Trying too hard

He was wearing a suit like the rest of them.

He was talking so animatedly with a total babe of a woman that I thought they must have known each other. She was laughing a lot. Turns out they’d just met earlier in their six minute ‘date’. We talked about the finger food and I slipped away to check my phone in the loo. The mingling at the start of speed dating is fine, you can just find another woman who has rocked up alone and talk about dating. But by intermission it seems everyone has found someone to yarn to and I just felt like a social break.

When I finally got to date him, I think I had just asked a few dudes what made them happy so to mix it up I asked what really pissed him off. Cue anecdote about noisy neighbours. Look, he didn’t ask me a great question, and it wasn’t an amazing story, but he did know how to tell it well and I laughed. Tick. He maintained eye contact and didn’t compliment me creepily. Tick tick. Even though I spent ages deciding what to wear (and modelling different options for my housemates) I’m always a bit turned off when one of the first things a dude says is about how I look. I don’t really understand how that works. Maybe it’s that I want them to notice, but I don’t want it to be the main thing they notice enough to compliment, within the first six minutes of meeting? The very first thing another guy earlier that night said was that I had a pretty smile, then that my dimples were cute, then a few minutes later that I had nice eyes. Maybe I am trying so hard to play it cool and pretend that we aren’t sussing out each other’s physical appearance and that we’re genuinely trying to determine the potential for a deeper connection, so when someone smashes that façade it’s a bit jarring. Maybe everyone is a bit weird about accepting compliments. Also – it’s not a conversation starter. All I can respond to “I really like your eyes” is “um, thanks.”


But when I met The Suit again two week later for our first proper date, he complimented me in a totally smooth way. When I took my (ridiculous vintage fur) jacket off, he said “That is a fantastic jacket.” Good, something specific that I could respond to: “Oh yeah it was a hand-me-down from my godmother, I hardly ever wear it because it’s a bit OTT but I thought if I can’t dress up for a fancy dinner date, when can I?” Not smooth. In fact, verbal diarrhoea. To which he replied, “Of course! And you do look beautiful. Would you like a drink?” Smooth.

He had booked the arm chairs next to the fire at a fancy restaurant. When I apologised for my tardy responses and thanked him for waiting two weeks to catch up, he said ‘As if I wouldn’t, you’re great!’ He seemed into me. The last three guys I’d had a semi-serious series of dates or flings with were good dudes who I connected deeply with, but for a variety of reasons it wasn’t the right time (not into monogamy, not ready for a ‘relationship’ or still not divorced), or they just weren’t into me enough to make time. The Suit seemed into me and it was intoxicating. He had that twinkly look in his eyes. You know that look? When your eyes meet and they look deep into them and holds that gaze? When their eyes seem to smile? When without speaking their eyes seem to tell you they’re really there watching and listening and that they’re kinda really into being there too? When someone, a date, a partner, a friend, a family member or a colleague, looks at you with curiosity and respect and joy? I hope y’all have had someone look at you and listen like that. It’s pretty fucken ace.

We ate dinner, which I’m normally not into on a first date, but when you’re at a fancy joint in heels and fur and mascara that feels like you accidentally painted it onto one of your eyeballs, why the fuck not? This joint was normally definitely outta my price range but I’d budgeted for it that week. I went all out and ordered the lamb. It was bloody delicious.

There were so many things I liked about this bloke. He listened well, he told a good story, he didn’t shy away from real talk, he liked me and he wanted to move to the country once he’d found a job, a dog and a woman to move with. Despite all this, a strong desire to touch his face or kiss his lips did not manifest itself. He seemed a little stuck in his life. He did not especially like talking about his work. He was not looking forward to turning 40 soon. He said something I’ve heard a few fellas say who feel older or that they’ve been single for more than they’d like to be: I’ve just learnt that the harder you try to grasp something the harder it is to hold, you just have to let go and not try so hard.

I thought two things in response to this. One: letting go? Sounds like giving up! Laaaaame! This was an affront to my entire approach to dating – which is that it’s a numbers game that you have to be in it to win it even if you do probably end up bumping into your true love serendipitously in the line at Centrelink one wintry midweek morning.

