Twenty years later…

Time seems to pass so quickly and this all feels like it happened just last year, but this story unfurled a little over twenty years ago… starting around the middle of1996, maybe???  I had been single for while, I mean, not very long in the big scheme of things, but I was lamenting the lack of intelligent and refined young gentlemen in my general circle of acquaintance to a friend of mine, Peter.  It was a typical, ‘Where have all the good men gone?’ conversation – I was sick of meeting guys who couldn’t hold up their end in a meaty conversation, guys who didn’t know or care about anything outside their own small world, guys who wanted to get you into bed but who had nothing of any substance to offer you over breakfast.  Peter offered me a some very good advice: ‘You need to separate the wheat from the chaff.’ said Pete, ‘What you need is a good pick up line…’  I had no idea where he was going with this, but he then said to me, ‘Next time you meet someone, ask them what they think of the Chinese Government disbanding the Hong Kong legislature.’  I laughed in his face – Oh right… how is that going to help me meet an interesting guy?!

But over the next few months, I found Pete’s pick up line was extremely useful: I would be out with the girls at a bar, and a guy would offer to buy me a drink or we’d be playing pool or something, and I’d pull out my conversation starter, ‘So… what do you think of the Chinese Government disbanding the Hong Kong legislature?’  I got a lot of blank looks, a lot of ‘Huh?’ responses.  I got one, ‘Are you drunk?’, and one guy who literally just turned and walked away.  It turned out that Pete’s one liner was a huge success at getting rid of repetitive conversations about cars or surfing, etc.  So I kept it. And used it to good effect.

Several months after I started applying my pick up line to my all and sundry social interactions at the Alex Hills and Colmslie Taverns, (Yes, I know, in hindsight, there was my problem, right there!), my sister came home from her first Rowany Festival (a large medieval camping event that is held annually near Sydney).  She was full of enthusiastic stories about the tavern, the wars, the wonderful people she’d met, and all the general merrymaking and shenanigans she’d experienced.  She showed me a whole pile of photographs of armoured fighters all decked out for war, and medieval campsites, and costumed people playing games on the green… it all looked like a lot of fun.  She showed me one picture of herself with some friends, and I said to her, ‘Who’s he?’

She replied that his name was ‘William the Admirer’, but that she didn’t know his real name, and then she related a story where ‘William’ was engaged in a flattery competition that involved several guys who were engaged in offering delicate sentiments to compliment the Princess at the time, and how ‘William’ had declared to all that he would henceforth change his name to ‘William the Admirer’ in honour of the Princess and her beauty and accomplishments… or something like that.  I laughed, but at the same time was quite taken by the idea of a young man who could pull off something like that in a social situation, and told my sister that she should invite him to a party that we were hosting soon, so that I could meet him… and so she did.  Several times apparently.  Each time she saw him, she apparently reiterated the invitation and he had promised he would come so that I could meet him.

The party in question was one of our then, annual Tequila Parties (complete with sombreros, ponchos, heavily laced sangria, nachos galore and a pinata filled with alcohol minis and condoms!), and when the night in question rolled around, I kept an eye out to see if the young man in question was going to turn up… but alas, he never did.  So I did what every sensible young woman does when being stood up by a man who didn’t know he had a date – got blind rotten drunk to the point where I was doing tequila shots and thinking, ‘This tequila tastes strange…’ only to double check the bottle and find it was vodka!  After that, I pretty much forgot all about ‘William the Admirer’.

About a month passed, and my sister informed me that she was going to a housewarming party in Annerley and would I like to come? At the time, I wasn’t really all that keen on going a party where I wouldn’t know anyone, so I declined the invitation… and then she said to me, ‘That guy from the photo is going to be there.’  Oh well, in that case, I decided ‘What the hell.’, I’d go.

