Word has no thesaurus suggestions for the word ‘seductive’
How can that be?
It makes me feel distressed.
A ninja pigeon just attacked a lady on Flinders Lane. The local Melbourne woman—an employee of The Melbourne City Library—was on her way to a meeting when the malicious bird swooped. I witnessed the attack while smoking a cigarette and enjoying the last of my morning coffee. Even I couldn’t tell you what really went down—it all happened so fast. Before we both knew it the bird was gone, off to cause some further trouble elsewhere I am sure. Within minutes the victim’s eye was bleeding, scratched by the claw on the offender.
“Am I okay?” she asked me as I peered intrusively into her right eyeball.
I watched on as the whites of her socket slowly turned red, pausing before I answered.
“Um, I think there’s blood. No, there is definitely blood.”
“My eye ball is bleeding?” She asked more calmly than I am sure I would have.
“Fuck. Sorry, pardon me.”
“Fuck is right! Don’t you worry, I’d be saying the same thing.”
The lady and I looked around us, trying to find the culprit. We both had those looks on our faces, those ones that say; what just happened? Is this shit for real?
I try to comfort her by looking in vain for the bird, I scan the bicycles that surround us on the footpath, as though it might be perched upon a handlebar gloating, waiting for me to tell if off. But the bird is nowhere to be seen.
“Fucking ninja pigeon!” I try to make her laugh—luckily it works.
“Do you need me to call someone for you? Can you see your phone through the blood?” My efforts to try and make her laugh are ruined. Now she looks concerned. I should have quit while I was ahead.
She tells me she is going to go inside to cancel her meeting. I say that’s probably for the best, she may need some medical attention.
“Thank you for even stopping.” She tells me, looking sincerely grateful.
“Oh, of course!” I smile.
After all, if a shady badass pigeon on Flinders Lane attacked me in such a manner, I’d certainly want somebody to pay me some attention.
“Good luck,” I call after her.
Half an hour later I am in the City Library watching paramedics escort her to their awaiting vehicle. I feel somewhat attached to her now, as though we’ve formed some sort of bond. I suppose there’s a certain sort of connection you make with someone once you’ve seen them being attacked by an avian species.
Meanwhile, the malicious bird flies on—be wary when you’re wandering down Melbourne’s Flinders Lane.
The refinement of the rebel.
My mother always taught me not to judge a book by its cover. But is it so wrong to judge a woman by her shoe? I do try my hardest not to. I try not to assume that all women wearing nine-inch heels are strippers. I try not to believe that women wearing comfort shoes must not be getting laid. And whenever I see a teenage girl in Doc Martins, I try to silence the voice that tells me she must be going through her ‘lesbian’ phase. After all, it wouldn’t be fair of me to jump to rash conclusions. But every time I see a woman wearing creepers, I just can’t help but cringe. The thick-soled monstrosities could be Chanel and made of fairy dust, and I’d feel just the same.
Creepers are not okay.
At the sight of them I am my grandmother, wincing at the young woman who has dared to defy the dress code. There once was a time when I used to roll my eyes at my gran’s prudish ways—but in the presence of the creeper I become her. A self-confessed VOGUE junkie, I’m never going to be one for militancy in fashion, or for telling a woman how she can and cannot dress. All I’m saying is that—if all creeper manufacturers were to perish simultaneously, the world would be a better place. Well, a better-looking one at least.
By now you must be thinking—what on earth is this girl on about? Why is she so angry? And what on earth are creepers?
The creeper is the lovechild of the platform and the brogue—a suede lace-up with an extra thick crepe sole. Creepers are chunky, they are masculine and, at times, they are visually offensive. But what more can be expected? After all, it is the go-to-shoe of the intrepid, the rebellious, and the subversive. The creeper is the shoe of the punk, the indie and the Goth. It is the shoe that Miley Cyrus knew she needed in her wardrobe when she decided to scrap the good girl image. ‘I don’t give a fuck!’ her creepers told the world. What other item of footwear can claim to do so much?
Even so, how did the creeper make it from the British Army to the feet of young women worldwide? Appearing on the streets of London after World War 11, they made their beginnings as soldier’s boots. Men who’d been fighting in the desert returned home to lurk the city’s seedy nightspots. But they hadn’t changed their shoes. The boots they’d worn to war soon became known as brothel creepers. Thick soles that once helped troopers march through desert sands suddenly served another, more unexpected, purpose—they helped men stand out from the crowd.
