Saturday, September 30, 2006

Addendum to That Last Post

In case anyone is wondering, I don't think the guy is a schmuck for being low libido. Some people just are low libido, like some are high libido, and its not a character flaw or anybody's fault. I think he is a schmuck for making so little effort to meet his wife's needs.

It sounded like the sex therapy and the like was a long time ago and now he has sex with her once a year. Its him being so passive about the situation and making virtually no effort to meet her needs while claiming to love his wife that annoys me. I would have felt quite differently about the article if he had said:

Yet I have more interest in anything than in sex -- I'd rather clean out the basement than make love. So I don't really initiate, and I sometimes say no, but I try not to let her go without for long stretches. And sometimes I manage to enjoy it.

or possibly:

Yet I have more interest in anything than in sex -- I'd rather clean out the basement than make love. So once a week I go down on her or help her out with my hands. Its not my favourite activity, but I do it because I love her and I don't do it grudgingly.

or possibly:

Yet I have more interest in anything than in sex -- I'd rather clean out the basement than make love. So, by mutual agreement, she has a boyfriend on the side, purely in order to meet her sexual needs, and I don't make her feel bad about it.

Must... Kill...

I have just been reading C-Marie's latest poignant post and, oh, it hurt to read. It was so sad. But equally, I was slightly frightened by my own aggressive impulses. I just wanted to strangle JM and throw him out of the nearest window, however good a person and husband he is in other ways, and however much C-Marie may love him. Sorry, C-Marie.

Speaking of men like JM, there is a voice you don't often hear: the voice of the low libido male. Not many of them, I think, would have the guts. But was I grateful to hear it? No, this article, Not This Year, Dear made me want to scream:

I've never had much of a sex drive... after starting to live with my wife, once a night quickly yielded to once every few days, once a week, and now, at age 49, it's basically an annual event.

This guy claims to love his wife (and probably does) and to find her attractive. They seem to have tried a few avenues:

After just a year together, my wife was hotter-to-trot than ever, but I already regarded sex as more of an obligation than a pleasure. So we started a years-long effort to stir up my juices: going to bed early, varying positions, watching porn flicks, reading marital manuals. There was nothing for me in books, no matter how optimistic the title: "Rekindling Desire" rekindled nothing. Never did I have the urge to thrust her on the bed and make mad passionate love... Sex seemed like a big bother -- nothing more, nothing less.

They tried sex therapy, which didn't work:

We saw a big-shot sex therapist but were helped neither by the psychoanalytic explanations (e.g., a dominating mother) nor the exercises (20 minutes of non-genital touching with and without peacock feathers). The therapy's main positive effect was that as soon as we'd leave the therapist's office we'd laugh at his beside-the-point nostrums. His $115-per-hour fee wasn't as funny.

This particular quote made me think that Tajalude may also struggle with aggressive impulses if she reads this article:

I... can masturbate quite well, thank you. (Although such self-pleasuring always includes fantasies of women, it never translates to an urge to make love with real women. The work of turning a woman on usually is enough to dissipate what little lust had been aroused.)... Apfelbaum, of the sex therapy group, says many of his male clients exhibit a similar indifference. "Why bother with a half-hour warming up my wife and worrying about whether I'll be able to perform, when I can masturbate with no pressure in front of some babe on my computer screen?"

Now, I have no difficulty understanding why someone wouldn't want to have sex if they have an emotionally distant, inconsiderate or sexually talentless partner. I would rather have no sex than bad sex. But with this guy, emotional intimacy, his wife's level of a skill and a "happy" marriage seem to make no difference:

My wife, if I give her half a chance, is a good lover. And our marriage, outside of bed, is better than most. After 25 years together, we still would rather hang out with each other than with anyone else. Yet I have more interest in anything than in sex -- I'd rather clean out the basement than make love.

I am just wondering if his wife thinks she has a happy marriage. If she is happy.

You know, I do kind of feel for this guy. He seems to love his wife, he is articulate, he is emotionally open. He has tried, and it seems like nothing has worked. And I think the man does have courage to write such an article and, even more, to put his name to it.

So why does reading this article make me want to scream "Go clean out the fucking basement, then, you fucking schmuck! Enjoy!"

Friday, September 29, 2006

Getting Out

Getting out of a developing funk, I mean. A funk that was not exactly about google searches and this blog, but about feeling overwhelmed by sickness and all it brings - sadness, frustration, depression, money problems, spiritual anguish, and too much responsibility and too little sex.

And reading an article that says that 85 per cent of relationships in which one partner becomes chronically ill ultimately crack under the strain. Even though reading it depressed me, I love that article. It shows that at least one person out there knows what my life is like. How overwhelming it can be to have to do the work of two people - earning the living and running the household - and also the work of a nurse. How draining it can be. How overburdened the relationship becomes. How it can just suck the joy right out of you.

I'm not sure how I feel about that 85 per cent figure. Statistically, does it mean that my little family has approximately a 15 per cent chance of staying together? And I have to assume that at least some of those couples didn't have the additional issues we have, like post traumatic stress disorder and infertility. Should seeing that figure increase my determination that that won't happen to us, or should it make me realize that neither of us are saints and that even my best efforts may well fail? At the moment, it does both.

But, back to my funk. I seem to have dragged myself out of it by:

  • Sitting with the pain of all the things the Big Dude and I are missing for a while, and having a good cry
  • Masturbating to take the edge off the sexual frustration (no offence to FTN and others but, from my perspective, thank God for masturbation!)
  • Reading peoples' comments on my blog entry, and especially Dewdrop's comments here and here, which also made me laugh ( I don't know why other people complaining always cheers me up, but it does!)
  • Buying the Big Dude some particularly ripe, juicy mangoes (a treat he loves), holding him close and telling him how much I love him
  • The Big Dude telling me how much he loves me and thanking me for being so gorgeous - yay!
  • Playing tickle chasy with the Little Dude
  • Recognising that I am living with the pain and the joy of love.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Someone found this blog by looking up "sex starved wife".

This is something I never wanted to be. Not sex-starved, not a wife. Do people from other countries have that same old joke Australians have about how wife stands for Washing, Ironing, Fucking, Etc?

No disrespect intended to all the wives (and husbands) I know. After all, it looks even worse if you subtract the Fucking.

Which you would have to do, if you wanted to describe my role as a de facto wife at the moment.

WIE. As in WIE me, oh Lord?

Ever felt like some random stranger has just summed up your life without even trying?



Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Day in the Life

Now, there is a post I have been meaning to write, and I will, especially since I don't like to leave Freebird in suspense. But just at the moment, I really don't feel like writing that post. I feel like writing something else. And since blogging is basically an indulgence, I am going to write what I feel like.

Because I am having one of those days. One of those days where I wake up, the sun is shining, and for some reason I feel incredibly alive and remarkably happy. But also one of those days where my skin seems extra-sensitive, and I can really feel my own long, silky hair brushing against my neck, my breasts tingling, my whole body simultaneously happy to be alive and yet wanting so much more... yearning to be touched. I run my hands over my own breasts and thighs and stomach. Soothing, but not enough. But, instead of doing the obvious, I get on with my day. Because I feel so awakened that I just want to stay here, on that edge between desire, longing and... what?

I have lunch in a cafe, and there is such a beautiful man there. Normally, I am so deep in work-mode that I don't even notice, but today I do. He is one of those good-looking young students who brighten up so many cafes with their good looks, their energy, their optimism, their big plans for the future. And instead of thinking my usual "Hmmph! He'll learn!", I allow myself the indulgence so many men allow themselves. Of just looking at a young, attractive member of the opposite sex and melting into a little puddle of desire while he waits on me, so polite, so sparky and eager to please. I can feel the same fond and foolish smile forming on my lips that I have seen on the faces of my male colleagues, looking at the girls. So embarrassing. I wipe it off, and frown into my newspaper.

I am like this all day. Its part pleasure, part pain. At one point, I go through your blogs. Almost every single one of the posts there is about sex to the point that its slightly embarrasing, in case anyone sees what I'm reading. But one thing is clear: If I am a sex maniac, I am clearly not alone. Rather annoyingly, a number of you are having sex.

I go home. I am, at this point, almost quivering with the desire, the yearning. The postman may be in trouble today, I think to myself.