We went to the party and I met a lot of new people and engaged in a lot of small talk – as you do when you are surrounded by people who know each other very well, but who you know not at all.  They were all laughing and telling stories and I was politely watching the party warm up.  Several hours and several vodkas later, it was obvious that the elusive ‘William the Admirer’ was not going to be making an appearance – yet again.  So much for that!  Unbeknownst to me, he was on a date (Which was going disastrously – that’s what you get for letting your mother set you up on a blind date!), and he was probably delivering his unfortunate date home around the time I was rounding on my sixth or seventh drink*! (*important plot point)

I was sitting outside under the patio when I saw him enter the dining room and thought to myself, ‘Hey there’s that guy from the photo! Finally, I’ll get to meet him!’ This much I do remember… from there though, things get a little hazy and versions of the story start to differ.  🙂  Apparently, while I am thinking this, he claims to have been thinking, ‘Who is that short blonde girl in the pink jumper, outside?’ (Yes, somethings never change).  I’m not sure how we actually met, though I am confident no one made an actual introduction, but HE claims that he was standing in the dining room, talking to Stefano and that *I* came up to him in a very familiar manner and said, ‘Hello’, and put my hand in his pocket!  What a brazen hussy!  As I said, it was getting late, I had more than a few drinks, and my recollection is pretty sketchy but… it is possible that this occurred in this manner. I guess?!  :/  Stefano looks at him, he looks at Stefano, and they go, ‘Okay then.’

Over the next hour or so, I sobered up a quite a bit as we are exchanging pleasantries, and I think to myself, ‘I like him. A lot. He seems smart.’.  Still a little tipsy, I asked him a very important question, ‘So… what do you think of the Chinese Government disbanding the Hong Kong legislature?’ He looks at me for a moment, and then launches into a full-on dissertation on the political climate in China, and how the residents of Hong Kong are going to be affected by the move from English to Chinese rule and… I stop him right there, and confess that I don’t care, but I am won.  He knew what I was talking about and that was more than good enough for me.  🙂

We talked and canoodled until 5am, and three weeks later he declared he was going to marry me – to which I smiled incredulously and verbally patted him on the head by saying, ‘Ahuh, sure.’  But he proved me wrong and two years later we were married.

Mr K, I hunted you down from a photograph, and I am so very glad I did.  Sometimes the last twenty years feel as though they have been filled with more trials than triumphs, but the one constant has been us, and I am so looking forward to the next twenty years  <3

*and doubly glad that your date that night crashed and burned!  😉

yaleman

Ten years ago today, I found myself fronting up to start the first full time job I had had for nearly a decade working for a company I didn’t even remotely try to hide by calling it ‘Goliath’ on this blog.

Something like this is not ordinarily remarkable, but it coincided with a very difficult moment in my life… my father had just passed away from Motor Neurone Disease, and by ‘just’ I mean, yesterday – the day before I started this job, and my entire family was upset and stressed as all fuck.  There are posts about how conflicted I felt about taking the job in light of my father having just died, and how I didn’t want people to think I was a heartless baggage for going to work the very day after he passed away, but I also felt quite strongly that Dad would not really have applauded me for sitting around crying and passing up a job opportunity, when we were three years expecting his death…  As I said, It was a messy, emotional, stressful and fucked up week.

So on the Monday morning that I was starting that job, January 22nd 2007, I fronted up to a high-rise building in Roma Street for the start of four weeks of orientation/training . There were lots of geeky looking guys in my training group, who all seemed to know way more about what we were supposed to be doing there that I did.  I, on the other hand, was hired for my ‘customer service skills’, they figured (rightly or wrongly?!) that they could teach me the technical shit.  So there I am in orientation, feeling guilty about being at work and not at home with my family who were all still crying their eyes out, feeling a bit dazed after having spent all the previous day calling friends and relatives to let them know that my father had passed away, and feeling somewhat overwhelmed as a lot of the technical stuff they were teaching us was going over my head in my ridiculously stressed state.

On our morning tea break, I had to tell the instructors that I was going to need some time off on Tuesday afternoon to go to the funeral home, and the whole of Thursday off to go to the funeral, and they both looked at me like I had sprouted a second head and asked if I should even be there… unbeknownst to me, as soon as I walked away from that conversation they put bets on that I would go home that evening and never come back.

