I love you, just not what you’re into.

Since we nearly broke up a few months into our relationship after I told my Lord of The Rings loving boyfriend (JK) that ‘I didn’t care for fantasy’ I’ve made a concerted effort to champion his interests while remaining detached and uninvolved. Like he’s really into historic drama TV shows – Vikings and Hell on Wheels type stuff. Sometimes he even insists we watch them together so I try and make a game of it, guessing how far into an episode I’ll see a woman’s breast, or her rape or perhaps her sale to a wealthy landowner.

He’s also really into reading books about dogs, which is cool, if that’s your sort of thing but he thinks I should read them as well so I can get a better understanding of our staffy. But I’m not sure how much reading is going to solve the issue that our dog, who is so in love with JK, will one day kill me in my sleep, proceed to make a Lou suit out of my skin and resume her rightful place on the pillow beside him.

Anyone in a relationship will admit it’s hard to like all the things your partner does, well unless you’re these guys…

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…and while it’s great to share interests and be introduced to new ones, there comes a time, let’s say past 30 where you just think ‘fuck it’. I mean most of us spend our 20s pretending to like things we don’t in order to get laid or not die alone, so why, as I head into my late 30s should I continue the charade? After all, don’t all of us die alone?

This leads me to where my preamble has been heading – gardening. Yep, gardening.  My boyfriend is really into gardening. He loves it. He’d be a gnome if he could be, complete with short man syndrome and pointy little hat, but alas he is 6’1 and refuses to wear a waistcoat, even though I think it would be totally cute, but whatevs.

Myself, I’m not into gardening.  Never have been and at 36 unless I’m struck by a bolt of lightening and wake up from a coma as a totally different person I never will.  Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a good garden as much as the next person, some of my best friends garden but I’m more of an applauder than a performer when it comes to a good mulch or a well watered vegie patch. I love that in my yard I have a slew of burgeoning red cabbages, spring onions I can always count on, sprigs of thyme perfect for soup and even a passionfruit tree. I love that there are pots of flowers all over my house, mainly all gifts I’ve received over the years from JK, and only alive due to his efforts, though my ongoing disinterest in their welfare has made it touch and go on occasion.

But what I love most of all – I’m not responsible for any of it.

And so it was, that on Melbourne Cup Day, I found myself dressed in flannel and a 80s vintage jumpsuit, reading instructions on the side of a bag of fertiliser that assured me it would not burn my eyes, playing gardening assistant to JK, or apprentice as he liked to say. We were planting tomatoes because that’s what you do on Melbourne Cup Day, that and kill horses for sport.

He had requested my company. Said it would be fun. It would be my job to hand him things, fill buckets with things and control the afternoons music selection. One of those things I did with great abandon, the other two, I did somewhat half assed. To be fair he had offered me a way out earlier in the day, suggesting he fix up the hammock so I could read but I was tired of being cast of the bad witch from Wicked in our relationship, so I insisted on helping. My ego thwarting me once more.

We gardened for what seemed like days, no months. Winters came and went, summers were cruel, the springs a welcome break from the intense labor that came with handing JK a watering can at varying intervals and clipping off bits of twine to secure the vegetation. It was exhausting, soul destroying. I think I lost a piece of myself that day…

I was about to give up, walk away, perhaps get lost on the way back to civilisation and Foxtel on Demand and starve to death in our driveway when JK suddenly turned around, smiled, running a well calloused hand through his beard. ‘Thanks for today’ he said ‘I know you don’t like gardening, but I really like getting to spend time with you. It’s been nice.’

With such crippling accusations levelled at my feet I realised he was right. I do not like gardening, that day being no exception, but there is something I like more – spending time with JK, watching him do something he enjoys, so I smiled back in a way that communicated ‘I love spending time with you too, but no, we’re not watching The Hobbit after this.’
There’s only so few compromises I was willing to make that day.

I’ve dated a Trans Person. A lot of us have.

‘….our identity is a sum of our parts, not just one part in particular.’

I’m not Trans. I can’t speak to that experience. So I won’t. What I will speak with is the experience of someone who was once in a relationship with a Trans Man. Some people know about this, some people don’t. I always felt uncomfortable talking about my experience, thinking that in doing so I was revealing something that wasn’t mine to do, so much so that when I did a show about this particular relationship back in 2009 I didn’t mention it. I was really into prop comedy at the time anyway. I argued it wasn’t important to the story. I argued with my director, my script editor. I told them it wasn’t my story to tell. And you know what? In all honestly I didn’t want to distract from the show.  I didn’t want the audience to spend any of their time trying to figure ‘it’ out.  Trying to figure out what that made me? Oh and the much more common concern – watching the audience try to figure out how we did ‘it’.