But of course, what I am feeling is not just the desire for sex, but the desire for my partner. And oh yes, I know what Digger means about the desire for comfort. If I can't have sex with the Big Dude, I at least so want the comfort of his attention, his voice, his arms, his touch.

But my Big Dude still has the same virus I am recovering from and is, as usual when he is particularly sick, regarding me as a cross between an unwelcome intrusion and a potential servant. He doesn't really want to be with me, that would be too much effort, but he does want me to cook dinner. I do cook dinner. I ask if there is anything else I can do for him because, you know, I do love him.

And even though I know he is sick, I still think quietly "Please notice me. Please love me. Please touch me. I would do anything for you, anything at all."

Instead, we watch TV. And the whole time I am thinking:


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What The?!... Help!!!

Okay, as you can see (scroll down), Blogger seems to have banished paragraph and separate line formatting from this blog. I have been backing up my blog by importing it all into Wordpress. Last night, after I had done so, I turned back to Blogger and all the paragraphs had gone!

What have I done? And, more importantly, how can it be fixed? It must be something to do with the template, right?

Digger? Rob? What does a woman need to do around here to get free technical advice?

This is not one of those times where the woman doesn't want you to suggest solutions to the problem and just wants you to listen sympathetically. This is one of those times when she wants the problem fixed! Please? Pretty please with honey and sugar on top?

Lady in distress! Knight in shining armour needed. This is an equal opportunity position and female knights are most welcome to apply.

In the meantime, out of courtesy to my readers, I have fixed the top few by hand. That last post was unreadable enough without extra help from Blogger!

A Pain in the Arse?

I am currently pondering a question we all come across from time to time - what do we say when someone we care about seems to be making a major life decision we may not agree with? When they (implicitly or othewise) ask us for feedback on their decision and we know they are really hoping that we will just straightforwardly back them and cheer them on?

When the issue for us is not so much one of approval or disapproval in some abstract moral sense, but more one of seeing certain dangers in the decision they may be about to make. Dangers which they themselves may openly acknowledge, but which we kind of get the feeling they don't want to see too clearly. When we think that they are making the decision in a sort of frenzy. When we think that, some time in the future, they may seriously regret that decision, which impacts on other people as well as on themselves.

I know that I am not alone in pondering this question. Dewdrop, for instance, was pondering something similar a few months ago.

Now the answer, at least to me, is clear. A different person might think that the answer is clear in a very different way: They might think that we should refrain from making comment on other people's lives that is probably unwelcome, even if we have been asked for our feedback. But the answer to me is clear in this way: If we care about that person, we should probably tell that person what we are thinking, as long as we are trying to be constructive and not just plain judgemental.

But how many times should we tell them? Is it the case that once is necessary, twice is perhaps desirable if we are still concerned, but three times and we are becoming a santimonious, judgemental pain in the arse?

I have some reason to think I may be verging on the santimonious, judgemental pain in the arse in this situation.

And what if we suspect that part of the issue is that this person just pushes a lot of buttons for us? That not only do we like them and relate to their dilemma, but they are making a decision similar to one that someone we still love once made and that hurt us very deeply? And, in fact, a decision similar to one that we ourselves once made and now wish we had done differently? That we ourselves once felt was so necessary, so urgent that we made it in a kind of frenzy, believing that it sprang from our deepest and truest selves? But that, as we kind of knew even at the time, did not reflect our beliefs, our values or even who we really were and wanted to be, at heart?

Is this a reason to back off, and even to apologise, knowing that we may have been pushing off some of our own baggage onto them? Or is this a reason to continue saying what we feel, partly from the belief that we should be honest as a sign of our respect for them and partly because we hope that telling them something we learned from our own experience might possibly save them much future regret?

Even if we, at some level, acknowledge that nobody can really tell anyone anything. And that, in some situations, maybe most situations, all advice is useless. In one of my favourite infertility blogs , advice is called assvice, in recognition of this great truth.

And what if we suspect that the essential issue for us is perhaps, ultimately, not what this person is doing with their life, but what we ourselves have done with our own life?

I know this is a very cryptic post. At least one potential reader will know what it is about. And perhaps for that reason it should not have been written at all. But it is not just about this particular situation. It is about something else that will have to be the subject of another post, because (saved by the bell!) my boy is starting to cry from overtiredness and needs to be put to bed for the night.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I Feel Pretty

Has anyone else noticed its getting kind of warm around here? LOL

Anyway, at the risk of losing any new male readers I may have gained through having a post entitled Sexual Fantasies, I would like to share with you the fact that I am currently prancing around our loungeroom in some lovely new clothes and feeling very pleased with myself.

Now, I mostly hate clothes shopping. I love to be comfortable and I hate to spend serious money on clothes, so I mostly live in jeans and t-shirts in my own time and work clothes the rest of the time. But the fact is that I haven't had new clothes for a long time. In 2003 and 2004, I was either planning or undergoing fertility treatment and hoping to be pregnant soon. Not much point in buying new clothes I was hoping to be busting out of. Then in 2005, I was pregnant. Not much point buying new clothes I would only wear for a few months. Then I was breastfeeding. Not much point in buying new clothes for a newborn to appreciate, and I hardly saw anyone else. Then I was enjoying gradually fitting into more and more of my pre-pregnancy clothes, and I didn't want to spoil that by buying new things - otherwise, given my official ban on the bathroom scale, how would I know if my post-pregnancy fat was shrinking or not?

But, a year after the birth, the situation has become urgent. Its one thing to be casually dressed, but its quite another for everything I wear to be badly faded, tatty or having mysterious breastmilk and baby saliva marks on it. The next level down is wearing flip-flops and curlers to the local shopping mall. I will not go gently into that good night. So I ventured out to the shops.

Now, I think that 35 years old is actually a slightly tricky age for clothes buying. An age when my standard still-thinks-she-hasn't-left-university casual and/or bohemian look starts to look a little ... undignified. So I was looking for something with a hint of sophistication.

And it was a truly depressing experience. The clothes on offer seemed to be more than usually hideous. Everything seemed to be designed for someone who is exactly like me, and yet tragically stupid and also blind.

And I will just never understand the retailers and designers responsible. The average Australian woman is a size 14-16. We are... voluptuous. The average age is not 15 years old. Hence, relatively few of us are interested in offerings like fat horizontal stripes over our rears and mini-skirts that show our knickers. And yet, we are also not pleased by boxy polyester blouses with wierd ruffles that make us look 20 years older and strangely like our own mothers in law.

We want to look pretty. And they, presumably, want our money. We are a match made in heaven, or at least in a capitalist economy. So why doesn't their desire to vaccuum our hard-earned cash out of our purses make them offer something decent? In three hours, I found only one thing I liked: a t-shirt. And it was $99! Are these people crazy?!

So, in despair, the following day, I went to my favourite clothes shop. The one where everything is more expensive than I can really afford to pay. And thank you, Jesus, they were having a sale. I could actually afford to buy some of their stuff.

And in joyous recognition that my life is in a pretty good place right now, I avoided my usual funereal black and picked a few nice things in colours like aqua and cherry red. And clothes that acknowledged the fact that I am a youngish looking 35 and not a schoolgirl or a grandmother. Clothes that skimmed my curves, rather than maintaining a death grip that turned them into bulges. Necklines that will earn me an appreciative grin from my male colleagues but won't actually get me followed home by strangers.

Oh, and I like them. I have been dancing around the loungeroom, singing "I feel pretty, oh so pretty, I feel pretty and witty and bright". And I do.

Now for the final and critical stage. Snipping off the price tags and calculating what to tell the Big Dude they cost. Because I find that my partner, bless him, while liking his woman to look nice, is under the endearing impression that I can do so for under $20.

So I am going to lie.

Do I feel guilty about this? Not really. I do believe in honesty in a relationship. Honesty about feelings, directions, plans, etc. But in relation to the price of female beauty, the truth can only hurt him. More importantly, the truth will make him retreat into a bewildered sulk that will only spoil my womanly triumph over ugly clothing.

The right answer, on the other hand, will give him a pleasing sense of masculine superiority about the fact that he cares nothing for fashion, and pride in the fact that his woman looks good, without leaving him with the displeasing sense of having been robbed. Which would be irrational, anyway, since I am the main earner around here. And he has no real interest in our finances. So I manage our money, and I doubt he is even completely sure what we both earn or could guess our average electricity bill within $200.

So a small, characteristically female, lie will, in my opinion, only enhance our relationship.

