Maeve: Hi, I’m Maeve Marsden, and you’re listening to Queerstories. A long-running favourite of the comedy scene, you might’ve seen Rosie Piperperform her stand-up at the Sydney Opera House, Enmore Theatre, on Tonightly, at Splendour in the Grass or you could have just at gigs all around the country, supporting the likes of Wil Anderson and Zoe Coombs Marr. More likely though, you’ve seen her at a KFC somewhere shovelling popcorn chicken into her face with gay abandon. She performed this story in Sydney.
Rosie: I don’t have a good history with being honest and vulnerable with women, whether they’re existing or just aspirational partners. I struggle with the condition of being uncomfortably sincere. A fact that has caused many people who’ve seen me on the drug MDMA to say, “Too many D ’n’ Ms”. Now, these attempts to try and woo other women have often occurred on balmy summer nights, I think maybe because there’s that intoxicating feeling that kind of exists in the air at that time of year, or possibly because my subconscious thinks my sweaty exterior might cut a more sympathetic figure. Either way, I’ve never quite pulled it off, or at least pulled it off gracefully.
In recent years, things have maybe flipped a little where maybe other women haven’t quite handled vulnerability with grace and aplomb around me. In January, I celebrated three years of being out as transgender, and my girlfriend gave me a little gift, and a little card came with it. And the card read, “My special wish on this special day for a special person is that one day she will no longer need the resilience she has developed.” And then, two days later she broke up with me and I thought, “Well, today’s not that fuckin’ day then, is it?”
Luckily, I had recently been reminded of a quality I possessed that might help me deal with that. We got back together, relax. It was a tough six weeks, but the pull was just too strong! But I didn’t always have the upper hand like that. When I was 17, I decided to tell a girl who I liked that I had feelings for her, but I got nervous in the delivery of this news so, “I like you” came out more like, “I LIKE you!” And, needless to say, she did not “like” me back.
But with that, our story begins, right, in the summer of 2003. # I was 13 going on 14… And my family and a friend’s family were on holiday down the south coast at a place called Lake Conjola. It was the summer between Year 7 and 8 for me. I’d started at a high school in Year 7 where I knew about six people, who were all, like, considered pretty cool, kind of the cool group. And I’d come from a selective primary school though, so to the majority of people I was a bit of an unknown entity, a wildcard. High school kids, I think, can normally suss you out pretty quickly but this took some time for some reason. They were still trying to figure out my standing, like, was I cool, was I a loser? This story will answer that question!
While we were down at Lake Conjola, as fate would have it, so was the most attractive – and therefore most popular – girl in my grade at school. I didn’t know that she would be down there at the time but I just happened to run into her one day. Now, we’ll call her Rachel, even though her real name is Camille. Bit of comedy for you.
I also happened to have Rachel’s phone number ‘cause in those days you just traded them on MSN Messenger like they were Pokémon cards, you know? Like, you’d never use them, but it felt good to have the whole set. So I sent Rachel/Camille a bit of a Hail Mary message suggesting that we meet up and hang out and, to my surprise, she accepted the invitation. Now, she was way above my station but I think it was a bit like when you go overseas and there’s someone that you know from your hometown there as well, and you would never hang out at home but, purely on the basis of, “We’re from the same place and now we’re in another place, isn’t that crazy?! Like, it’s crazy that we’re both here, right? Like, both of us, in New York, one of the biggest tourist cities in the world. What are the chances of that?”
Anyway, following her miraculous agreement, we decide to meet up on this bridge at sunset, which while admittedly overlooking a rather fetid looking creek was all still going to be quite romantic, I think, until I turn up and, unannounced, with her is another girl from our grade who I’d literally never spoken to. And for a second, my dumb adolescent brain thought, “But, what if…?” No, never. But as it turned out, she didn’t really get in the way. She just kinda rode around on a bike near us while we talked. Presumably I think she was just there as security, making sure I didn’t try anything funny, and after hearing such conversational gems out of me as, “So, what’d you get in the end of year maths exam?” She realised I was no threat and just rode away.
So, we’re alone now and I decide that it’s time to put the moves on, the way a 13-year-old would. What I thought I’d do would be to make up an ex-girlfriend because it shows her that I’m single… but have experience. I was basically trying to lie on my resume. So, I know this was a terrible plan but unfortunately at that age I hadn’t quite developed “I LIKE you!” yet so this was all I had to work with. So, how I decide to do this is to say the following: “I haven’t been alone with a girl since my ex-girlfriend.” Terrible, right? It’s kind of like a spoken word version of the yawn-and-your-arm-around-them thing in the movies. It’s like, (VOCALISES STRETCHING) “Welcome into my newly single lair, be not afraid, I don’t know what I’m doing.”
