Continuing on from last month’s 50th birthday bonanza free-for-all, here are some more fun, interesting, silly, thoughtful and intriguing questions. And of course, my answers. Enjoy.
Would you have sex with someone else for a million bucks?
Well, good morning to you too, Doug! As you know, I’m already happily married to the sexiest man in the world. Also, I can’t imagine having sex with someone I wasn’t attracted to, so I’d have to say no. (Now ask me if I’d have sex with someone else for a billion dollars. 😉 )
Which would be harder for you to give up, coffee or alcohol?
The timing of this question is impeccable because I’ve actually recently given up both. Crazy, right?? I’ve “given up” alcohol a few times before and never had too much trouble with that (though I do keep going back to it so, maybe the trouble lies there). Coffee on the other hand is something that I’ve drunk copious amounts of, almost daily, for over 20 years. I’ve never even tried to give up coffee before so I had no idea what to expect.
So, what was it like? Absolutely fucking horrendous. Firstly, I really missed the ritual of having an espresso with David to start our day together. Secondly, we shift workers have coffee running through our veins. (We think) we need that shit to stay awake and function at a relatively high level at work, keeping the world spinning while the rest of you babes are tucked away in bed, fast asleep. But worst of all, the physical symptoms of caffeine withdrawal are absolutely no joke. Some people have a hard time going cold turkey like I did, preferring to wean off it over a period of weeks (which shows you how hardcore it is).
So, why?? A couple of months ago I decided to go on a very intense elimination diet which meant not eating any vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, beans, nightshades, nuts, seeds, dairy, eggs, coffee or alcohol. Phew! This basically left me with just meat and water. Which has been fine, I’m OK with that. In fact I’ve been thriving on it and have never felt better (shoutout carnivore!!).
I can now reintroduce foods if I want to, but I’m debating whether or not to go back to them, especially coffee. Why would I go back to a highly processed substance that I know is addictive, and which I’ve learned to live without just fine. Yeah, I miss it sometimes, but do I need it? I don’t think so. I’m even breezing through night shifts without my customary two to five cups of joe to help me through. I’m not saying I’ll give up coffee forever, but I’m OK without it right now.
Alcohol is a completely different, and very interesting, beast. It was our fifteen year wedding anniversary last week so David and I took a break from not drinking and cracked open a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Even though I’d been looking forward to it, I have to say I didn’t really love it, and I certainly didn’t enjoy the hangover the next day. I was more than happy to go back to not drinking, and it no longer feels like I’m giving something up anymore to not have booze.
What body features would you change about yourself?
I’d have smaller boobs, better posture and big, dark, bushy eyebrows.
What is your worst emotional/personality trait?
The need for approval from others. I hadn’t realised, before moving to Dubai, how much I relied on the approval of my family and friends to validate me. I never realised how much my sense of self was dependent on those external sources. Sources that were completely taken away from me when we moved here. And which I tried to replace with unsuitable substitutes.
Through my work with Zimmy, I had a breakthrough a couple of years ago, connecting this craving for approval to my strong desire to make my Dad proud of me when I was a kid. Always striving to impress him, and then basking in the glow of his praise. My father was loving, but strict, and he had high expectations of me growing up. Expectations that I thrilled in achieving, thriving on the challenge. So it all stems from my relationship to my Dad, but this thirst bled to my primary school teachers, and then, later in life, to my adult friendship group. When David and I moved abroad, it insidiously radiated to people I didn’t even know (or particularly like) at my work in Dubai. People whose opinion of me I didn’t actually care about at all. And yet, subconsciously I was grovelling for their approval, thinking that if I could get them to “like” me, I would feel better about myself. Ugh.
After having this epiphany of understanding the root cause of my unhappiness, I literally shed the need overnight. It truly felt like a great weight and darkness was lifted from me. It’s been so liberating to be released from the need for universal acceptance. I still get off on approval, but now I know whom I need it from – my sisters, and other people that I love and respect. As a result, my worst emotional trait has been rendered far less powerful than it once was.
What is your biggest weakness?
Laziness. I am, at heart, stupendously fucking lazy.
What will never be the same for you after COVID?
The startling realisation that, as a species, we are so dreadfully divided. I honestly had no idea how bad humanity’s polarisation was. I mean Trump gave me an inkling, but that felt like “America’s problem”, right? COVID has brought into sharp relief that this division has always existed, bubbling away under the surface. And now, it feels like an eruption.