I think I will go for my usual automatic 20% discount on what they actually cost (in addition to the 30% discount from the sale itself). That way he will be agreeably scandalised, without actually feeling outraged.

See the pretty girl in that mirror there
Who can that attractive girl be?
Such a pretty face
Such a pretty dress
Such a pretty smile
Such a pretty me!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Sexual Fantasies

Has anyone ever noticed how wierd sexual fantasies are? And how our minds can get kind of fixated on the same old fantasies?

Now, sometimes this is useful. For instance, at times when I have been having trouble reaching a climax, I can mentally flick through my fantasy index, pull out one of the old reliables, and usually get off to it very successfully!

And actually, I find mine kind of entertaining. For instance, I am a historian by training, and so I am amused to find that quite a lot of my fantasies are about historical figures and scenarios.

There's one of my favourites, about being a young noblewoman in a castle with the young Henry VIII (you know, while he was still handsome and virile and a much-admired Rennaissance prince, rather than the tyrannical and murderous old hulk he later became). I am sitting in a chair, pracising the lute, and Queen Katharine and her ladies, except for me, have just left for a May Day picnic. And the king wanders into the room. Our eyes meet, and I see his look of desire. I turn away in confusion, and climb up on a chair to look out the window at the queen and the other ladies departing. And I feel his hand lift my skirt and travel up to my thigh...

Okay, another favourite. I have been captured by the men of a Turkish sultan, and sent to the harem to serve the sultan's pleasure. Even though I know that in real life the harem must have been an incredibly boring place, in my fantasies it is utterly different. There is something so erotic about the idea of semi-naked women sort of lying around all day, taught to please the sultan, and taking endless baths together, rubbing sweet oils on each other. Is it just that I find water so... you know... Anyway, my favourite scenario is that, when I am summoned, I find that a beautiful young man, with intense dark eyes and a grin like a pirate, has been chosen to "test" (taste!) the women to find which of them are good enough for the sultan. And of course, the test is how wonderful they taste, and how incredible their orgasms are... Guess who wins??!!


Is it just the fact that I am running a temperature that is making me so hot all over and my mind run with fantasies? Not to mention putting something this embarrassing on my blog. Now everyone will laugh at me!

And why always the same fantasies? Is this a female thing? Do men get fixated on the same old scenarios, even when they know how tired and cliched (not to mention Orientalist and non-PC) they are?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The House that Emily Built

Okay, there is something that FTN's comment-fest has brought up for me that I would like to share with you. Maybe this post should be called "The True Confessions of an Ex-Fundamentalist".

I was a pentecostal fundamentalist when I was in my teens. A serious one, too. A sort of trainee preacher. This was a very important experience for me, which has had a long term effect on my whole life.

There is a lot of speculation about why people find these churches appealing. People seem to assume its about the lively, rock n roll style music and the sense of security that people get from accepting clear direction and leadership.

But for me, it was always about wanting God. Wanting a relationship with God. And God, in the fundamentalist church I discovered, seemed to be a real presence, someone who was active in my life.

And for a few years, it worked. I loved God, and I knew that he loved me. My church friends were a great source of fun, serious conversation and support. I had a lot of trust in our leadership. I accepted rules and limitations about things like pre-marital sex as part of a bigger picture. They were a significant sacrifice, but a sacrifice I was willing to make. And I was so happy and proud when I was chosen to join the trainee ministry team.

But over time, the fact is that it didn’t work. As I grew up, became more familiar with the way the world actually is, it became increasingly clear that church teachings didn’t reflect that. They didn't reflect what most forms of knowledge tell us. They didn't even really reflect what I could see around me if I kept my eyes open.

And as I read the bible more and more, it became increasingly clear that the way the bible was portrayed didn’t add up, either. I always smile quietly to myself when someone accuses me of trying to wriggle out of what the bible says. Because they obviously don't know me well enough to realize that I would have liked nothing better than to find that the bible provides a clear set of statements about what to believe and what to do and not do. Instead, the more I actually read it, the more I found that the bible doesn't really provide a set of bullet-point beliefs and commandments. It was more like a library - a sprawling, contradictory, sometimes beautiful, sometimes terrible, library of stories, poems, parables, histories and other kinds of literature, from different times and from different places, with one great theme: God. Inspired by God? Perhaps. But at least as human as it was divine.

And part of the problem was language itself. Language, even biblical langage, cannot fully describe God. To get to the deepest truths, it ends up having to resort to metaphors, analogies, poetry and stories which point to the truth, but are not, in themselves, the whole truth.

For a long time, I repressed these thoughts. And I don’t think I was the only one. Over time, I noticed how much the church and I had a kind of siege mentality. We in here, we were okay, still fighting the good fight. Facts that didn’t fit were denied entry. People that didn’t fit were denied entry. Parts of ourselves and other people that didn’t fit we repressed ruthlessly. And, you know, I become obsessed with this kind of repression. The more I repressed, the greater my doubts. I no longer felt like a person who was growing in faith and maturity. I felt like a person who was trapped in a fortress, unable to see the sky or breathe God’s clean air, and just going around and around in circles.

And ultimately, I felt like a person who was lying to herself about what she really believed and what she really felt. And I felt like a person whose fortress was becoming a prison.

And, of course, a siege is always temporary. It always comes to an end. And when I could no longer deny my thoughts, I plunged into a prolonged spiritual and emotional crisis that involved pretty much everything – my sense of God, my beliefs abut the bible, about the world, about morality, about gender, and my sense of self. And especially my relationship with God, which I thought must be over. I truly believed that my grief and my loss of God were so complete that I would never get over it.

Now, I have known a number of people who have left fundamentalism behind. Most don’t seem to really move on, spiritually speaking. I have a close friend who truly believes that he is going to hell when he dies, and yet is still unwilling to go back!

For myself, I have been luckier. I have managed to assemble some of the bricks that made up my fortress and construct something else. Something that provides me with a home and yet doesn't shut out the world. Sometimes it looks well constructed. Sometimes it looks kind of gerry-built. But, you know, I can live in it. It has a lot of windows. And it can cheerfully remain in a neighbourhood that includes the lovely FTN and his commenters, without needing them to build something similar.

This house that I am building is not something that can be finished, you stick a fork in it and its done. Its always in process. This house involves a view of God that is much bigger than I would ever have allowed for as a fundamentalist. This house involves a view of the bible in which I respect it, not for what I wish it was, but for what I think it really is, and allowing it to still speak to me. It involves a more minimalist set of beliefs. It involves committing to always telling the truth to myself about what I really believe and about my own feelings. It involves working on becoming a more compassionate person, towards myself and towards others.

I sometimes call myself a "theological liberal", and it sort of fits, but I really only use the term to save my fundamentalist and evangelical friends the trouble. For myself, I don’t much care about the label. I believe that faith is about a relationship with God and, in that sense, as long as it is real and I am sticking with it, it doesn’t really need a certificate of approval from anyone.

And overall, the effects are good. I think I am a much freer, happier person than I would have been, had I stayed with fundamentalism. More importantly, I think I am able to be a more loving person, because I am more able to deal with the world, with people, with myself, as they are, rather than as I would like them to be.

I do not think that I am a very wise person. I had to laugh at something Trueself said once, which was that what she had in book smarts, she more than made up for in lack of common sense. Because I am the same. I have a lot of flaws that I am very conscious of. But I cherish the bits of wisdom I do have, because they have been so hard to win. And I am not going back.

And to paraphrase a great nursery rhyme: This is the house that Emily built.

And to quote a great man who also chipped away at a great edifice, only to find it tumbling around his ears: Here I stand. I can do no other.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Emily and the Little Dude have colds. Given that the Big Dude is always sick, we are one very sick and sorry household...

Also, Emily's blogging energies have been temporarily diverted to FTN's place, and discussions about God, the bible, homosexuality, gender, Christianity, the nature of sin, poverty... you know, all the big stuff...

Feel free to join in! Everyone else is!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me

I am 35 years old.

We have had a great time for my birthday. After all the excitement of the Little Dude's birthday, I really wanted a quiet one for myself, so we just gathered some friends and had a barbequeue at the local park. And enjoyed one of those moments where everything seems perfect - the sun shining, my friends and I gossiping together, the barbequeue sizzling, our kids playing on the swings and running around the park. I had vague thoughts about sex afterwards, but in fact we were both way too tired, so there was a quiet beer in front of one of my favourite TV shows (Elizabeth I - I love Helen Mirren) and a foot massage instead. Not too shabby!

