The 1990’s decade dawned as I waited to celebrate my 40th birthday six weeks later, feeling renewed inspiration for life in a very different direction. Alone and about to embark on a 12-month study program for a secondary teaching qualification in politics & history, I had also abandoned all unrealistic fantasies about meeting a man as a partner to accompany me on the twisting and turning highways in front of me.
Throughout my twenties and thirties, I still contemplated my sense of being Jewish and although it was never a conscious raison d’etre imbuing my choice of men who were mostly non-Jews, I was aware that somewhere in my unconscious still lingered some silent desire to have a partner who was Jewish. That desire was based on my naive even ignorant understanding that a Jewish man would ipso facto understand my sense of being Jewish and share a common spirit. However, my experience with the male, Jewish journalist in my early 30s highlighted being Jewish was not itself relevant for any understanding at all, his sense of being Jewish and mine worlds apart. Moreover, my American, Jewish boyfriend on the kibbutz was also not on my religious and/or spiritual wavelength as so many of the other Jewish young people I met and mingled with were not either. It became very clear to me that being Jewish encapsulated so many diverse cultural and spiritual feelings and sentiments that I still conjectured how my Jewishness translated in my relationships, not just with men, but women, too. Was being Jewish a definitive and determining aspect that supposedly engendered empathy, understanding and rapport with another? By my thirties I finally realised it actually didn’t intrinsically enhance my communication and feelings of closeness with other Jews and reading an article in The Age newspaper recently, it asserted similar differences in Australia’s Indigenous community. In football parlance, former Aussie Rules player and currently Indigenous and multicultural programs manager at the AFLPA (Players’ Association), Tony Armstrong, explained very lucidly that the community is composed of many cultures. “There can be a stereotype that every black fella is the same and two Indigenous players at one club would have stuff in common and they will have a connection, but they can be from very different cultural backgrounds.” He added that while Indigenous people come from “many different regions and cultural groups, we are a single nation.” Similarly, it was suggested many times to me in Israel that as a young Jewish girl, this was “my country”, but while a couple of millions Jews living there may well have felt like that, I didn’t. I was quintessentially an Australian who happened to be Jewish, and that was a difference I appreciated as well as my cultural and spiritual background. Indeed, I felt somewhat European embracing countries such as Spain and New York city as more ‘simpatico’ to my senses.
Many times in my adolescence and particularly when my middle sister married a non-Jewish man, who my mother liked but said their religious differences could create too many conflicts and differences, would try to persuade me that having a Jewish man and sharing a common culture and connection contributed to a happier marriage. Clearly, I knew it didn’t with both her and my father coming from completely different cultural environments despite both being Jewish. My mother was from a wealthy Warsaw family with a governess while my father was a Russian peasant who as a child growing up under Communism, felt ‘religion was bunkum.’ Very well aware that even my Jewish girlfriends had no inkling about my sense of being Jewish, my closest friendship at school was with a non-Jewish girl who came from a wealthy divorced family but was as mixed up and confused as I was. Ironically perhaps to my mother but not to me it was the gentile, divorced man working at The Jewish News I enjoyed time with when I was 20 who seemed the only man ‘connected’ to my sense of being Jewish. Having had relationships over the years with several Jewish people, he ‘tuned’ into me more than any Jewish male, or female too ever had, including my own family.
Having jettisoned any fervent belief in God in my late teens and not relating to the festivities of Jewish cultural events for more than two decades, at 40 I really appreciated, and more significantly, accepted, that my sense of being Jewish was ‘inexplicable’ to anyone other than me, Jewish people even more so. I simply had no psychological or emotional need to discuss it anymore, understanding being Jewish was part of who I was and still am without needing to analyse or explore it further. Certainly, in my past I had searched for answers to many of my confusions, conflicts and contradictions but had realistically reappraised life as sometimes unable to provide definitive answers to many profound problems, not just my own. It was another liberating experience, letting go of useless meandering over the meaning of life and recognising as I’d written at 17 that “Love provides our purpose”, which seemed even more pertinent, at least to me.
Understanding that my love of self could sustain me without having a ‘special individual’ to love me back in all aspects of myself was more self-fulfilling than I had hitherto appreciated, acknowledging at the same time that while I needed and wanted to share love, I could enjoy that with friends of whatever gender and sexual diversity as much as one singular, heterosexual man. Consciously resuming my hedonistic lifestyle to enjoy my work as much as my leisure, journalism long since ceasing being enjoyable because of the media people and its conservative agenda, teaching politics, which had always been a passionate interest, offered new promise. The printed word still resigned sacrosanct as an avenue to stimulate new thoughts and reflections in others as well as myself, but the people in the media were I finally had to accept not my kind of people, generally speaking. Furthermore, the media landscape had changed to a 9-5, middle-class, bourgeois mentality and I didn’t fit in, indeed, I didn’t like it.
Teaching young people to think and question became my imperative. Moreover, I also recognised how the notion of ‘career’ implied a certain status and prestige and that working, either for others or even self-employed, was too often a ‘career’ for its own sake rather than specific enjoyment of the work involved. Jettisoning this entire concept of career as irrelevant and replacing its limiting proscription by aspiring to enjoy my work for itself, it became the most significant issue in my life. While realising decades before that journalism impressed some people and comparitively, teaching was way down the pecking order of prestigious jobs, my enjoyment of work was far more paramount than concern about social status. Of course, it shouldn’t have been that way as what could be more important than education, but sadly, most people didn’t perceive or share my perspective. My way became my mantra as it always had been but imbued with far greater strength and conviction, choosing not just how I wanted to live, but how I needed to live to feel reasonably satisfied and fulfilled. Relativity was the name of the game.
Still enjoying discussing the philosophical and psychological tapestry of life, there were several issues on a personal level I believed simply “inexplicable”, abandoning long hours of futile reflections for more impersonal, tangible musings that I could theorise about. My need to find emotional solace with others abated, albeit unconsciously in some ways but also consciously aware that I had never found that solace or support with anyone else anyway and was, as I realised at 19 when I first travelled overseas, my own best friend. This understanding highlighted an earlier cognition that I shared more in common with men than most women but had been ‘deluded’ by absorbing the social nonsense that women could relate to women better than most men. Certainly as it was written and said, women verbalised their feelings and emotions more than men subsuming therefore that women could, ipso facto, emotionally understand women better.
For some years, I adhered to this dictum, only to realise I was an individual and just as unable to ‘connect’ with many women as to many men. While I wrote in my diary in my twenties that I missed ‘girlfriends’, I realised the girlfriends I had had were not on my intellectual, emotional and even more importantly, sexual or spiritual wavelength, gender becoming increasingly irrelevant as to who I wanted to be friends with and who wanted to be friends with me. The whole issue became even more significant as new books about women, written by women, hit the bookstands, still alleging men were the powerful patriarchs of a hierarchy that prohibited women from attaining equality and their rights. Would the blame game ever end?
In the 1990 book, The Beauty Myth, American feminist, Naomi Wolf, narrated about standards of physical beauty, suggesting that “In assigning value to women in a vertical hierarchy according to a culturally imposed physical standard, it is an expression of power relations in which women must unnaturally compete for resources that men have appropriated for themselves…There is no legitimate historical or biological justification for the beauty myth; what it is doing to women today is a result of nothing more exalted than the need of today’s power structure, economy and culture to mount a counter-offensive against women..The beauty myth is not about women at all. It is about men and power”. Reading her tome having just turned 40, I vehemently disagreed with her thesis as my understanding of my own sense of beauty changed as I matured. As an adolescent, I felt physically inferior to some of my girlfriends, accompanied by an anxious angst about not being conventionally beautiful, recognising by my late twenties that I had my own innate sense of style and elegance that had nothing to do with men and their power. The focus of my sense of physical imperfections was based on my self-perception, imposed certainly but only partly by accepted norms of traditional beauty authorised more by women than men. Or so I believed and still do.
In my life up to that point, women had been more my enemy than men, be it engendered by jealousy or the projection of their own personal inadequacies but Wolf ascribes those inimical relationships between women as a consequence of the male hierarchy of power, “Competition between women is part of the myth so that women will be divided from one another,” further postulating that this myth is “summoned out of political fear on the part of male-dominated institutions threatened by women’s freedom, and…supported by female guilt and apprehension about their own liberation-latent fears that they might be going too far”. Certainly, some men as I experienced in my twenties and thirties seemed ‘frightened’ of me, albeit unconsciously and unthinkingly, but my reality was that women were more frightened of me than any man, particularly within my own family and among my friends of both genders. Moreover, I never felt guilty about feeling liberated and I was never told I was beautiful by men or women, with women seemingly more alarmed by my mind than my physical appearance. For men, it wasn’t about beauty per se, rather my sexuality which seemed to threaten them as well as disturbing many women too, but I never felt impeded in pursuing life as a liberated, sexual, independent female. Furthermore, I never felt ‘divided’ from women as such, but distanced, by my own choice, from conservative and conventional thinking people of both genders.
Wolf mistakenly apportions responsibility for this myth to men; I have a completely opposite perspective, believing women are the parasites in the “$32 billion diet industry, the $20 billion cosmetics industry and the $300 million cosmetic surgery industry” among others. To ‘blame’ men as the frightened perpetrators in these industries denies women as thinking and independent beings with personal responsibility, culpability and complicity in a very complex and enmeshed scenario. Indeed, it does nothing except “victimise” women as vulnerable and gullible, the tragic prey of male vultures. Wolf concludes that “if (women) are to free themselves from the dead weight that has once again been made out of femaleness, it is not ballots or lobbyists or placards that women will need as much as a new way to see”. What I find incredible is that after more than two decades of second-wave feminism, so called intelligent women are seemingly, according to Wolf, still allowing men to dictate how they should look, albeit covertly and cleverly, so they are oblivious to the manipulation. I accepted and understood my responsibility about my looks two decades previously, always acknowledging my appearance was under my control and my direction. I did agree with Wolf about women needing “a new way to see” but a way that eschewed castigating men as their enemy to embrace their personal responsibility and individuality. If women felt ‘divided’ from other women, why was that? Surely, women needed to examine and explore their inherent attitudes to themselves as well as others instead of simply decrying men.
