Boys are the new Girls

While travelling, I met a handsome young guy in a village who insisted, perhaps a little too forcefully, on being the person to take me everywhere and explore the country. Let me stipulate here that I was crazy enough to travel there completely alone, so in many ways this was a blessing in disguise. In other ways, it truly brought to light how differently we view gender roles, particularly after attempting to let him down gently at the airport once he had asked for my hand in marriage and reassured me that I wouldn’t have to work anymore. Who knew my knight in shining armour was just 30,000 kms away by plane in a small village in the mountains of my ancestry! Not me, that’s for sure!

He was one of the most masculine men I’ve ever known in my life. If you had told me he was the original hunter-gatherer from the Neanderthal era, I would have believed you. He didn’t just walk through the village, he strode through it like he was the King. He would put his hand through fire and his expression wouldn’t change. He showed me his rifle collection and spoke of hunting wolves in the mountains during the winter snow. He didn’t have much money but would balk at my attempts to pay for anything and would fight me over the bill, literally picking me up and carrying me away from the table to stop me from paying.

His best friend was completely different. He drank lattes, went shopping for clothes and would regularly get laser hair removal on his face. Later when the Hunter Gatherer asked me about my previous boyfriend, he would nod sagely at my descriptions and then offer up this gem:

‘He poofter?’

I’d sigh heavily and explain that he a) couldn’t say that and b) not at all. Guys were just different back home, like his best friend.

‘Ahh you like the gay boy!’ he would respond while nodding as though it all made sense  now, my incredible rejection of him. I would explain my reasons but he would always insist that it was because I preferred the ‘gay boy’ as he put it. And although I tried to turn him off by explaining the myriad of ways in which I was so very different to him (ie. progressive, independent, radically opinionated woman) he would surprise me by saying something along the lines of, ‘Yes but I like you because you’re different’.

Although I think that was his way of saying ‘I like you because you’re a challenge and I will change you if it’s the last thing I do, now hand me that axe, I have some wood to chop!’

***

 

‘You’re sick of eating him out….because he has a vagina’ – Lena Dunham, Girls.

One way of giving credence to the cultural shift that is fast becoming the norm is to degrade an entire gender. Like since when did telling a guy ‘you’re acting like a girl’ (or a pussy) become a derogatory insult? I’m guilty of doing it myself, but that’s because I don’t see myself in extreme polarities and feel like waving that phraseology around is just another way of making a point. But I’ve got it all wrong you see.

Being a girl is the single greatest thing you might ever know. That’s what I thought when my ex’s housemate asked me if I would help her find clothes for their other trans housemate, who had only recently requested that she be referred to by her new chosen name and not the male name she had had all her life. Sure. She’s so lucky now, I thought, not considering how much abuse and bullying she would soon encounter in her transition. All I could think of was ‘welcome to the motherfucking club, girl!’

But back to the fact that boys are not acting like boys, or at least the way we have always perceived boys to be. It’s a widespread issue not being discussed in the right terms. Our notions of gender are being challenged by fluid and ever changing values. The times, they are a changin’ but we don’t know how to talk about it.

Ann Friedman, all round Internet legend, breaks it down brilliantly in this piece.

 

‘What’s striking isn’t the lack of consensus on what defines masculinity now, but the utter confusion about how to go about doing so. That’s because America is finally getting around to having the conversation about what it means to be a man that, decades ago, feminism forced us to have about womanhood. Women still face social consequences when they don’t conform neatly to gender norms, but many of even the most ideologically progressive men are just now starting to talk about how to break with masculine stereotypes and still hang onto a sense of gender identity. Goldberg and Rosin, in using traditional definitions of manhood (the simple, stoic breadwinner), declare him dead, or at least less marketable to advertisers. Men’s magazines, which now peddle facial moisturizers but still often shy away from heartfelt confessionals, have spotted how hard it is for men to balance both embracing and rethinking masculine stereotypes — and they’ve made some attempts to address it, but mostly ended up documenting the confusion.’