And now, of course, I am pondering how my life is going. Last year, my birthday was the day I came home from the hospital after having the Little Dude. On that evening, we toasted the birth of the Little Dude and the promotion I had won two weeks before. As my partner said, at 34 years old, it seemed I had achieved all the things I wanted: "PhD, tick! Executive career, tick! Baby, tick!"

And in a way, its true. In the last ten years or so, I have:

· Lived in an intentional community for three years, where I learned a lot about spirituality and finding God in ordinary things
· Worked for a range of causes I believe in
· Nurtured some very good friendships
· Done a PhD
· Written a book and had it published
· Established a fairly successful career that includes at least some meaningful work that makes my country a better place and that can support my little family
· Finally, after many years, learned how to be mostly happy with the man I love
· Had a child

I am particularly proud of those last two items.

I know that my relationship has flaws and problems. But I am proud of the fact that, faced with issues of age difference and ageing, chronic illness, financial and sexual problems, the legacy of war, infertility and other issues, we are not only still together, but we still love and respect each other. We have taken a lot of hits, and we have faced them with at least some courage and a lot of love.

Am I imagining that many couples would have buckled under these things? No, I am not. I see enough of veterans' families to know that we have managed to avoid a host of problems like alcoholism, family violence, and the death of intimacy. Not to mention that, at the veterans' wives group I used to go to, I was the only one who was getting laid at all!

Fifteen years after we first met, we are closer than we have ever been, and probably happier together than we have ever been. I see my partner look at me with love and pride in his eyes. I look around at the couples I know, especially the couples with a background in the Vietnam War, and I know how lucky we are.

And our boy is my greatest achievement. I am so proud of him that I could burst.

It seems like a good list. And yet, I am haunted by the fear that it is not enough. That, at some level, time is slipping away, and with it the opportunity to do something great with my life. I am thinking about Andrew Marvell's poem To His Coy Mistress:

But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near

People talk about "fulfilling my potential". I want more than that. I want to exceed my potential. Just bound right over a thing as limited and boring as my potential. I feel like I should be pursuing some great adventure. Achieving great things. Curing cancer. Saving the world. And I'm not.

Not long ago, I read Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. It was a wonderful book, but what really made me think was a review of it I read:

This extraordinary and, in the end, rather frighteningly clever novel isn't about cloning, or being a clone, at all. It's about why we don't explode, why we don't just wake up one day and go sobbing and crying down the street, kicking everything to pieces out of the raw, infuriating, completely personal sense of our lives never having been what they could have been.

Is just learning to appreciate what I have, to see God in ordinary things, the right lesson to learn? Or is that just some kind of giant cop-out that is preventing me from doing something more?

And what would that something more be?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bad Poetry

The Big Dude said something funny last night.

He was watching over a big saucepan of hot water that he was supposed to be boiling on the stove for the Little Dude's bottles. It seemed to be taking ages. He looked at me and said "You'll come to the boil faster than this will."

And he was right!

Resentment through
Long, luscious

Experience of
Xtreme pleasure

Ha ha! I am a poet, and I did not know it!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Happy Birthday, Little Dude

My boy is one year old.

A couple of nights ago, the Big Dude said "Shall I wake you at 2:45am so that you can observe your anniversary?" For a moment, I didn't know what he meant. Then I remembered the begining of that long labour, and my body flinched and felt sick from the memory.

People say that women forget childbirth. I don't find that I have and, after what the Big Dude said, I found myself thinking about it a lot. I remember waking up to contractions that night that were only 2-3 minutes apart. I remember the long, long two days that followed, as I got stuck with contractions of a minute or more each, and only a three minutes apart, hour after hour. I remember, about 22 hours in, truly realising that this was going to be a long one, and sitting in a warm bath all night, trying to conserve every scrap of energy I had. I remember the intensity of the next morning, when they decided to break my waters and accelerate things. Incredibly strong contractions came one after another, without pause, and I was like a swimmer, spluttering and struggling to surface as the waves came crashing down.

And the blessed, blessed relief of the epidural. Apparently a man named Dr John Bonica invented the epidural. May his name be forever honoured.

I remember the exhaustion that hit me at about 30 hours. I felt like I had been running a marathon. And the worst part was that I couldn't drink anything without throwing up.

They turned the epidural off for the last three hours so that I could push, and the pain was incredible. But although I was prepared for the pain, it was actually the exhaustion and the thirst that really got to me. After 42 hours, and almost two hours of pushing, the Little Dude was still not coming down, so they drugged me up again and pulled him out with forceps.

I look at the photographs that were taken later that night, and am surprised to see that I look very alive, grinning with triumph, and it is my mother who looks as white as a sheet and utterly drained. Her mother died in childbirth, so I think watching things go wrong for me was very hard for her. For quite a long time afterwards, I felt quite traumatised by the whole thing. The trauma was part of the weepiness and disorientation of the early weeks.

But it was such a powerful experience. And, a year later, I remember the happy parts more. The excitement and euphoria I felt. Calling my mum and telling her it was starting. Laughing and joking with my mum and the Big Dude. Working harder than I have ever worked. Believing that I could do it. Seeing the Little Dude's face when they brought him to me.

It was the hardest thing I've ever done, and it was also the best thing I've ever done. I read somewhere once that childbirth means that two people are born: the child and the mother, and it is very true. I think the changes in my partner over the last year suggest that the total is actually three.

And the Little Dude has been such a source of joy.

I looked at old pictures of him yesterday. And I almost missed the little baby he was.

I wish that we could somehow turn back the last year and just have a few minutes with him again at every stage. Hold him again as a sleepy newborn, golden with jaundice; watch his constant kicking and waving of his fists a month or so later; see him learn to recognise us; feel again how light he was at four month old, and look into his slender, intelligent face; see him again as a plumper, smiling six month old; watch him grow strong and sturdy; watch him learn to roll, sit, crawl and walk again. Watch him learn to play.

I enjoyed each stage. But I feel like I didn't enjoy it enough. I worried too much. I tried too hard. I wish I could snatch all those moments back and enjoy them more the second time. But time keeps moving and he keeps changing.

He is constantly on the move, now. When I chase him, he bolts away, laughing and shrieking with excitement. Only last week, he was practically running as he chased magpies in the park. If you play the Beach Boys, he bends his little knees and bounces up and down, dancing. He has just learned to wave. And he is into everything. No bookcase or drawer or TV remote is safe from his eager little hands. And lately, he is babbling constantly. He still only says mum-mum and dad-dad and bub-bub, but he chats in his baby language so constantly that it feels like some kind of verbal breakthrough is imminent.

I bought him a little red push-along car for his birthday. It was a bit extravagant but, for some reason, after thinking all those depressing thoughts about September 11, war and death and destruction, I just needed to see my little boy having fun in a little red car. He was quite clever at pulling the wrapping paper off, very interested and excited, and examining it from every possible angle. And we had a small party with coffee and cake with our bowling friends. But the best part was pushing him along in his little red car, down to the shops. People stopped and smiled at us and waved to us. We were like a procession.

Happy Birthday, my Little Dude.


News flash!!!

The Big Dude actually initiated sex last night. He was tired, he was sick, and he had a million things to get done. But none of that stopped him. Who is this guy and what has he done with my partner?

And I got to be the one who was too tired and said no. So we rescheduled for tonight.

It was fun to swap roles for a change.

I am so proud of us.

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11: Five Years On

In honour of it being September 11 today, I went to see the movie United 93, the story of the one hijacked plane that never reached its target, because the passengers tried to overthrow the hijackers. It was a very powerful movie. I have seen reviews that criticised "inaccuracies" in the film (although its not a documentary, but a docudrama), but I found it very believable.

One of the things I appreciated about the movie was the hijackers were not shown as some kind of personification of evil. It did not justify their actions. It showed them working the controls of the plane with hands bloody from the passengers they had stabbed. But they were shown as real people. They were shown as pale, sweating, terrified human beings, just like all the other pale, sweating, terrified human beings involved in September 11.

