Day Ninety-One: How it feels to face your phobia

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I take a deep breath and push the heavy glass door. A bell tingles overhead to signal my arrival. No hope of sneaking out again then.

“Won’t be a minute,” calls a male voice from a door down a hallway. I know what’s in those rooms.

A TV plays grainy news footage in the corner, and a sign on the wall announces the place as registered. Yep, everything’s above board.

I don’t sit. If I do, I might end up clinging to the chair like a two-year-old having a meltdown. No, the least I can do is maintain some of my dignity. Besides, if I’m standing, it means I can run. And I should run. I want to run.

Then the man appears. He looks at me inquiringly, so I hand him the form I’ve been given. He asks to see my medical card, and checks the details against the ones on the form.

The bell sounds again, and I see another victim has arrived. This one’s a man, casually dressed. I guess that he’s in some kind of trade. He loiters near the door, waiting his turn.

“You can have a seat,” the man behind the counter tells me. “I won’t be long.”

Take as long as you need, I think, lowering myself into the closest chair. Then again, maybe we should just get it over with, before my courage deserts me. But that’s not right. My courage left me at the door.

The new arrival saunters up to the desk, all nonchalance. I’d like to see him when he goes into that room. Perhaps he does this all the time. Or perhaps other people don’t taste bile at the back of their throat when they come here.

I hear my name. My heart is threatening to beat its way through my chest wall and make a bloody escape.

“First door on the left,” the man tells me.

“First… which?” I reply intelligently.

“Go into the first door on the left,” he repeats, not unkindly. I’m sure he has six-year-olds who freak out on him all the time.

I force one foot in front of the other, and shuffle into the room. My brain is telling me to run, but I don’t think I could do it without collapsing. I can see the chair now, the bed next to the wall, the equipment. I shouldn’t look. But it’s hard not to.

“Just have a seat on the chair,” the man says, expecting a normal patient, expecting no trouble.

I’m not falling for that one again. Once you’ve tasted the cold embrace of unconsciousness and woken on the antiseptic-scrubbed lino floor, you learn very quickly to request the bed. Which is what I do now.

He looks at me, and I think he realises what he’s dealing with. “No worries,” he says. “But we’ll do the paperwork first. On the chair.”

He skirts around me like I’m a frightened cat and not just a frightened human, and gestures towards the chair. It might be a trap. Maybe I should just claw his face and run while I can. The voice in my head is soft, but firm: You have nothing to fear. You are being ridiculous.

I sit in the stupid chair, and sign my name with a shaking hand.

And then it’s time.

He asks me if I’ve had this done before. I nod. I’m going to vomit; I know it.

He asks me whether I have a ‘usual’ arm. Without looking, I point to the crook of my right elbow.

He nods and places the tourniquet around my bicep. He asks me to clench my fist, so I do. He feels the ropy life-support under my skin, and approves.

Then it’s time to get on the bed.

“Get as close to the wall as you can,” he says, so I do. I would disappear into that wall if I could.

It’s not too late to run, my head screams. I think I might cry.

He approaches with a plastic container filled with equipment. He asks me what I do for work. I tell him. I can’t breathe.

He’s still talking casually when he warns me I’ll feel a sting. I bite my lip so hard it hurts. It’s not enough. I still feel the sting.

All I can think about is the fact that I’m being drained. He’s sucking my life force through a sharp straw, and I can’t take it.

It’s over as quickly as it began. I feel the pull as the needle is removed, and oblige when he asks to press down on the cotton bud. He returns moments later with medical tape, and tells me I should keep the pressure on for five minutes.

“But you can go,” he adds, obviously assuming that I have the power of movement. I wonder what colour I am, whether he can smell my fear, how big my pupils are.

I don’t trust myself to walk, but I swing my legs over the bed anyway.

“That wasn’t so bad,” I tell him, faintly.

“I like to think I’m pretty good at it by now,” he shrugs.

“Right,” I try to smile. “Thanks. For making it easy. I’ve had some bad experiences…”

“You can go now,” he reminds me. He doesn’t want to hear my double-arm, hit-the-floor, bruises-the-size-of-tennis-balls story. I don’t blame him.

In the waiting room, the other man is sitting, scrolling through something on his phone. The phlebotomist beckons him into the room I’ve just vacated. I consider sticking around to see if I hear any screams, but my breakfast is threatening to reappear, and I just want to go home.

Hours later, every twinge in my arm makes me light-headed. I know the puncture has knitted together. I know that my blood is well-contained inside me. I know that I’ve lost only a few drops from the river that courses through me.

And still I fear.

 

 

I went alone to face my biggest phobia. I didn’t die. If only that meant I was cured.

 

TB

Day Ninety: Learning to be comfortable in silence

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They say that when you run out of things to talk about in your relationship, you start planning a wedding. When it happens again, you start planning babies.

If that’s the truth, I will never be married or have babies.

 

Someone asked me the other day how long I’d been with my boyfriend.

“Four years,” I replied.

“And you guys are living together now, hey?”

“Yep,” I smiled. I always smile when I remember that we’re cohabiting.

“That’s cool. Have you, like, run out of stuff to talk about yet, though?”

 

This attitude assumes two things:

1. That there exists a finite number of topics of conversation; and

2. That my boyfriend and I are constantly throwing words at one another in some sort of desperate attempt to avoid an awkward pause.

