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Archive for the ‘Agony Aunt Answers’ Category

On Being A Hermaphrodite – To Whom It May Concern

This was originally published in Crikey

Q: As a young starlet with a penchant for wacky outfits, I’m used to being tailed by the paps. But after a recent musical performance in which a generous bulge (trick of the light perhaps?) happened to emerge from under my mini dress, I was not prepared for the backlash from those obsessed with gender binaries. Then a news outlet claimed they dug up an old quote of mine on the matter:

“It’s not something that I’m ashamed of, just isn’t something that I go around telling everyone. Yes. I have both male and female genitalia, but I consider myself a female. It’s just a little bit of a p-nis and really doesn’t interfere much with my life. The reason I haven’t talked about it is that it’s not a big deal to me. Like come on. It’s not like we all go around talking about our v-gs. I think this is a great opportunity to make other multiple gendered people feel more comfortable with their bodies. I’m s-xy, I’m hot. I have both a poon and a peener. Big f-cking deal.”

That only fuelled further questions. The gossip is really taking the emphasis away from my career as a serious artist, although and now people are making a big deal of my lyrics “cause I’m bluffin’ with my muffin”. Surely in this post-gender world, I can rock my own disco stick and wear no pants, without it being a big issue?

L.G, Los Angeles, California.

A: If only it were a post-gender world L.G, we could all put up our hairy feet and relax. What would the paps have to write about without gender? Come to think of it, what would s-xy even look like without a strictly enforced separation between those with poons and those with peeners?

I can hear boredom with the gender binary, and your frustration that your body parts are getting all the attention. However, under your frustration I also sense understanding that the middlesexes have not been allowed a comfortable place in which to live. You yourself have decided to choose to be female in a world where there are barely words for those who live between. Perhaps examining this decision to choose to live as a woman will go some way to finding an answer to your question here. Even Prince is still called Prince, long after he decided to turn himself into a symbol.

But back to s-xy hotness. You let us know that you are hot and s-xy and proud of it. What is it that makes you so? I assume that as a female, to be considered s-xy, you must be able to be easily distinguished from a man. This is not simply a matter of genes and gender, but also of grooming and presentation. Add a bulge to this feminine image, even for a moment, and this expensively maintained persona of the hot female is disrupted. You have effectively culture jammed yourself. Remember that the tabloid world has yet to come to terms with Julia Roberts’ underarm hair. Your albeit tiny p-nis will not easily be overlooked.

You may not be able to have it both ways L.G. A pants-free woman with her own disco stick may be commonplace in the world of snails, but where you and I come from, it’s the final gender frontier. If you accept that display of your genital structure will draw attention, what do you propose to do with that attention? As you are aware, there are many like you who are waiting for a loophole in the cultural contract, and you can bet that for some, any new opening will be a big deal.

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Q: I am a 52-year-old man who has been wrestling with the idea of retirement for some time. I finally announced my decision to go, but mixed with my sense of relief is a lingering sense of unfinished business and regret. Everyone is full of praise but I’m dying inside, filled with a sense of missed opportunities and wasted time.

How do I learn to let go, how do I leave regret behind, how do I stop those sleepless nights thinking about what might have been…?

P.C of Malvern, Victoria.

A: Dear P.C

You articulate beautifully the reasons why decisions are so very fraught. It sounds as if yours was indeed a difficult decision, and with it has come fear and uncertainty. Each step we take carries us one step away from the other roads we may have traveled. Each decision by necessity excludes other decisions. We cannot travel two roads at once, and as we get older, we also know that there is not endless time to travel those roads not taken.

Unless it is affecting your health, sleeplessness is not in itself a bad thing. I’m not sure why we are led to believe that our days should be free of a sense of regret, and that our nights should be forever peaceful. Why should they? You are not just dying inside. Like all of us, your life is coming to an end one day at a time. So it makes good sense that you are concerned with the crucial question of how to live without accumulating further regret. The rest of your life is still to be lived, and sleepless nights are bound to plague the end of one life and the beginning of another unknown one.

