For my first yarn of 2015, I’m attempting to piece together three intruiging items chosen by ABC Local Radio presenter, Adam Shirley:
666 + Calling a Woman, ‘Dude’ + Thomas Keneally
Diary Entry 146, 18 January 2015
Well, here I am, writing down my thoughts on yet another breakup.
This one should have worked. It had all the hallmarks of a ‘successful relationship’. ‘Till it didn’t.
I really liked Alex. I felt safe with him; protected. He was a nice guy. ‘Till he wasn’t.
We had so much in common too. I mean, how many men in this city am I going to find who share my weird obsession with the number six repeated three times?
It was more than that of course. Two people can’t move in together after 666 days dating (yeah, we did that) on the strength of three numbers (or is that one number…we never did settle that one), even if we both obsess about it. He was cute, honest and interesting.
Listen to me, even in my diary I talk as though I’m an expert. Well, I’m planning on ‘writing the book’ on the subject. Not that any of that is helping me now.
I have to admit I miss him. Not just his physical presence, but the little things around the house. Cufflinks sitting next to the front door, ties hanging in the dresser.
And his smell. Damn, that man smelt good.
When you spend a significant amount of time with someone, I suppose you form these little unconscious bonds. An attachment that goes beyond that initial attraction and sex drive.
We had that.
It was good. ‘Till he broke it.
He had to go and call me dude.
Diary Entry 147, 20 January 2015
Here I am, writing about Alex again. But this is different to some school girl, pining in her journal about the jock who likes to play football more than spend time with her.
And I’ve never really been the kind who chases after the boy. Since high school, they’ve generally chased me: the rugby captain (Ben), school captain (Ben’s best friend John), the university medallist (Tim), not to mention the university Professor (Robert…boy, did he teach me a few things). Alex was no different, and I’m not about to start aching and chasing.
Plus, this is work. This is research.
I think Alex’s parting gift might be extra material for my book. The plan was always for my various experts to theoretically examine the many theories of love. But now I’m thinking they should also apply their theories to a real life example/narcissist.
In the next weeks, I’m recording the views of a biologist, anthropologist, theologian, poet, psychologist and critic on attraction, sex and love. Specifically, why does one human being became attracted, sexually, to another? What draws two people together? What makes them want to spend time together…talk, chat, laugh, mate?
All will remain anonymous so they can speak more freely. I’m hoping they won’t just talk about the various theories in their professions of love and sex; but also open up about their personal experiences.
Why write such a book? Well, it flows out of some journal articles I’ve written on my particular theories about sex and attraction, and a book makes sense.
However, in light of current events, I’m starting to rethink some of those theories. Or at least my qualifications in making them!
Diary Entry 148, 21 January 2015
I’ve had another idea about the book. I think Canberra should feature prominently.
At first ‘blush’ (pun intended) it may not seem the most sexy of cities: it is ‘artificial’ after all, planned to the nth degree. Full of cardigan-wearing public servants and politicians.
‘Cept it isn’t.
Firstly, as a ‘university town’ (there are five represented here in some way, although strictly probably four campuses, plus a tafe), I’m able to source my experts on love and sex easily.
But I also want to play with the idea of perceptions of sexy. Hearing new perspectives on what gets us all ‘going’. What better way to shatter a few misconceptions than pick a city most would describe as ‘unsexy’ and then demonstrate just how sexy it really is.
Of course, there are the obvious sex ingredients here already. Canberra is known as the city of three Ps, and two of them are often key ingredients to a good night in the sack: porn and pyrotechnics (having not bedded a politician, I can’t comment on the sexiness of the third P).
One of the Ps is of course now a little precarious in Canberra (no capital P Pun intended): being the legal sale of fireworks. As that is now essentially illegal unless you’re a pyro pro. But the other pros are alive and kicking (or should that be f*cking) in Fyshwick’s many brothels and sex shops.
Tomorrow I meet my first expert: the biologist. I’m going to test an idea out on him. I want all my experts, as natives of Canberra, to nominate their sexiest spot/location/item in the city. This should also encouraged them to put a personal spin on the theories they discuss.
Diary Entry 149, 22 January 2015
Met ‘the biologist’ this morning over coffee. Managed to only mention Alex ten times.
I think he noticed I was recovering from a break up.
I know this, because he said that. Exactly that:
‘I notice you are recovering from a recent breakup. Is this book a form of therapy for you?’