 

Neither of these is true.

For starters, my boyfriend and I each have a life outside of our shared home–whether it’s work, social stuff, or hobbies. This creates a wealth of conversation topics beyond just “how was your day?” We’re interested in different things, and spend some of our time reading about our specialty areas, and then sharing tidbits with one another.

“Did you know that they’ve just successfully teleported matter?” he’ll ask me over dinner.

“And yet they still can’t figure out how dinosaurs mated,” I muse.

We talk in bed before we go to sleep. We talk while we drive. We talk when one of us is in the shower and can only just make out what the other is saying over the rush of the water.

 

But we also spend a fair whack of time not talking. Whether we’re sitting together or at opposite ends of the house, we can go hours without uttering a word to one another. It’s not because we’re mad at each other, and it’s not because we’re bored or uninterested. We’ve just achieved a wonderful kind of comfort in silence.

Sometimes we’re taking a long drive, and we’ll sit holding hands over the gearstick, lost in our own thoughts, offering the occasional smile to one another. Sometimes we’re lying in bed, nestled together, our legs intertwined, reading our separate books/phones. Sometimes we’re just enjoying a great meal, and there’s no need for extensive conversation.

When I told my boyfriend about my friend’s question, he shook his head. “It’s not about having new things to talk about all the time; it’s about being comfortable enough with each other that you’re ok with silence.”

 

And when in doubt, make out 😉

TB

Day Eighty-Three: The five most foolish things I’ve heard from parents in custody cases

Source: Dr John Bullas (Flickr)

Source: Dr John Bullas (Flickr)

I’ve worked as secretary for a psychologist for a few years now. One of his areas of specialty is Family Law cases–specifically when children are alienated from one parent. Sometimes I wish it wasn’t. I know that these people are going through tough times and everyone is their enemy, but hell, I just get paid to make the appointments, take your money, and smile politely when you walk in the door.

(Note: I am not a psychologist. These views are entirely based on my own observations and experience. Although they are based on things that actual people have told me, I am not referring to any specific individuals; rather, I’m noting the things I hear all too often from many cases.)

 

The magistrate said there was no evidence of the abuse that was alleged, so there should be no reason my kids can’t see me.

No reason except that they don’t want to. It’s not fair, and it sucks, but one proclamation isn’t going to suddenly reverse years of negative thinking. You might be a great guy who’s been shafted by a vengeful ex; your kids probably know less than half the story (and heard most of it from your ex). It’s going to take time to change their attitudes towards you. So, hey, welcome to therapy!

 

My child was petrified of coming; he/she cried all the way here.

Since the only reason they know about it is because you told them, it can be safely assumed that their fear stems directly from yours. If you told them that they’re being forced by a judge to go to an unfamiliar (but perfectly pleasant, I might add) place where they’ll be forced (again) to see their estranged father/mother, then I can totally understand why they bawled their eyes out or refused to get in the car. If you told them that they were going along to have a chat to a nice man about how they’re feeling, things might have gone a little better. No sensible psychologist would dump an alienated parent and child into the same room together at the first session; the psychologist probably told you that when you came along for your individual session. It’s telling that most of the Orders I read have to specifically prohibit the parents from talking about Court Orders or matters with their children.

 

They said we’d only need three sessions/ Why is this taking so long?

I can’t claim to know what happened in your family unit to make your children not want to spend time with you, but I can make a pretty solid bet that it didn’t happen over the course of three isolated one-hour sessions. So why would you expect that it can be reversed in that period? Therapy is an individual experience, and depending on the client, progress can be achieved in two sessions, twenty sessions, or (sadly, sometimes) never. In these types of cases, it’s usually between twenty and never. (Also, while we’re on the topic, don’t listen to what your lawyer suggests about the frequency and length of therapy. They have no idea.)

 

I’m just going to email/call my ex and tell them straight up to cut the crap/stop lying/give me my kids.

Remember how you’re in a Court case? Do you remember why you had to go to Court? It’s probably because you couldn’t work things out just between the two of you, so needed to involve lawyers and judges and Court Orders. Contacting your ex informally and giving them a piece of your mind is akin to pogo-ing onto the thin ice that everyone else is very delicately skating over. If you don’t want to give your ex another piece of evidence of your “abusive nature” to wave in Court, then keep things cool and cordial. Speak to them only when you have to, or not at all. Everything else can be handled by your lawyers. You’re paying them enough.

 

Can I talk to the psychologist about fees? I just can’t afford this after the legal stuff. I can’t even afford a cup of coffee!

One of my favourites, this one was said to me by a man who was carrying a thermos of coffee that he’d brought from home. “You poor man!” I should have said, rushing to wrap him in a warm blanket. “It’s OK; we’ll just give you some free counselling, shall we?” No, what I really wanted to say was, “Gee, I’ll bet those starving kids in Africa would weep to hear it, sir.” (What I actually did was smile apologetically and advise that I can’t do anything about the fees.) I get it. You’ve paid tens of thousands of dollars to lawyers and been dragged through the Court system for six years with no real outcome or progress. Unlike a lawyer though, the psychologist isn’t billing hours for every single moment that he’s even thinking about your case. He’s trying to work stuff out, so you don’t have to go back to Court.

 

 

There’s nothing like watching broken families to put you right off marriage and children. In the end, though, it comes down to whatever is going to be the least damaging for the kids. And if that means suffering through instant coffee brought from home, then so be it.