During my twentysomethingyears, glimpses of my authentic sense of self surfaced to the fore to replace layers of subtle, socially sanctioned norms and pressures that had manifested as inaudible voices absorbed unconsciously in my psyche. These norms and pressures were ordained as much by women as men. During those years that strangled my authentic sense of self, I felt frustrated and angered as well as unsatisfied and wanting, with years of self-analysis and book reading clarifying this dilemma by my late twenties, at least in a personal perspective. While I knew and felt intellectually in my late teens that living my own life as an independent person was all significant, the emotional and social currents of being ‘typically’ and ‘normally’ female had interfered with my conviction with complex conflicts abounding in my soul. Reaching 40, I not only understood the irrational and conformist basis of my conflicts, I had resolved them.
At the same time, I also struggled with an ideology of being “perfect”, finding a new book called Perfect Women written by the same author of The Cinderella Complex, Colette Dowling. In her new tome, Dowling detailed many women’s “chronic fear of inadequacy masked by driven, achieving behaviour,” recognising the destructive ways in which her own self-esteem was bound up with her daughter’s achievements. In conversation with other women in America, she learned that a “legacy of self-doubt was handed down from mother to daughter; one that is disguised-but not cured-by a frantic quest for self-improvement”. She profiled many so-called “perfect women; women who never stop working or exercising, who deny themselves the pleasures of food; who drive themselves to exhaustion in the name of their husbands, children, jobs or communities. There are tragic results for this syndrome – eating disorders, work problems and the inability to sustain intimacy in relationships, with these women preoccupied by the illusion that ‘if only’ they were thinner, prettier, smarter or stronger, they could value themselves at last. Performing like puppets as perfectionists, they seek approval from others as a poignant attempt to hold feelings of worthlessness at bay”. Dowling concluded significantly “The empty Self can only be filled from within”.
Indeed, many of these issues had afflicted me during my twenties, at times feeling lonely, unattractive, less clever than I aspired to and at times miserable. My reading, thinking and understanding however clarified my need to live by, of and for my “inner self” instead of continually seeking approbation for my “outer image”. Her book which I bought two years after publication in 1990 was validation for my personal development since my twenties, highlighting not just how my mother had needed to live through my achievements but how I had too. Achievement at work accounted for too much, depending on those achievements as validation of self and while it was important for my confidence, self-esteem and self-respect, it had consumed most of my life leaving me little time to pursue other interests and look after myself in a healthy, positive way. It was as if I was driven by a need to prove myself not just to others but more importantly, to myself.
Turning 40, my sense of achievement now focused on enjoying myself as I always adhered to, lost for a few years in some manic, misguided and mistaken travesty of self. I was unsure about whether my mother actually needed to live through my achievements at work as she evinced scant interest in my career with the significant achievement for her being marriage to some decent man to provide her with grandchildren to cuddle. In some sense I absconded from attending to her beliefs and needs, realising I could never satisfy her with the choices I made about my life. Nothing would change on that front, long since recognising I had lived without her approval since my late teens. What was different now was my understanding of my conflicts as a single woman, clearly seeing and appreciating what she ‘unconsciously’ projected onto me, celebrating the ‘happily married and bekidded woman’ which while I rejected this syndrome as my destiny, was simultaneously troubled about whether this rejection was apposite. It wasn’t just my mother’s projection, but the insidious social tenets of how a ‘normal’ female should live, sanctioned not just by mothers, but by most women and most men. I knew now that my choices had been and still were right for me in pursuing what I wanted, needed and ultimately enjoyed, no longer needing anyone’s approval to live according to my own norms not the socially approved traditional, female ones. For me, the latter were controlling, conformist and conventional and seeing them for what they were I could really accept myself as I was.
What my mother needed was her own, personal business and my needs were, and always had been, very different. Understanding this years before, it had been hard, if not even impossible, to withstand the familial and social dictates for my destiny but at 40, the road ahead was no longer a tormented twist of tortuous turns and as Dowling wrote: “What I am feeling now…is a sense of well-being that comes from accepting plain old Colette…I have a feeling of purpose, of calm…I have learned that it isn’t success, or work, or even a particular love relationship that produces the feelings of warmth and excitement…these feelings come from deep within…” I actually didn’t read this book when I bought it as flipping through the chapters I was already very familiar with these issues, finding my own way through the minefield of complex conflicts I experienced. I quote from this book now as her feelings match what I felt at 40, embarking on a new highway but on the same trajectory; to enjoy life to the full and accept the ups and downs as part of life’s journey.
One problem for me was that many people I knew as friends were not on my highway, still countenancing difficulties meeting people who were. I tried to change that.
Once more living on my own and realising I needed ‘simpatico’ acquaintances as much as friends, I opted to socialise in the local pub next door to my apartment in the trendy, inner city suburb of Richmond. The pub, ironically called the London Tavern (at least ironic to me back in Melburbia after years in London), was one of the oldest in town with a clientele of mostly dinkum, working class Aussie blokes whose families had resided in Richmond for generations. Owned by a former Aussie Rules footballer, now coach, I started frequenting the pub when my university day was over to talk football and anything else that interested the blokes as well as me. Stimulating dialogue ensued about a myriad of diverse subjects, including politics, gender and sex, the different men of varying ages, status and occupations. There were a couple of regular females also in attendance, occasionally vocalising with them too.
With money being a significant issue (I was living on Austudy and my mother had paid off my mortgage), I drank beer, adding lime juice to sweeten its innate bitterness. Wine and spirits were beyond my budget and having already curtailed my alcoholic indulgences for over a decade, I didn’t care whether I drank or not, my interest purely ‘social’ to meet new people to enjoy my time with. Culturally, it was a fascinating experience as I had never really associated with this ‘class’ of man en masse and most of them were not tertiary educated, but interestingly, many were well read and literate, reading a newspaper every day (the popular tabloid Herald Sun) and seeking to know and learn, even understand, what was going on in the world beyond their own lives.
Never thinking about dating any of them I was most surprised when one of them invited me for dinner unexpectedly. Tall, but with a substantial beer gut, he was a devoted Tiger supporter, as were most of them, often engaging in serious football analysis. Agreeing to accompany him to dinner in a local Indian restaurant, I enjoyed our rendezvous to be embraced as he walked me home with a ‘passionate’ kiss. As much as I really liked him, there was no sexual spark or lustful connection, disentangling myself to tell him I just wanted to be friends. Accepting my rejection, he continued walking me home agreeing to see each other for a drink and discussion in the pub without any more than that.
Making changes to my work and lifestyle, I also had a very different agenda about sex, realising I didn’t want to jump into bed with men I didn’t really fancy. Understanding why so many of my men had been ‘dud fucks’ as well as me too, I appreciated that I hadn’t really lusted after them, often agreeing to sex because I needed it with no other man around to offer me some mutual lust. Gambling on some good sex with the next usual suspect, too often I was frustrated and disappointed. With a new agenda, I didn’t have sex with any man for months, masturbating more often and finding I could pleasure myself more than most men ever had. The dildo was still working, finding some sexual solace with a rubber, battery driven robot manipulated by my own hands.
As for love, it seemed loving myself was more important than having some man love me and I stopped thinking about it as any kind of future reality. In The Beauty Myth, Wolf also writes about love and sex too, claiming that “during the 1960s flower power, popular culture had love as the catch-word of the hour, with sex its expression; sensuality, frivolity and playfulness were in… (men) appropriated girls’ pleasures, it was still a boy’s party.” She adds that a decade later as women entered the workforce and were “jolted into positions of power… the nature of what women would desire became a serious issue and a serious threat.” In this context, I concurred with her, recognising very clearly that Richard and other men too had felt threatened by my desires, albeit perhaps unconsciously. As Dowling had penned a couple of years before, Wolf also writes that “perfection became women’s sexual armour…(with) heterosexual love (freely given between equals as) the child of the women’s movement…the enemy of this society.” She asserts “women who love themselves are threatening; but men who love real women, more so. Women who have broken out of gender roles have proved manageable; those few with power are being retrained as men.” What does she mean by this exactly? That women had to ‘masculinise’ their behaviour at work, in appearance, in relationships? Certainly, I was aware that some women enjoyed being regarded as “tough” , a label often used positively about successful men, but for me it too often denied any sensitivity, compassion or empathy for others, women as well as men adhering to a fallacious stereotype of the tough male at work, at home and at play. While I had oft been perceived as too “masculine”, my behaviour at that time was unconscious and spontaneous; it was just the way I was, making no conscious choice to ‘ape’ men. Many women however seemed to specifically adopt male attitudes and behaviours believing their modus operandi the route to success. I abhorred this behaviour in women as much as in men. My conscious choice was about being an individual, a person who was capable and confident with my gender irrelevant, particularly in the workplace. Such was my naivety in my twenties but what Wolf wrote only heightened my awareness that many women were indeed ‘aping’ men to get ahead. If they were being ‘retrained’ as men, they obviously accepted the traditional, male stereotype in ways I never could and more importantly, never wanted to. Some men in power I had realised were as fucked and incapable as many women. and enshrining gender particulars as defining and pertinent missed the whole essence of equal opportunity and equity.