***

And here’s where I am also guilty of falling into the traps of this stereotype. Things keep happening in my life that seem unusual or more difficult than they should be. My love life is a revolving door of mishaps characterised by a trail of actual broken hearts and my fall back reasoning for remaining aloof and alone is that I am a disaster waiting to happen to every male and they are better off without me, a fact I actually believed and ran with as my feminist manifesto until my Cancer-sign, sensitive, skinny-jean wearing hipster boy broke up with me repeatedly for reasons unknown to him or anyone. Speculation amassed that it was because he was a repressed homosexual, speculation which may or may not have been inspired by my bitter, twisted self (I blame my ego). At one point he admitted that even he had started to wonder about that himself, but eventually came to the conclusion that he just wasn’t – and he was entirely comfortable discussing the possibility. And that was the end of that. Which is entirely fine and even admirable! In retrospect, it did seem silly to wonder that based on things like ‘he takes longer to get dressed than me!’ or ‘he uses a hairbrush and I don’t even do that!’ ‘he’s a really good dancer!’ ‘he picks up guys at parties and gets their numbers!’ ‘he said he’s not attracted to me anymore and he doesn’t know why!’ Wait, that last one is probably legit.

Or as my best friend would say, shaking her head: ‘European or gay. European or gay. That’s the test’.

***

We have a strange joke in our house that one of the guys is like the ‘housewife’ (doesn’t have a job, cooks a lot, is obsessed with cleanliness, wants to find a rich woman so he can be a stay at home dad), and I am the ‘husband’ (brings home the bacon – literally and metaphorically, is the only full time employed member of the house, eats steak, drinks whisky straight, says Ron Swanson things like ‘There has never been a sadness not cured by breakfast food’ or ‘Veganism is the sad result of a morally corrupt mind. Reconsider your life.’)

We are fully aware that these are based on silly stereotypes and that’s what makes them fun to throw around.

Back in the day, past boyfriends would get upset with me for no reason and later when I’d ask what was wrong, one would say ‘I don’t think you love me as much as I love you’. Another would get upset if I didn’t message him while I was out with my friends to, and I quote, ‘let him know that I’m thinking of him’ and would get annoyed if I would cancel our plans to go and meet my friends instead and that by not thinking about him all the time, the way he would be thinking about me all the time, meant I was not serious about the relationship.

In hindsight, this can probably all boil down to the fact that I am a heartless bitch (let’s be honest now). But also they were men who were not afraid to embrace their emotions. This is also a good thing (in moderation) but definitely something men need to do more of. Repressed feelings can only manifest themselves in dangerous ways.

I once complained to my housemate that he should bring a girl home every now and again so we could have some more females in the house. He would retort ‘WHAT! You’re the most masculine of us all!’ I said I didn’t know what he meant and he would remind me of the time I told him to ‘man up’ when dealing with a girl he liked. Who even am I?

My friend’s husband was getting annoyed once that people weren’t eating enough at a BBQ. He said,

‘Mark eats like a girl! But Sheree’s good, she eats like a man’

‘Bro. Don’t gender stereotype me. I eat like a garbage waste disposal’, I would reply, digging in to my fifth lamb chop.

Another guy on a date joked that I shouldn’t drink so much and try to take advantage of him. I laughed, he laughed, we all laughed. Later, he was seriously telling me we had to take things slow.

‘Wait…Is this a thing?’

‘I don’t know if it’s a thing but I’ve only just met you so, no funny business’.

‘You’re kidding’

He wasn’t kidding.

 ***

 

Brohemian is an apt term: The JWT report gives an overall impression that, just like femininity, masculinity is increasingly defined by both playing to and against type. It’s growing a really impressive beard and ordering a kale salad for lunch. It’s knowing Super Bowl trivia and being an emotionally supportive partner. But if this makes it sound like men are joining women in having a less gender-bound view of their sense of self, it’s not that simple. According to the JWT research, even though millennial men are, more than older men, okay with using concealer and learning to poach eggs, they also say they’re more frustrated with not knowing what it “means” to be a man.

