Ejo #140 – Words With Chryss (Volume 1)

My husband always teases me about how I like to get up on my soapbox and opine about the world around me. He likes to call it my “Words With Chryss”, (and to be honest, I don’t hate that). So I’m opinionated. I have opinions. In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve got 140 ejo’s worth of opinions, dating back to 2008. But to celebrate my half century, I decided to do something different. I recently gave my friends the opportunity to “ask me anything” so that I could open up and share a little bit more about myself. Here are the results.

Have you ever had a one night stand?
Wow, straight into it, hey? OK, let’s do this. Yes, in fact I’ve had a few one night stands. I was a bit of a goody two shoes growing up, so in my late twenties I went through a corrective “Sex and The City” phase to balance things out. I found it empowering to take charge of my sexuality in that way. To be able to separate sex from love, and to not feel like something was being taken from me in the process. Identifying my sexual needs, owning them and then acting on them gave me agency. Having said that, I can’t remember any of my one night stands being particularly gratifying, sexually. Which is why they only lasted for one night, I suppose. 😉

Have you ever stolen something from a shop, or not returned something you have not paid for?
Just the one time that I remember. I was shopping with my Mum and my sisters at the iconic discount department store, Dimmeys in Richmond, Melbourne. This place was huge and we’d all gone our separate ways to browse around. I was about 13 at the time and I remember just deciding to lift a cheap lipstick from one of those bargain bins piled high with nasty, no-name makeup. I never wore lipstick and I certainly didn’t want that particular frosted pink lippie. No-one forced me, or pressured me. I just wanted to do it, and to be honest I still don’t know why. I think I was bored. Or maybe I was testing boundaries.

I obviously didn’t do a very good job because I was caught, and taken by the security guard into a back room. As I cringed in my seat, they called my Mum over the PA system and we had to go through the whole excruciating rigmarole of whether or not they would call the police. I told them what they wanted to hear (I’m so sorry, I’ve learned my lesson, I’ll never do it again etc.) and was let off with a warning. My Mum was appalled, embarrassed and absolutely furious with me, but she did me the beautiful favour of not telling my Dad about it which I really appreciated. I think we both knew he would not have taken it well. She did me a solid that day, and I’ve always been grateful. And yes, I actually did learn my lesson.

What profession do you despise the most?
Most politicians are the scourge of the earth.

What profession do you admire the most?
I admire teachers and nurses. They’re in such difficult, thankless jobs, and they get paid a pittance. It’s a disgrace of our society that these professions are not more valued.

Are you still in the Gwyneth Paltrow fan club? 
LOL, no. Though I will say that despite not really being a huge fan of GOOP (a wellness and lifestyle brand and company founded by the actress), I still think that Gwyneth would be pretty fucking cool to hang out with as a person. I still think that about her. She looks like she’d be a lot of fun. She gets so much flack in the media for the GOOP shit, and I guess it’s fair enough, but at the end of the day it’s just a business, you know. The company has a net worth of USD250 million dollars. So, haters gonna hate, but who’s the one laughing all the way to the bank?

So, for those of you who aren’t in the know, I discovered this small Gwyneth Paltrow fan club online in 1996, a time when the internet was still pretty new. To remind you of exactly how new it was, there was a total (I said A TOTAL) of 257,601 websites on the internet. Today there are over 1.8 billion and that number is growing every second. In 1996, the few Americans with internet access spent less than half an hour a month browsing the web. Today, they spend almost 30 hours a month. So yeah, it was a pretty nascent scene. I think I was on the internet before most people because all of my friends were computer nerds (shout out to all my awesome nerd friends). And Ben, the guy who ran the fan site, was online because he was one of those genius types (aka also a nerd), studying at Caltech University in Pasadena, California.