He leant over the table to say this, his wrinkled face and bushy eyebrows cramping together in a look of pained empathy.
The book wasn’t meant to be, but I fear that’s what it is becoming.
The biologist was from the CSIRO, and he liked my idea of a romantic location. He nominated a place not far from his workplace on the foothills of Black Mountain: the top of said mountain. There is a tower with a revolving restaurant at the top, which is quite high brow and expensive, and provides breathtaking 360 degree views of the city. But that wasn’t his choice. He didn’t even nominate the tower. Instead, he suggested walking up the mountain with your loved one of choice, enjoying the beautiful smells of the eucalyptus leaves and the sounds of nature (and distant hum of cars also climbing). At the top, you have a wonderful view to reward your hard work. If you’re feeling particularly romantic (as he did on one occasion) you can even take the opportunity to propose marriage while looking down on 350,000 people.
His choice of romantic location was directly linked to his theory of sex and attraction. Smell. The smell of pheromones to be precise. While still slightly unsettled, he subscribes to the theory that animals, including humans, give off a scent which is not consciously detected, but suggests to a mate you’re up for it. They may even change the receiver’s behaviour in involuntary ways.
Makes me wonder, was there a smell I set off, that suggested to Alex I was interested in some way? That set him off when we first met to involuntarily pursue me? And if so, why didn’t he smell my odour that said whatever you do, don’t call me dude.
I’m pretty sure that’s a smell all women give off. And I doubt it smells like eucalyptus.
Diary Entry 150, 24 January 2015
Today’s appointment was with the anthropologist from the ANU, who was very interested in monogamy. Just what I wanted to talk about!
She is studying why humans, generally speaking, attempt to find a single mate for life? The odd thing about humans is that unlike other animals who have internal gestation and longer term lactation, our males don’t as a rule seek additional mating opportunities. So why not humans? She had initially studied, and then critiqued, one theory that explained the behaviour because the weaker sex, females, needed the stronger male to protect them. That didn’t really explain why groups of females couldn’t have achieved the same end.
Her final theory was derived mainly from an American anthropologist, Helen Fisher, who posited that humans have three parts of their brain that drives mating: lust (sex drive), attraction (early stage of intense romantic love) and attachment (that comes from a connection with a long term partner). My anthropologist liked that this theory accepted that the initial coupling of two people can be driven by any one of those motivations. Some relationships will commence with deep lust, and later move to attachment.
Each of those drivers emerged to fulfil a different evolutionary requirement. On some level, that theory made some sense to me. Surely a relationship would need to pass all three, and perhaps have some overlapping time when two or more are present, to be ‘successful’. What’s the point in forming a long term attachment with someone you don’t want to bed?
Fisher’s research also suggests that female and male brains ‘light up’ differently when they fall in love. Men tend to focus on visual appearance, apparently driven by the desire to choose an appropriate child-bearing mate. Whereas women’s brains are more active in relation to assessing behaviour, likely attempting to judge the long term parenting skills of a potential father.
She chose a church for her romantic venue. Well, an outdoor chapel in secluded part of the lake foreshore, near the Charles Sturt Centre for Christianity and Culture. We’re thinking of organising some photos for the book, as it sounds like a pretty spot. The chapel has a wooden altar, set amongst native trees and grasslands.
Given her chosen topic, I’m still not sure if she was being deliberately ironic or not.
I wonder if it was the sort of spot Alex and I might have chosen? Perhaps he decided my hips weren’t wide enough….
Diary Entry 151, 25 January 2015
I was just reviewing the formal interview I did with the theologian a couple of months ago for the book.
It made my heart ache to do it, but I needed to make sure all three experts’ theories were going to fit together in the book. Particularly given the place my anthropologist had picked for her romantic location.
Thankfully the theologian didn’t choose a place of worship or spirituality. He had studied all over the world and was currently working on a third book. After all that travel, study and navel gazing, he had a whole heap of theories about the human condition.
But ultimately, for him, it just came down to that core, innate, human instinct that humans simply need other humans. That it went to our belief that there is something unique and special about us as a species; a belief that was probably also at the heart of why human culture after human culture had developed some sort of theory of a higher being, who was responsible for their creation.
Still, his more personal perspective was that there was a certain level of emotional competency required for a true human bond. That both partners needed to connect on some philosophical level if their relationship was to last, and both had to be emotionally mature enough to be up for that sort of commitment.
