When Opening the Door Opens Your Heart

I learnt a lot of things the year I lived with a stripper.

Did I learn to how to totter in perspex heels? No. Did I learn to dance around a silver pole? No. Did I learn to inhabit stage personas? No.

But I learnt about what life was like for someone who did.

For the 10 years that I was twenty-something I travelled the world and lived in a perpetual state of moving-on. I was always packing up and in transit to the next abode.

Since the twenties is also a time of abject poverty, there is the additional need to share these abodes.

Hence my decade of ‘share-house-living’ and oh what a lentil-soaking, second-hand-shopping, wine-cask swilling time of joy that was.

I’ve lived in a lot of share-houses. Too many to recount. Houses with lawyers, levitators and budgerigar lovers.

I’ve lived in houses with allotted shower times, pizza-buying rosters and my personal favourite, a house where all of the tubs of butter had intricate patterns fingered on the surface to detect an unauthorised breach.

But the thing that was most unique about all of these houses were the people.

In my early twenties I lived with a small collection of Physical Education teachers one of whom was on the national Grid Iron team.

Grid Iron and I don’t have much in common. Nothing. Nada. Zip. So living with someone who was so tightly connected to this world was fascinating.

Other than his constant pursuit to ‘bulk up’ in the garage of our little house on the hill, my flatmate introduced me to a world of American culture and people.

On one spectacularly fortunate evening he asked me to be his date on an American Naval vessel that was docked in town.

They had played a friendly game of Grid-Iron with the Australians that day and this was their way of returning the hospitality.

I spent the evening being ‘maam’ed, champagne’d and generally treated like Scarlet O’Hara.

Not long after, I moved to a gorgeous ocean-facing apartment where the residents below us would occupy themselves by rating passing joggers with score cards.

There, I lived with a feisty and extreme-sport addicted Canadian with a sprawling spider tattoo etched into her underarm.

She was passionate, adventure-seeking and she filled me with awe and admiration.

I remember sitting dumbstruck as she recalled a cliff-climb that was so complicated that she’d had to sleep in a bivvy against its face until it was light enough to continue. People can do that?

My world exploded into one of cross-country cycling, frostbite and tender-spot tattoos.

After moving to London I entered the serious world of share house living.

This wasn’t for the faint hearted. Indeed, in these densely packed residences it took weeks to catalogue names let alone remember your allotted shower time.

Moving to Glasgow, partly to outrun the homogenous blur of Antipodeans, I began living in a burnt-orange tenement with an IBN engineer of Amazonian proportions.

She stood out for her flaming red hair, gargantuan stature and her singular ability to outdrink any man she encountered.

She was a woman of substance in a man’s world. She introduced me to whisky and the ability to inhabit one’s skin with dignity and strength.

We spent long evenings lounging on dark chesterfields warmed by her ‘illegally’ lit fireplace and pontificating about how we were going to change the world.

Eventually I made my way back to Australia and after a few years drifting I settled into a house with a beautiful Russian blonde and a stripper.

Polar opposites, both blondes were fascinating people.

After evenings learning to make authentic Russian cuisine, my Slavic friend and I would sleep soundly in our sweet little blue house in the gulley.

We were often woken in the early morning to our other flatmate who, after considerately removing her Perspex stilettoes, would tumble into bed and muffle sobs into her pillow.

I live on my own now.

It’s quiet.

It makes me very, very happy.

I wonder however, if I’d treasure it quite so much if I hadn’t opened my heart.

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