 

TB

Day Eighty-One: A technology downgrade is like dealing with a toddler

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To my utter horror, I woke up a few mornings ago to discover that my phone had contracted some kind of phone herpes, which, over the course of several hours, slowly blotted out the entire screen. I don’t know why it happened, but it did.

Following this tragic development (and while my phone is spending three weeks at the warranty repairs place being looked at by obviously very slow technicians), I had two choices.

One: Go without a phone. Inconceivable. Ridiculous. I can’t even…

Two: Purchase another phone with all that disposible income that I have. Oh, wait…

Three: Use my and my boyfriend’s go-to “I’ve just broken my phone and need something for the interim” Motorola.

 

Of course, it’s got to be option three, and this is where the real fun begins.

It’s funny how you get by with outdated technology at the time and don’t think anything of it–case in point: I am writing this on a freaking brick of a Toshiba laptop that requires constant wall plug access, but it’s what I have so I’m dealing with it–but as soon as you’ve upgraded and experienced the joys of fast loading, awesome graphics, and the proper system to support all them cool apps, you can never go back.

Well, you can. But it sucks.

And thus, the Motorola. The Motorola is probably about three or four years old now. It has all that stuff a smart phone should have– touch screen, Android interface, the ability to surf the net and go on Facebook–but none of the power or speed required to adequately power these technologies. Using the Motorola is like carrying an unreasonable toddler around with you.

Here’s why:

 

1. The tantrums

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This is how I imagine my phone looks internally. (On a side note, I’m always fascinated by Jill Greenberg’s pics of crying, lollipop-deprived children http://kopeikingallery.com/exhibitions/view/end-times)

You know the feeling. You’re out and about just doing yo’ thang, and somewhere close by a child just loses their shit. Only this time, you’re out and about, trying to map your way to an appointment, and the screaming mess of tiny human is in your hand. I really believe that if this phone could wail and shriek like some kind of deranged possum, it would. (I’ll look into appropriate ringtones.) Directions? You want DIRECTIONS? SCREEEEEEEEE! Or, more accurately, *freeze*, *flicker*, *force close*. Then there’s the silent treatment, i.e. the “you put me on vibrate, but I’ll give you no indication but a single light flash when a message comes through; take that you stupid bitch” treatment. Why do our children hate us so?

 

2. The sudden and powerful urge to nap

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Too. Much. Breathing.

I get it. We’ve all fallen asleep in weird places before when we’re just so wrecked we can’t keep our eyes open. Little kids are notorious for it. I suspect, though, that this phone may be a toddler with narcolepsy. Never mind that I’ve given it a good rest (charge), and that I’ve only just picked it up and tried to use it to check my bank balance, it is most decidely nap time, mother fuckers. You want to call somebody? Well, that’s just too bad, because my internal clock says I need a reboot. Gosh, did you just try to move that app shortcut to your home screen? You know how that exhausts me.

 

3. The inability to handle simple tasks

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You want me to attach TWO things? *bzzzzt* ERROR

I’m not asking for complex games with lots of colour and fast movement (I learnt that the hard way already). I’m not asking for it to mine Bitcoin or act as the server for Twitter. I’m no longer even asking for web pages, since that has proven to be beyond this phone’s capacity. What I want is to scroll through a Facebook feed, to type and send a text message, to quickly google the net worth of Bill Murray. If these things sound like basic smart phone uses, then you haven’t met the Motorola. From offering to force close the (clearly taxing) application, to simply restarting itself, the Motorola really is the dumbest piece of technology I’ve come across in a while.

 

4. The shitting itself

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If only it were super cute Golden Lucky Poop…

Whenever. Wherever. Especially when you’re busy, rushing, or in desperate need of it to just behave.

 

Some people might tell me that this is a “first world problem” (and yes, I know, I agree) and that I should be grateful that technology has come so far since the humble Nokia 3310. Those people have never experienced this phone. Those people are probably reading this on their iPhones, while simultaneously watching a Youtube video, writing a text, and playing Candy Crush. I appreciate technology, and I am definitely glad that my back-up phone isn’t a brick with a black-and-white screen and monophonic ringtones, but you know what? I can’t handle the backtrack. I can’t handle the downgrade. I can’t handle this stupid, shrieking, gurgling mess of a phone for three weeks.

At least you can give a toddler a drop of whiskey to calm it down.

(Actually, liquid damage probably couldn’t make this phone any worse.)

(Or I’ll just have the whiskey…)

 

TB

Day Seventy-Seven: Why my road rage is justifiable (now with terrible illustrations)

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*Deep breath* I have road rage.

Well, that wasn’t so hard. Admitting is the first step, right?

I don’t have it to the point where I’m stopping my car at traffic lights and advancing on people with a golf club (I’m more of a lead pipe kind of person), but I have been known to yell and swear and gesture wildly at other drivers. I don’t flip them the bird because I’m lady-like, and I like my teeth where they are, but I do give them a good talking-to… from inside my car, with the windows done up.

I know I should strive to be a calmer driver—lord knows my boyfriend/parents/co-workers have suggested this to me enough times—but some days I think that other drivers are just out to piss me off.

