Good luck, goodbye, Bobby Jean

I’ve tried to write this article a few times, but I can’t really work out how to start it. I also really don’t have the spoons to write this whole story out again, so I am going to copy and paste the whole thing from elsewhere. So some of you might have already read it.

Emil and I have called it off after 2 years and 10 months. He was visiting Melbourne this week to attend a demoscene party (which I refer to as NerdFest) so we at least call it quits in person. Here is how it happened:

Friday, 16 November 2012 at 4:52:00 PM

He has told me that he’s met someone else. A girl he works with. She likes him and he likes her back.

I am still going to see him tomorrow.

But I guess I will come back from seeing him, with him not my Second Boyfriend anymore.

My heart hurts.

Sandy, the aurora is rising behind us
This pier lights our carnival life forever
Oh love me tonight and I promise I’ll love you forever

Thanks, Boss.

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Dear Fat Teenage Girl

At the start of October, I was visiting Sydney with my family for my cousin’s 40th birthday. Before the party, my good friend Helen from Hells Bells came to join us for lunch. Helen is (amongst many other things), a piano and voice teacher. She told me a story about a student of hers, a girl of about 14, who is fat and worried that boys are never going to like her because of it. Helen told her about me, my rad fat self and my two boyfriends, and showed her my writing. So I decided to write her (and every other fat teenage girl out there), a little open letter.

Dear Fat Teenage Girl,

All your friends look SO pretty in their denim miniskirts and tight tank tops. Boys look at them at the train station after school, and they hitch up their school skirts to show off more of their legs. You would never dream of doing that. Nobody wants to see your huge thighs in a miniskirt, or your flabby belly and canteen lady arms in a tank top. When you get to the station after school, it feels like everyone is whispering about you and your ill-fitting school uniform as you walk past.

When you go to parties, all your friends end up making out with a boy, but you sit on the couch with your single Bacardi Breezer wondering if boys would like you more if you lost ten kilograms. In the summer, when there’s a pool party, or a beach trip, everyone else wears a bikini but you wear a long t-shirt over your swimsuit and wrap a towel around your waist as soon as you get out of the water.

You bury yourself in books and focus on your schoolwork so you have an excuse about why you aren’t dating anybody. You have crushes, but you never ask anyone out because why would someone want to date you? All your friends are dating but you’re not, and you tell yourself that you’re OK with that because you’re really committed to your schoolwork, even though what you really want is someone special in your life too.

On school holidays, when you go out with your friends to go shopping and see a movie, all your friends buy cute clothes from Sportsgirl and Supre and Forever New. While your friends are trying on skinny jeans and summer party dresses, you browse the accessories, because the only things from Sportsgirl that will fit you are shoes, earrings, headscarves and cute handbags and purses. You walk past the one or two stores that cater to plus-sized women, partly because you’re ashamed, and partly because you know that they won’t have anything in stock that suits you, because you’re not frumpy and middle-aged.

You wear a lot of black tights and shapeless dresses and big baggy jumpers and loose jeans – partly to hide your body shape, and partly because there’s nothing in the stores that both fits you AND that you like. You cruise op shops to find basic skirts and tops that will fit you that you can jazz up with all the accessories you buy when your friends are buying clothes. Someone told you once that horizontal stripes don’t look good on fat girls so you pass over that cute striped skirt that fits you in favour of a plain black one.

It’s so frustrating, isn’t it? You just want to be like everyone else; you want to wear cute clothes, and goof off at the beach in a skimpy swimsuit, you want boys (or girls!) to notice you and want to ask you out, and you want to invite someone special to your year 10 formal.

Well, much like Dan Savage does for gay kids, I’m here to tell you it gets better, fat teenage girl. It gets better.

I was like you when I was a teenager – in fact, all of the scenarios above are my very own experiences. I cared so, so much about what everyone else thought of me. I worried that boys didn’t like me as much as I liked them (which was A LOT, I was a boy crazy teenager), I could never find anything cute to wear outside of op-shops, and it was very annoying having to alter and adjust EVERY SINGLE THING I bought in order to get it to fit me. It was all just so frustrating – I worried that I would never feel comfortable with who I was.

But guess what? It gets better. It really, truly does. (And please forgive me, I’m about to go heteronormative here – as someone who is very firmly straight, I can only speak from my own experience). Whether you lose the weight or not is irrelevant – what matters is how you feel about yourself. If you truly believe that you’re the sort of girl that boys like, then you WILL be the sort of girl that boys like. And of course, fat teenage girl, if you you’re a lesbian, or if you think you might maybe be into girls more than boys, or if you think you might like girls and boys equally, or if you haven’t decided yet, that statement applies to you too. If you believe you’re the sort of girl that people of your preferred sexual identity will like, then you will be the sort of girl that people of your preferred sexual identity will like.