Further, Wolf writes that for a woman and a man to love freely “would be a political upheaval more radical than the Russian revolution and more destabilising to the balance of world power than the end of the nuclear age…Heterosexual love threatens to lead to political change: an erotic life based on non-violent mutuality rather than domination and pain teaches at first hand its appeal beyond the bedroom. A consequence of female self-love is that a woman grows convinced of social worth. Her love for her body will be unqualified, which is the basis of female identification”.
She continues that “while men police one another’s sexuality (really?), forbidding each other to put sexual love at the centre of their lives, women do define themselves as successful according to their ability to sustain sexually loving relationships..” Once again, I find myself at variance with Wolf’s argument, never adhering to that social and moral imperative to define myself as anything other than my own person. Sure, I wanted a heterosexual love relationship in my twenties, even in my thirties, but I never entertained any belief that that kind of relationship ensured my success. Being successful for me was about feeling fulfilled within myself as Dowling wrote and Wolf’s psychology is amateur and inappropriate in 1990 and even more so now as I write in 2017. Wolf is correct in understanding self-love, but that too can engender political upheaval without any heterosexual love relationship; a confident, strong, sexy woman can be a threat even without a man on her arm. Maybe even more so, particularly to other women who feel themselves ‘victims’ of the male conspiratorial patriarchy as they perceive it.
Moreover, what Wolf doesn’t mention at all is that self-love is intrinsic to loving others, be it an individual man, children, parents and friends. It is the very basis of all mutually respectful relationships and as I realised decades before, I had many conflicts about not just self-love, but love per se. In 1990, I was still pondering the nature of love; different love for different people with different manifestations, implications and outcomes. In 1990, self-love was paramount on my agenda hoping love of others would naturally ensue by meeting new people and heralding new experiences to enjoy. That was my understanding then. It still is.
Socialising in the London Tavern became a frequent event, one night talking to an English maths and physics teacher with a PhD from Manchester University who was married with a young daughter. As he imbibed several beers as we talked, I sat on my one beer only, the conversation continuing for a couple of hours as we discussed my work in England and life experience as well as my foray into teaching. Intelligent, interesting and an easy communicator, he and I became ‘conversational companions’ for several months as the year marched on. Bearded, bespectacled and just a few years older than me and not at all fat or with a beer gut, he was something of an ‘alcoholic’ instead, drinking in the pub after the school day ended at 4pm. Not venturing into the pub till after my dinner, he was often quite inebriated on my arrival, though he was never aggressive, rude or belligerent. Feminism and sex were hot topics for debate.
In many aspects, he was on my intellectual wavelength and very well read sharing many hours conversing about books and our opinions and ideas. Sexually, I didn’t find him that attractive, but as time went on, I became more endeared of him, spending New Year’s Eve together at the pub when he kissed me for the first time in the beer garden at midnight. Where was his wife? The tragic truth about his marriage was that she had cancer and was dying, preferring to be at home alone with their daughter. Or that’s what he told me, saying they had lived their separate lives for years staying together for practical reasons. Imparting that he loved me he added he was unable to extricate himself from his marriage. My feelings did not reciprocate as his habitual drinking was a past familiarity I never wanted to experience again and while ‘the kiss’ turned me on and I really liked him, even more, loved talking to him as we did for hours almost every night, I never contemplated or considered marrying him. There had been too many alcoholics in my life for wont of a better word enjoying our good friendship for what it was, an opportunity to be myself honestly and imperfectly with no desire for anything more.
Conveniently, he lived just round the corner from me and one night we adjourned to my apartment for sex. Knowing each other for months, we disrobed and lay on my study floor as he sucked me off for some time without me coming. He couldn’t get erections anymore due, he thought, to the demon drink. Enjoying his cunnilingus, I didn’t have an orgasm and didn’t particularly care as I felt good without needing to come. That may sound weird to some, but having an orgasm was not always what I needed especially to enjoy good sex with a good man. He didn’t slobber or expect me to come to satisfy his ego or if he did, it wasn’t apparent to me as it was with some men I’d known. I’m unsure as to why I didn’t come except I didn’t think about it, enjoying a pleasurable experience for its own sake. At the same time once more, I didn’t touch or try to excite him and he didn’t suggest it. In retrospect, I can only surmise he didn’t care about himself, more intent on pleasuring me. It might take two to tango, but yet again, some men seemed content to surrender their pleasure to my own. It wasn’t until some years later I tried to understand why. Was sex an ego jerk-off as I had once believed for many men, achieving a sense of self-aggrandisement by having their women enjoy the sex irrespective of their own sexual satisfaction? Did their mental satisfaction in making women ‘come’ and enjoy the sex transcend any mutual reciprocity? Furthermore, did I actually care about their sexual satisfaction or was I just indulging my own sexual self-interest? Unable to answer these questions, I mulled over them in private, realising that the teacher and I shared great conversation but sexually, were a mismatch. Maybe the bottom line was that I just didn’t lust after him.
Despite this sexual impasse, a couple of weeks later during his school holidays he invited me to spend a few days with him in a country town at his expense as my teaching studies were completed and I was “on the dole”, unable to secure a government teaching job in politics anywhere in Victoria or in any other discipline either, as I was also qualified to teach history and English as a Second Language as well. Embarking on my stand-by freelance journalism during unemployment again which was more to do with intellectual stimulation and enjoyment than merely pecuniary profit, as 1991 dawned this teacher bought me a present of a book “The Women’s History of the World” by Rosalind Miles which I had never heard of, inscribing it from “a secret admirer”. Appreciating my feminism, he knew it would appeal to me as we discussed many problems about women’s reality in our world, but I never finished reading the book which became another addition to my library,
Training it to the country town, we spent three days together walking in the natural fresh outdoors under glorious summer sunshine, eating good food, drinking good wine and talking again with such easy rapport as if we’d known each other for years. It was so comfortable and relaxing, revelling in nature after too many years of living in an urban environment, sans trees or verdant decor in our suburban streets. Sleeping together in the same bed in the hotel, we didn’t have sex; he didn’t suggest it or make a move and neither did I. Why? Without talking about it it seemed we both knew our relationship was more to do with convivial companionship that was intellectual not sexual. It didn’t matter to me.
Returning home, we continued our relationship for a few more weeks until we had an unpleasant “falling out” over the Jewish issue, asking him if another ‘Hitler’ was around would he stand up for me as a Jew. His reply was shattering as he quickly replied “No, I wouldn’t.” Having discussed being Jewish with him on several occasions, I just didn’t expect his response, leaving my beer half-drunk on the counter and walking out on him in silence. Without contemplating his response before asking my question, I was also unsure as to why I asked him that, surmising that I hoped to stimulate some philosophical discussion about one’s own survival and the extent to which a person would lay their life on the line for another or a cause one believed in.
My experience at work in England had made me re-examine how my principles and integrity hadn’t paid the bills, opting to reject people in the workplace I disrespected and disliked. As unemployment had ensued for me many times in the past, I was very interested in what price one pays for moral values and were they worth the price? I knew only too well that some Jews had ‘dobbed’ in Jews under the Nazis believing they would save their own life. Of course, it backfired on them, but reflection about how far one would go to save one’s own life was an issue I thought a lot about. I still do. Indeed, when I accepted the job on The Jewish News again in 1988 I had to confront whether my principles and integrity were more important than economic survival. The Jewish journalist I’d had an affair with five years previously who had been a disrespectful and sick cunt towards me was working one day a week at the newspaper as Features Editor and I needed to call him as the Editor who interviewed me suggested. My sense of self-respect certainly didn’t want any contact with this guy again, but I needed the job for money, deciding on the basis of past experience that earning a living for survival and hopefully some enjoyment too, would justify surrendering my principles, at least in the short term. As instructed, I called him, acting out an amicable attitude to be offered the job a few days later. So much for moral integrity except that I didn’t have to see him on a daily basis and had sufficient, albeit scant money, for a life I could enjoy.
However, the teacher’s response to my difficult question really upset me, realising our ‘friendship’ was over and curtailing my outings to the pub for a couple of weeks as I didn’t want to see him. He made no contact with me either. Appreciating I still enjoyed talking to other men in the pub, I returned one night, ignoring him as he ignored me too. We never spoke again. I’ve never asked any other man that question either; too hard or just impossible to answer unless you’ve had to confront it? The same issue about moral integrity has recurred repeatedly in my life time and time again and it still does, though the justifications I make are somewhat different though I still feel compromised. Irrespective I am still alive and can to some extent, enjoy being alive, albeit limited and circumscribed by circumstances beyond my control. Money is paramount.
On Valentine’s Day 14th February, 1991, my father passed away, quietly, peacefully, and on his own in intensive care after having a heart attack. In ICU for three days, he had an operation to remove a few gangrenous toes, being told his body might not withstand the impact of the operation. My middle sister and I were with him in ICU until about 10.00pm on Monday, 13th February, telling him I was ducking out for a few minutes to have a cigarette, leaving my sister with him. He asked: “Can I have one, too?’ clearly oblivious to where he was which I appreciated as a blessing for him at least. Returning to ICU after about five minutes, I told my sister I was hungry as we had been at the hospital all day and hadn’t eaten dinner. Lunch was sandwiches from the hospital caf. As my father seemed to have fallen asleep as the nurse informed us, my sister and I departed to a nearby restaurant to eat, returning to my apartment at just after midnight ringing the hospital to see if he was still asleep. I was told he had passed away about 15 minutes before in his sleep, his heart finally failing. He was alone. His request for a cigarette was the last words he spoke to me.
