Chris – The photographer who is a fan of women and doesn’t use toilet paper!

I met Chris for a coffee at a little bakery in Camberwell. Camberwell is a busy little suburb close to the Melbourne CBD and is known for its cafes and the Sunday market. The Sunday market holds great prospects for a plant enthusiast like me, and the warm jam donuts served there are to die for. The key is to get in early so you can get your hands on freshly fried warm sugar hits!  

As its COVID days, Sunday market was sadly closed, so no yummy jam donuts for us, but we got into the bakery. I got a parking spot just outside the bakery, and watched him walk in. He seemed to just walk right in and queue up, so I went in with a “Hope you haven’t been waiting too long?”. I was on time and that was a stupid question to ask since I had seen him arrive just then. But then, I am nothing if not clumsy, awkward and often lacking the communication charm women seem to just have. He looked at me quizzically and said, “I literally just got here 10 seconds ago”.  

We got a table and ordered our drinks. It was good to just have coffee and not be pressured into ordering food as most other cafes have been doing. It’s taken a toll on my ever-increasing waistline, the necessity to order food with drinks if we must dine in – another COVID rule.  

The first think I noticed about Chris were his arms, I reckon his biceps would be about 3 arms of mine put together and he was quite happy to put them on display. He got a hot chocolate as I got an almond flat-white. I am incapable of ordering myself an almond flat-white without thinking of Edward and him mocking me for juicing almonds to make a coffee! Even teapots remind me of him, as he cannot work his way around weird teapots. I will have to cover Edward Frankle off in another chapter, seeing as I tend to think of him so much, even when on a date with another lovely man!  

The date with Chris was good, like chatting with a friend. He was a particularly good conversationalist and was a good listener, paying attention, asking questions and all the things a woman wants a man to do.  

Chris is single, 43 never married, no kids, no plans to do either. He is well travelled and wants to travel more. He was fascinated with my cultural background and wanted to know more, which alas I can never shed much light on, given that I don’t know much about my own culture. He was very polite and wanted to know a lot about me as a person; and bonus, he did not delve into the usual online dating questionnaire set around what I want from this potential relationship, why I don’t know what I want! That always helps, as I have no clue what I want from relationships, or life in general, other than, living a happy fulfilling life! It was an easy conversation, with each sharing and listening and I had such a fabulous time.  

He dropped his hot chocolate at one point, and I did a victory dance in my head as it’s usually Yours truly being clumsy. I gracefully stood up and got him tissue and saw him check me out as I did that walk to and back from the counter. It was just a casual coffee and may never amount to much, but it felt good to be regarded as a woman after so long.  

Long term relationships have a way of killing that – the desirability men feel for women. I may never want to be in a complacent long-term relationship I thought in that moment. Perhaps I could just become a serial dater, soaking up the adoration! 

The coffee shop asked us to leave unless we were going to order. We had been there for an hour with just a coffee to show for, so we went for a walk. Chris is tall, but I was in boots and ended up being slightly taller than him on the day. I wasn’t sure if that was attractive to him, but cannot do much about that being a tall woman now, can I?  

We must have walked for about an hour, and he was very thoughtful, and kept asking me if I was okay to walk in the boots, as they did not seem to be made for walking. He was attentive, funny, and shared some delightful stories. He works two jobs doing visual analytics and is an ace photographer. Anything involving data always piques my interest, so he definitely turned out to be the pick of the day! 

As I was in just a 2-hour parking spot, we made our way back to the car, hugged and he asked if I would like to do this again. Of course, I said yes!

I went back home a happy woman, a first date after a decade and a half could not have gone better for me and I was happy he wanted to catch up again, as I really enjoyed our chats. 

I felt like a beautiful woman who made interesting conversation and was worthy of spending time with. A man holds the power to make a woman feel good about herself by just spending some time with her, mind blowing! 

He asked me out again to catch up for drinks, but Victoria went into lock-down the weekend after, so we had to put a pin in those plans! 

That one date with him built me up so much that I have seen a return of the flirtatious me from the 00’s! I am happier inside and a bit more me. May be all I need is to do to feel like a woman again, is to go for coffees with lovely, gorgeous men who can communicate!

Girlfriends that call you out on your shit and hold you up through the darkness

 I have a bunch of awesome friends who have held me up through the worst time of my life. They call me out on my bullshit, they tell me when I am being unrealistic, shoot down my pointless dreams. But they built me up, they held me tight through the dark days, they listen to my insecurities and worries for hours on end and they never give up on me! 

I would not be here, being me, sitting upright if it weren’t for this lovely bunch of women from different parts of the world always being there for me. Thank you, ladies, I owe you my smiles and unbroken dreams, and for the vibrator! I did not know how important a vibrator is in the life of a working mum! All you single ladies, a vibrator will never fail you, give it a go!  

So, I am now focussing on what I want my life to be, building my life back up, brick by brick. I cleaned up all those beautiful terrariums that had been neglected, brought my plants indoors! Put up photos of the kids on a wall we now call the family wall, and let the pets roam free in the house. All these things sound basic, but for me it was liberation! Each step into the new normal feels like I am slowly crawling out of my shell, ready to be vulnerable again.  

I wake up to the sounds of the birds singing to me, my face hurts of smiling so much, and I cannot have enough of how beautiful I feel!  

