I’ve been chatting with a colleague about the good old days when life was a bit more free-wheeling that it is now. It started off talking about the footy. Our formative years of AFL were pretty much the eighties, which was a wild and woolly and utterly great decade of football. It was an era of great games, larger than life characters, and bruising football. We were both wistful about how AFL footy has become sanitised since then. It’s still a great game – probably better than ever – but an awful lot of the rough and tumble has been legislated out of the contest. For someone who grew up watching robust footy, and playing it too, it’s a bit sad, but very much a sign of the times.
So too are expectations of us. There’s a corporate party on this Friday night at one of the city bars. I’ll go along for an hour or two of free drinks and nibbles, then be home in time for the footy (ironically). Ahead of the party Friday a corporate missive has been sent out to all and sundry reminding us of the standards expected of us, and basically telling us to pull our heads in and behave. Now I understand that, but once more I can recall a time when it was different.
In the mid-eighties I worked at a bank in IO. It was a competitive environment of younger folk with no-one much more than about 27, and with just about an even split of men and women. We worked hard, as was the culture, and played hard too, which was the culture also. Some of the stories from back then would make your eyes pop, but gee, it was fun living.
Anyway, one year we had a mid-year Christmas party on the 30th June at the Banks Rowing Club on the Yarra. It was a great venue and everyone keenly anticipated the event.
Leading into it many of us nominated a CPT – a Christmas Party Target. I don’t know how that started but I for one happily joined in. For my CPT I chose one of the currency dealers, an enigmatic and attractive woman with long, curly blonde hair and other attributes that led her to be known – in my mind at least – as ‘big tits’.
I’d had the hots for her for a while and, unbeknownst to me, she knew it. I was an intern learning the business, as most of us were. I’d got friendly with one of the old hands showing us the ropes and confided to him that I quite fancied that girl with…well, you know. As it turns out they were very good friends and somewhere along the line he told her. I’d probably have been mortified had I known, but it worked out well – turns out that going into the event I was her CPT.
It should have been a lay down misere then. I wanted her, she wanted me, and in a lubricious atmosphere with an abundance of alcohol to urge us along we should have sealed the deal pretty quickly. As they say though, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. So it was that night, and for a very good reason.
I never got to see those fabled breasts up close and personal. I sort of wish I had, but the reason I didn’t was pretty good.
The night proceeded pretty much as had been promised. Lots of drink, excellent food – up to and including lobster (the bank didn’t stint) – much carousing and a few shenanigans. I swear that come midnight that quite a few of the bushes by the banks of the river rustled as CPT’s bonded.
In the meantime, I hooked up with someone different. It was with a girl I’d met and connected with and liked some weeks before. Turns out she had a thing for me, thought I had presence, loved how I walked, and other things she later told me in exuberant detail. I liked her too, and perhaps it was because I liked her I didn’t nominate her as my CPT. Big tits was fun, and probably a lot of fun, and I was probably the same for her. Mogesh – the girl I found – had found a place in a different part of me.
I can be a bold character, and that was certainly true then. I can be crazy flirtatious and funny and charming – less so these days, though it’s coming back. The women who drew that out of me were generally the women I felt a more primal attraction to. The women I really liked, liked deep inside of me, drew from me a different set of behaviours. There might be some wit, but I’m more serious. I’m incredibly sensitive then, and tingle with tenderness. I become a more compact character, not the provocative charmer, but someone much quieter and sincere. That was the person drawn to Mogesh, and he didn’t do CPT’s.
In any case from early on that evening I found myself with her. I don’t think I ever asked, but I’m pretty certain that’s how she planned it. We spent the night there together and afterwards went back to her flat in East St Kilda. I spent the night holding her in her ¾ sized bed and refraining from sex. By morning I had a bad case of blue balls she was finally happy to relieve me of.
I spent the weekend with her and it was one of the most special weekends of my life. We spent most of it in bed making love. We shared a bath, went out for dinner, came back. I remember at the end of the weekend waiting to catch a tram back wondering what had just happened.
There was a bold character inside me, but within him was this romantic soul. It felt the truth of me and I was suddenly grateful that I had found someone with whom I could be that person. I fell in love with Mogesh: she was the first. At one stage we planned to get married. That encounter changed my life forever.
I would be bold again then and in the years since, but all the while searching for the woman I could share my more sincere self with.
Times have changed. I lived through that time when there were fewer boundaries drawn, and when expression was a natural thing. I’m still here, I know what it was like and a large part of that era is lodged in me. Now the expectations have shifted. We have become more consciously civilised, boundaries are firmly drawn and reinforced, and expectations of behaviour, conduct, even belief, are clearly stated.
I understand. Much of that is for the theoretical good, but there must be room for individuality and dissent. I look back upon those brilliantly coloured characters, not all of them politically correct, and think, what a time it was to be alive.