It was about 2 years ago that I started hanging out with Teddy. And what a roller- coaster of a ride it has been. You might think it odd that a man could strike up a relationship with a teddy bear and I felt the same way at the beginning of our wonderful journey. But I know now that it was love at first sight. My friend Christopher Robin was really responsible. He had taken me to an apiarists’ convention and I had just lifted the spoon from a tasting pot of golden Manuka honey when I caught sight of Teddy’s eyes. I can even remember the background music: ‘If you go down to the woods today …’. But it was his eyes that really brought us together, those little green, unblinking gems that looked straight into my soul and were so full of meaning.
We met a few times over the next weeks at Bears for Refugee Action, Bears Against Climate Change and The Bears Anarchist Collective, (now dissolved since the members could not agree on a date for the annual general meeting). Then, Teddy introduced me to his extended family: Polar, Koala, Brown, Black, that crusty but lovable curmudgeon Grizzly and of course Panda, his bohemian uncle who had just taken early retirement from the boarding school where he was gym master to spend more time with his family. By now, I could truly say that some of my best friends were bears. After that it was full speed ahead and before you could say ‘Paddington’ we had developed a deeply meaningful relationship. Oh, how I yearn for those lazy, crazy days of the first summer of our love. I threw myself into a mad cap round of trips to the zoo, hastily scribbled billets doux and secret porridge suppers; once or twice I even called him ‘Honey’. Teddy turned out to be quite the intellectual and I well remember one of his poems, written with the assistance of a grant from the Australia Council: ‘I like peas with honey, I’ve done it all my life. I know it does sound funny, but it keeps them on the knife.’ There was even a suggestion that this pivotal work might form the basis of a movie, ‘Claws: the Musical’, to be written with the assistance of a grant from the Australian Film Commission; in fact, I was responsible for suggesting the catchy motif, ‘Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the forest’. The time we spent together was sheer magic, watching The Sound of Music, noting up our collections of A A Milne books and Barbra Sreisand records, or just idly flipping over the pages of the Apiarists’ Weekly and nibbling honeycomb.
Naturally, we had disagreements, but nothing more serious than a minor lovers’ tiff over who owned the hair dryer which was mediated by the Human Rights Commission. And Teddy was the easiest person to get along with. There were no fights about who left the top off the toothpaste, as he never used it and he certainly never left odd socks lying around, like some people I could name.
But then things started to go wrong. First, I caught him with his hand in the cookie jar and a sheepish look on his face. Then he started to come home at dawn, sighing ‘I’m stuffed’, with a glazed look in his eyes and a suspicious bag of ‘eucalyptus leaves’ in his paw. He also struck up an unsavoury relationship with a rather common bear who would just waltz into our home like a refugee, crying out ‘Who’s been sleeping in my bed?’
The truth is that we were haunted by a cloud that hovered over our love: we could not marry. I could never understand why this was so. It had already been allowed in the Ivory Coast, Monaco and the Cayman Islands; and the United Nations had published a ten-volume report calling for the immediate right to marry under the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Bears. Then some celebrities came forward, like the Kardashians who said they had cousins who liked bears and a tall one who was having an affair with a giraffe. The Australia Institute published an earth-shattering report showing that men and bears stayed together as long as goldfish.
Despite this, our way was barred. The government would not budge. We needed a champion to promote our cause and approached Senator Wong. I must say that she disappointed me immensely, especially with her absurd remark that marriage had always been a union between two women.
But the law has now been changed and pretty soon we will be married. The creative High Court helped by ruling that ‘a man and a woman’ in the Marriage Act means ‘a man and a bear or anything else’. One of the learned judges, a go-ahead lassie, observed that ‘In our living Constitution, words mean what we want them to mean on Thursdays’ and was rightly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Some Coalition MPs started revolving like Whirling Dervishes and came around. The Uniting Church also helped; when some red-necked bigot said that God might not like this change to the law, the church’s head replied: ‘Who?’ Finally, the Age clinched it by thundering that ‘the science is in and those who don’t like it are ignorant Deniers and should have it branded on their foreheads’. Senator Dastyari has followed up with a bill to tax every company without a majority of married bears on its board. Mr Shorten agrees, provided the bears are white and do not come from China.
So, my journey of love has come full circle. There is now even a move to let two bears marry! Personally, I would not go that far. As Billy Hughes said when asked why he had never joined the Country Party: ‘You’ve got to draw the bloody line somewhere’.
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