My sister and I immediately rang my mother who already knew as the hospital had called her shortly before and was awaiting my other sister to pick her up to go to the hospital. We arranged to meet there to wait for the Jewish undertakers to pick him up for burial the next day as Orthodox Jewish law proclaimed. Without shedding a tear, I felt very sad, sorry I was not there to hold his hand as he slipped away. What I did say to my mother was that “It’s now Valentine’s Day and God loved him because he took him on this day”. His death was a blessing as since his stroke, his life had little quality or joy, the last four years spent in a nursing home mostly lying on his bed alone except when my mother, myself and my sisters visited him.
Believing he was at peace, the funeral was the next day and joined by a few of my friends who attended, we adjourned to my mother’s place for dinner that night. There had been times I cried about the often fraught and difficult relationship I had with my father as a teenager, realising I never knew him while ironically, he was the only member of my family who really knew me when he termed me “a radical and on-conformist” when I was 27. Accepting me as I was, he was not only the one family member who knew me but the only person, gender irrelevant, who actually listened and heard me, rather than hearing what he wanted to hear. This didn’t always lend itself to calm exchanges between us when I was younger but writing this now, I’ve shed a few more tears. I’ll always remember him teaching me to read from the newspaper with its big headlines as I sat on his knee, explaining the finer strategies of chess and the bluff involved in playing poker. Our heated political discussions are also vivid in my mind alongside all the joyous memories of being at the football with him cheering on our beloved Navy Blues. With his dying, it was as if part of my life was past and I still had my life ahead of me to enjoy and after a couple of weeks feeling grieved and sad, returned to the pub at night to socialise again in between freelancing and waiting and hoping to hear from the Education Department about a job.
I soon encountered another man over a beer I had met briefly before as owner of the local Richmond bookshop where I’d purchased The Beauty Myth a short time earlier. Talking to him in the pub, he bought me a couple of vinos I couldn’t afford, indulging in conversation about the book with my criticism and contempt for how she blamed men for women wanting to appear beautiful. Also wearing glasses but clean shaven, tall and without a beer gut and a couple of years older than me, our communication flowed as he told me he hailed from New Zealand, had been married twice and had a 18-year-old son living in Melbourne. Call him “Stephen”, he was also a part-time publisher who loved books so I elaborated on having written a couple of books he might be interested in reading, maybe even publishing. A couple of hours later, I left alone for my apartment, seeing him again a couple of nights later in the pub to adjourn together back to his abode above the bookshop around the corner from where I lived.
Imbibing more vino together from a bottle he bought and smoking a couple of joints as J.J. Cale sang in the background, it wasn’t long before we were indulging in sex. Both a bit pissed and stoned, he told me he enjoyed being tied up and whipped and having sex. Did I? This bondage ritual was a complete unknown to me as no man had ever suggested this, but I was game to try anything, well almost, at least once to see how it felt. He duly obliged, retrieving some soft, non-abrasive cord from some hidden place and tying my hands together but leaving my legs free to open. Lying on his couch in the sitting room, he duly whipped me with a small whip consisting of several, moderately thick, but short leather straps, firstly on my back and then turning me over to whip inside my thighs which was such a turn-on I was initially stunned, completely surprised at how pleasurable and sexy it was. Brushing the leather strands across my vulva gently but firmly, it was a tingling touch as my eyes shut spontaneously so I didn’t know when the next ‘whip’ would happen. Stinging in some ways, my body was also throbbing feeling myself getting wet and lusty. After a while, he suggested it was my turn to whip him, explaining how to tie him up properly (I never did belong to Girl Guides with no idea how to tie a secure knot) and how to whip him on his back.
As he lay spread-eagled on the couch, I stood above him, whip in hand and very gingerly, began to flail the whip against his skin. It felt awkward and uncomfortable as he urged me to exert more pressure and whip him more strongly. “Won’t it hurt?” I asked or words to that effect. “No, that’s what I like”. Endeavouring to please and excite him as he wanted, I tried doing as he implored, watching him as his body revelled in its pleasure. “That better?” I wanted to know as he assented and sighed. Spending some time so indulging, I became less uncomfortable as whipping him became easier, though it was certainly not instinctive. Shortly afterwards he instructed me to untie him as he began masturbating my vulva with his fingers coming so rapturously it felt fucking fantastic. His cock was limp and while I fondled him, it didn’t become erect. I didn’t ask him about it and he didn’t say anything as I felt quite satiated without needing or wanting a fuck, too. Staying the night at his abode, we slept in his bed and as we woke in the early morning, he once more masturbated me before arising for work. It was a great night, returning home to shower as he worked in his shop. We didn’t discuss meeting again but I gave him my telephone number and he gave me his. A couple of days later he rang, arranging to meet at the pub again for a drink after closing his shop, and after just one drink, he suggested buying dinner to then adjourn once more to his abode for an encore performance of the night earlier.
Interested in literature, politics and current affairs, we indulged in many hours of stimulating and interesting conversation about a myriad of topics as we drank copious red wine, smoked lots of joints and indulged in sex introducing me to a new wavelength of pleasure in bed. Despite waking up in the morning with yellow and black bruises on the inside of my thighs, I never felt pained being whipped but instead a transcendental sensual pleasure never before experienced. I loved it and he enjoyed it likewise as I became more adept and relaxed about whipping him too. Our meetings of dinner, drink, dope and sex continued in this way for a couple of months sans intercourse until one morning I woke up feeling like a fuck, too.
Asking him to fuck me, he said he couldn’t and burst into tears. What ensued as he stopped crying was sadly, yet another tale of alcoholism and impotency and while he admitted he’d been to AA on several occasions over the years, he couldn’t stop drinking at night. He was sober working in the bookshop. Once more I met another alcoholic, remiss to know what to make of him as I really liked him, shrugging off the sexual blockade as unimportant. Why was sex without intercourse not so important to me now? Maybe I believed because what we did enjoy sexually together was so exciting that intercourse became less significant, satisfied with clitoral orgasms and feeling his fingers up my cunt, though never experiencing a vaginal orgasm that way. Moreover, he also kissed me in a different way too, often imbibing some red wine before kissing me and sharing it in my mouth. It was another new sensation to savour and physically felt intercourse was not that intrinsic to my having a good time. However, I didn’t discuss how he might have felt as his tears previously indicated he was upset about it, although I wasn’t sure whether it was about my supposed need or his. He didn’t impart that either, seemingly content with our indulgent practices. We never discussed intercourse again and I never tried to get him erect; it was a closed chapter of conversation, resuming our sexual routine again for the next few months.
Sometimes he stayed at my apartment, lying in bed together reading poetry from one of my books and while I’d given him one of my unpublished books to read, he was never interested in publishing it. What he did publish was a non-fiction book about eye surgeon Fred Hollows and a non-fiction crime book written by a then Age journalist. He worked long hours at night editing and publishing the books as well as working in the shop, often buzzing his abode at night when I hadn’t heard from him for a few days.
Meeting his son on a few occasions at his home, he seemed a good kid though his father considered he was lazy and unproductive as he worked in some menial job somewhere without any particular career ambition. They had a difficult relationship which he would often discuss with me ending in his frustration at his son’s lack of positive direction.
Unexpectedly, he also imparted he had a “girlfriend’ in Sydney who was arriving one particular weekend so he wouldn’t be able to see me. Unsurprised by his admission of another woman in his life, I didn’t care that much about this reality as his addictive drinking ensured I wanted no more of him than what I had but was instead hurt when he told me she was a literary agent who wouldn’t be interested in publishing my books either. Telling me they shared a great intellectual relationship, it made me realise he didn’t think that much of my intellect. Still unemployed, I was freelancing as I could and selling my stories, but they were mostly to the popular tabloid the Herald Sun which he didn’t read and wasn’t interested in, considering that newspaper ‘beneath’ him. Moreover, he was never complimentary about anything I wrote, even more disappointing, he just wasn’t interested in not just my journalism, but my books.
He did advise me I needed an agent if I was ever to be published providing me with a printed list of various Australian literary agents to pursue. Following his advice, I sent off my collection of children’s stories and two other novels to various agents to no avail. Soon realising he was a pretentious, pseudo-intellectual snob of sorts, my feelings and respect changed towards him, wondering at the same time whether he had sex with his Sydney girlfriend and even more, what the nature of their sexual liaison was, surmising it was probably straight and ‘unkinky’ without being tied up and certainly not including being whipped. Irrelevant to me, I didn’t even bother asking him about his sex with her. Why did I surmise that? Call it intuition and/or assumed judgement, but my brief discussions with women about sex over my life revealed they were mostly straight and unadventurous, even repressed I decided, unable to really let go and savour sex for its own sake. What he told me about her as a great intellect with no mention of sex led me to my conclusion. I never found out how valid or invalid it was.
Appreciating our relationship was more to do with sex than anything else, I accepted it for that as I found our dalliances enjoyable and pleasurable, even unpredictable and surprising as one night he turned up to my apartment with a black suspender belt and stockings, suggesting I wear them. Duly obliging and donning them under one of the few skirts I owned as my wardrobe was more replete with tight jeans and pants than dresses and skirts, we had masturbatory sex on my settee before going to dinner at an expensive French restaurant near where I lived. On that score, he was generous and indulgent, both of us loving good cuisine, good wine and a good time. But the relationship was limited and after nearly twelve months together, interrupted by another couple of visits to Melbourne by his Sydney girlfriend, he announced he was selling up and moving to Sydney to live with his girlfriend.
