Masks

It’s a funny thing to reflect on the past. People say you shouldn’t dwell too much on it and I agree with that, but it’s good to reflect
so we can think about the present and what might lie ahead of us. When I’m reflecting, there is a quote from Maya Angelou that I always come back to. She said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I wonder how many of us think deeply think about the consequences of our actions and words. It’s very easy to justify why you can’t have a difficult (but necessary) conversation with someone, why it’s easier and okay to completely ignore someone – it’s easy because we all do it. We are all guilty of it.

Controversially, in the name of self-care we even sometimes attempt to justify hurtful behaviour. I would argue though, that this is not self-care because you are not only doing long term damage to people around you, but also to yourself.

Self-care to me doesn’t mean something is easy and instantly makes me happy.
Self-care can painful, awkward, and sometimes does not produce instant results.

Under the mask of anonymity or away from the potential judgment of those we love and respect, it is interesting to see how people’s behaviour and treatment of others can change.

There was a recent experience I had where I met someone briefly via some mutual, close friends and they seemed like a friendly and outgoing person during our brief interaction. A few days later, I had an online experience with this person that was completely the opposite. I felt horrible. My mind instantly went to self-blame and what I must have done wrong. Surely, my friends would not have those kinds of people around them. Again, I burrowed into blaming myself but eventually, in the name of self-preservation I concluded that this person was just rude.

Of course, it doesn’t end there because I’m an overthinker. I asked myself, had I behaved in a similar way towards others in the past? I didn’t want to admit it, but the answer was yes. I had also been the rude or cold person at different points in my life. I probably wouldn’t even be able to say why I behaved that way. I wonder how I made them feel and if they still remember how I made them feel.

So then why do we do it? Why do we sometimes behave badly when no one we know is looking? I don’t know. Maybe we all have different reasons. Sometimes I think I did it out of fear but I don’t know if that was the reason every time.

If we wear masks, are we just changing our masks? I don’t want to believe that those times I haven’t treated people well is my true self. I genuinely don’t believe that is my true self and I’m sure it isn’t other people’s true self either. I would like to think that was some other mask I put on at the time that I probably shouldn’t be wearing again going forward.

Again, in the name of self-preservation I think about this in the context of an increasingly socially connected world. That mask I might have worn in the past (more than I’d like to admit) needs to go away. I might have people confront me about my shitty behaviour in the past and I need to own that. Likewise, others may need to think about this possibility for them.

What makes me think that people still remember the way I made them feel? Because I remember the way people have made me feel. If I were to describe some of the ways people have made me feel (negatively), I would say the main ones are invisible, dirty, unimportant, and forgettable. I wonder what words people would use to describe the ways I have made them feel (negatively).

To date, I have had a few conversations with people who I didn’t treat well, and I count myself lucky that they gave me the time of day. It wasn’t about making excuses or making someone accept my apology. Sometimes it was as simple as, “I was a shit and was really rude to you. I don’t know why I did it, but it was wrong and I’m sorry.”

Likewise, my door is always open, and I will hear people out who treated me poorly if they want to own their behaviour. Some people have and I really admire their courage in doing that.

To finish off, just yesterday, I was having a great chat with these two amazing women who run a cafe nearby home and one of them said, “You know, we live in a pretty unforgiving and cruel world sometimes. It doesn’t hurt to be good to those around us.” We could all agree on that.

It’s important to understand that the world can be a genuinely isolating and shitty place, the least we can do is try and make it a little less that way by treating people around us with more kindness even if we don’t think we’re going to see them again.

Anyway, that’s all from me today.

Unwarranted dating advice and other reflections

Everyone is an expert on relationships and dating. Whether they’re single (by choice or otherwise), in a relationship (happy or otherwise) or dating just like you, everyone is an expert.

Here is a list of some of the advice, reflections (by no means exhaustive) that people share with me on a regular basis:

