Turning 30 shortly after touching down in Melburbia as a new decade dawned, my first priority was finding a good job with all illusions, and/or delusions, about both Gary and Brad dissolved in the background of my life.

After a few abortive attempts to secure employment in my own home town, though not applying at my old newspaper as it had long since passed my use by date, I travelled to Sydney hoping to find work, being offered a position at AAP on the same grading and money I had departed the country seven years previously. On confronting the personnel manager about my extensive professional experience in the UK, I received a depressing response that it counted for nothing and now back in Australia I would have to start again. Rejecting his offer as professionally demeaning, I started feeling really down about so-called opportunities Down Under and didn’t know what I was going to do.

Staying with my Australian girl-friend who had married Diego but now divorced, she was living and working in Sydney while he had returned to Spain, and desperate for some money, I freelanced for Australian Business magazine making umpteen telephone calls at the same time to various media to get a job. While I wasn’t surprised by my girlfriend’s divorce, almost to be expected, what did surprise me was her recounting an affair with another woman, albeit a married journalist woman I knew in Melbourne in the early 70s. She told me the affair, in Melbourne where she was then living, lasted for over six months until she left Melburbia for a new life on her own in Sydney. Stunned by her revelation, I just couldn’t fathom a woman having sex with another woman as kissing a female cunt didn’t appeal nor did even kissing a woman on the mouth. Without asking her if they used any “substitute” for a cock, I didn’t inquire about the salacious details, just felt at a loss to appreciate a lesbian liaison. Certainly, I didn’t tell her about how I was regarded as a lesbian in London at Thames and how it had upset me on one level, she imparted how she had ‘fallen in love’ with this woman after the marriage break-up with Diego. It was beyond my comprehension.

Never having lived alone before, she told me she was now looking forward to living by herself for the first time in her life, adding she needed to live alone to re-organise her life. She was 28-years-old. Supporting her quest on her own, I could only appreciate how so many women I knew had simply exchanged a life with their families for that with a husband, too often marrying into yet just another variation of their family without really separating or establishing genuine independence, understanding that in part, my relationship with Richard was about that, too. I actually enjoyed living by myself at times, wondering what I really needed a man for; a man specifically as partner or husband. What couldn’t I do on my own and while acknowledging I needed and wanted friends, what was the importance of a singular man in my life? The only obvious answer was sex, but apart from that, I entertained beliefs that I could enjoy and share love and good times with an array of different people. And at 30, I was reassessing whether I really did want to have children.

Understanding that my attraction for both Gary and Brad, and even Richard too, was essentially sexual, I wanted to live independently, making my own decisions without having to justify my actions and behaviour to anyone. I’d virtually abandoned hope and/or belief in ever finding a man to live with again as so many of them, at least those I encountered, were intellectually incompatible, sexually unsuitable, emotionally repressed and/or not interested in me. Having ‘flings’ when I could seemed more realistic.

Since moving to Sydney, my girlfriend had a new male companion, a male gay actor who she swallowed drugs with and indulged in all manner of exciting and hedonistic pastimes. Compared to her rigid and controlled life in Spain where I had last known her, she was now living an altogether different life, jettisoning her former conventional conservatism. The disappointing reality I had to confront was she still didn’t care that much about me and what I had achieved and accomplished in London, evincing no interest in the books I wrote or the work I was involved in. That felt depressing too, only to receive a phone call at her apartment from Richard who she had told I was staying with her.

Asking me what I had been doing I told him I’d written a book replying “what about?” My retort was swift: “Story of my life!” only for him to slam the phone down on me. After the letter from Virago in London and other friends and family disinterest in reading or discussing my books, I was becoming even more convinced they somehow had gist of what I wrote, thinking it was about Richard and I. That was as depressing as my failure to obtain a decent job as the female character ‘wants’ to kill her violent boyfriend and I couldn’t believe my friends and family actually thought that was me. I needed to test Richard about it, too.

What people surmised about my books made me wonder even more about why I couldn’t attract a publisher; detailing the story of a violent woman who they thought was mad, no less! Sitting down to smoke a few cigarettes alone as my girlfriend was at work, Richard rang back the next day with something of an apology (what else was new?), asking me if I wanted to have lunch. I agreed. As much as I believed I’d been ‘in love’ with both Gary and Brad which I comprehended as lust run amok, I still entertained too many confusing feelings about Richard, looking forward to seeing him and maybe even having sex with him again.

Meeting at a pub in The Rocks, he told me how ‘nice’ I looked as I was slim again and wearing apparel he had never seen before. Talking over lunch, we didn’t hack over the past and had only a couple of drinks. He looked incredibly gorgeous, still slim too, sporting a golden tan as it was summer and all I could think of was sex. It had been a few months since I’d indulged and was feeling randy, remembering all the good times we had shared in bed, at least. While my body was craving sex, my mind was still very clear about not wanting to get involved again, adjourning to another pub after eating to catch up with a male mate of his.

Walking to the pub, he told me about having testicular cancer with the testicle removed to be finally given the all clear. “The first thing I did after I recovered was to see if I could still get an erection and have good sex,” he told me without me asking anything. “So could you? Did you?” I responded. “Thankfully, I could and did.” It was business as usual for him still living with the English woman he met in London after we split up. Meeting his mate at the pub, we drank too much as I became more and more preoccupied with fucking him, only for him to announce after a couple of hours he was leaving to go home, alone. Disappointed, I played darts at the pub with his mate for about an hour until I felt sleepy, hailing a taxi to return to my friend’s place. Sitting down in her lounge, I was soon aware she was off her face on Mandrax as I burst into tears bemoaning “Oh shit, I’m still in love with Richard,” my understanding of love, lust and sex abounding with a myriad of conflicts and contradictions. I don’t recall her reply if there was one as she was basically incommunicado, soon retiring to bed. I undressed to sleep on the sofa, drying my eyes but finding it hard to fall asleep, my mind thinking about Richard yet again. It was a one-bedroom flat with no door on her bedroom and I was sleeping in her sitting room just a few feet away. Preoccupied with Richard, I masturbated, ensuring I muffled my sounds so my girlfriend wouldn’t hear me. Why did I even bother to do that? I’m unsure except I didn’t want her to know what I was doing, baffled once more about how I could still feel I was ‘in love’ with him after everything that transpired. After coming, I realised I was still unable to resolve the nexus between love and sex and would I ever resolve it?

Tossing and turning for a couple of hours, I had to countenance that however I felt, Richard had walked away from me and what with both Gary and Brad too, I just felt so rejected which was very depressing. Eventually falling asleep, I woke up the next morning to re-focus on getting a job but to no avail in Sydney, ringing another former boss in Adelaide who had once thought very highly of me. There seemed nowhere else to go and no one else to turn to. This guy told me to write him a letter filling him in on what I’d done in the UK which I duly did to receive a phone call a few days later with the offer of a job. As this book is not about work per se, I accepted his offer but my sadness and depression at having to go to Adelaide to work for a newspaper I considered a “rag” was seeping right through me, though adept at hiding it from everyone except myself. Although I hadn’t worked for or seen this guy for 10 years, I hoped he remembered what he once penned in a reference for me when I left to travel to Israel, commenting I was “an above average” cadet who had an “exceptional awareness of an angler.” Suffice to say he didn’t, simply telling me when I arrived that he “would help me get started again”. Yet once more, why did I need to start again as such? Why was I unable to secure a job that continued on from my work in the UK? Without replying to his comment, I just nursed a quiet, albeit repressed anger about not just his attitude, but my inability to obtain a job in Melburbia or Sydney commensurate with my UK experience. Yet, there seemed no other alternative at the time as I was broke and desperately needed to earn some money. I didn’t tell Richard or even see him again before taking off for Adelaide.

A few days in my new job, depressed, angry and surly, I felt intellectually and professionally humiliated once more, but reassured about my perceptions in London about Thames as I read an interview with the then president of the ACTU, Bob Hawke, in Australian Playboy magazine. He admitted his attitudes to women were condescending, specifically in the language he adopted towards them, further acknowledging he did not respect them as equals. Becoming Prime Minister just three years later, he shaped the Sex Discrimination Act, among other things, but his comments in early 1980 at least reflected an honest self-awareness about his own sexism and prejudice. He was the first and only man I read that had the guts, if that’s even the right word, maybe integrity is far more appropriate, to admit it. He still is. Certainly, the men I had worked with just dismissed me as a raving, mad feminist, indeed even psycho, as did many women too, unwilling to even confront their sexist attitudes, behaviour and jealousy respectively. They were attitudes I found sadly so extant across the media in the years ahead, evinced by both men and women towards me.

At the same time as applauding Hawke’s honesty, I recognised my own ‘sexist’ attitudes to men too, realising I objectified many of them as sex objects no differently than men objectified women. What was important is that I didn’t pretend the liaisons were about anything else but sex, not to myself or to the men. Interestingly, some of the men seemed unable to accept all I wanted was sex as I realised about Richard all too clearly after we split up. As much as most women felt humiliated and exploited by being regarded as nothing more than sex objects, so too did men I realised, unless they were calling the shots. In trying to resolve the conflicts about these issues, I conjectured that a first and significant step was to acknowledge one’s own sexism, hoping that might contribute positively towards unravelling it to see the “whole” person instead. Many men, those believing they were intelligent, thoughtful and smart, could “talk the talk” as even Richard tried, but too often they were revealed as self-deluded and simply unable to genuinely accept women as equal counterparts anywhere other than in bed, if even that. Actually being able to ‘walk the talk’ seemed beyond the want of the men I had known and women as well.

For most of the men in my life, women were still enshrined as the good mothers and homemakers, while many women who called themselves feminists as well as those who didn’t, could not or would not support or encourage women in their ambitious or professional pursuits, self-deluded too about caring about women and more fixated on their personal self-aggrandisement. These were depressing, frustrating and confusing days for me as I tried to clarify how society could begin to address the complexities inherent in it all.

Shelving this issue to the back of my mind, albeit temporarily, I looked forward to a party instead where I hoped I would meet a man for some good sex. The party was another journalist piss-up celebrating a football match between my old Melbourne newspaper company and its Adelaide counterpart. At the party, one of the first men to sidle up to me was one of Richard’s ex flat mates who he lived with before moving in with me. In Adelaide for the football game, he took just a couple of seconds to proposition me for sex. Meeting him at work in Melbourne before ever meeting Richard, he had asked me out a couple of times but I was never interested. It was no different now, telling him I didn’t want to know. For most of the night, I danced by myself in the hallway of the house outside the lounge where everyone was partying. I hardly drank. My feelings were so mixed up about what I was doing in this town and how I had ended up there, returning home early to a flat I shared with a nurse’s aide after seeing an ad in the newspaper. There was another man employed on the same newspaper who I had fucked way back before I met Richard too with him suggesting we should “do it again”. The sex with him had been good and pleasurable, but I just wasn’t interested in reliving the past, refusing his offer. I hardly masturbated either, though my need for sex was becoming more and more powerful as I fell asleep feeling frustrated far too often. Masturbation went only so far as what I needed was ‘a cock up my cunt’ not just a clitoral orgasm.

I befriended one young female reporter on the paper as well as a guy a couple of years older than me who visited me at home after work. Finding him easy to converse with, I enjoyed his company but when he told me he was married though without children and suggesting we have sex, I declined, wanting no more complicated dalliances with married men. I really liked this guy and didn’t want to get hurt and predictably, he stopped visiting me.

Thoroughly bored and also frustrated with my mundane job, I conceived of writing a sequel to The Circle War, calling it At The Front as I was fast losing interest in my job, slamming desk drawers in my frustration and anger as well as consuming myriad cups of coffee sitting at my desk with nothing to do except watch the clock till I could go home and continue writing my new book.

Receiving phone calls in Adelaide from my Australian girlfriend as well as Richard, too, I didn’t want to know them, curt and terse with both of them. I was on a three-month trial and decided to resign at its end. When I told the guy I was leaving because I wasn’t interested, he responded “I was going to ask you to leave anyway; you’re too slow”. Without caring what he thought, I couldn’t wait to get out of there, feeling I was in the same situation I had been in as an 18-year-old cadet, 10 years experience irrelevant. Aware of my increasing anger and frustration about work which I could feel bursting inside me, I made a conscious decision to vent my feelings by banging cupboard doors in my flat when I was home alone, appreciating only too well how bottled up I’d been in London about work, too. The release of physical energy felt remarkably positive, understanding how violence, albeit on inanimate objects, could be therapeutic. I didn’t tell anyone, always ensuring I was home on my own as my flatmate worked on shifts and I was often alone at night, sitting at my desk in my bedroom pounding on my typewriter.

