Relearning Love

Relearning Love

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about love. Last week, on the phone to a close friend we started discussing the difficulty that came along with talking to others about our friendship. “I tell people you’re my girlfriend,” she told me. “nothing else conveys our closeness.” 

It made me laugh. Our love for one another is too intense to be expressed to others as friendship. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised how limiting societal understandings of relationships are. Platonic love is so deeply undervalued and misunderstood within our culture. Romantic love is placed above all other loves, and we’re taught to seek it out, to feel incomplete without it. We are taught that there is only one way to correctly participate in romantic love. We are since girlhood waiting our entire lives to be consumed by exclusive romance. We want to be destroyed by it. We want to drown in it. We let men into the center of our lives. We let men become the center of our lives.

Recently I’ve been reading this book called I Love Dick. It was about the author, Chris, and her husband, Sylvère, her infatuation with her husband’s work colleague Dick. And her husband entertains this infatuation, and the pair of them write Dick letters about how much Chris loves him, and Chris tells her husband about how she imagines herself and Dick having sex. In all the reviews I read about the novel, they discuss how perverted this all is, and how dysfunctional this husband-wife dynamic is. But the whole time I was reading it I was struck by how brilliant their relationship was, how secure and in love they must be. I was thinking maybe one day it would be nice if I could grow enough to have a relationship like that. If I could let go of jealousy and possession. I talk about free love and polyamory all the time, and I think it’s beautiful and I think it’s what right. But this was the first time I was really struck by how much I want to be able to have it. I think it’s easier to love girls that way than it is guys, maybe because I haven’t seen representations of how I’m “supposed” to love girls. I don’t have to let go of so many internalised ideas with girls (just all that internalised homophobia…) and so it is easier, free of urgency. But I am going to practice every day. I will practice non-attachment and remind myself that people will always love me, and that if the form of that love changes I am strong enough to teach myself to accept it. I know that what is for me will be for me effortlessly. I will learn to love in such a way that the person I love does not feel stifled by my love. I will learn to love in such a way that they feel free.
 Love1
Love is a pure emotion. I know that un-training my brain will opened up a whole new world of intense joy and happiness to me. I can kiss my friends on the mouths as an expression of my love for them. I can share all the love I have inside of me with as many or as few people as I want and I don’t have to feel confined or restrained by anything that society or Hollywood has taught me.  Realising the unnecessary nature of prescribed titles to different kinds of love and relationships is so incredibly freeing.  We don’t need labels or limitations to our loves. We can create our own unique love that manifest in whatever way it wants to.
I can’t claim that I came to this realisation entirely of my own volition. It wasn’t until I was in a space where there was trust and freedom and Real Love that I realised how dysfunctional my past relationships have been, and how confining and screwed up conventional love is. Particularly as women, an exclusive romantic relationship is viewed as some kind of a pinnacle of success. I’ve stayed in relationships that made me feel trapped. I’ve let men convince me that without them, I would crumble apart and dissolve. For a fear of being alone, I’ve let myself be unhappy. No – utterly miserable.
Now I am growing. I love deeply. I try never to forget that the sources of love are plentiful. That there is kinlove and womanlove and friendlove and sisterlove. That these loves are a source of sustenance.
May we keep our centers to ourselves, hold our own hearts in our hands, and cultivate and appreciate love in all of its glorious manifestations.
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Summer Reading List

Summer Reading List

The-Girls.jpgThe Girls by Emma Cline
Have you ever read something and been utterly mesmerised by how flawlessly the author managed to crawl inside your head? My copy of The Girls is filled with wild scrawling notes; “This is so tragically familiar,” I’ve written. “oh, how the lives of 14-year-old girls revolve around the approval of others.”
Set in the summer of 1969, the book follows Evie Boyd, a desperate and lonely teenager who joins a Manson-family-esque cult. This book is captivating. Cline toys with this wonderful idea of something simultaneously grotesque and beautiful. A moving representation of the young female psyche navigating insecurities, rebellion, and curiosities through adolescence.