A few months before he told me about his Sydney girlfriend, I asked him if he wanted to live with me in my two-bedroom apartment as his abode above the bookshop was freezing in winter with few modern cons. I was somewhat ‘in love’ with him too as we enjoyed an intellectual rapport as I felt it but clearly, he didn’t. Sexually, I really felt pleasured by our physical intimacy and while emotionally he had his problems apart from his alcoholism (inextricably linked?) oft talking about his two failed marriages and the issues with his son, I appreciated his honesty and accepted we all had problems to deal with. Asking him to live with me, I thought, somewhat naively as it turned out, that with more habitable environs maybe he would curtail his drinking and have me instead. Sadly, my feelings weren’t reciprocated and he declined my offer.
Midway through that year, I sold my apartment due to financial difficulties, buying a much cheaper one bedroom apartment still in Richmond but in a less salubrious area. Still without a job and not hearing from the Education Department, I continued to freelance providing me with a few extra dollars more than the dole. Times were tough and as 1991 drew to a close, Stephen took off to Sydney never to be seen again. Having enjoyed the good times we shared together, I didn’t dwell on being ‘alone’ yet again as I was so accustomed to people, male sex partners and female friends too, coming and going from my life. Larry too had met a new woman living in Melbourne who was from Perth and while the three of us also shared many inebriated good times together over dinner, they departed together to live in Perth that year to be later married. I certainly reflected on what kind of sex life they might have had given how I’d known him, but never inquired as it was none of my business, only hoping he was happy and had found a good woman to share his life with.
A couple of months before the end of the year, I also renewed my effort to do a documentary series on men, yet again, contacting the cameraman I had worked with a decade earlier at SBS-TV. Now working as a freelance director, initially he responded favourably, discussing it with him face-to-face for an hour or so a couple of weeks later. My thesis, as I had propounded years before, was that there could be as many similarities between the sexes as there supposedly was within them and also as many differences within the sexes as there was supposedly between them. Disappointingly, he replied a week or so later that he was too busy and my reading between the lines implied he just wasn’t interested. C’est La Vie was my depressing resignation.
With the beginning of 1992, I was still buying books about women with a new tome titled The War Against Women published, written by renown 70’s feminist, Marilyn French, who rose to fame, and probably fortune, with publication of The Women’s Room. Reading this book in London circa 1974, I didn’t like it as it continued the female antipathy towards men and patriarchy as responsible for women’s lot. Wanting to see if she had moderated her views or even more significantly, understood the more complex and entwined relationships between men and women in our world, I started reading her latest book with interest. I didn’t get passed the Introduction as it too lamented women’s reality as resultant of male power, domination and control.
Acknowledging similar views to me in the early pages in the book, for example: “Since for a woman even to speak in public violated gender rules...” which is exactly as I had experienced, she then articulates how both socialist and fascist governments failed women in the 19th and early decades of the 20th century, reaffirming an historical argument about women’s continuing oppression in the 1980s and 90s by writing: “men-as-a-caste-elite and working class men- continue to seek ways to defeat feminism, by rescinding or gnawing away at its victories (legal abortion), confining women to lower employment levels (putting a ‘glass ceiling’ over professional woman), or founding movements aimed at returning them to fully subordinate status (‘fundamentalism’). Moreover, she vehemently proposes that “the only ground of male solidarity is opposition to women…” The sad reality I had to countenance yet again was the same simplistic analysis duly regarded as erudite and scholarly, published and acclaimed as advancing the cause of women and clarifying their history. Indeed, really depressing for me was that American feminist, Gloria Steinem, applauded her book saying “Marilyn French writes about the state-of-the-world as if women mattered- and suddenly we do” without realising how complicated the issue of genuine equality was, and still is. It made me understand even more why none of my books were ever published and furthermore, while women continued to lambast male patriarchy as the culpable factor in achieving equality, nothing sadly would ever really change. That’s not to say that some men I worked with, befriended and loved were sexist, disrespectful and oppressive, but it was many women’s attitudes and behaviours towards me that were just as disrespectful and abusive. I just couldn’t see any way out of this continuing conundrum until women accepted their complicity and culpability in their own oppression; albeit unconsciously and at times, more than willingly.
Certainly, French uses an appropriate word in ‘war’ but misses the entire confusing and conflicting context about women’s own war against themselves; an internal civil war that I’d written about 13 years before in “The Circle War”. Likewise, it was a war also experienced by many men too, albeit too often projected onto the women in their lives as abrogation of responsibility for their own innate contradictions and hypocrisy. As second-wave feminism declared women’s right to choose, making the right choices for ourselves was not always easy or straight-forward as we were confronted by a myriad of potentially liberating and simultaneously difficult circumstances and realities. Indeed some constraints might have been of our own making but others I believed were imposed by our social milieu, by women as well as men, still adhering to historically traditional stereotypes about how we should all live. Of course, happiness was the ultimate ambition for us as women and for men too, but while some men embraced the women’s movement and its promise of a new way of loving togetherness, many men were unable to accept women who didn’t conform to their notion of the compliant, passive female. Others superficially welcomed being challenged about female norms and these stereotypes but were just as unable to actually walk the talk they espoused. Not interested in reading Frenchs’ book any further, I placed it in my bookshelf and only now reread parts I’d underlined to refresh my memory about the limitations and bias of her argument. Closing her book 25 years ago did leave me hopeful that one day someone might write a book exploring all the complexities involved.
As I felt stronger and more convinced of my own direction as an independent and single woman in her 40s, another book called “BACKLASH“, written in 1992 by American, Pulitzer Prize-Winning journalist, Susan Faludi, detailed an “Undeclared War Against Women.” One big difference between Faludi and Wolf is that while Wolf ‘blamed’ male patriarchy as the perpetrator against women, Faludi describes how both female and male writers criticised feminism as the cause of women’s woes. Certainly, I had struggled with conflicts and uncertainties about being female and more particularly the female I was, but by the 1990s I had resolved most of these personal gender issues for myself. I never ascribed my problems to feminism, indeed, my feminist ideology becoming even more resolute. Faludi writes that while the media celebrated women’s fight for equality as “largely…won”, according to Time magazine, she asserts that “Behind this celebration of women’s victory, behind the news, cheerfully and endlessly repeated, that the struggle for women’s rights is won, another message flashes. You may be free and equal now, it says to women, but you have never been more miserable. This bulletin of despair is posted everywhere…The New York Times reports: childless women are ‘depressed and confused’ and their ranks are swelling. Newsweek says: unwed women are ‘hysterical’ and crumbling under a ‘profound crisis of confidence…The psychology books advise: independent women’s loneliness represents ‘a major mental health problem today.'” Quoting various esteemed magazine writers, mostly female, Faludi narrates how these writers were bemoaning a second wave feminist malaise; feminism the culprit for women’s supposed unhappiness. Her book encompasses how attitudes, behaviours and practices towards and about women haven’t changed in two decades, at work, at home and at play, concluding that ‘The backlash decade produced one long, painful and unremitting campaign to thwarts women’s progress...” Unequivocally, I agreed with many of Faludi’s contentions, finding few others to support, encourage or even be interested in my quest for greater equality of opportunity, fairness and justice, circumstances dictating I embraced my feminism ‘alone’. Making revolution for others seemed beyond my scope with my liberation a personal reality I lived each day, having to accept certain proscriptions to survive but determined to identify positives I could enjoy nonetheless. Naomi Wolf, in another book called “fire with fire“, published in 1993, talks about women needing to understand the nature of power to grasp their “own will to power”. Indeed, she still points the finger at men as problematic, but at least appreciates women’s need to assert their own power, without really exploring exactly how women can ‘use’ that power without powering it over others. My liberation was recognising my innate power for myself rather than needing or even wanting to power it over anyone else. How women could be inspired en mass to create a revolution to instigate genuine empowerment and equal opportunity across the world still seemed shrouded in confusion for too many millions of women and men as well as myself. However individually, I chose to live my own revolution as best I could with lack of money my major problem, but experience had taught me to focus on what I could do instead of lamenting what I could not. Certainly, it was depressing to acknowledge that real change for women was still a dream yet to come true. I could only rejoice in my own well being, peace of mind and personal contentment.The Serenity Prayer, adopted by AA to assist its members, was particularly pertinent in my life: “God grant me the serenity, To accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference.” Certainly but without God, I had changed my perspective and understanding of self over my life, sometimes still fighting to ‘change’ others opinions and beliefs, or at least endeavouring to inspire them to think with greater common sense and empathy, even though my efforts were mostly misplaced and futile. There were people, such as my family members and some ex-friends, who would never think any differently or more reasonably about not just me, but about women and men too, but my ‘wisdom’ instructed me when it was appropriate to simply ‘let go’ and abandon my quest.
Another book I read, nothing to do with feminism but about sport, narrated how “Dishonesty with self leads to the syndrome of making excuses and blaming other people and other things for your failures, mistakes and setbacks…(previously declaring) In order to perform well and express your skills efficiently you must be honest with yourself. This entails undergoing critical analysis of self, goals, techniques and skills.” Written by Dr Rudi Webster, a former medico to the 1960s,70s and 80s successful West Indian Cricket team, and called “Winning Ways“, his psychology reinforced my own beliefs that feminist pedagogues were misdirected in their assault on men, even other women, as the enemy to genuine equality of opportunity and a “fair go”. Webster’s beliefs were so similar to my own about how to achieve personal optimum performance and success, albeit in my own way with my own criteria as to my best. For me, as he recognises, it was about the mind, “mental preparation…and mental skills” ruthlessly exploring and critiquing my own past sense of inadequacy and failure to appreciate my destiny as a content and fulfilled human being depended only on me. Moreover, he states that by talking and listening to successful sportspeople during his life, he understood “the importance of the mind and commonsense…” Outlining his own journey to ‘peak’ performance in his field, he writes about techniques involving “imagery and visualisation…relaxation and tension, psyching up and psyching down, thought control, negative and positive thinking, concentration, self-confidence, pressure, motivation, goal setting, persistence, coping with fear, coping with winning, losing, disappointments, and negative emotions….” His conclusion epitomises what I was doing in my life as others did in sport; asserting that “many of the ideas…in this book can be applied to the problems which one faces in life.” Indeed, my passion for football and other sports had already taught me some of the techniques he elaborates on in his book, particularly that it was ultimately up to me in how I lived my life and more significantly, how I approached the challenges, conflicts and confusions on the highway ahead. Employment was another issue altogether and while I could initiate my own freelance journalism, it failed to provide an adequate income and while I understood what was within my control, I also clearly appreciated that getting a job depended on others, not just myself and my own efforts. It was at times difficult to live, existing on the dole rather than really enjoying my life as I wanted and needed. But I didn’t succumb to the financially depressing circumstances that enmeshed me.
