A sister-in-law posted a self-portrait yesterday. I have not seen her since last Christmas. The watercolour version of her is undoubtedly her, yet I was taken aback at how quickly she has aged. No. 2 Son correctly reminded me it is really about how an artist sees themselves and how they interpret what they see in themselves. Did she exaggerate all the features she did not like about her face? Did she try and please herself by painting a wishful version of herself? Or was she severe on her own truth and the end result a much haggard depiction of a sophisticated and elegant woman in the mirror? In any case, whether unknowingly or not, she managed to capture the integrity of her inner self, that which is kind and caring. Her empathy and positivity a beacon for all of us. I confessed to No. 2 Son that if I were to paint a self-portrait – not that I can – my painting would reflect an image of a rugged steely-eyed swordsman with a Ming dynasty hair-do and a sculpted physique not unlike Clint Eastwood’s. When I was a teenager, I transgressed from the socially accepted norm and painted my hair long with a black texta on my class photo. I never had long hair and I wanted to see myself differently. I knew then that I would be one whose unrealistic impression of himself would be his downfall one day. The inclination to see a version of oneself that is far from the truth could be the reason for the frequent run-ins with The Mrs. It suddenly dawned on me that perhaps she is the best person to know the true me. I have for the past 39 years argued that she does not know me at all and cannot appreciate the goodness that envelopes my heart. But, have I actually betrayed myself? Has the self-portrait that I portray myself been a fraud that The Mrs has seen through all those years ago? After all, for someone who could lengthen his hair with texta in his own photo, how unlikely is it that such a person would project a false image to himself and everyone else? It is no wonder that for decades I seldom looked at my own reflection in the mirror. Maybe I never liked what I saw. Maybe I did not trust my own eyes. The perception of myself in my own mind was a better reality. There was no need to look at the mirror. Why tarnish the image we already have in our mind?
When a baby is born, we announce very quickly – “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” The child’s sex is determined by which visible sex organs we see. But today, a person’s gender confuses me. Transgenders say their sex is wrongly assigned – some feel they are the opposite sex of what they were at birth. Some feel they are both male and female. Still others feel they are neither. JK Rowling got into a huge controversy this week when she responded to a headline discussing “people who menstruate”. I cannot agree with her more. How is it we are to lose the word “woman” or its plural form? The trans world is so loud and severe that they will come down hard on anyone who they “think” is anti-trans. Asking why we cannot simply use the word “woman” instead of “people who menstruate” earned their wrath this week. They have labelled JK Rowling “transphobic”. I echo her question. Surely it cannot be hate to speak the truth? The trans world found her views “hurtful”. I can only surmise that people can be easily hurt when they are emotional about certain issues in their lives. It is clear that COVID-19 has not made us nicer to one another. We are still the urghhlings of old. The virus may have the power to cost the world $9 trillion in stimulus money to prop the global economy. It may have the power to send 41 million Americans to join the job queues or sink the UK’s economy by 21% or infect over 7.27 million and kill over 413,000 but it does not have the ability to make us nicer to one another. The fact that a woman can get into trouble for asking why we cannot use the word woman sends shivers up my spine. What an ugly world we live in. What do trans really feel before they are sure about their gender? Do they need to feel “feminine” or “masculine” before they are happy to label themselves? What is a feminine feeling to them anyway? How do they know that is being feminine if they cannot acknowledge what a woman is? If their sex is not important, why do they even want to transition to the opposite gender through hormones and surgery? So, their sex must be important to them. They just want the right to assign it be transferred from the doctors to themselves. Who doesn’t want to be true to themselves, right? Black texta simply won’t do.
Ken who lives in Toronto posted a photo of his beautiful garden. “I love your Acer, Sir!” I exclaimed. I have always loved the acer palmatum aka Japanese maple. I had two beautiful ones, both over six-foot tall. The shoots in early spring were a magical green and in late autumn, they produced the most stunning reddish hues. I loved them but they died, about fourteen years apart. The first, in 2006, a casualty of the long drought in Adelaide and the second could not be saved last summer. I had the urge to share a photo of my garden which shows the dead acer. I have not been able to chop it down, even though it died six months ago. I had the urge to share a photo of my cyclamen also. Yet, I refrained on both occasions. My finger was poised to press send but the thought that I could inadvertently trumpet my “femininity” to my friends made me recoil my finger from the phone. But, it is surely right not to be interpreted as being feminine when one appreciates flowers, trees and all of nature’s grandeur and beauty, right? When is it right that men are decried as feminine then? Decried, did I say? No, men should not be censured for admiring nature’s beauty. It is society’s prejudices that denounce certain acts as effeminacy. Approximately two in three Aussies will succumb to skin cancer before they turn 70. This can perhaps be attributable to society’s frowning on able-bodied bronzed men holding umbrellas under the scorching sun. It is a sight never seen in this vast continent where the elements are as challenging as that in Brokeback Mountain in Wyoming.