The fish John West rejects

For someone who likes it so much there’s a lot of sex I knock back.

I always consider myself open minded to the opportunity, and in theory think it would be unusual for me to spurn perfectly good sex when it’s on offer. Besides anything else, the sun aint always gonna shine so best to make hay while it does. That’s the theory. In reality there’s a consistent pattern of either refusing it outright, or discouraging the possibility. Why, grasshopper?

Sometimes it’s just not right. It doesn’t feel right. Sure you can have it, but should you?

I tend to be a little embarrassed by these occasions, as if I’m letting down some indeterminate side (just as an aside, I’m often amazed at how much sex some people think I’ve had). Truth of it is though is there are times it would be wrong, either because it would be exploiting someone who likes you better than you do them, or because you run the risk of an entanglement you don’t want, or maybe just because they don’t appeal to you. There are other reasons to. There have been perfectly attractive women who annoyed me so much I wanted not a bar of them. Or, maybe it’s just inconvenient – the time isn’t there, or you feel crook, or whatever.

Last night it was for another, though quite common reason.

I don’t do fuck-buddies. I understand why many people are drawn to it, but it’s not for me. It’s a bit to formulaic for my liking. Any sex that has to be scheduled is bad sex in my book. As far as I’m concerned has to be the product of one of three things – love, pure desire, or spontaneous opportunity. Convenience doesn’t cut the mustard.

I’m notorious in some quarters for my 3 root rule, which was adapted from Kundera’s rule of 3’s from The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It may be controversial, but I think it eminently sensible:

“Either you see a woman three times in quick succession and then never again, or you maintain relations over the years but make sure that the rendezvous are at least three weeks apart”

Mine’s a bit simpler than that, and the motivation is probably different: I’m not interested in convenient sex. It has to have a joyous aspect, and I’m very happy to fuck the right woman again and again every day of the week. That’s the right woman, and she’s hard to find. Otherwise, I figure, you have to guard against the routine and joyless.

So basically I’ll never have sex with the same woman more than twice, unless she’s the right woman (or who I figure might be). The first time is fine because, well, it’s the first time. The second time is okay because it was good the first time or because you might be interested and are not sure. The third go is a no-no though because you should know by then. You fuck a third time and you’re in a relationship, and you better be ready for it.

There are clauses to modify the rule – as Tomas quite rightly allows for, time in between makes a difference – but the general rule is true.

I’ve had women turn their noses up at the notion before later coming to me and admitting it’s actually pretty reasonable.

I’m not being unfair or making judgements and there’s nothing misogynistic about it – it’s simply a rule that protects us from something that might otherwise do us mischief.

Last night I was encouraged to an arrangement by which both of us could satisfy our need for intimacy. To be honest, I don’t have a need for intimacy except of the emotional kind. It’s passion I want to feel in bed, but it has to be natural. I’m not interested in an arrangement and once more in my life found myself rejecting the opportunity for some easy sex. I’m stubborn like that.

Dark horse

Last week I ran into an acquaintance at a city café (Little Mule) at lunchtime.

I sat across from her and ordered a short mac and we caught up the news since we’d last seen her. I’d bumped into her on the street 6-7 months, but the last time I’d seen her properly was probably NYE 2015. I see her comings and goings on social media, but we hadn’t had a conversation for many moons.

In the course of our ensuing conversation I made mention of the book and the movie producer’s interest and the rest of it. She looked at me strangely and delved deeper searching for details. Finally she shook her head and said she had to ‘re-calibrate’ herself. “This is you being excited, isn’t it?”

Very little flaps me and I had to give a wry smile at her question. I accept that outwardly I appear calm and unexcitable. And in this case I’ve deliberately damped down my expectations – bit still, it is fascinating.

She spoke about the man who would interpret Obama’s anger – how his quiet and certain calm would translate into seething anger when interpreted by someone less inhibited. I’m not inhibited, I’m just focused and laid back. I’ll get excited at the right time, and if the occasion warrants it I might try on something ecstatic. Stranger things have happened.

Right now the time isn’t right. I’ve got a few people reading the manuscript now and for some reason I take more from their feedback than I do from some distant movie producer. They know me after all, and I know them. JV, who is the biggest reader among them, got back to me saying it’s a ‘good read’. That’s reassuring.

