Tilly Lawless’ Guide To Life

Guide To Life is a regular column where we explore how some of our favourite people go about their lives; from content they love to saving a few coins. We debut the series with Tilly Lawless, sex worker, activist and author of ‘Nothing But My Body’.

Being a successful human has never felt so exhausting. Not only do you have to do all the things; you should probably hit up social media to brag about how well you did them. When it comes to ‘getting stuff done’, there is no shortage of columns that fill the void. By and large, though, they can make you feel quite shitty if you haven’t meditated, drank a gallon of water and climbed a mountain before 9am.

I want to declare from the outset: that’s not what this is. No, our new column, dubbed *insert name here’s* Guide To Life is far more low-key. It’s your chance to find out more about the people you admire, or people that we have decided you should admire. Here, they’ll share some stuff they love and a few things that make their days a little brighter. Nice, easy, wholesome, non-competitive content; ideal for our current circumstances.

First out of the gate is Tilly Lawless: sex worker, activist and writer. For me, it made sense that Tilly would be our debut columnist for Guide To Life, given her ability to shove off the tired constraints of our still incredibly conventional society and embrace herself so fully.

I first came across Tilly while watching an old episode of ABC’s You Can’t Ask That, and felt super inspired. So, I asked her about how she gets to sleep.

Anyway, here is the first of our new little baby column, Tilly Lawless’ Guide To Life. I hope you enjoy it.

Content you’d recommend

Podcast-wise, I listen pretty much exclusively to history podcasts – You Must Remember This and Stuff You Missed in History Class are my favourites.

Ways to save some dollars

I always make sure when I fill up with petrol that I go 2c over, I got into the habit of doing little things like that when I was a teenager living out of home and extremely broke. The main way I save money, though, is never throwing out clothes and not buying new ones. I’m lucky in this because I’m the same size now that I was at 15; so instead of chucking anything out I just wait for a few years to start wearing it again. I’ll literally wear things till they’re falling off me – shoe straps held together with a hair tie, shirts secured with safety pins instead of buttons, dresses with rips all the way up to my crotch. Recently, a friend of mine who makes clothes was like: “I’m always inspired by the frayed collars and sleeves on your jumpers, I’ve started cutting the ones I make to create that punk look” and I was like, “oh, that’s just ‘coz I’ve been wearing this Esprit number since 2005”.

I’m really a bit of a grub and I don’t mind being one; spending money on clothes always seems like a waste to me, especially when a lot of the time I can just go naked and/or barefoot instead. This isn’t to say I don’t like clothes though! I love dressing up and being in fun outfits, but they’re always hand-me-downs (I’m the person that friends pass things to when they don’t want to wear it anymore) or ones I’ve picked up at op shops years ago. I just don’t see the sense in buying new when there’s so much already in circulation. But as I said, I’m privileged because of my size.

I do the same with technology. I’ve had the same laptop from age 15 to 27 and I’m still on an iPhone 5. I do think when it comes to clothing and technology, we’ve been sold the idea that we need what’s new to be ‘cool’ and up to date and it’s all just a pointless cycle of consumerism.

Another huge way I save dollars is I don’t spend any money on skincare. I have always just washed my face with water. I think the beauty industry is – a lot of the time – just a way to get money out of women and make them reliant on something they maybe don’t need to be. If it’s your passion that’s all well and good, but the idea that skincare products are a necessity is false.

Spotify playlist you’re into

I don’t have Spotify! I don’t have any playlists on my phone or laptop either. Which in some ways has been good because I find my recall for song names is better than some friends because I have to look up the song to listen to it. My car is also too old for anything other than radio stations – but that’s also how I stay up to date with new music.

Four albums I listen to a lot, though, are: Joan Baez’s Baez sings Dylan, Serge Gainsbourg’s Aux armes et cætera’, Melanie Safka’s The Best of Melanie and the cover album Just Because I’m a Woman: Songs of Dolly Parton.

Food combination few people know about, but should

I have definitely made meals based on weird combinations (sauerkraut and spaghetti, milk mixed with jam, mashed potato with tomato sauce) based on what’s in my fridge at that time but I don’t think I’d go so far as to recommend them. Though if you’re hungry enough or stoned, they taste pretty good.

A good stress reliever

Swimming in the ocean or a river, always. When it’s too cold for that I like to put earphones in and go to a park and swing on the swings listening to music. That’s a very simple one that works every time.

Sometimes when I’m really anxious I watch Keeping Up With The Kardashians. I find their voices are like ASMR. And if you like horses, Matt Harnacke and Jesse Drent’s YouTube channels are so relaxing. (They’re a gay horse riding couple in the Netherlands.)

Tilly lawless with hair down furry jacket

Photographer: Sam Whiteside

The best product of all time

Apple puree baby food squeezies. They are great to keep in your car or bag if you’re rushing somewhere and haven’t had time to eat. I scoff them down.

How do you sleep?

This is something I have not even remotely mastered. I’ve struggled with sleep for a really, really long time, compounded by the fact I once had a man film me in my shower once, so now I’m often scared when I’m alone at night. Three years of night shifts have also fucked  up my natural sleep cycle, plus recurrent tinnitus and a slightly hyperactive thyroid. I self-medicated for years, rotating between weed, CBD oil, diazepam, melatonin and antihistamines, but more recently my doctor prescribed me a medication called Seroquel which has given me a lot of relief. It has honestly changed my life because I no longer stress about not being able to sleep.

I don’t like being on daily medication, but I’ve accepted that for my mental health it’s better than the alternative, which was mixing and matching different things every night to try and knock myself out. I do try to practise sleep hygiene, in that I go to bed around the same time every night and I wind down beforehand. Plus, my screens dull to that yellow night mode in the evenings.

But I don’t think I’m in a place to give advice, beyond the fact that I’ve been there and I sympathise immensely with anyone with insomnia. Though I will say that in the last week I’ve been watching an episode of Bluey before bed which has been super soothing, and goes perfectly with a joint.

One way you’re trying to make the world a better place

It feels quite uncomfortable answering this because I don’t wanna suggest I’m doing better than anyone else or in a position to preach. But one thing I do that I notice most other people don’t is: I’m not uncomfortable inserting myself into a situation if someone looks like they’re not OK. Like, if I see a girl crying I’ll always stop and ask if she needs anything. My friends always tease me about how once at a beach party there was a guy on top of a girl fucking her in some bushes and I walked over and said “I’m so sorry to interrupt but is this consensual?” (It was, but she thanked me for asking.)

I really believe that as part of a community and have an obligation to help each other out if we can. I’ve also been in situations where I wish a bystander would step in and they haven’t. I just think it’s important to have time for strangers; to not be in such a rush and so blinded by your own life that you can’t help an elderly woman carry her luggage down the stairs at Town Hall station.

I really don’t like the idea that runs rampant online (sometimes from people professing to be anti-capitalist) that “you need to to pay me for my time and advice”, like monetising absolutely everything, even advice that might make someone safer. How do you know that person asking you a question isn’t worse off than you are? I totally get Black people charging white people for educating them on racism for example, but I am in a position where I do sometimes have the emotional energy and knowledge to give to someone when they ask me something, and why would I withhold that? Especially when it could help them? I really see ourselves as part of a collective, so I try to treat people with patience and kindness where I can.

Nothing But My Body will be available in Australia on August 3. Order your copy here.

Intro written by Alice Griffin, editor of this very site. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @_alicegriffin.

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