Dating: Stay Exclusive or Spread It Around?

Do you date more than one person at a time? When do you decide to make it exclusive?

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Some of my blog stories are about my online dating experiences and this one poses a question that perplexes me.  When is it appropriate to date somebody exclusively?  I mean, I have my own take on the situation but I was a teenager when I married and in my forties when we divorced, so I’m the first to admit that figuring out the subtle nuances of dating is my work in progress.

First, how to meet somebody?  My teenagers suggested online dating, which seemed better than sitting around some public place and waiting for somebody to happen along.  I’ve met loads of lovely people through online dating and have made some great friends but have not yet found that special man.

Once I begin texting and talking to someone I try to meet by the next weekend. In my experience, anyone who delays meeting has something to hide and it’s never something nice.  Also, meeting quickly is important because it’s impossible to get to know a person through phone conversations and text messages – nothing beats real life for reading a person’s habits, mannerisms, attitude, shift in mood and respect for others.

After our first meeting I ask myself whether I’m comfortable in his company, do we ‘click’, did the conversation flow, were the silent moments okay and do I look forward to seeing him again?   I’ve met many people once and was glad to never see them again. I’ve had many second and third dates only to find we didn’t click as well as we had over the phone and stopped seeing one another. This doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with him (or me) but dating needs a certain comfort and chemistry to continue.

My current dilemma is exclusivity. There’s a moral stance on seeing somebody exclusively, there’s a social stigma about it, there are many reasons people aren’t exclusive and many reasons they are.

The dating website urges members to see lots of people and not to limit yourself.  I agree with this… until I find somebody I connect with on a physical, cognitive, social and emotional level.  When I’m keen on one particular man I stop contacting more and I let anyone I’m talking to know I’m going on hold to investigate a relationship with one particular person I’ve met. If and when I go back to the website those men may not be around, but that’s how life goes. There really are plenty more fish in the sea.

I’m happy to meet many men, one after another if that’s how they flow, but once I find someone I really like I stop the flow. My dating profile might be deactivated for just a few days, a week, a month or permanently.  It costs nothing to reactivate.

When I’ve met somebody I really like (and they say the feeling is mutual) surely I don’t need to continue meeting even more men?  I mean, who do I want to meet when the man that I’ve been waiting for (and his chemistry) have come along and we’ve decided to see each other again and again. Not that exclusivity is a sign of life-long commitment but I think it’s what dating is all about. Finding what we are looking for in one person is a thrill and, over time, the relationship will either fizzle out to nothing and we start again…  or the relationship grows and blossoms into something amazing.

Not everyone I’ve dated necessarily agrees with my one-at-a-time method. Some become terrified of what it means to be seeing a woman exclusively, as if being exclusive means being permanent or worse… trapped!  These men remain active on the dating website, which only makes me feel protective of my heart and cautious about their intentions. Knowing that they are still looking means I don’t invest my whole self into dating these men because I don’t want to be hurt. The secretive “multiple daters” often say they are looking for a relationship but then say they’re only out for fun… it’s as if they can’t decide what they want – but it’s more like they can’t decide on how to express what they want.

The “multiple daters” tend to approach online dating as a series of simultaneous relationships from which they eventually pick the one they like best. Naturally, they want to avoid the mistake of being with the wrong woman. They don’t want to trip clumsily into another bad marriage and they are aware of their own mysterious internal forces that convince them they’ve found “the one”.  But surely life isn’t about taking everything and discarding the left-overs? That approach makes dating into something dirty, greedy and it lacks integrity. It’s like having the cake and eating it too, but spitting out the left overs.

My “one at a time” approach is also about seeing multiple men however, I stop when I find one I’d like to see again. Then I start up again if and when I end that relationship. Easy.

I’m curious to know how other people handle online dating.

  1. Once you find someone you feel comfortable with and want to see again and again, do you stop looking?  I mean, is it logical to continue your search when it seems like you’ve found what you’re looking for?
  2. Do you keep your extra dating activities a secret from the woman/women you are seeing?
  3. Once you decide on “the one” how do you get rid of all the excess people you’ve been seeing without being nasty?
  4. Is there something wrong with seeing many people until you find one you like – and then only seeing the one you like (even though it’s too soon to have feelings of love)?
  5. Is the “date many all at once” rule only an online thing or do people who meet opportunistically also go on looking for more people to date?

I look forward to and welcome your comments.

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above image hplyriks.com

Side note:  Below are links to some of my stories about dating.

How to handle first dates;

My First Date;

Dating Success and Humour;

Ten Months Into Dating.

Children… excuses, excuses, excuses.

Some students need more encouragement than others when it comes to getting started on their school work. Their excuses are beautiful, clever and very cute.