Does that sound crude?  Abso-fucking-lutely it does. And sadly it was a question I got asked all too often.

No one ever thought they were being offensive or intrusive when they asked how we had sex and my grimaced smile didn’t really send home the message that it wasn’t an appropriate question to ask – the sort that revealed more about the ignorance of the asker then the answerer. I thought by not answering their questions  that that would say, albeit silently, that their questions were inappropriate. Like when they asked ‘have they had the surgery?’ or when they said ‘it’s amazing, they pass so well. You’d think they were a real man’ or my favourite ‘I could always tell.’  I’d tell them finally to shut up, that it was their ignorance and lack of education talking, but I was loathed to discuss it further as I still believed that just because I’d dated a Trans Man, that didn’t give me the right to discuss it.

But now that I’m older and as an LGBTQI ally and advocate I believe it is visibility and experience that is our strongest assets in this community. Putting aside the Bruce Jenner media spectacle we’ve seen in recent weeks, sharing our experiences, even if they are fleeting is important. It doesn’t mean you’re telling someone else’s story, it means your telling only part of your story. So yes, I dated a Trans Man.

As friends, we were great. As lovers, we were fun, tempestuous, fiery, belligerent and miserable – the perfect 20something relationship.  During my time with him, aside from the constant teary eyed break-ups and passionate reunions I never really thought about what being with him made me. People who knew us just thought it was great we’d gotten together, finally. Only when I started telling some close family and friends that didn’t know about him I was asked ‘are you gay?’ I would always answer ‘No, I date a man because I’m straight’ but I knew what they meant. They needed to make sense of it, as open minded as they were. If I was gay it would make sense. It would explain all the Indigo Girls albums and my fondness for the film ‘But I’m a Cheerleader.’ What didn’t make sense was that for all intents and purposes I was in a straight relationship and my boyfriend could be an asshole just like everyone else’s. On the odd occasion his transition  would come up during our time together he used it to try and empathise with me, like when I was complaining of period pains and he tried to empathise and I threw his trainers out the window…

I won’t write about his journey in this post. I still believe that’s his to tell. What I will say is he was an activist and friend to many in the trans community and it was hard not to be in awe of what he had overcome to be the person he really was. And whilst my relationship with him didn’t make me gay, it did make me more aware, more liberal and more importantly, did in some way contribute to the person I am today. But that’s what all relationships should do. The good, the bad – they teach us something about ourselves.

After we broke up and I started dating again, I would sometimes disclose details of my past relationship with him and be met with a mix of curiosity and utter transphobia –  ‘oh so now you’re with a real man’. This comment uttered by more than one but less than a few. Those relationships would last the length of a short breath.

I saw this short documentary once, where a Trans Warrior went around asking people on the street questions about what it meant to be a man. Questions like ‘If you were in a car crash and you lost your cock would that make you less of a man?’ In all of these ‘if you lost your cock’ questions the answer was always the same ‘having a penis didn’t make you a man’.  The interviewers intention was clear – our identity is a sum of our parts, not just one part in particular.

I realised while reading some of the reporting surrounded Bruce Jenner’s recent admission as well as  watching TV shows like Orange is New Black and Transparent –   that while it is important we continue to see trans visibility increase in our society, that it is also important that those of us who have been in relationships with Trans People not fall silent on it. By letting people know that being a relationship with a Trans Person was part of your story it can help lessen the stigma and at times offensive curiosity surrounding the community. It can show young people struggling with transition that they will love, live and have tempestuous and at time shitty relationships just like the rest of us. It might just show them that it does get better. It sure showed me that.

Matt Day Homewrecker aka Australia’s very own Angelina Jolie

Last night I was woken by an anxious friend calling me from overseas concerned that her boyfriend was on the verge of cheating on her.

‘It’s horrible, like I know he’s not right now cause he’s making me a smoothie but when he asked if I wanted avocado I just thought of my god that’s her vagina and him making me the smoothie well that’s just him metaphorically f**king her.’