That was part of the power of the film - the feeling that it was something like the way things really happened, and would probably happen again in similar circumstances. There was the early "Are you kidding me?" disbelief among the air traffic control people as they realized that a series of hijacks had taken place. There was the continual failure of communications and other systems between the air traffic control centres, the military, federal aviation authorities and others that was all too believable. There was the incredible, still somehow almost unreal sight of the other planes crashing into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. There was the gradual realisation of the United 93 passengers that any attempt to bargain with the hijackers or to rely on anyone else to help them was useless, that the hijacking of their plane was actually a suicide mission, and that they were all going to die unless they did something.

Of course, they all died, anyway. The last part of the film showed the utter chaos at the end. Everyone, the passengers and the hijackers themselves, was moaning, weeping, fighting and praying to their different gods. But they all died together.

I came away with such a stunning impression of confusion, destruction and fucked up-ness. The ideologies of any of those involved actually seemed kind of beside the point.

And, you know, this impression was not just about the movie.

I thought, as I walked away from the movie, about how horrible it would be to be trapped in a tin can, fighting for your life while you plummet towards the ground. I thought about how horrible it would be to be trapped in the World Trade Centre, with all the smoke and the flames as the building crumbled around you and you saw people throwing themselves out of the windows.

I thought about the young Australian, American and other soldiers in Iraq. Probably wondering, like my partner did in Vietnam, what the hell kind of choices we have all made that would bring them to such an alien environment, killing or being killed.

And, actually, I thought how horrible it would be to be an Iraqi civilian right now, too.

I thought about how the Christian and Muslim beliefs in a compassionate and merciful God seem to be fuelling all the killing. I thought about all the orphans, some of them babies like my Little Dude.

I thought about Bruce Springsteen's song Devils and Dust:

We've got God on our side
And we're just trying to survive
What if what you do to survive
Kills the things you love
Fear's a powerful thing
It'll turn your heart black, you can trust
It'll take your God filled soul
Fill it with devils and dust

Is all this fucked-upness really the best we can do?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Giving Good Oral to a Woman

Okay, this post will be something of a departure, in that I normally don't share the explicit details of anything the Big Dude and I do together. Because, well, I'm shy. Plus, there are nice Christian people who read this blog and I don't want to make them feel they shouldn't stop by.

But I heard something that made me tremble for the sex lives of young men and women today. I heard young women waiting at the bus stop talk about giving guys head as a casual thing, something that pleases the guy and adds to their own popularity, without getting any return on their efforts.

Oh. My. God.

Let's leave aside the question of whether these girls are old enough, mature enough, to be doing anything sexual at all that involves another person (although if they were my daughters, they would be grounded forever). How can it be, in this day and age of female liberation on so many fronts, of sexual information available so freely, that girls are still seeing their sexual role as providing some kind of service to mankind? Their own gratification as so unimportant?

I don't get it.

And, you know, it makes me worry for the young men, too, and their future sex lives. Because, as any smart man knows, knowing how to give good oral to a woman is one of the skills that every man needs to have. As the husband in one of my favourite episodes of the series Roseanne said, "You're going to flunk marriage if you can't pass the oral."

So, its clear that something must be done. That any qualms I might have are outweighed by the urgency of this problem. So, while recognising that every woman has her own specific preferences about this act, here is my advice to any man.

Start slow. And I mean, slow. Start with telling her how beautiful, how desirable, she is. With some tender, passionate kissing of the lips on her face. Touch her gently and yet with intent. Kiss her neck, her shoulders, her arms. Take her fingers and kiss each one. Kiss the palms of her hands. Lightly run your hands over her breasts, her stomach, her thighs. Let your lips follow.

Approach her most sensitive parts a little indirectly. Wait until you hear her gasp when you touch her.

Kiss her on the outside of her pussy, on her pubic hair. Rest your head briefly on her mound, and hug her body as if you are coming home after a long time away. Give a little sigh of satisfaction.

Almost all women have some degree of paranoia about how they smell and taste down there. Do nothing, and I mean nothing, to reinforce this paranoia or you may never be allowed there again. Make it clear that she smells good to you. Breathe her in. Tell her how beautiful her pussy is. Tell her how you have been thinking about tasting her all day. Tell her that she tastes like god. Tell her that if it was possible to pour yourself a cup of her juices, you would drink them down as the elixir of life, and ask for seconds.

Do not go straight for the clitoris. Try a few tentative licks down each side of the clitoris. Try a few more. Slowly get your lips as well as your tongue involved, stroking all around the clitoris, but not touching it yet.

With a soft, flat tongue, gently stroke her clitoris. Stroke it again. Move your tongue and your lips all around the area, just enough to make her wonder if you will ever come back to her clitoris because it feels so good. Let her yearning for you build, and then keep come back to her clitoris.

Give her ample time to warm up. Some women, maybe all women, take time to really get out of their own heads, to stop worrying about whether this is the right thing to do if she is single, to stop flicking through her "things to do" list if she is married and especially if she has children, to shut up the chatter in their heads about whether you are enjoying this, whether she is enjoying this, and focus on their sensations. She may not feel much of anything at first. It takes time. Do not rush her. Do nothing to suggest that you are tired or bored. Do nothing to imply that if she doesn't come in 15 minutes flat, she can forget it.

If what you are doing feels even slightly good to her, do it more. Just about the point where you are wondering if you have done it enough, remember that you are an aspiring sex god and do it more.

Make some good, slurpy, joyful noises, like you are eating the most delicious meal you have ever tasted, and just have to lick the plate and not bother with good table manners. Do not mention any developing ache in your jaw or tongue. Believe me, she doesn't want to know, whatever she says. Women sometimes feel obliged to act "unselfish" and feel that their partners shouldn't have to go to this level of effort for them. Toss any protests along those lines aside like the tired, worn out, sexist crap they really are.

As she warms up, try a few things. Try sucking gently on her clitoris to see if she likes it. Not all women do. Some of us love it. Vibrate your tongue all around the area, and on her clitoris, too, if she is ready. Don't hesitate to get your whole face in there. Do it until she whimpers.

When she starts to move her pelvis, to rock against your mouth, she is really getting into it. She is loving it. Do not stop. Do not think that now is a good time for you to stop and ask her to return the favour, or to put your penis into her vagina. That time is not now. Try putting the tips of your fingers into her vagina, instead, while still using your mouth, and play with the entrance. Do not push your fingers in deep. There are far more nerve endings at the entrance of the vagina than anywhere else - otherwise childbirth would be even more unbearable than it already is.

See if you can find her G spot. Its generally an inch or two in, and at the front wall if she is standing up. Try a few strokes, curling your finger towards yourself as if you were summoning someone to come over to you. And don't stop with the mouth action.

Sometimes if this is working well, it works almost too well. The pleasure can be so overwhelming, its actually hard to come. Taper off just a little. See if she wants to calm down a little.

If you stop and start the early phase of arousal a few times, working her up and tapering off a little, frustrating as it is for her, you are doing her a favour in the long run. She will come harder in the end. She will come so hard that her mind will go black and she will not know where she is. Of course, if she begs you to get back to what you were doing, ignore that last piece of advice. She is the expert on what pleases her, not you or me.

But once you get a serious rhythm going, once she is really moving against your mouth with intent, keep your movements the same. Do not vary what you are doing, and do not vary the rhythm. There is nothing more frustrating than when you are really getting into it and the guy decides to change what he is doing.

And when you feel that shudder start against your tongue, the beginning of her orgasm, do not stop under any circumstances. This is the major thing a man can do wrong in oral sex. He thinks that, because a woman continuing to suck when he is coming can almost hurt, she is the same. She is not. If you stop now, she may have to kill you.

Enjoy the fruits of your efforts, as your woman has a mind-blowing orgasm. Watch her face contort with that delicious agony. Stay with her until the end. But then, and only then, you can pause and feel a little smug. After all, you are now a fully graduated sex god.

After she has come, wait a few moments or even a few minutes. Let her come back to herself. Let her remember where she is. Let her remember who you are. Then gently kiss her pussy a few times. Even try a few gentle licks. If she moans, do it again. Start again. She will be so sensitive by now that the pleasure will be exquisite. Believe me, another orgasm will not take long. And each will be better than the last.

If you do something like this as a single man, you will no longer be single unless you want to be. Because word spreads, especially among women. This is the kind of gossip about you than you will enjoy hearing about. You will find that women no longer "just want to be friends". They will not be thinking about how it might spoil the friendship. They will be thinking about getting themselves a piece of THAT.

