Friday, September 01, 2006

The Paris of the South

As soon as I stepped off the plane at Tullamarine airport I knew I was dressed all wrong. Melbourne people just have style and unfortunately mine seems to have substantially rubbed off during my time in the hills. Even if I can no longer recreate it, at least I can still recognise style when I see it, unlike those blissfully unaware people still walking around with their jeans hitched up to their ribcages. Or maybe ribcage-skimming jeans are back? See, it's been so long. Certainly tailored knee length dress shorts are all the rage, worn with black stockings and knee high boots. I think they look ridiculous myself but there's an element of surprise - if I'd been around for their gradual introduction into the fashion community I might feel more kindly towards them. Instead I find myself snorting in disbelief, just like my aunt Helen did twenty years ago the first time I wore a teal blue shot-taffeta puffball skirt (which, alarmingly, are also back in fashion - the puffball, not the shot-taffeta). And knee length tailored shorts are never going to be kind to short-legged mid-thirties women with bums. So sneering is my best retort.

I spent ages on Brunswick St, sipping a skinny-decaf-cappucino, although I know cappucini are badly out of vogue - the domain of Kath & Kim chattering in Gloria Jeans in suburban shopping malls. Don't worry, if anyone had been within earshot I would have ordered a long black with milk on the side. At the table next to me at the Nova (I wasn't feeling up to Mario's) two mental health workers counselled a young woman displaying far too much cleavage about how to refuse her boyfriend's requests for money. In between snippets of advice, she took phone calls arranging her methadone appointment. I imagined her silently bargaining with herself - 'If I listen to these two nag for twenty minutes, they'll give me a lift to me methadone. Maybe if I let them go for thirty minutes, they'll drop me home again afterwards.'

People with long involvement in welfare services are trained to lose all sense of privacy. Retelling lurid tales of addiction/ sexual abuse / domestic violence/ suicide attempts to a neverending stream of social workers - counsellors- students - interns - GPs - crisis teams bleaches out the usual boundaries. I wonder if the two caring workers at the next table would cross examine a friend about her substance use & psychology appointments so casually in a crowded cafe?

Growing up here, it's remarkable that I'm a lesbian. The men are so beautiful in Melbourne - thin, languid artsy types toting folios or violin cases. Quite refreshing after too long amidst the beefy boofy beer drinkers of Queensland. Mind you I'm not jumping the fence just yet, as the young dykes walk past like roving packs of alert prairie dogs, all sharp black hair and layers of singlets over low slung jeans held up with studded belts. Was I ever that gorgeous?

I budgeted $250 for my weekend in Melbourne, and instantly blew half of it on a new outfit, so self-conscious was I by the time I had finished my second coffee.I'll have to wear the same outfit for the next five days but at least it's a reasonably funky one. The moment it became imperative to shop was the realisation that the outfit I was wearing I had had since I left Melbourne five and a half years ago! and god knows how long I'd had it before then. That, and a harsh toilet mirror that pointed out the baggy bits at the back of the skirt from too many years being sat on. Thus did I rationalise the stylish new skirt and top I found at the 'bargain' end (I merely mean compared to the high end, not bargain overall) of Brunswick St - over Johnston heading toward the Housing Commission flats.

For the last days of winter, Melbourne's turning on stunning mild days with streaky high clouds. I've had two days of playing about visiting friends and the Melbourne Writers' (Writer's?) Festival and Lovergirl joins me tonight. She's giving a conference paper next week - I'm that proud - on lesbian parenting. I'm going to try and smuggle myself into the conference to hear her speak. Thankfully in my new outfit, they'll have no reason to toss me out. I'll just blend into the stylish crowd.


ThirdCat said...

I always drink cappuccino. It's only the same as a latte, only no one can call me an urban elite.

Mikhela said...

You go Cat!
I drank cappucini all weekend, unashamedly. I can't resist the little sprinkiling of choccie on the top...even at the expense of looking hip

Susoz said...

What was the conference? Any url?

Mikhela said...

It was the ANZ family therapy conference - poor website. Her honours research was a qualitative project 'the subjective experience of non-biological lesbian mothers'. I'm going to try & write it up for LOTL - I was disappointed with their superficial treatment of the issue this month. L. says I can send you a copy of her talk - d'ya want that?

Susoz said...

yes please - you have my email.