Get over it

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 30:  Model Andrej...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

There's been a lot of talk lately – and controversy – about someone called Andrej Pejic. Andrej is a local boy from one of the tougher parts of town how has somehow transcended his background to become an international fashion model of some repute (modelling for Jean-Paul Gaultier in Paris no less). What is remarkable – and controversial – about Andrej is that he models as a woman.

As a male he is striking in a pale, androgynous way. As a women he is beautiful. Unsurprisingly the mere existence of a cross-dressing model has caused ructions in certain circles. It's hard for many to separate themselves from the black and white views of conventional culture. Is it a he? A she? What does it mean? For many it's a very unsavoury proof of the degeneration of society.

I take a different view, as do many others more enlightened. It's comforting to label things; once labelled much of the world slides easily into our personal taxonomy. Labels are just words though, loose definitions of what has come before. Male, female, boy, girl, these are the generic terms we've come to describe human life. It's not as simple as that though, as we know, even if many wish it were. A label is a word; people are individuals. It's individuality that is really important.

Society has come a long way in its general acceptance of what was once described as 'queer'. It's not universal and it never will be, but it is much more widespread than it was 20 years ago. Surprisingly the acceptance of someone like Pejic is much more contentious now than it was in the less enlightened days of the eighties when, nonetheless, the androgynous look embodied by the likes of Boy George, Marilyn, and many others were defining looks of the decade.

I grew up through that period and never cottoned on to the look, nor indeed the music – it was not my style. And in truth I probably looked down my nose a little at the likes of Boy George because his appearance and behaviour seemed beyond my comprehension – a sports loving rocker as I might have been described then.

I'm more mature now and live in a more mature, sophisticated and enlightened society. I'm the antithesis of the androgynous look – broad shouldered, muscular and masculine – but that doesn't prevent me from being sympathetic to Pejic and the others following in his wake – and indeed anyone who chooses a different path. You respect the individual, not judge the stereotype.

Pejic for his part appears to be an intelligent, resilient character aware of the controversy he creates, but seemingly above it. In all I have seen and read of him he seems to act with an amused and easy detachment, gracious and dignified. Does dressing up in women's clothes make him gay? Does it matter? Of course not (for all I know he's a raving pantsman). In fact in some small way it highlights the silliness and hypocrisy of much of society. Being gay is no big deal. The same people who watch a gay model parading a mens suit down the catwalk frown when a man parades instead in a dress. Being gay is no big deal if you conform. Being gay and dressing like a girl is for some going too far.

I applaud him. We have to get over these silly prejudices. Andrej Pejic is going his own way and all power to him.

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Keeping myself warm

Wore my black woollen P coat into the city for the first time this year last night, and had porridge for breakfast this morning – sure sign that things are cooling down.

It’s actually a very pretty day today, as it has been for a few days. But though it was close to 30 earlier in the week the weather is cooler, more chill. I ummed and ahhed about my jacket last night, but was grateful to be wearing it as darkness came and the temperature plunged from tolerable to cool.

Last night was another night out, with another girl. Didn’t have high expectations, but was glad to be pleasantly surprised. My date was a ballsy type with an interest in politics, current affairs and the arts. We had a good conversation over a glass or two at Von Haus before I insisted I needed something to nibble on, whereupon we crossed the road to The Mess Hall. All good.

Got home to find another had been attempting to contact. I’m really experiencing a golden age right now – or is it a renaissance? In any case pretty girls are popping out of the woodwork all over town, with a more than usual amount thinking I’m pretty swell. I can live with that. I’m having fun and, if I work it right, potentially a lot of fun.

Hopefully I might settle down with one of these, but I’m not rushing into anything. I’ll see the other petitioners, if only for potential friendship (seriously). Besides, it keeps me warm as the winter months close in.

It’s really been a great run for the last 6 months…

Me and Don Draper

235/365: August 23, Oh Don DraperImage by snacktime2007 via Flickr

I was catching up with my Mad Men watching last night laying on the couch when I figured that Don Draper and I have similar lifestyles. Sure we're 50 years apart in time and half a world in distance, and while we share some key attributes we have different personalities, but…some things never change.