Still not having heard from the Education Department, I had no idea what I would do but faced that on my own too, still hoping to hear about a teaching position. Continuing to freelance, I met up with the female friend I knew as a cadet at 18 who had since created a career for herself as a gourmet chef and club owner, where she showcased a diverse array of artistic talents in an elegant and stylish venue in the CBD. Maintaining contact with her over the years back in Melburbia, albeit infrequently as our lives were so different, we were more acquaintances than friends. However, she had a male partner of many years who she never married, but as he had been an erstwhile photographer in the media during his lifetime, she suggested I meet him to freelance for a couple of articles for a local community newspaper organisation, Leader Newspapers, part of the Murdoch empire.
Knowing the stories he wanted to cover he imparted who we needed to interview as we shared conversation over a latte, duly working together as I arranged the interviews and he took photos. Sending my written articles to Leader Newspapers they were published earning me some extra dollars. We covered about three stories over a period of two months, and shortly after, I received a call from the Editor of the northern division of Leader offering me a casual position in charge of one of the suburban newspapers.
Telling him I’d think about it and get back to him, I was still reluctant to re-enter the media fray, and coincidentally, I then received a phone call from the Education Department, almost 18 months since completing my DipEd, offering me a full-time, permanent job at Mildura Secondary College teaching English As A Second Language, not politics. With many migrant young people living in the area, mostly Turkish, the school wanted to establish an ESL Unit with me responsible for its creation, operation and development. Superficially, it appeared as a great challenge and while I didn’t enjoy teaching English grammar which I found boring and not my area of expertise, I always liked the young, migrant students I taught during my training. Furthermore, living in a regional area appealed as a potentially exciting new experience. Accepting the offer, the Department flew me to Mildura, calling Leader to turn down the job as I explained about my teaching position. Partly because I needed more money to start paying back some of my accrued debts and also because I still had many misgivings about returning to the media maelstrom, I arrived in Mildura soon finding a house to share with two Aussie blokes advertised in the local paper. Living with men was preferable to living with women. One man, aged 40somethingyears, was manager of a nearby caravan park while the other was in his late twenties and a primary school teacher at a smaller country town not far away.
The caravan park manager was rarely at home in the house, but the young teacher and I shared several nights in conversation, telling him about my sexual experience with Stephen, especially about being tied up and whipped. Interested in his reaction, it was the first time I told anyone about my indulgence, which he seemed to accept without judgement, certainly in so far as he let on. Indeed, talking to him about my experience also clarified exactly why I had enjoyed it so much, articulating how I had simultaneously felt powerful and powerless at the same time. It is hard to explain, but it was as if I derived a sense of sexual power from Stephen’s actions which felt exciting while simultaneously feeling physically powerless because my hands were tied and I couldn’t really do anything to stop him. However because I trusted him none of that seemed relevant during our routines. I wasn’t sure this guy was on my wavelength as his sexual experience was limited and straight, but it was interesting to try and elucidate the experience to someone else, particularly a man. While having a few girlfriends back in Melbourne, I never told them nor did I tell the men I knew either. Maybe because this guy didn’t know me and in some ways knew the conversation would go no further I could be honest and open in a way I couldn’t be with some of my friends, believing they would probably be shocked or disturbed by my indulgences. Indeed, I had rarely revealed my sexual behaviour to my friends over my life, believing it was none of their business and never really inquired about theirs. Moreover, I had long since realised my friends weren’t interested or even able to discuss sex with me, maybe because they valued their privacy and weren’t interested in sharing their sexual practices with me. Occasionally, over the years I had tried to raise the issue, only embarrassing them, learning to shut up and keep quiet about my own behaviour. That’s just the way it was and caused me no angst.
However, the Mildura town and the job depressed me as there was little to do after the school day and at weekends. The exciting regional city I hoped for was a dreary and dull town, lasting just two weeks before calling it quits. Both the town and job felt like ‘a death trap, a suicide rap’ as Bruce Springsteen reflected in Born To Run, feeling lonely, bereft and totally bored with teaching. I had to run, too. As a country town, it seemed conservative and conventional for a woman like me, with most of the teaching male staff married and while one male staff member invited me to his house to spend time with his wife and kids on one weekend, the offer was withdrawn the next day, surmising his wife hadn’t agreed. Taking me just a week to establish the ESL unit for about three different classes for both Years 11 and 12, teaching from the set curriculum was stifling and unstimulating even though the young students were enthusiastic about learning English and reasonable in their grasp of the language.
Taking a couple of days off to consider my course of action under a guise of bronchitis (my usual stand-by excuse), I opted to take a risk, resigning and returning to Melbourne hoping Leader Newspapers might still want to employ me, albeit on a casual basis. I’d take my chances again in the media as I actually still loved journalism which had always offered me such a diversity of people to meet and just hoped the people would be more to my liking. While my confidence was not as strong as it needed to be, I knew my freelance stories had been published and that back in the fray would only enhance my confidence by doing the job. I also had a different attitude to journalism per se, recognising its intrinsic limits and not expecting any earth shattering revelations about local community events and happenings. Never having worked on a suburban newspaper either in Melburbia or in England, I looked forward to a new experience even though part of me felt others would perceive it as a professional backward step. What was important was that I didn’t. Calling the Editor on my return home, I was pleased he offered me some work, initially for three-days a week for a couple of weeks in the Glenroy office in the north-west of Melbourne, a suburban enclave I’d never even visited. Knowing I was a lot stronger than years before in withstanding what others thought of me, I had to keep my perspective in the forefront of my mind, without allowing others’ ignorant, biased and assumed attitudes to upset me.
Starting work, albeit nervously, I believed I would refresh my confidence, my credibility and my talent as a journalist, needing to prove something to myself without caring what anyone else thought. As this book is not about work per se, suffice to say what began as a three-day a week, casual stint for a fortnight, turned into a three-year work experience graduating to a full-time, staff position.
The people employed there were great; friendly, helpful and predominantly male, albeit twenty years younger than me if not more. Not fancying any of the males as potential fuck buddies as I was old enough to be their mother, I engaged with some of them in conversations about football, women and stories, believing they should learn about ‘life’ beyond the mostly middle-class, comfortable social milieu they had grown up in. I talked about rape, mental illness, domestic violence, unemployment and homelessness in the context of stories I wrote and my own personal experience, hoping they might just ‘learn’ about reality beyond their comfort zones. Mostly, they appeared to enjoy our dialogue, though I never thought about it. Working hard for two years, I didn’t think about sex much, too tired at night to even bother masturbating. Since Stephen departed for Sydney, I had no sex with anyone and didn’t really miss it. At the cafe nearby where I worked, I met a man who changed that.
Dressed elegantly in a well-cut suit, tall and sophisticated, he sat down with me one day to have a coffee during my lunch break, imparting he was a barrister who was currently on a case in the local court. About my age, he also told me he was married with I can’t remember how many children and was I interested in seeing him after work some time? Handing me his card, he suggested calling him when I was ‘sexually’ thus inclined. Hoping for an enjoyable, mutually satisfying encounter, I called a few days later with him arriving at my apartment with a bottle of wine to share. Without even finishing our first glass, we adjourned to my bedroom where he disrobed and suggested by action, pushing my head gently down to his cock, that I suck him off. I did so without him coming, only for him to then fuck me, wearing a condom he rolled on himself, without as much as a kiss or touch. He then left to return home. Writing him off as a selfish cunt, I decided not to waste any time with him again. For me, it was yet another boring ‘wham, bam, thank you mam” experience I could do without, giving myself a tick however for still attracting someone in my 40s. Not that it mattered as my feelings went nowhere. The one consolation was I had a good bottle of wine to drink on my own.
Indeed, as I aged, my concern about developing vascular problems increased (my mother had a history of this condition) and reading that two glasses of red wine a day aided blood circulation, for the first time ever I started purchasing wine to drink with my dinner alone at home. Work was going well and I enjoyed it, also developing a couple of good friendships with the females who worked there. Interestingly, one young female I talked to returned to the office from covering a story on one occasion to remark to me: “I’m glad you’re here as I don’t like being in the office with just the guys!” Flabbergasted at her comment as I was the only female then in the office with about half a dozen male reporters, I asked her why she felt like that. Without elaborating, she just added “I don’t like it.” For me, it was actually the other way around in some ways, as while I liked a few of my female colleagues, I still felt I had more in common with the males where I could talk sport and politics, among other things. Saddened this female felt like that, I could only wonder why without pressing her for more clarity.
For my 44th birthday, I organised a party at my apartment, making it specifically a hen’s night to try and work out where these young women were at and the nature of our friendships. Inviting a couple of non-colleague female friends too, it was an enjoyable night but somehow, unexciting and lack lustre, believing I really did enjoy male company more than female. At the same time, I knew no one who smoked dope and went without, until a few months later a new young male reporter began work in the office.