 

By way of example, I give you this morning’s drive:

 

Scenario One:

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I never said I could draw cars… or anything really

 

I am driving through a tunnel where the speed limit is 80km/h. The people in my lane finally decide to press the little pedal next to the brake, and we’re sitting pretty at 80. That is, until the moron in the four-wheel-drive (SUV/Douche-mobile) decides that things would really be much better if we slowed down to 60. As I came up behind this guy, I was forced to brake violently to reach his sudden speed of 70, then 60. And he was barely pushing 60. The problem here is that everyone else is going 80 (or at the very least, 70), so encountering someone who is doing 20 under is going to cause some congestion. Not only did this fool slow to a crawl just before his exit (and when I say just before, I mean 100 metres, and by exit, I mean slight veer to the left), but after I passed him, I noticed that he didn’t have his headlights on. Safety first, hey?

 

Scenario Two:

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Urge to merge: high

 

I am driving in a merry line of cars down a ramp to join a stretch of motorway. Our lane does not merge, but rather becomes the centre lane of the three-lane road. As our lane spits us out next to the other ones, someone in the right lane decides that they need to merge into my lane THIS VERY SECOND LIKE RIGHT NOW and begins to do so. Since I am roughly one car length behind the car in front of me, I am forced to brake to avoid a nasty collision. The person in the other car seems to suddenly realise that I am there, in my very difficult to spot bright-red car, and swerves slightly, but ploughs on in front of me anyway, only to then hop immediately into the far left lane. My heart pounding, I happen to look in my rear-view mirror. Guess how many cars were behind me? That’s right, friends. Zero. Not a vehicle in sight. To add insult to injury, the offending car then did not exit for a good kilometre.

 

Scenario Three:

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Almost needed a pants change after this one (the incident, not the drawing… although…)

 

There is nothing I love more on the road than a good eighteen-wheeled, smoke-spewing, deafeningly-loud truck. So, obviously, I enjoy having them drive beside me. Hell, if I can have one on either side, plus in front and behind my car, I am a happy woman. It’s particularly useful when the truck is to my left and wishes to merge. I was driving alongside this bad boy for about 100 metres before the merge came upon us. I was as close to the car in front of me as I could be without just hooking up to their bumper and hitching a ride. My nose was slightly in front of the truck’s. So it slowed a bit and slipped in behind me, right? Oh, my dear, no. That jerk put his foot down and inched his nose forward in front of mine, as if to say, “I am truck! I shall crush all who stand/drive in my path!” or probably, “I’m going to merge in front of you, tiny red car.” The problem with this one is pretty obvious: I don’t want to die. So, using all the swears in my vocabulary, I quickly darted across to the right lane, allowing jerk-face-truck-wanker to railroad into the spot I’d just vacated. I was almost tempted to remain in the lane, in his path, just to see what he would do. When your vehicle is over five metres long, you do not try to race the (max) two metre zipmobile beside you. Even if you do manage to gain two metres on me, you’ve got more than three left to deal with, and smashing them sideways into my car is ill-advised. Of course, I haven’t got to the best part. Once again, there was nobody directly behind me. In fact, there was a gap so large that two trucks could have comfortably merged there, made a truck baby, and had that merge as well.

 

Most of my friends who’ve never seen me angry will tell you that I am a charming and level-headed person. (Don’t ask the ones who’ve seen me angry; their trauma is still too fresh.) Having said that, I don’t suffer fools—especially fools who choose to equip themselves with vehicles and share the road with me.

All I’m asking is for a consistent speed. All I’m asking for is for you to take your foot off the accelerator and not just slam the brakes. All I’m asking is for you to check your blind spot and notice the moving ‘danger’ sign that is my red car. All I’m asking, fellow motorists, is for a healthy blood pressure while driving. That’s not too much, is it?

 

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TB

Day Seventy-Four: Say no to House-Shame

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Oh, hi! Thanks for dropping by. I’m just whipping up a three-course meal… in heels. Just like I do every day.

 

My grandparents came to visit me on Friday. They were dropping off a really decent appliance that they never use (which, as an aside, has got to be the best thing about moving out for the first time. We got couches, table and chairs, and coffee tables the same way). Their bonus reason for dropping by was to check out my new place. Now, we’re hardly living in squalor, but I still found myself falling into the apparently innate sense of house-shame that comes with, well, having a house.

I call it house-shame, because, the way I see it, someone who is house-‘proud’ wouldn’t feel the need to hide the state of their living quarters. “This is my house,” they would announce as you walked through the door. “Yes, people live in it–hence, the slightly-less-than-clean evidence of human occupation.” I’ve always been a bit of a neat freak (though it manifests itself as ordered chaos usually), but I’ve never been the type to get down and scrub the grout with a toothbrush.

I’ve been to friends’ and relatives’ houses before and been made to suffer the whole “oh, sorry about the mess”, where ‘the mess’ is two plates on the sink and a cushion that has tumbled from the couch to the floor. In most cases, I just laugh and tell them not to be silly. But still they persist: “I was going to vacuum before you came, but I just ran out of time, what with the baby and eating breakfast and responding to the call of nature. God, I am SO sorry.”

The first thing these people need to know about me is that I don’t notice microscopic specks of dirt; I’m much more of an ‘admire the furniture’ kind of girl. Unless I am being stained, injured, or bitten, then your house is fine. If I can’t see the floor for coke cans, then yes, perhaps you might want to have a little tidy up, but I’m not going to tell you so unless you ask. The second thing they should recall is that I’ve just moved out, and discovered, much to my disappointment, that houses don’t clean themselves and that a ‘weekly clean’ comes around way too quickly. There’s also that pesky correlation between a freshly vacuumed floor and the increased tendency to drop stuff on it.

