And She Should Go…

We met outside a bar in a shiny neon night. There were motorbikes and street hawkers and noise and dirt and we talked alone together in a group. My friend L was there, and she sent me a text. The text said something that only a kind and caring friend could send. The text said this:

Body language signs good. Don’t fuck this up, dick.

She – G – has been the best person I could meet. You don’t see yourself with someone else when you’ve been hurt, and broken, and damaged. I didn’t.

And whisper this, but I didn’t think someone would want me. That’s the sort of thing that you really shouldn’t say. And I didn’t, but I thought it. I pushed it down but it was there.

And then I met her, and she was damaged too. Damaged, just like me. The same exact experience, though all of the names had been changed. And is there anything more blissful and reassuring than to meet another human being who understands you?

Yes.

Meeting another human being who understands you, and likes you. And you like and understand them too.

Isn’t that everything that anybody has ever wanted, ever?

Now, she’s leaving. And she should go, she should. I don’t want her to go. I don’t.

It makes sense for her to leave. She hasn’t taken to ‘Nam, and a cosy little role has popped up elsewhere. But my heart is like a child that just doesn’t quite understand. And I don’t want to tell it the truth.

The worst thing I could do is fall in love with you

She said.

And I should have said, “Do it”. Because it would have spoken of our natures. Impulsive and Reckless. A bit fucked in the head. And it would have made her giggle, and I like that sound. And it would have told her how I feel. Again, I feel.

I didn’t say “Do it”. I didn’t think of those words. I lay in the bed and looked at her, and she looked at me too. I think she was thinking what I was thinking and what I was thinking was this:

Stop time, remember the now.

But memory is hard to hold. I don’t even remember what words came next. The moment, like all the other moments, was gone.

I like listening to her. She chooses her words carefully, but with seemingly no effort at all. She makes me think differently about things. She smiles, even when she’s sad.

She’s lackadaisical or passionate but never in between. There’s no concrete plan, she doesn’t know where she’ll be but she wants to learn to trapeze and she will. She floats through life like me. She’s unfazeable. She’s witty. We do silly things together every time we meet. She plays poker. I fancy the pants off her.

But we’ve been damaged, and I don’t think she wants to be damaged again. We’ve met at the right time and the wrong time too.

And she should go.

And she will go.

When she goes, I’ll think this:

Would I wish that things were different when I know all things must pass? I wouldn’t. Who would?

“And I will always wonder how it would be if we never had met,

Life would be easier though dull, I suspect,

And I’d never claim you were mine.

Just if we were words, we would rhyme.”

~ Gruff Rhys ~

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Not too young to be Slut-Shamed

Amanda Todd got what she deserved, didn’t she? I’m sure we’d all feel sympathy for an innocent victim, but Amanda Todd couldn’t possibly have been innocent. Obviously she couldn’t. She was a girl for one thing.

What’s even worse: She was a girl who didn’t act the way a girl should act. Disgusting behavior, and just like these people, I’m sure you, dear reader, would never find yourself in the same situation. (MAJOR trigger warning).

Amanda appeared naked on a webcam, with a man. How could she possibly believe this was acceptable behavior? Obviously music videos depict women-as-sexual-objects as the norm. And advertising. And magazines. And films aimed at children. And the cosmetics industry. And the fashion world.

And yes, girls are made to feel that their worth as a human being lays in their appearance. But only by everything on TV and in the movies and in songs and on the internet and in the advertising that’s inescapable and in the views of huge numbers of people around the world. Only in those things.

So why did Amanda Todd act like a whore? Well, she was 13, and curious. (Yeah, she was one of “those” kind of girls). She visited webcam chat sites online. She met a man, an adult, and he told her that she was beautiful, perfect.

That’s an adult man talking to a 13 year old child, telling her she was beautiful. This, according to Amanda, made her feel good about herself. So when the adult man told her to show him her boobs, she made a bad decision.

A child, under pressure from an adult man, made a bad decision. Despicable, wasn’t she? She showed him her boobs.

I guess she wanted to feel good about herself. I guess she wanted to please the man, because that’s why women are here, right?

Wrong!

Well, not wrong. Obviously women are here to please men through their bodies, and we men have a right to look and touch. But women shouldn’t actually do those things because that makes you a whore. So don’t actually do it. Although, we will pressure you to do it, and we want you to do it, and we’ll be really nice to you before you do it. So do it, but don’t.