My flat mate was fat and short though reasonably attractive, sharing many conversations about weight, men and being female as she complained ad nauseum about her too fleshy torso. Telling her how I’d shed my extra poundage, I suggested she could do likewise, but all she repeated was how she couldn’t imagine me as fat. Insisting I certainly was but had lost it in some attempt to inspire her, she was indifferent to my achievement. A couple of years older than me, she had a boyfriend called Michael who I met a few times who I liked.

After leaving my job, I spent most of my time in the flat writing, occasionally going out with my flatmate at night to a couple of pubs and clubs in the city, still hoping to meet some guy for good sex. I never did. The city felt like a ghost town after London and as much as I was angry, I was also very sad, at a loss to clearly understand how this was my ‘fate’ after all the hard work and good results I’d achieved in England.

One night at home my flatmate told me she had broken up with Michael to be surprised just a couple of nights later when he knocked on the front door when she was working. Did I want to have sex with him? Agreeing to a liaison, it was the first time I’d had sex for over six months, getting on top of him for a mutual fuck. I hadn’t had a drink and it felt really good as his cock thrust deep inside me to come as he did. It had been a long time since that had happened. He hardly touched me and there was no foreplay but I was so desperate for a fuck I didn’t need it, just glad I could enjoy it again, though we didn’t discuss the sex and I never told my flatmate. I never saw him again and didn’t care.

Writing all day and many hours into the night, I finally departed Adelaide back to Melburbia to try once more to obtain a job. But one morning while staying with my parents, I espied a dark, brown stain on my knickers as well as realising there was a discharge from my vagina. Without going into explicit details, I asked my mother for a local doctor who I consulted to be told I had a vaginal infection as he wrote a script for antibiotics. Though the doctor didn’t tell me, I knew I had gonorrhoea, presumably contacted from Michael, telling my mother I had an infection and leaving it at that. Why the doctor didn’t tell me what it really was when I knew is his issue and I never consulted him again as the antibiotics cleared it up after about ten days. Still unable to secure a decent job in Melburbia, I had to consider yet again moving to Sydney, a city I didn’t want to live in, though always enjoyed visiting.

Understanding I had to moderate my aspirations professionally, I resumed being a researcher at ABC-TV on a new science show, sharing an office with one of the two male presenters. This man, who I found unappealing sexually, kept pestering me to have sex, but it seemed just flirtatious banter that went nowhere for me. Moreover, with my depressed and unhappy feelings being back in Australia, I had once more sought solace in food, putting on weight again to my own disgust. Certainly I never bloomed the way I had in the UK, but the extra pounds felt unattractive and now I was angrier at myself more than at others. Arriving back in Sydney, I stayed at my Australian girlfriend’s flat again as she was away in Bali on holiday and one Saturday morning, there was a knock on the front door, surprised to see Richard outside. Asking if he could come in, I duly opened the door, made some coffee and chatted about what I was now going to do. He told me he had a new girlfriend who understood him as she was violent too and all I could do was shudder, thinking privately to myself that they really would kill each other one day. Moreover, I asked him whether he had hit his English girlfriend and this new one, too, replying yes to my questions. No longer interested in why he had hit both of them, I didn’t even bother prying any further into his reasons. Staying for just an hour, he departed and I was glad to be on my own. I didn’t even want to have sex with him, partly because I was feeling too sad but also because I realised he just wasn’t on my wavelength anymore if we had ever been. Our lives were now in such different places that I had to re-establish myself back in Australia, my work taking precedence over everything else.

Rekindling my interest in understanding men, I started purchasing more men’s books, a particularly valuable one I found at a second-hand bookshop called ‘The Liberated Man” by Warren Farrell, published in 1975, focusing on ‘beyond masculinity, freeing men and their relationships with women.’ The front cover states: “For every man who has ever thought a job, a wife and kids- there must be something more – the most provocative book since The Feminine Mystique and The Female Eunuch.” Reading this book I was in part still trying to understand Richard as a man as well as myself as a woman, appreciating that if women were ever to achieve genuine liberation it must involve men, too. We lived together, worked together and loved together and the perspective of much of the 70s women’s movement maligning men as the enemy which I never shared engendered my need to try and understand men in a way I never acknowledged before. I didn’t want to live my life without men but I felt I needed to learn what impels their attitudes and behaviour if I was ever going to understand myself as a female and what had happened to me in London and back in Australia re my work, money and lifestyle.

As much as my approach to liberation embraced learning about men, I was also reappraising the effect of other women on my life, particularly my mother and sisters and some female friends, too, who had put me down intellectually and professionally no less than the men at Thames or those in the Australian media when I returned. Feeling like I’d been ‘mentally raped’, humiliated and put down with no respect or interest from them in my work or my success in the UK, I understood I felt like a ‘failure’ with unemployment, financial bankruptcy and no friends or family who supported my work or my ambitions. Moreover, my single status also played havoc with my sense of self, feeling ‘pressured’, albeit intangibly, to be married or at least have a boyfriend. Aware of discrimination in the workforce by men, now there appeared another more subtle, even more powerful and oppressive discrimination against me by women about the sort of female I was. Shunning my mother and sisters, I was castigated as ‘abnormal’ by my mother, though it didn’t subdue my anger, just feeling too saddened by it all but determined to ‘retrieve’ myself from the rubbish dump of living on the dole alone where they shoved me. That’s how it felt.

My resolve however was strong, later declaring a ‘truce’ with my mother and sisters superficially (not that they realised) and understanding that I had to adopt a different modus operandi to clarify our relationships. Likewise with a couple of female friends who also believed me ‘abnormal’ if not even mad. There was a tough road ahead of me but one thing I appreciated about myself was my innate strength to go it alone and find my own understanding as I had in the UK, revisiting some of my experiences albeit with a different perspective. Sex paled into insignificance.

After six months in Sydney, my mother saw an ad in a newspaper for a reporter/director on a current affairs program in Melbourne at the recently introduced multicultural broadcaster, SBS-TV. Applying for the job I was glad to return to Melburbia and yet another new opportunity, though it too turned out to be a waste of time as it was just Thames in reverse as while I was now a so-called reporter, I was not allowed to do my own research as the program employed researchers for that specific purpose. The researchers who had no previous experience in journalism were essentially glam hopping wannabe stars, meaning I covered stories without knowing all the facts and implications about them, lasting four months before I resigned to try again and write, albeit for a showbiz TV magazine. Realising the TV system was ‘fucked’ with different people as researchers and reporters, I opted to return to doing it all myself again as well as refusing to suffer any more shit humiliation in the workplace.

During my four months at SBS, I shed my fleshy poundage to never regain it. There were no other fucks in those months as there was a dearth of sexy men in my life, though fancied a sound recordist I sometimes worked with but it seemed a strictly one-way street. His cameraman appreciated some talent on my behalf, broaching my new interest in making a documentary about men with both of them. They weren’t interested. I still thought about Richard occasionally, mostly about sex, though knew I never wanted him back, still hoping I would meet some sexy and intelligent man who could accept me as the woman I was. Now 32, I didn’t dwell on that too often.

In The Liberated Man, Farrell wrote “one of the ironic limitations of masculinity is an inability to enjoy the sex for which the ‘masculine’ man has allegedly been clamouring…for all the men’s talk, many men become impotent the moment women show any overt desire for sex…(perceiving) women as sexually demanding and possibly insatiable...” These words resonated with me loud and clear about Richard as he’d labelled me ‘insatiable’ all too often, wondering if he, as Farrell wrote, “(did) not recognise that all his life he (had) never concentrated on developing resources to get excited by learning from a woman. In that position, he is insecure and afraid, and his penis cowers.”  Never aware of Richard being impotent, certainly some men I had known couldn’t get it up and I was reconsidering that problem as a male understood it. Farrell continued that “Man’s sexuality is still penis-centred… (blinding) him to the sensuality of sex not connected to the penis. A hard penis is not necessary for sexual enjoyment.” He also posited that “masculinity is…measured by the degree to which he robs women of both their humanity and their sexuality and robs himself of the ability to be human.” He elucidates very clearly the ‘sex object’ trap claiming that a woman (a “chick”) who does initiate physical contact or goes to bed the first night still has unspoken (or spoken) aspersions cast upon her. “She is suspected of being just a sloppy two-bit whore, an oversexed, insatiable bitch, a nymphomaniac.” Richard and so many other men I knew were ‘typically’ tied into that mythology as Farrell clarified.

One of the issues he also wrote about was the breadwinner status men aspire to and on this level, I identified with the male stereotype as he proposes that “The one common element between both high-achieving and highly-creative boys and girls is that neither adopts traditional sex roles,” adding that the “damage of stereotyping is even more irreparable for the boy than for the girl…(with often) contempt for women (who do not fit the stereotype of being traditionally female).” Man’s side of the coin is “living…and winning” while the woman’s side is “living vicariously and winning vicariously...” something I could never do, having no interest or desire for any kind of vicarious life. My philosophy and life focused on living directly and personally through myself, for myself and of myself, savouring life and its vast tapestry of indulgence, albeit sometimes as a ‘fool rushing in where angels feared to tread”. Farrell also suggests man “is not encouraged to respect (a woman’s) total integrity or even to look for her mental integrity.

As much as Farrell asserts men’s contempt for women who do not fit the traditional female stereotype, I realised many women, such as my mother, sisters and some female friends, were just as unable to accept my non-traditional female desires and ambitions, tinged disparagingly with disapproval and displeasure, if not outright contempt, too. Without voicing their disdain specifically, their attitudes, behaviour and beliefs about me and towards me manifested loudly as lack of support and encouragement; professionally, emotionally and certainly intellectually, regarding me as some sort of strange misfit deluded and disturbed in my desires. My single status and increasing awareness of passing my use by date for having children was just another negative against me. On several occasions, my mother repeated how she hoped I would meet a man to share my life with as if that would offer me happiness ever after; the fairytale writ large in her psyche. I had already ceased elucidating my ambitions and desires to her, allowing her to entertain her own delusions about me while I got on with living my own life. On some levels, it was a sad and depressing scenario to go it alone acknowledging I had to find the strength to surpass the status quo which most people accepted as heteronormative reality. Maintaining this status quo was not just about men refusing to relinquish power, authority and control as they disrespected women, but women were complicit in this too, adopting their attitudes for a ‘norm’ of being female, however unconscious and covert.

Back in Melburbia on my showbiz magazine, it took a few weeks to acclimatize to the personal journalism I’d buried in my psyche with the impersonal of politics for too many years in the UK dominating my professional perspective, but with some friendly advice from the editor I recovered my talent for understanding the personal as political, too. For a few months, I actually enjoyed the people I met as we engaged in interesting and stimulating conversations about a diverse range of issues. Abandoning past enthusiasm for documentaries, I decided to try and write a non-fiction book about men, based on a series of interviews, sending my idea to a couple of publishers but to no avail and simultaneously, began sending my own novels and short stories to a myriad of publishers again, also proving futile. The Penguin Books publisher did not mince his words in his rejection letter, saying while there was much to recommend the honesty in confronting the issues it didn’t work for him as a novel. Even though I already knew people believed and/or assumed it was about Richard and I, this was now confirmation of my suspicions in London and with others I knew in Melburbia. As too many publishers thought they were indeed true, I stopped wasting money on sending them out as I was still earning far less than I believed I deserved. What else was new?

Sex in the office still abounded, as one of the male sub-editors on the magazine who seemed to fancy himself as a sexy stud, walked into the office I shared with a couple of other female reporters, asking me if I wanted to “sit on his knee”. Without planning my response, I instinctively retorted tersely “I’ll bite it off you!” Stunned, even shocked perhaps, he remained silent as he strode out of the office. While I may have been too naive, even unconsciously reluctant to confront Gary when he made the comment about “don’t wear your clitoris on your sleeve,” I was now only too cognisant of the sexist behaviour in the media, determined to voice my anger at their sexual harassment and sham bravado. It didn’t win me any friends in the workplace, but I no longer cared about friendships with women or men who treated me condescendingly, arrogantly and disrespectfully. It was their problem, not mine, however they wanted to perceive me or assume. Thames and even Adelaide had taught me plenty about the lack of intellectual and professional respect towards me and I wasn’t going to tolerate it anymore.

With my mother and sisters, I played games, planning what to say and how to say various things, determined to ‘investigate’ their attitudes towards me more profoundly than I ever had previously. Sadly, my father had a stroke while I was still living in the UK and was mentally and physically impaired so all I could talk to him about was sport and occasionally politics, though even that was difficult as he was simply unable to acknowledge what was happening in the world. He could no longer read, sleeping for hours in between watching TV which he also couldn’t really understand.

