Friendship, Reconnected

Friendship-belt-Wishes-quotes

Once upon time, not that long ago, there was a world without social media. Indeed, a world without mobile phones.

Back in those dark distant days, of about 20 years ago, young people on a rite of passage left their homelands with only the promise of irregular phone calls and perhaps the occasional hand-written letter that disclosed far more than they should.

That was the way of the world for generations. We couldn’t Skype home when we were lonely for our family’s faces or text our mums and dads whenever we felt the need.

When we met new friends on our journeys, but had no fixed abode or phone number, we had to agree to meet up again at a pre-determined place and time at some stage in the near future – or we’d leave a message for them in a backpacker’s magazine in the hope that they would read it.

About 22 years ago, that mode of rudimentary communication was the only way that short-term connections could evolve into something more permanent and profound.

And so it was at the infamous Munich beerfest in 1995 that my paths crossed with someone who would have a seminal impact on my development.

She was on crutches after an unfortunate traveller incident, I’d like to think involving dancing on tables, while I was travelling around Europe in a Leyland Sherpa van with three male friends and was probably also in desperate need of female company.

Within one  stein of Lowenbrau beer, our burgeoning sisterhood was cemented and grew over the ensuing drunken days as we used her injury and our youthful vitality to get to the front of the drinks queue.

Then our time together was done and we made plans to reconnect in some months hence when we were both back in London, which somehow we managed to do.

Over the next 12 months, our friendship expanded to include her sister and our (literally) odd assortment of friends, and before we knew it our circle of friends was dozens in size.

And even though millions of people live in London, we somehow ended up living around the corner from each other.

Our local bar, which transformed into a debauched rave at the weekends, was the scene of many a long night and day as we partied like our lives could end tomorrow. Tomorrows were for old people anyway – back then.

Before long, I’d transformed my blonde tresses into dreadlocks – mostly inspired by her red ones – and we were both soon the owners of tattoos and piercings, while all that dancing meant we became waif-like women on a hedonistic mission with no end in sight.

But visas only last so long and far too soon it was time for us say goodbye to London and to each other.

It wasn’t until many years later, through social media ironically, that we reconnected. By that time, she was a married mother of two living in Denmark, and I was still single and living somewhere far less exotic.

And then a few days ago, on her visit back home, I flew to Sydney to have lunch with her.

We hadn’t seen each other for 21 years but when she met me at the train station, it was like no time had passed from that moment to this.

As I rushed up the stairs towards her, she ran down the stairs to met me halfway, and we embraced long and hard in the rain. Then we looked at each other and said “you haven’t changed at all”.

For the next 13 hours we literally didn’t stop talking. I guess 21 years is a lot of news to catch up on.

Our lunch transitioned into dinner which transformed into late night disclosures of loves lost and found and our mutual dreams of living writing lives.

And in a strange twist of fate, both of us have mothers with advanced Alzheimer’s.

We laughed and cried as the past 21 years were relived anew for the sole benefit of the woman sitting opposite.

But even though we spent hour upon hour with each other that day, I knew there was so much more to say.

And I won’t have to wait another 21 years for it, with a permanent move home on the agenda for her family.

Perhaps then I’ll tell her something that I didn’t last week. Perhaps I’ll reveal that I met her at a time in my life that I needed a woman just like her…

She was empowered, she was fierce but kind, and she lived her life on her terms with much laughter and even more love – and to me that was an inspiration because that was the type of woman that I wanted to be.

Looking back through the prism of time, I have no doubt that the year we spent together helped transform me into the woman I am today.

In fact, I know that that chance meeting in a beer hall in Germany was one of the best things that ever happened to me and her friendship, now reconnected, will continue to be an important part of my future.

Yes, when I next see her, I’ll make sure that I make time to tell her that.

An anatomy of the darkness

woman walking in the dark

I’m training for a half marathon at the moment, which isn’t one of my brightest ideas nor is my lack of motivation getting me anywhere near ready.

I fear I will become the next You Tube sensation when I end up crawling on my hands and knees from the 15-kilometre mark – until a handsome stranger scoops me up and carries me valiantly across the finish line, of course.

What’s more likely is that I’ll be stretchered to the waiting medics and I’ll end up on a saline drip whilst simultaneously feeling like a dickhead.

Learning, or trying to learn, how to run 21 kilometres necessitates an hour or more of running-time several times a week.

Early mornings are out for me because I can’t be arsed getting out of bed early now that I work from home and these days I just have more choices.

So, it’s late afternoons that I sometimes manage to don my running gear and head off along the river to clock up the required meterage.

Recently, and rather oddly, I decided to keep running farther than the training program required because I was having one of those elusive moments in time when I actually felt reasonably fit.

Eight kilometres became 10, then 11, then 12, and then I realised that I had outrun the sunlight and I was still a good half an hour from home.

But my jubilation quickly turn to fear because running in the dark alone is something I avoid at all costs.

Now that’s not because I live in a dodgy part of town, but my river running route is mainly devoid of streetlights yet has an abundance of shady trees.

And that meant I had the fear because I am a woman.

From an early age, we’re taught not to walk or run home alone late at night because it’s not safe.

What our well-meaning parents don’t teach us is that this concern about our safety is not because there are monsters hiding on every corner.

It’s because we have a vagina.

And seemingly having a vagina is enough of a temptation for us to be secreted inside as soon as the sun goes down – unless we’re amidst friends with vaginas or penises and then the chances of us being attacked under the moonlight are greatly reduced.

It’s almost like we’re the opposite of vampires because we can safely wander around alone in the daylight but when night falls and the midnight hour looms, well, we need to be fearful of strangers lurking in dim corners pondering dark deeds.