Simple. What about all of that is so hard for a 13 year old child to understand?

So Amanda did it and then the adult man blackmailed her. Put on a show for me or I’ll send your naked picture to everyone you know. And she didn’t, and he did.

There may be a crazy dimension somewhere where people felt pity for the blackmailed child pressured into posing nude, and anger and disgust at the manipulative, selfish adult man. But hurrah! We don’t live there!

Amanda Todd, at 13, had officially become a slut.

She moved schools. He re-posted the pictures on Facebook. She suffered anxiety attacks and depression. He set up a facebook page. She “did things to myself to make pain go away, because I’d rather hurt myself then someone else”. The students at her school called her a whore, relentlessly.

Then a boy was nice to her. He had a girlfriend but he said he really liked her. And she, lonely and 15, believed him. Because she wanted to believe that somebody liked her.

A lonely child wanted to believe that somebody liked her.

And his girlfriend found out. And she didn’t blame him.

The girlfriend didn’t blame her boyfriend because that’s what guys do! We’re just being guys! Amanda was the slut because Amanda was a girl. That’s, like, basic science!

She heard a boy shout “just punch her already” and Amanda was knocked down.

So, Amanda drank bleach. She was fifteen, and she drank some bleach. A 15 year old child voluntarily ingested bleach. Amanda Todd drank bleach.

And lots of girls and boys posted on her Facebook how they hoped she’d died. And how she deserved it.

Kids say the funniest things!

But also, children learn so quickly. Here were all these boys and girls and already they’d learned to police and judge the actions of a female. Already these spirited youngsters had created a narrow and confused set of rules for girls to live by. Isn’t it incredible.

Amanda didn’t die from the bleach. She killed herself a month later. I guess the loneliness, and the hatred and the vicious words all became too much for her.

And after she died she got some more hatred and vicious words. It was her own fault. Where were her parents? I certainly wouldn’t have done that! Where was her self-respect?

So Ladies and Gentlemen. We have now reached the point when adult men can prey on children online and collectively we choose to slut shame the children. Congratulations everyone. What a wonderful world.

Amanda Todd did not deserve any of the things she suffered. You and I, dear reader, may disagree on many things and that’s fine. But if you can watch her Youtube video and feel not a shred of sympathy, feel no sadness, feel no anger at the putrid, spineless, vindictive little shit of a man who began all of this, you surprise me.

If you can watch it all and blame her, then I’m sorry that I share a world with you.

Amanda Todd. RIP.

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

Voltaire

The Fat, the Bald and the Ugly

There’s a certain kind of guy ever so common in Asia. They’re usually in their forties or fifties – physically in bodies of that age, mentally still trapped in the decades.

They waddle toad like down streets in their socks and sandals, bellies stretching taut the cotton of their cheap plain t-shirts.

Sometimes their shuffling stops at the approach of a pretty Asian girl. They size them up with a smile they probably imagine to be Jack Nicolson-esque. They may try to block her path with a sidestep, grinning lasciviously.

And they hate Western women. Loathe, blame and despise them.

I read a lot about misogyny and feminism. It might be common for men to concern themselves with these topics, I’ve no idea, but it should be. There have recently been some fantastically well written things, insightful, nuanced thoughts and, on the other side, petulant childlike fear masquerading as noble anger.

They have made me think about my responses to the misogyny I’ve heard directly. Not every older Western man in Asia is a wrinkly Vampire, but a sizeable percentage are, with views as deeply unpleasant and vile as any I’ve ever encountered.

What is the best response to this bewilderingly bitter idiocy?

My first experience was at a bar. My friend L and I were happily in the middle of a late night drinkathon, getting ourselves better acquainted with Johnny Walker. A small Australian – in every sense of the word – whispered in my ear.

Essentially he asked why I was bothering with a Western woman when so many Vietnamese girls were ‘way less work’.

We fell into conversation, and it didn’t come as a huge shock to find him no Oscar Wilde in the wit department. He refused to believe that L and I were friends. The notion of talking to a woman without the wish to have sex with her apparently alien to him.

He waxed lyrical on the appeal of Vietnamese girls – half his age and they don’t talk back. He’d prefer not to pay, but he didn’t mind doing so.

Then he moaned and complained and went on and on about Western women. Apparently they moan and complain and go on and on, which isn’t something men do.

He slapped my shoulder manfully and stared at me almost fatherly, while I struggled not to empty my stomach all over him. (Nothing to do with the drink, I swear). He looked into my eye and told me we were the same.

