Joel’s Corner

Welcome back.

Make yourself a cup of tea.

Take off your shoes.

Settle in.

It’s been far too long.



Friends, we’re having some……

spacial issues at home.



The kind where we need our own splice without the other in it. Like a man cave for Joel. Like a day spa out the back for me. That kind of thing.



This is something I ponder quite frequently – that is, it is normal to cohabit so closely? And more importantly, with the opposite sex?

Is it natural?

Is it do-able?

Is it healthy, even?


We humans are social beings. That much we know. But let’s-meet-for-a-latte social? Or let’s-floss-and-sleep-together-every-single-night social?


Whenever I ask myself questions that begin, “Is this the right thing – to….?”, I immediately think of what would happen in nature. In my opinion, if it happens in nature, it’s right. It’s what’s supposed to happen. It’s normal. That’s why I’m all for homosexuality. It occurs in thousands of animal species, from primates to gut worms. It’s not a man-made construct, like genetically modified food and diet coke.


But co-habitation? The options are as vast as the Sahara.


Wolves are extremely social. They are pack animals. Wolves travel and hunt in a group and perform almost all other activities in the company of fellow wolves. Same sex, different sex. Doesn’t matter. They depend on it. They thrive on it. They don’t need to find their god-forsaken keys and go for a drive every once in a while.


Orangutans, though? Orangutans are mostly solitary. The social bonds that occur really only spring forth between adult females and their offspring. Adult males and independent adolescents of both sexes tend to live alone. The extent of orangutans’ social bonds, if anything, happens when resident females live with their offspring in defined home ranges that overlap with those of other adult females. Like neighbours who meet in their adjoining backyards for a glass of sav blanc after a long day. They are in range of a resident male – their main mating partner – but the male and female only really come together for a few days of mating and that’s it. Thanks for that, see ya later.


Obviously, you can see my dilemma.



When I was about 20, I traveled to India. There are so many things to say about that trip; about how it was the first time my eyes really shot open. About how much I cried for the state of the world. About how much it changed me. But, they are all stories for another day. Today we’ll stick to the point (for once).


India is a swarming, surging sea of hot, sweaty bodies – the India which I experienced, anyway. It’s like Bikram yoga in peak hour; fifteen people per square meter all trying to bend and move and stretch and make progress, all the while butting up against each other like a herd of cattle.


Just the thought of it can make one weak and want to shower.


And yet, by the looks on the hot, sweaty faces I saw, I could only perceive an unfazed, unflinching, apathetic acceptance. People got on with things, moved, stretched, smiled, laughed, made progress, despite the barrage of human walls they pushed up against. Despite the crowdedness. Despite the density. Despite the fact that most couldn’t even pee in private.


But then again, perhaps the acceptance I saw was because of it.

Perhaps because, like Bikram yoga, the outside pressure plunges you into the inside equivalent; a deeper tolerance, a deeper unfuffled-ness (yes, that it a word). The heat and sweat and cloudiness and lack of space gets so intense you have to turn inside. You have to make space inside to go. You have to be calm and accepting and peaceful because of the outside. Because you’ll turn mad otherwise.


If you took a mass of Australians and crammed them into Mumbai the way Indians there are populated, I’m quite certain there would be issues. I can say with confidence that the restricted personal space would send us all in into fits of intolerant rage. There would not be kind interactions. There would not be acceptance. There would be for-the-love-of-god-get-out-of-my-ways and sweet-jesus-he-stinks. We would lose our hats. We would start hating and cursing and near exploding.

Not that that’s what happened to me while I was there, of course.



I wonder if that is why India has been dubbed such a spiritual place ; why travelers find peace there, despite all evidence to the contrary. There, millions of people cram together, living side-by-side, moving, bending and creaking together with little space, little privacy and little comfort. And yet, harmony resides. Acceptance is learned. Peace is found. Space is discovered in places the untrained eye cannot see.


I’m definitely not very good at being Indian, or wolfish. If I don’t have space, I don’t breathe. I have even gone so far as to create this space, this red tent of ours, solely for the purpose of breathing. Here, all we do is breathe and rest. Sometimes we eat too, if Mr Worthington has been so kind as to drop something off.


