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In My Skin

Kate Holden. Amazing woman. Amazing story. I just read her memoir In My Skin. I got goosebumps reading the life of this literate woman whose addiction to heroin turned her into a prostitute. A dream, a hell, a messy life, a living lie. But every account of her life makes you ponder and think.

Kate's book, to me, sensitised the subject of an addiction and a profession not in normal society. When I think of a drug addict, I automatically think of a person whose despondent life, broken family or very unhappy circumstances make him/her so vulnerable to drugs. Not Kate. Born to succesful, loving parents, living in an affluent suburb, she studied in the university and had all the intelligence to eke out a successful career for herself. So what went wrong?

Growing up, shy Kate was a bit of a prude. She wanted to belong to the world of drinking, smoking, the hip environment instead of "hovering on the roudy fringe of teenage conspiracy." She resented the confidence among her peers and the idea of sex was frightening. Until she met James and "love ran through her like sunshine". But it was a love that would also result in her own destruction.

James was a heroin addict. Of course, he did not want her to even touch it. But Kate wanted to belong to his world. So one lazy afternoon, left on the lurch, alone, while James touched base with his cosy group of addicts, Kate made a decision. She broke free from her mental shackles and had her first taste of heroin. "A swooning rush, a halo of glamour," Kate finally arrived in the world of bohemianism, and it enveloped her for years to come. James got out of his own addiction after rehabilitating himself, while Kate plumbed to the nadirs of heroin addiction. They broke up because he got clean and moved on. Kate only degenerated. She resorted to stealing, lying and finally, prostitution, to fend a habit that had become her way of life.

In Melbourne's St Kilda's Street, Kate earned her bread and butter and then graduated to a classier brothel in the city. Not that her life got any better because by then she was supporting another partner who lived off her earnings as he too was an addict. Helpless, Robbie became her liabilty. But Kate's life as a prostitute tells a thousand stories. And in the five years that she was a prostitute, Kate's attitude to this profession is remarkable. She says her vanity grew with time, so also her humour, that she could help people and give them more tenderness. She wanted to give the best. An attitude that won her some good friends in her clients.

But it is the consistent faith and support of her family that finally lifted Kate from this messy life. She slowly took methadone as a replacement for her heroin addiction, egged on by her mother. And in nine months and after five years, Kate mustered the courage to leave Robbie, her prostitution, her present... to pick up again the threads of a life she left eons back. Then she backpacked to Europe. A year after that trip, Kate emerged as a new woman, cleansed of her past life. The result is her memoir In My Skin. And, she, heralded as the new talent in Australian writing.

The hours seem like eternity for some, for others it is just not enough.


Laurie B said…
Iloved this book too. found it so moving reading her personal story.. and you are correct, not all drug addicts and prostituts come from disadvangtaged backgrounds

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