And if you are married, or attached, you will earn yourself one million husband points.

And your woman will, just for example and drawing on what has happened in our household this week:
· Finally start doing your laundry first, before her own and the baby's, just as you have been asking for for years, because a man like you must not be allowed to want for underwear and t-shirts
· Get you your favourite cereal, without serving it up with the usual lecture on its high sugar and salt content
· Stop complaining about your addiction to TV and somehow find the money to buy you that West Wing DVD you have been waiting for forever. She may even watch it with you
· Take the baby for the afternoon, so that you can watch the football in peace, with no interruptions
· Cease talking about how you don't meet her needs and how sometimes she thinks about leaving, and instead tell you every day how much she loves you and how handsome you are
· Stop slumping around the house in a giant hell-hath-no-fury-like-a-woman-scorned sulk and instead perk right up, skipping around the house and humming immortal songs like "If you want a do right all day woman, ya gotta be a do right, all night man" under her breath, giving an especially fine rendition in the shower.

And you will know that she is singing about you.

Friday, September 08, 2006


Heading south. Southern comfort. A night in with the girls. Letting your fingers do the walking. Paddling your own canoe. She-bopping.

FTN has kind of an interesting post on masturbation. I was about to just comment on his site, but I realized that anything I have to say on the subject is way too long for a comments section.

Those familiar with FTN know that he has sworn off masturbation, along with pornography. I don't quite agree with some of the things he says about masturbation. For instance, he argues that habitual masturbation can lead to a selfish sexuality and that he wants to be in control of his sexuality, rather than letting it control him.

This may well be true, but then, I think its also true of any interest that gets a little "out of hand" (wow, he is right about how hard, I mean difficult, it is to talk about this subject without double entendres). Any of these interests can become somewhat compulsive and interfere with a relationship. I have known wives of obsessive golfers who would be relieved if he took up masturbation instead - at least it wouldn't take so long or be as boring to watch! There seems to be no obvious reason why masturbation presents a specific, rather than a general, problem of the pursuing of interests that cut out the partner and ignore their needs.

To me, masturbation is just a natural thing. And its a very early impulse. I notice that my Little Dude already touches himself sometimes - sometimes for fun, and sometimes for comfort, particularly when he is a little tired and upset. He has a healthy and innocent interest in his little joystick. And, while when he is older we might have a little talk about things we do in private, I refuse to do anything that might make him feel bad about doing it.

Porn I feel somewhat differently about. I have issues with porn, although they are more feminist in nature to do with the types of choices women have, and especially the choices of the women who appear in the porn. Although it must be said that if I thought pornography would rev up my partner, I would cheerfully paper the bedroom with it and exploitation of women be damned!

Anyway, I respect FTN's choice. I can see why he is doing it (or not doing it!) and it seems to be having a positive effect on his relationship with his wife, his God and himself. Good for him.

Now, FTN has asked if I have seen a time, either in me or in a spouse or partner, that masturbation has seemed to become unhealthy or cause problems in a relationship? Either physically or emotionally?

Yes, of course I have. I think it would be a significant problem when a sexual relationship with a partner is clearly being replaced by masturbation, aka Tajalude's and So Gone's former situation and perhaps a continuing situation for C-Marie. Now, that would seriously piss me off.

But what if a person does not have a partner who wants to share their sexuality together? What if they do not have an eager, willing spouse who is waiting for an approach from a person who is already sated by masturbation? What if their partner regards what should be a shared joy as a burden or, at least, a responsibility they cannot fulfill?

In that case, I feel, masturbation is not a selfish activity, but a selfless one and an aid to the relationship.

I am not a naturally celibate person. But prolonged, and I mean very prolonged, periods of celibacy have been forced on me by my partner's illnesses. Sometimes years have gone by of having sex 2-3 times per year. I find that, while I can just about get by for weeks and sometimes months without sex, I couldn't do it without masturbation. To me, masturbation is a blessed aid in situations of prolonged, unwanted celibacy. It helps take the edge off. It gives me a way to meet a least some of the needs that my partner is incapable of meeting.

And masturbation meets a very specific kind of need and situation. I mean, my partner's illness also has an impact on his capacity for conversation. I would be very conversation-starved if I was relying on him. But I can meet my needs for conversation with other people. He doesn't mind that. I can chat to other people all day, if I like - face to face, on the phone, on the internet, any method of meeting that need for conversation is just fine with him. He feels very differently about my meeting my needs for sex with other people. Hence, masturbation.

And I do not think my tendency to grumpiness and resentment about lack of sex, and the effect of that on our relationship, would be helped by cutting out the masturbation. I think they would be much worse.

And, to tell you the truth, I do not think it is such a great idea for a woman who goes out to work every day and meets attractive men all the time, to leave her sexual needs completely unmet.

If I have any issue with masturbation nowadays, it is just that it is not enough. I can have very rich fantasies while masturbating that I thorougly enjoy. I can have very powerful orgasms while masturbating, sometimes more powerful than those I have with my partner. But I don't get that feeling of closeness and of intimacy. Masturbation, for all its joys, is a lonely activity. It is a substitute for the real thing, and I would dump it in a heartbeat if the real thing was available.

Now, I have a tangential thought to share with you. I did not find my churchy, evangelical upbringing, including its teachings on masturbation, helpful to healthy ideas about sexuality. I started masturbating when I was ten years old. Despite my many vows to abstain as a teenager, I was never able to stop for longer than a few weeks or months. All those teachings did was make me feel guilty and ashamed of what was basically natural. Not just guilty and ashamed about masturbation, but guilty and ashamed about having sexual desires at all.

And the thing is, I think that masturbation, as opposed to some of the feelings I had about it from that kind of teaching, was actually good for me. I think it is helpful for a woman, who is often dealing with men who know very little about female sexuality and have very stereotypical ideas about what "should" work for her, to know what gets her off and be able to communicate that with confidence.

And in many respects, I find these churches promote very unhealthy and unrealistic ideas about sexuality and marriage in general. They tend to promote stereotypes about the responsibility of girls to put the breaks on male sexuality - without more than the occasional nod to the idea that she has sexual desires, too, and that they may even be stronger than his. They reinforce quite sexist and unhelpful ideas about girls who have been "used" (a charming expression that was quite common among the men from our church) or not. I was quite shocked by the general disrespect of young Christian men towards women. And with the strong emphasis of these churches on waiting until marriage, they tend to push relatively young, inexperienced people, who are not really mature enough to choose a spouse, into rushing towards marriage.

And most of all, I think they promote quite unrealistic ideas about marriage itself. I think that my friends and I were really given the impression that a few years of difficult self-control would be followed by no-holds-barred, fulfilling, God-intended sexuality that would be all the sweeter for having reserved ourselves for each other.

I think most of us have found that long-term sexual relationships are far more tricky than that, and that we were quite unprepared for issues like differences in desire, the impact of children and mortgages, the possibility of traumas like long-term and serious illnesses, and the emotional and other kinds of abuses that can take place when one spouse feels "entitled" to sex because they are married. We regarded our singleness as our "tough" time sexually and marriage as an answer to all that.

And most of us found that we were like marathon-runners who thought the race was over when it had barely begun. We crossed what we thought was the finish line only to find that it was actually the starting post.

We used to ask each other if we believed in sex before marriage. Now, we would probably ask each other if we believed in sex after marriage.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Well, the Big Dude came home from bowling with the news that he had forgotten we were supposed to go out to dinner with his bowling friends last night. My heart sank, way below my boots. Several feet under the ground, in fact. I was about to choke out "okay", when... drumroll, please...

He said he didn't really want to go, and "especially not, given our other plans for tonight".

Now, the Big Dude is a very polite man, who is very conscious of social obligations. He doesn't bail on people lightly, especially not his bowling league. I was surprised and happy that he would do this for me. My heart bounced up from below the ground and began to sing.

And those plans were fully implemented. And they involved lovely, long, languorous licks applied to a certain sensitive region of my body. And they involved several surprisingly intense orgasms for me.

The pleasure was exquisite.


Major, major husband points for that man.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


In case anyone was wondering, he didn't forget. But he says he is very tired, he needs to go to bed early, and "faithfully promises" we'll do it tomorrow night.


Not completely unexpected, so why have my spirits plummeted down to my boots?

Must. Not. Overreact.

