Happy Together: Andi Saskia x Harry Brown
In this instalment of Happy Together, we take a walk around Melbourne, Australia with Andi Rezki Rina Saskia (Saskia) and Harry Brown. Both the same age, Saskia is an Indonesian-Dutch photography student at Deakin University. Harry, is a born and bred Australian A/V production student at RMIT University. They’ve been together for one year, and theirs is a relationship explicitly tied to the city of Melbourne, analogue photography and the cultural intricacies of falling for someone completely different to you without a damn.
Talking shop with Saskia and Harry through Melbourne’s streets – the bits that made it the most liveable city in the world, not the clichéd, gentrified, Instagram stuff– is a lot like a Master of None episode. Everything is a sensation – and all the stories are stupendously cute. You expect Aziz Ansari to show up somewhere in the story to dish about a great Italian restaurant off St. Kilda, almost.
The two met at a monthly analogue camera photo-walk (I know, right?). Harry, who has never done photography at that point thought it would be a cool thing to go to with a friend. Cue an awkward pseudo-meet cute with Saskia, and by awkward – we’re not talking Richard Curtis-style gosh-golly awkward – in fact, it’s a pretty cringe-y start.
“He tried to approach me, but then he just stood right next to me and just looked at me and smiled without saying anything,” Saskia says.
“We had that awkward five seconds of just smiling at each other, so I thought I should say hi or something, you know, trying to be nice. I went “Hi, I’m Saski, how are you?” then we started talking,” she says.
Thankfully, this story didn’t end up with Harry creepily stalking Saskia, and Saskia didn’t pepper spray Harry the moment he made a move. Rather, they hit it off, getting along really well throughout the photo-walk – and went on a Flinders St Station date immediately after (“We were in Flinders St Station. It was raining and we saw the whole Swanson St with the lights and the buildings, it was like a rom-com.” Saskia, on their first date).
Despite their relationship progressing strength-to-strength, it was never labelled, and they never had the urge to do so until very recently. Traditionally, fuzzy relationship boundaries are a frustrating experience. Indeed, there always is a ‘talk’ that establishes the girlfriend-boyfriend marker (personal experience puts this usually in the six month mark), but they just didn’t bother – and they’re totally cool with it.
“Basically since the first time we met, we just spent time together almost every day,” Saskia says, “We hung around, we started holding hands, we did very couple-y things but we never really said that we’re a couple outright.”
“We technically never officially started dating,” Harry says, in total agreement with Saskia. “But after a while it’s just like, yeah I guess we’re together so whatever. All good.”
Often times, a photographer’s muse is the person he or she is in a relationship with. From photographer Eric Kim with his girlfriend Cindy to Japanese photographer Masahisa Fukase with his then-wife Yoko, Man Ray with Lee Miller, Jacques Henri Lartigue with Renée Perle and so on and so on. As a photographer, Saskia has tried to incorporate her loved one into her photography.
But Harry Brown is not exactly Cindy, nor is he Yoko, Lee or Renée.
It’s not for lack of trying on Saskia’s part. “As much as I love to use him as my object for my photography, especially for assignments, it’s really hard for him to maintain a pose or a face without smiling,” Saskia says.
“He’s good looking–” Saskia says, immediately turns to Harry and squishes his face while saying, “You have a cute smiley face.”
“But,” she says, here’s the kicker, “He just stands there, smiles really awkwardly, doesn’t know what to do with his body and can’t keep a face without smiling.”
“I’m not photogenic. Photos of me never look great,” Harry admits.
He’s no model but Harry has a deep curiosity and interest in photography (he did go to that photo-walk in his own volition). In fact, the two always bring their cameras whenever they go out.
“I’m really glad that he wants to know what I’m doing because we can go out and do stuff that both of us really enjoy,” Saskia says.
But just like any couple, they sometimes experience friction. This happens whenever Harry has never-ending technical questions about cameras, which can drive Saskia up the rails.
“But I’m like… ‘Harry, as much as I love photography, I don’t know everything about every single camera’,” she says in faux frustration to Harry.
Of course, as an interracial couple, one would expect Saskia and Harry to deal with some intercultural hang-ups on the regular.
But, unlike what the numerous hot takes on interracial dating would like you to believe, it’s not been a thing with the two of them. Outside of weird Australian slang (look up the sentence: “I’m not here to fuck spiders.” Yep, you read right.), they’ve never had any significant culture shock.