Somewhere around the time that I was 17, I decided that I just didn’t care anymore about what people thought of me. I decided I wasn’t going to try to be anybody else than who I was. I was going to do my own things. I was going to wear whatever clothes I wanted. I was going to buy the things I liked and that made ME feel good to wear, (which were not always the things that looked good on me). Fuck flattering, I thought. Fuck hiding every part of my body. Fuck the society that was telling me that as a fat girl I was ugly, that I was not sexy, that I was not worthy of attention, that I must hide myself and minimise my size and take up less space. Fuck all that.

I started wearing clothes I liked, and that made me feel good. I started walking straighter and taller. I started laughing louder, talking more to strangers, flirting with people. It wasn’t easy and it took a while, because at first I had to pretend I felt good and was confident, until eventually I legitimately felt good and was confident.

Somewhere around the time I was 17, I started going out with my first boyfriend. Now, I know better than anyone that correlation doesn’t equal causation, but I am also not entirely convinced that these were two completely unrelated events. At about that same time, other boys started getting interested in me as well. Now, I am certainly not saying here that I was fighting off teenage boys as if I was Megan Fox at a Transformers premiere, but I did for a while have a couple of boys interested in spending time with me for reasons other than my love of Star Wars and video games.

Since then, life has just gotten better and better for me. I am in love with two men (two!) who love me not because, or in spite of, but WHILE I am fat. There are plenty of men out there who actively seek out fat women as partners because they prefer the way fat women look and feel, in much the same way that there are men who seek out slim women, or blonde women, or women of Asian descent. There are plenty of men out there who love fat women in spite of the fact that they are fat – men who ordinarily wouldn’t seek out a fat woman as a partner but who have met and fallen in love with a fat woman. But both of my current boyfriends love me while I am fat. In other words, they didn’t choose to ask me out because I was fat, and they didn’t fall in love with me even though I was fat. They just love me, and I am fat. Like those two things exist separately, and converge in my relationships.

These are all valid relationship models – I am certainly not promoting one over the other. There’s nothing wrong with being loved because you are fat, just as there is nothing is wrong with being loved even though you are fat, just as there is nothing wrong with being loved while you are fat.

I wear impossibly high heels, and I wear short skirts without stockings, and I wear strapless and sleeveless dresses. I wear tight clothes and low cut tops and stockings attached to suspender belts. I drink beer and I flirt with men and I dance with little regard for who’s watching or what I look like. I live my life by my rules, and I am loved by my friends and loved by men who love me for who I am. I unashamedly take up space. My body is political. I am fat, and I am present, and I refuse to hide my shape under baggy, shapeless clothing. I refuse to use Spanx to mould myself into a more acceptable shape. I refuse to change myself, to conform the expectations of the society we live in. I will not hide.

What I am trying to say here, dear fat teenage girl, is that it gets better. You won’t always feel like you don’t quite fit in. You won’t always feel frumpy and confused about what you should wear. You won’t always feel like no boys (or girls!) like you. You won’t always feel unloveable.  You’re at a crossroads, right now. Right now you feel like nobody will ever love you, that you’ll never look cute in clothes the way your friends do. But you’re not always going to feel that way. Clothing for fat women is getting better and better, slowly but surely – better quality, better style, more affordable, and if you’re straight and into men, you will find that there are millions (MILLIONS!) of men out there who will think you are beautiful and many who will fall in love with you when they get to know you. I am sure, also, that if you’re a lesbian and into women, you’ll find that the same thing applies.

Don’t fall for the trope that only the skinny girl gets to fall in love. Hollywood (and before that, fairytales) has been selling you a false bill of goods, and there are lots of fat women out there on the internet, writing about how they are both fat and rad, writing about the great clothes they wear, and writing about their lovers and husbands and wives and girlfriends and boyfriends. I would like to draw your attention particularly to the writing of Melissa McEwan at Shakesville, a woman I really admire for her smarts and her jokes and her great big heart and her dedication to her work. Particularly I enjoy this article she wrote on the occasion of her tenth wedding anniversary with her husband Iain, entitled Ten.

Love is incredible, and frustrating, and rewarding, and when you find it you will wonder why you ever doubted that you would.

Fall in love with yourself first, and all else will follow.

All my love,

Erin.