Monday, September 04, 2006

RIP Steve Irwin

Steve Irwin died yesterday. He was such an over the top version of a certain kind of "Crocodile Dundee" Australian that, to me, watching him was almost like watching a cartoon. But he was such fun, and such a positive guy, with a lovely young family. And with a marked physical resemblance to my brother in law, whose house is filled with injured animals, due to my sister's dedication to wildlife.

One thing a lot of people wouldn't know about Steve Irwin is that he was a serious conservationist. He and his wife bought large tracts of land in Australia and overseas, in order to preserve the environment.

He said:

... easily the greatest threat to the wildlife globally is the destruction and annihilation of habitat. So I've gone, "Right, well, how do I fix that? Well, making a quid here. People are keen to give me money over there. I'll buy it. I'll buy habitat.... My wife is an American so she's a good capitalist and she's very clever with money. So whenever we get enough cash and a chunk of land that we're passionate about, bang, we buy it. And what we're trying to do is we're trying to set an example to the world that every single person can make a difference.

Steve Irwin did make a difference. I will miss him.

You can find a link to a very good interview with him here.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Progress Report

Resolution #1: Exercising three times per week, eating no junk food, and having plenty of home-cooked food. Disaster on this one. I have hurt my back, which happens sometimes when I increase my exercise. So I tried to moderate my efforts and only went bowling this week. Even bowling only confirmed that I need to take a proper break. By the end of the week, I was limping and whimpering from the pain, and experience tells me that I need to baby it a little and give it a real rest. So I won't be exercising at all this week, aside from chasing the Little Dude around the house. Plus, my endless loads of laundry, which is quite a lot, considering we are on the top floor of a block of flats with no lift and the laundry is on the ground floor.

Just to compound my failure, I was so peeved about my back, so fed up about having to lie still on the sofa half the day, that I ate a packet of biscuits and some home-made chips, yesterday. I know. A shocker of a performance. Pathetic. I did do the cooking this weekend, though. AND I didn't drink any alcohol. I wanted to. I thought about it. I actually drove down to the shop to get some. But then I thought better of it, and walked away empty-handed. So a few brownie points for that!

Resolution #2: Having $100 per fortnight automatically deducted into an account that I don't touch. Yes!!!

Resolution #3: Doing something for myself every week that doesn't involve food and that feeds my heart, my mind, my spirit. I had a massage. A long, luxurious, fantastic massage that cured my limp and made the pain much more bearable. Oh, the joy, the pleasure, the relief! I love massages. Its possible that I believe massages are better than sex. I am basically a complete massage slut, and will cheerfully allow anyone to massage me. And a real massage therapist like Summer Rose is, in my opinion, a public benefactor. My own masseuse is excellent - such huge, strong hands, such willingness to get stuck in, and such skill! I was in the hands of a master!

Plus, given my treats have been quite highbrow lately and my limited ability to walk around at exhibitons and the like, I decided to mix it up and went to see Clerks II. I wouldn't say it was a great movie, especially compared to the original Clerks. But on the other hand, I laughed my arse off. Even at the disgusting donkey scene.

On a completely different subject, today is Monday in Australia. My partner said that he would be cooking up the tofu every week, and it will be a week on Tuesday. Will I say anything to remind him? Nope. If last week's blow up doesn't make him remember, nothing will. But will I be hoping? Yep. Unwise, I know, but hope springs eternal in this particular breast...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Happy Father's Day

Today is Father's Day in Australia, and I would like to wish all you fathers out there a very happy day.

I would like to wish my own father a happy Father's Day, but I don't know where he is. I know that he is in trouble somewhere in Asia - as per usual.

Now, my father has some fine qualities. He is clever, he is funny, he is warm, and he used to get so excited during family celebrations that he was like another kid. He could be great fun to be around. But unfortunately, his fine qualities are completely outweighed by his bad qualities.

You know that line about how fun it is when dad is like another kid? Well, its not that fun when its true. Not for us. And not for my mother, either.

The qualities that truly handicapped my dad as a father were his inability to buckle down and work at anything for any length of time, his chronic irresponsibility and his deep belief that if anything bad happened, it was someone else's fault. He was a very frustrated man, mainly because he was very bright but unable to apply himself and stick to anything. This meant that he was always in jobs that were way below his abilities and that he found utterly boring and pointless. A boring job and the demands of two children were too much for him. He would drink out of frustration and boredom, and he was a very nasty drunk.

I can't tell you how horrible it is to be a kid when you have a parent who is totally irresponsible. Because you have no power to confront him, no power to make him be the adult and no power to leave the situation. You are just at his mercy.

When I was little, the problems were comparatively minor. For instance, he would forget he had brought me with him to the shopping centre. One minute, I'd be toddling by his side, chatting away, and the next, he had wandered off. He would get distracted by, say, a record shop, and forget me. He would head for home without me. I would circle round and round the shopping centre, searching frantically for him, crying hysterically, for hours. Meanwhile, he would be chilling out at home, listening to his new record.

But of course, events like these just reflected a mindset that later caused much bigger problems. I still love my dad. I don't know why, but I do. But whenever I think of him, I can't help thinking of things like:

All sitting at the dinner table, trying to breathe silently, because dad was on the rampage, he had his "mad eyes", and the slightest sound could set him off.

The way he would rage around, frightening everyone, and if you went to call for help, he would pull the phone out of the wall, breaking the cable so that you couldn't call, kicking out hard at the chair you had been sitting on. It is truly terrifying to be a child in a house where an adult is out of control, because an adult is HUGE. Its like being trapped in a room with an angry giant.

The way he told me the problems in the marriage were my fault.

The way he threw things at me when he was in a bad mood.

The way I came to understand that I would never be safe with him, either emotionally or physically, because even the smallest problem or obstacle was too much for him and, when the chips were down, he would always put himself first. That he was a man so weak that, not only could he not protect me from anything else, he couldn't even protect me from himself.

The time my mother left for two weeks and he virtually disappeared, on a perpetual party. I was ten years old, and left to shop and cook for my sister and I alone. I remember wanting him to give me a lift home with the shopping because the shop was near his workplace and he had the car, but he wasn't there. I carried it all home on the bus. I still remember staggering under the weight of all those bags. I still remember the shame of people staring as a bag burst and the potatoes went rolling down the aisle.

The relief I felt when he broke his arm so badly on one of his rampages that he couldn't straighten it any more or do anything too challenging with it. I realized that I could out-run him, and that he couldn't really hit me easily. It made me less afraid.

The day he got extremely drunk and angry and started firing a rifle in the house. And when I called a friend to come and get me, he demanded to drive me wherever I was going, and said that if I didn't want him to, then I didn't love him.

The day he told my sister that she deserved to have been raped.

How, when he finally left, I was partly relieved and partly inconsolable. It was easier without him. But his leaving proved to me what I had always suspected: he didn't love me. And I wasn't interesting enough or lovable enough to be worth hanging around for. I had always wanted his love, I had tried to please him, and now even the possibility of that was gone.

He went overseas and, although he promised almost every year to come back for visits, I didn't see him again from the time I was sixteen until I was thirty. He spent that time travelling around Asia, getting women pregnant and abandoning them and the children. And contacting us mainly when he had gotten into trouble and needed help - usually money and someone to negotiate with the Australian Embassy because his chaotic life and bad behaviour had landed him in jail over there. Again.

When people ask me about my childhood, I often don't know what to say. I wasn't beaten (aside from some pretty heavy "discipline" with the buckle end of his belt). I wasn't really abused, in the sense of "serious" abuse. A friend of mine's father sexually abused her and her four sisters and, compared to him, my father was a saint. But I felt neglected, I felt frightened, I never felt safe, and I felt unloved and finally abandoned.

I believe my father has an undiagnosed mental illness of some kind. He told me once, in a moment of rare honesty, that sometimes he saw things, and heard things, that weren't there. That sometimes he believed that people were against him, were persecuting him, when they really weren't. But the next time I mentioned that conversation, he denied it had ever happened. And its hard to tell how much of his behaviour is due to his illness, and how much of it is due to being a chronically irresponsible and self-indulgent shit.