Clearly there is unfinished business that plagues you. How can you take on the tasks you believe you have left undone? Leaving concern for the praise of others behind, how can you live without wasting more time? How can you learn from the regrets you currently hold? Regrets can be precious. They are painful, but they also remind us that all experiences are transient and that all things will ultimately be lost.

There may be opportunities that you will not want to miss a second time. You sound as if you feel that part of this new decision has lost you some things prematurely. Perhaps it is not time to let go of everything. Allow your middle of the night regrets to guide you to those things you feel you would like to do. It may be easier to rest and to let go, when you have made decisions that allow you to live in a way that prevents the repetition of past mistakes.

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This was the second article I submitted to Crikey…

I suspect that one of my colleagues is gossiping about me in the office. Every time I walk past her and her friends, they fall silent – or worse, giggle. How do I clear the air without looking paranoid or petty?

Anabel, NSW

Oh Anabel, how hurtful. I don’t know that there is a soul alive who has not felt the pain of this kind of exclusion, and your dilemma about how to respond is a real curler.

Paranoia can be partly understood as the unconscious projection of parts of ourselves we fear onto others. So if there is paranoia here, you will uncover it by looking at the things you imagine they are saying about you. Are these things you secretly fear are true? However, just because we project, doesn’t mean we are not judged. It just gives it more sting.

Many great thinkers have struggled with the question of how to deal with the judgements of others without diminishing ourselves, but it is Sartre who comes to mind for me here. He wanted most for us to be the subjects of our own lives, rather than the objects we become when we look at ourselves through the eyes of others. But of course many of these thinkers were extremely lonely. And loneliness is always painful.

In this case I think you can’t have it both ways. This is a real concern for you, and so by its very nature it is not petty. You are not petty Anabel, you feel how you feel. You will have to make a choice. Will you pretend to feel differently than you do in order to gain their respect? Or will you honour your own sense that this is uncomfortable for you and risk their scorn? Only you can decide what is best for you in this situation.

I’m not sure if this is right, but I get the sense that there may be something that you have done that you are perhaps ashamed of, and that this may be the subject of the suspected gossip. If this is so, then it is with yourself that some of your struggle lies. How do you feel about what you have done? Are there amends to be made, or do you need to try to accept yourself, as you now know yourself to be?

So clear the internal air, and I believe the office dilemma will show its true colours.

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This was one of the articles I submitted to Crikey while working towards my dream of being an “Agony Aunt”

The nature strip outside my home has a large tree, under which my partner and I park our cars. Sometimes we arrive home to find our neighbours’ cars there, forcing us to park in another part of the street, usually in the sun. We plan to leave a note under their wipers suggesting they park elsewhere. Is this a reasonable position to take?

A.M. Qld

I’m not much of a one for rules  A.M., but I do suspect that every time we consider leaving a note rather than speaking in person, we are leaving a few moral stones unturned. Something about the note and its one- sided conversation allows us to duck the complexity of our situation.

You may be unsure about your ownership of the shade. Does it really belong to you and your household, or is it simple luck that the large tree stands outside of your house? Are you comfortable claiming this space for yourselves alone? Does this fit with your values and how you believe we should live in community? I sense some hesitancy here. These are big questions, so it is no wonder that they are difficult to answer. Answering them for yourselves may go a long way to clarifying your question.

You also say that you feel forced to park further down the street when your neighbours park in the shade of the tree. This feels to me as if somehow you see this as a kind of territorial war in which you have only two choices; stand your ground and stake your claim or be forced into the uncomfortable sun. I think there are many other choices, and that seeing that you are free to choose any number of responses may also help you find a comfortable position.

These choices are as many and varied as the people who make them. You may choose to delight in sharing the shade, talk to your neighbours and propose a roster system, contact your local council for relevant guidelines or even remove the tree so you no longer face the pain of the heat while others enjoy the shade. You may also choose to ask yourself “When did these things become of such great importance to me?” “What does this say about how I am living and what is of meaning to me in my life?”

I wish you all the best with your dilemma A.M., and trust that you have all the resources within you to resolve it.

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