I still think it needs work and a proper editing, but I’ve taken a break from it. I’m writing stories for now, and after that I don’t know what. I’ve already got an idea for another novel, and ideas/creativity is in abundance right now.

I said nothing of that to my acquaintance. I don’t say more than I have to, and often – according to some – not even as much as I should. I may be prolific on this site, but perhaps that’s because I’m so circumspect in person. Strange to think what someone who only knows of me from this site would make of me if we met in person. I don’t know you and you’d probably find me genial, but guarded – but at least you know what goes on behind the façade.

I certainly have my moments, and will riff about anything when on form and in the mood, and sometimes will go hard when I’ve got the scent of something controversial or the taste of blood. Otherwise I’m quite happy observing and keeping my counsel. The days of speaking for the sheer delight of it are long passed, and I’m happy to be a dark horse.

For the true believers

I don’t want to go over the top, but Saturday night at the MCG was one of the greatest sporting occasions of my life. I say sporting – and it was a game of footy – but it went far beyond that. It was a night of raw, redemptive emotion. For Essendon supporters this was the first time in 4 years we could go to the footy with a full squad and all the horrors of the supplements saga finally behind us. This was our time finally, and as a collective – club, players, supporters – we rose to it.

It started with the march to the G, all the diehards joining together at Fed Square before marching to the ground behind our colours, banners flying. Then the game itself. There were 78,000 in attendance and I reckon 65,000 were Essendon supporters. The roar when the players took the field was one of the loudest I’ve heard. It sent chills up the spine.

No surprise that the players were roused by that and they started like a rocket. They got the first goal a couple of minutes in and I had tears in my eyes. Emotion was always going to be a powerful motivator, but it fades. We got the early lead before the old pros at Hawthorn exerted their experience and come half time had the lead, and looking likely to go on with it. Midway through the 3rd Hawthorn led by a little over 2 goals, and though tight the narrative seemed predictable: brave Essendon would challenge, but run out of legs, and Hawthorn would power away. It didn’t happen like that.

Instead it was Essendon that flicked the switch. Pace and dare and creativity told and it was my team that ran all over the top of the seasoned pros. They never looked likely to lose from about 40 minutes out. They controlled the ball and were playing dynamic football. They believed, and the belief surged them forward, again and again. In the end it was a comfortable 25 point win. It was a great game though.

Of course once the final siren went the floodgates opened. The stadium was awash with unashamed emotion. In the stands, and across the land, Essendon supporters embraced and cheered and shed a tear. On the field players fell to their knees, before gathering themselves to circuit the field giving thanks to the supporters who have stayed so true.

It might seem strange, but it’s the supporters I feel so happy for. I’m one of them, but I divorce myself from that as I see the sheer joy on other’s faces, when I read of their unstinting support, when I see that even after all the stress and trauma we have record membership numbers. I’ve said before, that while the whole supplements saga was an evil thing the good that has come from it is that it has bound us true believers together.

As a sporting fan you tend to take your support for granted. It’s something you inherited from your folks, like religion, or acquired somewhere along the way. You support blindly, thoughtlessly, because that is what you do. You roar for the colours and belt out the club song and know the history backwards. You are part of a tribe.

It’s different now to be an Essendon supporter because each of us have had to question that. It was challenged by the events of the last 4 years, and for the first time cast into doubt. Each of us have had to ask what it means to barrack for this club? What does it mean to us? What do we feel? What do we think? It’s like a devout man finding doubt abruptly in his heart and having to find a way back to faith. We have been tested, and those of us who remain have come through the fire to a new understanding of what our devotion means. It is a living thing in all of us because we have had to breathe life into it. For those who cheered and hollered on Saturday night it was a kind of vindication of that faith. We are the true believers, and this is our reward.

Occasions such as this are unforgettable. There’s a sense of shared euphoria. On the street and on the train on the way home people high five and sing the song and share the joy. There’s a sense of brotherhood and goodwill. We share a common love and there’s no stopping us from celebrating it.

It’s hard to come down after such occasions. I had no thought for sleep and wanted to consume all I could of the game, Saturday night and Sunday and even this morning. I can’t get enough.