A lot of this house-shame stems from the media (of course–everything is their fault). There was a Harpic toilet cleaner ad not long ago that always made my blood boil. A woman sits at home with her (clearly newborn) baby having just coaxed the little thing to sleep. She’s looking pretty good, by the way; no poo or spew in sight. The doorbell rings and the baby starts to scream. Remarkably Clean Mum opens the door to find about five of her girlfriends bearing gifts and loud greetings. The Harpies push their way inside without an invitation and crowd around the overwhelmed mother, cooing. Well, most of them do. One asks if she can use the toilet, because, you know, the drive over was so long and she couldn’t bear to hold it until she had at least complimented the new mother on her child and been offered a drink. (Maybe I’m being too judgmental though. She might have a bladder problem.) The new mother looks stricken. The trauma causes an unbidden flashback to earlier in the day, when the mother had strolled smiling into her bathroom and hooked a new Harpic 3-in-1 Toilet Thingy up to her potty. I can only assume that her baby was asleep or under the supervision of some now-absent father. I know when I have a baby, the first thing I’ll do when they fall asleep is clean the toilet, not, you know, pass out myself from the physical drains of taking care of a crying, pooping machine that sucks the very life out of you via your breasts (or symbolically via a bottle). The flashback fades, and Super Mum seems content that her toilet-cleaning efforts are up to scratch. “Sure,” she smiles at her rude bitch of a friend. Cut to rude bitch poking her head through the bathroom door, sniffing (!!), and giving a little nod, as if to say, “yes, these facilities are fit to host my snobby butt and the golden, sweet-smelling effluent that flows from there.”

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The final insult comes with the tagline: If only everything stayed this fresh (or something, my sound broke) as two of the intruders sniff at the baby. Yes, ladies, babies shit themselves–it’s one of their only defence mechanisms against annoying twats like you.

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I have many problems with this ad (in case you didn’t pick that up during my description of it). For one, if I’ve just had a baby, don’t turn up on my doorstep unannounced in a group of five shrieking about how you want to see the baby sooo bad like right now. Second, don’t presume to use my facilities the minute you walk through the door. If you do need to go so damn badly, quietly slip away and find the loo yourself so that I don’t have to hear about it. Third, if you are lucky enough to be granted access to my ‘facilities’, remember that I have the above-mentioned eating, pooping succubus to consider, and don’t even think about judging the cleanliness of my home (or anyone’s, for that matter. Is it alligator free? Then you’ve got yourself a useable toilet, my friend). Finally, if my kid drops a load of chocolate buttons while you’re holding him, offer to change him instead of wrinkling your nose like a twelve-year-old and muttering about it to the woman next to you.

I don’t have a baby, so arguably I shouldn’t be afforded the same lenient treatment as a new mother. But then, I have two jobs, a band, and a social life, so perhaps I should be. Or perhaps it doesn’t matter because nobody invites you into their house to judge it unless they’re selling it or featuring in one of those god-awful “Lady Pennyweather opens up her wonderful country manor to Vapid Woman”.

Before my grandparents arrived, I did wipe down some tables and pull the doona up to cover the tangled mess of sheets on the bed. This is what I call ‘tidying’ and is probably stuff that I should have done anyway (well, not the bed. I never did understand the purpose of re-making a bed you were only going to sleep in again). I did consider vacuuming, but then I remembered that I was wearing only a dressing gown, and had literally put a clean house before not-being-naked. Priorities.

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“I am the devourer of the poops!!”

 

TB

Day Seventy-One: My opinion on Bernardi’s opinion

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Lots of people say stupid things. Sometimes they say them to just one person, who can swiftly reach over and slap them, and end things right there. Other times, they will spout their idiocy in a large group, prompting eye rolls, anger, and mutterings of “what a dickface”. Then there are those people who take their moronic comments, launch them to a great height, and let them rain down upon greater society. I’m talking, of course, about the esteemed Senator Cory Bernardi.

The only thing I love more than someone with very strong opinions is someone with very strong opinions who wants you to respect their opinions (while your opinions can just fuck right off, thank you). It is my opinion that when you suggest very publicly to a country how said country ought to function, you cease to have the protection of “everyone’s entitled to an opinion” and enter the realm of “are you kidding me with this shit?”

Remember, if you would, back to the time when Australian families were all sickeningly happy and heterosexual, when there was no crime, no juvenile delinquency, no abortion, and everyone just did whatever their boss wanted them to. Struggling? So, it seems, is history. I would be more inclined to agree with ‘going back to the glory days’ if in fact such days ever existed (or the dude talking about them was even born when they supposedly happened). There have been lots of changes in our society, some for better and some for worse, but if evolution has taught us anything, it’s that survival is all about adapting, not fighting change. (I’m sick of this filthy air-breathing that humans have come to embrace. I say we go back to the sea! In fact, I regularly and publicly attempt to breathe water. Water is the best…)

I wouldn’t be so annoyed by Bernardi’s comments (OK, I probably would be) if he just expressed them in a way that didn’t condemn thousands of people and ignore other pertinent contributing issues. I feel the best way to illustrate what I mean is by quoting the man himself. Oh, I do love a good quote!