The Good Men in my life

I have, at different times in my life, been accused of being a “man-hating feminist”. It’s almost a rite of passage for woman feminists to be accused of hating men – once you’ve been accused of hating men, that’s it, there’s no going back, you’re a real feminist now (along with being called humourless, frigid, a slut, a frigid slut (what?), and being told to pipe down and get back into the kitchen). Anyone who actually knows me knows I definitely do not hate men. In fact, I don’t know ANY self-identified feminist who hates men. I love men, and I hate the patriarchy. Play the ball, not the man, as my Dad would say if he was watching football and if the patriarchy was a football game.

So I wanted to kind of refute the idea that I am a man hating feminist by telling you about the men that I love. This probably won’t change the minds of anyone who has firmly made up their mind that I hate men, but it will make me feel good.

I have been very lucky, throughout my life, to be surrounded by so many good men, men who have taught me things, men who I have taught things, men who have loved me and men I have loved in return. I am a feminist because of these men, because they allowed me to think for myself, and valued my education, and valued me as a person in my own right, and valued my opinions.

My Dad – the original Good Man.

My Dad is the first Good Man I ever knew, and he remains the benchmark for what a Good Man should be. My father was married at 29, had two children by 35 and was widowed at 43 with two daughters under 12. I am sure he thought he couldn’t do it, I am sure he despaired about how he would raise two girls without his wife by his side to guide his hand, but he never faltered. If he doubted himself, he never showed it, if he worried about how he would manage our uniquely feminine issues, he never let us see it.

He did, however, grieve for his wife and allowed my sister and I to express our grief about our mother whenever we wished. He never hid his sadness from us, but he always made sure that after we had a good big cry, we went and did something to occupy ourselves. We were never allowed to wallow.

He has a quiet strength of character – he isn’t given to fits of rage, but when suitably provoked can be FIERCE. He protects my sister and I, but never sheltered us. We were always allowed to figure things out for ourselves, and he is always there to catch us if things go wrong.

He has been my father for 29 years, and my mother for 17. He got me through my first period, my first boyfriend, and my first broken heart. He put my sister and I through private school on one income, and we wanted for NOTHING. He listens without judgement and his hugs make all the bad go away.

He taught me about rock and roll, and even though I fiercely resisted listening to “that oldies music” when I was a teenager, as I write this I am listening to Cold Chisel. We can sit together in a pub for an entire afternoon, drinking beers while he tells me about my grandparents and his youth, or come home and sit in my loungeroom and play records until well after dark.

He taught me what a Good Man acts like, and for that I will always be grateful.

My Dad’s friends Alan, Brian, Steve and Paul – my “uncles”.

Mum and Dad used to throw parties where all their friends would come to our house with their kids. These usually happened on warm Saturday afternoons and involved a couple of casks of Coolabah wine, a barbeque, and a few Esky’s full of beer. Us kids would eat sausages and chicken wings and play together, and our parents would sit at the big garden dining table and drink. After my mother died, these happened less frequently – the women and children stopped coming around as my Dad would put on more  male-oriented days – getting together to watch the Grand Prix, or the footy, or some other kind of sporting event that his friend’s wives weren’t interested in.

So there were A LOT of men around my house from the time I was 12 years old. I usually socialised with them, and helped Dad to prepare snacks before his friends arrived. I was interested in sports too, so I would hang around to watch with them. And if any of Dad’s friends were bothered by the presence of a 12 year old girl at their Bro Parties, they never showed it. Four men, in particular, stand out; Alan, Brian, Steve and Paul. Dad has known Alan ever since they were little kids. He has known Brian longer even than he has known me, and has known Steve and Paul since the mid-90’s.  I always, always felt safe around my Dad’s friends. They never mocked me, or made me feel uncomfortable, or talked over me, or laughed at me, and I particularly feel like Brian and Alan are the Uncle Jesse and the Uncle Joey to my Dad’s Danny Tanner.

In 2002, my Nanna died. Nanna was Dad’s mother, so he and my sister flew down from Brisbane to attend her funeral. When we arrived at the church, my Dad’s cousin Sandra grabbed me and told me I had to give a reading at the funeral. I was not expecting this, and so was pretty nervous. I spent most of the service reading over what I had to say, and then when it came to be my turn and I got up on the altar to read, I was feeling ill. I am not good at reading at funerals, even though I have read at almost every funeral I have ever been to. I started reading and my voice wobbled, so I looked out into the church to try to gather my thoughts. I spotted Brian, Steve and Paul in the congregation, and they smiled at me. I will never forget how safe and loved I felt in that moment, knowing that three of my Dad’s best friends were there to look after me, my sister, and him.

