Archived entries for personal

Caesar Non Supra Feminismus

I’d originally set out to write a follow-up post to the one about tribalism, about the war feminists are waging against men, believing myself to be an innocent bystander and collateral damage. It contained *cough* such gems as “the emasculation of the human male” and “the repression of mens’ sexuality”. There’s probably still something to it, but now is not the time. What happened was that I had a solid moment of introspection that led to an epiphany about my relationship with women where I am not a good guy. This was a surprise given how I conscientiously try to avoid being a dick (literally and metaphorically), and support causes for equality.

Yes, this is A Very Serious Topic, and it’s even longer than my usual rants. I’ve got my big boy pants on.

I recall at least four occasions where I believe I caused significant hurt to specific women in my life – not physical hurt as such, but mental or emotional damage. I’m going to refer to them as One, Two, Three and Four not because I’m trying to hide the truth or strip them of their identity to lessen my culpability, but obviously these things didn’t happen in a vacuum, so there’ll be those of you out there who know the other person that I’m talking about, and that could be fairly embarrassing in itself. So for what it’s worth, I’ve tried to keep the focus as much as possible on my own transgressions, but of course I must ask that those of you who know the person I’m talking about to please don’t say or do anything that might draw attention to them, without their explicit consent.

I’m not writing this to be brave. And despite my writing style and how I normally come across, I’m not using prose to try and exert my moral superiority over everyone else for once (unusual for me). I don’t even know why I’m motivated to write this at all. Maybe the writing process is an attempt at trying to understand and right the wrong within myself, and publishing it makes me accountable; maybe I’m writing this as a legacy to my son, for him to learn from my mistakes and be better than me; maybe I’m riding the zeitgeist and cobbling some pretty words to make myself feel better and fool others into thinking that I’m doing The Right Thing. The truth requires a degree of objective self-awareness that I simply do not possess.

And maybe, to the women that matter in this matter, this was not the right thing to do. If so, then I hope there’s some small comfort for you to know that I didn’t know, and didn’t intend for this to be cathartic or otherwise beneficial to myself. And whatever eventuates, I will try my best not to let further elaborations in comments and such turn this into a yay-me for being so enlightened, or a sorry-not-sorry through backpedalling.

Alright, so with that said – deep breath – let’s do this thing.

One

The first was in primary school, around Year 5. Yep, I started young. I have a terrible memory at the best of times, but from what I can remember, I developed a huge crush on a girl in my year. I don’t know where I got the cojones from, but I would harass her day in and day out, during recesses and lunch times, demanding that she profess love for me. I was a bully.

The situation culminated in an act that even now baffles me as to how I pulled it off, and, more importantly, why I did it. I managed to persuade a group of my friends to trap One and her friend in a series of concrete tunnels in the playground at school, with one of my friends blocking each of the three exits. As an adult I now appreciate how terrifying that would’ve been.

My next memory of that situation is being given a talk by the teacher, Mr Higgs. In my adult life I humblebrag about how I was nearly expelled because of it, because it makes me sound tough and rebellious, antithesis to the coward that I often am. I’m not sure that it was entirely true but that’s the narrative I settled on. Maybe my parents might remember something about it – surely the teachers would’ve spoken to them, but I never bothered to ask – and still haven’t – because the truth might be less flattering.

That’s not where the story ends though. A couple of years later, in the final year of Primary School, I went around collecting autographs from everybody. Unsurprisingly, One was a holdout, but after much begging and pleading she relented and wrote her name. It may seem like such a trivial thing but it was a forgiveness I didn’t deserve.

There’s more. I came across her again in university. I don’t recall exactly whether I first recognised her when I saw her in the lift, or whether I saw her name on a noticeboard first and then later figured it out. She didn’t recognise me, but even if she did, it’s not like as if she’d say “hi” and we’d shoot the breeze or something. I think it was also around that time that I became aware through an article somewhere that her older sister, who also studied engineering, suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. What I’m guilty of here was thinking that because she and her family seemed to have been dealt a pretty shitty hand in life, that it somehow lessened my own culpability.