But come back I did, and I persevered through what was an extremely difficult week – both on the home front and the new work front.  After a few days, it became apparent to me that there was a stupidly tall guy with a deep voice and enormous hands, who had a slightly familiar look about him that I couldn’t quite place, who really seemed to know what he was doing.  I mean, the trainers were giving us information and then confirming with this guy that the information was correct.  ‘yaleman’ was his name, and I couldn’t understand how one of the ‘newbies’ knew what the hell they were talking about or why the subject matter experts, who were teaching us all these systems were deferring to him on their own training materials, but self preservation kicked in pretty quick and I decided I needed to be get to know him, because I knew I was going to need someone knowledgeable once we hit the floor and were dealing with customers!  It was a semi-calculated and mercenary move on my part… but I knew I needed all the help I could get if I wasn’t going to sink completely!

I actually used the whole, ‘You look familiar’, line on him, saying ‘Haven’t I seen you at a party at Blokenstein or somewhere?’ to which he replied in the negative, but I swear he seemed really familiar – it turns out that yes, I probably had seen him before, and potentially as much as eight years before, when I was a patient at the IVF clinic that his mother worked in… he used to come in after school and then commute home with his mother, and it is entirely possible that I saw him there in the waiting room on a number of occasions as I often had late afternoon appointments – but we didn’t figure out that connection for several months.

In the meantime, we were all let loose on the unsuspecting public, and I really felt sorry for some of the people who got me on the end of the phone – I sometimes took twice as long to solve their problems; issues that any self respecting IT geek could pick up in minutes would elude me completely, resulting in an hour long call (why the hell does Internet Explorer have a ‘Work Offline’ option anyway?!), but I was seriously thankful that I had yale on Dbabble (the inter-office chat platform) to help me with my curly questions.  I was constantly asking him how to do this, how to do that, how to use this program, what does this error mean… I still understood very little of how the whole shebang worked, but thanks to yale I learned the best place to start and the most effective order in which to work through each problem, and eventually got into the rhythm of the place.

All the while we were forming a friendship.  Him, being a typical IT geek had no idea whatsoever how to talk to women… Instead, he would ‘poke’ me as I walked past, making me start, and once sending my neck into spasms as I whipped around. I put an end to that poking nonsense pretty quick (mind you he still does it to other women he fancies that he has no idea how to talk to!).  We ended up working the same shifts quite often… this was not an accident, as my ‘phone a friend’ on the floor, I asked Rachel, who set our rosters, to put me on at the same time as him, telling her we commuted to work together.  We’d quite often do the 3pm-11pm shift and after that it’s hard to just go home, switch off and go to sleep, so we ended up hanging out after the late shift – he’d drive me home or I’d drive him home, even though we lived on opposite sides of the city, just for some company and a chance to unwind.

We’d sit and chat quite a lot and got to know each other fairly well.  Then came the crisis of yale’s flatmate moving in with his girlfriend, leaving him with no where to live.  I asked my Mum, who was still living in the granny flat under our house since Dad passed away, if she wanted a lodger for a few months while he got himself sorted… I think it was good for her to move back upstairs into the house proper, but little did I know he would stay for the next seven years!

Our friendship turned pretty quickly into something more, as we grew closer – until one night when I was dropping him home, he got out of the car and tried to say an affectionate, ‘Goodbye’ that came out, ‘I love you’.  I teased him mercilessly for the Freudian slip and he tried to claim that all his friends said that to one another but it was true.  We were forming a loving relationship based on friendship, attraction, respect, and his vast IT knowledge!  😉

Those early days were so much fun – that amazing time of getting to really know someone can be very heady, but also be pretty nuts. The few times we disagreed on things, yale would get all emotional and irrational and throw these unproductive tantrums, and I couldn’t stand it.  If he had his way, it would be raised voices, punched walls, slammed doors, and roaring off in the car up the street, followed by the silent treatment and a waiting for one party or the other to apologise.  The first time this happened, he got as far as the front yard when I told him that if he got in the car and left, then he should stay gone as he would not be welcome back.  If he wanted to continue to be in a relationship, then he had best come back inside, calm down and talk the issue through (I have no idea what the issue was). For all his high IQ, amazing capacity for knowledge and extreme proficiency at work, his inability to handle confrontation, and his non-existent conflict resolution and interpersonal skills were infuriating!  In his defence though, even Mr K who has crazy good communication and interpersonal skills, says I am very difficult to debate… Seriously, I don’t understand why these men don’t recognise irrefutable logic when they see it, and just damn well do things my way without an arguement – but so be it! 😉