‘With the avocado?’

‘No, she is the avocado. Don’t you see?’

‘He’s not going to cheat on you with an avocado, there’s not enough room’ I mumbled as I rolled onto my side and was greeted with my flashing clock and the reminder it was 3am – clearly finest advice given hour.

‘It’s my own fault you know, I hired her for this campaign and she’s his ‘free walk around the park.’ Oh my god, I’m Jennifer Aniston. I can literally feel the pity of others dripping off me.’

‘Not that this is important, but you do know it’s free to walk around a park?’

‘Not in LA Lou.’

‘Since when?’

‘9/11 Lou.’

My pillow fell on my face but to my shock and horror I was still able to breathe…f**k I can’t even muffle myself properly at this hour…

‘So what she’s his ‘if I could cheat on you it would be with her’?! Everyone knows they’re just the thing of fiction, something couples do to add meaning to a relationship.’

‘You so know this is how it started with Brad and Angelina.’

‘You don’t know that.’

‘Him and Jen were just kicking back at their house in Malibu and Jen’s all like she’d so go Captain Picard – ‘

‘-Captain Picard, from Star Trek?’

‘- yes Lou, he’s very commanding and anyway I thought you liked bald?’

‘I’ve done bald, but it never set a precedent.’

‘That’s a shame; I think you and the Captain would work well together.’

‘He’s not real’

‘Those things from your past you’ve called relationships aren’t what we’d call real either but let’s not split hairs, I was talking about Jen and Brad.’

‘Yes, back to those close friends of ours.’

‘Don’t get sarky.’

‘I’m tired.’

‘And so am I Lou, from this constant fight to keep my man.’

My pillow smelled nice, I could feel my oxygen levels running low…

‘Fine, continue.’

‘Well they were just hanging and she’s like her night on the town would be Captain Picard and Brad laughs and knocks back some carb-free popcorn and Jen tickles him until he admits he’d so go Lara Croft from Tomb Raider and then they both laugh cause they know they’ll never cheat on each other cause their cheats are fictional characters and then Jen’s like ‘hey Brad, we just got this script, it’s called Mr & Mrs Smith I’m thinking of producing it post Friends and then BOOM he’s suddenly adopting Asians.’

I hung up, still alive.

Now a few years back when I was living in London I’d had this same conversation with my then boyfriend who at every turn made it very clear he was never out to impress me.

‘Any page 3 girl’ he said. ‘You know just for something different.’

‘Different how?’ I asked

‘You know naked with boobs.’

‘Oh as opposed to myself?’

‘Well I can see you naked any time I want so it doesn’t count.’

‘I can guarantee you from this point on you will not be able to see me naked anytime you want.’

‘You going all frigid or something?’

‘Yes, that’s it. I’m going all frigid or something.’

The conversation had been prompted when my ‘night off’ guy had moved into the same street as us, Matt Day, previously of A Country Practice…ok, so it had been a long time between long term relationships and I hadn’t gotten around to updating my list. It happens to the best of us.

‘You have to change your guy’ my boyfriend stated.

‘Why?’

‘Cause he now lives next door.’

‘And?’

‘You’re more inclined to have sex with him if the he’s next door. It’s a presented opportunity now.’

‘I don’t want to have sex with him.’

‘It doesn’t matter if you do or you don’t.’

‘I think you’ll find it does both legally and human rights wise’

He closed his copy of the Mirror, Sandra from Cheshire’s breasts saw the light of day no more…

‘No. You see if we’re together forever then he’s your only way out, whereas I get page 3 ladies and Julie Sawahla but only from her Press Gang days, you’ve should’ve given yourself more options.’

‘So you’re saying I either sleep with Matt Day, cause that’s bound to happen at some point when he walks past our flat with his baby and wife, or never sleep with anyone but you ever again?’

‘Yes. It’s really a concept that doesn’t involve that much thought Lou.’

‘There’s a lot things in this room at the moment that don’t require much thought…’

We’re not together anymore. 15 years on (yes, it was that long ago I made him my ‘get out of jail free card’) and Matt Day is still a hottie, but as my relationship ended and I matured with age I was very aware of the severe limitations I’d placed on myself with only one option, now I have more, starting with Ron Weasley and ending with Shaun Micallef (yeah, I just haven’t made my career more awkward). That is why there is now a chair on my front porch, just in case they move in down the street.