Some of it is superficial, we both like a glass or two and despite the cultural differences then to now have a laissez fair attitude to much that is indulgent. Like him I have women going in and out of my life constantly. I often wonder in quiet moments where so and so got to, or remember a distant redhead I had forgotten, but those moments are few if only because – for good or bad – there's pretty much a revolving door.

I'd like to think that Don is a little more casual and offhand in romantic/sexual matters, but I often find myself surprised after the event how dispassionately, even ruthlessly, I have conducted myself. It's very much a need for him, as it is I think for me – searching for and being with women is a central part of who I am. I may settle on one eventually, and I hope I do, but I couldn't imagine a life without any.

In a way that relates to the next connection. Don Draper is arrogant and often brusque. There is a mystery at the centre of him, and despite his harsh ways something decent. He is strong enough to live by his own lights, without reference to the prevailing whims and cultural mores of society. He is a fascinating character.

I get called arrogant though I dispute it, and while I'm not brusque I can be very blunt. He's opinionated, as I can be, but he's also a throwback in the way of the times, when I am just the opposite. I believe in doing the right thing, though that is not always clear. I'll pay little heed to public opinion and will often find myself happily in opposition to it. I'm not always an easy man, though many think I'm charming. Despite my flaws I think I am a good man. There is more to me than surface appearances.

It's perhaps the last connection which resonated most loudly with me. We are both self-made men. In itself that lends a certain way of being to a man, a slightly different worldview I think. On top of that we are now both on top of our game. He has that easy surety of knowing all the answers are at his fingertips. It is arrogant, but it's also impressive.

I'm more affable I think, and while I know most of the answers are anywhere but to hand I apparently give that same easy impression. In part that comes from confidence: if I do not know then I'll find out. I'm done it before and so I'll do it again and there is nothing beyond me…

I've not made 'it' – nor has he – but knowing you have it in you, that you're striving toward it, gives you a certain sense of entitlement that is hard to deny and, sometimes, hard to disguise.

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A man’s home theatre is his castle

I've resisted for a while, but last week embarked upon a spending splurge to replace my existing, very weary, home theatre set-up.

I must be one of the last people with a CRT TV. It's a very nice, top shelf TV that still provides crisp, clean pictures, but it's old technology now, about 6 years old and incompatible with the AV I want to get. Besides, it's an 80kg box, with a screen smaller than most of the flat screens on offer these days. Partnered with I have an old Denon DVD/receiver.

So, I've gone out and bought a 46inch Schaub Lorenz LCD TV, a Pioneer VSX-LX52 AV surround sound receiver, Tannoy Arena Lite Speakers, and an Oppo BDP-83 Blu Ray DVD player.That's a lovely combination of components, all carefully selected after due diligence, all pretty at or close to top of the line.

I hesitate to tally up what I spent, but I didn't pay full price for any of it. I always figure there are ways and means, and if you hunt around hard enough you'll always find it. The TV comes with a $300 rebate. I picked the receiver up for $600 below rrp. The speakers were about half price. The Oppo, hard to find in Oz, I found on Ebay for a hundred off the nrmal price. And end of the day I have as good a home-theatre set-up as you can just about get.

Now, if I only get the Enspire media server too…

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What it means to be a Melburnian

Melbourne has its own style, everyone knows it, even those who’d rather not admit to it. As a city we know IMG_0961 we’ve got it good when it comes to food and fashion, bars, coffee, the arts, and not to mention sport. Though it’s organic roots sit in the diversity of lifestyles there is much in it that ultimately becomes self referential. We are known for something that we look to live up to. I've little doubt that there is no other citizen in Australia that has as much civic pride or sheer affection for their home town as a Melburnian does. We know we’re stylish, and so we strive to be stylish and ever more so.

In some sense that’s one of the things that sets Melbourne apart from many of the other Australian cities. Style not only matters, it is a distinct and central part of the cities consciousness and identity.

So what is Melbourne style? I was given cause to wonder this a few days ago on a visit to the CBD. I’d made a day of it managing my appointments and catching up with the odds and sods of my city life. About mid-afternoon I was on my way to have coffee with one of my ex-IT guys when I stopped at the pedestrian lights at Collins Street. In that mindless state you have while waiting for something to change from red to green I took in the guy standing beside me.

He was a stripling really, one of those pale and weedy types of no particular physical distinction. He had dark hair cut into a style Robert Smith might have looked upon with approval, reflective, no doubt, of his personality. It was different, but not objectionably so. What really took my attention was his attire.

