Marriage is between a man and a woman… and the church and the government and your mum

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I can’t help but notice that a lot of people are getting married lately. Every couple of weeks, I’m seeing white dresses and rings all over my Facebook feed. I’m also hearing a lot of wedding-related conversation.

I don’t hate the idea of marriage at all, and although the thought of planning a wedding fills me with cold dread, I can how it might be nice to do the deed at some point down the track.

I do have a problem with the traditional (and legislative) caveats that come with the ceremonial joining of two lives. Marriage and weddings have become a balancing act: please the church, please the state, please the family. It’s your special day, right?

 

Boy Meets Girl

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Or boy meets boy. Or girl meets girl. No, wait, scratch that. Marriage does not apply to those last two pairings. Silly me. To me, and people like me, the “gay marriage debate” is just us shooting confused looks at one another and meeting every opposing argument with, “Why is this even a fucking question?” A marriage involves two people who want to permanently join their lives together (legally, spiritually, perhaps physically through some kind of surgery…) and obviously have the intestinal fortitude to deal with all the bullshit that is part and parcel of taking that plunge. It’s pretty simple, really. In theory. In a vacuum. Ah, sweet love.

 

Going to the Chapel

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I haven’t been to very many weddings, but all of them have been religious (Catholic) ceremonies. To me, the ritual was dry and unromantic; it even disturbed me in places. (There’s something about verbally agreeing that your union will result in the production of offspring that seems pushy and overly involved. Can we leave my uterus out of this?)  Having said that, I completely respect a couple’s desire to include their faith in their union. After all, religion is a deeply personal experience. For the same reason, I am completely offended by the hijacking of marriage by any one religion. To suggest that a marriage is any less legitimate because it didn’t happen exactly according to some ancient custom is stupid. It’s also kind of offensive. It’s also technically wrong. After all, what’s a joining of two souls without a bit of legally binding paperwork?

 

All You Need is Love and $40.50 for a Certificate

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Nothing screams romance like registering your every move with your friendly government. I was pretty disappointed to find out that my birth certificate wasn’t a “Congrats for being the winning sperm” thing, but more like a livestock tracking system. You can get ‘married’ by a bilingual Eclectus Parrot in a hot air balloon over a volcano, but it doesn’t mean anything (in the eyes of the law) without that scrap of paper. Despite the fact that a separation of church and state is written into the Australian constitution (I know, we have one – crazy shit), the only real basis for not changing the Marriage Act to encompass the union of all couples is that, like, you know, it’s just not right. I mean, we’re not saying “according to the Bible”, but…

The Commonwealth shall not make any law… for imposing any religious observance.

Right. Of course. Shit. OK, so, it’s not about religion. It’s about… tradition! Upholding the cornerstones of our society or something. Changing things makes us feel weird.

Then again, if federal finances continue the way they are, marriage equality may be a quick cash flow solution for the government. I mean, that’s a lot more $40.50 payments…

 

Why Are You Crying?

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Every little girl dreams of her wedding day. That’s a thing, right? There’s some kind of borderline-creepy scrapbook that details everything from the dress to the typeface on the place cards, with some vague notion of a groom who’s, like, handsome or has ten Ferraris or something? Even the non-scrapbookers have been told since birth that the day of their marriage will be their special day.

“Why don’t you want your father to walk you down the aisle? Do you hate him? You’re his only daughter. He’s dreamed of this day,” sobs your mother when you tell her you’re thinking of keeping things low-key.

“You’re not inviting your second cousin and her six children? You’re practically Satan,” scolds your wife-to-be’s great-aunt.

“I’ll go, but I want things arranged so that I don’t have to see, hear, or smell my stupid bitch sister. Some kind of tagging in and out system would probably work, but it’s pretty inconvenient for me,” sniffs your Nan.

“We’re making the trip up just for your wedding. We’ll just stay in a hotel though, so don’t tell your mum we’re coming,” writes your uncle. (This one actually happens in my family. It would be kind of cool and secretive if it were something more juicy than “don’t tell your brother we met up for coffee today” – because he’s totally going to care.)

I’m genuinely surprised that more brides and grooms don’t start their vows with “Firstly, fuck all y’all”. Tradition is lovely if it means something to you. It’s fucking irritating if it only means something to two very pushy people in your extended family. The apparent rules around who to invite, where to seat them, what to feed them, and how to fork out thousands to do it are enough to give any marriage-participant a cold sore the size of a grape. And that’s what you want when you look back over your wedding photos: tired eyes, a forced smile, and a perpetually empty wine glass.

*

My mum gets this, thank god (or the God-Abbott coalition). She tells me that as long as I’m happy, she doesn’t care if, when, or how I get married. I assume there are practical limits on this; human sacrifice hasn’t been a family ritual for at least a decade.

Your marriage should be like your sex life: how you do it is between you and your partner. If other people want to come and applaud, they can do so from a safe distance, on the condition that they offer no suggestions.

“But, you know, missionary is traditional…”

TB

Day Ninety-Five: Dumping in the Great Barrier Reef is like eating white rhino steaks (and other offensive activities)

We used to be into the Tasmanian Tiger cutlets, but, well, you know…

Today’s post is brought to you by Morbo.

