Dee has returned to the great down under, swapping two months of Midwestern winter for two months of Melbourne summer. Understand that in the five weeks or so I’ve been here the daily high temperatures have ranged from a couple of days with highs in the 60’s to one day over 100. The weather here is extremely changeable.
One question I often get is how did I–a Midwestern guy (most of the time)–end up with an Australian wife? I’ll try to explain below.
But before I do, a sidebar about the title. A GG friend constantly amuses me with play-on-words incorporating Dee, like she is “Dee-lighted” to read my blog posts (I blame Kandi; she started it all by calling me “Sun-Dee”). This friend recently referred to me as “Crocodile Dun-Dee”, so this week’s title is in her honor.
How I met my wife? Like quite a few things in my life, a happy accident–and Crocodile Dundee, at least indirectly, played a role.
Those of a certain age probably remember a 1986 movie called “Crocodile Dundee”, about a larrikin Aussie from the Australian Outback. He hosts a New York City reporter in the Outback, then travels to New York, boy gets girl (in real life, the actors Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski fell in love and married).
In 1984, before the movie came out, Paul Hogan was doing TV ads for Australia, in which he famously said “come and say G’Day” and “put a shrimp on the barbie.” I saw those ads–and replays of this strange game called Australian Rules Football on the early days of ESPN–and the idea of visiting Australia was born.
Also in 1984, while working for an accounting firm, I decided it was time for a change. Among co-workers, the term we used was “up or out”–I chose “out”. My “out” was more drastic than my colleagues; while they left to find other jobs, I bought a Volkswagen camper van.
My plan? Travel throughout the United States and Canada, visiting friends, sightseeing, and exploring, like in National Parks like Yellowstone (my absolute favorite place to visit). I went south, I went west, I went north. I even spent a week on a sailboat in the Virgin Islands .
About halfway through what my mom called “my sabbatical”, I saw a travel article in the local paper about New Zealand, calling it the most beautiful country in the world. I had a new destination. I could drive to San Francisco–the long way, taking about three months–and leave my van with relatives. I found a fare on Qantas, the Australian airline, that allowed four stops in Australia and New Zealand, and planned on six weeks in New Zealand and three weeks in Australia.
In April 1985, I hopped on a plane in San Francisco, and roughly eighteen hours (and two flights) later landed in Auckland, New Zealand, with a large hiking backpack for luggage and a youth hostel membership card for lodging.
Ten days after arriving in New Zealand, on April 15, 1985, at around 10 PM, I met the person who changed my life. Sitting alone in the kitchen of the Rotorua youth hostel, writing letters, my (now) wife needed someone to talk to–and I was the only person available. She had been out for a walk, had a fright, and needed to talk.
We talked that night for about an hour, and made plans to do some local sightseeing the next day. One day became another–and then another–as we traveled about ten days together in the North and South Islands of New Zealand. We split directions then, but we agreed once I was in Australia following my time in New Zealand, I would come visit her at where she was staying in a Melbourne suburb.
Once I arrived in Australia, I spent a couple of days in Sydney and then skedaddled to Melbourne. I took a sixteen hour overnight bus ride, then found the right train and showed up at her doorstep (she was living with her sister at the time) at seven in the morning, and she was happy to see me.
Long distance relationships aren’t easy. We spent two weeks together that first trip. She came to America in 1986, 1989, and 1991. I returned to Australia in 1987. We didn’t see each other in 1988 or 1990. Each time we departed we decided we were done.
But obviously we weren’t.
In September 1991, out of the blue, she called me. She kept talking about a letter, and I wasn’t following. Finally, after hemming and hawing she said the words that did change my life, “I want you to marry me.”
After about 15 seconds of being in shock, I said yes. Seven months later I arrived in Melbourne. Two days later we wed in her sister’s back yard (her sister still lives there). Come April we will be married 31 years, known each other for 38.
The distance issue still causes stress in our marriage. She has friends and family here and the pull of Australia is strong. I have friends, family, and commitments in America. The travel between places is long and expensive. We compromise. I stay two months or so, she stays five. To stay together we choose to be apart.
(Of course, another stressor in our marriage is this side of me. She would be happy with me dressing if I only did it at home, and I would be unhappy if I only did it at home. The time apart does give me more freedom to get my Dee on, but that also means my wife feels extra risks; I will be outed, and people will feel sorry for her that she’s the wife of a crossdresser.)
To be honest, I don’t know which of the two causes her more concern. I just try to have enough other positive qualities to make her feel I’m worth keeping around. Another compromise was buying an apartment here (which she loves), which is both expensive and sits vacant for at least half the year. But one rule I follow is, “Happy wife, happy life.”
Circling back to Crocodile Dun-Dee, here’s the most surprising thing for me from first coming to Australia in 1985. I expected a nation full of Paul Hogan’s–the Aussie accent with the larger than life character. I found a nation of immigrants, much like the United States, like my mother-in-law and father-in-law, who emigrated to Australia from Italy after World War II. Like many her age, my wife is a first generation Australian. Lots of Italians and Greeks originally, now Vietnamese and Chinese–and another 140 countries to boot.
Since arriving in early January, I’ve been able to get out three times. Once was a short outing to a nearby beach, and two trips into the city, one including a tram ride to another beach. It’s been a mild summer; more 60’s and 70’s than 80’s and 90’s for temperatures. Not exactly beach weather, but then again, Dee doesn’t do that well in the heat, even though she loves summer clothes.
I hope to get out a few times more before I leave in early March. I perk my ears up when my wife mentions going out with friends, and I start planning my own day out. I have the outfits, and definitely the Dee-sire to do it (sorry; my friend has been a bad influence 😀).