Day One-Hundred-and-Forty-Eight: Don’t be afraid to reconnect

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Source: shoeboxblog.com
But maybe they’re not as inarticulate and annoying in person, right?

There’s a spot on my floor, about the width of two tiles, that is noticeably warmer than the rest of the floor. I only notice it in the evening, when the weather cools, and the tiles take on a (sometimes welcome) chill. On my journey from the kitchen to the bedroom–usually with some food item in my hand/mouth–it gives me pause.

My boyfriend and I have discussed it. We’re not sure of the cause. Probably some pipe or power source running under there. Or our downstairs neighbours have a small heater on their roof. I like to think it’s a posh floor-heating mechanism that was partially installed during building, then scrapped when the owners found out how much it would cost (and how ridiculous it is to have a heated floor in Brisbane).

And what, you may be yelling at your monitor, is the fucking point of this story?

Well, it’s been 28 days since my last drink…err, post. For reasons that are clear only to the monkey who drives my brain, I felt like it was time to reconnect.

And that’s all it takes, right? Just a small thing to start a conversation, and get things rolling again.

I was talking to someone the other day about whether it would be weird for them to reach out to old friends and suggest a catch up. Now, I’m no well of wisdom (actually, the only thing I can say with any certainty that I’m a well of is blood and urine), but it seems to me that in this new-fangled age of Facebook and Twitter and all that self-broadcasting shit, reconnecting with people is as easy as liking a post or getting involved in an in-status debate about Tony Abbott. (Well, that’s if you think making sense of a plethora of poorly-formed sentences hurling abuse at bloody Labor/LNP/Juliar/Clive “Dat’s a Huuuuge Bitch” Palmer is easy.) The point is that striking up a dialogue has never been so simple and non-stalkerish.

For example:

Your high-school buddy posts a status about how fucking good Meaty’s Steak Emporium and Barbeque Palooza is. You’ve been to Meaty’s and you can totally attest to its jizz-inducing deliciousness. (You have the stains to prove it.) Why not post a casual “OMG I KNOW RIGHT LOL” and see what happens? Maybe you guys can go to Meaty’s together some time and eat ribs until you’re more pig-meat than man. Trade “What I’ve Been Doing with My Life” stories over a stack of buffalo wings. I don’t fucking know; it’s not my job to plan your meat-ups (ha!).

(By the way, if I open a steakhouse, I will call it Meaty’s Steak Emporium and Barbeque Palooza, so if you open one before I do and steal this name–thanks for reading!– I will hunt you down.)

What I’ve realised, through the magic of self-examination, is that nobody is going to react in a negative way when you attempt reconnect with them. (Unless you were a total c**t in school. I can’t help you there.) If you’re worried about looking like a desperate weirdo contacting old friends, think about it this way: if you got a nice message from an old mate, wondering what you were up to, and suggesting a catch-up, how would you feel? Warm and fuzzy, probably. You’re very unlikely to laugh derisively and delete their message. (Unless you are the the aforementioned c**t. God, you truly are a dick.) In fact, provided that the message doesn’t begin with “I wish to have tell you about the joys of Islam” (an actual Facebook message I received–please know that I am prejudiced against all religions equally), you’re probably going to be pleasantly surprised and happy to hear from them. Nostalgia is a powerful thing. (I’m not saying that you wouldn’t also be interested in the joys of Islam.)

I have friends whom I can go months without seeing. When they pop up on my radar again, or I swing them an “it’s been too damn long”, there’s no recriminations for the lack of contact, no raised eyebrows and WTFs, just a genuine keenness to meet up and talk shit about life (and eat, usually).

And yes, I get that sometimes people from our past are best left there, and you’ll probably hear a lot of “we should totally catch up some time” bullshit before you actually end up doing the thing, but, like an old friend once chided me, you’re never going to meet anyone if you don’t get out there. (I appreciated the message, but it’s totally not true. They could come to my house. And what with home-delivered groceries and the wonders of the internet, I could conceivably never leave the confines of my apartment. Or wear pants.)