Two: I heard so much yearning in that. Almost desperation. It sounded like as much as they were trying hard to let go, either they weren’t letting go or the fact remained that they were still trying hard. Fuck, aren’t we all? Trying hard? Wasn’t I? Otherwise why the fuck did I spend so long getting dressed and daydreaming about what this date would be like even though I couldn’t actually remember what his face looked like and had a sinking feeling that I may not want to kiss it? Why, despite knowing my gut wasn’t feeling any chemistry, did I blush when he said “I think I’ve made it pretty clear I’d like to see you again”? Why did I respond, “You’re great! This was great! Let’s do it again!” even though I had just made it pretty clear our kiss goodbye on the lips would remain a Church kiss and not a pash?


Maybe the things that annoy us or repel us in other people are the things that annoy us about ourselves. I realised what it looked like when someone comes on strong. Not overly strong, but makes their intentions clear, isn’t shy about their feelings. Maybe this is what I’d been doing to those last three blokes. Coming on strong. Trying too hard. Perhaps the force of my feelings feared them a little. I thought that was honesty and integrity – but maybe you can still be real and keep a few cards to your chest. I mean, I didn’t tell them I loved them or try to move in with them or suggest names for our firstborn but maybe that kind of desperation can be sensed. Maybe you can smell it. I was so scared of men smelling that yearning emanating from me, but I also was so sick of blokes not being ready to meet me where I’m at. Here was someone who was ready to meet me. Why wasn’t I running towards that?

Maybe – a desire to be with me is not the only quality I’m looking for in a potential romantic partner – maybe it’s the baseline.

Maybe – when someone is real with you about their feelings, it’s not a turn off, it just makes you super cautious about how you respond if you’re not feeling like you’re matching the intensity or surety – lest you hurt their feelings. “I don’t want to waste your time if we’re looking for different things” – I’ve been told that in the past and now it’s how I felt towards this man.

Maybe – when you can see what a future with someone would look like so clearly that it scares you a little bit and maybe you don’t feel as ready to jump into that as you thought you were.

Maybe – I just wasn’t super turned on and that felt shallow and lame because he was such a decent bloke. The kind of good guy who ticks boxes and who your mates and mum want you to end up with. Maybe I’d never experienced the ‘slow burn’ and spent enough time with someone who I wasn’t turned on by, for long enough for the other less obvious parts of them to emerge and turn me on. Maybe I was comparing him to the babin’ hipsters I’d met at another speed dating even the night before. Maybe I was a superficial bitch and that felt a bit shit.

Maybe I was pretty tired from finishing an intense week of work back in Tassie immediately after finishing my masters and two people I knew had recently died and I was tired and wired and raw and my feelings were all over the place and I didn’t trust them.


Whatever the reason, when he texted the next day to say how he’d like to meet up but ‘totally fine if you don’t want to – you’re awesome in any event’ I jumped at the chance to exit and fired back a very complimentary goodbye text.


I still wonder if I did the right thing.



Contemplative sunrise view from my bedroom door. It’s not as beautiful as Boat Harbour, and I still feel sad and lonely and confused sometimes, but this feels like the right place to feel those feelings.



Getting back on that (speed dating) horse

Dear Readers,

There’s so much to tell you.

That story I was so excited about a few months ago is indeed over. There’s part of me that thinks it’s just over for now and not forever and once the seasons change it might bloom again in spring. There are other parts of me that don’t believe that, or don’t want to wait anyway. Either way I’m back. Back in the dating scene. Back on the onlines. Back much more excitingly, writing to y’all! I’ve genuinely missed you. Processing things by writing them down with a pen and paper is one thing, mining them for something of value to share with others is another. I hope these months have been kind to you and thank you for your gentle patient support.

I have some more audio stories to share soon. Meantime, here are two stories I wrote on trams tonight.

With very fond regards,


I have mascara on, my hair down and the girls out. I’ve got a keepcup full of green tea in one hand and my phone with a ticket to speed dating in the other. I bought the ticket before I realised how many words I should instead be writing for my final uni assignment due next week. I’m wearing that dress from sportsgirl that I only seem to ever wear to shit like this, paired with these sensible teaching boots from Target via Savers because I know there’s standing up mingling time at these things and if I can’t be studying, I can at least be comfortable. It ain’t my first time at the rodeo. It would appear, Dear Readers, that I am indeed back.

