The Propinquity Effect:

Developing the muscles of the soul demands no competitive spirit, no killer instinct, although it may erect pain barriers that the spiritual athlete must crash through. – Germaine Greer.

I like to revisit books. Most of the books in my apartment are well-thumbed tombs of graffitied ink and highlighter marker.

I always read with a pen in hand, ready to write, to comment, to remember. And I’ve never really understood how or why other people don’t.

It strikes me as odd that a writer may spend years working on something only for it to be read in a moment and forgotten just as fast. To further illustrate my point, I may as well mention that I have often hold reading parties in my apartment.

Guests eat and drink and inevitably we discuss books, of which I have plenty, well marked and gun-ready for discussion. This is one of my favorite pass times.

My mother bought a book for me one Christmas titled, How To Read. The contents of which I found largely redundant as I’ve always read in the way suggested in this book. The book suggests writers always read with pens. I don’t recall a time when I didn’t. Perhaps my mother bought this book for me to make me feel better about myself. I should ask her. I never have.

I was often reprimanded for reading like this in school.

One teacher once labeled my behavior defamatory and asked me how I would feel if I’d written a book and someone wrote all over it, to which my response was, “I’d be flattered.” I must’ve been in year 5 or 6 at the time, and was promptly asked to leave the room and sit outside and think about what I’d just said.

I was frequently asked to leave the classroom for saying things that I considered true or honest. And often found myself enjoying the time spent alone in the hall, thinking about the things I’d said, the things I thought, and how fucking stupid most of my teachers were.

I suppose it’s also worth a mention that I couldn’t read until I was about 11 years old.

I recall vividly, long evenings spent sitting up on my parents bed, in tears, often until 2am, my mother flipping through palm cards, drilling me for hours and hours, trying to teach me how to read, my father often begging her stop.

“Do you want to stop or do you want to be able to read, Ally?”

My response was always the same, and always interspersed between sobs and gasps,

“Yes. Yes I do.”

“Then let’s continue,” she’d say, and we would. My father would usually leave the room.

I am entirely indebted to my mother for spending so much time with me as a child teaching me to how to read. I was useless. Really useless. I’d read with a ruler and despite moving the ruler down a line I’d read the same line over and over and over again.

I continue to be amazed that this was never something that was highlighted in any real developmental way for me in school. I was always brandished the naughty kid, never the dyslexic kid. And what’s curious about this, and has struck me as being so bloody obvious– in my career as a teacher– is how kids that can’t read– compensate.

I was funny and I was good at telling stories. So whenever it was my turn to read I’d always divert the teachers attention to an interesting theme within the text, or I’d ask a series of questions that related to something someone else in the class had read. I’d usually do this until the bell rang.

Alternatively, I’d read the text in advance. I’d spend lunch breaks in the library reading the chapter we were to study that afternoon. I’d often do this in a secluded corner, in a cubicle, where my ruler and I were both safe from prying eyes.

It wasn’t actually until I began my Masters at the age of 24 that anyone other than my mother noticed that something was up.

My favorite writing professor asked for me to stay back after a tutorial one day to discuss an essay I’d written. He sat me down in his office and commended me on my argument and my sense of prose. He then asked me if I’d ever formally been diagnosed as dyslexic.

I described to him the education I’d received at school and brandished it substandard, at best, to no real fault of my parents– the bugbear of the first born, is what I figure.  I relayed to him the late nights I’d often spend with my mother and those fucking palm cards, struggling for years and years and years, to read.

I was actually menstruating before I could read a book without a ruler, I thought at the time, but didn’t care to mention.

He nodded a lot and didn’t say much until I’d run right of words.

And then he said this,

“It’s really not that big a deal. Not now anyway. You can read and you can certainly write. It’s harder for you though, I can tell. I’m giving you a credit for this essay but there are certain patterns in your writing that I’ve noticed and that I care to address… So here’s what we’re going to do. Every day, for the rest of your life, I want you to spend at least 15 minutes doing the Target Word in the newspaper. After about 10 minutes you’re brain is going to hurt. You’re going to feel tired and quite probably bored and/or frustrated. That’s why I want you to spend at least 15 minutes on it everyday. You can increase your cognitive brain capacity Alexandra. Believe me. I’ve been doing it my entire life.”

I left his office that day and went straight to the news agency across the road. I sat crossed legged on the grass outside the State Library and with pen in hand I turned to the back section of the paper and began what continues to be a daily ritual for me.

I mention all of this as I have been today, revisiting Germaine Greer’s, ‘The Whole Woman.’ I’ve read this book every year since I was 17 years old. And every year I find something bigger and better within the contents of its 350 pages. Today, for example, my interest was piqued by her argument blaming Polycystic Ovarian Disease for causes of women who become transmen. A blog for another time, perhaps.

I also like the fact my copy is covered in marked lines, full of comments and question marks, some dating back 10 years now. My ideas have changed. As has my ability to dissect and process different information. I actually just really like this book:

Even if it had been real, equality would have been a poor substitute for liberation; fake equality is leading women into double jeopardy. The rhetoric of equality is being used in the name of political correctness to mask the hammering that women are taking.