I looked back and told him that we really weren’t. From there, the conversation went downhill.

No, I don’t think women in the West are in a position of power I told his incredulous looking puffy fat face. At first, he put it down to my youth, condescendingly telling me that I’d learn. Pretty soon his plastic-spoon-sharp wit had deduced that I could only be a homosexual to have such ‘prissy’ views.

It might be nice to live in such a black and white world, where everything is so simple.

The first of a number of similar encounters. As a man, the worst of it is their notion that we are just the same. They like to whisper conspiratorially to you, like Eric Idle’s Mr Nudge, apparently safe in the knowledge that I’ll agree with their rancid opinions purely because we have the same genitals.

A 51 year old recently told me of the trouble he was having with a Vietnamese woman he was dating:

“I said to her, you’re 28. No-one is going to want you after you’re 30. If I wanted, I could date a 21, 22 year old. I’m being really nice sticking with you.”

Roses are red,

violets are blue,

do everything I tell you or

I’ll blackmail you.

I tried to explain how his words sounded, but he just didn’t seem able to grasp it.

I suppose trying to correct him is all that you can really do because, even if it is seemingly a waste of time, it’s better than saying nothing at all. I’ll happily take suggestions however, if anyone has any other suggestions.

 

A mother takes twenty years to make a man of her boy, and another woman makes a fool of him in twenty minutes.
~ Robert Frost ~

An Apt Analogy

I didn’t make this, and I’ve forgotten where I stole it from, but nevermind. It deserves to be widely re-read.

Every time we liberate a woman, we liberate a man.

~Margaret Mead~

Odd, but Good

After four months of WordPress being blocked – the downside of living under a Communist regime – WordPress has miraculously returned, and so have I. Vietnam is still home for the time being, with travelling and teaching taking up most of my time.

Life has been good. I’ve even stumbled upon two women who, despite possessing ample good taste and intelligence in all other affairs, managed to fall for what could laughably be described as “my charms”.

The first of these two encounters was good for me. It was almost ten years since my lips had touched the lips of anyone other than M, and at the risk of sounding hopelessly pathetic it was a relief to find someone who wished to be intimate with me. Infidelity is a crushing blow, and it did crush me. I don’t think I’d realized quite how much.

I won’t go into details, obviously, other than to say I have never been with a woman who didn’t have the common decency to fake it. Am I getting to grips with the whole bragging thing yet?

The second woman, lets call her G, is an ongoing relationship. The same age as me, married within a month of me, unmarried at almost the same time, and with the same insane notion of fleeing her home Country to teach in Southeast Asia. So we have a few things in common.

We aren’t together together. Devastatingly atrocious endings to marriages tends to put you off the couple thing, but we do some of the things together that couples like to do.

She’s interesting, and laid-back, funny and good to talk to. She has good stories, and a laconic, dry way of telling them.

Like the Japanese couple in Indonesia, who complained very politely of a lizard in their room. The receptionist explained that geckos were everywhere, that they got into rooms and that little could be done to stop them but in any case, they were quite harmless. The couple listened, nodded, meekly returned to their room.

Only after they checked out next day did the cleaner discover the Komodo dragon in the bathroom.

I’ve had no contact with M, other than one picture of her on Facebook, on her birthday, in a restaurant. She’s sat next to a man I don’t know. A colleague? Lover? I don’t know. More importantly, I don’t particularly care.

I want to hope it is a boyfriend and that she’s happy and well, and in time I will. But for the moment, not caring is progress. I’m getting over her. Odd, but good.

Which, on a good day, is probably the best review I can expect from a woman with whom I’ve been intimate.

(Forgive my macho boasting).

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“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

Douglas Adams

The World One Year Ago

I thought anniversaries were over for me, but here are my one year ago words:

My life, in the last few weeks, has come to resemble a newspaper and not a story. Gone is the structure, the narrative, the aims or the arcs. Life, my life, is now a series of unconnected, meaningless events.

This blog won’t always be so bleak, but I have a little more gloom to gift you.

My wife has cut me out of her life without telling me.

After eight years she has cheated on me, and is now in the process of leaving me for good. Not for better but definitely worse.

If pain should be embraced and burned as fuel for our journey, then I’m at the beginning of a very long trip.

I knew something was rotten in the same way an animal is aware that it’s dying. A dog is incapable of equating it’s deteriating condition to the end of it’s life. It merely experiences every moment in isolation, each increasingly worse.