The Color Purple by Alice Walkerthe-color-purple.jpg
The Color Purple made me rethink my stance on God. Always an atheist, it wasn’t until I read this book that I realised my aversion wasn’t to God or spirituality, but to organised religion. This book talks about God as an it, as everything – including yourself. This book made me realise you don’t have to worship God by sitting in a pew and singing hymns. We worship by Living. By running barefoot through long grass, swimming naked in the sea. Dancing to your favourite song or climbing a tree.
A fair warning – this book is not light and fluffy.The story focuses on the life of African-American women in the southern United States in the 1930s. The first page depicts a rape scene and the second illustrates the death of the protagonists’ mother. But it is beautiful, thought-provoking, life-changing. I would recommend it to anyone.41K7TYBGF4L.jpg

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
This book is my Favourite Book Ever. Every person I’ve ever forced into reading it has also decided it is their Favourite Book Ever. It will change your life. I read this book in 2 days. All 200,000-something words of it. All 600-something pages of it. Reading this book is like drinking a really great scotch: you keep drinking, having no idea how drunk your getting. Then you try to stand up and the world falls out from under your feet. It enthrals you so, so completely.
I adore the hint of the supernatural. I adore the slow, building tension. I adore Richard and Henry and Bunny and I’m not even going to tell you what the book is about because it is so inexplicable and brilliant and I could never do it justice. Go and buy this book. Immediately.

1d4c4cf8277876b869ff5a4b5452fafbMonkey Grip by Helen Garner
Monkey Grip follows the story of Javo and Nora.  Javo is addicted to hard drugs and Nora is addicted to Javo. Garner’s writing is a rich, lyrical prose that runs off the tongue like honey. It’s poetic and layered and I read this book again as soon as I finished it, just so I could experience it all over again. She has the ability to capture the mood without using over-indulgent language. I’d just moved to Melbourne the first time I read this book and my timing was perfect – I would walk through the streets, nose in book, and realise I was on the same street Nora lived on, or that the place I’d met a friend for coffee the day before was the same place the Javo and Nora went to meet. There is a wonderful sense of familiarity that washes over me when she refers to specific places.

51p7tpu16xlSelf Help by Lorrie Moore
This book contains a collection of short stories by Lorrie Moore, including my favourite short story of all time: How To Be An Other Woman, an incredibly moving piece about, well, how to be a mistress. Moore has a thing for opera singers and women who work in retail, women with cheating men and weird mums. She creates lyrical masterpieces of interconnecting words, meanings, and emotions; stories that are packed tightly with wit and sentiment and tenderness and tragedy and pathos and just about everything that I love in literature. Moore imparts something upon the reader – some deeper wisdom, some change in perspective. I cannot do justice to the amazing, heartbreaking soulfulness that is this book.

Lock-Jaw and Love

Lock-Jaw and Love

It’s the early hours of a Tuesday morning and I haven’t slept since Thursday night. I’m high out of my mind, floating through the universe in a state of pure bliss, dancing in time with the buzzing of my heart in my chest, my twisting body matching that white-hot feeling rippling through my veins. I laugh under the flashing blue lights and shake my head, music bumping loud in the background. Drugs are brilliant. Mind-expanding. Heart opening.

The first time I did drugs I was fifteen. A group of us were camping by a lake, passing the bong in a circle when one of the boys pulled out a bag of obscure little mushrooms. “They’re magical,” he told us, and so we ignored the bitter taste and swallowed them whole. We laid in the reeds and listened the sound to life vibrating, the trees spinning out like kaleidoscopes above us.

I meddled in hallucinogenics for a while. Acid made the world pixelated one trip and cartoon-ified the next. Every time was exciting and different. But eventually I was ready to try something new. My boyfriend, a meth dealer, racked some stuff into a neat little line and showed me how to snort it up. “So you don’t have to wait for the caps to dissolve in your stomach,” he’d said. So I took the purple fiver from him, rolled it into a straw and breathed in hard. The drugs fizzled along in my bloodstream like ice cream and lemonade, and for the first time in my life, I understood euphoria. Everything vibrated. Everything moved and everything flowed and I could feel God in the back of my knees. I could not conjure up sadness.

Every experience I’ve had with drugs has been a positive one. Every Friday night coke-line, every Sunday morning bump of ket, every acid-fuelled camping trip has been beautiful. Every “I love you,” spurred on by MDMA has connected me to another human being, our lives intertwined even for just a glistening moment. Every tab melted onto my tongue has taught me something new about the earth, or shown me how to appreciate the beauty of nature, the wonder of life in a new light.