Now assigned to a particular paper at work instead of writing for the three newspapers that were reported in the office, this guy was assigned to my paper and together we were responsible for writing all the news and features, including the editorial. Pleased to hear he enjoyed a joint, he often drove me home late on a Friday afternoon when the paper had ‘gone to bed’, inviting him for a cuppa and a smoke. For a couple of hours, we talked over the tea and joint, buying dope off him when I could afford it and he had it to sell. Becoming good mates, he told me about his girlfriend, a past violent girlfriend and problems with his mother. What else was new? Only 30, he was tall, skinny and reasonably good-looking as well as ambitious and a good journalist, with conversation flowing between us. One night when I’d imbibed some vino on my own at home and feeling randy, I called him to see if he wanted to come over for a smoke. He declined, obviously intuiting my desire even though I hadn’t spelled it out. Cheerfully I said goodbye, telling him I’d see him at work the next day. Fronting him in the office the next morning with a smile on my face, I muttered something about ‘sorry, but it doesn’t matter’ and smiling back at me he nodded. We didn’t discuss it further, our friendship continuing as it was, driving me home on Friday afternoons and coming in for tea and a joint.
Soon after that, my periods stopped and while my sex life had been something of a non-event for more than two years, it was now an arid wilderness as menopause assaulted my body. The physical manifestations were more significant than anything psychological with my tits feeling bruised and painful as if consequent of a forceful hit which never occurred, my belly was uncomfortably bloated and bulging and I started sweating at night in bed as hot flushes made me feel I was sleeping in a sauna even in the freeze of a Melburbian winter. Nights were interrupted by constant waking feeling boiling hot as a creeping, painfully stinging pins and needles sensation swept over my torso, throwing off the blankets to cool my body only to become cold again within about ten minutes. Working full-time certainly drained my energy, but even further was waking four or five times a night hot and sweaty. For the next 18 months, I experimented with natural remedies such as Evening Primrose Oil capsules to offset the symptoms, which worked sufficiently so I could sleep without waking hot so consistently and feeling more energetic. Experiencing this “change of life” was on another level very liberating, no longer having periods as a nuisance and able to jettison my store of tampons into the rubbish bin. Cost effective, too. Discussing this with a girlfriend younger than me and still having periods, she told me she didn’t want to stop menstruating as it signalled no longer being a woman. Married and with two young children, she had already attained ‘normal’ female status by giving birth as far as I could understand and incredulous at her attitude, I told her it just wasn’t the same for me. I relished my new freedom without the hassle of periods and welcomed menopause as a new phase in my life.
At the same time, I also strongly believed the young men I worked with and the young women too, needed to understand how menopause affected me and millions of women out there. Talking about my physical disturbance out loud to whoever wanted to listen, the response from most of them was empathic, also suggesting to the females in the office to make the most of being young. I’m not sure whether my dialogue impacted their conscious contemplation about being female or made the young men think about it at all but I felt I was doing ‘something’ to highlight women’s issues in a way I hoped was non-confrontational but challenged them to think outside their social milieu.
Around then, I also embarked on a new strategy in a lot of diverse avenues, including with Richard who I hadn’t heard from since his call in 1990 asking me if I had any dope. Now wanting to ‘test’ his attitude to journalism anew as he was working on a prestigious TV current affairs program, I called him in Sydney to his home where he lived with his wife. While she answered, he was at least prepared to talk to me. Interested as to what his attitude to journalism was now compared to the sleaze rag he worked on in London, I suggested he do a story about teachers teaching subjects in schools without any qualification in those subjects. This had happened to me as I had previously obtained a job teaching junior ‘science’ in a well-respected secondary school without any qualification except my research in the UK. Lasting only one period of teaching the Year 9 class I left the job, the class erupting into violent fisticuffs as the 22 boys with just 2 girls fought each other on the classroom floor. Since that time in 1991, I researched the issue as my teacher sister was also teaching subjects without any qualification as were other teachers at her school. Appalled at this reality in education, I had written a couple of local stories on it too but wanted the issue more publicly highlighted. Richard’s response was disdainful and disrespectful, telling me he was not interested in my projects and didn’t even want to discuss education with me at all. After a couple of minutes, I said goodbye and hung up. Unsurprised by his attitude, it only confirmed he had never cared about anything other than his own self-aggrandisement and ego reinforcement. I never rang him again and he never contacted me either. Occasionally, I heard stories about him from a couple of mutual old friends who told me his cancer had returned, that he had to stop drinking and was instead taking anti-depressants. None of his reality was unexpected, feeling sad that he was unwell and that my life didn’t include him anymore, albeit as a friend.
My new agenda also embraced my mother, taking some of my published stories to her home for her perusal and thoughts. Writing many stories about young girls, women and a myriad of issues that had influenced and shaped my life, I was keen to see what she now thought in her late 70s. Behind this agenda, I also wanted to ascertain whether she now had any interest in my work as I was flourishing in my job and wondered if she could celebrate my success as she had never previously achieved. In my mid 40s, I also started discussing sex with her, albeit to discover her behaviour and attitudes irrespective of mine. Never having told her about any of my men since Richard, she knew none of them, still occasionally hoping I would meet a man to share my life with.
Sadly, nothing had changed in her attitude to my work as while she said she read my stories, her only comment was that they were ‘good’ without elaborating on what I’d actually written about. Not wanting to push that as my perspective and hoping comments would emanate naturally from her, I was disappointed but not surprised. Now proudly announcing herself as a feminist in a way she never had before, we discussed some of the pertinent points about women’s rights and fight for equality, but she had no idea about me and my feminist philosophies. She wasn’t interested in asking me either, more intent on asserting her view that while women had children and were the primary care-givers, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for social attitudes and realities to change. Vehemently disagreeing with her, I didn’t respond argumentatively, realising she lived in her own comfort zone with assumptions and perceptions about me that hadn’t changed over the decades. Moreover, broaching the subject of sex, she told me “I should go to bed with someone like my father’ and given what she had told me when I was a teenager, I was horrified. However, then understanding how emasculating her behaviour was to my father and how he was the only family member who had any real idea about me, I didn’t respond, simply asking her with as much politeness as I could, whether she had ever put a penis in her mouth? Twisting her face in displeasure, she replied: “No, it would make me sick!” That was the end of our discussion, speaking volumes to me while remaining silent. Taking her some of my stories for a few weeks to make certain of her attitude, I ceased bothering, never discussing my work with her again. At the same time, I hardly saw my two sisters either, and over the previous few years, we had drifted even further apart than we had ever been. They were busy with their own lives, husbands, children and work, accepting they were not interested in me and abandoning any pretense of being interested in them.
With my mother at least, we could still share a passion for Scrabble, playing together very enjoyably, even humorously, visiting her on weekends to play games, fiercely competitive with each other and thriving on our mutual love of words. Laughing together, I oft berated her as a “fuckin’ bitch” when she used her seven letters to score 50-plus while she retaliated “she could kill me” when I did likewise. Never denouncing my four-letter word, it was the only time in my life I ever used that word to her as she told me so often in my youth that swearing was indicative of my inability to use language more cleverly and intelligently. On one level I agreed with her, but she missed the point that saying ‘fuck’ was often extremely evocative in certain circumstances. Yet, I always respected that she didn’t like it. Still an avid reader, she borrowed heaps of books from her local library, often giving them to me to read if she thought I was interested. They were books about women’s issues, often exploring these issues in conversation and although she knew I lived a very different life to her and appreciated she had never been that happily married to my father, since he passed away she was often depressed and sad. Accepting there was nothing I could do to alleviate her melancholy, I would share a coffee with her and then leave to go home.
As 1995 continued, another young, male reporter began work in the office and we soon became great friends. Call him Brian, he was just 29, slim, with shoulder-length, curly fair hair and a sense of humour that was flirty and fun. Initially, our amicable banter cascaded over past history, albeit as snapshots of our lives, until discovering we shared passionate sporting interests in football and cricket particularly and were both members of the Melbourne Cricket Club. Living nearby in Richmond too, he soon revealed, or maybe I actually asked, that he was partial to smoking dope, opting to ask him for dinner one night to enjoy a smoke together.
Lusting after him as I hadn’t any man since Stephen, Brian seemed to enjoy flirting with me, but after misinterpreting Gary’s flirtatious prattle as far more than what it was, I took Brian’s humorous banter with a ‘grain of salt.’ I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again. Occasionally, a smart and funny riposte would burst from my mouth too, enlivening the workplace and enhancing my daily routine. While many men at work were frustrated and/or frightened to allude to anything vaguely sexual in the workplace as the law now proscribed, legal niceties and PC behaviour seemed beyond Brian’s repertoire of consciousness, thankfully for me. I really enjoyed our laughing and sexy interludes between head down and bum up at the computer.
Coming for dinner on my request, we got stoned together as he drank beer and I imbibed red vino, conversation flowing as we explored each other’s personal biographies in greater depth and detail. Analysing not just football, cricket and other sporting endeavours, we talked previous partners and sex as well as family experiences and travel. The sixteen years age difference seemed irrelevant, at least to me, as he started calling and coming for dinner on a regular basis, always kissing me goodbye on the lips, mouth closed, as he departed for home.
About three months after the beginning of our friendship, my football team, Carlton, was playing off in the 1995 Grand Final, deciding to celebrate this great feat on the Friday night before with a party at my place instead of Saturday after the game, just in case the team lost. I knew that if it failed to win the flag, I’d want to be home alone to drown my despair. Inviting all the young male reporters at work and a couple of female ones too, as well as a couple of non-journalistic friends, I bought finger food snacks while the guests provided their own grog. Dope was high on the agenda. Arriving around 8.30ish, we all got stoned, drinking and conversing in animated amity, a convivial collective of cronies indulging in a good time. The male reporters were accompanied by their wives and girlfriends who I hadn’t met and Brian came alone as he was without a current female friendly attachment.
