an open let­ter … on hu­man re­la­tion­ships

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - MEGAN NICOL REED - Do write. megan­ni­col­reed@gmail.com

The sign on the front door of the stucco house, in­dis­tin­guish­able from any other in the Ne­vada retirement com­mu­nity, reads: “We did not know him.” In all the re­ports of life and death, of courage and grief, to weep and rush from the Las Ve­gas shoot­ing, it was this that most gave me pause. This sign dis­played by shooter Stephen’s Pad­dock’s near­est neigh­bours. Not only did those he lived along­side not know him, but nei­ther, it ap­pears, did his brother nor his part­ner. Not in­ti­mately enough to be able to cast any real light on what drove the 64-year-old to cart his arse­nal of weapons to a room on the 32nd floor of a lux­ury ho­tel and open fire on con­cert-go­ers at a coun­try mu­sic fes­ti­val. Of all the hash­ing over of Pad­dock’s his­tory and per­son­al­ity, two of the most re­veal­ing anec­dotes came from the young wo­man who reg­u­larly de­liv­ered Domino’s pizza to him and the barista who served him at the Star­bucks he fre­quented.

Of­ten when a ter­ri­ble crime has been com­mit­ted those clos­est to the cul­prit will pro­fess to feel­ing shock, that th­ese were not the ac­tions of the per­son they thought they knew, but per­haps this is worse, to not be known at all. Most hu­man re­la­tion­ships are forged on an in­nate de­sire to be known. To find friends, a soul­mate, to whom we can show our true self and be loved for it. And not just that we pre­fer to be on top and don’t like prawns with the tail on, not just our sur­faces, our flesh, but our very mar­row.

The other night my hus­band and I took the op­por­tu­nity of be­ing child-free to see a movie. We grabbed a bite to eat at an Asian fu­sion res­tau­rant, shar­ing bao and let­tuce cups. The seat­ing was slightly too cosy and I was very aware of the cou­ple next to us. Their bags of gro­ceries sat on the floor around them, and they each or­dered a bowl of chips and a cup of tea. Given our sur­rounds, it seemed a strange thing to choose and when the man up-ended his chips on a plate, spread­ing them out in a sin­gle layer, then, us­ing a chip as his im­ple­ment, dabbed sauce on to each in­di­vid­ual chip, I have to ad­mit I judged them a lit­tle harshly. But, pointed out my hus­band, af­ter the wo­man got up to go to the bath­room and very de­lib­er­ately placed a bag of gro­ceries upon her seat as though to keep us from try­ing to take it, look at how per­fectly suited they are. How happy they seem. Nei­ther, he said, finds any­thing re­motely odd in the other’s be­hav­iour.

It re­quires gen­eros­ity and ef­fort to re­ally know one an­other. You have to be pre­pared to give of your­self and put in the hours. It is the beauty of fam­i­lies; the knowl­edge is al­ready there, the hard work done for you. Sit­ting around with my cousins last week­end, rib­bing one an­other about our flaws, in both char­ac­ter and body, I felt re­laxed in a way I don’t of­ten al­low my­self to. On the face of things we have lit­tle in com­mon, but un­der­neath we have ev­ery­thing. If one of us were ever to do some­thing to at­tract the world’s at­ten­tion, we could never in good faith say we did not know each other.

FOL­LOW­ING ON

Jo­han wasn’t go­ing to bother re­spond­ing to last week’s col­umn on Hugh Hefner “be­cause any male’s at­tempt to ex­press his views are ei­ther not pub­lished or shouted down”. I’m happy to re­port he put his fears to one side to in­form us that, “We all know women are far bet­ter at twist­ing men around their lit­tle fin­gers than the other way around. And how do women do this? By strength of per­son­al­ity and a sense of hu­mour, cer­tainly — but also by us­ing an as­pect of hu­man na­ture that fem­i­nists re­ject but which ‘makes the world go around’, namely that men are at­tracted to a beau­ti­ful wo­man and her gen­eral phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance, which would in­clude ‘a blonde with big tits’.” Su­san had some­thing to say, too, about Hefner’s stereo­typ­i­cal wo­man. “The whole world was per­suaded to be­lieve that other types of faces, hair and bodies were sub­stan­dard. Per­haps the worst dam­age came from most of us in­ter­nal­is­ing that be­lief, and try­ing to sculpt our bodies to fit the pat­tern. I mu­ti­lated my own per­fect body by hav­ing breast im­plants (later re­moved). I felt I was not a proper wo­man be­cause I had such small breasts.”

It re­quires gen­eros­ity and ef­fort to re­ally know one an­other. You have to be pre­pared to give of your­self and put in the hours.

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