It wasn’t long before the city’s “Teddy Boys” adopted the sleazy desert boot. They donned them with their drainpipe trousers, their bowties, and slicked back their hair pompadour style. Soon it seemed the whole of London was in love. From indie kids, to punks, to new wavers, the shoe had a whole new audience who were begging to be different, unique, and hard edge.
Still, rebellion is one thing; fashion is quite another. Even after tracking the history of the eccentric boot—this unsightly construction that’s presently all the rage—I remain just as confused. My inner grandmother and I just cannot work it out. If radical feminists believed that high-heels symbolized female subordination—what is it that the creeper is prohibiting, or allowing, the modern woman to achieve?
Once upon a time women’s footwear fulfilled the same function for the feet that corsets did the body, limiting a woman’s mobility and freedom. But we’ve come a long way. Today a woman’s shoe stands for everything she’s always wanted, all the while indicating her belonging to a particular style tribe. Brothel creepers are the exit sign from everything women were supposed to become. When a man sports them, he is alternative and rebellious. But when a woman wears them, she is escaping a fate carved out for her by societal expectations.
Where a stiletto represents a woman’s disembodied lust; a creeper represents a woman’s downright liberation. Gone are the days of hiding our feet beneath the lacy hems of our petticoats, of subjecting ourselves to discomfort in the name of sex appeal, and of vacuuming in our kitten heels. In a world where Missy Elliot is free to get her freak on, and Beyoncé is running the world (girls); we can wear whatever the hell we want.
And maybe, at the heart of it, that’s the appeal of the creeper. They’re not pretty, they’re not dainty, and they sure as hell aren’t sexy. But in an age where women are free to be both feminine and strong, the creeper offers them the chance to show the world they’re both. They’ve conquered the business shirt, the trousers, and the shoulder pads—it was only a matter of time before women slipped into the creeper. And they’ve done so with both polish and panache.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think they’re hideous; but the brothel creeper has come a long way. Where most boots are made for walking, the creeper appears to have been made for adaptation. In spring of 2011 Prada transformed the shoe from vulgar to VOGUE—softening its rough façade with raffia soles and colourful polished uppers. The Prada creeper managed elegance while maintaining the shoe’s masculine aesthetic. But in fashion, what Prada can do, Chanel can do better. This year the French fashion house has taken the shoe to a whole other dimension. The Chanel creeper sports white wedges, and comes in pastel pinks and patent gold. A far cry from its underground beginnings, the shoe has been officially revamped, haut couture style.
Nowadays, the shoe is less about the creep, and more about the chic. But the creeper isn’t popular because it looks good (because let’s be honest, it doesn’t). Leopard print or pastel, studded or embroidered, it’s the attitude the creeper symbolizes that sets it apart. A woman does not wear them to impress, she does not wear them to seduce, and she certainly does not wear them because somebody told her that she had to.
The woman who wears the brothel creeper is sending us a message. She is well aware that her shoes are masculine, unexpected, and a little bit offensive. But she is unconcerned with your likely disapproval, and would probably relish in your visual displeasure.
I still maintain that brothel creepers are ugly as sin—and that they should have ended with the war. But despite my mothers’ best intentions, I know we judge books by their covers. And deep down I admire these brothel creeper creatures that just don’t care. And as my inner grandmother and I shake our heads in disapproval, these women will saunter on.
‘I am woman, watch me creep!’ their shoes will shout. I can’t argue with that.
Since writing this article I have attempted to give Twitter a chance. I have done everything you’re supposed to do. I have tweeted photographs, blasted small useless bits of information about my day to day life, and sent live tweets to Q&A in an attempt to get my name on television. But despite all of my efforts, I do not have three-thousand followers or a book deal. It’s a pity, but I suppose all we can do it try. It hasn’t been as painful as I thought, and a small part of me does mentally high five myself when I gain another follower—but I still can’t help but feel as though a little of my integrity has been lost. I wrote the following piece when it all began, on that fateful day I began to tweet…
My cursor hovers over a rectangle box. It’s a small box, large enough to fit only 14o characters, and a hash tag or two. I am not yet sure if the hash tag is included as a character itself, but I am sure I’ll soon find out. In the meantime, my cursor continues to linger. The small rectangle box is asking me to compose a new tweet. “Tweet” I mutter underneath my breath, “tweet”. Before I know it I’m singing Bobby Day’s sixties classic Rockin’ Robin to myself; but my 140 characters still remain unwritten. I stare at my laptop screen in a daze, wishing the Rockin’ Robin himself was here right now. After all—all the little birds on Jaybird Street love to hear the Robin go tweet, tweet, tweet. But as my cursor continues to idle, I’m not so sure that I’ve got what it takes.
