Can a Teacher Pick up at Schoolies?
As a high-school English teacher, my plan to participate in schoolies as a “toolie” (Australian slang for opportunistic sex-predator far too old to be celebrating their high-school graduation) was both unprofessional and creepy. An infamous Australian rite of passage that sees thousands of new high-school graduates getting drunk, drugged and dirty from the Gold Coast to Bali, schoolies is in theory reserved for tireless teenagers. I pictured myself sifting through the dank dance floor of The Bounty, Bintang in hand, while people young enough to be my students parted like the Red Sea to stare at my frown lines. Yet, thanks to the duality of society’s gender expectations, I felt that a female toolie might just get away with it.
I wanted to test this hypothesis with a trip to Kuta. Having several times been mistaken for a student within my own classroom, mingling with the schoolies and gauging my reception among them based on my appearance alone was not going to be enough. To develop an accurate idea of their opinions of 26-year-old females attending schoolies, I was going to strike up conversations with them and reveal my age once the ball was rolling. Even better, I would tell them I was a teacher. There were two possible outcomes to this experiment: age would be seen as no barrier and my ego would be inflated, or I would spend the rest of my time in Bali seeking out cheap botox.
I dutifully put on my denim cut-offs. My hair looked like slightly oily straw, but at least it carried enough chlorine and salt water to anchor it against the humidity. I was ready. With my boyfriend’s blessing (“Haha. You creep.”), my friend Jenni and I set out to submerge ourselves in the experience that is Schoolies.
We step into Legian Street. Drunk teenage boys in Bintang singlets steer their scooters through the unending flow of girls in crop-tops and Birkenstocks. The hot air throbs with horns, yells and Top 100 club remixes.
“Sluts!” an Australian boy yells at us as he whizzes past. Must be Jenni’s new cornrows.
12:30am: A gurning man who looks about 30 tells us he knows a good place to go. We follow him into The Engine Room. Staff members welcome us by blowing whistles in our faces in an attempt to create rave vibes. The ceiling drips with hundreds of disco balls. Through the dark and the laser lights, we can see the raised stage complete with stripper poles. Boys and girls twerk and swing. A Balinese man dances alone in a cage. The bass is so loud that I can feel my organs vibrating, and I am intermittently startled by the DJ’s gratuitous use of the air horn. One man tries to ballroom dance with me, so I evade him by heading upstairs to a room called “The Blue Arena”. At the top of the stairs, a guy pulling his top up around his chin bumps and grinds me towards the large fan unit, and encourages me to do the same – “Look! It’s cold!” I try to initiate conversation, but it is impossible over the blaring air horn. Jenni and I leave The Engine Room – I can’t test my hypothesis in a club where I can’t be heard over the bass.
1:40am: We enter the bottom level of The Bounty; it is depressingly empty. A lonely foam machine vomits greasy bubbles into a fenced pen below. A handful of male schoolies are running and sliding from one end of the pen to the other, while wet girls watch on, giggling. Realising that I’m struggling to get results, Jenni morphs into pushy wing-woman.
“Have you met my friend Kate?” she asks a young man with long, foam-wet hair dripping over his tie-dye t-shirt. The three of us sit down with a drink.
“26?! You’re a teacher? That’s so funny. I just left school. I can’t believe you’re 26. You don’t look that old. You’re from Tasmania? Do you have webbed toes?” He seems more concerned about the inbreeding of my ancestors than my age, but it is Jenni that takes his eye. Within a few minutes they are making out. Must be the cornrows.
2:20am: Jenni and I are downstairs at The Bounty, playing pool with our new friends (a group of local men that we seem to have amassed). I spot a target – a topless young man with curly shoulder-length hair bouncing out from underneath his jauntily angled cap. He and his friends are from Sydney. They gesticulate wildly as “Na na na na na, it’s the motherfuckin’ B.I.G,” comes over the sound system.
“Are you with him?” they keep asking, pointing to the Balinese man who has been trying to kiss me for the last half an hour.
My target is waiting for his turn to shoot, scratching his nuts through his red shorts. The silken-furred top of his arse crack is visible above the elastic waistband. He turns to me.
“How old are you?”
“You’re so old.”
“Yeah, I’m a teacher.”
“What do you teach?”
“I hate English. Where are your friends?”
I gesture towards cornrows Jenni, towering above our Balinese friends as they crowd around their pool table.
“They’re your friends?”
By this point, the target looks so disturbed that I feel it is best to evacuate. Clearly, age (and possibly race) is a barrier for this young man.
3:00am: We are back in The Engine Room at the insistence of our local friends. The short one is still trying to kiss me. A schoolie wearing a backwards cap and a personalised basketball jersey comes gyrating towards my leg. I back away.
“Have you met my friend Kate?” I hear Jenni say as she pushes me towards a lanky boy who has deemed a t-shirt unnecessary, but sunglasses a must, for indoor evening wear. I escape, edging my way around to the other side of the raised stage. From my right, a young man wearing an Obey trucker cap and a peach string-singlet stalks towards me, trying to put his hands on my waist.
“How old are you?!” I try to yell over a remix of Silento’s Watch Me Whip. Unable to hear me, the boy simply edges further into my personal space. It is time to abort.
I grab Jenni, who is relieved that we are finally able to abandon this mission. We share a scooter back to the appropriately named GrandMas Hotel. What I had envisioned as a hilarious and personally validating social experiment had left me feeling bleak, awkward, and way too old for this shit.
The Verdict: No – not if you disclose your age. I had wrongly assumed that the sexually voracious male schoolies of Kuta would be out for anything they could get. Not quite anything, apparently. It would seem that female toolies are considered a little creepy after all. Praise the younger generations and their dedication to gender equality.
Photos by Nat Kassel