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Welcome! I'm Sven and this is a guide to my life in Australia. Join me in discovering the do's and don'ts of living down under. Like that box of crap in the bottom of your wardrobe, there's useful stuff in here. Somewhere.

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Seriously, I just used up all my eye-rolls.

Valentine’s Day is coming up and, as usual, social media is divided between those who hate being single at this time of year, and those who love being in a couple and feel the need to tell the world about it. I often find it hard to decide which of these I hate more; but Orlanda Soria has thoughtfully spared me this annual dilemma by combining the two in a staggering testament to insensitive navel-gazing.

Yes, friends, the thinnest fat man in the world has done it again. Don’t bother clicking through, but if you do, don’t bother reading any further than the first four paragraphs. He summarises his argument as follows:

“Couples are annoying. I know this because I am part of a couple and I am annoying… I hate couples. I hate myself.”

Conveniently, these lines also tell us why we should immediately disregard every one of the ensuing 1700 words. In case you missed them, here they are again (my bolds):

“Couples are annoying. I know this because I am part of a couple and I am annoying… I hate couples. I hate myself.”

What follows is a lengthy diatribe pouring scorn on the kind of stuff that couples naturally get into. Granted, some of it is annoying – the royal ‘we’, nuzzling noses at the dinner table and the like – but most of it is just a lament for his former singledom. Some of my favourites are “You make everyone else feel like a third wheel”, “You were more fun when you were single,” and “Let’s face it, sluts have more fun,” since, let’s face it, if you’re single you are obviously a whore.

Soria takes great pains to remind us that he has a boyfriend, for whom I only have the greatest sympathy, because the author of this article appears to have the emotional depth of a puddle of puke.

Joke or no joke, if my boyfriend had written that article, we would be having a serious conversation about when he would be addressing his self-esteem issues and treating me with some respect. “I am a part of a couple and… I hate myself” equates to “I hate us” and I don’t have time for that kind of crap. I have my own problems, thanks; I don’t need to be dealing with a whiny homo who can’t deal with his own emotions and sees me as a bind. You want more fun? Go make your own; I’m not your clown. If being in a couple sucks so much, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

I have a boyfriend, and I love him very much. I think we’re a good couple, and we do slushy things that we generally keep to ourselves. Sometimes we do them in front of single friends and they roll their eyes and tell us to get a room. But I am happy with him and they are happy for me. I don’t pity my single friends, because they’re awesome people and they certainly don’t need sympathy.

Single people hate couples like the British hate the French. It’s just the way it is. But you know what everyone hates? People in perfectly good relationships who veil their smugness in self-effacement, bleating on about how their fabulous life of dinner parties in the Hollywood Hills really sucks.

Fortunately, those who take being single for what it is, and those couples who either dislike Valentine’s Day or don’t feel the need to rave about it, keep themselves to themselves around this time of year. If only Orlando Soria would do the same.

Four years on…

Back in 2009 when I first moved to Australia I expected to hate it. I was fully prepared to eke out a year in Sydney and then run home to the loving arms of my family and friends in the UK and pick up my life where I left off. I officially became an Australian permanent resident on 6 July 2008, just 22 days before my 29th birthday. On 6 July 2012 I became eligible to apply for citizenship, just 22 days before my 33rd. And what a four years it has been.

Within a year of moving to Sydney I had broken up with my 4-year boyfriend and was living on my own. I had a new job, very few friends and no one to talk to about it. I was, in short, lonely and miserable. I seriously thought about moving back to the UK. It was only my stubborn nature and incapacity for being beaten that kept me here. Meeting new people is easy, but making new friends is harder: real friends are rare and should be treasured when you find them.

As Sarah described our becoming friends: “I hung out with a few people for a while and eventually I realised that no one was as awesome as Sveny.” And that’s pretty much all there was to it. Over the past four years I have hung out with all kinds of people for a while and though some have come and gone, the awesome ones have stuck around and filled my lonely old life with love and gossip and laughter and crazy good times.

For my 33rd birthday they all came out in fancy dress like fools to celebrate another year of me successfully being me. If I were to cut and run now, I would miss them all just like I miss my UK friends. Another friend summarised it beautifully in the throes of the Safari Disco Birthday Extravaganza: “Man, when you first got here you had a shit time. Now look at you: you’re cruising.”