  • If you are looking for a relationship you won’t find one.
  • Put yourself out there.
  • Don’t hook up.
  • If you sleep with them too soon they will lose interest.
  • Don’t go on too many dates.
  • We met once overseas and were long distance for two years. He’s the love of my life.
  • Make sure you don’t appear desperate.
  • You cannot be looking for love, once you stop looking it will just come. It’s so easy.
  • There are plenty of others out there.
  • We started off a fuck buddies and now we’re married.
  • I told him we were just friends and after a year I realised he was what I was looking for.
  • Long distance never works.
  • I rushed in because he seemed like the right choice and ticked all the boxes but that wasn’t it. He wasn’t what I needed.
  • Hooking up is fine.
  • I had zero interest in going on a date with this person at first. But after a few times hanging out I realised there was something special.
  • Don’t use dating apps, meeting people from real life is always better.
  • If you’re not feeling it on the first date, don’t bother going on a second one.
  • Fuck men!
  • Why do you want a relationship for?
  • I would never go out with someone who approached me in person. So weird.
  • Not everyone finds someone.
  • No one person will tick all your boxes, compromise is important.
  • Love isn’t enough.
  • If they’ve been single for too long, it’s a red flag.
  • I will never do a relationship again.
  • Maybe I can find someone for you.
  • But you’re happy by yourself. You don’t need anyone.
  • You’re too independent, guys won’t feel like you need them.
  • Monogamy is a lie.
  • Half of the people in relationships are miserable and only stay in them because they can’t stand being alone.
  • You need to learn to ne happy on your own before you will find someone.
  • Smile more.
  • Stop putting up walls.
  • You need to look more approachable.
  • We fell in love when he was still married.
  • Don’t just tell someone you’re interested in them, they’ll freak out.
  • Maybe you still have feelings for your ex?
  • It just kind of happened. We did nothing ‘right’, there are no rules.
  • People who say they are only looking for a serious relationship are often the least ready for one.
  • Never go for someone who is in a relationship or married.
  • He was a drunken hookup, we have been together since.
  • No one is too busy, you’re just not a priority.
  • If they cancel without rescheduling, move along.
  • Give them a chance. You never know what they’re going through.
  • You aren’t going to find someone with that attitude.

Everyone is right and wrong at the same time. Reflections on one’s own experience can be helpful, even comforting.

Most advice comes in the form of regurgitated, broad brush statements which are generally terrible and unwarranted.

Is there a right way or a wrong way? Probably not.

Every one of the above statements would be accurate in some way. They would be true to the person making them but potentially irrelevant to anyone else.

Why am I writing this? It’s so common sense is it not? Well, for me it is cathartic and it helps clear the noise in my head.

You date and have all kinds of bizarre and disappointing encounters and eventually you begin to question yourself. You begin to wonder if you are the problem. So you put everything out in front of you and you realise, no – it’s not me. I may not be perfect but I’m doing my best and I’m learning each time.

Liar

He says he’s fine with his own company, but he’s lonely.

He often says no worries but he’s upset.

Wishes things didn’t change so much. He feels like all the seats being taken and its looking more and more like there is not seat for him. Slowly being squeezed out of relevance.

Weekends spent in frustrating solitude. He can’t focus on what he tells everyone he loves doing.

Can’t quite get past the first date or two. It kills him that he can pinpoint that exact moment something changes in the tone of their voice.

Not responsible or focused. Can’t focus.

Hates himself for being too scared of making the change that might make him really happy.

Tells everyone he’s content with his body and confident in his looks but deep down will do anything to be more desirable.

Looks like he’s happy and content but everything is empty and there is no passion or joy. On the brink of tears but can’t quite get to that point.

He’s performative, probably not fooling anyone. He definitely can’t fool himself anymore though.

Something’s gotta change, something’s gotta give.

He feels sick, he feels like he’s slowly dying inside.

Every night when he goes to bed, he longs for sleep, taking him to a place where he feels more alive than he does in wake.

He longs for release.

Rubbish

I’m walking to the gym, it’s 6:52am.

The construction workers are standing with their coffees out the front of the building site across the road. I can’t understand what they are saying. Long drawls and loud synchronised laughter like crows. Sometimes when I’m feeling anxious I think they’re laughing about me.

As I keep walking, I see the man pushing his mother in the wheelchair coming back from who knows where. Same time everyday, same empty eyes.

As I cross the road, I see this bird. It’s one of those common Myna birds. It dances around this piece of rubbish on the road. The plastic wrapper of a straw that someone threw away. The Myna pecks at it then picks it up as if it’s food or something of substance. It seems confused that it can’t get what it needs from it.
From where I stand, it seems so obvious.
I feel bad and I want to help but I don’t.

Oblivious to me watching, the Myna continues to dance around with the rubbish.

Knowing there isn’t much I can do, I start walking again. I’m thinking now.

I wonder who in my life is telling me to do the same thing when I make silly mistakes. When I dance around the wrong people or pick up something that isn’t good for me.

Maybe they’re just like me, they watch from a distance with pity and before continuing on with their lives.

I am no better than the bird with the plastic wrapper in its beak thinking it’s found gold when in fact it’s nothing more than rubbish.