And I too have now experienced something dying, without being aware of it’s impending death. Life is full of experiences!

This is a blog with a purpose, because I no longer have one. In writing it, I hope I might find some humour, some insight or, at the very least, a little comfort.

This blog will not be bitter. I may be betrayed, hurt, embarrassed, depressed, angry, jealous and broken, but bitter I am not. Hearts aren’t to be hardened even if they are made to be broken.

This blog will be honest and avoid self-pity, though in the interests of honesty, into this blog some self-pity may slip.

This blog isn’t about revenge because I don’t want to dig two graves.

M has diligently cut away at the threads that connected us, and set herself free, floating away and leaving me among the debris of our former life. I am, as I write, empty and alone.

I’m at the end of something and the beginning of something else, and I’ve no idea about either. And so begins the trip…

I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing.

Anais Nin

Death in the Valley of Love

Other than 4000 places in Japan, my favourite surreal place in the World is Dalat. It’s one of the few places in Asia where you can be lead around a field, on a horse, by a Vietnamese man dressed as a cowboy.

I went there with an American friend, L, who has lived in both the Ecuadorian rain forest and a mid-western trailer park. She’s an overwhelming force for fun, with a laugh that translates into any language as this: I just thought of something dirty.

To the Crazy House, a Gaudi-esque oddity, both tourist attraction and hotel, full of maze like corridors, stairways to nothing and bizarrely rendered animal statues.

Next the former residence of Vietnam’s last King, to sit in traditional Vietnamese gowns on a thrown.

Having posed most regally, we entered the Valley of Love. If we’d had a Seismographer specially rendered to measure kitsch, it probably would have orgasmed.

Hundreds of gaudy statues in acres of parkland, couple swings and cowboys, and everything imaginable twisted into the shape of a heart.

It’s a top destination for newlywed Vietnamese. L and I are not a couple, and so we diluted the sugary lovliness of it all by posing for pictures as corpses.

At dinner – shellfish on the street – we got through 4 bottles of Dalat red wine and, stumbling home, came across the bright shiny lights of a nightclub entrance. Like two dazzlingly bedraggled turtles, we headed straight for the sparkling lights…

At 8.45am I trudged downstairs to tell the motorbike guys we’d hired that we wouldn’t be ready at 8.30am after all. However, all would be well at 9.30am, and at 10.45am on the dot we set off for the countryside!

Motorbiking through spectacular scenery is an excellent cure for hangovers. We hiked down under a waterfall, in true Last of the Mohicans style, took a cable car ride, and, over a lunch of chicken, beef, wild boar, tofu, fish, vegetables and silk work larvae, regained memories of the previous evening. Which for L was mostly spent swinging around a pole.

To a silk factory we trekked, the endless drone, drone, drone of the machines deafening. How odd it must be to work in a dreary factory every. single. day, and have privileged Western tourists snoop all around you.

Next, a presumably little known fact: Vietnamese weasels love coffee beans.

They eat them, and when they excreate them, the coffee beans have become gorgeously delicious. How inventive and darkly humoured nature can be.

In pretentious and snooty and quite possibly, trendy parts of New York, a cup can set you back $200. We paid two.

Thick and chocolatey.

I can’t afford $200 coffee, and never will. But I don’t have to work in a humdrum and glum factory. All round, I have reasons to feel pleased.


“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognising and appreciating what we do have.”

Friedrich Koenig

Rock Wonders in the Sky

Halong Bay is a good place to be: Mysterious, vast and eerie. Two thousand limestone islets jutting out of lagoon blue water, echoing into the distance. Sailing through them, you expect at any moment to hear the roar of King Kong. The sense of being at the edge of the World surrounds you like the rocks.

I sailed on a Chinese style junk to take me around for two days. With a capacity of thirty I expected good company. Instead, only seven. Myself and three couples.

Yet more hard practice in the getting-used-to-being-single-stakes.

They were nice and I was polite, making sure not to ruin their romance by my presence too much. Sitting on the top of the junk, on a long empty deck alone was good, in any case. Silence and movement. It’s getting easier to be alone.

In the early hours we fished for squid, while drinking Hanoi Vodka. It’s a drink which, along with getting you blindingly drunk, (or at the very least, blinding you) almost certainly has a practical use as drain cleaner. Not for the feint of liver.