She’s right. I have a fantastic life. I am so lucky.

Photo of my friends at my Safari Disco Club-themed birthday party

Nice sentiment, but can you just shut the fuck up, already?

The other day I had a perfectly good evening ruined when a friend of a friend, after we had been chatting for a while, exclaimed: “I can’t believe you’re single! You’re a really. nice. guy!” I know he was just trying to be nice, but it fucking shits me when people say that and here’s why:

1. You don’t even know me.

I’m don’t really need constant external validation; I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin. I may not be a stellar guy, but I must be pretty decent because I have nice friends who choose to spend time with me and introduce me to other people they know. They seldom tell me I’m nice because their continued friendship is proof enough that they don’t think I’m a cunt. When you, stranger at a party, tell me I’m a nice guy I accept the compliment because it’s a kind thing to say. When you tell me that my being single is shocking because I’m a nice guy, is it any wonder that I want to punch you in the throat? You have no idea why I’m single, (but thanks for bringing it up, by the way); you certainly weren’t invited to comment on it; and you have no reason to suppose I was going to be anything other than nice. Did I look like a bastard from across the room? Or do you assume everyone is an asshole until you talk to them? Even for me, that’s taking cynicism too far.

2. You are judging me based on your relationship status.

The only people who are shocked that anyone is single are people who aren’t. Single people aren’t surprised because, newsflash: this is how we live our lives. We struggle on day-to-day, making our breakfast, washing our clothes and warming our beds, because time does not stop for the lonely. The world turns and we have bills to pay. I know that you are happily attached and that’s great, but being single doesn’t actually suck, either. It’s just life: we get on with it. Maybe I don’t want what you have: perhaps I have decided that single life suits me for now (or forever) and I’m perfectly content. A relationship is not a cosmic reward for being a nice person: it’s a choice you make when you meet someone you like and decide to give it a go. You got lucky and I’m thrilled for you, but it doesn’t qualify you as an authority on romance any more than winning the lottery makes me an expert on gambling.

3. You’re making me a victim in my own life.

I can live with the insensitivity and the social myopia and the skewed mentality of the world of the happily coupled, but the thing that really drives me insane is the idea that I am somehow to blame for being single. By telling me how surprising my situation is, you’re implying that there’s something amiss: that I am somehow deficient or faulty, and that this isn’t how life should be. Sure, I would like to settle down with the right guy one day – and as Mark poetically puts it: “your taxi light is on” – but I reserve the right to be selective about who gets to ride. Whilst I may feel like I am ready for a relationship, I have, perversely, chosen to remain single. I’ve turned down offers for various reasons, and I’ve also been rejected by others. This is all part and parcel of finding what I am looking for. I chose to get into this and whilst I can’t control the game, I can elect to play or not.

When you tell me that my being nice and single is a surprise, you may think you are saying that I deserve to be happy. What you are actually saying is that there must be something wrong with me and you just don’t know what it is yet. You are implying, intentionally or not, that everyone who has ever turned me down has been astute enough to spot it, and that those I turned down had a lucky escape. You’re not boosting my confidence or making me feel good about myself: you’re undermining me by highlighting that I haven’t achieved what you have, and flaunting your happiness as measure against which I shall forever be found wanting.

Of course, all I can do is smile and say thank you with a commiserative tone, because dousing you in kerosene and setting you on fire would be socially unacceptable. Next time, think before you open your mouth and decide whether you really want to make me feel like shit with your inane comments. After all, I probably don’t deserve it: I’m a really nice guy.

Be careful what you wish for…

Dating is hard work. If you want to have a good one you have to really be in the right frame of mind, and if you’re not feeling completely up for it then the chances are you are just going to waste everyone’s time. When I found myself in a less-than-100% frame of mind a few weeks ago, I thought the best thing to do was to raincheck and reschedule. Since “I’ve been having too much of a good time recently and need a quiet night in” never goes over well, I thought a small deviation from the truth wasn’t out of the question. I told the guy (who has now left the picture) that I had left work early with a head cold. He readily accepted that was serious enough to postpone our plans, and I went about the rest of my day secure in the knowledge that my bed was waiting for me shortly after clocking-off time. Then, at 4:30pm, this happened:

Photo of text from the date promising to deliver "chicken soup for the soul"

How could I say no? I can’t tell the rest of the story without looking like a monumental shitbag, so I’ll take your judgment as read and just get on with it.

