Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Jamibu: One Year On

Today is the first anniversary of the death of my friend Jamibu.

I wrote some words at the time, and lamented the fact I couldn’t seem to find any that were appropriate. It’s been a year, and it hasn’t gotten any easier. The words don’t come any easier, it’s no easier to think about him and the tears are just as likely to fall now as they were a year ago. The pain is still just as keen. I honestly have no idea how his family are feeling; I lost my friend, but they lost a brother, a son. All I can say is my thoughts are with them.

Today feels poignant; we have come to the end of all the firsts. First birthday, first Christmas, that sort of thing. After today, everything will be seconds, and those seconds will become thirds. I think this is the point at which its supposed to get easier. I don’t think it ever will.

It’s funny, the things that have caused me to think of him, the things that have hurt most. Watching Doctor Who without him, without being able to discuss it afterwards. Feeling sad when I think about how much he would have loved the Avengers movie. When I listen to a song by one of the bands we saw together. When I got a new phone, my first instinct was to ask Jamibu what he thought, but I couldn’t. I miss his puns. They were utterly awful, but I miss them, and other people making puns can make me sad.

These things may seem trivial. But that’s how people get woven into our lives; a million and one mundane things. One day you realise that you have so many silly little things shared with this person that they are a part of you. And Jamibu was a part of me, and a part of me died when he did. But if Jamibu was a part of me, then I was a part of him too, and as such he lives on. He was part of so many people’s lives that in many ways he is still with us. Instead of having our real and proper Jamibu, we have a sort of crowdsourced Jamibu, made up of the memories and emotions of a hundred people. As long as we remember him, he will remain. As long as it hurts, we can’t forget.

My friend John has expressed a worry that if the pain of loss ever goes away he will forget Jamibu. Myself, I’m not worried about forgetting him; I had his name etched onto my skin for a reason. But I am glad to have so many photos, particularly on Facebook. It gives me a way to remember. If I find myself forgetting his smile I can always find a photo. There are things I have already forgotten about him, and things I have yet to forget. But no matter how much I forget, he will never completely leave me. My life was irrevocably changed by both the life and death of this man. And that matters, that will always matter.

I think about him often. I wonder what he would have thought about this tv show or that book. I wonder what he would have thought about my stupid new hair. Would he have had any advice for me as I bumble through my PhD? I feel guilty whenever I struggle with my research; he kept going through all his illness, with barely a tenth of the complaining I've done. And for those who didn’t know, he did get his PhD in the end. Jamibu graduated in December; Dr Bullock. I spent much of that day in tears.

Far too soon we will mark the second anniversary of his death, and then the third and so on. At some point he will have been gone longer than I knew him in the first place. But I will always remember him. I may never have the words to express how I feel, or what he still means to me, at least not coherently. But I will keep him in my thoughts and in my heart.

Rest in awesome Jamibu.

Dr James Bullock, and someone who wants to be half the person he was.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Happy Societally Approved Day of Romance Designed to Part You and Your Money

I don't know if you'd noticed, but today is Valentine's Day. Congratulations if you were unaware of this, you may have been living on Mars or under a rock (I hope the former because Mars is way cooler than a rock). Yes today is our societal approved capitalist wankfest in celebration of one particular expression of romantic love. But I hear you cry, "why are you so disdainful of this holiday? You have a romantic partner, surely today is all cuddles and kittens".

It is true enough that I have a romantic partner and that means today is all about him and me and snuggles and stuff. Except that its not. It is about parting people from their hard earned money so they can make a big show of how much they supposedly love their partner. When, you know, money and love shouldn't have anything to do with each other and if you're only showing your partner you love them once a year, you are doing it so very wrong.

This is the fifth concurrent year that Sam and I have been together for Valentine's day. And yet, I am still in a position where I have been single for more Valentine's days than I have had a partner. And one of the Valentine's days spent with someone was so horrifically disappointing its a wonder I didn't become a nun. So  I am still kind of suffering from the social conditioning that Valentine's day must be perfect or you don't love that person enough. But I am also coming to realise after five years with the same person, five iterations of Valentine's day in this relationship, that it's all a bunch of crap. And the socially conditioned view of romance is also crap. I'm still in an in between phase, realising that today has no intrinsic meaning, but not quite able to let go of the idea we have to mark it. Perhaps one day I'll be able to wake up on February 14th and honestly not give a shit about the cuddly toys and plastic hearts. But today is not yet that day.

So we will be celebrating Valentine's day with some traditionally romantic gestures. Yes, we will be eating dinner at a restaurant. But that's partly about marking the passage of time; we're eating at the same restaurant we went to for our first Valentine's day together. Yes, I got Sam a heart. Sort of. [EDIT: link appears to be dead, so here's a picture]. But in return he got me a meat thermometer, because I've been wanting one, and the promise of a decent slab of beef to go with it. And we actually exchanged gifts before today, because the day itself is not intrinsically special. There is nothing intrinsically special about V-day and all it's trapping. Thought I do believe there is something special about mine and Sam's relationship.