There was no sex for more than a year as I didn’t meet anyone who tickled my senses though befriended a gay reporter colleague based in our office in Sydney, enjoying amusing conversations about sex via the telephone for the first time in years. Initially, I was unaware of his homosexuality when we talked as he was as garrulous as I was and the first person I ever told about having a bottle up my cunt during sex. His reaction was gratifying as he wasn’t at all shocked or surprised, laughingly accepting my kinky indulgences. He occasionally visited Melbourne for work when he informed me about being gay, imparting he sometimes felt attracted to a woman sexually, mentioning one in particular who I knew through my job. She was a film publicist I sometimes had dealings with who was certainly good-looking but he later said it was a ‘passing’ fad and he was far more attracted to men than women. It was a joy to have him as a friend despite the distance between us on land as I shared many private and personal sex stories with him as he did with me. Sexually I had found a soul mate as some compensation for having no boyfriend.

I did start dating one of the two boys who I befriended in my final year at high school as a ‘political’ soul mate. Bumping into him in the trendy inner suburb of Carlton one weekend, although we were political and literary allies at school and later when I worked at The Sun newspaper in the early 70s, there had never been any hint of sexual interest from him or me in those days. Indeed, it was his friend who I had fancied at school, learning he too had departed our shores for residence in the UK. Bruce, as I’ll call him, visited my apartment many times when I returned from the UK in 1970, talking, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, but he was then massively overweight, even obese, now marvelling at his loss of copious kilos as he was really slim, trim and even sexually appealing. Indeed, I had hardly recognised him when I saw him in Carlton; a man transformed, having quit his boring job as a public servant to work as a copywriter in advertising. Sharing common writing aspirations, we exchanged telephone numbers and hoped to see him again. Within a few days he called, going out for dinner where conversation flowed and inevitably, he came back to my apartment for some coffee sex, except he couldn’t maintain an erection, falling limp after a few seconds as I tried to harden it by sucking him first. We didn’t get any further as he told me it had happened before with a previous girlfriend of some years long standing. Asking whether he had sought ‘help’ for the problem, he became defensive and cool, denying it was his issue by claiming the girlfriend was a manic-depressive and it was her problem. I wasn’t sure what to understand and moreover, I realised that while he looked trim and taut, terrific for me he really wasn’t as my sexual spark failed to ignite.

Departing my apartment a short time later, we stayed friends for several years without again embarking on sex, asking him to accompany me to ‘freebie’ events I was showered with in my job and swapping our writing efforts for criticism and feedback. I often wrote stories about TV stars working in a variety of other fields such as comedy and theatre and on one occasion went for dinner and a comedy performance at Melbourne’s famous The Last Laugh. There I bumped into another man from my past who I knew very fleetingly during my adolescence on the Jewish party circuit who was now a journalist, too. In my teens, he was never a fanciable prospect as like a couple of other boys I mentioned, he was short and fat though not quite ugly. He by passed me in the night. I only remembered his name because he became a journalist, one of the few Jewish people in the media in the early 70s in Melburbia.

During my unemployment in London, he was a London correspondent for the same Melbourne newspaper company I had worked for as a quasi-secretary while I was still with Richard, contacting him briefly via the telephone during my attempt to freelance to offer him a story I’d written on spec. Without seeing him but faxing him the story, he wasn’t interested in it having no more to do with him. It was nearly twenty years since I had actually seen him in my teens and he was now married with two, young children and working as a feature writer on one of Melbourne’s quality newspapers. Talking to him briefly, I told him where I was working and was surprised when he called at work the following week to ask me out for lunch. I didn’t make anything of it except an opportunity to indulge in a good meal and talk “shop”. That was exactly what transpired until he called again at work the next week this time with an invitation to dinner.

Two other male friends from pre-UK reappeared in my life too; my former married (still) boss at The Sun who was now working in technology and responsible for introducing computers into the newspaper company and the platonic mate who had the ‘small dick’ who had attempted suicide at 18. Accompanying my former boss to dinner on several occasions, our friendship resumed its familiar pleasure, having sex again which with my different experiences was far more enjoyable and satisfying than it had been before. The nature of our sex was however still traditionally conservative and straight without any kink, never revealing my penchant for norms beyond conventional sex. He did engage in foreplay while I often sucked him off, our dalliances always culminating with his cock up my cunt. It was better sex than previously, as there was still a close rapport with him as if we had never been apart, sharing many interests in common such as football, politics, journalism and sex. In the perspective of my relationship with Richard and his belief that I ended our relationship because of his infidelity, I started reappraising fidelity more impersonally, wondering about my former boss and many of the married men I had sex with. What significance did sexual fidelity really encompass? Was it actually important, a natural consequence of love or imposed to thwart jealousy?

In a book I read at that time called “About Men”, a series of columns about the male experience penned by different men published in The New York Times in 1983, writer Lance Compa, recently married at 30, reflects “for fidelity, it’s not a simple contest of intellectual constancy versus renegade emotion. There’s no such thing as an uncomplicated affair. Besides the excitement, I remember the lies, the sneaking and remorse that accompanied extra-relationship affairs when I was single…(adding) avoiding that distress is a powerful emotional check on infidelity…And yet, I’m still drawn to someone who seems special. Sometimes speculation moves beyond the idle and banter beyond flirting.” However, he acknowledges “the leap might be liberating, the consequences disastrous….believing that “the surprise at being faithful is topped by another surprise: it’s the very ambivalence that makes fidelity and marriage work. The tension means we’re not taking each other for granted; we’re sticking together, itch notwithstanding.” It was an interesting perspective from a married man and made me aware of a very pertinent aspect about my own attitude to sex with married men; namely, that I implicitly accepted that sex with them was at their behest and out of my control as it was always when they had the time and/or the inclination rather than my own. While it occasionally rankled me that I was unable to initiate sex when I felt like it as I never called them at their homes, I made no demands of them, wanting no more of them or from them and happily acquiesced to sex when it suited them. Certainly, my relationship with my former boss was about more than sex, but I felt very strongly that I did not want to marry him or even see more of him. In that perspective, it was convenient for both of us and for me, without any disastrous consequences. He once told me his wife realised he was having an affair, but she had no inkling it was me (I had met her a couple of times) and whether he felt there were disastrous consequences for him, he never imparted and I wasn’t interested. We never discussed his sex with his wife and I never felt jealous either. He was still a “mentor” for me professionally and I needed him as a friend more than just a lover. Ditto for many of the other married men I had sex with as they were good mates who I could enjoy sex with at times without any strings attached. During these years I was reassessing more and more about whether I actually wanted a permanent one-to-one relationship, enjoying my independence and not having to answer to anyone but myself. It was difficult at times to withstand all the oft deprecating social innuendos about being single, but I was becoming stronger in my beliefs as I aged. Marriage became less and less appealing as a lifestyle I could envisage for myself and married men were convenient sex objects even if they were calling the shots. It actually suited my lifestyle.

My other mate, who had lived in Asia for several years, was back at The Sun and sharing a house in Fitzroy with a compositor on the same newspaper. Female friends were few and far between, making a couple of new friends who I attended movies with and the occasional dinner as I still loved eating though my weight stayed stable. No longer over indulging by eating in restaurants every night, for the first time in my life I embarked on my own culinary journey, enjoying new delights creating my own cuisine in the apartment I bought with the financial assistance of my mother.

Money, the lack of it, was still significant, but I refrained from extravagant spending in expensive restaurants and was exploring an altogether different lifestyle; albeit 9-5 five days a week which I hated. It was as if I was trying to live a more conventional and conservative life as the more unconventional and non-conformist lifestyle of my past had seemingly got me nowhere. Yet, I felt a different sense of frustration at this supposedly more ‘normal’ existence, taking me another couple of years to understand I’d been right about myself in the first place and loathed the conservative, conformist and conventional life.

When I was asked out to dinner by Tony, the journalist, I felt excited and enlivened, realising as I wrote in my diary that ‘dinner with a married man is not the same as lunch,’ hoping our liaison might add some sexual spice to my life that I found increasingly boring and mundane. After dinner in a Greek tavern, I offered him ‘coffee’ at my new apartment, without any professed pretext as to what I wanted. Upfront, I suggested we have sex while he suggested we have a shower together first. Without mentioning that Richard and I had a shower together on our first weekend away, I gladly surrendered to his suggestion, only to discover that compared to Richard, he seemed ‘repressed’ and physically, or sexually, unresponsive. As the hot water warmed my sexual senses, it apparently did little to him. He didn’t touch me, put his fingers up my cunt or even kiss me as I fondled his dick, expecting him to play with me back. The shower achieved nothing except getting wet, and not of the sexual sort, as it was a sterile asexual routine and I quietly wondered what was this all about. Curious about his next move, we adjourned to my bedroom where I thought if I got on top of him I might feel sexier, but even that failed to turn me on. He still didn’t kiss me. Moving up and down on top of him, he soon came, presumably, though I didn’t ask or even particularly care. I certainly didn’t and he didn’t ask me or seem to care either, leaving soon after and unsure what to make of it. Over the next few months, he kept ringing me at work, asking me if I felt like a ‘fuck’ only to turn up at my apartment to repeat the same unsatisfying sex. In some attempt to heighten the pleasure of our sexual encounters, I told him about loving a ‘bottle’, bringing one of my favourite ones with him to use on me, but was so clumsy and inept he didn’t even realise it had to be empty first to lighten it enough to go up me. It was a waste of time. Once, we had sex in the vanilla missionary position on my sitting room floor where he whispered he was ‘in love with me’ as if he believed or assumed I wanted, even needed, to hear that. I said nothing in reply. Believing he had said it on purpose without any genuine feelings attached, I had to ‘test’ him about my book, too. There was something very clearly amiss about his ‘interest’ in me, realising he just wasn’t into me sexually, never playing with me or concerned about my pleasure, though maintaining his predictable “fancy a fuck” invitation when he called. Giving him just a few pages to read of my book that I had printed out separately before, he glanced at them cursorily without really reading them and then responded “you wrote from the inside” which was all the words I needed to hear as further confirmation of his deluded assumption the book was about Richard and I. I knew the few pages I’d handed him wouldn’t have even suggested anything such as that and as a total ‘dud’ fuck I told him he ‘confused’ me about ringing up for a fuck and then just wanting to talk when he arrived at my apartment. I was getting bored. I did ask him about whether his wife was as unfaithful as he was, admitting she too was ‘allowed’ to fuck around as he did, adding however he didn’t know whether she was. “And if she was?” I posed “Could you accept it?” Answering yes, I just didn’t believe him, realising they had two young kids at home to care for and while he could slip out at night for a couple of hours, she would most likely be at home looking after the children. I had already confronted the reality he was a bullshit liar, full of sex talk and bravado, who didn’t measure up in bed. He was just another typical male living out the stereotype of successful journalist, marriage in the suburbs with the two kids, and enjoying supposedly happy ever after. For me, he was nothing but a shallow and superficial sham.

As he still hadn’t kissed me, on another night I went over to sit on his knee as we sat facing each other on my two big lounge chairs, leaning towards him to kiss him only for him to turn his face away. That was enough for me. Certainly, I had fancied him more than I ever had during my teen years, but the perfunctory sex was so disappointing my excitement abated and he became just company to pass some time with. Simultaneously, I was still fucking my former boss who I felt I ‘loved’ but without wanting any more than what he offered me.

Another book I read “Men and Sex” by an American clinical psychologist, Dr Bernard Zilbergeld, posited that men are “extremely secretive about their sexuality. They may joke about sex, talk a lot about this or that woman’s characteristics and how they’d like to get her into bed, and make many allusions to their sexual prowess, but, other than these bits of bravado, most men simply don’t talk about sex to anyone. One of the cornerstones of the masculine stereotype in our society is that a man is one who has no doubts, questions, or confusion about sex, and that a real man knows how to have good sex and does so frequently. For a man to ask a question about sex, thereby revealing ignorance, or to express concern, or to admit to a problem is to risk being thought something less than a man.