We have since been through a lot together, in particular a serious car accident that turned us both upside down for several years, fucking with both, our ability to work and landing us with chronic whiplash problems… well, more problems in my case.  We have taken up shooting as a sport, and even though I will never ever be able to shoot as well as he does, I really love it and enjoy our trips to the range.  We’ve been going to the SCA together and my friends are now all his friends too.  yale has taken over the IT management of my house and I have no idea how to access my own router anymore, because I just haven’t needed to do it. He reaches high things, and lifts heavy things for me and I analyse work politics and translate what women say, for him.

Probably every six months or so, I would remind him not to get too attached and would prod him to really consider if he wants a ‘proper’ relationship with diamonds, and white picket fences, and children and happily ever after because I can’t offer him those things.  And every six months or so, he would tell me that he is truly happy and he doesn’t think he wants those things. I worry that I have given him unrealistic expectations of what intimate relationships are like, and now other women seem frivolous, jealous, unpredictable, and annoying or even disingenuous.  I don’t play games, and now he has no time for them either.

I never would have guessed that ten years later we would still be together.  It certainly wasn’t conscious planned and I have to acknowledge that all our lives would be a lot less complicated if we were all living a more traditional lifestyle!  I know some people don’t understand our choices and worse, understand them but don’t approve.  But I feel so fortunate to have yale in my life these last ten years… to have his love, his friendship, his support and acceptance.  He has taught me as much about myself, as I have taught him.  We have laughed, and cried, and encouraged and commiserated together.  It is an amazing privilege to be loved by him, he is a truly amazing person, full of generosity, warmth, strength and compassion.

yale, I know you will be reading this at some point… I think you know that you and Mr K are my rocks.  It is no exaggeration to say that I would not be here without you guys.  Some people never find one real love in their entire lives, and I am literally at a loss for words to describe how fortunate I feel to have found you both.  <3

Happy Birthday to Me

Getting older is inevitable I guess, and having birthdays is a good thing… especially compared to the alternative.  But some milestone birthdays throw us more than others.  I didn’t mind turning 30 the way some women do.  I didn’t even mind finding 35 or 40… but 45?  Hang on a minute, that is way too close to 50 for comfort!

It feels like it’s all crept up on me while I wasn’t watching.  The years have been flying past so quick they’re starting to blend in together.  Every time I find myself saying something happened ’last year’, I end up doing a double check and realising it was actually the year before. I remember as a kid, just a summer would drag on interminably… now Christmas seems to follow Christmas with indecent haste and you barely get a breather in-between!

We had the most fabulous night, and I think this was in part due to the fact there were no wasteful and unnecessary gifts that I was required to be all, ‘Oh, that’s lovely. Thank you’, while thinking ‘Why are you giving me this thing? Have you ever met me?’.  There was no awful cake ritual, with accompanying dirge of a Happy Birthday song; a practice I have always absolutely abhorred!  Actually I’ve never been big on the whole cake thing. I don’t know why we stop a fun social gathering, force someone to be the centre of attention while they proceed to blow germs all over everyone’s food with onlookers singing a dreadfully repetitive song that is anything but celebratory.  The whole thing is beyond my understanding.

Anyway, we had a bit of a Bon Voyage/Birthday party last night at a cool little wine and tapas bar in Wynnum, called Tide.  Mr K invited about 40 people and we booked out half the restaurant.  It was a glorious (if hot) day and Tide is built out over the water on a jetty, which meant lovely sea breezes and a beautiful view over all the yachts in the marina with their clanging ropes and masts.  Food was plentiful and the champagne was flowing… I think in spite of the fact that around half of us were driving, and many were drinking beer or cider, we knocked off about five bottles of champagne before heading back to our house to kick on.

