Heat by Rob O’Neill

The Girlie thinks I'm gay

The Girlie thinks I’m gay.

I was explaining something to her, can’t remember what. She’d asked a question and I was explaining to her. I was lying on the couch, as usual, and she was in the chair next to our wrecked coffee table, but more on that later.

The Girlie asks a lot of questions and mostly I can’t answer them. While she’s doing ancient history and modern history in year 12 and I did them at uni, where I did Greece, she does Egypt and so forth. Our paths never seem to cross.

Anyway she was asking me a question, with her feet up on our totally ruined art deco designer coffee table. I managed to answer one and was making gestures with my hands while explaining the answer to her. She kept looking at my hands and then goes:

“Dad, are you gay?”


Laughing, maybe a bit nervously now: “Are you gay?”

Now I’m the sort of person that never gives a straight, if you’ll pardon the expression, answer to anything.

“Why do you ask?”

“Well,” she pauses. “It’s the hands.”

“What about the hands?”

“They’re a bit girlie.”

Now I know, I know, equating girlie with gay is at best a rough guide. The two don’t necessarily go together. Or rather girlie guys often are gay but most gays aren’t girlie, in my limited experience. If you know what I mean. But hey, she’s a teenager and not worldly wise like us. Cut the girl some slack.

I think this might have something to do with the fact I haven’t got a girlfriend and haven’t had one since she arrived in Aussie. Just a little suspicion of mine.

Anyway, a few days after this shock question, we went out to dinner for her birthday. Seventeen already. Up to her favourite place, Fabulous Fish in Balmain. A nice wee café that serves sweet potato crisps as garnish on whatever type of fish you order. The fish over here are quite different from back home. While you can get Snapper and John Dory and Kingfish, you also have to deal with Barramundi, Flathead, Bream, Leatherjacket and a host of others.

We’re walking up to the restaurant and the Girlie goes:

“You should die your hair.”


“It’s going all gray, Dad.”

“Sometimes you have to accept that you’re gay,” I say. It was a genuine slip of the tongue, alright? Okay maybe her gay question was still on my mind. I corrected myself quickly.

“I mean gray.”

“Are you trying to tell me something?”

“No. I’m not. I’m not gay, okay?”

The meal was great and I bought her a copy of “Dude, Where’s My Country?” from the bookshop next door just to make sure she doesn’t turn out all bitter and twisted. It’s funny living with a teenager. In many respects it’s like being flatmates. Except I’m the flatmate she doesn’t want to be seen in public with.

Personally I love being a solo dad. I love saying I’m a solo dad too. You get all this sympathy. It’s wonderful.

Anyway we get home and the Girlie throws her book down on the…

… the coffee table. What’s left of it.

I went to New Zealand, you see, a couple of weeks ago. After taking all sorts of precautions to anticipate disasters before I left, on my first night in the phone goes off.

It’s the Girlie.

“Dad, you know how there was that light that didn’t work in the lounge?”


“Well, I’ve had a bit of an accident.”

“What have you done?”

“I was changing the bulb and I broke the coffee table.”

“What do you mean broke the coffee table. How could you break the coffee table?”

It seemed incomprehensible to me. What could be the connection between the light and the coffee table.

Surely not… No! No!

Surely she couldn’t have done that? She didn't stand on it? Not on the plate glass.

“I was standing on it to change the light-bulb and I fell through.”

Anyway, the Girlie came through, or rather fell through, unscathed. You might think the table is easily fixed, but this is big thick plate glass cut into curves at the corners and beveled all around. A real designer job from the 70s.

It’s going to cost a bomb.

But don’t get the impression I’m house-proud or anything. I’m not. Alright. And I dress very badly. And my bedroom’s a pig-sty. And I often don't shave, but not in the George Michael, Gotta-Have-Faith-designer-unshaved girlie sort of way. Much more the I-don't-give-a-damn-about-how-I-look, mountain-man approach.

There's nothing metrosexual about this boy. He's a mountain man and he loves mountin' women.

Got it?

And the only reason I hang out on Oxford St is because it’s somewhere the Girlie’s friends won’t see us together.