There is nothing to differentiate this speed dating from others. I guess it’s 12 six minute dates instead of however many three minute dates like last time. There’s also a distinct lack of free cheap champagne so I order a tomato juice cos it’s cheap and I have a cold and I guess it’s a point of difference in this market.

My strategy is to bugger the small talk and go for “What makes you laugh/angry/relax/excited?” It mostly avoids discussion about work and weekends but this is the comfort zone for some peeps so I happily hang out there momentarily.

“The thing is,” I later say to a newbie, “by this stage of the night everyone’s already had the same conversations at least ten times. There was the initial excitement at the start but then the nervous energy wears off after the half time mingle and finger food sesh. So the trick is to ask an interesting question that people haven’t heard before.” He nods and smiles and compliments my dimples and tells me I’m not like the others he has met then asks about my hobbies. “Reading books, baking, talking to friends on the phone, walking in parks. But what really pisses you off, eh?” And so on.

A busker chick is wailing a mournful artsy jazz version of ‘Toxic’ near my tramstop afterwards as I munch on my Woolies dinner to compensate for the “substantial fingerfood”. As I should have anticipated, speed dating in the city was full of city people. I can say such things now that I’m a Melbournian of 18 months. Y’know, stereotype people by their suburb of residence or workplace or socialisation. Men mainly in suits and too tight muscle shirts tried to ask me about my day and my work and my weekend. To keep an open mind is an active choice. To remind yourself to be hopeful that most interactions can be salvaged into something. If not the spark then a decent yarn, if not that then something learnt about a profession, a culture, an observation, opinion- mining whatever snippets a stranger decides to reveal for some kind of value. If not a connection then a laugh or a lesson and if neither of those then for the time before that 6 minute bell rings to pass with dreary decency.

“It’s better than swiping on an app” he says and I politely agree even though I’d rather be casually scrolling intermittently whilst watching trash tv in my PJs with my housemates or taking a study break, switching from one screen to another. I wouldn’t have swiped you, is what I don’t say. I bet you are unsmiling in your photos which are all close ups from the same angle. I bet your ‘profile’ is a collection of emojis relating to sports you play or watch and food and drink you like and flags of countries you’ve travelled to. These things would have told me that you perhaps don’t want to ask or answer big questions or try to tie down big ideas into words or spend time in the same way I do or value the same things or strive towards the same virtues.

How can you reveal or uncover such things in six minutes or six photos and a few lines of words or emojis? It can’t be done. The level of written communication and interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence detective work is too extreme. Little snippets are the only clues we have. So is it discernment or patience that is required? Or both?

In conclusion: it wasn’t that bad I mean I felt proactive and like I was “actively working towards a goal” whilst also “not caring too much.” This love thing, it’s something I want to give and receive in a romantic way sure. This dating thing, it’s something that I do in a hobby kind of way, not investing too much too soon but slowly chipping away at it and doing something each week.

Look, there was one bloke with twinkly eyes, a cute smile and a pleasant vocal timbre and another who knew how to yarn. If they ticked me too I’ll get an email by 7pm tomorrow.

Bumble tells me 27 fellas think I’m a bit of alright. They won’t tell me who unless I pay or swipe for an undetermined amount of time. Tinder has presented a few vaguely promising options. Will keep youse in the loop. This was a bit rambly but please be patient, I’m just getting back on the horse.

It’s good to be back.


Dearest Readers,

Tomorrow night I go on a seventh date with a total babe.

It will be the most dates I have been on with the same man for quite a long time.

I have a lot of feelings that are hard to describe. Maybe because I’ve had a cup of camomile tea and am listening to classical music by candlelight in an effort to calm my farm. Some potentially adequate words are: bliss, intrigue, joy, untetheredness? I feel wanted and desired and respected and excited and curious and something akin to nervous. Maybe it’s hard to describe because some of these feelings are unfamiliar. Or maybe the feelings change frequently because it’s all so new. Or maybe it’s just hard to concentrate on anything else at the moment.