In answer to a question I raised in my Introduction to this book, Bare Facts, Zilbergeld claims “Men learn to fake it. They can’t fake erections, but we know of more than a few who fake orgasms. But the main things they fake are their feelings…The cost of this deception is horrendous.” It was reassuring to read his understanding as I’d copped so much antipathy as sexually aberrant for being so “easy” not just from some men but many women, too. Indeed, one female friend suggested I was “used” for sex without any understanding or awareness that I was just as much “using” men for sex, too. Her tone of voice was tinged with pity for me, or so it sounded, yet she failed to appreciate my pity for her and her belief that sex was intrinsically about love. She wasn’t my only female friend deluded by subsuming sex innately involved love as I was increasingly becoming aware of. Whatever the women’s movement had achieved for her, proudly labelling herself a feminist as so many other women I knew did too, was clearly at odds with what it had achieved for me. As Zilbergeld found in talking and discussing sex with many men over the years, men had found “sex is pleasant, but not quite what it was cracked up to be-the earth doesn’t move, bells don’t ring, trumpets don’t blow…sex just hasn’t united them with the cosmos or changed their lives in any way. Is it possible, they ask, that there is some new position, partner, practice, or gimmick that would bring sex up to expectation?” This was my experience before I met Richard, too. Zilbergeld adds that in his sex therapy clinics, at least for 30 per cent of men “sex feels more like work than fun.” Dipping into his tome, I could only reiterate my understanding that it takes two to tango and that while Richard and I ‘communicated’ well sexually, most of my other men just didn’t do it for me, leaving me pondering that it probably didn’t do it for them, either. Sadly, it was never spoken about, by me or them, writing them off as “dud fucks” and wondering why they even bothered to feign interest.

Then, one morning, I woke up nauseous, struggling to fasten my bra as my tits were swollen and spilling out of the cups. Was I pregnant? Without actually throwing up, I continued to wake up nauseous for the following two mornings and immediately rang the Family Planning Association local office in my neighbourhood for a urine test. Pregnancy confirmed, my first question to the nurse was “where’s the nearest abortion clinic?” It was just before Xmas 1983 and referring me to a clinic in Prahran, I had absolutely no misgivings or a second thought about even keeping it. I wasn’t even sure who the father was, tony or my former boss. The nurse felt me inside, informing me I was about six weeks pregnant whereby it seemed that Tony might have been the father. But fronting up for the abortion just a couple of days later at 8am in the morning, the doctor told me after the termination I was about eight weeks pregnant when I asked him, making the father my former boss. Not that I actually cared and it didn’t matter as I didn’t want to have a child with either of them. I didn’t tell either Tony or my former boss and never have. I did tell one of my sisters who drove me to the clinic on the morning, but didn’t tell my mother or any of my friends at that time. Falling pregnant then was amusingly ironic as about two months or so before, I had visited the FPA to discuss what I thought might be my infertility as I hadn’t been on The Pill and had never fallen pregnant.

As a smoker whose mother had vascular issues, I wanted to find out if I was infertile so no longer needing to take The Pill. The nurse I consulted told me how difficult it was to ascertain infertility which even with an operation to explore my internal physiology, there could be no guarantee it was right, suggesting I use a diaphragm or have an IUD inserted instead. Deciding to eschew both alternatives, I stopped taking The Pill again only to finally get caught. I laughed at the timing of it all.

I remember most of the termination as only my lower body was anaesthetised, lying on my back with my legs in stirrups as the doctor scraped inside me. It might have looked ungainly and unattractive, but I was ‘numb’ to any discomfort. Without seeing any of what he removed, I felt no pain, lasting about 15 minutes before I was wheeled to a room where I lay in a bed to be given a cup of tea. About five minutes passed when a wracking pain gripped my lower abdomen and I burst into tears. It felt excruciatingly agonising, like the most intense period cramps never before experienced and a nurse came into me to give me some painkillers. The pain didn’t abate as I lay wrenching in bed as my body twisted and turned in some effort to appease it. After about 30 minutes of crying in pain, the painkillers had taken effect, feeling tired and weak to be given more tea and told to just rest quietly for a while. I started thinking about Richard and that I once thought about having a child with him, remembering what he told me at the same time which was all too sad and depressing. Having arranged for my cousin to pick me up after the termination, I duly rang him to say I was ready to return home, with a script for antibiotics to ensure no infection developed. I wasn’t bleeding at all and started to feel okay.

Back in my own bed by midday, I fell asleep feeling painless but somewhat upset. Remembering my girlfriend’s awful ordeal in Sydney, I was fortunate I was able to procure the abortion legally and for $300 which Medicare refunded in total. There was an element of anger in my attitude towards myself as to how, as an intelligent woman did I allow myself to get caught? I knew of some women who had two or three abortions, using the operation as some kind of contraception, but I knew I never wanted to experience that again. Spending most of the afternoon in bed resting, I went out for dinner that night with my sister and her husband, but didn’t talk about it. I had no regrets about my decision, but was determined never to repeat it. Some months later, I imparted the abortion to my mother who told me I should have told her as she could have helped by looking after the baby while I worked. I never told her I wasn’t sure who the father was but did strongly assure her I didn’t want it. She accepted my decision, albeit reluctantly as it was now past history. I knew I must do something to ensure it never happened again. Already dismissing Tony from my life, I still saw my former boss, enjoying dinner with him before Xmas which became an annual ritual between us. I never did tell him.

My ‘small dick’ mate, call him Larry, who certainly should have read the book on Men and Sex but I wasn’t going to suggest it, and I became good friends again too, often indulging in dinner at his abode as he was a great cook who delighted in smoking joints, drinking and the good life. Often joined by his compositor housemate, he and I ended up in bed together one night for another bout of dreary, unsatisfying sex sans cock. Unsure as to whether he was too pissed to get it up or not even interested in intercourse, he ‘slobbed’ around my vulva for about half an hour but as I’d also imbibed much red wine and a couple of joints, I didn’t come. Stoned and a bit drunk, it often took me some time to come, even with Richard in our good ol’ days. For me, it was always a pleasure plus, prolonging my enjoyment but this guy became anxious seeming to tire in his effort. The encounter started to feel awkward and stressful for him as I sensed it, telling him to stop. He appeared to have no knowledge about women or certainly about me and sex, suspecting he wasn’t even sure where my clitoris was. If he did know, I didn’t feel it, ending the escapade frustrated, tired and sleepy, going home in a taxi to never repeat the scene again. We were just dancing to a different beat, though I felt his concern that there was something “wrong” with me rather than appraising his own ignorance. The sad aspect was he didn’t raise the issue and I just wasn’t interested enough to bother. The three of us did stay friends but the encounter was never discussed.

Wanting to increase my available funds for more indulgent pleasures (I didn’t earn much and my mortgage consumed most of my net salary), I asked another cousin, one who had been staying with Richard and I in London that night I picked up the knife, if he wanted to rent my second bedroom. He assented and a couple of weeks after moving in, he imparted some information that impacted me in a way I just hadn’t even thought about. Discussing that night in London with him, he told me he and the other cousin were actually in the apartment that night and it was him who had ventured out in the street following me as I walked out. Indeed, he was the ‘stranger’ I had thought happened to just be in the street. Moreover, he told me I didn’t pick up the knife as I didn’t go into the kitchen. I didn’t know what to make of it all, now even more confused and upset as to what had transpired that night. Certainly, I had no idea or had not even reflected for one second that it could have been him in the street, was completely unaware both cousins were in the apartment at all that night and even more significantly,. was so certain I had picked up the knife. A couple of weeks later, the other cousin who I saw at the football, told me I was “screaming and yelling” in the bedroom. I recall none of it. What was I supposedly screaming and yelling about? I don’t know and my cousin didn’t say. The reality I pondered after trying to make sense of what had happened that night was that as two, young, able bodied males, they should have come into the bedroom to see what was going on and whether I needed help. If I was screaming and yelling, clearly I must have been frightened or being physically assaulted. They both did nothing. Moreover, they bolted out of the apartment early the next morning without even caring whether I was alive or alright. It was truly horrifying to confront and even as I write this now, I’m still horrified at both of them. They have to live with themselves for the rest of their lives. Upset for a few months about these revelations, my cousin moved out when I asked him to leave and rarely saw him again. That night I accepted would always be a ‘blank’ in my life and all I was certain of was that I would never be in that situation again with a man. I put it away in the ‘impossible’ to know basket.

As my 34th birthday approached in summer, Larry suggested we journey up north to Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast where his wealthy parents owned an apartment we could holiday in for nix. First stop was Brisbane where they still lived in the most salubrious suburb in the city, a beautifully, stylishly and sumptuously furnished abode full of antiques and precious artefacts. Never having met his parents before but remembering his suicide attempt and that his father had found him in time, I felt some trepidation in our sojourn as we were staying with them for a weekend before hiring a car to drive to Mooloolaba. Arriving at their home, his attractive mother, deeply suntanned with well-groomed, grey hair and dressed casually but with sophistication, greeted us inside with a gin and tonic in her hand late on a Friday night which I ascribed to an after dinner relax. His father, tall, slim and with greying hair too, was reasonably good looking and physically, quite the antithesis of Larry. After preparing us a light snack as we had dinner on the plane and a couple of glasses of cool, white vino, Larry and I went to bed in separate bedrooms. In the morning we travelled into Brisbane to hire a car, had lunch and returned to his family home where his mother once more was imbibing another g & t with a bottle of gin alongside her on the table in their sitting room. His father was drinking likewise. Offering me a drink, too, I declined the g & t as I loathed gin, settling for another glass of white wine. Conversation focused around assorted trivia about my work, their son and how long I had known him (it was now close to 13 years) and that we were just very good friends. The ambience was pleasant, welcoming and amicable as I realised his mother was quite tipsy while his father was ensuring he wasn’t going to be left behind. Entertaining us for a couple of hours before dinner, Larry announced he had arranged for us to meet a couple of old mates for dinner in town so we showered again as the heat and humidity were high (though the house was thankfully air-conditioned), dressed and departed, arriving home later that night to retire reasonably early to drive to Mooloolaba the next morning. Larry and his two mates all drank several beers with a scrumptious meal of grilled prawns and salads and I only had a couple of wines as conversation dwelled on old times they shared when Larry lived and worked in Brisbane. It was a convivial evening and I enjoyed it.

Bidding Larry’s parents farewell, they imparted the news they too would drive up to Mooloolaba the following weekend to stay at the apartment with us, while on our drive, Larry told me his mother was an alcoholic who was consistently drinking as she had been most of his life. His father, he informed me, was an authoritarian, over-bearing conservative right winger with whose politics he had always disagreed, with many hostile arguments between them over his early years and adolescence. His mother had never worked and Larry had two older brothers I never met. The information Larry imparted gave me some new perspective about him, appreciating for the first time in all the years I’d known him, that despite their wealth and prosperity, Larry and his parents still bickered with unresolved issues between them. The marriage too seemed suspect. It was none of my business however as we arrived at the Mooloolaba apartment looking forward to being on my own with Larry and away from his parents.

Spending a quiet night in the apartment, Larry made dinner in the bright, breezy environs of a more modern and utilitarian apartment which had three-bedrooms, a sitting room, kitchen and bathroom. There was a glorious clean swimming pool down stairs and after a swim following dinner, we went to bed early, planning to drive to Noosa the next day for lunch with more of Larry’s friends.

Awaking to an ultramarine sky with a golden sun shining brightly but not too hotly, I donned a pair of tight, short shorts and a tank top minus a bra with high-heeled strappy sandals and sporting a deep shade of tan, felt sexy in my garb. Arriving to an expensive restaurant in Noosa, about ten people were gathered at the round table, including a 40yearsomething architect who I engaged in interesting conversation. Despite his beer gut, he was attractive with fair, sandy hair, deeply suntanned and wearing a light, blue denim shirt with cream slacks. Indulging in an array of delicious fresh seafood and salads with bottles of really good white wine for several hours, by late afternoon someone suggested adjourning to the Noosa International hotel which was close by. The hotel, I was told, had a swimming pool surrounded by a relaxing and recreational garden and bar. Feeling intoxicated but enlivened by the lunch, dialogue, good food and great company, I was in a really good mood and comfortably settled into the garden with a pool beckoning a few feet away. It was early evening and as the sun’s hot sting scorched my body, I suggested to Tim, the architect sitting alongside me on a lounge that we go for a dip. Having no swimwear with me wasn’t at all pertinent as fully clothed but without my sandals, I jumped into the water, followed by Tim.
Swimming across to the other side of the pool I saw an adjoining bar, with solid, plastic topped bar stools fixed in the water, conveniently accommodating drinking and staying cool at the same time. Tim and I ordered some wine sitting alongside each other on two stools, until he suggested, as I remember it, to sit with him on his stool. Moving across to his knees, he started playing with my cunt with his fingers under the water, removing my shorts and knickers to place them on the concrete surrounds of the pool nearby. I took off my top and we fucked each other on the stool totally oblivious to the many people in the bar nearby and those in the water around us. Tim had only been wearing his jocks when he jumped into the water to follow me so they were easy to displace, too. Kissing each other at the same time, having sex in water was always a great aphrodisiac, not that I needed one. Feeling his cock inside me as the warm water lapped inside me was beautiful as I came and so did he after a few minutes. I had no idea where Larry was and hadn’t even thought about his whereabouts but after the sex, I was confronted with a particularly practical problem; how could I get out of the water naked so no one would see me? There was no towel nearby and my shorts and top were thoroughly wet and it didn’t seem sensible to put them on again in the water, needing to dry myself first. Struggling to position his jocks on himself, Tim said he would go and find a towel for me which he duly returned with to cover myself as I surreptitiously climbed out of the water to be encircled by the towel in his arms. Making my way to the female bathroom nearby with the towel around me and my clothes in my hand, I was confronted by Larry, scowling, angry and terse, muttering some unpleasant abuse then striding off to I didn’t know where. Finding the bathroom, I showered, dressed in my wet apparel and returned to the lounge area where we were previously sitting to find Tim dressed again but no sign of Larry. “He’s gone,” Tim informed me, “I don’t know where.” No matter, he added, we can go to my apartment on our own as I drove here, too. Leaving the hotel, he related how he was married as if I hadn’t already assumed, lived in Brisbane too but also had an apartment in Mooloolaba. Picking up some food en route to his apartment as were now both hungry again, he said he would drive me to Larry’s apartment later.