What are the ingredients of a tweet? I’ve heard a lot about this craze, but never really understood it. Is it important to be funny? Do I have to impart some wisdom? Should I include a link to a website that promises you a free unicorn if you buy a microwave? I am very confused. I’ve spent the past twenty-three years composing stories in my head, writing down ideas on scrap pieces of paper. I have an entire box filled with old journals documenting every thought and emotion I have felt since I was nine-years-old. Words are supposed to be my thing. But what is the formula of the tweet? My frustration escalates. My whole life I’ve loved writing, in all its forms. In primary school I learned all stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. In high school I was introduced to the essay; I mastered the topic sentence and I could summarize my point like it was nobody’s business. University also introduced me to the personal essay, and how to compose a persuasive speech so fierce I could sway Tony Abbot to legislate gay marriage (well, maybe not that fierce, but one can dream). But this little blue bird has me all choked up. How can I possibly express myself in 140 characters?
Browsing other people’s pages is not helping either. I appear to be following people who are a lot more impressive than I could ever hope to be. As one friend live tweets from a fabulous book launch, Margaret Atwood tells me that she’s looking forward to reading in Munich today. Suddenly I imagine her sitting on the pavement of a European bistro, drinking black coffee and thinking fabulous thoughts. Meanwhile in Melbourne, I’m in the library chewing strawberry gum as quietly as possible so the security guard doesn’t kick me out. I’m not in Munich, but is that worth tweeting anyway? I think it’s got some potential, but it still feels a little petty. Many tell me that this Twitter business is the ultimate networking tool. They say that anybody who wants to be somebody has to be able to tweet, to get his or her voice out there, to be heard. But as I rack my brains for thrilling content, I still have nothing to say. So, as is usual in times of crisis, I revert to mockery. “ Compose new tweet…” I post. Have I failed already?
I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised with my inability to condense my thoughts into this small rectangular box, sharing them with an entire universe of strangers—many of whom may have criminal records and sizable pornography collections. After all, I was always the little girl in the corner at kindergarten birthday parties, the one wearing the cardigan her grandmother knitted for her, the one who would not speak until spoken to. It’s not just that I was painfully shy; I just didn’t like idle chitchat. If Susie was picking her nose and the other girls wanted to talk about it, well that was their business, and I wished them well. But if it didn’t interest me, I preferred to make no comment. As the other girls would impart their opinions about the un-lady-like nature of Susie’s unhygienic habits, I would play with my hair, staring into space and dreaming of the day where I’d rub shoulders with more intellectual peers. You see, my mother always taught me that if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. I suppose I’ve always believed in that mantra, along with one of my own—If you’ve got nothing interesting to share; please don’t share at all.
This is my trouble with Twitter. It’s not as though you have to prove yourself to tweet. You don’t have to first voice your intentions, or demonstrate your ability to share useful and beneficial information to the masses. The website is a free-for-all, teeming with millions of nobodies—nobodies who greatly outnumber those people of actual interest. While Margaret Atwood reads a book in Munich, some other idiot is telling the masses that they are—brace yourselves—watching a movie. They may both be members of the same online community, but the two tweeters are utterly incomparable. Atwood could be eating toast and we’d probably be inspired, she has earned a name for herself; her breakfast habits are officially worthy of being followed. But as for the young so and so in Melbourne suburbia who is telling the world that they’re watching 10 Things I Hate About You, well, they deserve to be told ten things we hate about them.