An ideal classroom has curious students who are interested and eager to know more. Driven by their own success, they look forward to conquering the next step and the next. Proud of their achievements they eventually realize that hard work brings good results however, not all students are interested in learning because some find it difficult, laborious and boring. These conscientious objectors prefer to be outdoors on their skateboard, kicking a ball and running amok while their peers enjoy a mix of both play and school work.

Alex was in second grade and struggled getting started with his literacy work. The first two hours of school were devoted to reading and comprehension and he sat staring his work every day while I worked with my focus group.  I’d call out, asking him to show me how much work he’d done and he held up a blank page. He lay his head down onto his folded arms and closed his eyes. Pretending to fall asleep was his favourite avoidance tactic and I’d say, “Come on Alex, open your eyes and let’s get this done before play time arrives.  I don’t want you to have to stay in at play time to finish.”  He lifted his face and looked at me groggily asking, “Whaa??” And after some persistant urging, with the playtime threat, he would begin.

Branko was a little oder.  In fourth grade he avoided school work in general, especially when it came to having to write anything down.  Branko sat at the front of the room where I could quietly push him to pick up his pencil and make a start.  He complained that he couldn’t work because he had a head ache, he didn’t quite understand, he swore he already did this exact same work last week, he needed to sharpen his pencil, he couldn’t find his eraser… the excuses were endless and, when he did come to the end, he began again at the start – he had a head ache.

I sat with Branko one recess, gently explaining that if he just did the work like everyone else then he could be outside playing…  and he interrupted to say, “One question…”

I raised one eyebrow, knowing that another tactic was about to burst from his lips, “Yes?”

With his sharpened pencil in one hand and the index finger of his other hand raised to indicate that this was a very important question he asked, “Do you mind if I toot because I feel like one needs to come out… it can’t wait?”  I had two choices.  Either to agree that he stay put and toot as he worked or to ask him to step outside to let it rip into the open air.  Enough time had been wasted so I told him to just toot while doing his work. He giggled at the awful smell while I ignored it as if I couldn’t smell anything.  It was quite a sickening smell.  Such was my sacrifice on that day.

Claire was in third grade. She hated math and always needed a trip or two to the toilet during math sessions.  This was difficult because if I didn’t let her go she stood and shouted, “My wee is coming out!” and her clothes quickly darkened with the wetness of the largest and most efficient bladder I’d ever known.

Sixth grade students were much more inventive than the little ones. They put their head down and worked studiously, totally engrossed in getting pen to paper with hardly a pause.  At first I took this as a sign that they were on track and and not in need of any help. In fact I occasionally commented on how studious they were as they could focus without distraction.  Toward the end of the lesson I wandered over to see how they were coming along and found they hadn’t done anything at all.  Instead of a page full of writing, reading or math work I saw elaborate, artistic designs and a decorative title… but no work. I’d learnt my lesson at the expense of yet another lunch time devoted to ‘helping’ the lovely children get their work done.

Teaching requires a good understanding of each student’s social, emotional and cognitive quirks.  As a teacher I am strict yet fair; assertive yet patient; angry yet kind; and unwavering in my expectations yet understanding at the occasional bad day. My words and actions constantly role model commitment, perseverence, hard work, empathy and pride.

Working with 29 children for six hours a day, five days a week, forty weeks per year can be both fun and difficult.  The satisfaction in knowing I’ve had a positive impact on these young lives.

 

 

Finding Love: How To Handle First Dates

So you’ve met someone online and have agreed to meet. How do you do this? What can you expect? How do you say, ‘Thanks but no thanks”?

Online dating can be a good medium for finding a partner.  A first date is either an important determiner of chemistry and a measure of how much you enjoy one another’s company – or it’s a formality that you can’t wait to get out of the way so you can get on with dating properly.  When I’m on a first date there are many things I look for which, surely, must be the same for everyone.

For safety reasons, my first dates are alway at a cafe or restaurant. If it’s night time my car is parked in a well-lit, secure area and I always let somebody know where I am and who I’m with. Yes, as secretive as we like to be with our dating activities – we need one person we can trust to know where we are, when we arrive, when we are about to walk out to the car park and when we’re safely driving home.

When I meet a man for the first time I like to give a hello hug and a kiss on the cheek. This isn’t because I’ve been single for so long that I’m lusting for some human contact. It’s because I’m a tactile person and like to date people who are relaxed about being hugged. In the past I have hugged men who stood holding their body tensely and gripped me with surprisingly stiff arms and a hard pat on the back – as if they were soothing their pet dog in a thunder storm. Such a hug carries an awkwardness that shouts, “I am unaccustomed to human touch!”

It doesn’t normally take long to figure out whether I click with a person, so I plan on our first meeting taking less than 90 minutes, which is long enough to know how I feel about continuing on to a second date, calling it quits or just adding another ‘friend’ to my long list of male friends.

