by Katie Paul on April 15, 2014

Scars speak more loudly than the sword that caused them • from




The First Lie

by Katie Paul on April 10, 2014

The first lie • a story of sibling rivalry & love • from

My brother, Steven’s bedroom was at the front of the house, on the second floor overlooking the street. He had brown striped wallpaper and a bedspread patterned with guns and cowboy hats. His favourite form of torture during my childhood was taking my doll, Jennifer and hanging her by the neck from his window.

‘Give it back,’ I said, when I discovered the doll missing and went into his room. He grinned and shook his head. Only one of his skinny arms was visible, the other dangling unseen out the window. His bedroom smelled of dirty socks and left-over sandwiches. Anger radiated out through my chest, making my neck hot and pink. I would have to get the doll back, brush the knots from her blonde hair, put her clothes and shoes back on and set her back on the shelf in my bedroom.

How ridiculous that Steven should think I believed Jennifer was anything more than a blob of plastic. His transgression was against the proper place for my things, not my emotional attachment to any of them.

On the day I got into trouble, I must have been about four and he around eight. It had nothing to do with Steven kidnapping my doll. I was in his bedroom and we were at the window, the glass pushed open, calling out to three boys on the footpath outside our house. One of them carried a vinyl bag with Pan Am written on the side. The white strap drew a diagonal across his short-sleeved shirt.

‘You’re an idiot,’ the boy called from the street.

‘Plonka Paul,’ sang another of the boys. This one was blonde and wore white socks with dark brown sandals. ‘Can’t even read,’ he shouted.

‘Shut up,’ said Steven, his voice high and trembling.

‘Retard,’ called the third boy. He pushed his heavy black glasses up his nose.

‘Shut up,’ yelled Steven. He looked down at me, his eyes watering around the edges. He shrugged.

I put my hand on the window sill and stood on my tiptoes. I gathered all the air in the room into my lungs. ‘Fuck off,’ I yelled.

Steven’s mouth dropped open and his eyes grew wide. Then he threw back his head and laughed.

The light in the room faded slightly as my mother stood in the doorway. She wore a floral cotton frock with a paisley apron over the top. Her hands were buried in a tartan tea-towel. My brother stopped laughing.

‘What did you say?’ she said.

Steven looked down at his shoes. My heart lurched up towards my throat.


‘I heard you,’ she said. She put her hands on her hips. ‘What did you say?’

Tears prickled behind my eyes. My throat swelled. ‘Nothing,’ I said.

‘I won’t have bad language in this house, young lady’ she said. ‘I’ll wash your mouth out with soap and water.’

Steven moved across to the bed and sat with his back against the wall. His gaze alternated between my mother and me, as though he were watching a tennis match.

‘They were on the lawn. I told them to get off,’ I said. The lie settled quietly on my lips and relaxed the muscles in my neck.

She flipped the tea towel over her shoulder and crossed her arms. ‘Are you sure?’ she asked. She leaned forward. ‘Telling a lie is worse than swearing.’

‘It’s the truth,’ I said.

She breathed deeply and then let out a soft sigh. ‘Alright then.’ She turned to leave and then turned back. ‘Don’t either of you shout out the window,’ she said, ‘it’s common.’

‘Okay, mum,’ said Steven.

We waited until we heard her footsteps on the stairs.

‘Bloody hell,’ he said. ‘That was close.’


Did you have a love/hate relationship with your siblings?
Can you remember your first lie?



The Red Door

by Katie Paul on April 7, 2014

The Red Door • from
The door is red and arched surrounded by a low stone wall covered in creeping vines and ferns. There is a wrought iron handle that needs to be pulled and turned to open the door. Above the door is my name in an old-fashioned script.

I am standing on a stone path, in warm sunlight and green fields stretch behind me and beside me. When I open the door, it opens inwards and I have to bend my head to get through the space.

Inside the path continues, covered in dappled sunshine shining through the leaves overhead. It is a steamy moist rainforest. I can hear the sound of whipbirds and the air tastes salty on my lips.

I am wearing a long flowing grey dress with bell-shaped sleeves and a ragged train. My breasts are only covered loosely and my waist is small. I don’t notice my thighs rubbing together as I walk. My feet are bare, feeling the coolness of the stones beneath my feet. My grey hair is long and wavy, reaching down my back and I wear a garland of pink and yellow flowers on my head.

Sitting on a marble bench is the archangel Michael. He is leaning forward with his head in his hands. I think for a moment he is upset, but he must be just waiting for me because when he soon looks up and smiles and stands in an old-fashioned gesture of good manners.

He sweeps his hand down my back, and where he touches me, wings unfold from my shoulder blades. They are huge wings, as big as his, reaching six-foot into the air. I am nervous and anxious, I’ve never flown before.

He takes me by the hand and we launch into the sky together. Below me I can see the landscape of fields, forests and the ocean. It reminds me of Narnia, or the Narnia I’ve constructed in my imagination.