Naturally, there was no way I was going to get caught in a lie, so my only option was to commit fully and see it through. He works 15 minutes from my home but I work an hour away, so beating him to my door was going to be tight. I grabbed my stuff and yelled to my boss that I was leaving as a I ran for the lift. However, karma doesn’t like liars and although I made it to the train station on time, my train ticket didn’t. It was still in my wallet which, overlooked in the rush, was still in my office. I ran back, cursing the fates, and by then I was running too late. If I was going to make it I only had one option left.

There’s nothing like wild-eyed panic to motivate a cab-driver, so me bursting into the taxi yelling “How fast can you get me to Surry Hills?” was all the excuse he needed to drive like the maniac he clearly thought I was. To his credit, he turned a 40-minute drive into a 25-minute rollercoaster ride through rush-hour Sydney, and we screeched into my street just before 5:30. Naturally I made him drop me at the back door, just in case, and a few moments later I bounded from the cab $63 poorer, and ran into the building as fast as I could go.

Indoors, I put my plan into action with the dedication of an Oscar-hungry method actor. (Thanks, drama degree!) I threw on pyjamas and track pants. I got into bed and rolled around to give the sheets and my hair an authentic feel. I covered myself in Vicks. I rubbed my nose till it was red and threw the tissues in a pile by the bed. I even rinsed my mouth in cough syrup just in case he got close enough to smell my breath. When the buzzer went moments later, I adopted the demeanour of a self-pitying manflu victim and let him in. I was ready.

I’m no stranger to guilt but what followed was crippling, even by lapsed Catholic standards. “Chicken soup for the soul” was an enormous bunch of flowers – tulips and gardenias – with a card declaring that “if you’re stuck at home it’s good to have something nice to look at”. Of course it was too late for me, the Marlon Brando of influenza performers, to do anything about it. I croaked my way through a grateful acceptance, a list of fake symptoms and treatments, and agreed that bed-rest was certainly what the imaginary doctor had ordered. And in my living room for the following week I had a gorgeous, floral reminder that I am the worst person on Earth.

But at least I got to bed early.

Naked Boys Singing

Naked Boys Singing poster

I did not have high hopes for this show when I arrived at Sydney’s Seymour Centre for opening night. The title is fairly frank – it does exactly what is says on the tin – and doesn’t lend itself to any kind of engaging storyline or exposition. I genuinely expected a naked choral recital from a bunch of smirking fratboys – a naked Whiffenpoofs, if you like. I was not prepared for Fascinating Aida with wangs, and I loved it.

“Oh yes they’re sure to see. Oh yes you’re short to see. Gratuitous, gratuitous, gratuitous, gratuitous nudity.”

And with these words, the cast revealed all and kept it that way throughout the entire performance. This was in the overture. What follows is a fun romp through various penis gags set to music, with asides that look at porn, contemporary notions of body image, and various aspects of modern gay (or indeed straight) life. The Seymour Centre – a smallish theatre – guaranteed an excellent view from every seat, with the front row getting a literal eyeful in many of the numbers. Despite this, and with a few exceptions, the nudity is far less sexual than you might expect. The jokes are risqué, taboo and frequently outrageous, but in-your-face sexuality is lightly handled and rarely used. Just a few songs in and their nudity becomes a shared rather than voyeuristic experience.

The vocal performances were technically solid, though limited projection by many of the cast had some of us further back in the auditorium straining to hear over the tremendous piano accompaniment. That is forgiven though, along with the occasional opening night slip-up, thanks to the quality of the production and the sheer delight the cast took in performing.

Naked Boys Singing has hilarious lyrics, toe-tapping tunes and choreography that makes you cringe and cheer in equal measure. (“Jack’s Song” and “Perky Little Porn Star” made me laugh, blush, stare and recoil all at the same time.) You will laugh, you will wince, and you will leap to your feet at the end. Hilarious.

Naked Boys Singing is showing until 17 March at The Seymour Centre in Sydney.

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