When The Female Eunuch was written our daughters were not cutting or starving themselves. On every side speechless women endure endless hardship, grief and pain, in a world system that creates billions of losers for every handful of winners.

It’s time to get angry again.

I realised while reading today that I have this lovely nude banner of Ms. Greer as an image at the top of this page, and yet I’ve never written about it.

Obvious conclusions have been made by people who know me well and have, say, attended one of my many daggy Reading Parties:

– I really love Germaine Greer.

– I must think she looks ace naked, which I do.

– She write a lot about things Alex cares deeply about:

Governments that consist of very few women have hurried to recognize as women men who believe that they are women and have had themselves castrated to prove it, because they see women not as another sex but as a non-sex. No so-called sex-change has ever begged for a uterus-and-ovaries transplant; if uterus-and-ovaries transplants were made mandatory for wannabe women they would disappear overnight. The insistence that man-made women be accepted as women is the institutional expression of the mistaken conviction that women are defective males.

I thought also that maybe some see my ‘banner image’ as a kind of joke. Naked for naked-sake, say.

I don’t.

The reason I have a naked image of her on my blog is because of all the writers, and all the books, and all the songs, I really, really have always admired her the most. Now I know she doesn’t write music, or at least, if she does, I do not know about it. But what she does write I find remarkable.

In a lot of ways she raised me. Mum gave me the palm cards (among other things) and Germaine gave me the ammunition. A box of tools. A wealth of words. And a strident desire to know everything about everything.

So as I sat here, a decade or more later, re-reading the same old book, I continue to learn, and I continue to argue.

No small feat really.

Which reminds me, I haven’t done the fucking Target Word today.



Propinquity effect

The propinquity effect is the tendency for people to form friendships or romantic relationships with those whom they encounter often, forming a bond between subject and friend. In other words, relationships tend to be formed between those who have a high propinquity. It was first theorized by psychologists Leon FestingerStanley SchachterKurt Lewin and Kurt Back in what came to be called the Westgate studies conducted at MIT (1950). The typical Euler diagram used to represent the propinquity effect is shown below where U = universe, A = set A, B = set B, and S = similarity:

The sets are basically any relevant subject matter about a person, persons, or non-persons, depending on the context. Propinquity can be more than just physical distance. Residents of an apartment building living near a stairway, for example, tend to have more friends from other floors than others. The propinquity effect is usually explained by the mere exposure effect, which holds that the more exposure a stimulus gets, the more likeable it becomes.
Thanks Wikipedia.
Oh and a little link-up from  The God Father of Gloom,
Sincerely, L. Cohen:
4 Responses to “The Propinquity Effect:”
  1. Hedley Galt says:


    • Oh that doesn’t count Heds. The answer is highlighted in red to the right of the box… Though you did have me thinking you were being somewhat cryptic and rude about the prospect of this evenings uneventful sexual conquest. Well done. Top of the class. x.

  2. Greg says:

    Well remind me to never lend you a book – the last thing I need are your crazy rants scribbled all over the pages….but back to the point.

    Wow the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree with the Coffey’s love. I could have written some of the paragraphs you have myself.

    Case in point….”I was frequently asked to leave the classroom for saying things that I considered true or honest”.

    Way back when I was starting my final 2 years of HSC and writing on stone tablets etc etc I was carrying 13 units – only needing 11 and was therefore undecided which subject to drop. I was in an Economics class and the discussion turned to tariffs and I wanted to know why our government did not put a higher tariff on imported cars and lower ones on locally produced vehicles thus stimulating the economy and encouraging people to buy local product. The argument between myself and the teacher went back and forth and he kept giving me, what I considered, mumbo jumbo answers to my questions. I think I stretched his tolerance to breaking point and it was “out” of the classroom for me. After the lesson finished I got the call from inside the classroom of “everyone can go – Coffey…can you come back in”. In I went expecting to get the rounds of the kitchen for being a disruptive influence. He told me “let me put this simply Coffey, there is no real room in Economics for logic. If you are going to think the way you have just displayed then Economics may not be the subject for you to pursue”. Thanks teach – that’s my mind made up and Economics was banished for me and I went on with my other 11 units.

    As it turned out I could have done with those extra 2 units to help boost my final HSC score way back in ’79. I finished my HSC exams on a Thursday and started a job in Customs (as a customs agent – not officer) on the Monday. I remember the day I got my results/score….Mum phoned me at work to tell me the “news” – which wasn’t great. By the time I got home Mum told me that a few friends from school had called to ask how I went – some not knowing I was working. Gotta love Mum for this…..I asked her “God what did you tell them”? She said “I just told them….well he didn’t get into Law”….tell me that doesn’t sum up Mum/Nan for ya!! Always managed to put a positive spin on things no matter how dire they were.

    AND ANOTHER THING……reading you speak of your Mum and “time spent” stuff with your reading etc. I have a bit of a theory about that from experience. I too was part of the “time spent” mentality what with Morris and his “issues” when he was a little’un. You don’t think about it at the time however due to this “time spent” you become a better parent – even though you don’t think about it at the time. The theory is you become a better parent because of it and not in spite of it. It not just because you have worked at it – it is because of the experience. If I dint have the challenge put before me I wouldn’t ever have had to deal with it….sounds logical in hindsight but it aint

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