 

Other times I wonder if a strong, dominant woman is intimidating to a man who isn’t quite sure what he wants. I’m also starting to see the ramifications of a society where women are more dominant and assertive in what they want. There is an ugly side to this shift, particularly from an older generation who want to hold onto their power. This powerful polarising effect – whereby a man seems to be either extremely sensitive to the point of making an assertive and strong woman uncomfortable, or hyper testosterone fuelled to the point of being close to violent (forceful, pushing, speaking in threatening tones, holding your hands down while he argues with you, weird power plays like throwing money at you) – are all things I‘ve experienced in circumstances which destroy your trust, and make you question what it all means and how are you supposed to be in this world? It’s a weird new duality that the coming generation must face.

My housemate did a comedy show recently and one of the bits was about how men just want something casual and women do this thing where they are trying to trick them into being in a relationship. People were laughing while I was needing to be restrained in my seat and reminded that this was not our living room and I could not just call out ‘WHAT LIES SPEAKETH THOUST?’

When discussing some troubles to a few more traditional girlfriends, they’d relay the same tired, oft-repeated gender stereotypes that feel hollow and empty in the grand scheme of things: ‘Yeah but what can you do? Men! They’re all the same’. But they couldn’t be more wrong. Sure, certain types of behaviour seem unexplainably masculine – but girls can fall into those patterns too. I’ve probably had to console more heartbroken men in my time than women. There is a shift where men are starting to show their emotions more and stick up for what they want and what they believe in and there are times when women are the more assertive ones who know what they want and sometimes what they want isn’t the traditional thing you might expect.

And I can unequivocally declare that this is a fucking good thing. I guess what I’m trying to say is that traditional gender roles are taking a real beating as of late and I feel like I’m just another bro holding the bat.

Would you like to take a swing?

para Gabriel

“Lo tocó murmurando la letra, con el violín bañado en lágrimas, y con una inspiración tan intensa que a los primeros compases empezaron a ladrar los perros de la calle, y luego los de la ciudad, pero después se fueron callando poco a poco por el hechizo de la música, y el valse terminó con un silencio sobrenatural. El balcón no se abrió, ni nadie se asomó a la calle, ni siquiera el sereno que casi siempre acudía con su candil tratando de medrar con las migajas de las serenatas. El acto fue un conjuro de alivio para Florentino Ariza, pues cuando guardó el violin en el estuche y se alejó por las calles muertas sin mirar hacia atrás, no sentía ya que iba la mañana siguinte, sino que se había ido desde hacía muchos años con la disposición irrevocable de no volver jamás.”
Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez – Love in the Time of Cholera

Aside

“Yet you could feel a vibration in the air, a sense of hastening. It had started with the moon, inaccessible poem that it was. Now men had walked upon it, rubber treads on a pearl of the gods. Perhaps it was an awareness of time passing, the last summer of the decade. Sometimes I just wanted to raise my hands and stop. But stop what? Maybe just growing up.”

 

“We used to laugh at our small selves, saying that I was a bad girl trying to be good and that he was a good boy trying to be bad. Through the years these roles would reverse, then reverse again, until we came to accept our dual natures. We contained opposing principles, light and dark.”

 

“There were days, rainy gray days, when the streets of Brooklyn were worthy of a photograph, every window the lens of a Leica, the view grainy and immoble. We gathered our colored pencils and sheets of paper and drew like wild, feral children into the night, until, exhausted, we fell into bed. We lay in each other’s arms, still awkward but happy, exchanging breathless kisses into sleep.”
Patti Smith, Just Kids

Best Australian Blogs 2014

I know I haven’t been writing lately. There’s a whole story behind why that is and I will eventually divulge.

But in the meantime I forgot to let you know about #bestblogs14. I entered it for kicks and voting for the people’s choice category has already begun and for some reason unbeknownst to anyone I haven’t told anyone to vote for me HAHA I’m the worst.