At my Pop’s funeral in 2007, I had the same experience; the unexpected duty to read. The presence of Alan in that congregation gave me an anchoring point. I have always felt loved and supported by my father’s friends. I have always felt like I could rely on them, if I ever needed their help. They never treated me like I was an inconvenient imposition, and they are all Good Men.

Peter – my best friend, my brother.

I was born nine days after Peter. Our childhood was spent up trees, tearing around our street on bikes, on the roof of his parents’ carport, and climbing anything that was fixed to the ground. We grew up together, by the time we were 14 we were too cool for riding bikes, but not too cool for avoiding doing homework by spending literally hours throwing our basketballs through the basketball hoop in my driveway. I could go on here for three or four paragraphs about how similar we are, but instead I am just going to borrow a song lyric from The Boss; “we liked the same music we liked the same bands we liked the same clothes”.

He is my longest, oldest, dearest friend. He stood with me at my mother’s funeral, and read a prayer for her. He attended my Pop’s funeral. He is always there when I need him, and I him. When he started dating the lady he is now about to marry, he invited me to come out to the pub with them and some of her friends so I could meet her. While she was at the bar, he took me aside and urgently asked me what I thought of her. Of course I told him I thought she was wonderful. He probably doesn’t remember this, but I will never forget it. (If you’re reading this, Peter, I still think she’s wonderful!).

Peter is always there for me, and I for him. I know that no matter where life takes us, or where we end up in the world, that if one of us ever needs the other, we will find a way to get to each other. He’s my brother.

Mark – my main man.

I met Mark in September of 2005. When we first started dating and I told him I was non-monogamous, I am sure he must have freaked out, but instead of totally losing his shit, he said “Ok, let’s see what happens”. Six months after we met, we moved in together, more out of necessity than out of any burning desire to live togther, or any feeling that it was the “right time”. Seven years on, he’s still here, and we have a home and two cats together. He brews beer and bakes bread and grows vegetables in our little plot of land. He understands me better than anyone on the planet, and tolerates my more unconventional behaviour. He is my greatest ally, and in the time I have known him, has learned so much about feminism and rape culture and intersectionality that I barely recognise him as the man I met 7 years ago.

We are similar enough that we enjoy the same music and movies and foods, but different enough that we don’t get bored. We have our little in-jokes and our pet names for each other (which I am not going to share here, because they’re ours), and we enjoy spending time together, but I have never felt like we are co-dependent. We value our time away from each other as much as we value our time together. I have never felt like he is possessive of me – he has never asked me a million questions about where I am going, who with, why, and what time I will be back. He values me as my own person, distinct from him.

Of course, I knew all this from the first time I met him, because we got to talking about Tori Amos and how much he liked her music. That is the litmus test. I have NEVER met a man who likes Tori Amos who has turned out to be a vile misogynist.

He has a huge big heart full of love, and I feel very lucky that he has chosen to share that love with me.

Emil – the unexpected surprise.

I didn’t plan to love Emil. It just happened, even though I fought it for months and months. I met him in a nightclub. I had lost all my friends somewhere in the building, and was happily dancing alone when the most beautiful man I have EVER seen came over to say hello to me. He was so beautiful that I could barely believe he was interested in me – and in some ways I still can’t. He is wealthy, and gorgeous, and European and has a very high-status job – so sometimes I definitely feel like I am batting above my average. But despite all that, he loves me. Not in the same way Mark loves me, but in his way. I am very fond of him, and he of me.

He does this adorable thing where when we’re laying in bed and talking and if I am laying on my side, he’ll lay on his side at a slightly askew angle to me and rest his head on my big soft belly and look up at me as I chat away at him while he traces outlines in my skin with his fingertips and I don’t even think he realises he’s doing it but it’s adorable and it makes me squee.

I feel sexy, and happy, and desirable and loved when he does that. It makes me feel like I am beautiful and powerful and worthy of love and admiration. When he rests his head on my body like that it feels like he is accepting me for exactly who I am and what I look like, it’s as if he is saying to me “your body is beautiful and comfortable and I am rejoicing in it and enjoying it”, and it feels like he is loving every single piece of me, exactly as I come to him.

Jason – my newest friend.

Then there is my friend Jason Coggins who I have only known for one year but who has become one of my dearest and most trusted friends. He is smarter than me in a lot of ways (many people are), but is always open to learning new things from people who know more than him. When I first met him, back in October last year, he immediately greeted me with a warm hug and a smile, and I immediately felt safe and at ease in his presence. That feeling has not changed. Jason challenges me, supports me and never makes me feel like my opinion is silly, or like I am being “hysterical” or “humourless” or “seeing problems where none exist”. I feel valued when I am around Jason, and he always listens to me. I appreciate that more than I can adequately express in this small space.