It was a pleasant day of about 23 degrees. It wasn’t hot, but it certainly wasn’t cold. I was in shirt sleeves, but this guy was dressed all in Melbourne black with a woollen coat tightly buttoned and bound around his narrow body. He had oversized cans on his ears as he cruised through the city to his own particular soundtrack. My first thoughts were that he must be bloody hot. Then, as the lights changed and he raced ahead of me, I reflected that certain sacrifices are willingly made occasionally on the altar of fashion – discomfort is small cheese really.

I went my way and he went his, but I was left pondering. I wondered why I so rarely saw pale and weedy types in the summer. It’s true. You see plenty of hale and hearty types spreading out in beer gardens or sitting down to indulgent breakfasts or improving their tan in shorts and t out and about. The sun, for most, is the occasion to celebrate wherever you are in Australia, including Melbourne.

It’s in the summer that Melbourne style is at its dimmest, if only because it has the least scope. There are only so many ways you can pull on a pair of shorts, and flip flops are only thongs no matter how you dress them up. That might explain why the pale and weedy type is invisible in the sunny months. It’s my guess that they have pretty much the same relationship to the sun as Count Dracula does. I couldn’t imagine one in a pair of shorts, thongs and a pastel polo shirt. Summer is the season they hibernate, huddling inside their home, the blinds closed and watching the calendar keenly waiting for daylight savings to end.

It gets damn hot in Melbourne through the summer, but Melbourne really is a winter city. I wonder if that’s the European influence. The city itself, the style and a lot of the attitude is European, as are the passions and the intellectual discourse. I'm gilding the lily perhaps as there are no shortage of bogans either, but in general and in the CBD and inner suburbs that's the life. In winter the Melbourne look really comes to the fore, woollen coats, dark colours, long boots, layers…

I can remember a few years ago when I was living in Brisbane I returned to Melbourne for a conference. I befriended a guy from Adelaide and showed him around. He had a great time of it as we went to one obscurely located bar after another. That was Melbourne he said, it’s all down laneways and in arcades and hidden in the nooks and crannies only the locals know. He went on, commenting on the things that I had always taken for granted, most particularly the Melburnians propensity for black.

We ended up at a bar near the Arts Centre. We sat there sipping on a wine. At the next table were a table of very stylishly attired Melbourne women. I saw them as I had never seen them before. They had a glamour that I had forgotten living in Brisbane. They had an individuality and self-assurance that was very attractive. They were women in the best and most alluring sense of the word. Listening in they were discussing a show they had all just seen and I thought then that this is my town too, the place I belong.

Melbourne style, we’re all a part of it. 

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You are what you wear

I went clothes shopping yesterday with JV. We're off to the Cox Plate next Saturday, and we both decided we could do with a new suit for the event.

We caught up a little after lunch and finished up an hour or so before dinner, and criss-crossed the CBD in search of the perfect racing suit: well made but just a touch funky. Just about everywhere we looked had a sale going, and there were some decent suits amongst it all. JV ended up with a pale grey Saba suit with thin lapels and narrow legged trousers – he looks like a sharpie.

I went more elegant. I found a Ted Baker suit with $300 off and thought was the go. It's navy blue so pretty conventional (though every bloke should have a navy suit), but with a subtle purple and lighter blue stripe through it. It might sound a little lairy but it's not at all – it's a very well made, very comfortable, very stylish piece of menswear. And I'm very happy, notwithstanding the fact it needs to get altered.

I've got a non-conventional body shape – I have broad shoulders but am slimmer in the hips, which generally means I'll mix a 46 jacket with 34 pants if I can get away with it. Unfortunately that was not possible yesterday, so the paints need to be taken in and shortened.

I've actually been wondering lately if I should be updating my wardrobe. I'm older than I used to be, though I don't really feel older. All the same, it's undeniable. I've pretty well been dressing in the same style for the last 20 odd years. I've never really thought about it until a few days ago. Then I caught myself. For once I noticed how some other men of my age are dressing, which is generally more conservative than me. Fuck me dead I thought, am I meant to be like that?