And thus Ben and I struck up a friendship through our mutual love of Gwyneth Paltrow. We emailed each other constantly, getting to know one another. We racked up a pretty big phone bill too. Shit got pretty intense and I remember pissing my friend Svetlana off A LOT with the amount of time I spent in my room of our share house, on my crappy, hand-me-down 386 computer, hogging the modem. She would yell at me to come out, but I didn’t want to. My life outside of that room felt pretty shit at the time. I’d wasted three whole years in limbo, waiting to hear back about the air traffic control gig, and had no idea that it would be another three years before I would finally get it. I was in a dead-end job that I hated. My application to study at The Victorian College of The Arts Film School had been rejected. And my boyfriend at the time had taken off to Switzerland to learn how to be a ski instructor, suggesting at the airport that we have an open relationship while he was gone. Ugh, talk about blindsided.

So I was just drifting, not sure what direction my life was headed. My online friendship/romance with Ben consumed me. It was an escape. We made plans for me to go and visit him in California. And guess what, bitches!!? I did it. I don’t do pipe dreams, I do action. So, I quit my job and fucking flew all the way across the Pacific Ocean to hang out with my buddy Ben, squatting in the Caltech dorms for three whole months. We very quickly realised that the romance thing was a non-starter, but we did have a lot of fun together as friends. So. Much. Fun. So many wonderful memories. Also, I met his parents – they were, understandably, a little suspicious of my intentions. After all, I was a weird 25 year old Australian woman who had flown to the USA to spend time with their 19 year old son, whom she’d never met before. But you know what’s great? I am still friends with Ben. And I am still great friends with his parents, Ellen and Greg. I love them dearly and they are like family to me. Also, check this out. Through Ben I met my best friend Marya in 1999. She not only held my hand, as I had my nose pierced in San Francisco in September of that year, she is actually with me in Greece right now (RIGHT NOW), helping me to celebrate my fiftieth birthday. How wonderful is that? I have Gwyneth Paltrow to thank for all of these beautiful experiences and relationships in my life.

Just to show you how fucking cool this chick is, when Ben developed Burkitt lymphoma (a cancer of the lymphatic system) in 1999, Gwyneth went to visit him in San Francisco, California. Ben got to hang out with her a couple of times after that too. So seriously, if you have anything bad to say about GP as a person, you can just sit back down. I won’t allow it.

Are you afraid of anything?
I am afraid of being mediocre. And cockroaches.

How do you measure success?
Great question. I’ll start by telling you how I do not measure success. I don’t measure it by wealth, salary, job title, what kind of car you drive, where you live or where you went to school, what labels you wear, what handbags you own, how attractive your spouse is or where you vacation. That stuff is bullshit as a measure of success. To me anyway.

Most measures of success involve some concept of a ladder. The higher you climb, the more successful you are. And so, at my work, by those measures I am a dismal failure. I’ve repeatedly been asked to apply for office jobs – team leader, incident investigator, specialist, even operations manager. No thanks. If I wanted to work an office job, I never would have left office jobs to become an air traffic controller in the first place. In my mind, the job I do is the pinnacle of success for me. Every day that I get to plug in, play with aeroplanes, and plug out is a day that I am queen of my domain. How is that not considered success?

But because I’ve refused to ambitiously “climb the ladder”, or “take the next step” I’m viewed as a bit of an underachiever at work. People are perplexed. My senior managers are disappointed that I’m not fulfilling my “potential”. But I am 100% AOK with where I am and I have absolutely no intention of downgrading my job with a promotion to desk jockey. No way, José. I measure my own success, and I certainly don’t use other people’s yardsticks to do it.

Outside of work I measure success by how much I have to be grateful for. By that yardstick I am one of the most successful people in the world.

Are there particular songs or albums which you like but cannot bear to listen to due to the memories they associate with?
With one exception, I’d say no. I honestly don’t mind listening to albums or songs that I associate with difficult times. I quite like doing that actually, mostly because the emotions I associate with the painful experience have faded. Only the memory remains. It’s not the music’s fault, right? The exception I speak of are a small collection of my Mum’s favourite songs, and especially the ones that my sisters and I selected to play at her funeral. Oh boy, those ones are hard to listen to. It’s been more than two years, so I’ve started forcing myself to listen to them every now and again because they are beautiful songs and I want to be able to hear them and think of how much enjoyment my Mum got from them, rather than hear them and think only of what I’ve lost.