So if you like this blog, I would be eternally grateful if you took the time out to vote for me here.

THANKS CHUMPS!

Image

 

 

modern dating

I recorded my friends while they were on Tinder. I can honestly say this is the greatest accidental podcast.

Highlights from the first 20 minutes:

‘Good arms…has a puppy…IS A FIREMAN?!?!?!’

‘He has a short face…as though he’s probably short. I don’t know how I can tell he’s short from looking at his face, but I just can’

‘Okay Andrew, which one are you out of this Motley crew?’

‘Mentioning that you don’t have tiger photos is the new tiger photo’

*

‘I’d swipe right on your brother’

‘HEY!’

*

‘This is a step up from the tiger – has a falcon…and a bandana….and a PIRATE SHIP!’

‘Open mouth! That’s a good sign!’

‘Too green!’

‘Oh archery, that’s different, I haven’t seen much archery’

‘Blendr, what even IS a Blendr?!’

‘IN WHAT ALTERNATE UNIVERSE WOULD THAT EVER BE DEEMED ATTRACTIVE?’ *disgruntled groans of pain*

‘Did they recently do a loser outreach program or is it normally this bad?’

*

‘It’s like panning for gold…there’s a tiny speck…oh no, it’s just a bit of glitter’

Everyone yells at once: ‘FOOL’S GOLD!’

*

‘Oh this one works for this cool company, maybe you could get a job out of him’ –

‘Yeah if I could get a job out of it that would be cool’

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU TWO?!’

*

‘Knock on the sky and listen to the sound!’ (reading someone’s bio)

‘Hold onto the potential dream’ – ‘No, he’s wearing a waistcoat’

‘and you know how they all put up a shirtless photo and sometimes you’re like maybe you shouldn’t?’

‘Is that a girl?’

‘It looks like his head has been cut out and put on his body’

(and some rare success)

‘YES, YES, YES!’ … *sing song voice* ‘It’s a Match!’

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Tiny’s Handy Guide to Always Loving Someone

Life is tough, you guys.

There’s so much to deal with – other people, animals, food, things to do, people to love, people to lose, food eating, stuffing the face with as much food as possible.

Look it’s mostly just about eating, I’ll be honest with you. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is deluded.

But sometimes people confuse eating feelings for loving romantic feelings. It happens. Don’t be ashamed.

Now, if you have never loved a person before, this is apparently less ideal than the alternative, which is to have:

a)    Loved

And/or

b) Lost

A person (and NOT…just a chicken wing).

That sounds like crazy talk to me. So let me get this straight – it is apparently BETTER to have poured your soul into another person and watch on helplessly as they walk away, never to look back again, leaving you floundering like an abandoned puffer fish.

this is you

this is you

Or so the saying goes…

I’d like to dispense some worldly advice on how to proceed should you find yourself still loving someone uncontrollably.

1. Firstly, accept it. Accept the whole god dam lot of it. Whatever you’re feeling. Just go for it. Pick it up, hold it out in your hands and coo at it like a tiny little bird. That little bird is your broken heart. Hold it tightly.

2. Now throw that bird into the air and WATCH IT FLY!

3. If the bird is not flying, please contact local animal services immediately. I won’t have this bird’s death on my hands.

4. There is no bird.

5. METAPHORS.

6. You should look back on the past when you loved that person and think about everything that happened. Wasn’t it a rare, happy, unforgettable and beautiful time in your life? Think of all those crazy moments.. All the memories? Yep, grab those too. Gather them all. Don’t become embittered through the battle and forget all of a sudden. Don’t let them flutter away like the torn up pages of a love letter or the ashes of the photos you most definitely did not burn because they’re on your hard drive, duh.

Please stop burning your hard drive.

Put. the hard drive. down.

Why do any of this? Because all of this was worth something to you once and it will always be worth something to you. You can’t deny it. You can’t put off any suffering like it’s some kind of ‘lay buy’ item that you can’t afford right now, and will deal with later. You have to deal with it at some point. It will catch up to you. And Suffering has a lay buy policy of 28 days, quite possibly.