Knowing I’ve stirred something up within me, I feel like crying. I feel sulky and emotional. I let my eyes water a bit and then blink hard. I let just enough out so I won’t cry during my workout.
The cold air stings and I quicken my pace.

34

I love dressing casually and going to a fancy restaurant by myself. They usually sit me at the bar, best spot in the house if you ask me. Especially when it’s open plan and you can watch everyone from where you are sitting.

First things first, some light banter with the staff. It’s great to chat and ask them how they are doing. Sometimes, I wonder what they think of me but it’s just a fleeting thought because deep down I don’t really care. I used to though.

A lot of people ask me how to eat out alone. I don’t know when it started or how I became so comfortable doing it but when I was a teenager, I distinctly remember imagining myself eating out alone as an adult. I was imagining exactly what I do now.

Is there a method? Are there rules? Not really.
It’s not hard when you do it but it’s hard to imagine how you would do it when you have yet to take that first leap to be in your own your own company while in public. People will look at you and some will even ask questions.

How do you occupy your time when you eat out alone? That’s up to you. You can read a book, you can play on your phone or you can people watch. I go between people watching and playing on my phone. There are definitely other ways you can do it, but I have yet to explore them.

When I watch people, I imagine a life I don’t have. I watch couples and how they engage – whispering sweet nothings to each other and deciding what they will order. Sometimes I make up a story around them. How far are they into dating? What do they bicker about? And of course, what’s the occasion?
Sometimes, when I get deep into the story, I start to feel what they feel in the narrative I have created.

The frustration one partner feels at the other partner’s perceived lack of care.
You’re always on your phone at dinner. Why can’t we just have a conversation without our phones?

The way one partner gazes deeply into the other’s eyes as they talk, drinking up every word.
I love you and I am listening with all my heart.

The way they both sit on their phones the whole time and barely exchange a word with one and other. I shouldn’t have made that comment back at the hotel before. Tonight was meant to be special.

Then, on the odd occasion I see someone like me. Alone and watching. Our eyes meet for the briefest of moments. Smiling eyes and an unspoken understanding.
Let’s not observe one and other, too close to home.
Agreed.

Maybe this is a me thing, but when you watch other people interact for such a long time, you can’t help but compare your own experiences of human interaction.
You wonder why you don’t interact with people like that.
Why people don’t interact with you like that.
You wonder why over the years you have more outings with yourself than you do with other people.
Look, it isn’t good to dwell on this too much. It can get dark very quickly and so I tell myself that while I’m an independent person who has a lot of time alone, I have some amazing people around me who are also quite independent. We may not interact like the people I observe, but our interactions are still enriching and warm.

When it comes down to it, I am comfortable in my own company and it doesn’t prevent me from going out and enjoying a nice meal somewhere, a drink or even a movie. Heck, I even travel alone.

So, as I sit here on my 34th trip around the sun, I wonder what the years ahead of me hold. Up until now, I’ve accomplished a lot and I will accomplish a lot more.
I want better for myself, and I want to be better.

I don’t know where I’m going or what will happen in the year ahead but deep down, I feel something stirring.  Some unfathomable excitement of something I can’t quite grasp but feels closer than it ever has.

Wake

It feels like I’ve long woken up from a dream and even if I shut my eyes, I can’t go back.

You all look like you did in my dream but you move differently now.

I take the photos down because the memories don’t feel real anymore. It’s too painful a reminder of a warmth and ease that no longer exist.

Sure, we still go places but it isn’t the same. Beneath the surface there is nothing but empty eyes and checking the time.

What did you fill my cup with?

Something doesn’t feel right.

There are more ghosts than ever. Poking around and staring at me.

Everything is bland, the colour isn’t as bright and feelings aren’t as strong. I’m tired.

Night falls. I lay in bed and once again close my eyes. Maybe this is all just a bad dream.

Dating since 11/21

Stream of conciousness style writing on my reflections of encounters on dating apps and with people I have met and interacted with since becoming single. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t matter what clothes someone puts on, what their pronouns are or which part of the city they live in – we say some pretty interesting things to eachother.

In isolation these comments may not mean much, but built up they take a toll. If this is a summarised version of my experience over nearly six months, imagine what other people must be getting. Doing this activity was both cathartic and confronting for me.

Reflections: Lots of cancellations, poor follow ups, lots of sex, amazing lessons in human interaction, behind anonymity people say some horrible things, people are really bad liars, people often like the idea of you, give it a week and they’ll have forgotten who you are, subtle flirtation is lost on way too many people, great book recommendations, people will come to you for recommendations but not want to hang out with you, people believe what they want to believe, people don’t often mean what they say, no one knows what they’re doing (me included). Never lose hope.

