Pulling Pints in my Pants : Life as an Outback Skimpy Barmaid
It all started, in the way that many terrible ideas do, with a pint. An innocent pint, mind. The kind you have on a Wednesday afternoon when you should really be doing something – anything – else.
I’m in a beer garden in Melbourne with my hostel roomie, two months into a working holiday visa in Australia. I am 24 years old. He’s telling me about a friend who made a dick-ton of money taking her clothes off in the Australian mines. Of course, at this point, my mental imagery of this culminates to that of a dust-laden stripper writhing around in a cartoon mine cart whilst Dopey and Bashful thwart seemingly enthusiastic gestures of lust in her direction with a pickaxe. As it turns out, that wasn’t how it went at all. None the less, sold on the idea, I decided to jack in my job at a beauty clinic in Melbourne, pack up and fly out to Perth to try my luck as, what would later transpire to be, an infamous “skimpy barmaid.”
Skimpy barmaid (noun) – also known as “bikini barmaid”, “skimpy” (and probably other less savoury names, let’s be honest.)
Description: Young lady who serves booze in their underwear, generally for the delight of men based in mining towns where there are no women, naturally making a fair wedge in the process.
And so off I went. A week later I was stood in a fancy house in a Perth suburb perusing a rack of gold sequin camo mini skirts waiting for my first audition with one of the two main agencies in Perth – a company imaginatively called “Babes.”
“Well, you’ve got fat legs,” she said “but I think your face makes up for them,” remarked Pam, a straight-talking Sheila who clearly was not in the business of pedaling dreams. Had I not been half naked in a strangers house I might have had the thought to contest, but I, in a freshly purchased $12 Target cami set, was in no such place to argue. I would have been more scared about the ordeal of parading around sans clothes had it not been for the fact I’d been assured that most girls who did this kind of thing were just average girls, who happened to be naked. As I too happen often to be naked, so I figured I might as well.
To my surprise that evening Pam had text me to offer me a job that evening doing a topless bachelor party in Perth. And suffice to say from that point onwards I was thoroughly out of my depth and subsequently put on to the revolving rota.
To explain a little about the tradition of skimpy barmaids – and it is a tradition – skimpy barmaids are only really found in Western Australia, which is where a large proportion of Australia’s mining industry is based. Once upon a time, there would have been a hell of a lot more than there is today, now it’s more of an offshoot from the former glory days of the gold mines and the wild-west style carnage that once ensued. Now you need licensing and permits. Hell, there’s even a dedicated dress code complete with legal minimum underwear lengths. I shit you not – a skimpy barmaid was fined not that long ago for being caught wearing knickers that didn’t cover her arse cheeks (which is a bizarre legal requirement.) With that said – I have seen some shit that you would be hard pressed to find a permit for, and might even bring a tear to your eye, in the shadier establishments that make up the sparsely spattered lay of Western Australia’s regional towns. Much of this can be adequately summarised simply by the term “naked handstand.” – Enough said.
Very shortly later came my first night on the job. One of the perks of the job was free travel and accommodation – so I was shipped off on my first assignment. I picked up a nameless ticket under the reservation of “Babes” from the ticket office in Perth, receiving a knowing look from the cashier, who had clearly seen it all before. I was off to a small town called Geraldton, or “Derro Gerro” as it’s affectionally termed by those who don’t have the misfortune of actually living there. I’m shown to my room above the pub. The pub is your typical soul-less country affair that looks like it hasn’t seen so much as a coaster replaced since the 1970’s. You have to hand it to regional Australia, they’ve done a bloody good job of preserving a world gone by – arriving in a regional town of 600 people is like stepping back in time. I genuinely once heard a woman in a similar small town over in Queensland explain direct debit like it was black magic, but that’s another story.
I’m waiting to go down for my first shift. I’m stood awkwardly shuffling from side to side in front of the mirror. “What are you doing?!” I think. I suppose it would be one thing to do this kind of thing anyway say if you were – ya know – the thin, care-free, cracking pair of tits kind or something. But me? I was chubby, self-conscious and nursing a life long attitude problem; not the best of candidates. None the less the clock hit the hour and I knew I had to go downstairs. I took one last look at myself in the mirror – declared “fuck it” and saddled on down to my date with destiny.
Bar-maiding in Australia is actually quite a taxing job. Not only because they drink like fish, no. But also because it requires a certain degree of mind reading, calculated guesses, abbreviations, weird names and extreme air conditioning. To explain – not only was I required to be half naked, but I also we required to work the bar just as well as any other barmaid. You will never know cold until you’ve plucked frozen glasses from a chest freezer 30 times in a row in nothing but your birthday suit.