And as one very wise housemate recently said: ‘think of everything in your life that was the most worthwhile thing you’ve ever experienced. I guarantee there was some element of suffering involved in getting to that point’.

So feel ALL THE EMOTIONS. Also, try to live with a meditation guru, like me, they’re good value.

cake

7. Don’t feel like taking the one way ticket downtown to memory lane? No worries, I’ll go first and make some memories for you. It’s 3am and you’re sitting in your bathtub, drunk off your face, fully clothed and trying to brush your teeth. He’s also drunk and trying to climb in to the bathtub to brush his teeth. It makes no sense, this is not a place for hygiene-related manoeuvring, please stop that immediately.

You both start laughing hysterically.

‘We’re so crazy in this bathtub!’

Someone mentions the word pizza and you think, shit, we need pizza right now! But you’ll never make it out of that bathtub. You’ll pass out there, intertwined with them because they are all you need in that moment, only you won’t know that until it’s too late.

That’s a memory you’ll keep for future reference.

That’s a feeling you’ll learn to recognise in time when the right person comes along.

Cherish it because when they leave – and they always will – you’ll want to remember every little thing. This will be the first sign of when you come alive once more.

8. Look, I don’t mind if you borrow some of my memories: he’s bleeding from his arm and waving his hands around. ‘You’re bleeding!’ you shout, but he’s not listening. This is the drunkest he’s ever been. He stares at you, his eyes widening. ‘oh my god, oh my god, oh my god’.

‘What, what is it?’, you say, distressed after having to wake him up from off the pavement and then again in the taxi.

‘OH GOD. OH GOD. You’re the most beautiful girl in the entire universe! WOW, I can’t believe it what is this life?!’ he cries out, completely distressed. He passes out, bleeding. He has no recollection of it the next day. You remind him he cut his elbow. He laughs, pulls his shirt up and looks amazed by the bandage there.

You ask him if he remembers flipping out in the elevator over you but he doesn’t remember.

No matter – you will always remember.

How fucking wonderful is that?

(goodbye to 9)

10. ‘It can be like our honeymoon’, you say, sitting in the park for an impromptu picnic after you pretend to fake marry each other in order to placate his mother’s fears of living in sin.

11. You’re reminded that you’re not really married to each other. Mostly at the airport before he goes back to Germany and says he is afraid of settling down too young. You brush this off while eating a chicken wrap and tell him to story worrying. You ignore everything, especially the chasms of doubt in his voice. You only hear the vibrating echoes of loneliness that characterise the next three weeks of his absence, only to be replaced by the calming feeling that comes from his return and how the vintage gold love heart that dangles from your neck seems to remove all traces of doubt.

That love heart is not a real heart. You still have yours in your chest cavity. Let that dangle from inside of you, let that push down any doubt that might surface. Don’t remember how his sister would whatsapp you late at night from Berlin, broken words flashing across your screen cruelly,

but he told he will come with you to Germany

and that he want Marry you

we bought the heart

and he searched for a Marry ring

- did he?

Yes. He asked the man. And we looked.

12. You’ll be sitting in a circle on the rocks, huddled around a bonfire, the crashing ocean to your left, looming cliffs to the right, passing whiskey around and telling ghost stories. He takes your hand and you think, how can this ever come to an end?

And it never does, because here it is, immortalised in words.

12. When you find yourself going over the same things over and over again – the way they walked away, the way they came back, the way you walked out of that diner despite a whole plate of fried chicken and sweet potato fries sitting before you (seriously, why is this the part you can’t get past?!)

Or the way you made coffee for him when he was trying to come back to you. You spilt the coffee in a rush to bring it to him and in return he rushed towards you, grabbing your hands, looking in your eyes. That was how you knew he still loved you and maybe always would; when you knew that people could still do that, even though they’re not with you anymore.