Hi
Hey
Expiring photo received
You’re back?
I haven’t seen you before!
Come over
His loss
I’m open to anything
Come over
Do you host?
Expiring photo received
I can’t believe you’re single
I’d love to see you again
Sweet dreams x
Come over
You’re fucking disgusting
When can I smash that?
How about a drink king?
You’re gorg
Long time no see
Your perm looks shit
I had a great time tonight.
When am I seeing you again?
You must be a real slut
How many other guys are you seeing?
Hey
We met before right?
Hi
Hi
Fuck you
How far off are you???
Take your time, no pressure x
Do you just feel sorry for me?
I’m used to guys throwing themselves at me so it really shakes my confidence when you don’t.
Hi
????
Expiring photo received
If I see you down the street I’m going to fuck you up you little cunt
You’re a really sweet guy but I’ve met someone else that I want to give it a go with
I’m bottom too…
Hey
Hey hi
Suck me
I’d rather have you bent over my bed though…
You free tonight?
I need you…
Looking?
Hey I just got my results and…
I just don’t trust guys who have discreet written on their profiles
You’re gonna break my heart
Where are you taking me tonight?
You’re so cold
Aww thanks, I’ll grab drinks next time x
Your whole narrative thing really fucked me up. That’s such a dark way of looking at the world.
Hey
Why didn’t you touch me?
Where r u?
Looking?
You don’t look queer
There was no connection between us. I hope you find what you’re looking for.
You’re close!
Ah – bit too far from Collingwood…
Come sit on my lap baby x
You’re in footscray right?
I wanna be inside you
Your body is ugly
About tomorrow, something’s come up
Tell me more about yourself
Can you be on all fours?
I would have asked you to come back but I was so tired x
I’m deleting this app soon so if you’re serious about talking to me gimme your details
Hey
When u gonna come to daddy?
Hi
Looking?
Muscle only
Can I eat your poo?
????
Fuck you
I’ll let you know cutie xx
You’re sitting at a café right?
What’s that bar you took me to?
I can see you
What you doing?
Hey big boy
My man
Hosting on spencer street
I’m always SO horn on here, hit me up on insta and we can have a coffee xx
I woke up this morning and I’m feeling like I have a bit of a cold
I promise I’ll make it up to you!
Hey u
Can you tell me a cute date spot?
You’re close
Host or travel?
Just ditch your friends so I can fuck you good
You look cute in those shorts
Expiring photo received
hey x
Ur a slutty one
This is a vibe
Where r u from?
I had a great time
Nice
Too far
Hi
Dialling now
Which level?
Nice
I don’t travel outside of fitzroy
What natio?
Slut
Got more pics?
Did you read my profile?
Liked your message
Last night was magical, thank you.
OH its you
Can we smoke a j together?
You are funny
Defs chat and cuddle
I don’t think I got it from you but…
My house mate came home sick
Slut
Likewise
You like being slutty don’t you???
lol
Hahaha
What do you think of this guy?
Can I use your mouth?
I’ll be in touch cutie x
Hi
What?
Hi
Looking?

Socks

“Hey Miz, you’re late! Socks is waiting.” Sachi’s eyes were boring into me while she sucked on a rolled cigarette. She always did her own. One thing about Sachi and her cigarettes was that she rolled them thick and clean. They would lie neatly in the case like chalk they used to use back before whiteboards were a thing.
One elegant puff out, the smooth rush of the smoke passed her lips, forking in two directions before diffusing throughout the low-lit reception.
“Yeah, yeah. Don’t say that too loud. He’ll lose it if he hears we call him that.” I say, my cheeks flushing.
Socks was one my regulars. A bit of a lump, he was balding but really generous. He would usually tip way more than the base fee and whenever he travelled for work he’d bring me a trinket from a place he’d been. Socks knew I never got to leave the big city and it was sweet how he would do that just for me.
He got the name Socks because his request was that we both left our socks on during. As far as kinks went, it was on the easy side. I wore white socks, and he usually wore his black business ones. I bet his draw was filled with hundreds of the same type and colour.
Socks was married and I didn’t know his real name or where he lived but sometimes he would talk about his wife. After she got three kids out of him, she wouldn’t even touch him let alone look at him and so he started coming to our little establishment. There’d been a few times over the years we got raided but our client books with the real details were kept elsewhere. The cops knew what we were doing but they could never prove it. If they got too close then we’d send our boys from down the road to make sure they knew not to get any closer. We didn’t pay our yearly local neighbourhood protection fee for nothing y’know?