For myself, I developed a belief that I admit is not completely rational or fair: that fathers are not very relevant unless they are good fathers. If your own father is such a liability, such a chronic source of disruption and sadness and fear, then its hard to believe that some children aren't better off without their fathers. And a number of my friends have also had "bad" fathers - abusers, drunks, violent men. Or just "hopeless" fathers - who can't take any responsibility, are no help at all, and when they finally leave can't even bring themselves to pay child support. Or even just fathers they are not close to. Fathers who are distant. Fathers they just can't communicate with and don't understand. Fathers who probably love their children, but don't know how to show it.

To this day, the most baffling thing to me about men is the relationship so many of them have to their own children. I know that there are bad mothers, too. But they just seem so much more rare. Bad fathering, or even just inadequate fathering, seems so common. What is wrong with them? I just don't get it.

And I get angry. I want to say to these bad fathers: Fucking the mother of your children doesn't make you a real father. A tiny piece of DNA is not enough of a contribution. If that is all you are willing to throw in, please, just don't do it. When I see those little neglected children in public sometimes, the ones who clearly haven't had a bath or seen a hairbrush or a toothbrush or clean clothes in a long time, who have that pale and neglected and unloved look, who are toddling hopelessly after their drug addicted parents, I want to swoop them up and take them home with me. But I don't do any of those things, because that would be acting like a maniac.

And, you know, I also see good fathers. Fathers who love their children so devotedly and tenderly. Who tell their children how beautiful they are and how much they love them. Who care for and protect their children. Who are patient and kind with them. Who make sacrifices for them. Fathers who bring tears to your eyes with the reminder of what a wonderful thing a good man, and a good father, can be.

Fathers like my partner.

During the pregnancy, my partner seemed somewhat distant from me and our baby. I worried about the sperm donor issue, and whether it would bother him and interfere with his bonding with our baby, despite his assurances that the biological link wasn't that important to him. And I was so excited to be pregnant, and yet so apprehensive, that I kept looking for him to share the experience with me. And its not really that he didn't. But he is a very low key person generally, not very excitable, and he was like that about the pregnancy, too. He thought it was wierd that I poured over those "your fetus this week" development sites, and over pictures of developing babies in the womb. He didn't get all excited about every aspect of the pregnancy like I did. He couldn't get worked up about it unless there was an actual task for him to do. So, I was a bit concerned.

But from the moment our boy was born, once the baby was actually in front of him and there were things to do, things that needed to be done, he was utterly different. He sang to him, he played with him, he showed our baby in every possible way how much he loved him.

We call my partner The Dude, partly because of his love of bowling and of the movie The Big Lebowski, and our baby the Little Dude. The Big Dude and the Little Dude are such a team. They are together all the time, just playing and hanging out. The sight of the Big Dude and the Little Dude together is my favourite sight in all the world.

But more importantly, my partner is totally responsible. He doesn't just play with our baby and do the fun stuff. He doesn't just give him his bath and a story and think he's done his bit. He also does the nappy changes, the bottles and the night shift. I can leave our baby with my partner with complete trust that he will look after him as well, or better, as I would myself. Nothing is too much to ask, where our baby is concerned.

Seeing what an excellent father my partner is definitely makes me love him more. Our boy has brought out both his fun side and his responsible, stoical, protective side. My partner can play like a child, but he can work and protect and nurture like a man.

My boy is very lucky to have such a great dad.

And I am very lucky. It heals something within me, some wound my father left me, to know that my partner is such a great father to my boy. Like a link has been broken. Like a curse has been lifted.

Happy Father's Day, Dude.

Friday, September 01, 2006


No, not that kind of satisfaction. I'm talking about job satisfaction.

And actually, although you wouldn't know it from reading my blog, in some respects job satisfaction is more important to me than sexual satisfaction. If you asked me about my fundamental self image, until very recently, it would not have been She Who Loves, or She Who Mothers. It certainly would not have been She Who Has Sex. It would have been She Who Works.

Because I am one of nature's workaholics. I love to work hard, as long as I believe I am achieving something. When I have no meaningful work in my life, I drift aimlessly. When I am working hard on something I believe in, although I bitch and moan about the hours, I secretly like it. And my partner knows it. He says that there is an Australian army saying that applies to me: "A bitchin' soldier is a happy soldier" (ie a bitching soldier is not currently being fired at or walking through a mine field - that soldier has the leisure to complain about the food, the heat, etc).

When I am working hard on something that truly challenges me, that demands all my capacities and energy, I feel that natural flow from the universe, like a creature that is doing exactly what it is designed to do. I hum like a machine on song.

I had great news yesterday. As you know, I work in the government. And I have had a win. A policy I have been writing and trying to get accepted for the past six months looks like it is going to go through. This represents the final stage of a project that has consumed almost two years of my working life.

Now, this is one of those irritating bits where I have to get vague. You know, where I cannot reveal the specifics. But my policy area is quite controversial. And the changes I am trying to introduce are also controversial. There is no way it will go through without substantial public debate, media coverage and a very pissed off minority. And, inevitably, the final product will contain some things I am not so crazy about. But I truly believe that the overall result will be good for the country in the long run.

Wins like this don't happen very often. As I think I have said, years can go by before they happen for you. Actually, I have been lucky in that I have had more wins than average, and most of them have been of the "warm inner glow" variety that clearly make the world a better place and make me feel good about what I do. A lot of government people would be jealous of the little roll I have had on for the past few years.

This is not really my most satisfying win so far. My best win was a few years ago, when an analysis of mine led to a very substantial sum of money being applied to a very big problem, and as far as I could see it was spent in pretty much the best possible way. The second was a huge source of satisfaction to me. Its one thing to get the money - its another thing to see it spent well. Government wastes a huge amount of money. Every time I see even a few thousand go on some worthless project, mainly due to political patronage or bureaucatic laziness and inertia, I think about what the local cancer ward or children's hospital could have done with that money, and I get angry.

So part of the reason I am so proud of my previous win is that it satisfies my inner perfectionist to see a job well done. And it satisfies my inner efficiency nazi to see the money well spent. To get the biggest possible bang out of the smallest possible buck.

But most of all, I still rank that as my best win because thousands of very vulnerable people have benefited from it every year. A group of people I did my PhD in, interviewed at length and find very easy to envisage. A group of people who, when I feel down, when I feel frustrated, when I feel like a failure, when I question whether I should be in the career I am in, I can think of and know that I have already done some good. Because although I am sometimes perceived at work as kind of driven and bloody minded, maybe even a little callous at times, I am basically a softy.

So I am very lucky. And while this latest win of mine doesn't involve practical help for a specific group of people, it does address some real problems. And I have a sneaking satisfaction about what it means for my career. My previous big win was great in personal terms, but in professional terms it was largely anonymous. I may have done the key analysis, but the final product was officially co-written (even though mostly written by me) and only a few people will ever know that it was me. And that's a good thing. Bureaucracy is all about team work. Its all about discretion. A wise bureaucrat aspires to be as faceless a bureaucrat as possible. A bureaucrat who is on TV is generally in trouble. A bureaucrat who is on TV is generally being made a scapegoat and is about to be burned in effigy.

This one is different. I was able to lead the analysis of problem, manage all the people and the complex processes involved in examining the existing programmes, write up the analysis of emerging trends to show why we couldn't just go on doing what we usually do, and now am in the final phases of writing the public statements and making final programme changes. I started this thing, have led it from the beginning, and am about to see the fruits of my labour.

I got my big promotion out of that process. A promotion I was interviewed for two weeks before my baby was due. A job interview I did when I was so huge I did something I rarely do and really applied some serious makeup, hoping to attract their eyes up to my face. Hoping, you know, that if I just acted naturally, no one would notice that I was not only pregnant but about to give birth any moment!

And I have finished the process while working part-time and looking after a baby and my sick partner. Circumstances that a lot of people would predict would stuff my career don't seem to have stopped me. Instead, I have hugely increased my skills and confidence in the last two years.

And I feel good about what I think the results will be. I believe they will be good for Australia. Now, I dislike flag-waving. Nationalistic ceremonies usually see me getting irritated at the parade of opportunistic politicians and muttering about how patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. But I am quietly proud of my country, with all its flaws. And I am quietly proud to contibute to it.

And, you know, sorry about all this boasting. I'm aware that this is not my most attractive mode. But this is the only place I can really do it. At work itself, I will have to be murmer humbly about the honour of the thing, and talk loudly about the contribution of the whole team, some of whom were actually more of a liability than a help.

This is the one place where I can say YAY, I DID IT!!!

I am very happy.