Think about the time they got trapped in your fire escape and you left them there for a little bit too long for a bit of revenge, the way your eyes would travel to that stupid art thing about love that you bought on a whim – how you had your names engraved on it –  okay that was too far why did you do that. Definitely tear that thing down.

But all of that is part of the process of healing. Meditate on it for a little while then cast it aside. Free up some space, make some room in your brain. And for God’s sake, sort out that fire escape issue – your building is a hazard to all people!

13. Give yourself enough distance from them, but once you’re in a better place, rekindle the friendship. Don’t lose people you truly love. Maybe they’ll still be awesome at the end of it.

14. When you do rekindle the friendship and meet up for burgers, and you find yourself starting to well up with tears with every chip you eat, knowing the meal will soon be over and the sweet, sweet burgers will be gone, but also how they too will be gone, don’t hold back. Cry if you want. Cry all the time. I’m all about crying.

Just know that one day you will stop crying.

Or at least, that’s what you’ll tell yourself and it might not be true. But that’s okay too. It’s okay to want to cry for the rest of your life.

Own it.

15. Try not to fall apart completely when your eyes give you away. Yes you still care. Yes they can still tell. Don’t even try to hide it. Instead, start singing, ‘I saw the sign and it OPENED UP MY EYES’, then do a little dance shuffle number. They’ll bloody love it!

16. Lie in the park with them. Go to hold their hand automatically then withdraw it almost immediately, hoping they won’t notice (they will). Definitely hold down the tears when they talk about that new girl they have a crush on, even though they hesitate so much before telling you. Don’t think about being in parks and having picnics and honeymoons.

It was a fake honeymoon.

Be happy for them.

17. Take everything they wrote to you, every single word. Read them all and smile, knowing it was real, it lived and you felt it in every part of you. Take it all in, knowing how it was unique and powerful and that no one on earth will ever truly experience what you did with that person. It was yours, it always will be.

It’s marked down in your soul, don’t you see?

Oh look, you’ve stopped crying.

Walk home now.

Go back to yourself.

Be you again.

Feel better yet?

sleepless

“It was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together … and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home. .. only to no home I’d ever known … I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like … magic.”

riding out a thunderstorm

I’ve never been more acutely aware of my own mortality as I was just now, riding a bicycle home during a thunderstorm. The battery in my rear light had died so cars couldn’t see me; my glasses kept fogging up so I couldn’t see anything through the pitch-black darkness of the night. My feet kept slipping off the pedals as I rode under a canopy of ancient oak trees. A steady stream of lightning struck from above, lighting up the whole sky. Buckets of water poured over my whole body, soaking me to the skin, baptising me as I seemingly rode for my life. February fireworks banging out in the background to aid me in imagining that I’m fleeing from a warzone in a small country town. I scream the whole way home, a steady array of exclamations like ‘WHY ME?!’ and ‘FUCK YOU BELINDA CARLISLE, THIS ISN’T EVEN SUMMER RAIN’ and the more common occurrence of ‘ughhhghghrWHAAAAATooohhhhhyuckkkGROSSSWHAAAAAAT’, prompting two gentlemen passersby to yell out, ‘Should we save her?’ and me screaming back, ‘NEVER! I CAN SAVE MYSELF!’

Suffice to say I am still alive.

This is a true story.

Musings on Spike Jonze’s Her and how technology can set us free

The credits rolled at the end of Spike Jonze’s latest film ‘Her’, a film I had been waiting to see forever (I saw it the day it came out).

I swiftly felt the ramifications of the film ending, as though someone had punched me in the stomach repeatedly and only paused to see my reaction. It seemed like my head was trailing metres behind my body as I exited the cinema.

‘What the hell just happened?’ I said to my cousin as we walked out.

‘I don’t know…I’m confused and not sure if I liked it’ she replied.

But it wasn’t a question of liking it or not. It was a matter of picking my heart up from the floor, peering inside to see if it was broken and then placing it back in its socket, so it could resume pumping blood to the rest of my body. Only I couldn’t articulate that in so many words.