Just quietly, we may actually have a handy team too. Go Bombers!


Never forgotten

I didn’t realise until about 7pm last night that yesterday was the anniversary of my mum’s death. I was half sad that I hadn’t remembered earlier, but then what was the point of that? To wallow in the memory? I don’t need that. I’m glad I remembered, but only because I don’t want to forget.

I have a couple of friends who in recent years have lost a parent. It gives us a common understanding I would never have considered before. It was not something I gave a lot of thought too before, and the passing occasions I did I expected that when the time came that I would feel grief and loss, but with time it would pass.

In a way I was right. I don’t feel the same grief I had when mum died. Time has eased that. I still have a sense of loss though, and when I speak to my friends they say the same thing. You become use to someone no longer being a part of your life, but you never stop missing them.

It’s probably more exaggerated in me because I have no other family really, and she was the person who loved me best, who cared the most, and in whose thoughts I know I was in most frequently. We had a tight bond which was a mix of emotion and history and simple domestic familiarity. We were in each others lives, we saw each other often, and she was always there for me. I have become accustomed to that loss, but I wish it was different.

How often now do I see things or think things and wish I could speak to mum about that, or ask that question. I miss just having her at the end of a phone line always ready to give her time to me, and miss the casual visits that became dinner or larger family things. All of that is very foreign to my life as it is today.

My friends, though their experience is different – and everyone’s is – know exactly what I mean. It’s as if we’re members of the same club: the beloved departed parents club.

Anyway, I’m glad to mark the occasion; gone, but not forgotten.


Whistling again

In a whistling mood this morning. A whistling mood is a good mood. I’ve even got a jaunty skip in my step. Could be because it’s Friday, or because the footy is back, or because my erroneous zone is just right today.

I’ve graduated to whistling and humming. Got some reason I’ve got one of my favourite songs in my head, Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright (I favour the Bob Dylan version). It’s been there from the moment I got out of bed until now, sitting here with my morning coffee before going back to bed.

I used to whistle a lot. When I was a kid I whistled all the time and I was pretty good – a lot better than I am now. I remember that from when I was a kid, and how for a while I’d answer every enquiry with a ‘I reckon’.

Coming for my coffee I passed by the station where there’s a regular busker. As buskers go he’s very talented. This morning he was plucking the strings of his guitar to the the tune Never Going Back Again, the Fleetwood Mac song. It was just guitar, clean and pure in the cool morning air. Swell.

First bounce

Footy starts tonight. It gets to about this time of year and you’re cherry ripe for it. It’s a long off season and the pretend games leading up to the season proper don’t do much more than pique the interest. I watched my team in the JLT series, but no other games, and, quite unfashionably, took little interest in the newly created women’s league. It’s great they now have a league of their own, but as yet I find it hard to watch.

I’ll be watching the game tonight though, even if my team isn’t playing. I just look forward to the siren going and the roar of the crowd and the first bounce of the ball as the season gets underway. There’s a lot of chat about it in the office and on the street, and as always TV and the newspapers are all over it. Melbourne is a cosmopolitan, eclectic, sophisticated city, but gee it loves its footy.

My team play Saturday in what will be a true grudge match against an arch-rival. It will be a big day, not just for the opening of the season, but much more so for the return of the so-called ‘banned’ players. This has been a long awaited moment and it’s an occasion ripe with emotion, for fans and players alike. There’ll be big crowd Saturday night, and to mark the occasion there’ll be a march to the ‘G from Fed Square of Essendon supporters. I’m not sure how many will join the march, but reckon it will be in the tens of thousands. I’ll be there – wouldn’t miss it for all the tea in China – and with me will be my Bombers loving nephew.

Can’t wait.

Oh, and there’s a Grand Prix on this weekend.

What would Orwell say?

18C raised its contentious head again yesterday, and today goes to the senate to be passed. My guess is that it will be knocked on the head.

The amendment they’re looking to pass is to replace the term ‘offend’ with ‘harass’. What to you and me may seem semantics are actually pretty important distinctions in the legal world. To boil it down to something everyone can understand it equates basically to the right of someone to call another person the ‘n’ word.

For proponents of free speech it’s tricky, though there is a difference between the right to free speech and the right to vilify or abuse. Still, there is ambiguity.

