Thursday, February 03, 2011

Old ghosts or Why I missed Tom Cho's Midsumma reading

Since posting my kitten video, I've decided that cutesy animal videos are the way to start blog rants.

For some reason youtube videos are harder to embed in blog posts - but hopefully any readers have already clicked on it and seen the birdy dancing to it's reflection- which kind of sums up my life right now....

Anyway - I've been provoked by recent things I've read (in LobOTL of all things) and seen on Facebook - and of course - having a moment to reflect on recent life events.

So I'll start with a story about last wednesday.

It was bogan day. We were at home hibernating from the bogan hords. doing a kind of weird passive mourning thing. Feeling too lazy to go to the invasion day concert and feeling too confused by the apparent disputed land claims around western Melbourne to put up our plaque acknowledging that we are on Wurundjeri land.

I think I was tidying my room for some guests to visit. Renaissance wife was catching up on some quality - end of the school holidays - snooze time, before our planned venture out to Kaye Sera's Bizarre.

Of course - we were vague and flakey and I faffed and Renaissance wife snoozed till 5.30 or 6 or something and then we were in a mad dash - driving across town at the last minute instead of having some kind of leisurely wholesome cycle along, across and around the Bay...Renaissance wife drove across the westgate while I texted to our friend to hold the tickets, or leave them at the door, or something,

We made it across town in 15 minutes flat, and cruised past the venue, counting the building numbers along St. Kilda Road while sussing out the nearest carspace.... I was in serious squinty myopia, and missed the screaming yellow alarm bells, but Renaissance wife didn't. We turned a corner and she pulled into a parking spot.

"that's _______'s car. shit. I just saw it, parked out the front."

"Oh shit! are you sure?"

"We can go past again, I saw the number plates. It's definitely her car."

"Shit" So I texted my friend an apology as Renaissance wife shook.

"Listen, I just can't be in an enclosed space with her right now. You can go in if you like"

"What? and leave you here?"

"Well, I know you really wanted to hear Tom Cho..."

I showed her my text:

Shit shit shit! We've had to abort. Renaissance wife (OK I wrote her real name in the text)'s psycho stalker wife-beating ex's car is parked outside. We've got an AVO out against her. If you see some ugly old white skank from hell drop a turd on her from us.

"Now babe, is this factually correct?" I asked.

"YEah" she said, chuckling, "but maybe you could still go in, it's just me that has the problem"

"Okay, but let's reverse the situation: I see some evil psycho stalking bashing ex's car outside a venue and don't want to go in. Would you let me go off and freak out alone while you go in along and sit there, looking at some monster, knowing that your lover is alone and upset outside?"



So then we went and watched the sunset from that funny mound between St Kilda and Elsternwick. And even though I hate Melbourne a hell of a lot less than before, and watching a perfect sunset over the water with a view over the bay is divine, I still don't agree with Paul Kelly that it beats Sydney Harbour, but that's another point.

There were young white topless youf blaring triplejay's whitest 100 from their radios, so we scowled on the edge of the hill with some Indian families, feeling grateful we weren't in Boganborough at least. And then we drove back to footscray and had dinner, delighting in the refreshing absence of bogan flags on flesh, raiments or edifices.

Now the point of this posting is not to make me look like some sapphic snag (or SNAD), holding and healing my poor recovering wife away from the horrors of her ugly vile ex. Not at all.

I just want to make a mention of how Domestic Violence does happen within queer relationships, and how it has massive impacts YEARS later. Renaissance wife's psycho stalker wife-beating ex is also known as Nurse Ratshit. They broke up 4 years ago after 6 years of hell, and Nurse Ratshit was still randomly turning up to Renaissance girls house 3 years later. That's why we got the AVO. Long suffering readers of this blog will know that I don't suffer stalkers easily.

So four years later - we still can't go out and enjoy ourselves without steeling our guts against some anticipated yuck factor from a freak with no boundaries. Queer social spaces are so few and far between - that it IS harder to completely breakaway and avoid an ex without moving cities.

Long suffering readers of this blog will know that I spent quite a few years battling my own demons in the ex department. Next month will be 5 years since we broke up. Woohoo! Bits of it still hurt though. Abusive relationships have a way of digging themselves into social worlds, that make digging ourselves out of them a hell of a lot harder.

A few things provoked my recollection of this, recently.

ONe was reading an ad in LBOTL for the inner city legal centre's Same Sex Abuse campaign.The ad shows two femmes wearing what look like castoffs from Raewyn Connell's wardrobe (but who am I to judge the fashions of young sapphists?) with the following bunny boiler narrative:

One Our first date she was funny.
On Valentines day she was sweet.
At Easter she told me I couldn't see my friends anymore.
On Mother's day she screamed at me and kicked my cat.
On my birthday she took my credit cards and didn't pay me back.
At Sleaze Ball she had sex with other girls and said it was my fault

Now this is a bit of a hyperbolic condensation of all the types of abuse that are neatly described in the ICLC resource on Same Sex Abuse. Renaissance wife said that seeing one of their posters at a queer event finally made the penny drop for her and make her see that Nurse Ratshit was a girls own Bluebeard that had to be escaped from. So she did it. Yay.