In my experience, ninety minutes was plenty of time to sense that I was profoundly attracted to two particular dates; enough time to feel disgusted by a few and interested but uncertain of many.  A total of three dates took the ninety minutes to let me know they viewed dating as an opportunity for sex with random women – one man grasped my hand and actually put his appendage into my palm as we hugged goodbye!  The men who weren’t ready to date were nothing short of boring as they took the opportunity to vent their ex-wife rage over our lunch date.  The insecure men usually bragged about how amazing they were in their younger days or how remarkably young other people are alway telling them they look or act. Most of my girlfriends agree that conversation with the opposite sex is most attractive when the man is revealing he has empathy and care for others.

First date conversations have been important for revealing the true person under the scripted, social exterior. On one first date a lovely man said he wanted a woman’s touch in his home so that when he came home from work the light would be on, his house warm, dinner on the table and he would have someone to cuddle in bed.  He also said he only dates professionals, so they can contribute to the household instead of sucking his bank account dry. This may seem sexist but he was totally unaware that it was anything but true love.  He would love a woman who did this for him. Being taken care of was his pure and honest definition of love. I didn’t want to see him again.

For me, dating isn’t about finding someone to take care of me; it’s about finding a partner who doubles as a best friend, a confidante and someone to share my life. We take care of each other.  I slip into my comfort zone when my date demonstrates his emotional intelligence through understanding that hugs and hand holding are forms of non-verbal communication. I enjoy conversation when we discuss a range of topics – even if one of us is only asking questions or posing hypotheses.  I click with people who are so open that they are able to accept differences and reject prejudice.  I look for people who are verbally expressive with their emotions.

My next point isn’t always a first date issue but some men have pushed to make it an issue.  If not on the firt date, then shortly afterwards.  Men who have escaped loveless marriages fear being rejected again and can’t wait to ask whether I enjoy sex and how often I ‘want it‘.

Sadly for them my response to these off-the-cuff questions is too technical for a yes/no response. While these men may be experienced enough to know that women come with varying degrees of desire, I’m experienced enough to know that men have varying degrees of emotional intelligence.  There are men who want the freedom to climb on to relieve themselves of the ache that won’t go away; there are men who see a new woman as an opportunity to try out new, weird and kinky things (one date actually referred to this as wanting to be like “a kid in a candy store”).  And there are my type of men, who define lovemaking as a mutual and meaningful event of communication through touch.  The mind and body are both involved, time and space are important and frequency isn’t a necessary part of the discussion. However I wouldn’t bother telling this to a man who aks, “do you like sex…. how often do you want it?” because they won’t want to hear that lovemaking is a long, drawn out physical and cognitive event.

The take home message I’m trying to give here is to use the first date to make sure you are spending time with a peron who communicates like you communicate, who floats your boat, who enjoys delving into conversation that interests you, who shares your values, wants to do as much for you a you do for them and who you are able to imagine building a relationhip based on friendship, happiness, respect, honesty, trust and love.  If you can achieve most of this, you should continue seeing one another.

But what if you get to the end of your ninety minute first date and find you don’t have any desire to see this person again? Or you feel so neutral that you don’t care whether you see him again?  If this is the case then it’s time to say, “Thank you but no thank you” but there are some ground rules to this result.

Rule 1 is to please don’t allow him pay for your meal when you know you’re not interested – this is just greedy, brings bad Karma and damages the guy’s sense of worth.  If giving him the, “Thank you but no thanks” (TYBNT) talk feels mean or awkward because he is excited about how well he thinks you’ve hit it off and how he feels like he’s known you for years, say you’ll call him the next day and make sure you DO call. This TYBNT phone call should include a genuine and sincere thank you for the lovely date.  You should mention some things you liked about him and finish by saying that you didn’t feel a romantic attraction, which is what you’re looking for. Wish him well with the next person he dates.

Don’t settle for somebody you don’t really like because, although you may not believe it right now, there truly is somebody for everybody and it doe take time and effort to find one another.

Remember that nobody will be perfect so finding a great match who has imperfections that you can tolerate is the key.

Online chat rooms – smoke and mirrors.

Have you ever wondered what goes on in online chatrooms? If so, this is the story to read.

Online chatrooms are strange places of typed conversation where a person’s true identity can be tweaked to whatever age, gender, culture or lifestyle they choose. The idea of creating your own identity seems like a silly concept that immitates childish games of make-believe and I couldn’t imagine myself as anybody else so I was always happy to be Sue from Australia.  You can see a lot from the way people type their conversation.  The words people choose and the way they string them together shows many aspects of who they are in terms of their education and financial status, their religious, regional and moral values.

About eight years ago, and twelve months after my divorce, I discovered online chat rooms, where I found people from all over the world, without ever having to leave the house.  New mothers who were bored at home with a baby, too exhausted to cook and clean and yearning for the human interaction they used to enjoy at work. Freshly retired men and women who couldn’t fill their cognitive void by meeting friends for a weekly card game. Husbands and wives who annoyed one another to the point where they didn’t want to spend time together at all – the computer was their escape.  Here we sat typing words into our computers, sharing jokes, recipes and stories, advising one another on matters of the heart, urging the depressed to seek medical help and learning chatroom ettiquette, which was invented as any new, awkward situation arose.