The squid teased us but we caught one, cheering the victory like it was Moby Dick himself. We talked, and smoked, and joked and drank, seven people outside of time and the World for a while. A little light in the middle of  the black Bay.

Afterwards we smoked in silence for a while. Each of us alone in our own thoughts.

And my thoughts were these: Right now, in this short silence, all of them are alone like me. And I’m together with them in being alone.

Halong Bay is a good place to be.

My daughter Deserved to Die

Abder-Qader Ali murdered his child and all it took were a few simple ingredients. First off, find yourself a place in the World where women are treated with less respect than dogs. This might be the 21st Century, but there are still loads of Countries to choose from!

“Sitting in the front garden of his well-kept home in the city’s Al-Fursi district, he remains a free man, despite having stamped on, suffocated and then stabbed his student daughter to death”.

Next, make sure your massively overdeveloped ego, completely disproportionate to your standing in the World, is re-inforced by the culture in which you live:

“Astonishingly, he said, police congratulated him on what he had done. ‘They are men and know what honour is,’ he said”.

Ok, those are the easy bits, but maybe you feel a bit icky about murdering your child? Uncertain about ending a life just because you’re embarrassed what other men will think of you? No problem! Just invent something that can’t be argued against to justify your barbarity:

“I know God is blessing me for what I did”.

Well done Ali! How on Earth would men be able to commit all these amazing atrocities if it wasn’t for a hideous notion of a God to build their confidence and give them some overblown, self-righteous balls!

And naturally having balls is very important when murdering your 16 year old daughter. You have to remember women have a role:

“That girl humiliated me in front of my family and friends. Speaking with a foreign soldier, she lost what is the most precious thing for any woman.”

Speaking with a foreign soldier! What a total slut! Didn’t she know the most precious thing for any woman is not to do anything that might upset a man’s fragile self-image. Especially in front of other men. Poor, poor Ali. Is it really too much to ask that women, before any act no matter how small,always think this: How will my actions effect the men around me?

But thank goodness men have their role too! They get to be brave and manly and strong.

“‘My sons are by my side, and they were men enough to help me finish the life of someone who just brought shame to ours.”

Doesn’t it make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside to know there are guys “men enough” to carry their narrow-minded, and neanderthal fear of women to the point of vicious, barbaric murder?

Oh, and if you care, Rand Abdel-Qader spoke to the soldier because she studied English and was volunteering, helping displaced families. Her body was tossed into a makeshift grave and spat on afterwards. But, why would you care? She was only a woman.

 Original story found here. Rest in Peace Rand Abdel-Qader.

On Motorbikes and Butterflies

I’d never been on a motorcycle until a friend bought herself one. At any one moment, a number equivalent to the population of Belgium can be found on the roads of Saigon, adhering to a highway code straight out of Mad Max.

I got on the back with some trepidation, not entirely alleviated by her assurance that “I kinda don’t know how to ride this but we’ll be fine”.

We set off in a line which, had it appeared on a lie detecting device, would have been swiftly followed by a lengthy custodial sentence. We weaved and rolled like a half dazed wasp, eventually inadvertently mounting the pavement (sidewalk) and, in something I’ve seen in movies but never expected to live through, startled some stray chickens.

It become fun when death seemed less of a 50/50, and I will be eternally grateful to several Vietnamese pedestrians for their speed and dexterity in throwing themselves out of our path.

The City is exciting, but getting out for a while is required. If Vietnam had an illicit encounter with one of the prettier Greek islands, the product would be Hoi An. To a prettier place I may never have been.

Stone buildings of sunflower yellows and aquamarine blues sit in narrow little 19th century streets. During the day almost every shop is fronted by a hanging cage so that the only sound heard is the chirping of little lovebirds.

At night the little lanes are criss-crossed with coloured lanterns. A river runs through the middle, with restaurants and cafes either side, their  clientele spilling out onto the street-side tables and chairs.

It’s the kind of place to wander for days, bathing yourself in serenity. A short walk away, past paddy fields and trees is a beautiful tranquil beach, waves breaking in whispers.

On the way there I found the cream of all cafes, sat on stilts over the palm tree fringed river. In the distance rolling paddy fields, a dhow lazily lolling on the river, butterflies floating haphazard shapes among the reeds beneath me, and a camera whose battery knew the exact wrong moment to give up the ghost and die.

In Hoi An, I’m sure it died happy.

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 “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”

Kurt Vonnegut

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