One night one of my girlfriends came over for wine o clock and a sleep over. She was flummoxed to learn that in my 40 years I had only ever been with 2 men and a vibrator; and that months after being separated hadn’t even gone out for a harmless coffee with someone yet. She was obviously worried that with gravity working against my declining assets, I needed to get in the game quick! She took my phone, played on my dating profiles for a couple of hours and that was, let say the beginning! 

I finally went on my first date exactly 3 months and 29 days after my separation.   

7.6b people on planet earth and I could not have one of them just hold me

I had been lonesome for years, but all the noise and chaos of having to work through a breaking marriage never afforded me the time to feel the loneliness. Now here I was, being my own person, I could be who I wanted to be, do what I wanted to do, and yet all I wanted was a human connection and it wasn’t there.

It’s mirthful, the irony of life!

Sitting down in Hosier Ln, I feel less lonely surrounded by this strange art and folk, than I did sitting at home with the man I made my babies with.

As I look at my hands, starting to look tired of always doing, I wonder when it was the last time that someone held them warmly.

The coffee next to me gets cold, but it never really does warm me up, it always stays, the chill in my soul!

The mirror is so harsh, and smiling is so hard! Invisalign would fix my teeth, but who do I go to for a fix of love?

I must see see the humour in this way of life too, for it is not what has been, but the promise of what I have yet to see that holds my heart!

2 months into the separation a girlfriend asked how I felt about being single again, and I couldn’t answer that. I did not feel like a single woman, I felt bound to my past, I was still living the life of a married woman, albeit without the husband, and had not made the leap. I hadn’t even sought out a date. What was wrong with me? I spent years wishing to be free again and when I finally had that chance, why was I still stuck in my past?

So, I ran and walked, and binge watched Netflix at nights. I talked my girlfriends’ ears off.

Then I was spent, I was done talking about it, and it was time to let go of what had been and find what could be. Being married was all I knew, but it was not all I needed to know. I could choose my next mountain; I could pace my climb!

What I couldn’t do was to sit on my couch all day and expect one of the 7.6b people to knock on my door and sweep me off my feet.

I had been on these dating sites for months, but never really tried to meet someone, just kept making excuses or as my friend says, I was being too critical of what the men I matched with lacked before even meeting them.

I am a 40 year woman, mother of two, a Melbournian, the earliest millennial so whilst I am a technology native, dating has changed much since I was single about 15 years ago. And there’s this little thing called COVID-19 so it’s not like I can go bar-hopping and find a charming man, so online dating it was for me! I really got into it towards the end of July, when the winter nights are so long and cold. To put it mildly, it has been a great learning experience.

There are so many sites, so many acronyms and several underlying dating etiquette. I chatted with so many blokes, it became like a second job! I would put the kids in bed, and spend hours swiping left, an occasional right. Had so many almost coffees before chickening out the morning of.

So, for the first couple of months I just got educated on the tinder speak – demi-sexual Vs sapio-sexual. 420 friendly apparently means they will do weed! Most of them never look like their profile photos and some of them are real creeps!

It has been an amusing lesson in the millennial dating scene, but no dice on finding someone I can go meet.

2020, the year we lost time, I found myself

Running is great! I shed 15 kilos and a husband!

I walked/ran 3.3 million steps last year. First, I ran to get away from my pain, then I ran to feel the pain, then I ran to get a hit of that endorphin release!

Running is like a state of trance, one can move with their thoughts, and become one with that fluid motion. It helps us see clearly through the haze of lethargy.

All that running freed my soul from the confinement of a sorrowful life with a man who didn’t want me, a life I didn’t need and made me a better person for it!

We separated just one week shy of COVID restrictions being implemented. So here I was, always fighting to get my me time and now I had it. All that time in Iso when the kids were at their dad’s. At first the silence was a relief. I could hear the birds chirping as I sat down for that uninterrupted cuppa. I wept, for days! It can be a shock to the system when you are used to a chaotic life of moving from one action to another.

The stillness outside amplified the noise in my mind, and it was not pleasant. It was hard to realise that to continue to put a band-aid on our failing marriage, I had ignored my soul. I hadn’t stopped to enjoy my plants, hear the birds chirp, watch my kids watch the great snails’ migration from one end of the street to the other.

I spent the first 3 months of my new life as a single woman, mother of two focussing on learning basics of life. I had never bought groceries; it has been entertaining to watch myself fumble and learn how to get the right groceries. The first time I did an online order, I did not update quantities of loose fruit and vegetables, and ended up with one mushroom, one red onion and a banana! No Michelin star chef could make something out that now!

Introduced myself to a spanner, got a funky screwdriver. If I sound like a barbie doll, I am not, I can handle a motorcycle just fine and am very handy in a garden. I just never needed these skills before. I did my first ikea assembly – a wobbly study desk for my son. It still works, so not all bad eh!

At first, I focussed on things I needed to do to continue a semblance of the life as I knew it. Bought way too many groceries, cooked too much! Ate too much, we could blame COVID induced Iso for that, but I think it was just me. Put on 4 kilos, just eating all the great stuff I cooked and baked. Loneliness slowly crept in, the days when the kids weren’t with me were the hardest, sometimes I felt like I was the only person in this world. The need for someone to just hold me got so unbearable sometimes that I would go for late night runs. I have run at midnight once. I should caution you, in the middle of Melbourne winter, when the wind’s howling and the streets are wet, no sane person walks these streets, it is not ideal to go for a run