It was supposed to be just a quiet afternoon of drinks by the bay, but once home, there was more champagne, a hastily thrown together cheese platter and music and good friends.  Before I knew it, several of us were dancing around the kitchen to Sisters of Mercy at 1am, more than a little tipsy, and having a grand old time on a school night!  Forty five?  Forty Schmive!

“And the devil in black dress watches over
My guardian angel walks away
Life is short and love is always over in the morning
Black wind come carry me far away…”

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that my headache this morning was well earned and well deserved…  and I’ve discovered, I’m not 25 anymore; so probably shouldn’t try and act like it!

I REFUSE!

andrea-mendez

When I was 5, I sat on the edge of my chair with my legs spread. I felt an itch between them, so I reached down to scratch, but my grandma grabbed my wrist to stop me and hissed: “Girls don’t do that!” I asked her why, because I had seen my father doing it, I had seen all the boys in primary school doing it, too. And it itched and I wanted to scratch it. Her answer was: “It’s just how it is. Girlsdon’t do that. Also, don’t sit there with your legs spread like that. Girls don’t do that, either.”

When I was 6, I spent a day on the beach with my family. I was excited about the new bikini my mum got me, but confused as to why she asked me to keep the top on when I went for a swim. She hadn’t made me wear it the years before, but suddenly, she was very fussy about it. “Look, I’ve got one on, too.”, she said to me. And I thought I understood: Women had to cover their breasts, because they were bigger than mens’. But I wasn’t a woman. I was a child. Later, I overheard a talk she had with my dad. “I don’t want old men to stare at her.”, she whispered. I interrupted them and asked her why she thought old men would look at me. Her answer was: “It’s just how it is. It’s because you’re a girl. And men do that.”

When I was 9, I got in a fight with my best friend. I went home and complained about it to my grandma, who lived with us. She told me I should have seen it coming. “That’s how girls are.”, she said. “A friendship between girls is always also a competition. Girls are jealous, manipulative and backstabbing. You can’t trust them.” But I had never fought with my best friend before and I knew we’d forgive and forget the next day, anyway. So, I asked my grandma why, and her answer was: “It’s just how it is. Catfights will happen. It’s normal. That’s how girls are.”

When I was 13, I fell in love with a boy from the neighbourhood. I couldn’t hide my excitement. He was on my mind all the time and I caught myself wishing we were together, so I could hold his hand and kiss him, too. I wanted to meet him, get to know him better, and I told my dad about my plan of asking him out. “Don’t do that.”, my dad said. “It’s not appropriate for a girl to ask a boy out.” Though I partly agreed, since I had never seen a woman proposing to the man in a movie, or read about a girl kissing her crush first, I still didn’t understand what would be so bad about being an exception, so I asked my dad why I had to wait for a boy to show interest in me in order to be allowed to openly requite it. His answer was: “It’s just how it is, darling. The man makes the first move. It’s always been this way. Boys like to conquer, and girls love being chased.”

When I was 17, I was part of a large group of friends. There was a boy who fancied me. I didn’t like him back, but I wasn’t used to anyone crushing on me, so I enjoyed the attention. He’d always tell me I was special. One of a kind. Different. “You’re not like other girls.”, he said. “You’re not a bitch. You’re funny, laid back, intelligent. You don’t just care about your nails or your hair. You get my sense of humour. You’re not like most girls. You’re my best guy friend. But with tits.” I was flattered in the beginning, but soon, I started to wonder if his compliments were any at all. I began to feel disgusted with him. I didn’t want to be his best guy friend with tits. So I asked him what’s so good about a girl like me, a girl unlike what he called a typical one, and his answer was: “That’s easy to explain. A pretty model type of girl is good enough to jack off to, but in the end, a guy wants some drama free pussy. You’re an exception. The majority of girls is superficial and slutty. The kind of girl you fuck, but dump when you’re ready to settle down. Or they’re just plain boring and prude. This sounds harsh, but it’s just how it is.”