Thinking about now, post-breakup, feels like a biblical-sized slap in the face…
Diary Entry 152, 3 February 2015
I met my poetic expert today, a creative writing guru at the University of Canberra.
I don’t want to be stereotypical here…I really don’t. But you know those impossible hot guys that march around on the Sydney mardi gras floats? All muscles, tight black pants and sweat. He was one of those.
Young, hot and horny.
Not saying that all poets, or gay men, or gay poets are necessarily built that way. But he was.
And his theory sort of came from the same place.
He was all about that initial moment of intense connection, when two people ‘click’ at precisely the same moment. The spark before the flame. The blue at the centre of the most intense fire.
He believed that intense feeling was addictive, and had spurned many a marriage, baby, affair and work of creative genius; that once a human experiences that level of intensity, they will search for it again and again; not just for the hit, but for the creative energy it engenders. That’s why humans committed to one another forever. But also why they will sleep with each other after a glance across a sweaty dance floor, or cheat on their life partner, or drop two ecstasy tablets on a Saturday night. All of it motivated by an often impossibly vain (in the many definitions of that word) attempt to reclaim that feeling once again.
There was something wonderfully crude but right about what he saying. A raw truth at the centre of his theory. Perhaps I like it because I used to bug Alex to drop some E with me. He claimed he didn’t like the Tuesday blues.
Hmm…today is Tuesday.
The poet didn’t choose a Keates-inspired autumn scene, or a Rabbie Burns rural setting.
Instead, his choice was the public toilets near Yarramundi Ridge.
My conservative publisher may cut that from the book.
Diary Entry 153, 8 February 2015
I’ve started piecing together all my experts’ opinions and I think they will work well.
Except, I’m not sure how my theories are going to fit in.
I am, after all, the stereotypical teacher…lecturer…professor…however you choose to describe me. At any rate, I should be the picture next to the Wikipedia entry on the saying ‘those who can, do; those that can’t, teach.’
My romantic location is easy. I’ve chosen the Aspen Island bridge in the shadow of the National Carillon, where hundreds of engraved locks had been attached to that little footbridge. I know it has been done a million times on a thousand bridges around the world, but there is just something proudly simple and majestic about that little footbridge.
Alex and I put a lock there. I wonder if I am morally obliged to remove it now.
I was planning on giving views, as a Professor of Psychology; about empathy and insight and narcissism and hormones and Freud and mums and dads and personality; wants, needs, desires.
They all seem hopelessly hollow now.
Diary Entry 154, 10 February 2015
I’m not sure how I can proceed with the book in its current form; particularly, do I need a new theologian?
Oh yeah, I think I forgot to mention that the theologian’s name was Alex!
In trying to plan how his theories will fit into the book, I found myself becoming all emotional; hot tears flowing down my face and wetting the paper before I was even conscious of what I was doing.
I was listening back to his romantic space pick: Llewellyn Hall.
A 1400-centre concert Hall, the huge wood-panelled room drips with a sense of theatre and drama. From huge symphony orchestras, to some of the finest solo artists in the room, to witnessing ceremonies featuring some of the most famous people on the planet, the room has seen it all. As someone who needs a dash of ambience and mood to encourage those amorous thoughts, I could understand why he chose it. (http://music.anu.edu.au/events/attending-event)
But also, on one autumn night it, hosted a riveting speech by Thomas Keneally; and that was where we met.
Diary Entry 155, 12 February 2015
I’m not so sure about the book. When I pitched it to the publisher, they loved it. A sort of honest account of how one girl is failing to find love, even when she’s an expert.
But that’s just the thing. I’m an expert on the theory of love. Clearly I suck at the practice.
The first thing I should probably do is analyse, according to my wonderful theories, why our relationship failed.
He called me dude.
There, done. He knew that was the one thing I couldn’t stand. After 793 days together, he did it.
Diary Entry 156, 15 February 2015
So, I met my friend Jane for a drink at the Yacht Club today. She suggested we grab some fish and chips and a beer, and watch the boats float around the lake.
Great way to get my mind off the break up; if it hadn’t been for the happy couples frolicking with their impossibly happy children.
Anyways, she suggested Alex was not entirely to blame for our relationship break up.
She accused me of lacking insight.