I’m venturing into potentially unchartered territory here.

Whatever it is that I’m falling into, it feels precious in its infancy.

Wherever it is that I float to in this bubble of daydreams, it feels almost impossible  to tie down and simplify with words.

However it is that this thing grows, the exploration feels increasingly too intimate to share wholeheartedly and respectfully and honestly.

Perhaps the time for trying to understand and describe this thing has not yet come.

Perhaps now is the time for just falling and floating and feeling the feelings.

I think I might pause a little while in writing this particular story, because I don’t yet know how to tell it and because it just doesn’t feel right to keep telling it. It’s still a draft, a work in progress, and I’m not the only one writing it now.

I hope y’all understand. You’ve been so supportive and so patient, reading through so many terrible dates and now they’re finally good ones and I am being all vague and not divulging the delicious details! Please know that I bloody love this little community and am constantly grateful that I get to share shit with you guys and you say nice things. Please know that I’ll continue to share other stories, re-working old stories for storytelling nights and others I haven’t yet written about and trust me I am writing this story down too and will one day share.

Please also know that I am very happy.

With the very kindest of all the regards,




Dear Readers,

I’m so excited to share this with y’all! Here’s the story I told live at The Moth in Melbourne back in January! The story-slam-winning story is here for your listening pleasure!

Yeah! We’re going all AV up in here! It’s a multimedia extravaganza! Now you don’t even have to READ the words of the story, you can just LISTEN to them! 

If you’re in Melbourne and want to WATCH more stories then click here and come along – I guarantee these storytelling nights will restore your faith in the goodness of humankind! For a very low price! 

If you’re not lucky enough to live in the world’s most liveable city but are a Dear Reader from the UK or the US then click here to find out where you can catch some true stories told live. If you are a Dear Reader from any other brilliant pocket of this big ol’ universe you can listen to stories online right here.

I hope you enjoy listening to this as much as I bloody revelled in the utterly thrilling act of telling it! 

With much joy,




Number 16 Beach near Rye Victoria Australia


What a thing it is to be in a place that is wild.

To stand in front of an ocean that stretches beyond what you can see.

To hear twittering in the scrub and waves.

The exhilaration of the wind that almost rips you open to blow the cobwebs from your bones.

The contentmentof watching cormorants diving in the shallows. The joy of thinking you might have spotted two fins carve the blue further out and then the sheer bloody delight of witnessing a dolphin lift its body out of the water and leap above a wave.

To see little signals, some familiar kelp or intricate sand pattern or smell of a crushed leaf, memories of other wild places you have loved, little reminders that these will always be places your body needs. Your senses crave them. Your soul finds refuge.

Your heart is lifted and your very core simultaneously dances and rests.


Things I’ve been thinking about

I am lying on my bed upstairs in my terrace on the phone to a dear friend. I’m reading her the last paragraphs of a chapter called ‘On Darkness’ in Helen Garner’s (bloody brilliant) book ‘All That I See’…

There is no point roaming around looking for comfort, or so I have found. Comfort is like grace. You can’t earn it, or deserve it. You have to thrash on, bearing things as best you can, and hold yourself receptive for the moments when it comes to you of its own accord.

Towards the end of the second Farquharson trial, during breaks in the proceedings when the court was cleared, I used to walk up and down the great bare Victorian corridors of the old Supreme Court, stretching my legs, trying to get the blood moving.

            One day I heard what sounded like music, very faint and far away. I thought I was hallucinating, and kept walking. But every time I passed the entrance to a certain west-running hallway, the same thing would happen: fragile drifts of notes and slow arpeggios, as if a ghost in a curtain-muffled room were playing a piano. I was too embarrassed to ask if anyone else had heard it; was I starting to crack up? But one day when there was no one else around I went in search of it. I found that an intersection of two corridors had been roofed in glass or Perspex. Two benches had been placed against a wall, and from a tiny speaker, fixed high in a corner, came showering these delicious droplets of sound. It was a resting place that some nameless benefactor had created, for people who thought they couldn’t go on.