Everyone is magical when I’m on drugs. I remember meeting this guy and thinking he was an Angel. He glowed and he laughed and he was so alive and full of spontaneity. We would just hold hands and run down the street, feeling cold air rushing against our face, the sensation of Living filling us. Sometimes on drugs you realise you love a person so much that it hurts. Which I suppose is the best kind of pain, really. Sometimes you just wanna kiss someone and your whole body just aches for it. The guy I’m seeing got high with me the other day and we had what was most definitely the best sex of my life. Everything is so intense and you have no inhibitions and all your love, for everyone and everything, is flowing through you, and the universe intertwines with you and you don’t end and you don’t begin and neither do they and you just become this singular entity, moving together in time with the earth, and the whole world feels interconnected.

There’s no gravity when you’re high. You float out into the cosmic abyss and it’s beautiful but also undoubtedly a little terrifying. I’ll admit that. There are times when the fluorescent glow of the street lamps is too bright and the way the trams sway on the tracks isn’t quite right. The MDMA gives you lock-jaw and the K makes you lose time and everything is heightened. But our bodies move like liquid. You can feel bliss running through your veins. I’m not saying drugs are for everyone, I’m not saying they’re never problematic. But sometimes with drugs, your heart gets so full that it hurts in the most brilliant way possible. I guess I can’t see why anyone would condemn that feeling.

 

09/11/2016

09/11/2016

We woke up entangled, like we do every morning, and kissed till we ran out of breath. He told me he felt high when our skin touched. I melted closer into him, gripping his flesh.

The sun started to come out and fresh spring air beckoned people out of their houses. He grabbed a helmet and his bike and we walked to the park where he taught me how to ride, pedalling in wobbly circles on the grass. I only fell once. When I’d gotten the hang of it we rode to the beach, passing joggers on the track, the smell of jasmine and saltwater dancing together in the air. Cloud started to roll by and the grey water churned, a powerful jostling. The ocean simultaneously terrifies and calms me. That vastness. That deep unknown. The remnants of an old pier stuck out of the water, rotting wood rising out of the waves like gravestones.We dropped our bikes and ran towards the ocean, tackling one another to the ground, kissing in the sand. I keep finding remnants of the beach in my jeans, my bag, my bed.

Later, when the sun had melted out of the sky, we sat in swings looking up at the stars, and all the shadows flitting across the buildings. We talked about time and philosophy and “normal-ness”. He told me he wants to go crazy one day, when he’s old. I like the idea of insanity. I suppose all of it is just a social construct really. I’m intrigued by the possibility of an alternate reality created within your mind. Who’s to say that we’re not all insane and the “crazy” people are the ones that see the world for what it truly is.

When we got home and our bones were all warm again, we laid on the floor listening to Elvis crackling away on my record player, sipping on peppermint tea. He read my favourite book to me and my heart sped up, his voice deep and honey. All the terrible lovers I have suffered through before were worth it.

We fell asleep entangled, like we do every night.

On Love

On Love

Morgan. Thomas was right when he said you are the sun. I love looking at you when you dance, your face lit under shifting lights of vivid and iridescent colour, spilling sweet bronzed smiles from grinning lips, sunshine through hazy crowds of hair and sweat and ba
re teeth. I can’t help but laugh and shake my head like a fool whe you turn that pure, unaffected joy towards me, the honey of breathing sunrise, too heady and slippery a joy for me to retain. This is not meant to be a confession of love, however much I do love you, but rather a reflection on you, and your beautiful, alien, perfumed and intrinsic self. You have the soul of a wizened and worldly gypsy woman, barefoot and spinning, a child of the earth and the sea. Grow into your soul. I will love you forever.

Mikayla. I drove past the ocean today and it reminded me of you. How desperately I wanted to run into the water, soak in the salt until all my extremities turned pruney. The people here don’t love the water like we do. I think, I mean, maybe the ocean reminds me of you because it’s our place, us sea children. We were always floating together, silently listening to the waves break, arms and legs extended outwards so from above we’d look like starfish. But maybe, I think, the familiarity comes with the way it holds me, like you used to. It feels like love, the salt water cradling me, waves carving into every crevice. Nestled there, seaweed tickling at my toes, I am reminded of the way your arms curled around me, embracing every inch. I miss your fingers tracing along my ribs.

Stella. I watched you this morning, brushing your teeth in that shitty communal bathroom, toothpaste running down your face. I know we’ve been friends for a long time, but I think in that moment I feel in love with you. It was like, you know when the sky is grey and dark and you forget what the sun looks like? And then they shift and suddenly everything is bright and lovely again? Well that’s how it felt. It just washed over me and I know I shouldn’t be telling you this because I know it will screw things up with us but… I see you and get goosebumps. The way your gums show when you laugh really hard, or the way you hoard dead flowers. I wish I didn’t feel this way.

