Dad died of lung cancer when I was 19. I’ve never stopped reflecting on his death. The lesson I learnt was not to wait to do what you really want to. Dad had a list of things that hadn’t been ticked off when his time ran out, like sailing in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. That gave me a terrible sense of grief.
I got expelled from Melbourne Girls Grammar for smoking and drinking. I then went to Methodist Ladies’ College. Being at all-girls schools made us a bit timid of boys, but also extra excited in their presence. I think we lost perspective on their ordinariness.
My first crush was Johnny Depp. I loved heavy-metal guys like Axl Rose and Sebastian Bach from Skid Row. I loved David Bowie too, and had his poster on my wall.
I’m attracted to creative men who are taller than me. I always look at men’s hands, as they are very expressive. I also get a lot of information from the way they smell. For me to find a man attractive, he also needs to be a feminist.
I met my first love at Monash University while studying Arts. He was a lovely guy, and I don’t know why he put up with me. Back then, I thought relationships were an arms race – compromise and kindness evaded me. I actually caught up with him a couple of months back. Having not seen him for 15 years, I just wanted to say sorry.
I met Ben Ely, the bass guitarist for Regurgitator, when I was a bartender in Melbourne. A few years later, when I became a Channel [V] reporter, we hit it off, and within two weeks of meeting again, I was pregnant.
Our 15-year-old daughter, Dee Dee, lives with Ben in Brisbane. Our other daughter, Anouk, who’s 17, lives with me in Sydney. Last year, I took her to Groovin the Moo in Canberra to watch her dad play. I was so proud to see him on stage.
I’d been single for a couple of years when I met my husband, Martin Bendeler. The kids were with their dad and I had time to myself, but had no one to have sex with. My best friend was like, “Surely there’s someone in this city who wants to have sex with you.” I told her about this guy I’d met ages ago who emailed me occasionally. He’d said he was visiting Melbourne. My friend said I had to phone him.
We met up and had this mad summer-holiday fling. He was different from what I thought I needed from a man. For years, I had a strict criterion that men had to have rock’n’roll swagger. Martin had none of that, but he was smart, kind and funny.
I broke up with him, but then really wanted him back. I had to show him I was sincere, and so I asked him to marry me. He made me ask him twice, as he said he didn’t hear me the first time. I thought he was making me grovel, but he really didn’t hear me.
We’ve had two children together – Mercy, 5, and “Manbaby”, 4 [Yumi has chosen not to publicise his name]. Although Martin is completing his law studies, he is a 100 per cent hands-on dad. One of the things I love about him is his consistency.
Martin teaches our son that men are very giving with their affection; that they say “I love you” a lot, do the laundry, and love to read. He is an unusual creature. The most macho thing he does is play basketball.
Yumi Stynes will appear at the All About Women festival, Sydney Opera House, March 7-8.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale February 23.