At his apartment, we indulged in sex for another couple of hours, where I celebrated some really good sex for the first time in years. He was a man who knew what to do, playing with my cunt with his fingers and then fucking me with his cock as well. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and both now sober as were not drinking anything but coffee to drive back to Mooloolaba from Noosa, it was even better sex. Eating some more fresh seafood and salad, we headed back to Larry’s apartment glad he knew where it was as I didn’t have a clue. Arriving at the apartment block at about 11.30pm, I thought I espied a light on and assumed Larry was back there, though Tim wasn’t certain and concerned about what I would do if Larry wasn’t home. Assuring him Larry was home as the lights suggested, I kissed him goodnight, thanked him for a great day and never saw him again. Buzzing the apartment number to have Larry let me in, there was no response and I didn’t have any keys. Fuck, I complained to myself, he’s not there, quickly lamenting I had told Tim to drive away. Buzzing a nearby apartment, fortunately someone was home and let me in to the right floor, but knocking on Larry’s apartment door, I was greeted only by silence. Starting to worry about what had happened to him as well as wondering what I was going to do, I realised I’d have to sleep in the hallway as I was now tired and needed my slumbertime, hoping Larry would show up some time sooner rather than later. Jumping into the pool that afternoon still wearing my watch, the water had fucked it up so it had stopped. I had no idea what the time was and the hallway was air-conditioned and still wearing only my tank top, I was freezing. Knocking on the apartment of the people who had let me in, I asked if they had spare blanket I could borrow and a pillow as my friend hadn’t returned and I would sleep outside the front door until he arrived. Managing to sleep for a few hours on the hard carpet, I was thankful it wasn’t polished floorboards or tiles and it wasn’t until about 8.30am that Larry turned up.

Fuming with me, he told me he’d spent the night locked up in a police cell, picked up for drunken driving and wasn’t allowed out till he had slept it off. While it was a memorably happy night for me I’m not sure he ever really forgave me, though I wasn’t sure whether he was jealous or just pissed off about being caught by the police. We hadn’t had sex since that time in Melbourne 13 years before and I couldn’t really fathom the cause of his hostility towards me except that he got over it within 24 hours never to be discussed again. We enjoyed the next few days in Mooloolaba when his parents arrived to introduce trivial pleasantries for a couple of days before we returned to Brisbane flying back to Melbourne to return to work.

After more than two years at the showbiz magazine, boredom started to reassert itself and I resigned, freelancing for a few months while I continued to fail to secure another full-time journalism job on what I believed was a good newspaper. Finally abandoning any hope of ever obtaining such a job, I changed tack, deciding to try and do what I enjoyed without journalism. I met a TV script writer one afternoon in the lift of a company I’d been visiting to deliver a freelance article, and feeling like a fuck, invited him to my apartment, jettisoning my usual blunt and brazen invitation of needing a fuck to a more acceptable and ladylike: “do you want to make love to me?” believing and/or realising finally that so many men were indeed insecure and while they wanted sex, they too often put me in the threat basket, albeit unconsciously, or even regarding me as part of a ‘slut’ syndrome. This guy too was on the short side, fat, and not that attractive, but when you’re desperate, one takes a chance it might just be a sure thing. It wasn’t, yet another no touch, quick in-and-out performance that left me just as frustrated as I had been, crossing him out my little black book even though I never did have a hard copy.

 

With all my book reading about men as well as my personal experience, I decided once more to broach the possibility of making a documentary series on men with another director I read about in the media. Agreeing to see me, we conversed for nearly three hours on diverse issues about men, only for him to express no interest in working with me as producer/reporter on the project. It seemed men didn’t want exposure about their selves.

Understanding how my appearance had affected the men at Thames and aware that my intellect and mental acumen counted for zilch in the job market, I had another idea about how selling our bodies as prostitutes, where physical beauty of a kind seemed all significant, was actually the subliminal catalyst for jobs not just in TV, but was so pervasive in society writ large. Indeed, while as women we were being ‘messaged’ that our minds were important, in an employment perspective, it was how we appealed physically, albeit as sex objects, that actually counted in the opportunity outcomes. Not that men would admit it. I approached the male (what else?) program manager on Melbourne’s leading commercial radio station with this idea to explore for a radio documentary which I committed to paper for his perusal. Uninterested in even discussing the idea with me as I called him for his response, I told him “that’s a shame”, to which he replied “your shame”. I didn’t need any more evidence of what media pundits thought of me. Will the real “whore” please stand up? I was sitting down as I hung up.

Rejected yet again, the right job still took precedence in my thoughts, and always loving movies and believing my book would make a great film (indeed, I’d virtually written it as an extended film script), I managed to get a job as a film publicist hoping to meet people in the film industry who might make my dream come true. I was now 35 and still on my own, realising that baby age was fast disappearing and with no ‘special’ man in my life, I opted to have my tubes tied to stop bothering with The Pill or any other form of contraception. Thinking about it for several weeks, my decision was also about wanting and needing to work for the rest of my life, more certain that I didn’t want to have kids and be stuck at home looking after them. It was another great decision and I never looked back to regret it. Apart from the termination, it is the only other operation I’ve ever had, fortunately, my physical health being sound irrespective of my asthma which I now had new preventative medication for on a daily basis. I no longer wanted to work 9-5 though was trapped in that cell block yet again and just wanted to write, make movies and return to a more unconventional and non-conformist lifestyle. It was a hard ask as I had to earn a living and while I did meet some interesting film industry people, I went nowhere with my ideas. It was becoming a familiar tale but I never allowed that reality to overwhelm me again. Indeed, I wrote to Brad at Thames suggesting a worldwide documentary series on both men and women, only to be fobbed off with a predictable “thanks but no thanks…” letter a couple of weeks later. I also wrote to another TV director, a man I had met who was a friend of Brad’s, but worked at a different company, who justified his rejection by claiming such a series was just too expensive. Realising they weren’t interested in appreciating any gender complexities or issues in our world, I resigned myself to going nowhere at least for a few years until I revisited my idea.

Nearing the end of 1985, I was in Sydney for work as a film publicist as the head office was based there, visiting about six times a year for marketing and publicity meetings. Another female friend who also knew Richard invited me to lunch on a Saturday telling me Richard would be there and was that OK? Sure, I told her, looking forward to some fun and even seeing him again. It was over a year since I’d seen him and our last meeting had been hostile, aggressive and confrontational on his part, both of us at a farewell party in Sydney for my Australian girlfriend who was jetting off to South America for a long holiday with her new Chilean boyfriend. It was a hot and humid night and while I was slim, I didn’t feel especially attractive and was somewhat down about being unemployed and unable to obtain any work in journalism that I considered fair. Richard turned up at the party pissed with his violent girlfriend he was still living with. Seeing me, he suggested we adjourn outside to the balcony for a more private tete-a-tete, following him out of the room. The conversation began amicably enough until I mentioned my unemployment and living on the dole whereby he became angry and abusive at which point I left the balcony to return to the party throng. In pursuit, he fronted me again demanding to know what I was doing with my life and I turned away from him and walked to another part of the room. Screaming loudly, he shouted “don’t turn your back on me!” as he walked towards me, venting “you’re fucked in the head” to then storm out of the party via the front door near where I was standing talking to another male friend. His girlfriend agitatedly chased after him. I hadn’t heard from him or seen him since then and as about nine of us gathered in the courtyard of a Kings Cross restaurant on a mild summer day for more of the good life I was adamant I’d be careful what I said wanting no more aggro scenes with him. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel seeing him again but was eager to ‘test’ myself about whether I was really ‘over’ him.

It was more than twelve years since we had travelled on own paths from our London days and his party outburst resonated in my cunt as well as my head as it was the first time he had ever told me I was “fucked in the head”. His attack about my mind was paramount in confirming my understanding that he had little respect for me intellectually as well as sexually, never forgetting his abuse when he called me a ‘fucking whore’. He was already sitting at the lunch table when I arrived with my girlfriend, without his violent girlfriend as he told me they had “split up”. Once more amiable and friendly, he was now working in Canberra for the ABC as a parliamentary reporter, accompanied by another female who he introduced as a friend. Without conversing much as we engaged in conversation around the table, I enjoyed the food, only a couple of glasses of wine and at the same time, recognised I still found him ‘too sexually’ attractive. Having sex with him was on my mind, but I was very clear about not engaging with him any further than pleasant gossip. After finishing our meal, I was chatting to him about mutual friends from the past when my girlfriend told me it was time to leave, standing up and grabbing my arm to ‘whisk’ me away. It seemed such a blatant calculated move by her and little did she know, let alone understand, that I was going to walk away anyway. Yes, it felt hard to get up and leave as I still felt very attracted to him, though had no inkling as to how he felt about me. It was my decision and I followed my girlfriend out of the courtyard, returning to her apartment for a short while till I went to a work colleague’s abode where I was staying. Without saying anything to my girlfriend, I felt relieved that I could walk away so privately, feeling reassured that after many years, Richard was in the ‘too hard’ basket and while it was good to share some pleasantries, I didn’t want any more than that. Just maybe I had finally resolved the nexus between love and sex.

Returning to Melbourne the next day, I acknowledged he was part of my past and was now on another journey still on my own, destination unknown and irrelevant to enjoying life in the here and now. About a month later, I arranged to meet my former boss for an after work drink in one of our convivial watering-holes on a Friday night, joining him at the bar where he was talking to another journo from Adelaide I had never met before. In Melbourne for work that week, he was scheduled to return to Adelaide a couple of hours later from the airport to reunite with his wife and kids back home. Sober as I’d been working all day, he certainly attracted me and after buying me a drink, I made a bold suggestion. It had been several months since I’d had sex and while I occasionally masturbated, doing it alone had never really been part of my agenda. Talking to this guy, my chutzpah bravado in full flight, I asked him if he actually had to return to Adelaide that night, suggesting we could share a rendezvous together somewhere instead. In front of my former boss too, he gently probed further, asking me what have you got in mind? Replying we could all go to a hotel, they accepted my proposal and after downing our drinks, we huddled into a taxi headed for the Hilton Hotel. Fronting up to reception without any baggage, the young female receptionist said nothing as he registered, soon in the lift together and quickly disrobing and lying naked in bed after alighting from the lift. Feeling hungry, we ordered room service toasted beef sandwiches and then opened the bar fridge and poured ourselves some drinks. The three of us all smoked, the bland nicotine variety, and after devouring a couple of drinks and the sandwiches, the sex play started for real. There wasn’t much conversation as I recall, just several hours of sublime sexual indulgence where as the centre of attention, I was spoilt and seduced so many times by both of them in turn I have no idea how many times I came or they did. They didn’t play with each other at all but lavished their longing on me while I reciprocated by sucking them off and playing with them too.

The sex was straight, no bottles or other accompaniments, but I didn’t need them. Their bodies were enough, their cocks seeming consistently hard and willing as we continued to order more sandwiches and drink from the bar fridge as some rest in between. I was in seventh heaven and had never before indulged with two men at the same time in one bed. As the hours went by, my cunt was beginning to get sore as my body became tired, too, so we slept for an hour or so until the sun dawned when I announced I was going home. My former boss said he needed to leave too, and as we dressed, without showering, we left the other guy lying naked beneath the sheets to pick up the bill, saying as I left “hopefully, you can claim this on expenses!” His manner towards us as we opened the door to depart was somewhat surly, and offering my thanks for a great night, I bid him adieu and walked out, followed by my former boss.

Living only a ten minute drive away, we hailed a taxi outside where I kissed my boss goodnight (or should that have been good morning?), entered my apartment alone to retire to bed for a few hours recovery. I never saw the guy from Adelaide again.

