For so long I've carried a torch for her. Imagined what might be. Marvelled at the ease with which she inhabits her body. The lightness with which she wears her skin. How pretty she is. How funny. Oh her integrity. If only she would look at me, truly look at me, then surely, I've so often thought, surely she would see what friends we could be. Years now, in spite of my fruitless yearnings, irrespective of my unrequited feelings, I've kept that flame burning. The slightest glance, the merest trace of a smile, enough to string me along, an inch here, another there. And then, this week, I discovered she hadn't voted. That she hadn't got around to it. And like that, as if she'd taken a particularly sharp and vicious knitting needle to it, my fantasy split open. Because to my mind it is the height of immaturity, of irresponsibility, inexcusable even, to not vote, to so casually spurn the small power we are so fortunate to have.
Her breezy admission and my consequent devastation reminded me how flimsy the ideas we build up of one another are. Constructed upon the wobbliest of foundations, plastered with the most papery of notions; whether deliberate or not we all make assumptions. The week before the election I was genuinely shocked when a friend I thought knew me as well as any said she guessed I'd be voting for National. But, I said, not a little indignant, you know the things I care about, how I was brought up, how could you think I would give my vote to a party that prioritises this country's economy over its poorest, over its lands and its waters? And then I realised that it is precisely because she knows me, knows me well enough to see my husband's income puts me in a different socio-economic demographic to hers that she had taken for granted my politics would lean towards the right.
It annoys me to be lumped with a certain way of thinking, a particular set of behaviours, just because I am white and middle-class. The taxi driver who, on receiving the address of my sadly homogenous and affluent neighbourhood, happily reveals his racist core. The woman at the lunch who believes I will share her thoughts on the implicit superiority of private schools over state. And if it is irksome for me I can only imagine how affecting it is to be written off as criminal because you are poor and brown or greedy because you are rich and Asian. To be considered dumb just for being young and sexy or irrelevant for being old and slow.
As opposed as I am to much of what National stands for, I have begrudgingly come to see these past months that unlike many of his predecessors, Bill English is a principled man, that I cannot in good conscience dislike him just for being blue. After reading an interview with our freshly elected, youngest MP ever, Chloe Swarbrick, I decided that I, and the online commentators rubbishing her at the article's end for her dearth of experience, could, on the contrary, stand to take a leaf or two out of her book. Asked if she was apprehensive about potentially working with Winston Peters, she said: "I think that the whole point about Parliament is that you've got everybody in there who has been elected by New Zealanders. So everybody ultimately, I believe, wants a better version of New Zealand. We just all have different game plans about how to get there and what that looks like."
I did worry that last week's column, in which I admitted to and essentially defended the frequency of which I yell at my children would inspire a flurry of letters from those pro-smacking. Thankfully it didn't, however, I couldn't help but be intrigued by John, who said while he never raised a hand to any of his children, his brother-in-law used to slap his around the ears. "I hate real violence towards children. Can't abide it, but I know that my brother-in-law was the best of fathers and for the boys the punishment was over and done with. There was no being shut away in a room for hours, no locking away of favourite toys for days, and, above all, no listening to endless [parental] wheedling to be good." Do write.