Joel is no different.


You see, I might have this slight tendency to rearrange furniture and redecorate regularly. It’s like taking a holiday. So new. So fresh. Joel, though appreciative of my efforts to make our house a home, has expressed concerns that I am taking over the house. That I am replacing every single mark he makes with ones that are only mine. To be fair, his black photo frames just don’t GO with the white ones already there, but anyway. Moving on. While I have snuck off here and had a chance to catch my breath, you’ll be pleased to know that I have also made a blue tent corner for Joel. So he can breathe as well.










We know not to step foot on that rug, Ella and I. If we do, we’re dead meat.


A little bit orangutan, a little bit wolfish.


Maybe that’s the answer.






8 Responses to “Joel’s Corner”

  1. Taryn

    I love your description of India!
    I also like your ‘what would nature do?’ philosophy. Me, I have a ‘what would traditional African villagers do?’ philosophy- a bit anthropocentric I know, but I have this idea in my head that they do things a more natural way, without interference by things like technology and development and unsolicited internet advice. Works great for parenting: totally justifies co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, favouring sticks and stones for toys over store-bought plastic crap, etc.

    • rachwiley

      We ask the traditional African villager question too! It’s one of Joel’s favs, actually. Always I hear, “In African tribes, blah blah blah” and it’s often what drives most of our decisions. Funny! Glad to know we’re not the only ones being weird…:)

  2. coffeepoweredmom

    That’s great! I am completely a furniture rearranger too! It makes things look new and spacious, and it always leads to involuntary tidying. Win-win in my book. I think that Phil has resigned himself to my insanity for the most part, although I do try to include him in my decisions, or at the very least let him tidy his own desk. (full disclosure: I’ll clean the dishes off his desk when I’m collecting them, but I don’t think he minds that at all)

  3. karelysdavis

    So my husband and I separated. We live in different houses now (despite not being high earners we can each have a house that we own). The other day I went to his house to talk because communication is the worst and I totally forgot what I wanted to say and there was crying and snot and all I could say was “I just want you to communicate with me! *cry*”

    Which is a dumb thing to ask for/demand when you’re on the verge of divorce. Regadless. We ended up having sex. And saying to each other that we’re not ready to divorce but we’re not ready for a relationship because “what is marriage for even??? What is love even??” Basically all the things you’ve written I wish I had read before we split up and I had emailed you and searched for help.

    Anyway, I thought that if Friday Khalo and Diego Rivera lived in different houses and that’s how they managed to stay together for so long even in their torrid marriage….maybe I could swing it too. I can totally swing being married to him and not ask him to change if I don’t have to always live with him.

    But I didn’t say anything of the sort. I just mumbled, can I stay the night?

    And maybe he said yes, who knows. I don’t think he’s the kind to kick out a naked woman from his bed.

    And by around 3 am the kids traveled to the bed and snuggled with us and I sort of panicked because it was all too familiar. That’s what we used to do before. And you can’t kind of sort of date someone and try to know them for the new person they’ve become if you know them too well and you continue to do all too familiar things with them. You start to remember all the freckles on their back and their gross habits and their good ones. It’s a mess.

    Holy cow I got sidetracked! the point was separate houses. Yes. I agree. And I’ve pondered this out loud. Separate houses and separate fountains of intimacy and support and not requiring of men to give more than they can give. I don’t know. All I have are questions and good girlfriends.

    • The Red Tent

      yes, yes, yes – to all of this. I feel your confusion – it is a mess. Love is always messy and risky – as is living with a man day in day out forevermore. It sounds like you still love each other. I don’t know, maybe there is a middle ground somewhere out there. There’s something to be said for couples where one partner works away a lot! I just don’t think it’s normal to live out of each other’s pockets all the time, I think it’s really easy to lose sight of yourself, and also the person you fell in love with in the first place. And yes I totally agree about the different fountains of intimacy and support – girlfriends are truly life-giving and they help sustain a marriage by buffering the parts of it that remain unsatisfied. My marriage is far, far, far from perfect and we go to counselling now and again to help iron out our creases. Here is a post I wrote about it – mainly advice from our marriage counsellor. Maybe it will help. In the meantime – lots of girlfriends 🙂


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