Having bought a Sherrin to the party, one of the guys suggested a game of football in the park nearby my apartment despite it being dark, but who cared if they overran the ball in such a dope heightened high. Still missing in action in the park at midnight, I turned on the TV to watch Channel 7’s Grand Final Replays, hoping to ‘relive’ a former glory of my team. The other females sat talking on the sofa and chairs, uninterested in Aussie Rules and unable to fathom my preoccupied passion. Playing the hostess without the mostest, I huddled close to the TV on the floor, turning the sound down low so as not to dominate the small sitting room. I never needed commentators’ comments watching the game, able to read the strategies and manoeuvres for myself. It felt slightly amiss with me on my own in front of the TV, but I was so used to having no female friends to share my addiction to football, I didn’t dwell on it.
The guys finally returned, but losing track of the time, I continued watching the replays joined now by a couple of them, drinking more and smoking dope. At about 2.30am, the party was over, cleaning the dirty glasses and ashtrays, washing the dishes and remaking my sitting room into its usual, ordered and pristine arrangement. I didn’t crash into bed until nearly 4am, only to have to be at the ground by 7am to queue up for the 8am opening of the MCC Reserve. Despite nursing a heavy head and hang over, I made it to the ground in time accompanied by a girlfriend who didn’t want to attend my party, grabbing a couple of good seats inside and adjourning to the cafe for lots of wakemeup caffeine.
Arranging to meet Brian, who supported The Hawks around midday in the Reserve, as he was attending with his brother we only talked for a short time as he wished me good luck and hoped The Bluebaggers, as he called them, would win.
Another male friend of mine who lived in the country and who I’d met at the football many years previously had agreed to meet me at a Richmond pub after the game either for solace or celebration. For the many hours before the 2.30pm bounce to start the game, I mostly spent in my seat with my head lying on my hands on the seat in front hoping my hangover would dissipate and I would wake up to enjoy the game. Fortunately it did and for two hours I was in seventh heaven as The Blues rocketed to roll The Cats big time, a one sided encounter I loved while my girlfriend complained of being bored as she was a half-hearted Collingwood supporter who rarely attended games. This GF was over halfway through the third quarter with The Blues nearly 14 goals ahead, and after staying for the medal presentations and speeches, I duly departed to the pub alone to meet my male country friend. Staying at the pub for just an hour and imbibing just one glass of red, torpor took over and I needed to sleep, arriving home about 8pm to collapse on my sofa fully clothed to fall soundly asleep. Waking up some three hours later, the red button on my telephone answering machine was flashing and alert enough to now recognise it, I listened to the message. It was from Brian who had called before I arrived home to congratulate me, as if I’d orchestrated my team’s success. Smiling to myself as I undressed to jump into bed properly, I thought to myself “I’ve really made a great new friend” as other friends hadn’t called me and neither had my mother or sisters, despite knowing what a passionate supporter I was. They didn’t matter.
Having recently been offered a full-time position on the newspaper after nearly two years as a casual and then on a 12-month contract and having regained all my confidence, self-belief and journalistic talent as I determined it, I was fast becoming bored with the limitations of a community newspaper, having to repeat stories as they occurred on an annual basis. Deciding it was time to take off once more into the unknown and believing I had established a good reputation as a very respected and credible journalist, I thought I would procure another job in the media, simultaneously realising that my lack of confidence may have contributed to my dislike for the journalists I worked with previously. Whatever, I wanted to have another go in the media. Shortly before resigning, I bumped into the barrister again in the street who suggested another sexual rendezvous, but gave him short shrift, telling him he was selfish and I wasn’t interested. That he was still desirous of such a lop-sided sexual dalliance said it all about him and I felt sorry for him. C’est la vie!
After exiting the newspaper, Brian and I cemented our friendship even deeper, with him an almost nightly fixture at my apartment for dinner, still sharing joints together, with lots of amiable laughter and merriment. Still lusting after him, nothing but a friendly kiss on my closed lips was all that passed between us. Unsure as to how to approach the sexual impasse, I did suggest sex one night, only for him to dismiss it as it “would affect our friendship” which he didn’t want. Telling him it wouldn’t change my feelings towards him if it didn’t work out that way, he just didn’t want to continue the conversation any further. Appreciating he was much younger than me I never countenanced anything more than a ‘fun fling’ with him in bed, as he dated lots of other young women which he told me about, obviously uninterested in anything sexual with me. So be it, though his flirtatious banter and mine continued nonetheless, albeit behind closed doors in my apartment and I wasn’t sure what to make of him.
Partly wondering whether he was just a bit scared and intimidated by my sexual experience which I had imparted some of to him, a few months later, at another stoned, drunken get together with a few friends at my apartment one night, he was sitting next to me on my sofa when my unconscious need to clarify our non-sexual relationship took over. Without any thought or planned gambit, I leaned towards him on the sofa, placing my hand gently on his cock, without undoing his fly, whereby he immediately jumped up to virtually ‘run’ out my front door a few feet from the sofa. Becoming late and feeling tired, my other friends left and I crashed into bed, waking up the next morning remembering what transpired and unsure what to do. It was a Sunday and after dwelling on it for a couple of days, I decided to call Brian and apologise, even though I didn’t think I had done anything wrong. Feeling glad my unconscious had taken over with my hand action on his cock, his reaction certainly clarified once and for all his lack of lust for me and maybe too his fear of me. Whatever his underlying raison d’etre, I now knew exactly where I was with him though considered him immature for ‘running away’ as he did. Clearly, he didn’t know how to deal with me, but a real man, I conjectured, would have told me I was pissed and to go to bed. Alone. My apology was forthcoming because nonetheless, I valued our friendship, pleased he accepted my apology without much discussion, both of us affirmed our strong, platonic relationship. I soon fell out of lust with him.
The same year and still unemployed and unable to obtain the job I thought I would, I resumed freelance journalism for extra money and to ensure my confidence remained high, but my menopausal symptoms now nosedived into more discomfort and difficulty, despite still using my natural remedy. For 18 months I had adopted this route as therapy, but now decided to consult a female endocrinologist to undertake a course of Hormone Replacement Therapy as I felt lethargic and unenergetic most of the day. Waking up sweaty and hot three or four times a night again I was managing just a few hours sleep for several weeks before appreciating I needed to address menopause differently. Knowing HRT could engender breast cancer and also increase blood pressure, I felt I had no other option to maintain my energy levels for work, albeit under my own direction. The HRT successfully curbed my steamy nights in bed with no side effects just enriching my lust for life again.
On first seeing the female specialist and detailing my problems, her response was interesting, telling me albeit kindly and understandingly: “you think you have problems?” Continuing to elaborate on the menopausal malignancy for many women, she narrated how these women would literally drench their beds in sweat as if they’d just stepped out of a hot shower, needing to change the sheets twice a night, simultaneously bedevilled by blinding headaches, depression and of course, a dry vagina. By comparison, my symptoms were relatively mild and I was fortunate. She made me feel indeed I was, still using my HRT patch even now 21 years later. My blood pressure did increase to become an issue, needing other medication to keep it down, but fortunately I have never developed breast cancer and can still get wet, enjoy sex and lust after men. Not that it happened again for years, at least mutually.
Remaining unemployed as the 90s phased out, Brian’s friendship was a bonus in my life, as his presence for dinner and the laughter and merriment we indulged in helped alleviate my concern and worry about my future and money. Selling a few articles to various newspapers, I still lived on the dole with my mother gratefully paying the rates and my bills. Times were tough again on some levels, at least financially, but I never again expected anyone to solve my problems or ever again sought comfort in food, grog or even with boring acquaintances.
Hoping to increase my circle of friends interested in politics and women’s issues, I contacted an organisation called Women’s Electoral Lobby I first encountered in 1972 in Melbourne before jetting off to the UK with Richard. Actively campaigning for greater representation of women in Parliament, WEL seemed an interesting and reasonable group to join, though I was never into ‘groupie’ meetings, particularly with women only and about women only. Hoping this organisation might not just be dominated my man blaming feminists, I fortunately did meet another young female almost 20 years younger than me who coincidentally was a journalist, also at Leader Newspapers but in another division to the one I had worked in. Sharing a passionate interest in politics and sex, we conversed over the next few years as friends about both subjects, able to discuss the latter with her more than any other female friend I had ever known, becoming close friends to enjoy a joint together, a vino and rye bread, smoked salmon, Italian salami and lots of intimate conversation. However, at this time, I stopped labelling myself a ‘feminist’ as I concluded the label misleading and misrepresenting what I supported and believed. Yes, I strongly advocated women’s rights, but I was so conscious that millions of men missed out on recognition of their rights unless they embraced the ‘tough’, insensitive, successful stereotype, I didn’t want the feminist label to limit my more humanist perspective. My friend and I contested and argued this issue ad nauseum, finally agreeing to disagree. We spent many hours in friendly and stimulating exchanges where she revealed some of her ‘sexploits’ and I revealed mine. She was into sex without love being a prerequisite and seemed to revel in her sexuality as much as I did. Maybe I pondered younger women were far more liberated than my peers were, appreciating sex for its own pleasure without having to dress it up as anything else. It was pure joy to have her as a friend.
However, as the 90s closed I had been without sex for over six years, feeling somewhat worried about exactly what my future would herald which curtailed my lust and lasciviousness. Scheduled to turn 50 in February 2000, I maintained a Positive Mental Attitude and looked forward to the 21st century! What would it offer?