Friday, 17 August 2007

Growing Up

"Gran thought I was you!" said son with more than a hint of pride in his voice after he answered the phone to his Grandmother the other night. Yep, that voice is broken, and without the shattering squeaks of high and low that often accompany the breaking. I remember my voice broke in the same way. I was older than son (do tend to be a bit behind in these matters!) but it basically went straight from boy soprano to bass without any coloratura intervals to embarrass me.
I also remember feeling quite chuffed when I answered the phone and people would say 'Hello John, how are you?' I would quite happily tell them I would get my Dad for them. They got a very different response from when I used to have to say I would get Mum after being mistaken for her!!
The joys of growing up!

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

A shared appreciation

My ex-wife is a good woman. We remain friends and have a very good co-parenting relationship. That is largely due to her. I have heard so many stories of men who have come out and then have a hell of a time trying to maintain some contact with their kids and that is due to their ex-wives. Now I know for my ex, my coming out raised a whole lot of stuff for her, not only in terms of her identity as a wife and the relationship she thought she was in, but also, coming from a conservative Christian background, there was the whole question of homosexuality itself. I don't know that any of that has been resolved (for want of a better word) for her, but she doesn't let any of those questions or doubts impede our relationship and more importantly she doesn't try to influence our son's views/opinions/thoughts on what it means to have a gay Dad.
We don't really talk about my sexuality and how that affects my life, and that's OK. I don't expect her to engage with that part of my life. I can imagine it may feel a bit like rubbing her face in it. However I have noticed a couple of times lately that she has made comments to me about good looking men in that 'sharing of appreciation' way that doesn't happen between straight couples. I was taken by surprise both times and wasn't entirely sure how to respond. I do find it a bit weird openly sharing an appreciation of the male form with my ex-wife. As well as the weird feelings there are also some warm feelings that come with it too though!
(The pic is of Ioan Gruffudd, one of the subjects of shared appreciation).

Monday, 13 August 2007

Hair, Hair, Hair.

My last entry got me thinking about hair (less provoking than racism!). When I was in England a number of years ago, my aunt showed me her plait that she had kept since her father (my grandfather) gave her a hair cut and cut off the intact plait (about 100cm or 40 inches) when she was a teenager, some 50 odd years earlier. I was amazed how it had maintained its colour (a deep auburn, almost red) and lustre. I was speaking with one of the nurses at work recently about the ongoing qualities of hair. She told me that when she has had families of patients who have died who want to touch their loved one who has died, but are anxious about how they will feel, she encourages them to touch their hair which will still feel as it did when they were still alive, rather than their skin which will be cold and hard to touch.
The colour of the plait was a deeper version of the current colour of my aunt's hair. I think that auburn colour is less likely to go gray. It runs in the family. My grandmother died in her nineties. At the time of her death, if you looked closely you would see some gray at her temples, but overall she was blond. In her youth she was also a deep auburn. She was very proud of the fact that she had NEVER coloured her hair! My father has a beard which is totally white and it creeps up his sideburns, but the hair that is on his head, well what is left of it, is still a light brown.
Ain't hair funny!

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Racism and Mid-Life Crises

What do these have in common? Nothing really, but I got to thinking of them both after my son's tennis match on Friday night which is why I mention them together, no other reason.

Son is now playing in A grade and they pretty much run the games themselves. They umpire themselves and they resolve their own disputes. There is no coaching or involvement from parents allowed. One of our players had his father on the sidelines on Friday night. The player is of Middle Eastern extraction and when his father spoke, it was in his own language. A couple of our parents were beginning to think it wasn't a particularly good look from where we were sitting, that what was happening could be construed in various ways. The team manager of the other team soon came over to us and commented on what looked like was happening. He said he didn't want us to say anything to him on the night because "I know what these people are like. He'll blow up if you challenge him and I don't want any conflict".
I felt ashamed that I didn't challenge his notion of why he thought the other parent would 'blow up' based purely on what he looked like and the type of language he was speaking.