I think any intelligent person understands there must be a limit to what free speech permits in a civilised society. The question is, where do you draw that line, how to you define it, and how is transgression measured?

I don’t think this will ever be a simple exercise because, in my view, context counts for a lot. Certainly there are words, actions and phrases that most of the reasonable public believe to be out of bounds, and in fact I think the pub test is basically the best determinant of what should be permitted. In general, it combines common sense with reasonableness, and most people know in their gut when commentary has gone too far. That’s great, but how do you legislate the pub test?

I had a long debate about it with my nephew on Twitter last night. He came out applauding the proposed changes, not really appreciating – I think – what they meant. I took issue with him. The experience of a white, middle-class, educated Australian male is very different from that of the typical victims of this. What may seem casually offensive to us is very often oppressive to others. The reason for that, as I explained to him, was historical and cultural precedents we couldn’t begin to appreciate.

He has a very absolutist view of the issue, and it reminded me of myself at his age. When you’re that age it’s very easy to be gung-ho about your passionately held beliefs and in being so the subtleties are often lost (incidentally, that was the sort of comment that would infuriate me at his age). As I explained, there is very little wisdom in absolutist positions – nothing is all one thing or another, truth is generally somewhere in between, and a key to life is to keep things in balance – that much I’ve learned.

I think he believed to ‘offend’ was essentially to say something that might hurt someone’s feelings, when in fact – in the legal definition of it – it means to cause ‘profound’ grief – such as calling someone the ‘n’ word. Given we the current laws allow for the offensive cartoons of Bill Leak I don’t understand why they need watering down. What is it that people can’t say today that they want to say? In any case, the current laws don’t prohibit free speech – they simply allow for someone offended by it to seek redress.

As anyone who has been on Twitter would know, it’s hard to prosecute an argument in 140 characters, which is why there is so much trolling and abuse on it (ironically). So we went backwards and forwards before my nephew signed off with the kind of claptrap I abhor – that if I don’t worry about free speech, then no-one will care about mine. It’s the sort of thing that Andrew Bolt would say, or a politician at a doorstep searching for a catchy sound bite for the evening news. It sounds good, but means fuck all. It’s rhetoric and it gives me the shits.

For all of this, it is a delicate and difficult discussion. I believe strongly in free speech, but believe also very strongly that we must preserve the rights of the least privileged (particularly) and most vulnerable. I can look after myself, but then I’m hardly a target demographic. These laws are in place not for me, but for those who actually need it.

The problem with unfettered free speech is that it allows the kind of commentary that confirms or incites racist views. It encourages the more extreme in their extreme views and language. If there’s not a barrier to butt their heads up against then the risk is that it becomes rampant. As we know, language often leads to action, and informs attitudes.

For me that’s easy. It becomes more complex when it’s not abuse that is impacted, but comment. Charlie Hebdo is a good example of that (my nephew also brought up South Park as an example). If you recall Charlie Hebdo was targeted by Muslim extremists because they were derogatory of the Muslim religion in general, and the prophet Muhammad particularly.

Does this cross the line? To the devout Muslim it does, and certainly to the extreme. There’s a good argument that people’s beliefs should be protected – and yet in western society there is a long history of irreverence. The Catholic church is a frequent target and doesn’t like it, but does it make it wrong?

It’s a western attitude that very little is above the law as such. Anything is fair game. That’s very different to most other cultures. Are we to exhibit cultural sensitivities to others that we don’t to ourselves? Should we be sympathetic to the mores of others, or simply be true to our own?

This is where the line gets blurred. There’s no simple take on that, and even the pub test would leave me feeling uneasy. For me there’s no definitive answer to that – but I would reference intent and context. If the intent is simply to vilify another set of beliefs then it crosses the line; if it is the product of a more serious analysis or commentary then it is more permissible. In simple terms, if it is gratuitous then let it go, but even then, what defines offensive?

For questions such as this I often find myself asking what George Orwell would say? I think Orwell was an uncommonly wise man when it came to questions of politics and the culture of power. He was a socialist who was an outspoken critic of communism and the Soviet Union. He believed in language and clarity and freedom of expression, but he was also very much on the side of the oppressed and the downtrodden. I don’t know, but think he might agree with me.