Sometimes *cue sad, reflective music* you’ll hang out with someone again only to realise that your lives have diverged so obviously that you no longer share any common ground. You’ll sit opposite them in a cafe, smiling awkwardly and trying to react in a casual and interested way to the idea of a competitive all-male knitting club, and you’ll know that your future interactions will be limited to a ‘like’ and maybe a “sick cardigan, bro” here and there. The awesome (and terrifying) thing about the world is that it’s full of people, a good proportion of whom are statistically likely to share your interests. Expand your circles (not an advertisement for Google+). Old friends have new friends, who can be your friends too if you reconnect with the old friends. Friend poaching!

So, reach out or don’t. Whatever. The door is never closed (unless you’re in prison)(especially if you’re in prison for stalking and murdering former friends).

 

Good to see you.

We should definitely catch up some time.

TB

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Day Twelve: Failing to remember

Picture source: funnyjunk.com

Picture source: funnyjunk.com

In honour of Remembrance Day, I want to talk about memory–specifically, having a short memory.

One of the hallmarks of being a ‘good adult’ and growing as a person is learning from the past, whether that’s not making the same mistake twice or just writing down that awesome brownie recipe once you’ve perfected it. It still shocks me how some people (me included) are so quick to forget.

My favourite example of this came with my brothers’ entrances into high school. I’m fortunate enough to have three male siblings, each of whom have encountered the same pitfalls in their young male lives. When my older brother had experienced a week of secondary schooling, I asked him how it was going.

“It’s OK,” he said. “Except year eights cop a lot of shit.”

“What kind of shit?” I asked.

“They just call us little fags and push us into lockers and stuff. I think it’s just a hazing thing.”

Far be it from me to question the rituals of the male species, but to me that sounded like straight-up, good old-fashioned bullying. Apparently, it’s all good though. And it happens every year. That’s right. Every year the older kids taunt the young ones.

This brings me to the following year and my brother’s progression to year nine.

“Oh, man, it was so funny,” he told us over dinner. “We were walking along the hallway and all the year eights were at their lockers, so we ran past and dacked [pulled down the pants of] as many as we could.”

I stared at him.

“Seriously?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. He had the grace to look confused.

“You were saying that this happened to you last year, and you didn’t like it.”

“Oh, right,” he shrugged. “But it happens every year. It’s just how it goes.”

I wanted to build a time machine, shove him into it, and take him back to a year before. Look, I’d say. That’s you, hating being treated like shit. Seem familiar?

It gets better though. A few years down the track and my younger brother enters the hallowed halls of education and manliness.

And, as it has apparently been written for the last 50 years, the new year eights were bombarded with abuse, both verbal and physical, and resigned themselves to staying the hell out of everyone’s way for at least the first half of the year. Cue the mandatory memory wipe between years eight and nine, and we’re back to hilarious stories of wimpy little ‘eights’ (who were, by the way, always much smaller, gayer, and dumber than their predecessors) being punished for the crime of graduating into high school.

The third, and youngest, brother surely had watched all of this unfold and steeled himself for the trials ahead, while knowing deep in his heart that he would defend the poor trembling children who filled his stinky shoes after he moved up a grade. Right? Right??

“Man, those grade eights are so tiny. I swear they just cry at everything.”

(I saw those year eights. Some of them were bigger than he was.)

“How can you be so horrible to them when that was you a year ago?” I asked him.

The skinny little shit shrugged. “We had to go through it and we’re all right. Why shouldn’t they? It’s just part of it.”

So, that’s it then, I guess. We’re just supposed to live in kind of a fucked-up Pay It Forward scenario where beatings replace deeds of kindness. It’s kind of human nature isn’t it? A very high percentage of child abusers were abused themselves as children. The people who know exactly how it feels to be tormented should be the saviours, but they’re not. If you can’t get your revenge on the person who wronged you, why not just perpetuate the cycle? At least someone suffers, right?

Not that it’s all doom and gloom. Sometimes it just takes a few hundred reminders to get through to people (particularly teenage boys–not the brightest bunch). Oh, how many times I’ve wished that I’d filmed something in the past to show to a present friend/brother/me.

