Before 30 June hit in 2019, before I published my book,  I booked myself in to attend the Ubud Writers’ Festival.

It was my motivation to make sure my book was done.  I wanted to rock up as a legit published author, push through another imposter syndrome chitchat layer of “you shouldn’t be here” and learn a few new skills. Can you relate to the imposter thing?

I wanted to make sure I kept pushing myself to be brave, as it had been a while since I had ventured off anywhere completely alone – no kids, no brave bestie, no one but moi.

To make sure I didn’t just stay socially introverted holed up in my beautiful room in Ubud organized by my bucket of sunshine friend Kylie, I enrolled in a “writing for comedy” class.

Which is where I met 76-year-old Pete. From Darwin. Larrakin is a good word for Pete.

Anyway, as things would have it, the comedy class encouraged us to come up with five things we love, five things that annoy us, and five things we don’t understand. 

My list included a reference to my time in the land of online dating and fish pics.

I mean, fish pics (and the odd chicken pic) were so rife, I wondered if it was some kinda throwback to a primal hunter gatherer thing, and if I should have posed with a basket of berries and a loaf of bread to show off my gathering skills. Who knows. Last time I had dated, the only dating filter that existed were beer goggles on a Friday night at Metro’s.

Needless to say, this prompted conversation from Pete on my current relationship status, and what I should do about my problem.

Now at this stage, I had opted to be done with everything and just go about focusing on my joy (surfing and ocean swims), and just let it go. I’d written a post surrendering everything – that’s a whole other story.

Ubud is a funny place. Spiritual things happen. You have a habit of making friends with strangers, meeting and getting hugs from people who are spitting images of your much loved and very deceased nana, and randomly bumping into them at other spots, which is what happened a few days after the comedy workshop at a book launch in a cafe.

Cue Pete. Token Bintang singlet. Boardshorts. Flip flops. Happy well weathered and lived-in face, climbing over chairs to come and enlighten me.

Pete: “Belle! Belle!” I figured it out!!

me: Hey Pete, what’s up. What did you think of this book launch?

Pete: Yeah mate good. Book launch was a bit shit, but anyway, I know what your problem is! And I know how to fix it.

me: Oh really?

I’m extremely curious, as I don’t really feel I have a problem. I’m happy just doing life, and letting life’s plan unfold.

Pete: You’re an 8!

I have never been “graded” before, so my face is a bit “what the fudgemonkey” perplexed. I don’t know whether to be flattered, insulted, or what.

me: excuse me?

Pete: You’re an 8! That’s your problem!

me: Ummm. Thanks? I think. Do I have a mumstache going, is that holding me back from being a 10??? Or…

Pete: Nah nah nah. It’s why blokes aren ‘t talking to ya. You’re intimidating.

Now, I’ve heard the intimidating word before, and to be perfectly frank. I find it hurtful and insulting. It generally goes “men will think you are too successful and they have nothing to do for you, so you should try to be a little more damsel in distress” or “you are too tall” or “you are so capable, you don’t need anything, so why would they chase you, they feel threatened.”

me: Oh right. i’ve heard that before.

I smile and eyeroll at the same time.

Pete: What I mean is, if you were a seven, they’d come and talk to you. So you need to give blokes an opportunity. I reckon. (Pete takes a rugby tackle stance like someone is about to pass him a football) you need to y’know. Bump into them. Like hip and shoulder them.

Now Pete’s intentions were to help me. He was big-hearted, fatherly, and genuine.

me: thanks Pete, but I’m not doing that. I’m not making myself small for someone else I want someone who is brave enough to come and speak to me. I want a warrior who is ok with standing beside me, not someone I have to hip and shoulder. That is not my person. (yes, I said warrior to Pete).

Pete: Well, Belle, I reckon you should go the hip and shoulder. You’re a good egg, but I don’t think anyone is going to have a crack.

me: hahah good one. Thanks for the advice. I’ll catch you round!

As I leave, Pete calls out “hip and shoulder!”

For the rest of my Ubud stint, each time I saw Pete, he’d bump me & say “hip & shoulder” & I’d reply “not. happening. Pete!”

Fast forward and I have a spoiler alert for Pete.

Someone did come and chat to me. In my coffee shop. After I’d been surfing and cracking jokes about hoop snakes, looking like a total soggy moggy. Maybe Pete would say it was because I wasn’t looking an “8” that day. Maybe Pete was right. Maybe I was right.

Maybe, just maybe, when you focus on loving your life and filling your own cup and doing the things that are good for you and make you happy, maybe that is where the secret lies. No hip and shoulder required.

What do you think? What advice would you give to the singles braving it out there as we head toward Valentines Day?

Let me know below

Yours in awkwardness & bravery,

Belle xx