My first online friend was Cath. She had a small baby who was only weeks old and Cath was climbing the walls with boredom as her baby cycled through the 24 hour sleep, cry, eat; sleep, cry, eat routine.  Exhaustion, boredom and loneliness were Cath’s biggest challenges.  She had spent all of her adult years working in a very busy office right up until four weeks before her little baby arrived, shortly after her 36th birthday. Cath was always online when I logged on and was still there when I logged off. She said she only moved away from the computer to get the baby or to put her back to bed. My international community of friends heard about Tina’s antics as she grew through sitting up, crawling, toddling, feed herself and learning to talk.

What our little international online community didn’t hear about was Cath’s discreet online love affair with the Englishman whose avatar was named Rad.  Although Cath and Rad’s avatars stood in the same room as the rest of us, they used their private messaging feature to have a conversation that nobody else was privvy to.  In their private messages they began with complimenting one another, then flirted, which quickly escalated to sexual banter and online sex – if you can call it that. I asked Cath why she wanted to do this because she said she was very happily married.  She said her husband wasn’t intimate with her at all; he spent all his time in his man shed, and she was lonely.  These few years of Cath’s single-while-married life were filled with laughter, joy, compliments and fun from Rad. Cath and Rad’s online affair filled a temporary void in their lives and after it faded Cath’s marriage returned to the way it was before Tina was born.

One of my dear online friends from Scotland, Lil, died of cancer and her life – full of secrets – touched my heart.  Her 12 year old son had passed away from a very rare form of cancer, which they had both been diagnosed with four years earlier.  Lil’s husband hated her for giving the rare cancer gene to their son which was, of course, an irrational sort of hatred but he felt that way and he completely ignored her, leaving Lil to suffer in her grief alone.  Two years before she passed away she met up with an old school friend, Brett, who confided that he had always loved her but had stupidly married somebody else.  Lil and Brett had a very intense, loving and secret affair and he visited her every day – helping her to dress, eat and bathe. He purchased a massage machine to ease her aches and a heating pad to keep her warm in winter. His thoughtfulness and acts of love brought so much happiness to Lil that I didn’t care that they were being unfaithful to their partners.  It hurt nobody and it gave them both something to live for. She died in his arms while her husband was at work and his wife was down at the club. Poor Lil was one of the most gentle and loving souls I’ve ever known and she suffered such awful life events that I couldn’t have blamed her if she said, “life is unfair”.  Yet she never complained.

Ferris was a 36 year old, single American man from the South.  He used phrases like, “y’all” and “over yonder”, which made me feel like I had stepped in to an Oprah Winfrey movie.  Ferris had never married and had no children, which was his biggest regret.  I encouraged him to get off the computer and go out to find somebody in real life but he was set in his ways and continued socialising from his living room.  He worked as a security guard and knew quite a lot about Elvis Presley, which bored me to tears. He often typed lyrics from Elvis songs into the chatroom and I thought he did it to feel like he was Elvis singing to a crowd. Whenever Ferris did this everyone went quiet, private messaging one another about poor Ferris needing to get out more often. He always went quiet after ‘singing’ these lines and then the chatroom conversation went back to its usual flow. It took me a very long time to realise that his Elvis song was actually a seranade to Camille whenever she entered the chatroom. Ferris and Camille had a long love affair, which was kept secret because she was married.

Ferris had been seeing Camille for about 9 months when he messaged me to say Camille told him she was planning to leave her husband so they could be together permanently, but he didn’t react well.  He stayed off line – too afraid to go through with meeting Camille – he just couldn’t do it.  Days went by and his unexplained absence sent poor Camille into a spin. She spent more and more time online; her avatar stood silently in the chatroom waiting for Ferris… hoping he might come back… too worried to leave in case he arrived when she wasn’t there… wondering if he had been in a car accident or sick in hospital.  I sent him a message begging him to come in and talk to Camille so they could discuss his fears and I felt mortified when I read his reply.  How on earth could I could tell 33 year old Camille that the 36 year old man she was in love with was actually 72 years old?  How could I tell her that the intimate moments they typed to one another was just him enjoying the excitement of young love for one last time because his wife wouldn’t let him into her bed? This was a disaster and the irony of the situation hadn’t gone un-noticed. She was being unfaithful and lying to her husband – her online boyfriend was being unfaithful to her (and his wife) and was even a bigger liar.  No matter how innocently it all began – they deserved one another.