I’m sorry to be so frank, but I fail to see the value in such self-interest. The supposed appeal of Twitter is that is grants this movie watcher (and others like him) a certain freedom, an inventiveness to share whatever it may be that they feel is worth sharing. But there in lies the problem. As a firm believer that we should think carefully before we speak I often wonder—how do you gauge a tweet’s worthiness? Its value? Its importance? Where is the filter? There is none. And while this may create an even playing field for all, it also creates a domain in which narcissism flourishes and intellectualism flails.
This is why some of us love to love Twitter, but also why others love to hate it. While it may allow us to communicate with people we wouldn’t normally have access to, it also leaves me wondering why this is such a triumph. As my twitter use increased I tagged John Safran to a tweet that praised his book; two hours later he thanked me personally. Immediately I felt a buzz; I was connected, I was in touch. For a brief few moments I felt special, but the buzz soon fizzled. I realised this didn’t make me successful, and this didn’t mean that John Safran was going to introduce me to his publisher. He probably wouldn’t even want to shake my hand or hug me—bastard. I realised that I hadn’t become popular; I was merely cool by association.
But, slowly, ever so slowly, I was beginning to learn the rules. If a “popular” tweeter favorites your tweet, it’s like a nod in the hallway at school. And if a “popular” tweeter re-tweets your post, well you’ve hit the jackpot baby; you may as well be eating lunch together. But even after figuring this out, I failed to see the point. It seemed such an empty way of meeting people, and such a lazy way to get ahead. I suddenly realised I wanted to be discovered the old fashioned way. I want to rely on my talent, not on my tweet. Does that make me a loser? Potentially. But I’d rather be a loser than a tweeter.
It appears I have failed as a member of the Y-generation, and to be honest, it makes me proud. I may have grown out of the cardigans that my grandmother once made for me; but there’s a small part of me still standing in the corner, twirling her hair, and waiting for someone to say something interesting. Where others find delight in hash-tagging their experiences and uploading all their memories, I remain defiant. Sure, if Margaret Atwood ever re-tweeted one of my posts I’d be pretty chuffed, but I would not be converted. I apologise to all the little birdies on Jaybird Street, no longer will you hear me go tweet, tweet, tweet.
On Monday evening I went to Office Works to buy one manila folder. Thirty-seven minutes later I left with one manila folder, a LEGO sharpener, three different coloured ball point pens, and some post it notes. Every aisle was explored, including the one selling bulk packets of biscuits and tea bags. For a moment I almost had myself convinced I needed an in-tray—you know, for all my important documents. Thirty-seven minutes! You may exclaim. This bitch be crazy.
Allow me to explain.
My miniature stapler is one of my most prized possessions. Environmentally friendly, compact and portable, it accompanies me everywhere I go. Nestled in my handbag—where most women store their lipstick and their iPhone—it keeps the company of my Sharpie, diary, and a modest wad of post-it notes. I am twenty-three years old, and I am addicted to stationery. It mightn’t be as glamorous as a cocaine habit; but when you find yourself stooped in the gutter rescuing a stray notepad on a busy Melbourne street, you know you’ve got a problem.
I began trafficking stationery when I was five years old. Frequent sick days in primary school resulted in a lot of time spent at my father’s office. At first, it was a bore. It was a big dusty office filled with big dusty men. But as a little girl I knew that adventures would be waiting for me somewhere, and after befriending receptionist Rhoda, I found my happy place. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that a small room stockpiling pencils, erasers and paper clips is not one that gets many hearts a-racing. But the afternoon I discovered Rhoda’s stationery stash, I knew my life would never be the same. At five years old I had never seen that many highlighters in one place at one time; I hadn’t even realised they came with pink ink. I’d been living a lie.
Crouched inside the dimly lit cupboard I had my first stationery fix. Hurriedly I buried as many miscellaneous items as I could into the pockets of my shorts, avoiding eye contact with Rhoda as I slunk back to my father’s office. On the train home that evening, my loot hidden in my backpack, I couldn’t wait to whip out my new biros and go crazy. How had I survived so long on only coloring pencils and crayons? I was the virgin who’d just discovered porn—I needed to pop my cherry fast.