I wonder if you remember, as vividly as I do, the first few weeks of the pandemic. Do you remember that feeling of unity, of togetherness, of everyone being on the same side. The funny videos, the breadmaking, the jokes, the collective fear and hope? The daily applause to thank our doctors and nurses? That shit was elating and uplifting, and it bonded us all together on a global scale. I no longer feel like that. We are not all in it together. We are not united, and I find that so very sad.
What are you really bad at?
I’m really bad at putting my phone down when I’m at home. I’m great at putting it aside when we’re out or when I’m at work, but at home it’s a different story. I am working on it, but I need to do better.
What are you really good at?
I like to think that I’m very good at nurturing my relationships. I haven’t always been. It’s something that has matured and developed since moving to Dubai. I like to stay in touch with the people that I care about, and so I make a real effort. And I do take pride in doing that well. I’m also good at being on time and following through.
You’ve achieved so much and travelled the world. I prefer to think of 50 as only half way through, so what do you want the second half of your life to be about?
I’ll tell you something. My parents had this plan (it was their dream) of retiring, and then travelling around Australia in a campervan. But they never got to do that because my Dad got sick and died. We all have dreams for our future, but what I learned from my parents is that if we wait, we may end up missing out. So I want the rest of my life, from this moment forward, to be about doing. Doing the things that I want to do. And not waiting anymore. And the only thing stopping me is my obligation to work.
I have lived a charmed life. Landing a job in ATC completely altered my trajectory, and I am so grateful for that. I really love being an air traffic controller, I love my job and I know I’ll miss it when it’s over, but to be honest, I would retire tomorrow if I could afford it. For me, retirement will not mean replacing work with something new. It will be everything else in my life naturally expanding to fill the space that work leaves behind. I want the second half of my life to continue exactly as it is now, minus work. I want to travel even more, I want to read more books, I want to swim naked in the waters of secluded Greek island beaches, I want to write a book, I want to learn the lyrics to my favourite rap songs and I want to perfect my downward dog. I want to eat more, cook more and learn more. I want to potter around, learn how to pick locks, volunteer, do some gardening and play lots more backgammon. I want to spend more time with loved ones and I want to live and experience life, without the albatross of employment around my neck. And I want to do that as soon as possible. I want to do that now!
At what age did you lose your virginity?
Short answer: 19.
Long answer: Always the late bloomer, I didn’t pop my cherry until the end of my first year at university. It’s not that I didn’t want it! I was a horny little teenager and the only reason I waited so long was because I was so cripplingly shy. I was a huge nerd in high school, so it was never going to happen there, but I thought for sure I’d get laid when I started going to uni. Wouldn’t you know it, the very first day, a guy called Ian claimed me and just like that I had a boyfriend. I thought I was set! But nope, Ian was a good boy and he wanted to wait.
Ian was a real catch. In addition to being precious about his purity, he also openly flirted with other girls, toyed with my feelings, lied to me, gaslighted me, played passive-aggressive mind games, put me down in front of other people and was often quite rough with me, “good-naturedly” pushing me around or expressing his disapproval physically (he once dropped a piece of dry ice into a hole in my jeans, causing a cryogenic burn, also known as frostbite, on my inner thigh). Every now and again he would make up for all this shitfuckery with a Grand Romantic Gesture™ like covering my car with hundreds of flowers in the middle of the night. Very normal. My self esteem was so low, and I was so desperate to have a boyfriend, that despite him being quite the asshole, I didn’t break up with him, and I just put up with it.
On 11th September 1990, about seven months into the relationship, I wrote this in my diary: “I’m hanging out to go skiing with Ian this/next week, but I need $255 minimum for three days. Unless I can get it off Dad, I doubt I’m going.”
I couldn’t get the cash for the ski trip, so Ian and his family took off to their Falls Creek lodge without me. While they were gone I went to their house to do some ironing (don’t ask, just… please don’t) and ran into Ian’s flirty 17 year old neighbour, Alex. Turns out that Ian had secretly taken someone else skiing with his family. Oh yeah, my dickhead boyfriend was gallivanting around the ski fields of Falls Creek with our mutual friend (and his future ex-wife), Irena, while I was stuck at home ironing his goddamn underpants.
Alex told me ALL about it. I lost my virginity to Alex. Yep, that little freak gave me exactly what I wanted, and rocked my world with an earth-shattering orgasm to boot. Suck on that, Ian!
Do you think we are all bisexual, but just may not know it?
