as the cameras roll, with Grenier despairing at what he sees to be a waste of Visschedyk’s extraordinary talent for photography. Numerous attempts to influence Visschedyk go unheaded by the young paparazzo. Upon showing him the Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of the Kent State shootings, for example, Grenier is incredulous when Visschedyk declares the photo as ‘not dramatic enough.’ It is Grenier’s documentary, in the end, that appears to change Visschedyk; it seems that exploiting him as he exploits celebrities gave the paparazzo a moment of pause, however delayed. In this, Grenier achieved his primary goal, and with it produced a fascinating piece of film.

“There’s a point where we have to turn off the cameras, and not just use each other, and not just exploit each other.”

Please, Somebody Periodically Check That I’ve Not Been Crushed To Death By My Teetering Pile Of ‘To-Read’ Books As The Irony Of Such A Death Would Be Horrifying

Moses conceded yet again that his wasting life had been drained of potential years ago thanks to his obsession with the Gurskys. Even so, it could still be retrieved from insignificance, providing he managed, between bouts of fermented crab apples, to complete his biography of Soloman Gursky. Yes, but even in the unlikely event he ever got to finishing that unending story, the book could never be published unless he was willing to be carted off in a straitjacket, declared mentally unbalanced.

At the moment, I’m struggling to finish Mordecai Richler’s Booker Prize-shortlisted Solomon Gursky Was Here. I picked it up at a book sale quite a while ago, enticed by the interesting cover art and its price. It’s stagnated at the bottom of my ‘to-read’ pile ever since, and in a fit of determination I recently picked it up to read on my commute.

That, hindsight proves, was a mistake.

Solomon Gursky is not a book that you can read in short spurts, and it is not a book for the casual reader. It is unapologetically non-linear, almost completely devoid of a central plot, and its characters and time-points are so numerous as to become inevitably entangled in your head. Each time I pick it up, I’m forced to retreat a few pages previous, to try and grasp at where exactly I am in Richler’s sprawling Jewish-Canadian family history. And yet, I can’t hate it, or even despair at it’s complexity. Solomon Gursky is a furious, biting, savage beast of a book, with fascinatingly flawed characters and a fiercely moral undertone that defies its immoral protagonists. It is strangely comforting to be so confronted by a novel; to have to wade through the fractious swamp of stories, and to search for meaning in such a convoluted mess. Because of this complexity, it is immensely satisfying to uncover one of Richler’s beautifully half-hidden clues, which lurk at the edges of the scene and defy you to catch them before they slink back into the shadows. Mordecai Richler is a brilliant writer – his prose looms over you, drawing you ever-deeper into his world and the world of Moses and the Gurskys, so subtly and so slowly that you aren’t conscious of just how intertwined you have become with this beautiful burden of a book.

I once told you that you were no more than a figment of my imagination. Therefore, if you continued to exist, so must I.

A dear friend of mine recently joked that she’d probably only ever finished five books in her lifetime. I replied, only half-joking, that I’d finished just as many the previous week. I can’t understand her mindset, that refusal to read, though I respect it as she does my bibliophile tendencies. Good prose can leave me breathless; great prose is the reason I get out of bed in the morning. To contemplate a life without books is terrifying, and yet people who I love and admire very much could (and do) live happy and fulfilled lives without ever cracking open a page.

How do they survive without ever being able to leave their own minds and take a wander through someone else’s?

(Then again, they’re at significantly less risk of being crushed to death by a tower of hardcover books, their corpse slowly rotting away under the pages because their bibliophilic hermit lifestyle means that no-one is going to notice that they’re gone until the smell starts to seep through the walls of the cheap studio apartment or until the cats start to howl for supper. All of which is a legitimate fear of mine.)

Mr Bernard died on a Monday, at the age of seventy-five, his body wasted. He lay in state for two days in the lobby of Bernard Gursky Tower and, as he failed to rise on the third, he was duly buried.

Who Do You Think You Are?

When I grow up, I want to be Ginger Spice from the Spice Girls.

A few problems with this. One: Ginger Spice already exists, and identity theft is punishable by five years imprisonment. Plus, Geri Halliwell probably wouldn’t hesitate to take me down with a taser. Two: the Spice Girls exist in 1990s Britain, and I exist in twenty-first century Australia. Three, and perhaps most depressingly: I am already grown up.

I’m the first to admit there are flaws with my plan. Nevertheless, I still want to be Ginger Spice. I covet the Union Jack dress, and I can get behind the ‘Whoo! Girl Power!’ brand of accessibly non-threatening feminism. I know all the dance moves to Stop! and Who Do You Think You Are?, and the Spice Girls back catalogue is ingrained into my very DNA.

(Incidentally,  the Who Do You Think You Are? dance has much greater meaning to a grown-up than it ever did to a sheltered, Catholic ten year old schoolgirl.  Upon watching the video clip recently, I was vaguely horrified that our parents ever let us re-enact such wild and suggestive gestures. Horrified, and deeply amused.)

Ginger Spice was the feisty one, the independent one. She was curvy, she was sassy, and her hair was so fabulous I’ve spent much of my adult life trying to recreate it with L’Oreal Flame Red and a curling iron. Most importantly, she was the one that no-one chose when we played Spice Girls on the dusty primary school playground. Ginger was up for grabs, and I claimed her as my own.

My name is Bec, and as yet I’m not serving three-to-five in minimum security prison for identity theft. Yet.