The final story I’d like to share is about Yuki, a well-educated woman from Japan, who was married to a violent man. She refused to leave him because she was six months pregnant and leaving him would render Yuki and her unborn baby homeless. This was a difficult situation to sit back and watch because we didn’t know how the Japanese welfare system worked – or if there was one. Does the State support single mothers who leave their violent husbands? Yuki was very quiet and mostly just watched the conversation roll across the screen.  We worried about her when we hadn’t seen her for a day for good reasons.  In the year we knew her she had healed her broken arm, then it was three broken fingers, the worst was pneumonia when he broke her rib and – in the end – he beat her so badly that she lost the baby.  That’s when she left him.  Yuki arrived at the chatroom to say a tearful goodbye and explain that she had four hours before he was due to return home from work. We wished her well and never saw her online again.

Quickly taking Yuki’s place in the chatroom was Natasha, who was 8 months pregnant. One day she came to the chatroom flustered because she was in labour and nobody was at home to help.  We all typed for her to call 9-1-1 and get help.  She kept typing as she waited for the ambulance and I speculated that her labour pains can’t be too bad if she’s able to sit and type.  Natasha said staying at the chatroom helped to calm her through the contractions. A day later she came online to say her baby was stillborn. This upset quite a few of the ladies in the chatroom who had been through the same situation and we all talked about what an awful process she was in for, waiting for her breast milk to dry up and going home without her baby. She posted a photograph of her baby, which raised a few eyebrows.  The photo she posted was obviously a full-term, jaundiced baby in a humidicrib, which isn’t necessary in the case of stillbirth.  Cath put the photo through the Google Image search and found that Natasha had copied it from the Internet.  We speculated that there was probably no pregnancy or stillbirth.  When we challenged Natasha about her lie she confessed that Yuki’s story had upset her and she invented her stillbirth story so that people would stop talking about Yuki and start talking about her.  Yes, this woman was crazy – I mean, if she even was a woman.  I was relieved that Yuki wasn’t around to see that fiasco and then found myself wondering if Yuki’s story might also have been a lie? Maybe there was no husband who beat her – or no pregnancy or… worse still, I wondered whether Natasha was Yuki!  This was a place where people get what they want through lies and there I was surrounded by liars, learning about hidden aspects of human nature that aren’t normally ever seen in real life.

Mistrust overlapped from online to real life, where people who were having online affairs came to say farewell because their partners had put spyware onto their computer keyboard, recording every keystroke and read for themselves all the sleazy conversations and lies their online partners had been undertaking.

I conversed with so many unusual men and women online who led incredibly diverse lives to mine and I never really had any way of knowing who was telling the truth and who was lying. My tight circle of long-term online friends were beautiful people who supported me through the toughest years of my life and I did the same for them. When I first joined the chatroom I’d been divorced for 12 months, so my story was a little bit of loneliness and sadness, tinged with a little bit of curiosity.

Back in those days I was studying at off-campus university as a mature aged student and raising my daughters by myself. My social life was very limited due to my home situation. Stress was at the forefront of my everyday life as my eldest daughter developed a life-threatening medical condition which required close monitoring and frequent hospital trips, and my youngest began to have health problems too. Our lives had fallen apart and it was extremely difficult to put something resembling a stable, happy family back together again. Besides the usual motherly role, I also became a nurse and nutritionalist, staying close to home/my kids school and remaining emotionally stable and available to my daughters at the drop of a hat. These were the hardest social, emotional and financial years of my life and the escapism of online chatrooms saved me from losing my sanity. I could see for myself that some people’s lives were worse than mine, which gave me a sense of relief.

One day I realised that the extremely unusual and unethical people weren’t just online, the world is full of them. They live amongst us and their lies, quirks and cover-ups are hidden behind masks of happiness and serenity. Many unhappily married men and women lived the lie of a happy marriage every single day. I often found myself looking at strangers realising that I couldn’t tell which women were being beaten by their husbands, which happily married people were cheating on their partners, or who were attention seekers who lied about going through a traumatic event. It was invisible in real life… but visible online.

Most surprising was that the success of online lies relied on the vulnerability of others and there are so many vulnerable people out there. In fact, the disaster of my own life made me one of the vulnerable people and I decided to never log on to the chatroom again.

My online friends slowly left the room, too.  We have now known one another for seven years and we haven’t been to the chatroom for a long time but we remain friends who have proven our sincerity and loyalty by keeping one another’s biggest secrets.

Online chatrooms – it was a phase that taught me so much, yet I’m glad it’s passed.

*Note:  names have been changed to protect the privacy of others. 

 

The doctor’s waiting room

There are eighteen people in this room.

Nobody touches the germy magazines: most of us are on our phones and the really unwell people are staring into space.

A boy in his late teens sits with his mother.  She has her chin leaning onto the palm of her hand, nodding her head as the teen talks.  To me he looks like he just got out of bed but to himself – he is fashion perfected.   His thick, cropped, Raggedy Andy hair wobbles as a single mass as his head moves.  He sits slouched, as if half lying down, with one foot up on his other knee.  The mother spoke… but he doesn’t seem interested, he has his phone out now and she sits gazing out the window.