“Sometimes when he says something, I need to ask him to explain what does that mean in a full sentence, and it means something completely different. “You know, it’s just a saying, you know”,” Saskia says, to Harry’s chuckle.
“You had to learn all the Australian slang. That’s fun.” Harry says.
“The slang. I don’t know what to do with the slang.” Saskia says, in frustration.
“But you’re not too different from Australians, you don’t have a radically different personality.” Harry says, comforting Saskia. “Like, you’re getting there, you’re pretty much like an Australian.”
But as always, families do throw a wrench in the works. In Saskia’s family, there’s a certain “weirdness” about ethnicity – particularly about the blasteran (half-foreign) heritage.
“My mom is Dutch-Chinese-Indonesian and she’s just obsessed with dating and marrying a white guy to keep our Dutch heritage going, because she didn’t end up marrying one,” Saskia says.
Things went so far as when just before Saskia went to Melbourne, she was treated to a quick tarot session by her mom’s friend. Surprisingly, calling the relationship months in advance.
Hilarious, we know, but later on we realized just how much Saskia’s mother wanted her daughter to date a white guy (she whooped when she heard that Saskia was dating Harry). As an Indonesian girl with Dutch familial heritage myself, I was taken aback hearing Saskia’s story. But knowing the Indonesian view of interracial relationships as “marrying up”, I can’t say that I’m surprised.
Harry’s family was similarly well intentioned - but a bit more taxing.
“Personally, when we go to have dinner with his family or something, sometimes I get a lot of really general questions that starts off with ‘I don’t wanna sound racist-’ but are racist,” Saskia says, but finding it difficult to phrase the situation politely.
“Sometimes they’d say something about Indonesia that’s actually pretty racist. But I also know they’re trying to be nice to me so… I’ll bear with it,” Saskia replies, with a small hint of defeat in her voice.
“I don’t really care about what they [his family] think.” Harry says, defending Saskia. “Just as long as they’re nice, we won’t have a problem with anything,” he says rather simply.
In September, the couple is going to Indonesia for a wedding in Saskia’s family. They are currently struggling to decide whether Harry should wear a Batik shirt or a suit (He’d look good in both). But other than that, what happens next can’t be seen far beyond the trip, especially since Saskia’s visa expires in two and a half years – to which Harry candidly responds, “So I definitely have to go and marry her.”
How would you describe each other in 3 words?
Saskia: Cuddly. ‘Cause he’s tall but his tummy is really big. Cute. I mean look at those cheeks when he smiles *melts*. And… a butthead. ‘Cause you can’t be perfect you know, he’s still annoying. He’s a butthead to me.
Harry: I never heard you use the word ‘butthead’.
S: Your name on my contacts is Butthead!
H: My few words would be: Interesting. That’s why I got together with her in the first place, she’s an interesting person. Sociable. She’s really good at making friends and I admire that, like everyone she meets she gets on with. And… positive. She’s just a very positive person.
What places do you recommend going in Melbourne?
H: In terms clubs, Revolver Upstairs, undoubtedly. That is our second home.
S: I think for bars it depends if you want to get cheap drinks or if you want to get “the vibe”. If you want cheap drinks, you can go to Backpackers Club and meet a lot of backpackers or you can go to Asian Beer Cafe with cheap drinks in a really hectic situation.
H: You can go to Brunswick.
S: Yeah, Brunswick around Sydney Road. There’s Cornish Arms – pretty cheap.
H: Corner Hotel is pretty alright.
S: Corner Hotel is nice but not that cheap. There’s lots of concerts going on there.
How does living in Melbourne affect your relationship?
H: We always go out all the time and just walk out the house, get some food, see a movie, there are bands constantly playing shows.
S: Or more randomly, I would cook something for you, Indonesian food and do some grocery shopping.
H: We like to go out to eat a lot, mainly Korean food.
S: I just moved here and never really went around a lot so he can take me to a lot of places. He'd say, “Oh, you wanna go to this bar? It’s a cool bar” or “Let’s go to this park, it has this, it has that.”
What’s it like to date an Indonesian girl?
H: I’ve never dated an Indonesian. I mean, it’s fun, the food’s really good, her accent’s cute.
What new things have you learned?
H: Ayam Bakar. Bangsat lo. Bolah?
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