To those who pity me for travelling alone

Dear every person in the world,

Please stop looking at me with those pitying glances in restaurants when you see me eating by myself. Please stop giving me furtive worried looks from behind your menu. If you’re a man, no I do not need or want your company for the evening. Seriously, you don’t even know me – please don’t judge. Instead, reflect on how much more awesome my life is compared to yours.

I choose to travel solo. I choose to live my life as a free woman, in a world where women are too frequently questioned for exploring and wanting to learn. I know, it’s very strange of me. Maybe I’ll buy five cats and be the crazy cat lady.

I am not lonely; I am alone. By choice. And I love it.

This morning, I woke up and stayed in bed for an hour. Then I made myself a cup of tea, the way I like it – and didn’t risk it being the worst tea ever, because I MADE IT. No one makes my tea the way I like it.

Last month I spent two weeks in Sri Lanka, alone but not lonely. In years gone by I have travelled through more than 50 different countries; sometimes with a friend but mostly alone. I havemade spur of the moment travel choices, because I don’t have to check in with another person. My money is MY money, and I can and will spend it on what I choose. I don’t have to wait for someone to ok my choices, I just make them and go. I have never lacked for an experience, never missed an opportunity, never felt as though I was missing out on something simply because I had to wait for someone else to give the final clearance on a decision that should have been mine solely to make in the first place.

So please, spare me your pity. I neither need nor want it. Keep it. You’ll most likely need it before I do.

Love,

A totally fulfilled 30-something woman.

Next_time_a_stranger_talks_to_me_when_I_amm_alone_I_will_look_at_them_shocked_and_just_whisper_quietly_You_can_see_me_

To the men who abused me…

TRIGGER WARING: Sexual assault, gendered violence

So I know I’ve been very neglectful lately. I have a myriad of excuses, but basically I’ve just been super angry.

In the last few weeks we have seen the US election, and watched as they voted to minimise women, minorities, POC, LGBT, young people and other marginalised groups. I scrolled Facebook and Twitter in shock and nearly had a car crash when I saw the news notification on my phone that Trump had won. In Australia we have seen further closures of women’s shelters and havens for victims. We have seen the minister for women cancel meetings with state leaders to discuss the violence epidemic we live with every day. We have seen the 68th woman this year be murdered in an act of gendered violence.

So today, in honour of White Ribbon Day here in Australia I want to share a couple of very personal stories with you. Please note the trigger warning at the top, and proceed with caution. These are outside of my normal “Letters…” format, but I’m sure you don’t mind.

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE MAN WHO SEXUALLY ASSAULTED ME

I can’t even write an opening “Dear X” on this letter. You know who you are. You exist in the periphery of my friendship circles, not completely one of the crowd but there are not enough degrees of separation that you’re no longer invited to big events. I just saw you, at that wedding a few months ago. The wedding I had to bring a date to so I would have excuses not to be alone with you.

I once counted you as a friend. Maybe not a close friend, but definitely a good time friend. You were the guy I would call when I wanted to go out dancing, or for a night on the town. The summer we met I had a lot I was dealing with; a relationship breakdown and grieving an abortion not the least of them. In some ways you helped me through that. You gave me a space in which I could go to in order to forget what else was happening in my life.

You also gave me an alcohol problem and a scar that will never heal.

We were having a couple of drinks at my house, do you remember? There were a bunch of us there, all chatting away getting ready for a night out. The cabs arrived and we headed out to the club. We were all dancing, having a great time. And then there were more drinks. And then some more. And more dancing, more laughs. There was some close dancing. Some shots. The rest of that night is kind of a blur for me, but I remember going home at some stage. We went to a friend’s house to stay since she lived closer to the nightclub and that way a taxi would be cheaper on student budgets. I remember going to bed, and I remember placing a pillow length-ways down the bed, subconsciously I think as some kind of protection. I remember you cuddling up behind me, kissing the back of my neck.

I remember myself thinking, “Oh no. What is happening?”