            One afternoon in a different hallway a lady came out of an unmarked office carrying a flat dish. She saw me sitting waiting in the corridor on my own, and approached, holding the plate out in front of her. ‘Hello. We’ve just had a little party and we’ve got some cakes left over. Would you like a lamington?’

            These random incidents seem so strange to me now, such unexpected moments of blessing, that I wonder if I dreamt them. Dreams do come: the unconscious works in us and for us, unceasing, with its saving complexity and its deep knowingness.

            Sometimes it seems to me that, in the end, the only thing people have got going for them is imagination. At times of great darkness, everything around us becomes symbolic, poetic, archetypal. Perhaps this is what dreaming, and art, are for.

Maybe love is the same as grace or comfort, I say. Maybe you can’t earn it or grasp at it or bloody manifest it, you just have to be “receptive for the moments when it comes to you of its own accord.”




Some days later I am sitting under a tree on the median strip out the front of my house. A few trees up my housemate is stretched out in the afternoon sun reading a book. Sometimes people picnic out here. Sometimes groups of people sit around on milkcrates and drink beer out here, or spread out blankets with glasses of wine and cheeseboards. People walk their dogs. I like city neighbourhoods. I like that cities have had to put space aside for nature and for people to gather in. The nature is manicured sure, but beautifully so. It’s crowded sure, but communally so. Evenings in the public gardens are full of groups of people gathering under trees.

But it’s afternoon on the median strip. I’m sitting under a palm tree talking to an old friend on the phone and pulling up bits of grass with my fingers and mulling over why I’m feeling flat.

Maybe it’s because I’ve put all my eggs in the dating basket. Maybe I need to diversify my investments there to make it less of an emotional roller-coaster. Maybe it’s just that the excited joy of re-joining the dating world in December has now lost it’s initial shine – it’s just a thing I do now. It might be a thing I do for a bit longer than I wanted to. Maybe I just need to get my head around the fact that just because I’ve moved to a city and changed careers and made the big decisions and made the bold moves, doesn’t mean it’s all gunna fall into place for me quickly. Doesn’t mean it’s gunna fall into place at all really – it’s probably statistically more likely to find love here than out bush but it’s still statistically about half and half y’know? I mean, I could be continuously single for another year, two years, another decade. I need to get back to a place where I’m ok with that.




A week later I’m sitting at Carlton Readings, one of the best bookshops in town. I’m 30 minutes early for a talk entitled ‘The Meaning Of Life’ by Patrick Stokes, philosopher and writer, and Zan Boag, editor of the New Philosopher. I turn to the cute dork behind me and make some comment about the lack of chairs and isn’t it lucky we got here early. He blushes and mumbles a response to my question about what brought him here. People tell you to just do the things you’re interested in and you’ll meet like-minded people there. But it’s more complex than that – you’ve gotta continuously go to the same places or the same events, build up acquaintanceships slowly over time whilst gently prodding for their relationship status and testing compatibility. Same thing with the babe who worked at the CERES nursery or the babe at the Buddhist temple I used to meditate in.

My friend arrives and the talk begins. They talk about the unexamined life, about flourishing, about identity just arising from the thing you spend the most time doing. About there not being any one thing that gives a life purpose, not work, family or art or community, just our own proactive belief that that this one thing (be it work or family or whatever specific thing it happens to be for us) is the purpose, this is what ultimately makes it ok and worthwhile, this “answers to the enormity of my existence.” About death giving meaning to life by adding urgency – that each moment could be your last, or it could be the first in a very long life.

The bit that gets me is this term ‘narrativism,’ which is kinda about choice, agency and control. Does everybody have a story and that story gives us meaning? Or is life just one damned thing after another and we just give it meaning in the telling of it? Do we own our own stories, can we control them? Or is everything pre-determined by whatever it is that you believe in – scientific determinism, random coincidence, serendipity, fate, destiny, the universe, karma, God?

Are we the authors of our own stories? No, says Stokes. “We are at best co-authors.”

Co-authors, eh?


Afterwards my friend and I eat ridiculously good Italian food at Tiamo’s bistro.