ImageEven so, it doesn’t hurt to, you know, not deliberately wreak havoc on our one-off natural wonders.

 

Dumping dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef marine park is a bit like:

Wiping your arse with the Shroud of Turin

ImageSorry, the nearest paper was like twenty metres away. We have more of these though, right?

 

Building a McDonald’s in the Great Pyramid of Giza

ImageWell, have you heard about the rent prices in the Sphinx lately? Phew.

 

Filling the Grand Canyon to facilitate a new highway

ImageWell, we had to sacrifice LA and forge a new coastline to provide enough dirt, but the 15 minutes this cuts off the drive is so worth it.

 

Housing a sewage plant in the Colosseum

ImageWe like to play Gladiators, except instead of lions we run from walls of gushing effluent.

 

Testing rocket launchers at Stonehenge

ImageOK, guys, this one definitely works. We, uh, need a new range now though. How about the Great Wall of China? Bigger surface area.

 

Wanton destruction annoys me. Wanton destruction of super amazing one-of-a-kind things makes me want to invite the dime-a-dozen idiots who make these decisions to a ropeless bungee from the Empire State Building.

 

TB

Day Twenty-Two: Australia, we have a drinking problem

alcohol abuse

The end of exams has come and gone, and I can’t help but feel that I dodged a bullet (in the liver) by not participating in any form of booze-fuelled celebration beyond sharing a glass of wine with my man at home.

I have alcohol on the brain–not literally–because of the recent report released by The Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD). Fittingly, when my go-to radio station reported on it, they described it as ‘sobering’ (GEDDIT?). The report is long and full of wordiness (as reports often are), but the gist of it is this:

Australians have a bit of a problem with alcohol. Specifically, it’s responsible for the deaths of one in eight and the hospitalisation of one-fifth of people under 25.

But we’re just having a few on the weekend, right? Like, “I don’t have a drinking problem; I just like to have fun when I get off work”?

I remember observing someone on my Facebook whose status was always alcohol-related.

Just having some beers with the boys! he’d write on a Friday night.

Cannot wait to get home from work and crack some brewskies, he’d post most afternoons.

Fucking hangover from hell, he’d complain more often than is healthy.

I was tempted more than once to comment on his statuses with “I think you have a problem” or just private message him a link to Alcoholics Anonymous.

Bit harsh of me, right? He’s just a young man with an active social life who also likes to drink to wind down, isn’t he? To me, his constant references to alcohol, and the fact that he wasn’t just drinking but ‘getting maggot’ several nights a week, signals an addiction. If someone’s every status update was about how they can’t wait to have a cigarette/are dying for a ciggy/smoked sooo many durries last night, you’d assume they were addicted to nicotene, wouldn’t you?

I’m not much of a drinker–very much a light-weight and not a fan of losing control–but I’ve had my fair share of nights on the town. The common denominator is always alcohol, and lots of it. In fact, for most people, the whole point of a night out is to get pissed beyond all help. Event invites often specifically call for attendees to ‘get super drunk with me’, ‘drink our cares away’, or ‘celebrate graduation by wiping all the information we learned during our degree with booze’. There are even gatherings before the gatherings so that we can get nicely hammered before heading to the bar to save money. We’re so resourceful.

 

If you don’t think drinking is that important to our social culture, just try going out with your piss-head friends and staying sober. You will be asked at least 50 times why you’re not drinking, offered 100 drinks by friends and strangers alike, urged to ‘just have one’, interrogated about whether you’re having fun, and complimented about how ‘good’ you’re being. I’m not saying that it’s not fun to go out without drinking–if you’re like me and can dance stone sober to elevator music–but you will come up against a lot of weird looks and no matter how hard you try, you just won’t be as interested in bitching/flirting/crying/throwing up as your friends are.

After my first sober night out, I knew that it wasn’t my scene. (Actually, to be honest, even drunky-pants me knew that it wasn’t my scene, but her brain was swimming in enough vodka to endure.) There are heaps of fun things to do with friends that don’t involve drinking, but it turns out that going out to nightclubs isn’t one of them. It could be that it’s just me (it often is), but having sweaty people grind up against me, elbowing my way around, and shouting myself hoarse while trying to have a conversation do not equate to having a good time. Give me a group of hilarious friends and a good meal any day of the week.

This isn’t to say that I’m against drinking all together. Sometimes it is genuinely fun to gather with friends and enjoy some good wine, cold beer, or delicious cider in abundance. But not every night. Not even every weekend. Since becoming a complete loved-up old person, I’ve come to appreciate alcohol for its taste–yes, it has a taste!–which makes guzzling it down (particularly through a tube) feel like a bit of a waste. When I was eighteen, I hated the taste of all booze, but I liked the social aspect of getting drunk. The number of times I had a shot with a friend and made a disgusted face is probably in the thousands. I don’t know how many times I turned to someone and admitted, “I’m not even thirsty.” Weirdly enough, as soon as I stopped abusing alcohol, I began to actually explore it as a beverage (as opposed to a bitter tonic prescribed for soberness).