I remember saying no, more than once. I remember pushing you away, not hard but still enough that you would know I didn’t want to do this. I then I remember distinctly making a decision to just let you so that you would leave me alone.

That decision means that what you did is not rape. Because I let you. I let you take my clothes off, and I let you inside me. I didn’t want to, but you persisted. You shushed my concerns, and begged when I said no. You kissed my neck, my arms, my breasts, my stomach. You held my hands down so I couldn’t push you away anymore, I couldn’t protest. And then I gave up. I shouldn’t have, I should have fought harder, I should have pushed you away. I should have protested louder and made you hear me.

Today, I bury this event in the back of my memories, in a box that will never be opened because it contains all my dark times. It surfaces only when I see you. When you pop up unexpectedly in my Facebook timeline. I deeply regret my decision to just let you in that night. But it’s done now, and nothing can change that.

What I can change is how I proceed with my life, and how I support women and girls in the same experience. I will never again make a decision to just give up and get it over with. I will never again allow a man to ignore my protests. I will never again quiet myself to placate a man.

 

AN OPEN LETTER TO MY BROTHER, ABUSER OF WOMEN
Little Brother,

I watched you come into this world, all chubby legs and big brown eyes and vowed to myself that I would be the best big sister. And I failed.

I failed you when you started school, and you were the fat kid. When you were teased and bullied mercilessly by my friend’s younger siblings. When you got to high school, and the bullying continued, I did nothing to stop it. When you discovered drugs, I should have been there. I should have knocked some sense into you, and made you realise that this wasn’t the way out. When our mother died, I promised her I would look after you. I would make sure you got away from that scene, from the drugs and the drinking and the same crowd. That you would get a job, find a new group of friends and would be settled. Because all she wanted for all of us was for us to be happy.

And then you destroyed it.  You took my promises, and you shattered them. Along with my TV, mum’s vase, her fine china and my sense of self. You took all your rage and unleashed it on me. Literally the only person in your life left trying to help you, and you destroyed me.

I have scars from my life that will never heal. Brother’s aren’t supposed to add to those. And so, no I don’t feel guilty for failing you.

The day you beat me, I was scared. Today, two years on, I am still terrified. I check my rear vision mirror when driving, not because I’m watching traffic, but because I’m keeping an eye out for you. I double take when I see a guy pull up at the service station when I’m getting fuel because I think he looks like you from behind. I changed the number plates on my car (after you stole it and I got it back again) so that you wouldn’t realise it was me in case you did pull up behind me in traffic. I move constantly, not because I want to but because I don’t want you to find me. Family, long time friends, and even our own sister have no idea where I live because I’m scared they might tell you. I hide information about my life from my own sister because I’m worried you’ll find out.

But I have you worked out. All your rage comes from your perception that you haven’t been given the things you feel you are entitled to. Let me break this down for you, you are entitled to exactly nothing. I want to give you a blank piece of paper, because that would be a conclusive list of exactly everything the world owes you. Yes, you had a shitty childhood – surprise, you’re not alone. In fact, yours was better than most.

I’m sorry you feel that the world has failed you. I’m sorry you cannot help but hurt the people who have cared and tried to help you. I am sorry you have failed so miserably at the one thing you should have been good at – being my brother. I am sorry that we will never rekindle any kind of relationship, I really am. I’m sorry that your mum died, but guess what? So did mine. And I never once thought it was appropriate to beat the living shit out of anyone, and then steal their car.

I am not sorry for my anger. I am not guilty for my failings, because I am human. We err. I am not sorry for my fear. I am sorry that you let this happen. You are a grown ass man, who made a conscious decision to beat the shit out of his sister. You continued to make decisions that would see you nearly lose your life over the next two years.

I really hope you’ve learned from this. I really hope you don’t do it again. I really hope you take the help you’re being offered now from our sister and really effect change in your life.

But I want you to do that far away from me. The possibility for change in your life doesn’t require me to reconsider my decision for distance.

Good luck, and goodbye little brother.