If only things were always so clear. When I think of my own story, there are many nasty feelings of yuck and discomfort and squirminess - about my own behaviour as well as hers.

So here is my Oprah Winfrey moment where I publicly confess that I was physically violent to my ex. The ex. The big fat married ex. I was physically violent on two occasions. One was in public at a Squatspace opening - where I grabbed her by the clothing and ripped a button off her overalls. The second time was in private - when I threw a punch at her. She defended herself in the latter case, but grabbing my wrist and telling me that she would leave straight away if I ever tried anything like that again. More kudos to her. She was completely pissed and staggering around, but was lucid enough to protect herself

Now I'm not even going to try to defend or excuse my behaviour. In both cases it was an unconsented, unrequested, totally unexpected, shocking angry outburst that completely distressed the other party. the victim. who was half my size, and financially dependent on me.

Even though the physical impact was minimal (mainly due to my incompetence)- these were physical acts of rage that were intended to control or subdue another person - no safe words, no happy slaps, none of the niceness that distinguishes a push of a grab made in anger from the loving fist of consenting kink.

Much therapy and anger management therapy later, I can say that I've learned to manage this monstrous part of myself, but it is still there. I manage it by not staying in situations that make me so enraged, that I do lash out. This part is hard. REally hard.

Part of that involves acknowledging that the previous relationships was really really bad and abusive, and that it shouldn't have continued as long as it did. Blind Freddy can see that. But a big part of this for me, has been about learning to acknowledge my own needs - in a relationship - and then learning how to articulate them to the other person, early on, and trust that they will be respected, or trust that I can state how I feel when they aren't and things will get better.

It's really really hard for any ex-catholic to acknowledge that we are entitled to anything. But I realise now that I need to insist on certain 'bottom lines' if I want to be in a trusting relationship with someone. Like that they aren't self destructive. that they don't get completely shitfaced. That they don't drink alone in our home. that we don't have sex while drunk. That neither of us put pressure on the other one to have sex - even if that means months of no pussy action. That they don't crack onto my friends, or end up in sexually unsafe/sleazy situations where their own boundaries come unstuck.

The other crazy crap that occurred in previous marriages like drunk driving, threatening to jump out high windows, running off in the middle of the night, yelling abuse at me - well - that is painfully obvious even to me - that it is not what I want. I just wish I'd walked away the first time it happened....

I've been looking back at old CD's of photos of us both and realised how often Abel recoiled while I was kissing her, and I wonder how I could have been so blind. So many brilliant words uttered in so many languages cannot disguise the fact that there wasn't a physical connection, there wasn't trust on my part or desire on hers. and that was nearly 8 years of my life. bugger.

And then there's the other nasty icky mudstick stuff that occurs still. Stupid old patterns of sociality that were built into how I did coupledom. Despite moving cities, leaving the commune that was my home for 10 years and breaking off contact with whole worlds of mutual friends and circles - I still have people that reinforce/trigger the way things were with Abel. The way I was. Friends who keep wanting to talk about her. Saying "oh... yeah, she was so bad you know.... you're much better off". Hmmm - bringing up my rage and humiliation about being with someone who didn't give a shit about me. Great stuff. Or people who want to get completely shitfaced in my home - with my partner - even though I've been pretty transparent about the trauma that living with an Alcoholic partner has caused me.

So - slowly, slowly, I'm learning how to set some boundaries - to ask for what I need. To be clear and straightforward with edge players rather than just running away from them.

With Renaissance wife - this has been a hard, challenging and yet healing time for us both. But we're slowly working on what it means to be together and build sustainable bonds of trust. The genuine support of our friends; the ones who aspire for similr things in their own relationships: straight/gay/whatever really helps too.


Sir said...

What a brilliant posting... who said your brain was a squashed insect on the windscreen of academia??

Mel said...

amazing, thank you

Grant (Falcon124) said...

That crazy lump space is "Point Ormond" and is one of the better locations to watch the sun setting into the petro-chemical haze over the bay. Makes for some amazing sunsets.

The better places are usually balconies in the same area or further around into St Kilda itself. Sitting on said balconies drinking booze while watching the red-yellow-orange lightshow is not a bad way to end a day :)

lauren said...

mayhem!! massive hugs. massive thumbs up and huge gulps of 'fuck you're awesome'. you're amazing. i know, i'm about 6 weeks overdue on this one, but being a gypsy in melbs is not necessarily conducive to regular blog-reading.
and we must catch up - i have listening time to give you and hot beverages to quaff. xx

Elizabeth said...

Yep, no one is immune, but it takes time and great courage to recognise and deal with ones own demons (voice of experience!) Doing it publicly adds new dimensions to social discourse. I hope one day you turn this blog into a book (on an e-book).

Elizabeth said...

... OR and e-book was what I meant.