On the opposite side of the room is a lady in a fake fur leopardskin coat and jeans with deliberate tears, exposing both knees and her right thigh – which has a butterfly and vine tattoo filling the denim void.  Her chunky boots look impossibly heavy to walk in. She’s speaking with a lady her own age, but dressed in sensible clothes.  A demanding toddler, who seems to need a nap, is with one of them and they are deaf to her calls for attention.

Seated Behind me on these back-to-back theatre seats is a lady with a dark blue hoodie and hair that’s formed a birdnest at the back – the type you get when you’ve been restless in bed and don’t brush your hair when you get up.  I was happy with my decision to sit another seat across, to avoid back-to-back, hair-to-hair contact.  She sits very still, almost like she’s in an awake coma. Shallow breaths, immobile, not well.  

A tall, skinny lady and her husband were just called in. She walks in slow and deliberate steps, talking like she’s angry.  Her husband walks behind her, responding to her words in an apologetic way.  I wonder… did he give her a STD? Is that why theyre here?  Or did they just have an argument? He looks so uptight… and apologetic. She wears a very tight, leather-look skirt with skin tight leather-look leggings and boots. Her face also looks like leather; hardened and harsh – despite her make up and perfect hair.

I begin to wonder why people dress like they’re going clubbing just to see the doctor?

Nicole was picking at her fingernails when she was just called in.  Surfer girl sits silently with her homely-looking sister.  Grandma, who is wearing jeans with long leather boots that come up above her knees is pacing the waiting room as she talks on the phone, encouraging the person on the other end to call by for a cup of tea next time they’re in town.  She’s said that phrase about four times now.

A smiling old gentleman aged about 80 years old, wearing a brown, cable knit jumper that his wife might have knitted for him walked in, reported to the receptionist and came to sit down.  No, he is up again – giving her back the pen he accidentally carried away.  He wears a wedding band but he is alone.  I wonder if it’s too cold for his wife to be outdoors today… or if she is sick… or maybe she died?  Really old people usually go to the doctor’s, shopping and everywhere together, don’t they?

A man in his early twenties walks in with a four year old boy who is carrying a blue, spotted blanket and wearing a red beanie.  They walk to greet the gym junkie who is wearing his sunglasses indoors, a black cap on backwards, black shorts and black t shirt.  They are behind us talking about the wheel that simply fell off their car, saying: “It fuckin’ fell off while we were fuckin’ driving through fuckin’ town.”

The other man simply nodded, “Fuuuck.”

The little boy interrupts, wanting his juice drink, and the dad says, “Use your fuckin manners.” as he hands the pop top bottle down to the upstretched arm.

A four or five year old girl skips in with her mother who has the girl’s toddling brother on her hip. The skipping girl is wearing a pink tutu and her eyes sparkle from behind her pink-framed glasses. She’s not in the doctor’s waiting room – she’s on stage. I compliment her beautiful outfit and she beams at me as she continues her clumsy skipping toward the chairs where her mother sat down – near the TV with the cartoons showing.

Over an hour has passed  and it’s our turn.

pink tutu

(waiting room picture:  pedlars.co.uk)

(tutu picture:  pintrest.com)

Aunty Joy’s Australian Stories.

Some wonderfully interesting and historic stories from the early 1900s as told by my Aunt, who was born in 1922.

I once asked my father where his family had originated.  He said his father was born in Perth, Western Australia but he didn’t know where his family originated and there were definitely no other family members besides his sisters, brother and my cousins.  This converation was the start of my four-year quest to discover my family’s history. I found out Dad was wrong.  There’s lots of our family living in Australia.

One of the people I went to for historical stories was Dad’s sister, my Aunty Joy, who was born in Perth, Western Autralia in 1922. She told me stories that were told to her as a child, but she had no idea where her ancestors came from, either.

I later discovered that Joy was a fourth generation Australian; the great-granddaughter of a Cornish tin miner named William.  The photograph at the top of this story is the property my ancestors lived in, in Cornwall, and was taken in 2005.

William was 23 years old when he took a ten-week sea journey, travelling 15,000 kilometres from Cornwall to Melbourne, landing in October 1853, hoping to find gold… and a future.  He was the first in his family to come to Australia and his brothers and cousins quickly followed, bringing their families along.

Cornish miners hut in Fryerstown
Typical Cornish miner’s cottage on the Victorian Goldfields.

Shortly after he arrived in Melbourne, William travelled straight up to Spring Gully in the Victorian Gold Fields, where he made a good living. Like all the other miners, he first lived in a tent, then a cottage and finally a house.

In 1855 William married Charlotte, who had originated from his hometown in Cornwall and, as “Early Australian Pioneers”, they raised 11 children amidst hardships where there were no hospitals, a reliable water supply or proper law enforcement. Four of their children didn’t survive childhod.  In 1895 William passed away from stomach cancer at his home in Eaglehawk, Victoria, aged 68.  He left 700 pounds in assets to be distributed evenly between his wife and children.