A couple of weeks later, my boss and I enjoyed our annual pre-Xmas dinner but didn’t really converse about the night, only telling him I’d had one of the best nights I’d ever enjoyed. He said likewise, until he dropped a ‘bombshell’ about Richard. As he narrated, it seemed that Richard was ‘caught’ in a homosexual act in a toilet block in some park in Sydney, source of his story unnamed but he assured me, totally reliable. Not just malicious gossip, I suggested? Not according to what I’ve heard and not just from one source, he insisted. Stunned, I wasn’t sure what to say, simply stating that on one level, I wasn’t surprised as I knew enough about Richard to appreciate he’d try almost anything at least once. Without wanting to dwell on the issue, I changed the subject and we didn’t discuss it further, but at home alone later, I reminisced about Richard’s first sexual encounter with a male as he told me. Maybe, I considered, he was a latent homosexual, as I’d already reflected on his animosity and difficult relationships with women involving violence and abuse, not just with me either. Moreover, I knew of his fraught relationship with his mother, considering for the first time that perhaps he didn’t really like women. Another few weeks passed before I heard more gossip in media circles about how he had become ‘gay’, still unsure what to make of it.

Shortly after hearing all these stories, I was back in Sydney for work for a week and invited to my Australian girlfriend’s new apartment for dinner that she was now sharing with her Chilean partner. Imparting the information that Richard would also be at dinner with his new girlfriend, she hoped it wouldn’t perturb me. Certainly, I hadn’t informed her about Richard’s supposed new life as a homosexual, but told her it was fine by me, suggesting you might want to check with him, too. A day later she rang to confirm he was quite okay about me being there. Knowing he had a new girlfriend only confused me as to what he was playing at, but dismissed my wonderings as none of my business and so what. Maybe his truth was he was bisexual and given my girlfriend’s lesbian love affair, why would men, or should men, enjoy just being heterosexual? Seeing him at dinner a couple of days later, I discovered his girlfriend was a primary school teacher at a Catholic school and very good looking; very slim, elegantly dressed and sophisticated, learning also she had lived in Paris for 12 months just recently. Richard and her seemed genuinely happy together as the evening passed and was glad I felt no jealousy or received no antipathy from him or her. There was no conversation about anything sexual and I certainly wasn’t going to ask him, even privately, having let go after that party more than 18 months ago.

There were very few girlfriends in my life during those years realising yet again I had far more in common with men than women, my interest in football still passionate, politics increasingly more pertinent and sex. The female publicist in Sydney and I became friends of a kind via the telephone, sometimes coming to Melbourne for the weekend to stay with me. Nearly 10 years my junior, she was vivacious, bright and as talkative as me and we shared many good times together. I also met two other women, both five years younger than me, one who was the receptionist in the film company office in Melbourne and the other a flatmate of one of the film reviewers I had contact with through my job. The three of them had no interest in Aussie Rules, scant interest in politics and certainly were completely unable or disinterested in talking about sex. The friendships were based more on family problems, movies we ventured to see together and occasionally, we discussed issues in the media. Sharing pleasant times, I had already realised I was on my own with my interests, but enjoyed their company accepting I needed acquaintances, too. I didn’t feel close to them, but was still working on my own personal problems with my mother and sisters and didn’t expect any more from them. My problems were mainly private as I read again more books I’d perused in my teens and twenties about women, mother-daughter relationships and jealousy.

Returning to Melburbia after the weekend, I had a new box of tricks in my suitcase.
Working in Sydney for that week, I stayed with a female Sydney-based publicist who was my equivalent for the company. Almost 10 years younger than me, we established an immediate rapport as she was as garrulous as I was and interested in conversing about many issues, including sex. Keen to find out about her experience as a younger female of a different generation, I asked her many questions which she was only too happy to answer. Of Italian heritage and raised Catholic, she was now non-practising and while very attractive, she was short and fat with extremely big tits. Telling me she hated her tits and being so large it was a constant thread in our dialogue until she told me she wasn’t really into sex. Trying to understand what the problem was she recited how she felt ashamed of her body and just never really enjoyed it. Surprisingly, she had a boyfriend I met who was also good-looking but slim and trim and I was reluctant to press further with her sexual issues. Sitting in her lounge room relaxing one night, I told her about Richard and some of my past antics in the boudoir when she went into her bedroom for a few minutes to return carrying a large cardboard box which she presented as a gift to me. Opening the box revealed an array of red, plastic sex toys and a skin-coloured soft rubber battery operated dildo, circumcised and sized about seven inches. Laughing as I explored the contents, she explained someone had given it to her but she never used any of it as it wasn’t her thing. My interests convinced her it would certainly be mine. Gratefully accepting the surprise gift, I packed it away in my suitcase and couldn’t wait to try the toys when I returned home. Never owning a dildo before, I mused about how it might feel and how I would use it on myself, only having to wait a few days before its first trial run. Now with a cock in my cupboard, would I ever really need a man again? It was a curious hypothetical I considered before jetting back to Melburbia.

Back at work, one of the females I shared a large office with was a video sales rep employed by the same company who was often ‘on the road’ marketing and selling, or at least trying to, the movies I publicised on the big screen now for sale as videos. An obese and classical “fat chick”, she actually sat in the desk next to me and I asked her whether she was a feminist and supported Debbie Wardley’s quest to become the first female airline pilot in Australia which was in the media spotlight. Dismissing feminism as a misguided mission by many malfunctioning females, she said she certainly did not support Wardley and would never fly with a female pilot. Seeing red, I started tearing her to shreds with a venomous, verbal onslaught about training, skills and mental capacity with no innate gender difference. She then offered her raison d’etre for not supporting Wardley’s quest, focusing on women having periods which would impede their performance in the air to be unable to fly safely with the same alacrity and precision as a man. So what about you at work? Does having your period inhibit your performance? No, of course not she retorted instantly, so why would it affect a female pilot any differently, I posed? I wouldn’t know but I would worry and feel unsafe and moreover, a pilot is responsible for hundreds of lives whereas I’m selling an inanimate object and no one’s life is at risk. She had some kind of valid point, I agreed, but I contested that if a female pilot felt less than 100 per cent she would be responsible enough not to fly and take a risk with not just her own life, but those of hundreds of others. Citing stories about female surgeons, I asked her what’s the difference? They have a life in their hands and are they supposed to stop operating when menstruating? She would not even think about my point, muttering it’s very different in the sky, only for me to walk off to the kitchen for a coffee, telling her to get fucked loudly across the room.

Walking back to my desk with my coffee, she just glared at me as I approached, glaring back with hostility as I sat down and for the remainder of that day and all the next day, ignored all her attempts to resume a ‘friendly’ as normal relationship in the office. Soon approached by her manager who was the general office manager to discuss the ‘problem’ (I was my own boss in the office as my manager was based in the head office in Sydney), I was told rather than asked to issue an apology to the woman. Why, I demanded to know, adding her work has nothing to do with me so I don’t see that I have to talk to her at all. Office politics, I was told as the manager elaborated about how the woman had complained about me and that the tension and stress she was experiencing because of me must be confronted. The manager had contacted my manager in Sydney and as we all worked together we had to enjoy an amicable and convivial atmosphere. Fuming under my facade, I duly went and apologised without any sincerity or concern. Here I go again bursting forth about women’s rights and equal opportunity to incite antipathy only to have to apologise, assuming a politeness that was superficial and meaningless. And this time my opponent was another female; albeit one who was probably jealous of my slim, stylish and sophisticated image. No more outbursts I decided, at least for the moment. My great victory was more than a year later when Wardley won her fight and became Australia’s first female pilot. The woman I’d argued with had by then departed for a supposedly more congenial workplace but I won as much as Wardley; the judges had said it all. .

Now buoyed by my box of sex toys, I started experimenting with the dildo after investing in batteries that charged it. Gently but firmly rubbing the knob on my vulva with a myriad of different actions I was surprised to find it vibrated with pleasurable sensations flowing through my body, teasing myself and using it slowly lest I come in a few seconds. Trying to prolong the pleasure as I could, once it touched my clitoris I was in rapture, coming in a way I hadn’t achieved for longer than I could remember. It was more than 13 years since Richard had played with a vibrator on me and there’d only been one man, some journo I met somewhere who had used a small, vibrating toy on me a couple of years previously. That was a one off occasion and while it felt really pleasurable and good, I never saw him again. While I certainly came and felt satisfied, my cunt wasn’t wet and I was too dry for intercourse. It’s hard to fathom why as it hadn’t been that way with Richard but I realised that I didn’t feel that ‘simpatico’ towards him and our liaison was more about me and my sexual satisfaction that caring about him. I didn’t even suggest sucking him off and perhaps surprisingly in retrospect, he didn’t either. My cunt didn’t feel in need of a cock.

We adjourned to a party afterwards where he did suggest not wearing knickers as it was summer, hot and who needed them? I duly complied ensuring my knee-length dress covered my cunt as we danced, drank and made merry. Interestingly, I didn’t ask why he suggested that, agreeing without deliberating for a second as my body felt less encumbered as I hadn’t worn a bra either, leaving it at home before I met up with him. Though I was slim, my tits were disproportionately much bigger than my hips, but the dress was a reasonably thick material with a skin-tight bodice holding my tits firmly without flopping around. Mostly, I needed to wear a bra and the sense of physical freedom without any underwear at all felt beautiful.

About two years later, discovering an ugly, subaceous cyst just underneath my right ear which had grown to the size of a 5 cent piece, I consulted a plastic surgeon to have it removed. Why a plastic surgeon? I was advised such a surgeon would take more care of the aesthetic nature for the incision to minimise any facial disfigurement by the scar. After the mini-operation, I attended his surgery to ensure it was healing well, taking the opportunity to discuss the possibility of a breast reduction. It was an irony indeed when I reflected on my early teens when I desperately wanted tits and to wear a bra, peeling off the clothes on my chest so he could examine my breasts. “You aren’t really that big,” was his first comment as he elaborated on the massive and ugly scarring the surgery would cause under my breasts. Carefully deliberating on his wisdom, he then opened a drawer of his desk, retrieving some photos as if to nail my coffin of desire for smaller tits. “You think you have a problem; look at these women,” he said somewhat tastefully and without scorn or malice as I peered at the photos to see several young, attractive women with bare breasts the size of watermelons. Mine were miniscule by comparison, more like a soft, large Granny Smith. “It’s so sad,” I think I replied, understanding my mother’s lament more compassionately than I ever had before as she had extra large tits, too. Putting the photos back in the drawer, I told him to forget about the breast reduction, bidding him goodbye as he expressed hope that the cyst wouldn’t return. “It was very a over active and oily gland and the cyst might come back, but I cleaned it out thoroughly so we’ll just have to see what happens down the track.” They were wise words from a wise man and as I write as nearly 32 years later, the cyst has never returned. All that remains is an almost imperceptible, fine, thin scar that my hair obscures. I never bemoaned my breasts again, celebrating my fortunate destiny as being much smaller than my mother and the young women in the photos.

Over the next ten months, there were several sexual dalliances with different men but none of them are worth writing about, unable to remember their names or the circumstances of the dalliance. And I wasn’t pissed, simply that the sex was so forgettable it’s permanently asleep in my psyche somewhere. I’m not going to bother to try and disturb its slumber because it’s irrelevant. Suffice to say I just couldn’t meet a man, still, to offer and share really good sex with me. The dildo as a vibrator was a god send.

However, completely unexpectedly when I had almost given up on ever finding a man to enjoy good sex with again, I was brunching at a trendy wine bar in Carlton one Saturday when I began talking to a young, Italian guy who suggested having sex. Inviting him to my apartment for the afternoon, we enjoyed some really good intercourse, where for the first time in years I had both a clitoral and vaginal orgasm simultaneously. His cock was in such a position inside me, albeit fortuitously, that it rubbed on my clitoris as he and I both moved in synchrony. It was a rare occurrence even with Richard as getting my body into a position where that could happen was basically good luck. No planned positioning ever worked and this time I enjoyed some great sex as neither of us was pissed and we just had a sexual connection that worked. I soon realised what I was feeling the night of my asthma attack with Richard, understanding that these feelings happened so rarely that I wanted to remember every second of them, an ecstatic transcendence I had experienced too few times. I cannot remember whether I gave him my phone number but if I did, I never heard from him again. Moreover, I cannot even remember his name, either. I filed the memory as good fortune.

Consistently playing with the dildo after that, I met a man who sexually was the best fuck I had had since Richard in that he became a regular fixture in my life, appreciating that there were really other fish in the sea and I was just lucky to ‘hook’ one. This man was ten years my senior and second-time married though without children. Meeting at a film publicity event one afternoon in the city we flirted and laughed over drinks and finger food, enjoying the flippant banter as he then asked me what I was doing after the event. It was only about 3pm, telling him I was returning to my office till about 5. Neither of us was intoxicated though pleasurably wined and fed, suggesting he could meet me at my apartment afterwards as he informed me he didn’t need to return to his office. Giving him my keys and the address, I said I’d be home soon after five, without any mixed message about what we both wanted. Buzzing him to enter my apartment, he was prancing around my sitting room naked, wearing my green, velvet bathrobe with a glass of scotch in his hand as I walked in. It was only a few minutes before we were both naked in bed together. Call him Jason.