Me! I’m a psychologist for crying out loud. I have a degree in analysing people’s mental states!
I explained to her that we need boundaries in our relationships. Things that are acceptable and those that aren’t. He crossed the line. He did something unacceptable. And in my book, that’s the end of it.
She seemed unconvinced.
Diary Entry 157 28 February 2015
I’ve been listening to this CD Alex gave me. I don’t think it’s helping, and I’m not sure I like it, but I can’t bring myself to turn it off.
He gave it as a gift on our 666th day anniversary, and to celebrate moving in together. The music is a little weird, all dark gothic rock, but I liked his thinking: Greatest love songs Vol 666 by a Swedish Band called HIM.
It reminded me about our 666 thing. For me, my love of that number is about the mathematical symmetry of it. Not just that there is just something aesthetically pleasing about the number 6 repeated three times, but that 666 is the sum of the first 36 natural numbers, and that it is a triangular number (36 = 15 + 21 and 152 + 212 = 666). Or that the Roman numeral for 666, DCLXVI, has exactly one occurrence of all Roman numeral symbols whose value is less than 1000 in decreasing order.
I really got serious about my interest when studying hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia at uni. Trying saying that three times really quickly after a visit to the uni pub before your tutorial!
As a theologian, for Alex, it was all about its spiritual meaning. According to the book of Revelations, 666 may be the number of the beast, although there is some dispute on that translation. Alex had written extensively on why those who translated the passage to be 616 were incorrect. He had also studied how and why the Romans may have become obsessed with the number.
Other things keep coming up too, reminding me of our break up. Like I heard Thomas Keneally on the radio (666 Canberra of course!). Or that a friend invited me to a concert at Llewellyn Hall.
But I refuse to pine. I’m too good for that. Deep breath, shoulders back, stand up straight…and get on with it. No point thinking about a boy who chose to break up a good thing.
Diary Entry 158, 1 March 2015
I’ve been thinking about my old relationships.
Maybe Jane is right. Maybe they ended not because those partners did something wrong; but because of me. Because I demand too much?
One mistake, and they were over. Boom. Sometimes I ended them actively, sometimes passively.
Next relationship is going to be different. New Year’s resolution!
Diary Entry 159 20 March 2015
Maybe I’ll hold off on the book for now. Maybe it will be different story…perhaps something about how the love professor actually figured out how to apply her theory.
Because my (film) critic might just give me a chance to fulfil my resolution.
Diary Entry 160 26 March 2015
I miss sex.
There, I said it.
Entry 161 10 April 2015
Things are going great with Adam, the film critic. Is it unprofessional to start a relationship with one of my experts?
Sod it! This time it is going to be different.
Entry 162 28 April 2015
I haven’t written that much lately, because I haven’t had time, or the inclination. I’m just damn enjoying life too much.
If I do the book, I think it is going to be about how I finally got my shit together.
Entry 163 5 May 2015
I’m at a crossroads. Adam is great. According to all the theories I’ve examined, we should work. He’s smart, good looking….good in the sack. He is even patient about my 666 thing, even if he doesn’t share Alex’s obsession.
But I’m not so sure I can pull this thing off.
I think I’m still the problem. I can see a huge roadblock in our future, and I’m not sure how I’m going to get passed it.
He is physically strong, and patient. Good father characteristics there.
Not shallow on the philosophical front either. He regularly listens to ABC Local Radio 666 after all.
He ticks all the boxes. I feel attracted at the physical, mentally, spiritually.
He smells good.
Most romantic spot in Canberra: top of the Carillon. He pulled some strings for us to eat dinner at the top one night.
There’s just one thing: his interests.
It’s not that he’s only mildly interested in the number 666. That’s not surprising.
It’s what he is interested in. Movies to be exact.
I’m not sure if he is being ironic, but he says he is worn out from all the arthouse, indie and dramatic films he needs to critique. Given the choice, he would rather curl on the couch with a daggy old teen comedy. He claims his third favourite movie of all time is:
Second favourite movie:
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
And his favourite movie, of all time…
Dude, Where’s my Car?
Image: “Thomas Keneally Festival Cine Sidney” by Eva Rinaldi – http://www.flickr.com/photos/evarinaldiphotography/7361064498/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thomas_Keneally_Festival_Cine_Sidney.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Thomas_Keneally_Festival_Cine_Sidney.jpg” (cropped to be square)