William’s eldest son was a mine manager and soon married a local dressmaker map australia kalgoorliein Fryerstown in 1881. They soon began their own family but the area had been mined dry and the town held no future prospects. By 1895 Joy’s young grandfather moved his family 3,000 kilometres across the country to the newly discovered goldfields in Western Australia, where his brother, Thomas, had secured him a job as a mine manager.

The young couple’s youngest son, Jack, was born in Western Australia in 1900 and he was my Aunty Joy’s father.

The day Jack was born was New Year’s Day, 1900; and his older sisters remembered what they thought about that day.

“Fourteen year old Eva and eleven year old Mary were playing on the street outside their house in Boulder, Western Australia, when the doctor came out of the house carrying his large, carpet bag. The two girls went inside and, to their surprise were told the doctor had delivered a baby.  They didn’t see a baby with the doctor when he arrived – so speculated that the large doctor’s bag must have been used to carry their new baby brother to the house.”

Twenty-two years later, baby Jack grew to be a married man; he was the father of my Aunty Joy.  Her stories are her experiences of historical events from an era which is now mostly forgotten. Following is a transcript of Aunty Joy’s narrative about the Kalgoorlie Race Riots, which she witnessed in 1934.

           “When I was about 11 years old we went to live in in a tent at Kalgoorlie, which used to be called Boulder City, where Dad was born. Our tent was on a grassy area outside a hotel with lots of other tents and they were all about 20 feety x 20 feet.  When a room at the hotel became available the next person on the list was offered the room. I think the government provided the tents and we lived in ours for about eight months.

It felt normal to live like that… in a tent. Dad thought he could get a job at the mines, but there were no jobs anywhere, because of the Great Depression.  Dad said, “One in four people are out of work but it feels more like nine out of ten.”  The other reason there was no work anywhere was that the Italian migrants had offered to work in the mines for lower pay than the miners and the mine owners jumped at the chance… you know, for cheaper labour.  The Italians were good workers and really smart business people; they had all the mine work and owned almost all of the businesses, restaurants and residences for rent.  Everyone in town hated the I-ties (Italians) but Dad said they’re people just like us who deserve a go just like we do.

One hot day in January an Italian hotel owner accidentally killed an Australian when he tried to evict him from the hotel.  The Australians got really mad about it and held a meeting, saying that the Italians were taking over the country. They decided to blow the place up and set off to get gelignite from the mines. Oh they were serious, they were out for blood.

The mob spread the word for the Aussies to get out of town by 8pm because they were going to blow the place up – you know, the Italian houses and businesses.  Once the Italians got wind of the plan they ran away. Whole families went and lived out in the bush until they felt it was safe to come back. Then the Australians walked into the shops, emptied the tills and smashed the shops up.

The street was full of Australians – just like it was on New Year’s Eve.  We had moved from our tent by this stage and we were in the hotel, which was owned by Australians – so we felt safe. Dad had us all together in our room, upstairs, watching the street below. We saw some Italians being beaten and others running out towards the bush, scared for their lives, and I don’t know if they ever found their way back.  I think they died out there in the desert.  My two sisters and I were scared by all the sounds and Mum and Dad must have been scared too because they brought their friends up out of the tents to stay with us in our room.  After dark we lay in bed listening to buildings burning, glass breaking, bricks collapsing, men shouting and screaming and the strangest, spooky, crashing bang sounds.  Earlier in the night we could hear women crying but it didn’t take long before we only heard male voices.

Dad said that what happened to the Italians was a disgrace because they were good family men and hard workers, no different than us. They just didn’t deserve what they were getting. The next day we went for a walk and saw ransacked shops, and buildings still smouldering. The spooky bangs we heard throughout the night turned out to be pianos falling through burning floors of the pub down the road. All the pianos and iron beds ended up in a pile on top of one another on the ground floor.

There would have been less damage if the fire brigade could put the fires out but the Australian men cut the hoses, leaving the Italian businesses and homes to burn to the ground.  Kalgoorlie was a frightening place to be for the three days it took for police to come up from Perth and quieten everybody down.  The police couldn’t arrest the whole of Kalgoorlie so everybody got away with the part they played in tearing the town apart.

When Dad said it was safe my older brother, Jack, and I walked through the rooms of the smashed up shops, picking up gold coins, lollies and even ice cream. Jack kept the coins and I kept the lollies. We didn’t think it was stealing but now I know it was. A man called out, “Hey, they might be poisoned!”  and Dad wouldn’t let me eat any more lollies.

I think the Government paid to rebuild everything that the Italians had lost. Those were very difficult times. Nobody had anything and without the shops, we all had even less.”