Two

The second part begins in high school. I did some pretty stalkery shit with a few girls, which is also definitely a thing with me, but that isn’t the story. I had a crush on Two, although she was already dating someone at the time. Still, we were in a tight-knit social group and spent a lot of time together. Even though she got a new boyfriend sometime between graduating from high school university, we developed a friendship through shared lectures, and a love of music and TV (in particular, X-Files). One time, we spent about 5 hours on the phone together all night watching the Oscars or some other interminably long awards show. I don’t think we even talked all that much – we were just together. This was on a landline, mind you… mobiles phones weren’t widely available back then.

I thought we were Very Good Friends and I remember being physically and emotionally close to her, but somehow I mistook that trust of friendship to be something more. I’m cringing as I recount it now, but one evening on the way home from uni, only a couple of weeks after she’d broken up with her then boyfriend, I decided it was finally “my turn” and asked her out. Her shock must have been palpable, because I recall instantly trying to walk back what I’d said, muttering something about being sick and talking out of my ass or something. Our buses arrived and we went our separate ways.

In the aftermath of that event I fell into a deep depression for around six months, during which all I could focus on was myself: where did I go wrong? What did I do wrong? Wasn’t it a natural evolution of our friendship? etc. Me, me, me. I only had a vague awareness of the fact that I no longer saw her around the campus. She went missing from lectures and may have even dropped out for a bit? I haven’t got a clue. That’s the depth of my ignorance towards somebody whom I considered a friend and thought I cared deeply about.

I fell in with some other friends and into religion, which offered hope of salvation through repentance. I found absolution through the forgiveness offered to me by God via Jesus’ suffering on the cross, a lame proxy for real forgiveness from someone who actually suffered for my sins. It was an easy out and I took it, riding the high horse of religious morality for the next decade or so.

Three

I almost didn’t include this one because I felt like I wasn’t the instigator and therefore recused from accountability. Three had separated from her boyfriend of many years, and partly as a result of the timing of when I moved to Sydney, I became a friend and confidant. We would have deep, long conversations at her place lasting late into the night (clearly late nights aren’t a good sign for me).

Neither of us ever would’ve admitted to being romantically interested in the other but we were pretty close, to the point where people often asked me whether we were a couple (and if not, why not). I took full advantage of being in a relationship with someone without accepting any emotional responsibility. I once chided her for “looking like a sex crime waiting to happen” as if it were a compliment and a sign of how much I cared and was concerned about her… *cringe*.

My fault here was once again believing there was more than there actually was. I got it into my head that I was becoming too emotionally involved (as if there was anything wrong with that anyway), so in the emo fog that drives most of my writing, I hand-wrote a letter containing some terrible analogy about fishermen, anchors, choppy seas, etc. and delivered it as a letter slipped under her door in the dead of night (see what I mean about the weird stalker thing?)

We remained friends in spite of that. Later, she met somebody, and told me about it like you would to a friend, but I twisted that to suit my own egotistical purposes by telling to others that even though I rejected her – as if there was anything to reject – she was still looking to me for guidance and advice.

Four

The fourth one was a work colleague. We’d known each other since I started working at the company, but it wasn’t until a few years down the track that we became friends. She was like an office wife – someone to whom I could vent frustrations about work, clients, office politics and such. Being single, she always gave her complete and undivided attention, which was intense for a social retard like me. I basked in it like a bear emerging from a winter of hibernation into the bright, warm sun.

As I spent time with Four, my thoughts congealed around an “epiphany” that had been formulating in my head for a while: I prefer being friends with women than men! I mean, after all, didn’t I have such satisfying friendships with Two and Three? Plus I vastly prefer the company and conversation of women to that of men. Surely that explains my complete and utter failure to form healthy, positive male relationships in spite of my attempts over the years. I rationalised that toxic masculinity (which to me essentially means anything I’m not interested in, like sport) would ultimately ruin any male friendship I was ever likely to have.

Except I was never really a friend to Four or any of the other women; I obsessed over them, not dissimilar to the jilted protagonist of the TV comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I used them as salve for my psychological problems. I pressed Four to get involved in issues that had nothing to do with her, and when she tried to dial back in order to maintain a healthy distance, I chucked an epic hissy fit and annihilated our friendship. Worse, I played my wife off against her, making out as if there was bad blood between them, when they previously had a perfectly cordial relationship.

We encountered each other one time after I changed jobs. I attempted to paper over the situation and see if I couldn’t salvage at least a little of what we had before, but she was the one that had to hold strong and protect me from myself.