When I was 19, there was a boy I regularly had sex with. It was nice. Not the breathtaking kind of passionate, ecstatic fucking I had dreamed of; maybe we lacked chemistry, maybe it would have been nicer if we had been in love; but I was alright with it. I adapted, obeyed and swallowed. Of course I did. In the beginning, he really put an effort in giving me what I gave him. He really tried. But his attempts at putting his tongue to good work quickly faded into halfheartedly rubbing me dry and at some point, he said: “I’m giving up.” I asked him why. His answer was: “It’s so hard to get a girl off. You women need ages to cum. It’s so exhausting.” I laughed and told him I needed about two minutes when I did it on my own. “Then stick to that.”, he said. “I’ve got a cramp in my wrist. Women are so complicated. It’s just how it is. I’m sorry.”

I am 20 now, and I’ve come to realize that my female identity has been shaped by a biased, hypocritical excuse based on ridiculous gender roles: “It’s just how it is.” All my life, I have asked them why, and all they said was “It’s just how it is.” And it didn’t matter whether I’ve asked men or women. Internalized misogyny is just as harmful. There were as many women as men who said: “It’s just how it is.” But that is not the answer I wanted. Not the answer I needed. These few words don’t fucking answer the countless questions concerning my gender identity.

Why can’t I sit with my legs spread? What’s so shameful about what I keep between them? Why must I cover my breasts? Why am I being sexualized long before I’m even told when sex is? Why am I being taught to mistrust other girls? Why do I have to compete with other girls? Why am I only a good girl when I’m not like most girls? Why do I have to keep quiet about the way I feel? Why am I not allowed to show affection like men do? Can’t I conquer a boy’s heart, too? Why must love be about conquering, anyway? What if I don’t like being chased? What if it scares me? Why do boys scare me, anyway? Why do you make me feel inferior to them? And why do I have to like a boy in order to be liked? Why am I being shamed for being a “slut”, them shamed for being “prude”? Why am I expected to adapt, obey and swallow without praise when boys who return the favour are considered grateful, dedicated lovers, heroes, almost ,because to the majority of them, it’s not fucking understood that if I make them cum, they should make me cum, too? Why am I exhausting to be with? Why am I complicated?

Is it because I’m a bitch? Because I’m an oversensitive little baby? Is it because I’m a slut? A prude virgin? Is it because I’m on my period? Cause women are just crazy? Cause I am jealous, manipulative, backstabbing, competitive or any of the other countless negative traits that are immediately connected with the female identity? All summed up, is it because I’m a girl?

I’ve asked them. And they said yes.

And when I asked “But why?”, they said it again: “It’s just how it is.”

“It” is that context, is a never ending circle of resigning acceptance of the circumstance that girls are being raised to disrespect their own gender from their childhood on. I was, and am, expected to accept the fact that being female automatically makes me inferior, and that I should be thankful for being treated equally, because that’s not the standard. I was, and am, expected to appreciate and take it as a compliment when people tell me that I’m not like other women. Because I was, and am, expected to look down on women even though I am a woman myself. But I refuse. I refuse to adapt, obey and swallow. I refuse to accept that “it’s just how it is”. I refuse to take this as an answer, and I will not stop asking why. I won’t ever stop asking why. Not because I want people to give me a proper response, but because I want them to question themselves, too. I want them to start wondering. Want them to start doubting the concept of the role I’ve learned to stick to before I knew how to spell my “typically female” name. I want them to think about it, lose their sleep about it, until they ask, too: “Why?”

In order to eliminate misogynic stereotypes, we must unlearn to understand them. We must refuse to accept “It’s just how it is” as an answer, until we forget what “it” stands for. Keep asking why, until nobody knows an answer anymore. “It’s just how it is” is not an answer. Neither is “It’s cause you’re a girl”. Or “That’s how girls are”. Because girls can be everything and anything they want to be. That’s how it really is.

—Mia Morgan, I REFUSE! A rant on how my female identity has been shaped by excuses and lies.

Artwork by Andrea Mendez (FB) and published here for safe keeping.