(Note: these are quotes from the book, The Conservative Revolution, as printed by the ABC on Monday January 6. Sadly, I have not read the book, and can accept the possibility that these quotes may be abberations in an otherwise well-balanced and intelligent piece of literature…)

 

On abortion:

“The political pressure from the left has ushered us into a morbid new world. It is not enough to stop the trend. What is needed is a reversal back to sanity and reason.”

 

Oh, yes, we baby-killing fag enablers are only that way because the political left ‘ushered’ us that way. Nobody was getting abortions before the political left came in and started handing them out. I’m not sure where Sen Bernardi suggests we reverse back to, but it’s probably so far that he’d be pulled over and fined for reckless driving.

 

On the number of abortions per year (after his figures were disputed):

“It’s a lot and I don’t know anyone in this country that wants to see more abortions; in fact, I think most people would like to see less abortions.”

 

Are you kidding? People love abortions! Just like they love choosing to euthanise their pets. Of course nobody wants to see abortion become the next botox (which is what I think when I hear ‘trend’), but plenty would agree that as long as women are requesting and using this service, it should be available and safe. The notion that making something legal and available makes people want to do it more has been disproven with drug decriminalisation in smarter countries—although, to be fair, nobody just tries abortion at a party and gets addicted to it, so perhaps the legalisation of the two shouldn’t be compared.

 

On what he proposes we do about it:

“I haven’t said we should outlaw or prohibit abortion; I have said there is a right-to-life issue we should be exploring.”

 

Since ‘unlawful’ abortion is still illegal in Queensland, New South Wales, and Tasmania, and it’s an issue governed by states rather than at a federal level, I’d say this comment is redundant. For interest’s sake: Abortion is legal under some circumstances—like serious danger to the physical and mental wellbeing of a woman (Queensland, New South Wales), “maternal health” or “foetal disability (South Australia and Northern Territory), or provided that the services are performed under strict medical supervision at the advice of doctors (other states). I wonder what kind of “exploring” Sen Bernardi is proposing. Based on his other comment—”I think we need to start to investigate measures and ways in which we can assist in that regard”—I’d say he has about zero idea.

 

On modern families:

“Given the increasing number of ‘non-traditional’ families, there is a temptation to equate all family structures as being equal or relative.”

 

Bah! Equality! Wouldn’t that just be ridiculous? On what grounds would anyone even think to suggest that these ‘non-traditional’ families were as good as the fast-falling mum-dad-and-two-point-four-kids model? I actually agree with Sen Bernardi here. I am tempted to equate all family structures as being equal (though perhaps I would use less redundant language to express the sentiment). I’m sorely tempted to believe that it doesn’t matter in what family structure you grow up as long as you are loved, educated, and cared for.

 

On juvenile deliquency in single-parent families:

“Why then the levels of criminality among boys and promiscuity among girls who are brought up in single-parent families, more often than not headed by a single mother?”

 

While it’s true that juvenile crime has been linked to single parent families (at least according to the studies I scanned), the reason is not the single parenting itself, but the correlation between single parent families and neglect—though the percentage of total abuse victims who came from these families was not significant. Other contributing factors included poverty, low social status, and crowded dwellings (i.e. big families). A child with two parents may get more attention and support, but he may not. Two dads earning good money to support their one child should theoretically have fewer problems than a straight couple struggling to raise a brood of eight on unemployment payments. Then again, when were children ever predictable? Some of those I see in trouble with the law come from the most stable, two-parented, financially-blessed families around.

 

On alternative (and fanciful) methods of starting a family:

“What is missing in the push for human cloning, in vitro fertilisation and surrogacy, for example, is the understanding that children come into families as gifts, not commodities.”

 

Yeah, guys. Quit all that cloning, all right? But seriously, try telling someone undergoing IVF that they’re failing to see children as gifts rather than commodities, and you’ll probably cop a hormone-and-disappointment-fuelled kick to the nards. Generally speaking, the same goes for surrogacy. There aren’t many women out there whose first choice is to have someone else carry their child (and I’m sure if a gay male couple could somehow produce a child without a woman involved, they would). Surrogacy, like IVF, is a long and involved process with no guarantee of success. Altruistic surrogacy is now legal in all Australian states and territories, and allows for the practice to occur if there is no payment exchanged (beyond medical expenses). Doesn’t that sound like the definition of a gift?

 

On his “enduring views” that are totally not far right:

“These are traditional views that have stood the test of time and been developed over successive generations. You can’t tamper with tradition and not expect there to be adverse consequences.”

 

So I’ve learned every Christmas when I try to tell people how horrible fruit mince pies are, and how we should ditch the roast and eat Thai food. In this case, though, the adverse consequences are people whining, “but it’s tradiiishuuuuun” and the resolution that I will do things my own way when I have kids. The thing is, traditions are just things that people have done for a long time. Beating your wife might be traditional in your family, but that doesn’t make it the best path. There are plenty of ridiculous traditions being upheld all around the world. The problem with tradition is that it’s rigid, and it ignores the obvious changes that are contributing to its becoming obsolete.

 

And one more, on the (apparently needless) separation of Church and State:

“I believe that by stripping God and religious principles from our culture (and our politics) we have become a nation which does not know which port it is sailing to.”