Five

I mentioned four women at the beginning of the post, but there is a fifth that that I must mention – the most important one. It may never have occurred to her that I could ever have been one of them and therefore she wouldn’t have expected a post like this. I don’t think I have hurt her, at least not in the same way that I’ve hurt the ones above but she deserves no less than any of the other women already mentioned here.

To Jenny: I see the trials that you go through as a woman. For the judgement you receive as a stay-at-home mother and home-maker, and the oppression and bias you receive on a daily basis from the societies and cultures that we live in. I’m sorry for my role in this – mostly for my silence, but also what you’ve suffered directly from me over the years, like being an insufferable know-it-all and mansplaining everything; the unwritten agreement that binds you to carry the bulk of the emotional, social and other burdens in our family; and even this post itself and the violation of your privacy for my purposes.

—–

There stands the current ledger of my most egregious sins against women. There were a couple of other cases that I thought about including, but chose not to in the end because maybe the repercussions weren’t as severe as for the ones chronicled here. If you are one of those women and I’ve misread the situation, make it known to me and I will attempt to make restitution.

It’s customary at this point to provide the reader with some kind of closure. A summary of the things I’ve learned and henceforth I will sin no more, or some such homily. But I assure you there’ll be no such thing. This has no resolution because I have no claim to forgiveness; I can’t and won’t beg it from any of these women because none is owed to me.

Sadly, it would be an all-too-trivial exercise to find forgiveness in excuses: I was only a kid; it was all just feelings; it happened a long time ago; I misunderstood the situation; my transgressions are trivial compared to real crimes against women – it’s not like I hit or raped anyone. And the problem is that society is OK with that, happy to be complicit in it, even. I now see why one of the basic tenet of forgiveness in Christianity has such cut-through: you don’t even have to confront your victims to find forgiveness. As you confess your sins God forgives you. Jesus-fucking-Christ! Where indeed, are my accusers? Probably too afraid to speak up lest they themselves be judged by men, or even their peers, against the standards of our so-called modern society.

Nope. Sorry, but that can’t be where it ends any more. Men must come to the realisation of the role they, as individuals, play in the subjugation of women on both a conscious and subconscious level, and we must join together, men and women, on a journey towards true equality.

Okay, okay, okay…

Today, 14 Sep, is “R U OK?” day where people go around spamming the cryptic phrase everywhere hoping to get people to fess up. It’s noble, but seems vaguely misguided in the deep cesspool of awesomeness that is social media.

For my part, I’m not OK. I have some serious shit going on in my life but that’s not an invitation for pity. I am seeing a psychologist so I have professional help. For what it’s worth you can usually tell how bad things are with me by how much I’m writing. I’ll readily admit some of my best writing came from the darkest of places and the number and frequency of blog posts is usually a clue.

In my circle of FB friends I know there are several of you just as fucked up as me, more or less – don’t worry, I won’t out you – but isn’t it funny the stigma associated with mental illness such that it’s a secret held between me and each of you separately?

Of course the point of all this is to ask, in my usual way, using way more words than is necessary, “are you okay?” Because if you’re not, then I’m somebody who has been down the rabbit hole, and is still digging around down there. I know what happens next when you respond to that question with “no, I’m not,” and I won’t just offer some hand-wavy “advice” to call up a helpline or talk to your GP. Heck, I’m not even going to offer to talk to you about it over a beer, primarily because I hate beer, and if you even thought that was ever going to be a thing with us then I don’t know you.

Meet Elan Wong

Like father, like son - Elan and Caesar

Elan on the left, and an old Polaroid of me (Caesar) when I was a baby on the right.

Jenny and I are absolutely pleased as punch to announce that not only are we with child, we had the baby on Sunday morning, 29th December 2013. Sorry for keeping him a secret from you, internet; we’ve been disappointed in the past and so wanted to keep something so very precious to us private.

I’ve put together a brief FAQ for what I imagine are the most pressing questions right now:

What are the gory details?
Elan was born on the morning of 29th December 2013, weighing 3.86 kg (8.52 lbs). He’s a big baby – his head circumference was 37cm which supposedly puts him in the ~95th percentile. Winning!