On a totally different level, one of the other parents on our team is a very good looking man. He may well not yet be 40, has a very open face with beautiful dark eyes. He also has that silvery grey hair that can add to the handsome look on younger men. It is beautiful. thick and wavy.
I'm convinced he's going through a mid life crisis, as he's gone and had it dyed!!!! He still has his beautiful. open face, but the overall look is just not quite the same. Hopefully this crisis will be short-lived.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Is it all about the sex?

In the Good Weekend (a magazine insert included in The Age on Saturdays and I think other papers around Australia) this Saturday was an article entitled Shades of Gay. It was about the role of gay people in public life and the perceived necessity by many of them to not be open about their sexuality for various reasons. It was a very thought provoking article which I would link here if I could. One particular paragraph caught my attention:
One of the that when it comes to thinking about homosexuals, heterosexuals have a habit of focusing too much on the sex. One of the reasons people don't come out is this. Heterosexuals are not imagined sexually by people who don't know them. Homosexuals are......Coming out means you have to tolerate being viewed in people's imagination actually That is simply not the case with heterosexuals.
I think there is much truth in this about how gay people are perceived and what aspect of their life is focused on. Gay people have fought hard to be recognised as more than sexual beings. It has been argued that being gay is more than just about with whom we have sex. A whole culture has been created around being gay. This has been very important for many gay people, to feel that they belong to a community, that they are not alone. For many, their identity as a gay person is very much wrapped up in being part of this community, in fighting for their rights, in being seen as a distinct part of the wider society.
I have often thought about this. I have to say that if I had to answer the question "What is it about you that makes you gay?", I would have to say "The fact that I like having sex with men." That to me, is the only defining component of my sexuality. The rest is a social construct, which as such is very important, but is still only a social construct. I can see that this has the potential of me coming across as superficial, or perhaps naive. I agree that I probably am not political enough, that maybe I take advantage of all the good work done by others to make my life as a gay man easier than it might have been in years gone by, without contributing to it.
I guess in the ideal world who anyone has sex with wouldn't really matter (in terms of consenting adults) and therefore there wouldn't be a need for a gay community. But as we all know, this world ain't ideal and human nature will probably always require that minorities come together to create a 'culture'.
The article ends with a quote from an American senator:
If you want to live in a world where you can put a photo of your partner on your desk at work, put a photo of your partner on your desk and you will live in such a world. If you want to live in a world where you can hold your boyfriend's hand while walking down the street, then walk hand in hand with them down the street and you will live in such a world.
Is it that easy?

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Words, Words, Words

Last week a colleague and I did a presentation for a group of volunteers at a local Greek welfare agency. The level of English of the volunteers varied greatly so there was an interpreter there. While I have used interpreters in one to one encounters with clients before, this was the first time I had conducted a presentation with an interpreter.
I found myself trying to be as economical as possible with my language as well as thinking more about what I was going to say in an attempt to get it right the first time. I did have extra time to think and also to be more aware of reactions of the volunteers and how they were taking everything in. I have to take my hat off to the interpreter, who had an amazing memory (a staff worker confirmed that she interpreted everything correctly) and couldn't zone out for a second.
This got me thinking about language. Words are one of the most common forms of communication and yet they say it makes up a relatively small part of how we communicate. Words can be used to cut people down and to build people up. Words can cause great misunderstandings and can heal rifts. "Sticks and stones..." is the old adage, but we all know the power of words. If life has taught me anything, it is to not take words out of context, to not focus on throw away lines as the apex of a conversation. This isn't always easy to do I might add, given the influence of the spoken word. It can be a fine line between knowing the power of words yet not being so influenced by them.
It also reminds me of Eliza berating poor Freddy who just wanted to say 'I love you!'

Wednesday, 1 August 2007


Sometimes we need to be reminded that life is not universally as we experience it. We found out today that one of my work colleagues, and someone who has become a good work buddy of mine, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. I work for a palliative care service, so the people we see with cancer are a pretty skewed representation of those with the disease. We're trying to remind ourselves that many people survive cancer. 85% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are still alive in 5 years (not sure of the stats beyond that).
There are times in life when we need to look beyond that which we know.
Thinking of you K!