Emily. I was reading somewhere the other day that you should never house a lovebird alone. Something about a need for frequent contact and reassurance from their partner. Maybe we’re lovebirds. That might explain this constant aching. I miss the way my body feels beside yours. It’s swallowing me.

Mason. I remember falling in love with you like it happened last night, your fingers tiptoeing up my ribcage as we laid on the concrete, under the stars. Lying there next to you I suddenly felt a part of this whole intimate thing, and my soul melted into yours.I’d never felt that shift before, from friendship to romance. But after seven years, something moved inside of me and I saw you in a new light. You had always been beautiful; heavy lids and golden hair. But suddenly you turned electric, entangled there on cold cement as you whispered secret dreams you’d never told anyone else.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-9-38-10-am

Tom. It was, it is, wonderful talking to you. That I can really talk to you, that you’re a full person with whom I feel like I can laugh and talk and cry. Someone that I can be really real with and someone that I can understand and that I feel really understands me. Someone that has created a space where I can love and create unabashedly. I don’t think there are many boys out there like that. You distract me with your mouth, send my brain into a fog. There is a savagery and a softness to the way you have sex with me. Something tender in the way your hand grips my neck. I love the way you feel inside of me. I love the way that, after we finish we just lay there interconnected, for maybe twenty minutes. And when I go to wash your sweat away I am bruised and scratched in all the best ways. I don’t want you to leave. I am not sure why fate decided to treat me to someone as wonderful as you. But I am thankful.

On Youth Culture in Nowheresville

On Youth Culture in Nowheresville

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Bec

Home to the Spirit of Tasmania I and II, Devonport is a little city on the north-west coast of Australia’s island state. Only classified as a city on the basis of a technicality, it’s the kind of place where your phone signal is non-existent and night-life is unheard of. Local hangouts include the car park of a dingy McDonalds, a graffiti-covered bus stop, and the car park of a dingy Hungry Jacks. Life here is repetitive. Life here is set at half-speed.
But life in a sleepy seaside village has its upsides. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll never have to queue for entry to a club. There’s pretty much always a nearby bush to pee in. And if you know what you’re doing, you can lift up a the seemingly lifeless rock of the city to find it is teeming with a whole ecosystem of ants and insects.

Growing up in Devonport means I had access to all these secret wonders. Visiting a small town like this, you HAVE to know the locals. Sure, you can pop into the tourist centre and book a trip up to the mountains, or stroll aimlessly around the sad excuse for a mall. But the real excitement of the place is something you can only know if you’ve lived here your whole life. The flower-speckled glades hidden at the end of a winding dirt road, the trashy milk bar with the best hash browns on the coast, the secret waterfalls. The small population means you get your pick of your place in the sand, encounter only wallabies on your bush walk, hunt magic mushrooms in solitude. There is a kind of majesty in experiencing your youth in such a forgettable city.


Nightlife somewhere like Devonport most certainly isn’t as vibrant as Melbourne’s 24/7 carousel of fun. One nightclub (open for six hours on a Saturday) and a sprinkling of sad looking pubs can’t compete with underground raves and multi-story clubs. But what we do have is something entirely different and magical. A BWS slack on ID checks and an abandoned maternity hospital to break into are a great combination for an evening of drunken graffiti and ghost hunting. No real club culture means there are house parties instead. Parents go out of town and their children hire crappy DJ’s and party photographers and build seven-foot bonfires in the backyard. 15 to 21-year-olds flock from all sides of the city wearing flannies and gum boots, the “dance floor” just a patch of thick, pasty mud, the “bathrooms” just a broken porter loo with a severe lack of toilet paper. The booze is endless, the bongs aplenty, and the trees provide great cover for a sneaky fuck, or a quick chunder if you “went too hard on the paint”. These parties are filthy, dirty paradises, and something you definitely need to experience at least once.

No trams, no regular buses, most certainly no trains. The only reliable way to get around is by car. But driving around isn’t just a mode of transport here – it’s a favourite pastime for most of the youth, rolling around aimlessly in the night, sticking their heads out the window like dogs, tongues flapping free. Occasionally we stop at the beachside playground to share a spliff on the swings, or skinny dip in the frosty Tasmanian waters. But mostly we just drive, eating up petrol playing midnight rounds of “car chasings” or trying to get bogged in the mushy green paddocks. To the teens that grew up with shopping malls and warehouse raves, it might sound a little dull, but there’s something wild about turning the heat up and putting the windows down, letting the wind tangle your hair while you scream along passionately to Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You.