How strange (and wonderful) that you would ask me this, because this is exactly what I believe – that all humans are bisexual, on a spectrum. So sure, some people may be less bisexual than others (i.e. have a strong affinity for the opposite sex), and other people may have a stronger affinity for their own sex, but it’s just a matter of having an open mind. And I understand that it might be more difficult for some people to accept, than others. But at the end of the day, your body is physically capable of being aroused by anyone (or anything) that is skillful enough. It’s just your mind that needs to be persuaded about it.
I want to be crystal clear here that having an “affinity” for either sex doesn’t imply that we have a choice about who we’re attracted to. We are all born with our affinities and I’m super respectful of an individual’s sexuality and how they identify. And I am particularly sensitive to members of the LGBTQI community because they’ve had to fight for the right to express who they are in a world which is cis heteronormative by default.
Personally, I’ve never had a relationship with a woman, and I don’t make a big deal about it, but I do identify as bisexual, and I have done since I was a kid. My attraction to girls started way before I was attracted to boys. My first crush was a girl in primary school. My first love letter was to a girl. Most of my current crushes are women. If we want to delve even deeper, I’ve lately been exploring the idea that I am actually pansexual, defined as being capable of loving a person regardless of their biological sex, gender, or gender identity. Obviously this is difficult to determine as I am committed to one person and not prepared to do the research required to confirm or deny the hypothesis. Nevertheless, I do think it’s wonderful to talk about the fluidity of sexuality and to move away from a cis and heteronormative paradigm. I think the younger generations are doing a wonderful job with that so I’ll leave it in their trusty hands to keep up the good work.
Which pop culture song/book/art/movie influenced you the most growing up?
I’m not sure I can select an example of a particular piece of pop culture, but the artist that influenced me the most growing up was Madonna. Oh man, I wanted to be her so bad. I styled my hair like hers (hairsprayed, teased to the max and tied up with big raggy bows), I wore the same clothes (including, of course, the rubber bracelets, the crucifixes and the fishnet crop tops). I even bought coloured contact lenses and bleached my hair with lemon juice and Sun-In. Her MTV music video premiers were major events in our house, and I bought all her albums and learned all the lyrics. Her posters adorned the four walls of my bedroom, and I knew absolutely everything about her.
Eighties Madonna was a really cool role model because she showed a dorky, shy bookworm like me that it was OK (nay, it was fucking awesome) to just be your own damn self and do your own damn thing and to not give a flying fuck what other people thought about you. She gave me the courage to put my true self out there. My true self was not always very well received, but it was transformative to realise that it was an option for me to step outside the little box I found myself in as a teen. That I could actually exist outside of that box was mindblowing stuff, and she gave me the courage to do that.
But OK, if I did have to pick a song/book/art/movie that influenced me growing up, I’d have to say Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. My sisters and I watched it so often I’m pretty sure that between the three of us, we know the words to the entire movie off by heart, even after 35 years.
Have you had any traits or behaviours which you have not liked and which you have managed to overcome? If you have, what did it take to resolve these? Is there something that remains with you that you are frustrated to not be able to resolve, or do you accept that it cannot be changed?
Over the years I’ve been able to release my competitiveness, my need to win (it used to be pretty full-on). Along those same lines, I feel like I’ve (mostly) overcome the need to be right. I am far more willing now to listen to the other side, and to take other perspectives on board. I know some people would say I’ve “gone soft” because of this, but I like myself much better this way. The pursuit of truth is far more interesting to me than stubbornly holding onto ideas that are rooted in nothing more solid than my fragile ego.
Something that does remain with me though, a behaviour which I really dislike in myself, is my reaction to a certain type of stress. I’m usually pretty good at dealing with most stressors, but when I place a time based stress on myself (e.g. I’m running late for an appointment, or I’m running out of time to write my ejo, etc.) I turn into a fucking monster. I become super anxious, hyper-sensitive and extremely reactive. And I hate that. I hate how out of control it makes me feel. And no, I’m not prepared to just accept it. Through my daily practices of meditation, yoga, and consciously “letting go” of energies that do not serve me, I have become aware of, and familiar with, an abiding inner peace that resides within me, which I would like to be able to harness in moments of great stress. I think we can change whatever we like about ourselves, if we put in the work, so for me, this is something that I will actively work on until I’ve mastered it.
And speaking of mastering undesirable traits and behaviours, next month will be the conclusion of this series of Words With Chryss, in which I answer your final questions and talk about my ongoing quest for spiritual growth and enlightenment. Shit’s about to get real, yo!