I quickly slid out of my day clothes, patted my self down with a moist towelette and slipped my bedroom socks on. I knocked twice before opening the door.
Socks was lying on the bed, completely naked except for his black business socks. He smiled at me, “There’s my Miz.”
“I missed you.”
“Sorry baby. Business. But I got you something.”
I ran over and sidled up with Socks on the bed, his feet tangling with mine. Different sock materials causing an erotic friction. I didn’t find him physically attractive but there was something about his touch that made me feel so safe. He smelled like herbal soap and was impeccably clean. He also finished quickly.
Afterwards, I nestled into him, kissing his arm gently as his breathing slowed back to normal.
“So, what’s my present?” I said with another kiss.
He smiled and whispered into my ear. I giggled and kissed his arm again.

Letterbox

I peek inside my letterbox everyday, even on a weekend and hope I’ll find a letter from you.

You’re gone, I know that.

You aren’t coming back, I know that.

At first it’s like you never existed but all I have to do is scratch the surface and it’s all there. We are there, that time.

The good times were good and the bad times were bad. Ups and downs like a rocky sea on a stormy night.

I can’t forget your smell and the comfort it gave me but I also can’t forget how I felt like I was fading the longer I was with you. Was that your fault? I don’t know, probably not.

Now I’m free and floating without a tether. I’m free but am I in control?

A glimpse of a face in the crowd, a profile with no face. Is it you? Do I want it to be you? What if it is? Then what? Nothing.

Another ghost, another day.

Who is poking around on my balcony under the light of the moon?

When I open the door, is that your cooking I smell?

You know I still put the ear plugs in at night? I tell people it’s because I sleep better but to be honest it’s because I sometimes still hear your snoring even though you aren’t there. I had the worst sleep while we were together. Now I sleep like the dead and I don’t know myself.

Sometimes I can talk about you and sometimes I can’t without crying but that’s life. It couldn’t have been any other way.

I peek inside the letterbox and I know there is nothing in there but I unlock it and check anyway. Maybe tomorrow.

Window

In the mornings when I swim, before I get into the pool I look up at the apartments around me. Crowding around like still giants.

Sometimes I sit there for who knows how long and I pick a window, even though I can’t see much of what or who is inside I imagine their world and their life.

Each window has a story. It’s always morning and someone is going to work.

They use the same lights I do but they probably have a toaster which I don’t have. I use the grill, too much clutter with a toaster.

Today, this guy is going to work, he’s eating dry toast and watching the news while he drinks a milky coffee. The apartment smells like toast. The TV volume is low and the bedroom door is closed- someone is still sleeping.

Who is it? Maybe it’s his wife or boyfriend. What if he’s divorced and this is the day he has custody of his daughter?

Shouldn’t she be getting up for school though? Maybe it’s school holidays. Is it? I can’t even remember.

He looks out the window and thinks about his day ahead. All those meetings to get through until the end of the day.

I wonder if his job is stressful? Does it pay well?

The guy takes a swig of coffee and another bite of the crunchy toast. He’s dressed a bit more nicely than usual because he’s going out after work. I wonder where he’s going?

Would he give me a second look if he passed me in the street? Have we ridden the elevator at the same time before?

I turn my attention back to the room and see the bedroom door opening slowly. An older woman comes out in a nightie. He looks up and says one word but I can’t make it out. He doesn’t smile.

Is that his mother? Or is he just into older women? Could even be his sister. Not everything has to be sexual.

She frowns at him but still heavy with sleep doesn’t have the energy to do much more.

The toast smell is going into the bedroom now with the door wide open. The older woman shuffles over to the kitchen before grabbing a white mug, starts making herself a coffee but stops short of pouring the hot water and milk in.

She pauses for a moment, looking up and sighs before shuffling back into the bedroom and closing the door.

Did they have a fight? They seem to be going through something awkward. I hope he isn’t hitting her.

The man leaves his plate, mug with some coffee at the table. Does he really expect her to clean it up? Typical.

He puts on his shoes, picks up a sorry looking leather suitcase before walking out the door. I hear the slam and it seems signify the end of this little story.

They real occupants will never know that I was imagining their lives and I’ll never know what their real lives are like.

I come back into myself and blank for a moment. I’m exhausted. Looking up at the window once more. I can’t physically see any of what I just saw in my mind.

I need to swim.

I don’t hesitate a moment longer and slip into the cool, calm water.