 

The ANCD recommends an overhaul of regulations to limit availability and advertising, but, as we’ve seen time and again, making something taboo and hard to obtain is not a great way to stop people using it. If anything, it makes the substance more attractive. Rather than shielding young people from alcohol (and then suddenly allowing them free reign when they reach eighteen), we should be working on changing people’s attitudes towards booze from the time that they are children. Start by making it less of a big deal. Warning your child that they should never drink this ‘poison’ between sips of beer is not effective deterrence. Getting yourself horribly injured in a drinking-induced accident might be, but is a painful way to teach your kid a lesson (and is likely to have some pscyhological effects beyond those you intended). If they just see alcohol as an occasional thing that their parents partake in with their dinner, then they’re less likely to associate any special meaning to it. If they ask for a sip, give them a tiny one; if they’re anything like I was as a child they’ll spit it out and tell you it’s gross.

Of course, yes, I realise that peer pressure is the big one, and some kids will always see alcohol as some beacon of awesomeness, but maybe if there are more of them that look at a sack of goon and say, “no thanks, I don’t drink that shit; I’ll just have a nice glass of this Pinot Grigio”, the abusive culture might start to fade (and Passion Pop will finally face extinction).

Anyway, I’m off to enjoy a nice spot of crack.

 

TB

Day Eight: Finding the bright spots

Image(Photo: John McCullough, Flickr)

This ‘grown-up’ life can get pretty overwhelming if you’re not getting little bits of light in your day. I’m talking about those things that you love to do that break up the monotony, or the people whose smiling faces and kind words just seem to lift you out of your funk. My boyfriend is one of them. My parents’ puppy–it’s hard to break the habit of saying MY puppy–is another.

Some days I leave work with my head still buzzing. Make appointments with Mr X tomorrow… Forgot to call Miss Y re referral… Report on Mr J due Friday… Ms M wants urgent appointment… It’s the kind of thing that taints the whole ‘end of the day’ feeling of relief with a feeling of ‘crap, I have a lot of work to do when I come back’. Sometimes working part-time (as the only employee) is a curse. The work piles into those few days instead of being an even spread.

No matter how frustrated/exhausted/down I’m feeling when I finish work, though, I’m always smiling by the time I get in my car and drive away. The reason for this is the Carpark Man.

It’s only as I write this that I realise I’ve never asked the Carpark Man his name. He used to greet me in the morning with a smile and a “hello” and when the carpark was full (which is usually is) he’d ask whether he could park my car. Every day I’d leave my keys with this man and go off to work. Now a young man, who I suspect may be his grandson, takes the morning shift and the Carpark Man is there in the evening.

The Carpark Man is older (of grandfatherly age) and Korean. His English is limited, but he has a few phrases down.

“Long time, no see!” he says when I’ve had some time away.

“How are you?” he asks with a smile each time he greets me.

“Can I park-a your car?” he’d ask each time the carpark was full. Even the first time, I felt comfortable handing him my car keys.

“I have valet parking at work,” I told a friend.

“You leave your car with a stranger?” she asked when I’d explained how the situation worked.

“Well, yes, I guess. But he’s not a stranger. I see him every day.”

Last Christmas he gave all his ‘regulars’ a candy cane with a cute (and majorly touristy) koala wearing an Australia vest attached. When he reappeared after some time away last year, he told me he’d been on holiday to Korea and gave me one of those chains we used to attach to our mobile phones–of a smiling character in traditional dress.

One day, not long after I started parking there, I pulled up to the little booth to pay my daily fee and the Carpark Man was there with his wife. He didn’t immediately take my money, but asked, “you believe in me?”

I was puzzled for a few moments. He repeated the question, like he wasn’t sure he’d got the right words. Suddenly, I knew what he meant.

“I trust you?” I suggested, and his face lit up.

“Yes!” he said. “Thank you. You park free for today.”

I’d never even thought about it that way. I’d trusted him inherently. I was just happy to have such a friendly service that took the pressure off me to find parking each day.

I found out later that there are a whole group of us who leave our keys. I walked down there today, my head full of psychology papers on the ability of children to tell the truth (fascinating, but very academic reading), and the Carpark Man wasn’t there. I looked around, then waited. He usually appeared from somewhere eventually. A lady carrying a briefcase came in shortly after. I smiled at her.

“Not sure where he is,” I said.

She nodded knowingly and called into the gloom, “hello?”

A second passed before: “Hello! I’m coming!” It came from the other end of the underground lot.

The lady grinned at me. “And now he’ll run.”

Sure enough, he soon came jogging into view, smiling his usual smile and asking each of us how we were.

I paid my fee, grabbed my keys, and thanked him sincerely. I wondered then if he’d ever seen me without a smile.

Find something you can’t help but smile at, and make it a regular part of your week. Take up reading again (nothing soothes me like a good book), surround yourself with friends who make you laugh, smile at people who make your life a little easier: cashiers, waiters, carpark attendants. Even if you start out forcing it, it’s been proven that just the act of smiling will make you feel happier, and a good old smile exchange will give you a genuine grin soon enough.

The Carpark Man told me that he’s playing golf this weekend. He’s got this happiness thing all figured out.

TB