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Byron Shire
March 21, 2023

Here & Now #168: Muscle & lipstick

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Image: S Sorensen
Image: S Sorensen

S Sorrensen

Surfers Paradise. Friday, 11.15am

When I was a kid, tough men were wiry blokes with bodies shaped by hard physical work. Under blue singlets were stomachs as hard as a droughted paddock, flat as a factory floor. They weren’t big men, but they were tough, with weathered skin and dirty nails.

A pair of young men walks past where I loiter on a footpath in downtown Surfers Paradise.

I like Surfers Paradise. (There, I’ve said it.) It’s decadent. Lying next to an increasingly agitated ocean, but unintimidated by this vulnerable proximity, Surfers Paradise is where the last wave of the Western dream is crashing onto expensive real estate in a dump of money, drugs and designer torn jeans.

With global catastrophe confined to screens, small and large, on which Syrian deserts, French churches, and Australian juvenile detention centres vie with Pokemon, The Block and Instagram for our attention, portfolioed people from around the world, sharing a taste for tinsel and tequila, come here to flirt with the jaded joys of consumerism, the waxed fantasies of voyeurism, and the real dangers of melanoma.

I’m having a break from a ‘professional development day’ in the building behind me. This exercise in enfeebling language by injecting it with jargon which saps all meaning has put me, with the others, on a ‘synergised pathway to desired outcomes’.

I need air.

A woman balancing precariously on pink high heels (Surfers beachwear) stands at the crossroads. She stares at her phone, a furrowed brow creasing her make-up.

A block away, the ocean is itching to get into the party, but the dune is a bouncer shaking its head. Pop tunes bubble out of the Hard Rock Cafe, and Japanese language babbles from a gaggle of tourists, shopping bags in one hand, phones in the other, heading towards the Ugg Boot and Opal Store.

The two young men walk past.

Well, it’s hardly a walk; it’s more of a waddle. Bulging thighs preclude a normal gait, and enlarged biceps make it impossible for elbows to touch torso, keeping their arms splayed. The old wiry blokes would laugh at them. (I don’t.)

These bodies have been sculpted in a gym, not in a factory or paddock. If some women are pressured to look like the airbrushed anorexic model staring down from the nearby billboard, then some men feel the need to have a body that looks like it’s been over-inflated at a service station, a steroidal Michelin Man.

They look tough, sure, but that could be the haircuts. If there was an intergenerational punch-up, I’d put my money on the wiry blokes of yore.

A snippet as they pass: ‘… I’m like, no way, she’s too hot for you, and he’s like, no, she really digs me. Meanwhile she’s like giving me the eye…’

Okay, it isn’t Shakespeare (and let us reflect on the sad passing of ‘said’) but compared to the corporate mutilations I’ve been listening to all morning, it’s at least human.

The speaker wears like designer tracksuit pants and a muscle shirt. Tattoes cover his arm like a haemorrhage, bleeding up onto his neck, where his trapezius muscles are flying buttresses to a shaved temple. He is all gym muscle, as is his mate. They both text while they swagger. Or maybe they’re looking for pokemon. I don’t know.

They stagger up to the woman. Her lips, a glossy pink (matching her shoes), part into a smile, and, teetering in her high heels, she hooks her arm around the speaker’s obese bicep.

So, off they go, a cool crippled trio, stumbling towards the beach, where the sea bides it time.

Yep, I like Surfers Paradise. It’s a diamante patch on the world’s fraying fabric, sparkling in the last rays.



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  1. A very poetic snippet/observation of Surfers.

    I often think of all that energy being expended in gyms for such self-centred reasons…..and think those muscles, that build, that fitness, could be achieved volunteering to re-build Nepal, or improving living conditions in a myriad of poor countries….or even helping drought-stricken farmers with fencing etc.

    Just thinking.

  2. “Yep, I like Surfers Paradise. It’s a diamante patch on the world’s fraying fabric, sparkling in the last rays.”

    Nuff said!


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