While he was inebriated I was sober, having imbibed a couple of coffees back at my office as he told me he had ventured straight to my apartment on leaving the event, buying a bottle of whisky en route. Firstly, he kissed me which I enjoyed, moving to my cunt where he sucked me off and much to my enjoyment, knew exactly what to do. I can’t recall how long that went on for, but certainly, long enough to really turn me on and engender a level of pleasure I’d almost forgotten. After coming, he then fucked me and I was wet and welcoming. It felt amazing as I hadn’t experienced such all-embracing physical feelings since Richard. After a couple hours and as night was falling, we lay on the bed smoking briefly before he announced he would go home. Closing my apartment door as I bid him farewell, I placed a piece of paper with my phone number scrawled on it into his hand, rejoicing in finding this man and hoping he would ring soon.

After he departed, I made myself dinner, thinking about the sex with him. It had been a long time in between drinks as they say appreciating that not all men were ignorant or as sexually withdrawn as too many past encounters had been. It was the first time I could really flow with my feelings in liberating abandon since Richard, understanding even more than with my Italian pick-up what had transpired the night I had my asthma attack with Richard. Coming clitorally and still in sexual spasm, Jason had quickly fucked me to come vaginally in such instant succession that I felt truly ecstatic, my whole body tingling but with a serenity of satisfaction. With ventolin as my security blanket and ensuring I used it before sex there was no hint of any breathing difficulties. I didn’t tell Jason I was an asthmatic. I now realised why Richard had ‘freaked’ out on me that night as my body was in a similar rapt response as I lay contorting and twisting my limbs in ecstasy. Jason apparently knew that response while all I could surmise was that Richard was a young, ignorant man at the time and also appreciating how ignorant I had been about my own sexual landscape. Jason wasn’t at all perturbed by my physical reactions and the various postures of my body as well as my sounds of sex. He was also strong, firm and touched me in all the right ways without treating me as some fragile, porcelain doll. It was a reassuring awareness and I could only hope he would want to see me again, too. He did.

The next week he called, suggesting he visit my apartment after work to which I could only happily agree. After his arrival this night and talking briefly, we went straight to bed. I hadn’t had a drink but could smell whisky on his breath, though didn’t say anything, as all I wanted was more mutual engagement, this time climbing on top after he had played with me for a while as I likewise played with his cock. Feeling him deep inside me felt so good as he grabbed my shoulders and finished by fucking me, too. We both came pretty much together as I fell off him to lie exhausted on the bed. Smoking cigarettes a few minutes later, I decided to reveal some of my enjoyable, kinky, sexual indulgences such as a bottle, telling him I also had a dildo in the cupboard. Somehow, having the insight that he may just be interested, I trusted his experience and knowledge. My judgement paid off. Leaving to go home, he said he’d see me again soon.

He was as good as his word arriving a couple of nights later about 8pm without calling first. And so to bed where he suggested he use the dildo on me, surprising me by wanting to fuck me himself at the same time. Two cocks up me? I had actually never used the dildo in my cunt and I’m unsure as to why not except that using it as a vulva vibrator seemed sufficiently satisfying. Would both fit inside me? This was a physical challenge and slowly inserting the dildo first (I was so wet with excited anticipation I didn’t need foreplay), it felt amazing as it vibrated inside me, a new sensation I hadn’t experienced. After a few minutes of pushing it around inside, he then inserted his cock, opening my cunt widely with his hand to ensure it could fit in. Hey presto, it worked, the intense pleasure of feeling two, thick, cocks inside me touching different parts of my vagina was sexually body blowing. I’m not sure how many times I came but he finally did and both of us lay back on the bed ‘fucked’. Recovering from the energetic expenditure, we then talked, asking him if he had ever been violent to a woman.
Informing me he never had, I felt reassured but then elaborated about a few violent encounters with men over his life for different reasons and in different contexts. I was glad he was married as having a sexual relationship with him was all I wanted.

Conversing about various aspects of our lives, he told me he didn’t really have sex with his wife anymore and they both agreed to allow each other to enjoy sex with others. My experience and cynicism suggested that while he as a male would make the most of his sexual liberty, I doubted whether his wife similarly indulged, and if he did know she was having sex with another man, or others, would he be able to accept it. I thought, or assumed no to both issues, but it was of no interest to me what she was doing or not doing and it was his business whether he cared or not. All that mattered to me was enjoying good sex, conversation and fun with him.

For the next two weeks, I didn’t hear from him, starting to feel randy as the days turned into weeks. Already realising that having good sex made me want it more and more but understanding too how the desire or need abated after several weeks without it, I wondered whether I’d hear from him again. To my surprise, he called to ask me out for dinner as I’d come to accept married men never planned ahead or arranged a rendezvous unless their wives were MIA. I never called Jason at work except for film publicity events and never of course even asked for his home number. The relationship was very much in his control and my control was whether I wanted to accept it as that. I did, then. Eating in a reasonably priced Italian restaurant a few miles from my apartment, we devoured the food to return home and to bed. The sex was still great as we became more familiar and comfortable with each other, enjoying kissing him, touching him and sucking him off as much as he seemed to with me. Later, as we talked, he made an interesting statement: “We talk more than we fuck!” I wasn’t sure what to make of his comment as after sex I felt satisfied and after some R & R with a cigarette and conversation, I would tell him to go home. He never suggested actually having sex again but after he left that night, I wondered whether he wanted more, curious as to why he never asked. Mostly, I was tired and increasingly aware he was not on my intellectual wavelength with conversation becoming boring. We didn’t discuss that comment except for him to say that after sex, we talked for longer than the sex lasted. I didn’t think about it again.

For the next few months, we indulged in more sex with the dildo until he arrived one night after work with a present; a bottle of Crown lager beer he knew I never drank. “For your cunt,” he said, with a big, cheeky grin on his face. Emptying it first, I suggested we try it out, a perfect fit that went deeper inside me than fingers, his cock and the dildo and certainly much, much harder. I loved it too and started using it on my own when I didn’t see him and likewise the dildo. Sometimes I didn’t hear from him for more than a month and while I still saw him at film events, I never demanded anything other than what he offered me.

Masturbation with all my new accompaniments became a focus of my sex life in a way it had never been before. Fed up with too many dud fucks and now with new sources of pleasure, I embarked on a different sexual journey on my own, interested to learn more about myself and at the same time, believing I could give myself more pleasure than most of the men I had known ever did. In between, I saw Jason with the months becoming years in our on-going liaison, though increasingly infrequent. One night, he suggested having sex with a male friend of his simultaneously, but I knew who the friend was and wasn’t at all interested. We still enjoyed each other sexually, though knocking on my door at midnight on a Saturday pissed, started to test my desire. I wasn’t impressed. While I had drunk more than I should have with Richard, I rarely drank anymore, certainly never at home on my own as I had never done. Him being drunk, though always amicable, annoyed me, starting to wonder whether he needed alcohol to have sex and whether he was like Richard, an alcoholic. I didn’t care that much except as it impinged on my life, and while he could get it up, last a long time, and talk good sense, that’s all I considered mattered. I wasn’t married to him. Funnily, I did bump into him and his wife one night at a film event not arranged by me but one I was also invited to attend, exchanging friendly greetings with him as he introduced me to his wife. What did I think of her? She was attractive, but plump, unglamorous and very conservatively dressed. But then, he, too, was garbed in a suit. Realising years before how appearances and/or images could be deliberately deceptive, I didn’t dwell on her facade and made no more of it. She was a teacher while he worked in advertising sales for one of Melbourne’s leading commercial radio stations, with one of his favourite expressions being: “Don’t bullshit a bullshitter!” laughing whenever he said it.

The relationship continued for several years on a more and more tenuous level until I didn’t open the door late on a Saturday night when he turned up pissed again. He didn’t make a fuss and duly departed. My memory of the exact details of how our relationship passed its use-by-date have faded except that a few nights later, he rang sober and I agreed to let him come over, having sex , then coffee and cigarettes. Then he told me something I wasn’t even sure he meant: “if I wasn’t married, I’d marry you”! I didn’t say much in response as I would never have married him anyway as I had never been in love with him as I knew fairly early on we had little in common apart from enjoying kinky sex. Still, I was surprised he’d said it.

I saw him a few more times until another drunken knock on the door some months later, again late on a Saturday night and I wouldn’t let him in, adding this time it was finished and I didn’t want to see him again. Talking loudly through my closed, mesh security door, he shrugged his shoulders as far as I could see and walked away. He never rang again and I never saw him again as I was in a new job and no longer in film publicity. He had also left advertising to purchase a taxi licence employing different drivers casually to replace him or so he told me. I was never sure exactly what he was doing on the work front even though he gave me a card with his cab telephone number on it (pre-mobile era).

Still masturbating and venturing even further with myself as I could, I would suck my tits, use the dildo on them too and then fuck myself with the bottle achieving great pleasure and satisfaction, though I never could get the bottle as deep inside me as he did. Pushing it with my own hands only went so deep. A few months having no sex with a man and bored with my masturbatory routine, I was feeling really randy and decided, straight and sober, to ring his cab and see if he felt like a fuck. It was a Sunday night and it wasn’t his voice at the end of the line, but a casual driver who I asked to contact Jason and tell him to call me back. It was about six or so years after I’d first met him, but I never received a phone call. About three months later, I tried again also proving futile. Jason dropped off my planet to somewhere he didn’t want me to find him.

On the work front, I had left film publicity as the company closed its Melbourne office to operate out of Sydney only, taking up a position as a journalist again on the same Jewish newspaper I worked on years before. Now with a new owner and editor I was appointed Arts & Entertainment Editor, also writing features on a diverse range of issues, including marriage, divorce and domestic violence in the community. These were interesting stories as sex, money and violence behind closed doors in suburbia pervaded the community as much as the non-Jewish community, with women complaining the men weren’t that good at sex, wanted to control the purse strings and lashed out with their fists to assert their power. Psychological violence was as pervasive, too. I enjoyed the work, but had to confront the familiar pattern once again, of earning little money for my long hours at the desk and at home. Fed up with the economic exploitation and receiving a phone call for a job offer as a film publicist at another company, I resigned after nearly 12 months to return to publicity. That job only lasted a few weeks as I had almost nothing to do even though I was earning more money than I had as a journalist. Life it seemed could be indeed crazy as I was being paid well to do nothing and only a pittance working 60 or so hours a week at the Jewish newspaper. Bored and depressed with nothing to do, I resigned to take my chances in the outside world again, managing to obtain another reporter’s job on a new broadsheet Sunday newspaper three days week.

Little did I know what to expect but was paid yet again a pittance as I worked day and night for a female boss I had no respect for. After about six weeks, I called it quits, not just for that job, but in journalism altogether. As with Thames, I didn’t like the people employed on the paper, realising that the world of journalism was no longer what it once was for me and I no longer wanted to be part of it. Publicity proved too intellectually unstimulating too and as my previous passion for politics had rekindled, I entertained a new career as a politics teacher, enrolling to study a Graduate Diploma of Teaching as a new decade dawned in 1990. The hours of teaching suited me I believed, leaving me enough time to write on my own at night at home. There were many changes in my attitudes as I approached my 40th birthday, jettisoning any idea of marriage, a man, and journalism, too. All I wanted was challenging and stimulating work for my mind, a few good friends of either gender, and enough money to pay the bills, attend the odd movie, concert or buy myself a reasonably priced meal. Enrolling to study teaching in 1990, it was the beginning of a new life, without feeling pressured to do anything other than what I felt was in my own best interest as my own best friend.