 

After the 1934 Kalgoorlie Race Riots Joy’s family moved away from Kalgoorlie to a railway town called ‘Zanthus’. Living in Zanthus was an exceptional story of survival in the tough life of early Australia.  I will write it soon.

 

 

My Final Letter to My Grandma

My final goodbye to my Grandma.

My Grandma lived through some very tough times.  She was raised during the Great Depression by parents who owned nothing and lived a transient life, travelling from farm to farm as her father was employed to plant crops and then return to harvest them later in the year. She came from an era of no electricity, toilets were a can in a little, wooden building out in the back yard, the laundry was done in a large, copper pot full of boiling water with a wood fire underneath, water came from a well in the front yard and cooking was done on a wood stove in the kitchen (the heart of the home). She married a man from similar means and they struggled raising their family through WWII.  When you come from times like these you have nothing but religion and each other. Grandpa drove my Gran to church every week and sat in the car waiting for her to come out again.

Describing my Grandma’s personality is difficult because any description would have her sound like a harsh, relentless woman who saw life through eyes that were too honest and spoke with an equally honest tongue. If my quietly-spoken grandfather ever did anything silly she wouldn’t hold back on telling everyone what a brainless fool he was and I felt sorry for him at those times. But, by the same token, God help anyone else who said anyting against her husband.  At heart, my Grandma was a good, caring, loving, kind person who only really let these attributes show when she became a grandparent. My father said she softened with age.

I was in my twenties when my Grandpa passed away and in my thirties when my Grandma joined him. When I was a child her home was bustling with friends and family – there was never a day when someone wasn’t dropping by – but in her old age she rarely saw many people. Family was everything to her. I lived a very long way from Grandma’s house and so I wrote her a letter every week and she replied. As writing was such fun, it never felt like a chore and when she passed away it took a long time for me to stop looking out for a letter from Grandma.  The following is my final letter to Grandma, which I read at her funeral.

 

Dear Grandma,

I’ve written this letter as a completion to our weekly letter-writing habit, otherwise I’d feel like I owed you a letter, or maybe keep a lookout for one from you.

Writing has given us a special way of communicating and I’ve felt lucky to read your thoughts every week in exchange for my mindless babble.  Maybe we’ve each felt it was easier to write about our thoughts and feelings than to speak them out loud.  I hope you don’t mind me sharing a little bit from our letters with the people at your farewell today.

I’ve enjoyed all your bragging. You were so proud when Steven got his service medal, proud of Gavin’s fighting spirit as he battled cancer, the birth of Leonie’s beautiful baby, Rodger’s lucky trip to Hayman Island and my mum’s talent for painting: which you said she inherited from one of your brothers.  You told me that your kids were a feather in your cap, saying, “I never really told my kids they were the best in the world, I know it – so why tell them? I thought they might get swelled heads.”  Then you said:  “If you’re like I am you’ll still be proud of your kids when you’re old and dotty like me.”

I remember hearing about the dreams you had after grandpa died, like the night you dreamt you and Grandpa were walking around town arm in arm like you used to when you were going together in 1941.

Gran, I was looking back at a letter from the first winter after Grandpa died.  You said, “Susan, I’m a real sook when it comes to thunder and lightning.  I closed all the blinds and even put the TV off.  There I was, sitting in the dark, waiting for the next thunderclap and as scared as hell.  What a sook!  I’ve always had grandpa to look after me, but now no-one.”

You really have missed Grandpa, but you didn’t dwell too long on it because you suddenly changed the subject – you really were a tough sook.  Once I wrote to you complaining about the ins and outs of my life you tried to toughen me up.  You said: “My girl, you’ve got too many years ahead of you and lots of bad things are yet to happen. If you don’t toughen up you’ll go under.”  It was good advice, but I’m still not tough.

When Mum rang on Wednesday to tell me you were in hospital I really wanted to be with you.  I know how you felt about hospitals, being alone, and being afraid of dying alone.  This time you weren’t tough enough to swim for yourself and it was a privilege for me and Michelle to be with you through your final night.  We didn’t want to be anywhere else.  I could see for myself that you were comfortable and unafraid.  It comforted us to comfort you.

I’ve never looked into your eyes and seen so many thoughts beaming out at me like on that night.   I could read you like a book. Your eyes were a dictionary of every gentle thought and emotion.  To imagine, with all the words we’ve exchanged over these years, none were needed for this. You spoke with your eyes, asking for water, to be rolled over, you were hot, you were cold, you loved us and we had a full, unspoken goodbye. Being with you felt like one of the most important nights of my life.

Thanks for being the kind, gentle, loving and giving grandma you’ve been to me. And thanks for writing to me. Who would have known that our letters would have made such a difference to my life?  It’s been a pleasure.

Not long ago you told me that, without grandpa, you’ve shed enough tears to water the garden a dozen times. I’ll think of you often and fondly – especially when watering my garden.  No more crying now.

Good-bye Grandma.  I love you.