Although I’m renowned for my unwillingness to leave the 2010 postcode, Darlinghurst has been getting to me lately. Maybe it’s The Howler, the working girl who alternates between unleashing loud, animal screams at no one in particular, and offering her services in a sinister whisper. Or perhaps it’s the homeless guy I see every day who is either wailing, It’s wrong! or suggesting it won’t rain today. Or it could be the neighbours in my building who can barely muster a nod of recognition.
In any case, a getaway beckoned. I grabbed my boyfriend, jumped in his clapped-out Commodore and headed south. Anywhere. We ended up doing all the Gongs (Wollon, Gerrin and Mitta -“ nice blokes) and various pretty sandstone towns plagued by flies and overpriced antique shops.
We had a lot of fun playing spot the only gay in the village, which was easy in Berrima but surprisingly tricky elsewhere. Surely there must be at least one poofter in Moss Vale? Are they just hiding it well? It made me even more aware of my self-consciousness when surrounded by heterosexuality. It made me, I’m sorry to say, straight-acting.
Now, my partner and I don’t look like your stereotypical gay couple. In fact, more than once we’ve been mistaken for father and son. Still, I was determined not to look, you know -“ too gay. No conversational hand-flourishes. No crossing your legs like a bloody sheila. That sort of thing. Exhausting. So it was in this hyper-vigilant state that I noticed other alien features.
The Southern Highlands has an extraordinary number of Chinese restaurants. No Thai, just Chinese. Presumably, the only Asian person we saw in three days was the owner of one such establishment.
The healthy country lifestyle is a crock. I have never seen so many fat people. Part of this is no doubt due to the mammoth portions of food served everywhere. Huge. Dinner became like some sort of Fear Factor challenge -“ eat half a cow or get voted out.
There is one constant, of course: no matter how convincing you think your straight-acting might be, and no matter how picturesque the scenery, there will always be a dickhead yelling faggot from a passing car.
Frankly, I think I’ll stick with The Howler.