During this decade, I revisited many of the themes I focused on in my unpublished novels, particularly re-reading a book called “Male Chauvinism: How It Works” written by journalist Michael Korda, who was born in London and educated at Oxford University, but lived for many years in America. The book, first published in the USA in 1972 was published in the UK two years later and I came across it in 1978 after departing Thames TV. Writing what I clearly understood in so many workplaces, Korda claims: “When most men look at a woman they do not see before them an equal human being. They see an enigma, a challenge, a mystery; the person is obscured by the sum total of their feelings and experiences about women, by a hundred thousand years of legend, myth, comedy and domestic uneasiness…In the working world where men still hold the positions of power they affect her status, her salary, her chances of promotion, her future.” Later, he suggests “Men do not live in fear of women on any conscious level…men fear women because women have the power to challenge them sexually, because they expose men to the possibility of failure and humiliation at a basic, biological level….” Furthermore, he asserts “men are still involved in penis worship…power and success in the business and social world reinforce man’s sexual potency by symbolising it where the real thing cannot be demonstrated (a dinner party, an office, a convention), or frequently mask the lack of it.” About the women’s liberation movement in the 70s, he posits, as I realised writing my novels, that in dealing with what he termed “Women’s Liberation” he uses the word “Problems” , with men “unconsciously (reinforcing) their own anti-feminist attitudes by treating all women as if they were a defined group, with shared needs, ambitions and demands, instead of as individuals. This is a particularly convenient assumption in corporate life…(and despite a female assistant being smarter than her male boss and working twice as hard), she can “only be kept in her place by treating her as a woman-i.e., one of a subservient class unfit to hold power. After all, if they’re not kept in their places, they may take ours.”

Understanding these sentiments as sexist when I penned At the Front, I related sexism to fascism, meaning that these men were controlling the role of women with their power. Having read about fascism and its means of control, sadly many men I believed were simply “fascists”, albeit at work, at home and often at play, beyond the domain of organised government in so-called democracies no less. He continues: “Until men have freed themselves from fixed attitudes towards women, we are never going to be free as men.” Indeed, men who are not free within themselves often unconsciously prevent women from being free by imposing their power and control over those women they actually “fear” as a threat to their selves. In the conclusion to his preface, he writes: “Men (have built a fortress) to protect themselves from women-which is to say from acknowledging women’s completeness and humanity- and the defences they have erected to make insecurity appear in the guise of power.” Korda’s thesis resonated with me loud and clear as validation for what I had experienced not just at work, but at home and at play, not just with Richard, but with male friends, too. What he didn’t realise, which I did when I was writing my novels, was that women, not just in positions of power but as competitors too, could be just as threatened by women as much as men were and were no less fascists, too, seeking to control women who they feared, albeit often irrationally and unconsciously. He quotes American writer/journalist from the 19th century, Ambrose Bierce, who wrote: “To men a man is a mind. Who cares what face he carries or what he wears? But woman’s body IS the woman. Men can have little idea of what it is like to be judged constantly on one’s exterior, the endless small humiliations, the fear of old age, the jealousies engendered between women”. The reality was that more than a century later, Bierce’s understanding was still all pervasive.

Mentioning this jealousy as Bierce does was a key to my understanding not just other females at work and at school in my teens, but far more significantly, my sisters’ attitudes towards me. My relationship with my mother was much more complex, believing she was just unable to appreciate how important my mind was for me and what I needed, not because of any inherent jealousy, but because she was locked into a generational past where marriage, children and living happily ever after was the way she thought women should live. Despite her reading many feminist books when I was in my teens and again on my return from the UK, she still adhered to the psychology that having a man was the ultimate for every good woman; the fairytale writ large in her psyche.

As Colette Dowling wrote in her 1981 book The Cinderella Complex, “(there are) thousands upon thousands of us (women) who grew up in a certain way and who have not been able to face up to the adult reality that we, alone, are responsible for ourselves. We may pay lip service to this idea, but inside, we do not accept it. Everything about the way we were raised told us we would be part of someone else- that we would be protected, supported, buoyed up by wedded happiness until the day we died.” She continues: “That is the fairytale, the life message we have introjected as if with mother’s milk. We may venture out on our own for a while. We may go to school, work, travel; we may even make good money, but underneath it all there is a finite quality to our feelings about independence. Only hang on long enough, the childhood story goes, and some day someone will come along to rescue you from authentic living.” Sadly, my mother still subscribed to this dictum and although she hadn’t experienced happiness in her own marriage, she still believed it was fundamental to female happiness. Both my older sisters were married with the standard two children a piece and there must be something wrong with me for eschewing that lifestyle.

Re-reading the novel, An Unmarried Woman, first published in 1978 and written by Carol De Chellis Hill, my mother’s belief was summarised lucidly by the author who wrote: “Patti, you better learn this, and you better learn it early. Women without men are losers. The losers are the women who think being without a man is being a loser. You won’t understand that for ten years, but give it a crack in your spare time.” Patti responds by claiming “Women’s lib is a crock. Marriage is a crock and so is just about everything else. “ Later, when another female character seemingly falls for a man after one dissolved marriage, her friend comments: “ you’re having this really deep personal blossoming, and I mean none of us likes to think marriage is a threat to that, but on the other hand, the fact of the matter is it usually is.” Discussing the possibility of marriage again to this new man, the woman affirms:” I want to be safe. You’d rather be interesting.” For me, it wasn’t about either, only adamant I wasn’t going to settle for second-best or get married for the sake of social acceptance and approval. Going it alone had been difficult, and while my mother on one level acknowledged women’s right to equality, she always insisted women were intrinsically different to men because they gave birth and a man provided security. Having children put women in a separate category to men as they were the ones to breastfeed as the primary caregivers.

Another book I re-read that I first perused after leaving Thames was “Toward A New Psychology of Women”, published in 1975 in America and written by a feminist psychiatrist, Jean Baker Miller. Asserting women’s inequality as subordinates in our society, she writes that “when subordinates show the potential for, or even more dangerously have developed other characteristics- let us say intelligence, initiative, assertiveness- there is usually no room available within the dominant framework for acknowledgement of these characteristics. Such people will be defined as at least unusual, if not definitely abnormal. There will be no opportunities for the direct application of their abilities within the social arrangements…Dominant groups usually impede the development of subordinates and block their freedom of expression and action.” These words were sadly my reality, unable to access opportunities for stimulating work and labelled abnormal, too. My older sister, a member of a dominant group as a doctor, consistently over my life put me down intellectually and professionally and when I rejected her supposed control, I was dangerous. My mother too used to believe her as a doctor, but my other sister, a teacher, was jealous for different reasons. She was obese, always criticising me as too thin and undoubtedly anorexic. There was no rational basis for her criticisms as there were none for my sister telling me to leave university to become a secretary when I first left home at 17. Asking her for financial help for just three months until my university exams were over (pre-cadetship in journalism), she told me to go to business college to learn to type and do shorthand as it was only a six week course and then I could work and have money to leave home. Indeed, she was totally negative about my journalistic aspirations and years later back in Australia, when I was bored at work, she suggested I be a receptionist when I dared to mention feeling miserable because I had nothing to do in my job. Being super efficient didn’t count as I had completed all the work I needed to do. Moreover, the reality that I won a Commonwealth scholarship to enter university at 17 was no reflection I had a brain at all by her perception.

Baker Miller continues: “despite overwhelming evidence…the notion persists that women are meant to be passive, submissive, docile and secondary.” These were words I wrote in my diary in Spain, many years before I read this book. As a psychiatrist however, it was even more reassuring to appreciate her understanding. Continuing, she claims the “dominant group is the model for ‘normal’ human relationships. It then becomes normal to treat others destructively and to derogate them, to obscure the truth of what you are doing, by creating false explanations, and to oppose actions toward equality.” Both my sisters exhibited such attitudes and behaviour towards me. As my older sister lived her life as a dominant, Baker Miller understood that these “dominants prefer to avoid conflict-open conflict that might call into question the whole situation”, with my doctor sister always negating any attempt I made at discussing our conflicts, attributing all problems to me. Furthermore, Baker Miller asserts, as I experienced, “in our own society, a woman’s direct action can result in a combination of economic hardship, social ostracism and psychological isolation- and even the diagnosis of a personality disorder.”

Certainly, re-reading both Korda and Baker Miller again just three years later in Melburbia, one of the problems I had with both their viewpoints is they both write as if men and women share nothing in common and are intrinsically different. Korda generalises about men without exploring the consequences of jealousies between women as Biercewrote and Baker Miller similarly generalises about women as subordinates in relation to men, both perceiving men as the culprits and both unable to analyse, or not even recognise women’s conflicts with each other and their antipathies towards each other. It isn’t till the mid 90s I found a book that addressed this issue.

My thirties had provided me with fresh insights into my mother, my sisters and some of my old friends, both female and male, who I realised had little real or genuine knowledge about me as they weren’t actually interested, not in my work, my relationships or my thoughts and feelings. They never had been, more content to deal with assumptions and/or delusions about me as a stereotypical female, unable to see the real me and instead projecting onto me their own foibles and faults. As the decade came to its end, I rationally appreciated their perceptions and projections in a way I hadn’t clarified before. With increasing lucidity about the irrational and emotive responses of too many people, the books I re-read acknowledged my insights, not just about myself but many others as sane, sound and sensible, despite others not wanting to confront that reality of myself. With renewed strength after several stints unemployed, exploitative salaries and intellectual put downs, I could really be on my own without support or encouragement, feeling no need to live up to others’ expectations but my own.

Certainly, I was not invincible but happy to admit my own shortcomings and human frailties, appreciating even more than I had in my twenties how stereotypes for both genders could so distort and destroy our individuality and humanness. My continued reading about women and even more, about men, reinforced many thoughts and beliefs I had considered and reflected upon for nearly 20 years not that anyone else was interested in listening to my insights or ideas. My mother continually expressed her hope that I would meet a man but I had long since stopped responding, feeling sorry for her and too many other women who believed in Prince Charming and happy ever after. The gap between us was not just generational and gender-based, but about the lifestyle I chose to live. The saddest thing she ever said to me was that I should never have left The Sun to return to the UK in 1972, evincing no understanding of my need for intellectual stimulation and challenge and reflecting her stereotypical belief that having a man provided the recipe for happiness. In her perspective, my mind was of little consequence in determining that.

Sadly, she was no longer able to care for my father after his stroke, placing him in a Jewish nursing home three years before, her guilt however ensuring she trekked to see him nearly every day. I visited him on a weekly basis at weekends, sharing a cigarette with him as I tried talking about the football, cricket and sometimes, world events. I was never sure whether he remembered my visits but I had certainly appreciated even more how he was the only person who had ever really perceived me for who I was and thankfully, still am today and more importantly, accepted me as that; a radical and non-conformist. There were many sad times in my thirties not just over the demise of my journalistic career, but also the demise of my family and old friends. The positive was that I grew stronger, more self-assured and confident of who I was, on my own, without living through any superficial accoutrements. It was a tough decade in some ways as was most of my life, realising I could never be content with the 9-5 mentality living happily ever after in some suburban enclave with the 2.2 kids and 2.4 cars. Others may have tried to manufacture my conformity and I certainly felt that pressure at times, but deep down, I could never succumb to those pressures. Enlightening at the same time as difficult, my thirties came to an end with a strong sense of self that would never be undermined by anyone else again. Richard was finally in my past as I not only thought but more importantly felt, as was my mother, my father, my sisters and many of my old friends. There were new people to meet and new roads to travel and I embraced it all, surpassing the status quo as a subordinate woman and what it tried to dictate as my destiny. I was going to create my own as I had always believed and lived, with a different agenda that would excite and stimulate my senses and intellect, less traumatic and troublesome as an individual on my own.

In Dowling’s conclusion to The Cinderella Complex, she writes: “ What does it mean to become one’s own person? It means to take on the responsibility for one’s own existence. To create one’s own life. To devise one’s own schedule.” She goes on to quote German psychoanalyst Karen Horney, who worked in the late 1800s and early 20th century “The more we face down our conflicts and seek out our own solutions, the more inner freedom and strength we will gain. It is when we assume responsibility for our own problems that the centre of gravity begins to make that crucial shift from the Other to the Self. At this point, something remarkable happens. More energy becomes available to us. Energy that used to get lost in the Energy Leak, as we exhausted ourselves repressing those aspects of our personalities we felt were unacceptable or frightening…Gradually, we become less inhibited, less plagued by fear and anxiety, less deadened by self-contempt…We are less afraid of others. We are less afraid of ourselves.”  These are the themes I wrote about in my novel The Circle War before Dowling wrote her book. It was validating to read her thesis so similar to my own but it was also depressing to realise while she was published, my novels were not. I will never really understand why.

Dowling goes on to claim that the goal of this ‘springing free’ is “emotional spontaneity-an inner liveliness that pervades everything we do, every work project, every social encounter, every love relationship. It comes from the conviction: I am the first force in my life.” She adds that Horney referred to this as “wholeheartedness” -the ability “to be without pretence, to be emotionally sincere, to be able to put the whole of oneself into one’s feelings, one’s work, one’s beliefs.” The problem for me was that too many other women, and men, could not accept me as a genuine independent being with integrity and the self-belief to be my own person. Approaching 40, I no longer cared or needed validation from anyone. It was always my life and re-reading these books and new ones too endowed me with the courage of my own convictions irrespective of the status quo. It was no longer relevant in my life.

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