How do you pronounce Elan?
EE-lun (IPA: /’i:.lən/) – essentially “Ian” but with an “L” shoved in, not the regular English word.

Where did you get the name from?
Elan, from Rich Burlew's webcomic 'The Order of the Stick'

You named your son after a stick figure?
Yep. It’s from a brilliant, if slightly nerdy, web comic. Check it out: http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots.html. No particular reason; I like it because it’s relatively unique without being too “out there”.

Does he have a Chinese name?
My parents have helped us to choose 黃栢延 – we haven’t settled on the romanisation yet, but it’ll probably be “Wong Pak Yin”. I’ll have to figure out what it is in Korean too… will update this post when I figure that out.

Magic words

Image of Andrew Huang from the Youtube video "Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing On Rainbows"

The hardest part about an ability is the using. Many of you guys say that I write well – maybe I really do, or maybe you’re just being charitable – and that I should write more and more often. Whatever your real intentions are, I do wish I could write more; I simply lack inspiration.

Some would say that we’re surrounded by inspiration – and indeed many artists can write a song, paint a picture, or pen a poem at the drop of a hat. I recently came across Andrew Huang on Youtube – this guy is a veritable master of sounds, making reasonably good songs out of seemingly any idea that pops into his head, such as sounds of water, turning Beethoven into Dubstep, his obvious love of rap and a whole lot more besides. Heck, he even wrote a whole song based on a single asinine comment about fuzzy unicorns posted to one of his videos!

That’s not to say I have a shortage of ideas. In fact, I have A Lot Of Ideas. Thinking back on my previous output though, it occurs to me that what I’m waiting for is almost always an interesting sounding word (e.g. macabre) or turn of phrase (“Meet Me In My Reverie“) that I can latch onto, around which I can craft something. To use a horrible cliché, it’s like a pearl forming around a grain of sand, or a raindrop around a speck of dust.

I also find that having limitations helps. When I wrote “Danse Macabre” I forced myself to write solely on pen and paper, without using the computer to look up words or rhymes (truth be told, despite what I previously wrote, the real reason why I started writing that way was to try and use up as many pens and as many sheets of paper as possible because I had so many lying around). My poetry is also mostly in rhyme because it gives me a way to constrain all the possibilities inherent in language – otherwise wrangling words would be like trying to herd cats.

Back to the point, I’m just a guy who strings words together. The more I read, the more I write. So if you want me to write more just give me more things to read, including things that you write such as your posts and comments on Facebook – just please no unicorns.

Perfectly crazy

Mr. Perfect, from the Mr. Men series of children's booksI have this habit, which annoys the crap out of Jenny: it’s my tendency to keep things in pristine condition. And I don’t mean just my mint-in-sealed-box collection of Transformers, but practically everything we own. For instance, I get monumentally upset when either of us scrape our car’s alloy wheels against the kerb, and last night, I got a little upset because she accidentally put a hot frying pan a little too close to one of our table mats, causing it to melt a bit.

I don’t like bending the spines of books or magazines when reading; I keep the boxes, manuals and accessories for almost everything for when I finally sell it or give it away after I’m done with it (chuck it out? I don’t know you); I even don’t like using the windscreen wipers on the car until absolutely necessary, to avoid excessive wear on the glass. Yes I am that batshit crazy.

So whenever either of us damages or breaks something I get really upset (or if I see it being done to something that’s doesn’t belong to me, I cringe on the inside).

To me, an item in its brand new state is a kind of perfection. The way it was intended to be. Its divine form. And I see it as my duty to preserve it to the best of my ability. After all, what are we if not the products and stewards of nature’s (or your preferred divine being’s) efforts against disorder and decay?

Those who are religious spend their entire lives in the pursuit of intimacy with a being – or beings – belonging to a higher state of perfection than themselves, and those of us who don’t believe still strive to fulfil our innate purpose of maintaining that unbroken chain of progress (be it biological/evolutionary or intellectual/scientific/technological). Perfection is both our destiny and our fate.

Therefore, in the language of religion, I feel that a sin has been committed when a thing is sullied or marred. The entropy in the world has increased by a perceivable amount, and I mourn it as a loss. Sometimes that means I display a disproportionate amount of grief over an inanimate object, but it’s probably the closest thing I’ll ever have to a spiritual experience.



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