Torn between not knowing how to feel about the main character who, in the trailer appears to be lonely, forlorn and a bit of a loser, thereby eliciting my sympathy, to suddenly seeing him in the feature length film in a whole new way. He’s just another messed up person — your average, emotionally disconnected male. No sympathy really, just empathy.

He’s a real life human. And so seems she, her, the operating system named Samantha.

***

The setting for Spike Jonze’s film is quite out of this world, but so palpable at the same time. Like you could reach out and grab it by the face. The technology was tangible, possible. You could relate to it but you also couldn’t relate to it. You felt on the cusp of something bigger, brighter, more daring.

I wanted to be there in that place.

The tones were warm, full of rich reds. The colour blue was notably absent from the film, to further accentuate that warmth, a real antidote to Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (Sofia is Jonze’s ex-wife).

I know a lot of women who found the whole film slightly jarring. Like my cousin who found the sex scenes weird. And yet most of my male friends seemed to love the film unconditionally, citing it as one of the best they’d ever seen.

My director friend Jeremy Brull wrote:

‘So I think ‘Her’ may be the greatest cinematic love story of all time.’

It’s a weird sort of thing. Does Spike Jonze just get the male concept of a love story. Or does it transcend gender?

At one point Rooney Mara’s character in the film, Theodore’s ex-wife, blurts out sarcastically,

‘You’re dating your computer?’

And later Theodore would say to the voice called Samantha;

‘You’re not a real person’.

I know what it’s like to hear that level of skepticism in someone’s voice. I know what it’s like to love someone who isn’t real, someone who mostly lives within your head. I know what it’s like to become addicted to that fictitious notion, even if it’s in the conventional sense of that person definitely existing in real life, just differently to how you imagined them, and so far removed from you, that the only way you can experience them is through their voice.

It’s a special kind of madness. But I know how powerful that voice can be.

I believe we are capable of understanding and translating these complex human emotions from a distance, from a voice, through words on a screen. And I fear that there are still those who are unable to understand it, or who are afraid of it and how much it makes them feel and it holds us back.

I can’t vouch for the more formalised online dating because I’ve never tried it, but I can tell you that I spent my early teens meeting all kinds of ridiculous crazy characters via the Internet. Most of those resulted in friendships but for many, there was something that transcended friendship. It was a confusing time to be a teenager. We were literally on the cusp of that technological shift.

We knew both worlds. We still do.

A girl I had literally met through the comments on a band’s MySpace page and who I developed a kind of online pen pal friendship with, once flew halfway across the world for me based on that friendship alone. She had no idea if I was even real. She was my modern day internet pen pal. I’ve known her for 8 years and we’re still good friends who hang out (IRL) to this day.

I have other stories too. The photographer we met in New York through Tumblr (still good friends to this day). That guy I met through Twitter who I ended up casually dating for a stint. My most recent boyfriend who I met through Facebook mutual friends. The list goes on.

And of course, my favourite of all the stories — that time my heart leaped into my mouth almost instantaneously for a person who would go on to become one of my closest friends, someone I really did love in the end and all from an accidental, case of mistaken identity on Microsoft’s Messenger. He is like another version of me, my other person, a kind of soul friend, anam cara. Someone I look at and recognise almost instantaneously. That’s a kind of connection that transcends the every day, a kind of lasting rarity you don’t just find or stumble upon in the middle of the street, but one you trip over in a late night chat room.

He was the first person I ran to when I saw the trailer for Her.

‘You’ve gotta see this! It’s like us’.

***

‘But in Her, he’s meant to be all by himself, responding only to a voice, and so the performance is a floating, free form solipsistic dance. It’s not pure solipsism because Samantha exists, but you might be watching a four-year-old talking to an imaginary friend — it’s that inward.’

I had imaginary friends as a child. I was lonely and severely shy to the point of being a mute. I refused to speak to another person I didn’t already know (and even when I knew them I struggled). I couldn’t understand others. I shut myself off from the world and created my own in the forms of characters, stories, scenarios. As an adult, we call this being a ‘writer’, lol.