If all I am is a co-author, then I can chill the fuck out a bit about the whole dating thing. I’m not going to completely drop the ball and be a passenger and leave it up to the universe, but I can’t be solely responsible or capable of controlling every element of my life either. So all I can do is all I can do. I can do everything I possibly can, I can make things happen, but in the end, that may not be enough – it’s out of my hands. All I choose is how I respond – with curiosity, with trust, with hope. That isn’t giving up. I can still be open to whatever else the universe decides to throw my way. I can be receptive to when serendipitous shit is happening. 

Before we left the talk the editor of the magazine invited us to write down what we thought the meaning of life was. The best answer would win a copy of the first ever edition of the New Philosopher. I wrote:

The meaning of life is to each day be a slightly less shit human being than the day before.

This was read out to the audience and selected as the winner. (I am now doubly an award-winning author!) (Also – I mean, come on, I won at the meaning of fucking life!) The above sentence is genuinely my philosophy. I want to see life as a moral adventure story, where we just stumble towards being our best selves, along the way actively struggling against the worst of our natures. If that doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs, it’s like old mate Fairlie said, if we all know that we’re all individually at war with ourselves, we can choose to “go to war like warriors do, with zest, valour and even mirth.”

If this has all been a bit too philosophical for you, let me leave you with some seriously serendipitous shit. After the philosophy talk, a total babe with a chequered shirt and a leather satchel gave me his business card. He asked if I’d consider selling it to him so that his library would be complete. After I’d finished reading it of course. I said I would. I might sell it to him for a cup of tea and a philosophical yarn.

I still have that business card in my wallet.






Dear Readers,

Thanks for bearing with that lengthy and rather narrative-less piece. These are things I’ve been thinking about. I’d love to know what you think. Let’s get philosophical! Let’s have the deep chats we always wish we could have on dates but get stuck in small talk! You can comment below anonymously, send me a reply if you’re an email subscriber, or hit me up on the old Facebook.

Meantime, a lot of these ideas were borrowed from better thinkers, so you can read more of their thoughts here if you’d like:

  • Helen Garner’s full essay ‘On Darkness‘ as it appeared in The Monthly
  • Patrick Stokes’ piece ‘Are you just a story?‘ about narrativism as it appeared in the New Philosopher (His ‘A life worth living‘ aint bad either) (also if you like thinking and stories y’all should try the New Philosopher’s sister magazine ‘Womankind‘)
  • The Fairlie quote is from David Brooks’ ‘The Road to Character‘, which kinda changed my life a little. I bang on about it a lot. It’s not a self help book. It’s a book of stories about real people who’ve been summoned by life rather than tried to create their lives, instead of looking inside themselves for answers, have looked outside and sussed out what life was calling them to do. Some of the ideas are summed up in his article ‘The Moral Bucket List.’ I know he has some questionably conservative ideas about other things but I stand by these specific ones. Can also recommend writing your own eulogy. Srsly. 

I’ve had a few interesting dates – a night at the museum and whisky with an Argentinean cowboy – so I’ll update y’all on those soon. Nothing worthy of high-fiving the universe but the dates themselves were enjoyable. This evening I’m off to a pub date with a young Happn bloke and then going to a gig with a single gal pal, because if neither of us are gunna get laid tonight, we might as well spend time with people who will at least ask us questions in bloody conversation y’know? 

Thoughtfully yours,


Things I have been doing that are not dating

  • Researching the hell out of teaching critical and creative thinking dispositions and submitting the essay last night at 11.59pm
  • Learning about Communities of Inquiry at a Philosophy for Children course
  • Leading some back up dancers for a mate’s music video, following the brief “get dressed up and do weird shit in a field”
  • Giving my bro and his girlfriend the Condensed Best Of Melbourne Tour
  • Playing tennis and having picnics afterwards eating takeaway Moroccan Soup Bar in Edinburgh Gardens
  • Pondering the meaning of life over dinner or on the phone with old mates
  • Tending my pot plants
  • Putting on a nice vintage frock and these ridiculous shoes from my godmother and listening to music and feeling the sun on my face as I wait for the tram to take me to the theatre for a date with myself
  • Thinking big thoughts about love and reconsidering my approach to dating and looking forward to telling y’all about it soon x