But lest he gets a big head if he reads this, I should point out that he IS English. Can’t win ‘em all!

These are the men in my life. The men who, since the day I was born right up until now, have enriched my life in many different ways and taught me things and allowed me to flourish. They have been my friends, my lovers, my protectors, and my providers. Each of them has, in his own big or small way, contributed to me becoming the person I am now. My life is infinitely better for knowing and loving these Good Men.

Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart

Seventeen years ago today, my mother died. This was the song we played at her funeral.

6/8/95 YNWA

2011 – Year In Review

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
Got robbed. Technically I didn’t do that, it got done to me, but it was something I’d never done before. I also studied nursing. That was pretty new too.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Yes. I resolved to not get pregnant and to love my boyfriends fiercely, and I did both those things.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Mark’s sister had a little girl in June!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Not this year. We did good!

5. What countries did you visit?
Does Google Street View count?

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
A job!

7. What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
October 21st – the day Occupy Melbourne was forcibly and violently evicted from City Square. Despite the fact that I was not involved that day, aside from a short altercation with a member of the Police in the morning, I will NEVER forget how sick and worried I felt all day. I will never forget seeing my friends kettled in behind temporary fences. I will never forget coming back into town after school and seeing thousands of people being forced up Swanston Street, a line of police blocking them in. I will never forget the 12 hour bus ride I had to Sydney that night, on which I didn’t sleep a wink because I was so worried about my friends.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Not getting arrested on October 21st after shouting at a police man.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I cracked a rib jumping onto Emil’s bed in Sydney. The fail part was that it happened two days after the Occupy Melbourne eviction, but didn’t happen AT the Occupy Melbourne eviction, so I couldn’t swap war stories with my comrades.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
See question nine. Who breaks a rib jumping onto a bed?

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A new Wii to replace the one that was stolen in May.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Mark’s. He is just a wonderful partner. He tolerates my unconventional behaviour and doesn’t try to force me to conform. He is honest and caring and supportive. He deserves to be celebrated every day!

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and/or disgusted?
Robert Doyle. You made some terrible decisions and have never made any effort to meet with the people who those decisions affected.

14. Where did most of your money go?
I didn’t have any money this year. Not regularly, anyway. But every time I got a little bit of cash, I used it to go to Sydney. So….most of my money went to Qantas.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Dad’s 60th birthday in Brisbane in September. Going to Sydney to see Emil for the first time in February.

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
U2 – Everlasting Love

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Happier, even though I didn’t think such a thing were possible. I was pretty happy last year.
ii. thinner or fatter? The same.
iii. richer or poorer? Definitely poorer. Gimme a job!

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Emil? LOL. I wish I had read more books and written more of my novel.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
I wish I’d been less crazy. I think I really ratcheted up the crazy girl behaviour this year.

20. How will you/did you spend Christmas?
Christmas Eve: Present-swaps and drinks and snacks with Mark, my sister and her boyfriend.

Christmas Day: Epic hailstorm of epicness.

Boxing Day: Highpoint shopping centre sucked my will to live.

22. Did you fall in love in 2011?
I did. I didn’t think I was going to, but I did, and it’s amazing.

23. How many one-night stands?
Er…two. Three?

24. What was your favorite TV program?
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I really hate the Lord Mayor.

26. What was the best book you read?
High Fidelity. It will always be the best book I have read. I love it more than any other book.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
City Calm Down.

28. What did you want and get?
A new laptop. Twice. Cause the first new one got stolen.

29. What did you want and not get?
Millions and millions of dollars.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
Red Dog. Adorable!

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Just a quiet thing at home. Turned 28.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A fuckin’ job!

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
Day: Lisa Loeb from the “Stay” video.
Night: Frocks and stilettos.

34. What kept you sane?
Mark. Fallout 3. Twinings Irish Breakfast tea. Pints of Coopers Pale Ale at the Quiet Man. Bruce Springsteen. Facebook. Occupy Melbourne.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Goran Visnjic. I could just lick him.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Occupy Melbourne. I went along on the first day and it sucked me in. It’s the revolution, baby!

37. Who did you miss?
Emil. More than words can say.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
I just have to pick one? I met so many new people this year – I started school, got involved with Occupy Melbourne, and made MILLIONS of new friends. Amazing people, every single one of them!

39. Best drinking buddies for 2010:
Jenna, Mark, Dad and the rest of his side of the family, Sue, Emil.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
Sometimes it seems that the going is just too rough
And things go wrong no matter what I do
Now and then it seems that life is just too much
But you’ve got the love I need to see me through.

– You’ve Got The Love, Florence + the Machine.