Tongue in cheek
The age of 13 is one of the most memorable for me.
I was being bullied by my neighbours.
My brother began his descent into drugs.
Heavy Metal music filled my head with fear.
I enjoyed alcohol.
I lost my virginity.
This was a year that fractured my soul and pushed me head first into the devil’s breast.
As a 46 year -old woman, I am now often asked why I don’t drink. Many people think it’s strange to have not touched alcohol since I was 13 years old. The usual questions are ‘Are you religious?’ or ‘Are you an alcoholic? I am none of those. I am a woman whose young life was disturbed and distorted by the effects of Jack Daniels in a mind that had not yet fully formed.
We lived in a suburban area of Melbourne at the time. It was an average Aussie neighbourhood but perhaps a little rough around the edges. There was the usual bbq’s on weekends, trips to the shopping centres on hot days to get inside the air conditioning, days at the local pool and evenings spent at the local Roller skating rink.
But Mooroolbark had a dark side in the 80’s. My brother Tallon (who was 15 at the time) managed to find that dark side and it didn’t take long for me to follow.
While Tallon found drugs, criminals and petty crime, I was surrounded by older girls chasing me around the neighbourhood on their BMX’s threatening to beat me up. It sounds so funny now thinking about having the crappers beaten out of me by BMX bandits, but at the time it was terrifying. At one point, I was so scared that I vomited all over my friend’s carpet when I realised the bandits were waiting for me outside and I had to roller skate home.
Thankfully most of it was talk. Then the day came when Tallon decided to choose one of them as his girlfriend ‘Oh, the horror”. Her name was Tracy and she was one of the ring leaders. I remember them having a ‘wedding’ on my street and they would use all of the flowers in the tress around our area as confetti. I wasn’t invited of course. I was nowhere near cool enough.
They were all older than me but went to the same school. I was so terrified of being bullied by them, that I turned into a bully to try to prove myself (more on that later) It seemed to work and the older bullies started to respect me. One day they even invited me to hang out with them on the street. I was elated.
It was during this time that Heavy Metal became really popular, as did green army jackets filled with studs and patches. Nowadays known as bogans lol. But all of my older, new found friends had begun painstakingly sewing the patches to the sleeves and pushing the studs through any place they’d fit. My band / patch of choice was Judas Priest (I have no idea why, it just happened) I didn’t even particularly like their music. I certainly wasn’t going to tempt fate and go against the grain, so my metal jacket and personality began to change.
During this time, our local gang met a character called Roxy. Roxy was a formidable woman. She was over 6 feet tall and built like a ‘brick shit-house’ (as was the term around those parts) She was also very much in to heavy metal, much older and far more experienced and worldly than any of us could have dreamed. She accepted us all into her fold.
Here we were, the BMX Bandits and the vomiting roller-skater, all ready to grow up into a world that was dark, twisted and very sick.
She lived around the corner in a house with her mum, their home became my house of horrors. Roxy’s mum was a huge, odd woman who was also one of Australia’s most notorious cat hoarders. She had been on ‘A Current Affair’ on three occasions when neighbours couldn’t stand the smell of cat piss any longer.
When you walked in to their house, the smell would hit your nose and almost knock you off your feet. Now I’ve always been an animal lover, but this was insane. There were cats EVERYWHERE. Skanky looking kittens covered in fleas, the occasional dead cat, pregnant cats, cats eating, cat shit everywhere and fur … Oh the fur!!! Sometimes you’d even have cats shitting on the toilet floor while you were taking a pee.
Being head bangers, as well as army jackets, black clothing was the only wardrobe allowed. Now, with hundreds and hundreds of cats in a small house and yard, you can imagine what your clothes would look like after a few minutes inside (I still feel sorry for my parents having to wash those horrid things)
The worst part of going to this house was being offered food. I’ve always had vomiting phobias and eating at this house meant heaving at the thought. I used every excuse under the sun as to why I NEVER ate when it was offered food by her mum.
Many years later, I worked for the RSPCA. This job set off a whole trail of trauma and memories for me. Especially being surrounded by so many cats and dealing with hoarder cases. I lasted a few months and I felt like throwing up every day I went to work. Not a great option as a career.
We would spend days and nights in this hell hole listening to music, gossiping and playing drinking games. I was only 13 and had never had an inkling to drink or smoke but here I was with the cool kids, drinking almost straight Jack Daniels and smoking ciggies.
Most nights would end with all of us being drunk and me throwing up everywhere (not surprising)
I was still very much a child. I behaved like a 19-year-old, but of course, I wasn’t. I was a scared little girl just reaching her teenage years and puberty. I didn’t understand in my young brain; just how much these times would affect the rest of my life.
Tongue was an attractive, cool and worldly 19-year-old. His nickname should have sent me packing but was my first crush so I didn’t care. (He was name after Gene Simmons in Kiss with his tongue out)
He was already going to pubs and gigs to see Metal bands and he was a heavy drinker. He instantly took a liking to me. I was in love that second.
VIRGINITY IS A LAUGHING MATTER
Meeting Tongue was my first foray into boys and relationships. It was the worst kind any young girl could find.
We were all at Roxy’s place one night, drinking heavily as we always did. My young brain couldn’t cope with the effects of alcohol and I was always the first to get drunk, vomit or pass out. I remember talking to one of the BMX Bandits about sex and we both said ‘No rooties’ (Slang word for sex in Australia) We giggled about it, but underneath we really meant we didn’t want to do it. Not yet.
I do not remember anything from that moment.
The next morning, I woke up. I had no idea where I was (until I could smell cat piss) I remember being pushed to the side of the cramped single bed and there looking down at me, smiling, was Tongue. He looked over the moon. I could barely move. It took me minutes to get my bearings.
I don’t remember saying anything. Just looking at his smirk.
I got out of the bed and stood up. I was covered in blood. I cried and cried until Tongue came and put his arm around me laughing ‘don’t worry, you just lost your virginity that’s all’
I remember trying to seem pleased. Trying to smile. I was still very drunk.
As I walked out of that bedroom, there were around 10 people (all 19 or 20 years old) They all stared at me. They smiled. The began to clap. They clapped at me. A 13-year-old. They cheered as I walked to the bathroom.
Once inside closed doors, I thought about the clapping and cheering. I thought it must be fantastic that I’d lost my virginity. This must be normal. This shock and disbelief must be how it feels for everyone.
I smiled and walked out. I was proud of myself. They’d made me feel like I was the coolest person in the room that day. The accepted me. They welcomed me.
I would never be sweet, young Amber ever again. I was gone.
I’ve NEVER touched a drop of alcohol again.