That said, my relationship with Sam isn't special because he buys me flowers and we stare into each other's eyes over a candlelit dinner. Neither of which happens all that often. As Girl on the Net said, love is in the mundane. My relationship with Sam is special because he trusts me with a sharp implement on his face; because he doesn't mind when I walk around the house with my wobbly bits out; because he is willing to put up with my heinous farts. That's what is special about our relationship, because we only have those things with each other. But it doesn't sound romantic, right? Well, in my experience love and romance often have very little to do with each other.

It is going to be incredibly difficult to spend the rest of your life with a person based on romantic gestures like flowers and chocolates and sensual massages. The real foundations for sharing your life with another person are decidedly unromantic. It's all about putting up with each others' idiosyncrasies, sorting out who does the dishes without murdering each other and being able to laugh at each others, especially if you fart at an inopportune moment.

While we're on the subject of love and squishy things, I read this yesterday. Apparently, according to some researcher or other, online relationships aren't' "real" relationships. I take issue with this on a non-romantic level. I have many friends that I know solely in an online capacity. And you know what? Some of them are better friends than those who are ostensibly my "real" friends. When I'm felling shitty, I've had more support from people I've never met in Australia that I have had from friends I grew up with. So I take issue with the idea that online friendships aren't "real"; I take issue at the divide between online life and "real" life.

And yes, the internet did play a vital role in Sam and I getting together. While we met in real life first, social media was where everything took off. We "poked" each other on Facebook, which led to using the "Superpoke" app to broaden out to "holding hands". When we exhausted the capabilities of that app, we moved on to "sexy" poking each other. This led to Facebook messaging, which led to talking on MSN for hours at a time. This all culminated in a highly orchestrated drinking "competition" which we knew Sam was going to lose and was a thinly veiled pretext for kisses without awkwardness. Except Sam ruined all of the careful planning by asking me out before the date of the drinking competition and by kissing me before the appointed time.

And yes, he asked me out online. Which actually led to a hilarious incident that wouldn't have happened offline. Literally seconds after he'd asked me on a date, my computer crashed. While I was frantically trying to reset my computer he was thinking I'd signed out of the messenger in disgust at being asked out by him. Thankfully, my computer rebooted alright, I signed back in and accepted his offer of a date. The rest, as they say is history.

Were it not for these interactions, the start of our relationship would have been significantly delayed, if it had ever happened at all. If we had gotten together anyway, it's possible we wouldn't have lasted as long as we had without that no pressure period of communication that allowed us to get to know each other pretty well before we started anything. So please don't dismiss relationships formed online as somehow "less" or not "real".

Because the farts Sam has to put up with are very definitely real, and are a much better measure of love than any number of bouquets of flowers.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Thoughts on Marriage

I wrote this a while ago, but since today is the Parliamentary "debate" on whether to "allow" same-sex couples to get married, I thought I'd post it. It's a stream of consciousness piece that is largely unedited.

I welcome attempts to create a more equal state of marriage than currently exists, after all if it exists then everyone should have the right to it. That is the basic way equality works. Setting aside for the moment that the proposed new legislation still throws a whole bunch of relationships under the bus, I want to explain why I am against marriage for me. I have no desire to get married myself, even though as a person in a heterosexual relationship I have that right already.

I do not want to get married because I see marriage as an outdated institution wrapped up in a whole bunch of problematic misogynistic, patriarchal and religious bullcrap that I don’t agree with. I don’t subscribe to a model of adulthood that includes marriage as a rite of passage or a marker of success and I don’t want the role of wife. I don’t want to be a wife and I don’t want to have a husband. I want my relationship to be as authentic as possible, as innovative as it can be and as true to who my partner and I are as people as we can manage. I am not interested in the cookie cutter ideal of what heterosexual relationships should be like, and that is what I feel is offered by marriage.

I don’t want to make a sacrament with God, and I certainly don’t want to invite the government into my relationship if at all possible. At a legal level, what marriage boils down to is having a certificate from the government saying that your relationship is sanctioned, it’s a proper relationship and better than other people’s. I would rather see the whole institution abolished so we can remove this discrimination against unmarried couples like myself, we who do not have ‘proper’ and officially sanctioned relationships. But that is unlikely to happen, and while ever it does exist I have as much right to decide not to get married as I do to get married. Other people don’t have that choice; it has been taken away from them. By denying certain people the right to marriage the government are essentially saying that some relationships can never be considered legitimate. And while I would prefer a system wherein all relationships are considered legitimate and equal because we have abolished the two tier system marriage creates, that is unlikely to happen any time soon. Therefore the only possible course of action, the one that ensures true equality is to offer marriage to people in every kind of consenting adult relationship. Giving same-sex couples the right to marry is just the first step along this road.