In an outback Australian pub everyone knows everyone, and everyone knows what everyone drinks and everyone drinks the same thing all the time, more or less. This might sound easy but being told once what someone wants and then expected to serve them the same thing every 5-minute interval for the next 6 hours is actually quite challenging. Did I mention I’m half naked? Anyway, on top of that add the fact you need to bring it to them as they are finishing their current drink. Not too soon so it gets warm, and not with any more of a delay than 60 seconds so they aren’t waiting. Add on top of this that many people drink “ponies” – a glass smaller than a half pint. Multiply the crowd by 20 – 30 and you see where the problem starts. Oh, and did I mentioned I need to be charming? So there I am naked, trying to be charming – cold, confused, trying to remember if Johno drinks a pony of mid-strength or a midi of light – and you see the problem. Thankfully shifts are only 4 hours long, so I was able to drag my poor, cold, sexually harassed self to bed in a timely fashion. And that was my first day as an outback bikini barmaid.
Little did I know the fun had only just begun. After my shift the next day I received a text message from Pam to tell me that if I wanted to I could go and co-host a bachelor party later that evening.
A random man came to pick me up in a “ute” (pickup style truck that handily comes with enough space in the back to dismember a body, hide it and then drive it out to the middle of the desert for the buzzards to strip bare) and drove me to what appeared to be a village hall. There I was met by another girl from the agency. After a quick stop off in the toilets to spray my boobs with hairspray, I was ready. Being as this was a private party we were being paid quite handsomely to be there – $100 AUD an hour. I cracked a beer and went to circulate, under the impression I was literally just being paid for my presence. It was weird. Just me and this girl – in our pants, of course, in a village hall in the middle of nowhere with 50 drunk men. I mean it’s the kind of scenario you would probably try and avoid in any other circumstance. The guys are all very nice, thankfully, but when you’re being paid to be naked you forego the right to have men look you in the eye. I’m not a very sexy person (as you may well know) and so trying to be a sex symbol did not bode well for me. Swigging a beer and talking to one guy about the quite frankly inadequate sound system wasn’t getting anyone hot, so I volunteered to help with some party games.
It’s midnight, I’m up a step ladder in the middle of a village hall in regional Western Australia, pouring beer into men’s mouths as they lay on the sticky vinyl flooring below. I’m several men deep in whats become a line, and I’m wondering how the fuck I ended up here. Aren’t most people off picking brussel sprouts at this point in their Australian working holiday visa? Either way, when I eventually make it down from the ladder I’m met by a man who’s offering me “anything you want” PER HOUR to take my top off. Fair enough, I reckon. $250 for half an hour, I say in jest. Two minutes later I’ve got $250 cash in my hands and I realise I probably should have gone in higher…
10 mins later I’m circulating the village hall sans top. A weird environment to say the least. I talk to men, they don’t listen. Just stare. I guess that’s fair enough, but I had a cracking comment to make on the recent political stance of something or other. No one cares. The girl working here with me produces a cucumber – I SHIT YOU NOT – from her purse and invites me to go to the front of the room with her to “put on a show”. If I wasn’t out of my depth before, I certainly am now. Alone, cold, semi-naked, confused and with the prospect of a cucumber I look on from the sidelines in horror as said-girl puts on a “show” – as it were. Fair play to her, she was a brave girl. Also, quite clearly off her fucking rocker, mind. I never saw her again. But I hope whatever she is out there that she knows that I will never, ever look at a tuna salad baguette the same way again.
I feel like I should end the story there, as quite frankly I can’t remember what played out past that point apart from me trying as best I could to blend into the darkness until it was time to leave.
I went home – showered – and congratulated myself on a most ridiculous evening, possibly of my life. One that would probably stay with me for some time – like a venereal disease – like it or not.
The following day I made it out of Gerro. Morning dew glistened on the asphalt as we whizzed along tumbling sand dunes that line the highway, where man meets nature. As Geraldton ebbed away into the distance, I felt strangely proud. Even if I never did it again, I had done it. I, a girl with fat legs but a complementary face, had tamed the wild beast of man and gotten my tits out in a public forum. I’d also made a cheeky thousand dollars in the process.
The next day, back in Perth, I caught the train nine hours inland for my next job – to a place affectionately termed “Little Las Vegas”, but that’s another story…