Women and their Lovers


IT’S a Goldilocks afternoon in the Queensland capital. Not too hot, not too cold. Ferries glide across the Brisbane River like ballerinas, traffic crawls along the Riverside Expressway as an army of ants, and Spring is being one, gigantic flirt.

It’s perfect then, that I’ve gathered in the Queensland Library’s ‘Red Box’ for a Brisbane Writers’ Festival talk about ‘women and their lovers’. Like a passionate paramour itself, the title of the session is too irresistible to pass up. My first fear, however, is that they will ask the gathering of women (and a few good men) to confess, Alcoholics Anonymous style, how long it has been since their last lover and how many they’ve had. Does one need to have experienced a recent lover to be admitted to this saucy session, I wonder amid a moment of pure panic.

Our convivial host, a bloke, announces it’s a ‘clothing optional’ session, as the two guest authors dive headfirst into the subject at hand. What transpires on this wouldn’t-be-dead-for-quids type of afternoon, is an interesting conversation about whether humans are, in fact, meant to be monogamous. Are you always married to the one you love? Is it possible to have a marriage, and a lover, and for all three parties to be sated in every sense of the word?

At this point of the conversation my mind starts to wander, as it is prone to do. The prospect of finding one fella at the moment is hard enough, let alone two. But heck, I’d give it a go if it was on offer. As one of the authors muses “love is an individual thing”.

The host confesses about his own individual experience of first-time love. He was 15 and wanted to take a girl to the movies for the first time. His father’s advice was this: “You’ve got a penis, women have a vagina, don’t play with yourself too much as it’s not good for you, now let’s go back to the car.”

One of the authors muses that in the English language, we possess a ‘shrunken’ vocabulary when it comes to the topics of physical pain and love. There are not enough words to express the many kinds of human love possible. It’s a bit like death. We’re hopeless at articulating it. To say that someone has ‘passed on or away’ sounds ridiculous, like they’ve taken a holiday to Myanmar or something; ‘passed’ raises its own set of silly questions: “passed where, exactly?”; and to come flat out and say someone ‘died’ is a bit blunt. But it’s true. Real. Honest.

Death and love, it emerges during this lusty afternoon, have much in common. One of the authors reveals research in which it is claimed it takes exactly 2 years, 6 months and 25 days into a marriage for romance between a couple to die.

So is there such a thing as living happily ever after? Does the fairytale, like my Goldilocks afternoon, really exist?

Outside, pondering this in the late afternoon spring sunshine which is still being such a fabulous flirt, I stumble across a lone musician, dressed all in red.

Love, as we understand it, may not exist after all, but I think I’ve just stumbled across Little Red Riding Hood. And for now, that’s fairytale enough for me.

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