***

Every now and again a boyfriend will look at me with concern and ask,

‘What’s wrong?’

And I usually respond with a curt ‘nothing’.

‘I can hear it in your voice’ (what can you hear?)

And then they’d ask:

‘Why don’t you love me as much as I love you?’

I’d argue back, somehow trying to make the emotions more apparent. But you can only reproduce so much before you have to admit to yourself that maybe you’re not as capable of showing as much raw, unfiltered emotion as you once believed yourself to be. Or maybe the emotions you used to feel were different, stronger and more powerful.

I wonder if my story is the reverse of Her — if I started off knowing technology’s powerful hold over my emotional landscape and have since struggled with the translation of that to the real world.

I remember as kids how my brother and I used to have profound, existential conversations late at night in our bunk beds. He had wanted so much to teach me. And he used to have these grandiose predictions about future technology that would both scare me and leave me in a state of perpetual awe-filled wonder (some of those predictions have come true but not as fast as he thought they would).

‘When you go to Loreto…’ (I was enrolled from a young age) — ‘…you’ll all have your own computers!’

‘Nooo’ I’d cry out. ‘I want to have typewriters’.

‘Nah Ree, computers are the future! Everyone will have their own laptop one day too! Fuck typewriters’, he’d say.

(We were both right, the hipster version of me eventually got my way with two typewriters that I never use, while the practical, realistic me is typing this on a Mac).

A few people and critics have remarked that Her is a chilling warning about the dangers of technology. That the film is a cautionary tale to put the smartphones down and step away from the computers and connect with people.

And I have to ask – did we watch the same film? And Spike Jonze himself asks that question for real with an irritating interviewer.

Because what if technology quite simply helps us connect with people in a more profound way? Why is that so impossible a thing to believe?

‘The relationship is real enough to make us ask what a relationship is and whether the coming so-called singularity — when artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence while humans’ minds will be broadened by machines — will change the way we relate (or don’t) to one another.’

I don’t see the film as a critique of our dependency on technology. I think our boy Spike used film and technology as the medium through which he has chosen to tell a love story that transcends the human experience. It’s as simple and as powerful as that.

Our fear of technology is a paralytic one. It hinders progress, it shames those who look inward and struggle to interact on a day-to-day basis. Sure, it can have a negative impact when used to the excess or when people become addicted. But truthfully, how often is that the case?

Recently at a family gathering, most of the kids were on their phones or iPads. We staged an intervention, forcing everyone to put their devices on a table in the middle of the room and we each took turns going around the room and answering questions about our interests. The Beatles movie was on in the background and we started singing along to the song. Later on my way home, I used Shazam to tag that song and then I listened to it on Youtube, Instagrammed a photo of our hijacked devices and tweeted about the song on Twitter, humming the song all the way home.

And the outcome? I felt more connected to everyone than ever before, and that one moment of indescribable beauty had a kind of prolonged longevity, recorded for the ages, there for us to look back on. It became permanent.

I’ve had at least four previous boyfriends comment that I was addicted to my phone (so pretty much all of them). I’m one of those rare senior social media managers who has been in this industry for too long. So apart from the fact that I’m paid a lot of money to monitor and be responsible for many high profile online communities (sometimes having a second phone to do just that) that close minded attitude always irritated me and still elicits a very frustrated reaction when those concerns are voiced in a condescending manner.

What are they afraid of? That I would pay less attention to them? That something was more important to me for a nanosecond? That this was what my life had become and they’d just have to accept it? That I had made a choice to step away from the old world and catapult myself directly to the new one, with or without them?

And with every dissent from this old, tired, echoed voice, it sort of cemented my own independence and how much I didn’t want to be dragged down by the closed off archaic world. Maybe the definitions and parameters of love have changed and have already evolved into something more, something you can’t back down from or shut out as easily. Perhaps it’s a very real and tangible thing in our lives, existing in a myriad of ways.

And I can assure you that if you haven’t yet experienced it, technology will help you get there.