Over time my habit worsened. If my pencils weren’t sharpened perfectly it jeopardized the outcome of my colouring-in, and spilling outside of the lines just wasn’t how I rolled. Primary school presented another smorgasbord of temptation. I would often find myself staring in wonder at the shelves that housed the Clag clue and the glitter for art class. My home supplies never seemed quite as impressive—a great injustice in my young eyes. My mother, a bohemian at heart, did her best to feed my appetite for craft paraphernalia, but it was never quite enough. Soon I found myself haunting the local art shop for pretty paper, or pacing down the stationery aisle at Coles for stickers I could smuggle into Mum’s trolley. In time I learned that my curious fascination was not commonly shared. For friend’s birthday parties the natural choice of gift would be a diary or a glitter pen. The girls at school were never impressed, but after I watched in horror as they massacred my perfect wrapping, I didn’t really care.
As a young woman I have come to realise my quirky hobby masks a part of me much darker than my vast and most-impressive highlighter collection. What began as an innocent love of scented erasers and animal print note pads as a child now feeds a more sinister obsession: my subconscious pursuit for perfection. There is false sense of security that comes from having an individual bulldog clip in your diary for every day of the week. Pointless objects such as these imply that you’ve got your shit together, when ultimately; it’s all a façade. Delusion can be a magical thing. I might have slept in and left the house without any socks on, but if I get to university and take notes in pretty colours, everything will be okay. But it’s a passing satisfaction, a pleasure lost once I’ve put my books away.
The fact is—stationery is designed to organize your possessions, not your psyche. Yet many still buy into this new age cult of craft unknowingly. In a bid to cursorily conquer the increasing pressures of work and home life, we flock to the likes of Kikki-K and Typo. If a mother files her recipes in a self-decorated album, her kids might love her more. If a businessman keeps his paperwork in a leather binder embossed with his initials, he’ll appear more important as he runs to catch the lift. Maybe I’m not alone in my obsession. The survival of the fittest has been revolutionised, we now endeavor to become the most efficient. Unconsciously, we strive to out-organise one another, and to out-organise ourselves.
Thankfully my own addiction is yet to consume me. Leaving the house ill equipped for craft emergencies may still leave me distressed, but it’s a moderate panic that I have now learned to control. I’ll probably always live my life behind a safeguard of post it notes, armed against my anxieties with my miniature stapler and my Sharpie. But delusion is a magical thing. And where perfection is unattainable, efficiency is bliss.
Jean Cocteau, getting things done.
You were standing by the tomatoes. You had your sneakers on but
you weren’t smiling. Then again;
who smiles at the supermarket?
Nobody I know. But anyway I’m sorry that
I didn’t say hello. It wasn’t because of your expression;
I was just too far away. Alas,
I was by the mushrooms with my basket,
did you see?
My tired eyes said “hey”.
I don’t make nice faces at the supermarket either.
But we used to
make nice faces at each other all the time. It was on the corner
with the strangers and the cigarettes; we’d play.
We would do quite fine.
one day when you told me that your socks they weren’t so good;
you wanted some more bright.
And I fetched them for you promptly
and then everything felt right.
But I’m sorry that
you didn’t feel that right on every day.
And I wish I’d needed tomatoes because then I
could have said hello. And I could have held you tight with
my half-full basket at my hips. And then your grizzly
left cheek would have fallen victim to my lips.
And I could have said, “how are you,”
then you might have said “okay”.
But instead I needed mushrooms. Instead
I watched you walk away. I guess
I’ll always wonder.
Did you see?
My tired eyes said “hey”.
My grade twelve English literature teacher always liked fancy words. She insisted that the swankier our language, the smarter we would sound. Her determination to broaden our vocabularies resulted in most of us writing essays with our thesauruses in our laps. No longer did we ‘use theory’, we utilized and employed it. Suddenly we were scrutinizing and investigating texts where the more timid would simply analyse. It was a golden age, a time were we revolted against the stale motto keep it simple, stupid. For the first time in our schooling lives we had been challenged to step up. No longer were we expected to dilute our ideas, or to simplify our language. We’d been dared to be complex.
A dare that author Adam Alter would most likely have enjoyed, and most definitely have approved of. A marketing lecturer at New York University, Alter spends much of his time trying to convince people of the usefulness of what he calls “disfluency”, a topic he recently lectured on at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre. Essentially, Alter is interested in examining the contrasting ways in which we experience fluent and disfluent information. Fluency implies that information comes at a very low cost, often because it already feels familiar. Disfluency occurs when information is costly—perhaps it takes a lot of effort to understand a concept, or pronounce a foreign word, or read this blog because it’s not making any sense. Maybe.
