WHEN I was ten or so, I met the 11th incarnation of the Doctor (the young one with the bow tie), while he was trying to save the world. He bit my arm. It was a full moon. And that was how I was cursed to become a man-child for the rest of my life.
Some now say that being a man-child is a form of social retardation. Maybe so. But I kind of like doing whatever I want while avoiding stupid expectations which are swallowed as practical wisdom. The list of achievements I must tick off to have a successful life includes getting married by 25, get some bubs and own a house before I’m thirty, and have a shed full of tools that I don’t necessarily need to know how to use.
When I was 13, or so, I hosted a horrible birthday party. It went wrong for many reasons. First, it was a hot November day (for my friends in the Northern hemisphere – remember this is Australia. We’re backwards) and the ants found the lollies in the treasure hunt before we did.
Secondly, we played lame childish birthday games. I was scared of growing up back then. I didn’t want DVD nights and alcohol and sex with strangers. I wanted the old days of pass-the-parcel. Dammit, we got pass-the parcel and the mars-bars hidden inside it, but my friends rolled their eyes a lot. I’m glad the girl I had a crush on didn’t rock up to the party, because she already thought I was lame.
As I entered my tween-ties, my mother had to justify my behaviour to puzzled and snobbish family members and friends.
“He is child-like”, she would say with a wistful smile. She made it sound like a good thing. After all, I was (and am) energetic, passionate, creative, good with children, and serious when the occasion called for it. Too serious sometimes. The drastic transformation exaggerated my personality to those unprepared for it.
I don’t subscribe to the token partner and the “settling down” and the marriage and the roles that need to be played, just for the sake of it.
But it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t mind some of these things as long as I’m free to express myself. I just don’t know how to get the best of both worlds while I am the Monkey King of Ubud Monkey Forest.
Sometimes the family will send me letters or emails or even call the local backpackers (who yell “Oy mate! There’s an international phone call for ya!”). The family want me to get my arse back to Australia so I can rise through the meaningless ranks in the family’s multi-national company until I plateau at my inherited executive position.
Less often, women I once had crushes on have come to Bali to visit me in the Ubud Monkey Forest.
The same situation has happened several times. First, she’ll walk into the forest. She’ll ask for Chris and will refuse to call me “Monkey King”.
“I refuse to go along with this, it’s stupid” she will shout at the outraged monkeys. I will tell the monkeys not to drag her into the nearby drain.
“Come down!” she’ll plead to me. “Let me take you home, okay?”
I will laugh and throw a banana at her. She will visit one or two or three more times and we’ll visit the Boom Boom Bar and the Casa Luna Café and cycle through the rice paddies together. I will make a joke of the situation – but I’m touched by the attention she has given me. She will not say “I love you” or be blunt about her interest, I must interpret her intentions correctly and the situation is like some absurd multiple choice exam.
Eventually, she will leave me alone, crestfallen that I could not be what she wanted me to be. She will find a boyfriend within two weeks. Usually he’s Italian, or French, or just pretentious. I cry; wishing that the girl will accept my title of Monkey King as part of who I am.
And maybe one day I will give up the monkeys.
But I’m not ready to do that yet, and I think this makes me genuine, honest, and daring. Maybe these are not the qualities we expect and respect in our stereotypes of the burly man. But maybe it’s a good thing we have beings who think outside propriety and obligation.
Maybe it is okay to be child-like, because children are supposed to be innocent.