And don’t worry, it gets worse because, you see, as I start to say this, I realise how stupid it sounds and stumble my words, instead telling her the truth, which was, “I’ve never been alone with a girl.” (GROANS) Like, you want to seal your social fate for the rest of high school? Just try telling the prettiest, most popular girl that you’ve never been alone with one, and then just sit there as all her future boyfriends line up to throw sandwiches at you until graduation You know, “Don’t have a serviette for that mess you’ve made with your meat pie? Oh, that’s fine, just use my shirt, that’s cool.”
And despite the fact that we were alone, first time for me, yeah, I felt like our entire grade, our entire school was there laughing at me. And they may as well have been because, predictably, she told everybody to preserve her spot atop of the social totem pole. And I tell you this because I have thought about this moment every single day for the last 19 years.
But that’s not a satisfying ending, I don’t want to leave it there, right? Like, I want to give this story a satisfying conclusion, you see, because I grew up as a very young person on Thomas the Tank Engine, right? And too many times they would seemingly wrap up a story and then just create a whole new pile of unanswered questions in the process of doing that, and then just try and get themselves out of that by having Ringo Starr say with a smirk that you could hear, “But that’s another story for another day,” you know.
But let’s flash forward to December 2014, right? Myself, a few friends, and my girlfriend are at the Meredith Music Festival. If you haven’t been to Meredith, it’s a camping festival in the town of, you guessed it, Meredith in Victoria. It’s a beautiful rural setting, BYO alcohol, they have a No Dickheads Policy, which I’ve been flying under the radar of for years. Actually, I got a tattoo of a tree there on my arm but that was mostly just to offset the Big Day Out 2001 logo on my lower back. But essentially, Meredith is my happy place. And on the second night we were there, we were standing in this beautiful natural amphitheatre they have, and I may have ingested some substances that would cause me to enter “Too many D ’n’ Ms” territory.
So, in this heightened state of euphoria, I’m surrounded by the people that I love the most and watching the band Augie March play their big hit One Crowded Hour, and I had my arms wrapped around my girlfriend and it created this perfect storm of joy, enough for me to look down at her, and as she looked up at me, say, “There’s a sale on that cheese you like at Woolworths, I think we should get some of that when we get home.” No, what I actually said was, uh… What I actually said was much worse. What I actually said was, “You’re the one.” Which, is, like, it’s yuck, you know? Like, whether or not it’s true, it’s a real soap opera thing to say. Feel like I needed to smear some Vaseline over her eyes before I said it.
I wake up the next day and remember what I’ve said and remember the circumstances that caused me to say it. And I knew I wanted to say it then, but I couldn’t be sure if I really felt that way because it wasn’t sober judgement, you know? And, luckily, she didn’t say anything at the time, so it was as if nothing had ever happened. I thought, “Fuck, we might be (INDISTINCT) like, I think, “I might’ve gotten away with this.”
Flash-forward a couple of days and we’re staying in an Airbnb in Melbourne, and I get out of the shower and walk back into the bedroom, naked – you’re welcome – and she’s sitting on the bed. And she proceeds to say to me, “So, during Augie March when you told me I was the one… do you remember that?” And I realised that this was a planned attack because I was naked, so I couldn’t just jump out the window and run. Or I could but I might not have got that far. So, she asked if I remembered and I said, (WAIVERING VOICE) “Yes…” And she asked me, “How do you feel about that?” So, I thought of the safest possible answer, and I said, “Good.”
And at that moment, I felt like I was 13 again, standing back on that bridge, alone with a girl who I’d been so vulnerable with, just because I’d said something in an effort to advance our relationship. And it felt, again, like everyone I knew was there, watching and laughing about how I’d embarrassed myself. And yet, for what felt like one crowded hour, we were the only ones in the room.
And then I’ll never forget, in this moment of nervous vulnerability and potential embarrassment for me, she looked up at me, said, “Me too.” And then she leaned in and (LIPS SMACK) just kissed me on the flaccid penis. And I thought, if there was ever a moment that you knew that someone was the one, then that is surely it. Or at least I thought it was until three years later when I came out to her as transgender, and she broke up with me immediately because she said she was heterosexual, and she now lives with her fiancé who is a woman. But that’s another story for another day. I’m Rosie, love you, mean it.
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