 

To parents of ALL teenagers

Parents,

There has been a lot of discussion in the media over the past few weeks about consent, and how we teach it. It has been wrapped up in talk of Brock Turner, whether he really is guilty, and whether alcohol and promiscuous behaviour is to blame – but it has been there.

Have you ever had a conversation with your son or daughter about these issues? I am not a parent, so I can’t say when is the perfect age to have this conversation, but I am a human woman in this world I know in my soul that this is a conversation that needs to happen while children are still learning about the world.

We need to be having conversations with our children about consent, but not just with our boys as one open letter I read this week suggests. Girls need to learn that as much as they have to give consent, they need to feel empowered to take it away at any time. Boys need to be told “I love you and I need you to know that no matter how a woman dresses or acts, it is not an invitation to cat call, taunt, harass or assault her.” Boys and girls both need to be taught that virginity is not a prize to be won or offered, and that sleeping with someone does earn or lose you points (based on your gender; boys earn and girls lose). Girls need to be taught that their sexual experiences or lack of don’t dictate their worth, and that just because someone buys them dinner doesn’t mean anything is owed.

I can tell you that we are having the wrong conversations with our daughters. From the time we can walk and talk, instead of teaching our boys not to rape, we teach our girls to minimise themselves to avoid attracting the wrong attention. These conversations are had by loving parents, just like you, who want to protect their children. It comes from a place of care, a place of love and support. More importantly than that though, they come from a place where 100% of the responsibility lies at the feet of the victim. Instead of teaching our kids to be decent humans, we teach them that indecency is going to happen, and instead to safeguard against it. Instead of telling our kids that “boys will be boys” we need to teach them that abusive, manipulative behaviour needs to be called out. By both sides.

Parents will tell me that it’s not fair. That currently there are creepy people in the world and you need to protect your kids from them. You need to teach your daughters how to protect themselves from creepy men. And I agree, there are some fucking creepy people out there. Trust me I know, because most of them live on Twitter and repeatedly send me lovely notes of threatened abuse.

But who raised them? Who taught them to be creepy?

xoxo

To my friends who still have their mothers…

Darlings,

Like a thief in the night, cancer stole my mother from me. Before she physically died, her spirit and soul were stolen from me by a force bigger and more powerful than me. I could do nothing to slow its course, I could only sit back and let it come. I never imagined I’d lose my mum this way or so soon. I couldn’t have planned or prepared for it. We never believed that it would happen, we just accepted that she was sick and would get better. Fate had other ideas and swooped in and took her away before I ever had the chance to fully realize what was happening.

This Mother’s Day, I am without a mother. I will watch my Facebook feed fill with outcries of love for mothers I know, but I cannot give them. I cannot express my gratitude, despite her imperfections, with lavish love. I cannot thank her for all she taught me about being a a good person, a strong woman, an independent being. I cannot share how much she’s impacted my life. The feelings of loss get easier with time, but I will never be without them. For the rest of my life I will have a hole in my heart, a physical pain that I cannot get rid of.

So, my darling friends who still have their mothers, do me a favour.

Whether you are extremely close or there’s a valley of difference between you, reach out to your mother this week.

Whether you see eye to eye or you can’t agree on much of anything, look your mother in the eyes if you can and tell her how special she is.

Whether she’s loved you well or lacked in affection, tell her how much you appreciate her and and love her.

Whether she’s been your role model or she’s shown you what not to do, tell her how much you’ve learned from her.

Whether she’s been a near perfect mother or a much less than perfect one, she’s still here and that fact alone leaves so much potential for you both.

Call her, embrace her, surround her with your love whether it comes easy or along with tons of baggage.

Reach out for reconciliation if you are estranged.

Reach out in compromise if you are indifferent.

Reach out with time and attention if you are busy.

Reach out with affection if you are reserved.

Reach out with generous love even if you already do it regularly.

I never dreamed I’d spend Mother’s Day without my mum. Please, don’t let another day slip by without connecting with yours.

 

Happy Mother’s Day, friends.