Michael holds my hand and never lets go. He’s done this before and he won’t let me fall. It’s always difficult to do something the first time, but it doesn’t take long to get used to it.

The end comes too quickly, I want to fly with Michael all day. Up here there is peace and joy, a feeling of being part of the wind, brushing up against the birds. The problems of the world are far away, tiny, like insignificant spots on a perfect painting. I don’t want to go back, it’s better up here.

{photo by Pia Liikala}

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by Katie Paul on April 4, 2014

Regrets • Where is the beauty in suffering? • from‘You can’t be sexy,’ she said. ‘That’s for the privacy of your bedroom, for your husband’s eyes only.’

My husband’s eyes weren’t interested in how sexy I was. I was a release for his anger and his frustration. A hand gripping my arm, a push against my back, a grunt followed by sleep. If sexy meant getting sex then I was successful. If sexy meant feeling loved and desired then I failed.

I failed at my marriage, not because I didn’t try hard enough but because I was always going to fail. A wild child, a free spirit, someone who dances to the beat of a different drum is always going to feel shackled within the confines of a contract that limits connection with other people. I shut down. I withdrew. I turned down the flame that burnt inside me lest it consume me and others.

Those years of subjugating, of submission, of subterfuge were long and painful. I was lucky to escape with only a misguided view of my body, my worth, my importance. It could have been worse – the pain of cancer, the removal of a breast or a womb, high blood pressure and whatever else the burying of emotions brings. I no longer cried, my tears long since dried up.

The explanations are too hard. The place is dark and uninviting and yet it draws me back to it again and again. Am I trying to justify what happened or to explain to myself why it happened? It makes no sense even now. I regret being with him. It’s the one thing I truly regret.

Where is the beauty in suffering? Where are the lessons? God has a plan and a purpose for your life. What was his plan in all of this? If there was a plan, it was a cruel one.

Instead of a reward for my faithfulness, my monogamy, my seal of approval from the church to live with a man, I was punished. Hung from a rope and left to dangle. The oxygen taken away from me, replaced by a gas unable to nurture life. The invisible air of abuse, the silent wind of destruction.

Can I have those years back please? Can I take them from out of the darkness and put them to better use? Can I have love affairs and friendships and random encounters that change my life and those I meet? Can I knock up against the rest of humanity and be shaved and softened by the contact? This is what I’ve missed. This is what I long for.

My loneliness trapped me inside a prison I was too frightened to leave, not knowing that fresh air, sunlit fields and soft earth were only inches away. I kept my eyes lowered and missed the beauty of the sky. That is what I regret.



When do you stop being sexy?

by Katie Paul on April 1, 2014

When do you stop being sexy? • Does beauty have a use-by date? • from

A photographic exhibition by Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf called Mature shows a series of older women in classic pin-up poses. These photos have stirred up the full range of positive and negative emotions in both men and women. For me, as maturity approaches at a rapid rate, I worry that I’ll reach the point where I’m no longer sexy. Far from being relieved by this thought (as some women might be), it worries me.

Does feminine beauty and sexual attractiveness have a use-by date?

What is sexy?

The definition of sexy seems to be as slippery as people’s notions of attractiveness. As much as I want sexuality to be entirely about attitude, personality, charm and passion, from my own experience I know that physical appearance also plays a part. I would be lying if I said I don’t care how my partner looks or that I’m not concerned that my skin is getting wrinkled and age spots are appearing. But am I falling victim to the narrow definition of physical beauty dictated by modern Western culture?

Perhaps sexy is not about looking a certain way, but more about feeling a certain way. Sexiness might be better defined as inhabiting your body (with all its quirks and eccentricities) with confidence.

Being sexy is allowing the spark inside you to show — the spark that draws others to you like moths to the flame. And if this is the definition of sexy, then age, size, shape, colour, and gender no longer play a part.

A state of being or an end result?

There seems to be an expectation that sexiness is a valued trait because it guarantees you’ll have sex with someone whom you find equally attractive. But in reality, we can’t control the actions of other people. Whether or not someone finds us attractive and wants to have sex with us is entirely up to them.

If we think of sexiness as a state of being, rather than a means to an end, then sexiness is available to all of us, at any time.

We can choose to live with our hearts open, to pour our love into the world, and to do with our bodies whatever makes us happy — whether that means wearing a pair of thigh high boots or wearing a pair of paint-stained overalls.

In the end, it all comes down to loving yourself. If you feel worthy of love, someone’s going to love you. If you want to be ravished sexually, then you’ll find someone who can’t wait to do precisely that. If someone thinks you’re too old, too fat, too curvy or too grey — in fact too anything — then they aren’t the kind of person you’ll find a deep intimate connection with.

Sexy is an attitude — one that begins on the inside and translates into how you choose to look on the outside and how you carry yourself in the world. It’s the light of your soul that creates beauty, and all you have to do is own it.

What do you think? Can you still stay sexy as you age? Do you even want to?



When Love Arrives

by Katie Paul on March 19, 2014

See more of Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye at Project VOICE.

If you can’t see this video, click here.