Nowheresville is confronting. Bookended by a rooftop apple sculpture on one end and an onion factory on the other, this single-story city is full of racists, homophobes, misogynists and a whole hoard of other bigots. But if you’re willing to brave the redneck farmers and the meth-head bogans, truly immersing yourself within the small town culture is a rewarding, mind-expanding, unparalleled experience. You walk into a bar with one friend and walk out with ten. You go to a gig and know everyone in the room. You scream the lyrics back to the bands playing because the bands are your bestfriends and the lyrics are written about you and your friends and the life you all share. Every drunk bathroom trip results in a beautiful reunion with a girl you went to primary school or high school or kindergarten with. Nowheresville is confronting. But it is also beautiful.

 

Bitch Planet

Bitch Planet

The support act has just gone off stage and I slurp my gin in a gulping kind of anticipation. The whole crowd is buzzing with excitement. “Nothing could ruin my mood right now,” I think, jinxing myself. With that thought, a hand plants itself firmly on my ass and squeezes hard. I turn to find it belongs to an attractive 20-something with long tendrils of hair spilling from his head. He winks at me, fingers spreading wide and squeezing again. “Fuck off!” I yell, throwing a concoction of melted ice and lime juice in his face. This is clearly not the reaction he’s used to. “Bitch!”

Welcome to Bitch Planet, population: me.

This wasn’t the first time I’d been called a bitch, and it certainly wasn’t the first time I’d been groped sans-consent. The combination of my squeezable butt and my unwillingness to take anyone’s shit has led to countless situations wherein slurs have been screeched and wine has been wasted down the front of a sleaze bag’s t-shirt. If defending myself makes me a bitch, I’m satisfied with the title.

But why the fuck should I have to? Defend myself, I mean. Why should I have to choose between silently dealing with sexual assault or being a bitch? Why should I have to live with this pervasive fear dancing inside my gut – a fear that tells me not to drink, not to dance too sexily at the bar, to call my friends to let them know I got home safe even though I only live 30 minutes away. Does the switchblade I carry in my purse deem me a bitch? What if I use it on someone trying to rape me? Defending myself verbally makes me a bitch, so I can only imagine what they’d call me if I, a woman, dared to physically attack someone.

Brock Turner’s father commented that “not every man who commits sexual assault is a rapist.” So does that mean not every victim that defends themselves is a bitch? Or that not every girl being raped is a victim? When I was raped, it was my 15th birthday, and I was sipping stolen champagne under the stars. Someone had jeered; “Just a few more frothies, aye!” and so I let them pour me a drink, and another, and another, and then the night started to flash in and out of focus, and I started holding onto him to keep myself upright. I remember the guy pulling my hair away from my face as I stared into the depths of the toilet bowl, and I remember him brushing my teeth and tucking me “safely” into bed. And I remember looking across at my alarm clock, 4:12 glowing bright red in the spinning darkness and I remember a weight on top of me, and that vodka-soaked breath.

So was that my fault? If I’d been sober enough to push him off would that make me a cock-tease? Does being too drunk to move make me a slut? The fact that these questions ran through my head the next morning when I awoke to find the crotch of my panties ripped out, I think says a lot about the rape-culture we’ve created.

So it really fucks me off when someone has the audacity to tell me feminism isn’t important, or even worse, that we don’t need it anymore. Maybe now, I have the strength to stand up for myself, but it came at a pretty hefty price. And choosing between suffering silently or fighting and risking death shouldn’t be a choice girls have to make. I’ve been hit on by old men on the back of the bus, catcalled by construction workers, groped by a literal twelve-year-old. I’ve been assaulted wearing a tight leather skirt and I’ve been assaulted wearing sweatpants. The variables don’t matter. Being a woman means daily violation, whether it’s laser eyes mentally undressing you or physical abuse. And standing up for yourself means putting yourself in danger. “Why can’t you take a fucking compliment?” they ask. “I didn’t think you wanted me to use a condom,” they lie. I am tired of men seeing me as inhuman, as only a body, as flesh they have some claim to. It’s not a compliment. It’s dehumanization and I refuse to let any of it happen to me anymore.

So whenever I feel weak, and am too scared to yell, to scream, to fight, I just like to remind myself, that dead men can’t cat call.