 

You know what keeps ships on course? Compasses. You know what doesn’t? Bibles. Bad analogies aside (which port does he think we should be sailing to? I’m genuinely curious about his elaboration on this one), the separation of religion and politics is kind of a cornerstone of our government system. Many (some would argue, enough) of our legal principles come from basic Christian teachings anyway—don’t kill other people, don’t steal, don’t embezzle $40 billion from your company and drain the retirement funds of every person who works for you. Well, maybe just, ah, don’t steal. It’s probably not a lack of religious guidance that is cutting our country adrift (geddit?) but a government and corporate system that values money over people and maintaining the status quo over risking a beneficial change. But then, maybe there is something to be said for running a country based on Buddhist principl— What’s that? Only Christian? Never mind.

 

Obviously, it would be pretty hypocritical of me to ask you to accept my opinion as the true word of God/Allah/Ganesha/FlyingSpaghettiMonster, but I hope you’ve found them stimulating nonetheless. Besides, I’m only a small ripple in the vast ocean of the internet. (I do promise to be more responsible when I enter parliament, publish a book, and get interviewed by the ABC.)

 

TB

Day Sixty-Nine: Hey, adulthood, what gives?

I should have realised by now that this ‘grown up’ thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but I’m calling bullshit on a few things that adulthood has dished up. In fact, I’m considering suing adulthood on the grounds of false advertising. You see, there are things that were fabled when I was just shy of 20 that have not come to pass.

 

The following are entirely unacceptable and require immediate explanation:

 

Bad skin

ImageI’m calling it: 23 is too far from your teens for pimples to be attributable to teenage hormones. You know that acne is a teenage problem when you get diagnosed with ‘adult acne’. I suffered pretty badly with it through my later teens, hoping against hope that this was just a phase, that there would be a time soon where my skin would be smooth and glowing and people would stop and say, “damn, that’s some nice skin.” It’s not that I’ve lapsed back into full-blown acne at any stage in the last few years, but I am pretty consistently plagued by little bumpy skin demons who love nothing more than to arrive unannounced before big photography-heavy events (think school formal, graduation, significant birthdays). Some days I look at myself in the mirror and wonder if I’ll still be fighting spots when I’m 60, my arthritic fingers fumbling to apply globs of concealer over the offending blemishes before I head to bingo. Maybe my friends will even be jealous. Zits are super youthful, right?

I think it’s about time my skin just settled the fuck down and got its life together.

 

Money (or lack thereof)

ImageNobody in my family was ever especially rich, and, while we had some nice things and didn’t struggle, I was hardly growing up a Kardashian. Nevertheless, simple maths told me that based on the number of hours each of my parents worked, we should have been totally rolling in it. Well, they should have been totally rolling in it. I did always suspect they had more up their sleeves than they were letting on. Keep in mind that this was during a time of my life when $10 was a small fortune. I couldn’t wait–well, still can’t wait–for a time when I was making a couple of grand a fortnight and buying like 100 Ghost Drops at a time whenever the hell I wanted. Alas, adulthood has greeted me with a continuing run of casual employment, incredibly modest paychecks, and not nearly enough small flavoured lollies. It’s probably got something to do with six-year-old me’s assumption that by now I would have a job as a singer/actress/model, split my time between London and Paris, and appear on the cover of magazines (I had big plans, ok?).

Since I’ve only just finished studying, I’m going to give adulthood six months grace to address this little hiccup.

Oh, and a tiger. I want a tiger.

 

Cooking skills (or severe lack thereof)

ImageI’m not sure why, because I never was particularly involved in helping my parents with dinner, but I was working under the impression that when it came time for me to get my own place and feed myself I would be some kind of Jamie Oliver-Nigella Lawson hybrid, as beautiful as I was culinarily talented. All I can say is thank god for Google. I shit you not, I had to look up how to boil an egg. Ok, I’m not brain-dead; I get that there is water, a pot, and an egg involved, but I had zero idea how long to put it in, whether to boil the water first then add the egg (turns out to be the wrong way), or why you had to stir the water after you put the eggs in (to centre the yolks, it seems, which would have been helpful to know before I went ahead and let them sit). I sound incompetent or spoilt (the former is probably true), but I really just never had to think about this kind of stuff before now. I didn’t boil too many eggs at the family home, as it turns out. Cooking meat to non-charred, non-bleeding perfection, experimenting with flavours without poisoning myself and others, and learning the difference between a pan that is hot enough and a pan that is instant-stick-and-burn are all coming to me slowly and with much trial and error (mostly error).

I get the feeling that adulthood is going to be reading a lot of recipe books this year…

 

Being disorganised/unmotivated

ImageMy parents are both neat, orderly people, who write things down, manage hectic schedules, and stay on top of bills and birthdays. It seemed that Mum never did something unless it had a purpose, and every spare minute could be effectively used to complete a pending task (no doubt child-related, sorry Mum). I don’t know whether it’s this example or a deep-down knowledge that I only have a finite amount of time on this earth, but I feel like a total waste of space when I’m just sitting down relaxing. Not that this mentality is conducive to achievement. It’s almost the opposite. My mind seems to think that guilt is code for “fuck this, let’s eat chips”. Disorganised may be the wrong word for it. My days are heavily scheduled, just not with stuff that’s immediately important or useful for my future/present. How can I possibly tweak my resume while there’s a fingerprint on that window? I can pay that bill next week after I get paid–ooh, pretty dress, must buy! I have so much washing/cleaning/writing to catch up on on my day off *texts friends to see what they’re doing*. I’m going to get up and go for a run tomorrow–zzzzzz.