Basically, a fluent thought is easy to have, there’s no difficulty involved. But on the other end of the psychological spectrum disfluent thoughts are tricky. For instance is you chance upon a word that you’ve never seen before; your brain has a bit of a moment. What on earth are you talking about? You ask the book you’re reading; you’re making no sense! We expect the book to answer, but it never usually does. Instead our minds are forced to think a little harder, and process the words a little slower. What came before this mutant alien word? And what is it that follows? Suddenly we’re asking questions, brows furrowing, and chins resting in hands. In encountering the unexpected, we pay closer attention.
Before listening to Adam Alter speak, I’d always tried to honour keeping it simple, (stupid). Though my darling English teacher had tried her very best, many voices had drowned her out, instructing me to opt for plainer language, for smaller words, and for cleaner phrases. But little did I know; striving for complexity also has its place. In a world where we are constantly grazing the atmosphere that surrounds us, bombarded by “fluent” and “easy” messages that we often do not see— brief, strategic injections of artificial disfluency can grab someone’s attention. Suddenly I’m back in high school—dared to use more fancy words, and to embrace the unexpected.
That we live in a time of constant change is beyond doubt. Many grand narratives that have shaped the modern world are beginning to crumble as their usefulness to contemporary society comes under serious question (newspapers, for instance, will soon become instinct). Representative democracy, marriage, print media and so much more are in flux, and being rapidly replaced by new paradigms. (Who’d have thought that tweeting would become such a universal “thing”? Nobody did.)
But, what does it mean to live in such a world of uncertainty, on an individual level? I’d never really thought about it, not until last night. Attending the event Rebellion and Tomorrow, presented by The Wheeler Centre in partnership with Next Wave Festival 2014, I wasn’t really sure what I should expect. I figured there would be a lot of talk about fighting for our rights, about the importance of protesting, and other stereotypical rebellious sorts of things. I also sort of figured I’d be in a room full of students studying politics, human rights, and environmental science. But I was wrong. As we walked into the venue my friends and I were invited to join a table opposite two strangers. Whether we liked it or not, we realised there was going to be a little more participation that we’d originally assumed. This wasn’t going to be the sociopolitical lecture that I thought it would be, some guests even looked like proper adults, not just hippie students. Nibbles had been provided and alcohol was near by, no doubt some clever person’s idea to “lubricate” the discussion.
Suddenly I was nervous. I was there to learn more about rebellion and the role it would play in our future; but I’m no mutineer. I wanted to tell them I wasn’t ready for political debate; I wasn’t even sure what I was doing there. But the host had raised his mike; I’d have to suck it up.
And let me tell you, I’m glad I did; the speakers were electric. From Phuong Ngo—a photographer exploring the idea of individual and collected identity of the Vietnamese diaspora—to Georgie Mattingley—a visual artist who beautified an abattoir to question people’s limits and values—they forced us to skew our thinking. Suddenly we were challenging our own opinions. What do we choose to accept, and what do we choose to reject? Why? Likewise, until we can address something, how can we possibly rebel against it?
But it was Eric Jensen whom I semi-fell in love with. A writer and editor, formerly with the Sydney Morning Herald, he explored the ways in which the media has been changed where perhaps it shouldn’t have. Yes, you did hear me correctly, where perhaps it shouldn’t have. Print media may be in its deathbed, but is its stand-in (the world wide web) a qualified replacement? Sure, newspapers cannot be printed as fast as your webpage is refreshed, but wherein lies the problem? And why have we accepted that we have to make a change? Perhaps these steps we’ve taken forward have been taken in the wrong direction, threatening the integrity of those stories so aggressively abbreviated and dismembered into 140 characters or less. Perhaps the truly radical thing—Erin Jensen dares to suggest—is to refuse to change at all. Let’s go forwards by going backward. Now there’s a dangerous thought.
I’ve so often associated rebellion with placard wielding university students, hippies chained to forestry, and people wearing too much eyeliner. Rebels yell, they frown, and they spit on things at random. But after hearing the words of Eric Jensen, as well as the other six intelligent, eloquent, and calmly spoken speakers, I’m beginning to realise that I think I got it wrong.
In the end, perhaps silence is just as powerful as disturbance.