Everyone knows the mutton dressed up as lamb syndrome. You have to admire their optimism and determination, but it's no fun beholding a 70 year old woman dressed like a 20 year old. Now I'm not 70, not even close, and my style is vaguely timeless – jeans mostly, a t-shirt often, or a decent shirt or a jumper depending on the weather, and often paired with a coat or jacket of some description. If I'm going out I combine my best pair of dark jeans with a good pair of shoes, a sharp shirt and a sports jacket.I like clothes and I think I have good taste in general, but at what point do you consider dressing 'older'?

As much as anything this is a philosophical question. My generation in general is more relaxed and casual. Sure there are lots who get around in cords or chinos and won't go out without a sports jacket, even if it's just to do the grocery shopping. I can't see myself in cords, and I'd die rather than wear chinos – they're the fashion equivalent of beige (ok, ok, once or twice I paired up a pair of chinos with a polo shirt when I was consulting in Brisbane – a uniform up there).

Most of my friends have varying styles, but all have pretty well the same mindset as me: we dress for comfort mixed with style, and haven't changed much since we were 22. So, should I be thinking different?

I reckon if my circumstances were different maybe I would, oblivious of it almost. Yet it doesn't sit comfortably with me. I can't help but think the day I start wearing cords is the day I give up trying. It may seem a long bow, but in part it's this very question that had a lot to do with me cancelling that date last night.

Self image. Everyone has one, and I dare say for most people how they see themselves is different to how other people see them. Does that matter? Not really. Sure, many people dress to impress, and I'll be looking to do that in my new suit on Saturday, but ultimately you have limited control over how other people see you. Bottom line, you have to please yourself. If you're not happy in yourself then nothing else is going to happen.

Me, I've got healthy self image, if that wasn't already clear. I see myself a certain way, and it's important to me to hold true to certain principles to maintain that self-image. While pulling on pair of cords* might seem small beer in the fashion stakes, it is indicative to me of another state of mind. Now I'm not and I don't want to be conservative, safe or inoffensive. I don't intend to be wild, but nor do I want to lose my edge, whatever that is.

I'll look to refine my style and perhaps to take it to another level, but whatever I do it has to be in sync with how I feel. And there in those few words is the reason I called it quits last night. I didn't feel comfortable with who I was asked to be and so graciously backed out.

*I don't hate cord – I've worn it before and probably will again, it's just not who I am right now.

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Time to move on

Last night we had our office Christmas party at a swank hotel on the banks of the Yarra river. It was pretty enough, a sit-down meal in elegant surroundings amongst colleagues and partners of colleagues. The night went pretty well exactly as I expected it to in such a safe venue, pleasant but unremarkable.

The most remarkable aspect of the night may have been some of the fashion choices. I often wonder what inspires people to these odd decisions. Is it that they have a weird mirror at home, that reveals them not as they are, but as they would like to be? Does the husband lie when asked the inevitable question – "no honey, your butt looks just fine in that"? Is it pure vanity – or do people simply not care? Or is just plain, everyday bad taste?

These ruminations are really only good for a few minutes sustenance. You may wonder why someone would choose to wear a kilt – particularly in weather like this. Or speculate on how in the world did she manage to squeeze into that – and why? You may ponder the sense in wearing a double-breasted burgundy jacket with gold buttons. Or why someone would choose to wear a faux fur stole. And so on. In the end you go with the flow, you eat, you drink, you laugh, you dance, all the while hoping that you have not yourself committed some fatal fashion crime.

And that's how it was. Pleasant but unremarkable. And a little something else too.

I knew this was the last of these Christmas parties I would be attending with this mob, and I was cool with that. I didn't feel particularly sentimental about any of it, and in fact felt myself drawn towards the shiny and uncertain future I have set myself for.

There was one thing I was very aware of though: the people who have left since last years party.

Last years party was great. It was a beautiful evening which we enjoyed standing on the 30th floor terrace enjoying finger food and cocktails. There was a very different vibe because it was a very different time. I spoke of this last night to one of my colleagues, of how it all seemed brighter and more optimistic then, even if it was an illusion.

I got home about 4am last year, whereas everyone had left last night by midnight. Last year I partied with the people I was close too, all of whom have gone now. I remember sharing a drink with Becky and Paige in PJ O'Briens in the after party. When they left Jennie stepped in – and I should have done more.

That was last year. They have gone and soon I will be too.