If there was a gene that was supposed to click on when I turned 20, I am yet to feel its effects.

 

Maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world that I haven’t crossed irreversibly into some realm of joyless, clear-skinned, freakishly-organised humans. I get the feeling that I’ll look back in ten years’ time and laugh that I’d entertained the notion that I was an adult. Actually, it’s just as likely that I’ll look back and laugh at all the fart jokes I’ve made. Hehe, farts.

 

TB

Day Sixty-Eight: Five things I won’t miss about the beach holiday

I’m very well aware that this post is here to serve as a way to cheer myself up following the conclusion of two weeks of beachy goodness. I still stand by every word though.

Being at the beach (or on holiday in general) is pretty awesome. In a perfect world, we’d only work a couple of weeks a year and holiday for the rest, instead of the the other way around. But then, we’d probably be chafed, sunburnt, and verging on diabetes all the time. Christmas holidays at the beach do have their downsides.

 

1. Hot chips every freaking day

ImageThere’s something about sitting in sand, with tangled hair and salt flaking off your sizzling skin that just makes you want to stuff your face with fried potato. Or is that just me? Either way, it happens. It’s probably because running up to the shop to grab a salad to munch on just doesn’t have the same appeal. Ask the seagulls; they’ll tell you. Chips are easy to eat with your hands, easy to share amongst a family, easy to spread out on a towel, and let’s not forget the deliciousness. The thing is, after two weeks of constant chipping, I have had a literal and figurative gutful. If I could avoid even looking at a potato for the next two weeks, I would be a happy (and probably healthier) woman.

 

2. Sand

ImageI know, I know: it’s the beach and you get sandy at the beach. But I reserve the right to demand a sand-free crotch for the majority of the day. I love sitting on the beach (on my towel, snarling at anyone who threatens to kick even a grain in my direction), but I have a time limit. A couple of hours of sandy arse each day is fine, if I can then wash it off and be back in dry clothes for the remainder. Having a swim in the ocean, completely air-drying in the scorching sun, then attempting to reapply sunscreen over the crusty salt-and-sand skin you’ve developed is not a comfortable experience. And what sticks to fresh sunscreen, you ask? Why, it’s our good friend sand. Sand follows you inside your apartment and scatters itself on the floor; sand wriggles between your starched white resort sheets and awaits you when you climb in (usually red-raw); sand makes its way into every meal you eat and gives you a shudder when you feel it catch between your teeth. Yep, sand is great. I sure hope there’s a stockpile waiting at the bottom of my suitcase…

 

3. The cricket (specifically, the commentary–but actually just all of it)

ImageI don’t mind cricket. I like it about as much as I like listening to white noise while dying of thirst. But really, the game can be interesting… for about two per cent of the Test. Hell, if I happen to be walking past when somebody gets a wicket, I’ll be applauding with the rest of them. Was that a classic catch? Well, that was utterly thrilling. Turning it on every day (while we’re at the coast surrounded by heaps of fun, non-cricket-related things to do) and sitting for hours watching one dude try to hit the ball while the other dude tries to hit the stumps, while the poor suckers who aren’t bowling or batting just stand around hoping the ball will fall from the sky into their hands, is not exciting. Even the commentators are struggling to find enough new things to talk about, since they’re essentially watching the same thing over and over. This leads to such inspired segments as “stand on the pitch and re-enact what the last batsman did then superimpose said batsman onto the pitch to see how close we were to nailing it” and “we’re actually mind readers and can tell you the exact motivation for Johnson’s last move”. The second one is the worst. It’s like a really boring episode of The Mentalist. “He’s thinking that he’ll just take this nice and slow, because he knows that England aren’t going to be risking huge runs.” Is he? Really? I’d wager he’s more likely to be thinking “DON’T FUCK THIS UP, DON’T FUCK THIS UP”.

“With that bowl, Johnson is basically saying that England can all go bugger themselves with the thick ends of their bats. He’s also struggling to decide how best to uninvite Sarah from the new years eve party, because it’s going to be a total rager and she is a fun-vacuum.”

I suppose it’s better than, “and he’s hit the ball, it’s travelled a short distance, and that guy is throwing it back so that the bowler can have another throw. Truly nail-biting stuff, folks.”

 

4. The sun

ImageI am a very pale person living in Queensland. It’s like Superman living in a house made of Kryptonite.

 

5. Living in close quarters with my brothers

ImageThere’s nothing like being woken every morning by someone standing at the foot of your bed, pulling your toes. I suppose it’s still infinitely better than the brown-eyes my younger brother was waking up to, but it still makes you want to kick the perpetrator in the face. Since moving out, I had become accustomed to walking around naked, having a urine-free toilet seat, and being able to get through a day without being punched, kicked, or farted on. For two weeks, I was back in a realm where a closed door means an invitation to enter, a thin heterosexual woman is a ‘fat lesbian’, spending longer than 5 minutes in the bathroom is ‘taking forever’, and a glance at a phone or a book is ‘antisocial’. I love my brothers; they are hilarious and strange. But I have no guilt about the joy I felt knowing I didn’t have to go back to the same house with them when we left.

 

TB