What does your heart of hearts want? 
My heart of hearts wants my Mum and Dad to be alive. I know that might not be the answer you were looking for, but the heart wants what the heart wants. If we’re talking realistically, my heart wants to spend more time with my sisters.

It’s kinda funny. Every time someone you love dies, you become better at loving the people you have left. When my Dad died and I realised I didn’t have any emails from him, I started saving every single email my Mum sent me. I just wanted to preserve that part of our relationship because I regretted not having that with my Dad. When my Mum died, I looked back and wondered why I didn’t just text her every single day. I mean, I know why, I didn’t want to be a nuisance, and I thought I had more time. But it turned out that I didn’t. So now I group message with my sisters every single day. I try to make it fun, so that it doesn’t become a nuisance. Because, apart from David, my sisters are my everything. My absolute everything. This pandemic has been really hard for a lot of people, but for me personally, the worst thing about it is that I haven’t seen Mary and Pieta since 2019. And that sucks a lot.

What human trait in the world do you hate the most?
Intolerance is the root of all the human traits I despise – racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. Greed is also pretty shitty. Greed for money, greed for power, greed for control. I mean, eww, gross.

What’s the weirdest scar you have and how did you get it?
I don’t think I have any weird scars. But I do have a favourite scar on the back of my heel. I got it in Budapest when I reflexively stomped my foot on the leash of a runaway dog to stop it from running into traffic. The leash was one of those stiff, nylon jobbies, and the momentum of the dog whiplashed the leash around the back of my foot, ripping several layers of skin right off. It felt, and looked, like I’d been branded by a red hot poker. But hey, I saved that little fucker from being hit by a car so that was pretty cool. I was super proud of that scar for a long time. So much so that when it started to fade I considered having it tattooed on, for posterity.

Were you ever bullied at school or were you ever a bully?
I’ve never intended to bully anyone, but when I was in primary school I know that I engaged in behaviour that would be considered bullying. There was a boy in my Grade 4 class called Listen, and for some reason, every now and again, the kids would start singing, “One ball boy, one ball boy”, around him. To demonstrate how innocent I was, I had no idea that the word “ball”, in this context, meant testicle. Regardless, I occasionally joined in, albeit half-heartedly. I have no idea how many testicles the poor kid actually had, but it must have been awful for him. And I feel awful that I contributed to someone’s anguish, simply because I enjoyed the feeling of belonging to a group.

There was another kid in Grade 5 called Stephen. He was a burns victim and his skin was really fucked up; all twisted and knotted and melted, all over his body, including his face. I remember being sickened by him. And the only way I knew how to not show my disgust was to turn away from him. To never look into his eyes. It kills me now to think of how unseen he must have felt. I don’t think that he was bullied per se, because even though we were assholes, we weren’t complete cunts. But we all avoided Stephen like the plague, and I really wish I hadn’t done that. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been for him. Kids are selfish and self-centred. They don’t realise how their actions and words can affect other people. It’s only now, looking back, that I see how horrible I was to those two boys. Who knows who else I hurt along the way.

Yes, I was bullied in primary school and high school. I was a shy, nerdy bookworm from an immigrant family. The outspoken, confident woman I am today bears very little resemblance to the awkward kid I used to be. I was always an outsider, and that was actually OK. But one particular kid at high school always liked to make fun of my appearance, my clothes, my Greekness, my face. And he wasn’t even in the same year as me – he was one year older. I never even knew his name. It didn’t really impact my self-esteem too much because that was already scraping rock bottom, but I did dread seeing him in the school grounds because I knew that he would single me out, and I just hated the attention. I only wanted to be left alone.

What career do you sometimes wish you could have had?
I really wish I could have made a living as a writer.

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