It pains me that in the 21st Century, while it might sound alarmist to some, that this safety net is still fairly valid advice – especially late at night when silence has replaced the noisy cityscape of just a few hours before.

And its borne out in the statistics of women being mugged, raped or murdered because they “dared” to walk home alone in the dark. Some, like Jill Meagher, were only walking a few hundred metres but never made it to the safety of her home and her husband.

Two women have been raped in my neighbourhood in recent years and the perpetrators have never been found. One victim was walking to a bus stop at night when she was attacked by two men as she passed an alley way.

I actually ran past a spot this morning where a beautiful French student was raped and murdered as she walked home from university in the rain three years ago. Her naked and battered body was left where she died. Her dignity and life stolen from her by the criminal brutality of a stranger in the dark.

Those horrific crimes, and having been a woman for 40-plus years, means that I regularly Uber home from the entertainment precinct that is less than one kilometre away from my house.

I don’t want to run the risk of becoming yet another statistic who’s “guilty” of taking on the darkness and losing – and it really fucks me off.

That route during the day is picturesque and peaceful, but after the sun goes down and darkness has well and truly set in, it takes on a threatening demeanour that forces me to pay a driver, who is also a stranger, to get me “safely” home.

And it’s not as if I live my life in fear – rather I try to be as fearless as possible – but a dislike of darkened, silent streets is probably a healthy scepticism to have, even though I wish so very much that it wasn’t.

Clearly the answer to this is that people should stop attacking people just because they’re walking home alone late at night, have a vagina, and there are stars, instead of the sun, in the sky.

If only it was that simple.

I can only hope that my nieces will live in such a community in the future, but I fear that change won’t come about soon enough for them either.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll just have to continue living my single lady life for half of every day.

Or perhaps shift somewhere where there’s more daylight so I can even up the ledger to fit in more “female time” for running.

To catch a lip kiss thief

no_kissing

As the years pass on by, I’m still often surprised by how much I have to learn about myself.

It’s almost like I’m some type of human onion with layers that are slowly being peeled back to reveal who I truly am after decades of being on this earth. What’s that all about? Some of this information would have been helpful much earlier than middle age, don’t you think?

For me, I recently had an epiphany that while I like sex as much as the next red-blooded, horny Scorpio, I actually don’t really care for relationships much at all. This is perhaps why I’ve always been crap at them for my entire life – what a big waste of energy. But that’s a blog for another time because I’m still trying to get my head around that fairly important observation about myself.

What’s almost as important is a moment of personality transparency that occurred a few months back and one which I’ve been “researching” via asking my friends about it every since.

Here’s the thing: when I was visiting my dad and step-mum back in the homeland before Christmas, one night the topic turned into a discussion about how affectionate our family is. You know, we’re the huggy, kissy type who probably touch people (not in a sexy way) too often, too, I said to them both. We even kiss everyone on the lips, I exclaimed.

Then, my parents told me something about myself that I never knew before. Well, they said, it’s not a family thing. It’s a “you thing”. A you thing, what do you mean by that, I asked? It’s you, you’re the one who kisses everyone on the lips and we in turn have learned how to kiss you back that way, they told me.

I sat there in silence and may have had a swig of beer to take it all in.

So, you’re telling me, I said, that I go around and kiss all and sundry fair on the lips and generally, what, just get away with it?

Yes, they said.

Shit, I said.

How long has this been happening, I asked?

Forever, they said.

Shit, I said.

And that, my friends, was the moment when I learned that I am a lip kiss thief.

Until then, I’d just presumed that my family was overly familiar and that I’d surrounded myself with friends who also liked a bit of “kiss on the lips” action every time we saw each other.

On my return to Australia a few weeks later, not truly believing this overly affectionate revelation about myself, I tested this information with two of my best friends.

Now this part is important because I have many female and male friends. Some of these male friends are my female friend’s husbands and we’ve been having a big of a hello “friendship snog” for years and no one seemed perturbed by it at all. I just presumed that’s how my tribe greeted each other.

So, when I posed the question to my friends – who are wife and husband – that my parents had just informed me that I’m a lip kiss stealer, the bloody (but lovely) bastards agreed with their assessment.

What are you saying, I asked?

That you go for the lips every time and we don’t really have time to out-manoeuvre you,  they said.

Shit, I said.

How long has this been going on, I asked?

For decades, they said.

Shit, I said.

My friend, let’s call him Blair because that is his name, said he’s not a lip kisser much at all (apart from with his awesome wife) so my over-the-top kissy greetings had been a bit of a struggle in the beginning of our friendship. Now, he intimated, he just knew that I’d go for the lips every time and he’d made a kind of peace with it.

When I saw them yesterday, in jest, he actually turned his cheek at the last moment so I just sat there with my lips pursed and waited for him to say hello “properly”. Then I said, I must write about this – and so I am.

Since this disclosure, I’ve talked about my “kiss issue” with a few more friends, who’ve all agreed, plus I’ve tried to be better at assessing whether a lip kiss is appropriate or not.  Although, let me be clear, I don’t kiss professional contacts, well, until they become friends and then it’s lip action all the way.

Lord know what this says about me. Perhaps, my statement at the start of this blog about not being good at relationships means that I’m starved of affection so I just go around planting platonic kisses on anyone who I’m close to – and for all these years they’ve let me.

I’m hoping that means that there’s really no problem with me being a lip kiss thief and I don’t have to do something radical like change my behaviour because I fear it’s far too late, and much too entrenched, for that.

Plus, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to.