My oldest brother used to berate the middle brother for copying him (usually, ordering the same meal in a restaurant). It often reduced the middle one to tears. Years later, when the middle one was the older one’s age, and the little one was in the ‘admire your older brother’ stage, history repeated before our eyes.

“Stop fucking copying me, you little fag,” the middle one said without even a hint of irony.

My mum and I exchanged open-mouthed looks across the table. When we demanded an explanation, the middle one pouted.

“It’s really annoying. Now I can understand why he used to beat me up for it.”

We have a name for that. It’s called Battered Wife Syndrome.

I’ve found that a little memory-bank exploration can really help with the whole empathy thing. It’s like posting on a message board: before you delight the whole forum with a stupid question, do a thorough search through the archives. It could save you looking like an idiot/hypocrite.

TB

(But seriously, those year eights suck.)

Day Nine: Peer Pressure (now in adult sizes)

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It’s your first real high school party and you’re really nervous. You’re not exactly cool at school (although you’re not a complete loser either) and you want to make a good impression. You rock up with your friend after having your dad drop you a little way down the road–because it is really not ok for him to be seen with you. You’re wearing an outfit that you saw on a mannequin at Sportsgirl and you feel kind of fashionable for once in your life. You and your friend follow the pulsing beat around the side of the house and into the backyard. Everywhere you look, kids are drinking, smoking, laughing, kissing. The girl who invited you sees you from across the yard and totters over in her riduculous heels (at a backyard party? Seriously?).

“Heyyyyy!” she slurs, grabbing onto you, probably for stability. “Come in, sit down, have some drinks!”

You’re led over to a group of guys and girls and introduced. You lower yourself into a deck chair and smile awkwardly at the people around you. The host comes back moments later with two cups of mystery liquid and pushes one into your hand.

“What is it?” you ask.

“Haha, you’re so cute,” she says, even though you’re deadly serious and actually older than she is. “It’s goon.”

You know what goon is. You’ve seen the aftermath spawled on the footpaths some Friday nights when you’re driving home from dinner with your parents. You understand what drinking this stuff will do to your body. You stare at the clear liquid a moment longer before handing it back to your host.

“I think I’ll pass.”

It’s like the whole party stops. Like that mortifying moment when the music drops out and the word you happen to be yelling over the noise is ‘vagina’. The people in your circle look at you, somewhat puzzled.

“Why aren’t you having any?” one asks, almost wounded.

“Go on,” says another, who you’re pretty sure you’ve never met. “Live a little.”

Eventually, everyone shrugs and goes back to their drinks. You watch as they guzzle into intoxication. A couple of times you almost talk yourself into indulging ‘just this once’.

A little while later, someone comes up to you and tells you, between drags on their cigarette, that they really admire you for abstaining from booze.

“I wish I had your self control,” they tell you, wistfully. You feel more than a little patronised.

Adult social situations are much the same as teenage ones when it comes to drinking and food. Since I’ve been on a restrictive diet (for health, not image, reasons) I’ve encountered the above situation on more occasions than I’d care to count. In order to function at my best–and not be a sickly, crampy mess–I avoid gluten, dairy, and sugar. “All the good stuff,” people have joked to me before. Sure, I’d like to say. And all the stuff that contributes to chronic health problems.

The most common thing I come up against when refusing food and explaining my situation is, “oh, but surely just a little bit won’t hurt”. Actually, these foods in any amount are enough to make me quite uncomfortable. Unless you’d like me hunched over your toilet bowl (and not from drinking), please don’t try to suggest that I just have a nibble.

The second most common is the good old, “oh, that must suck”. You know what sucks more than ‘missing out’ on your delicious creamy dessert? Spending the next day with stabbing stomach pains. Also, flatulence.

The final, and arguably most frustrating, is the, “you’re so good. I could never do that”. Do you approach all areas of your life with that attitude, I wonder? Do you quit before you even begin? Thanks for the praise, but I’m not doing it to impress society at large; I’m doing it for my own personal health reasons. And for the record, yes, it is god-damned hard to overhaul your eating habits, but like anything, you get used to it after a while. Of course you could do it if you really tried; you’ve probably just never given yourself a chance.

It’s difficult to live contrary to most of your peers. If you’re strong enough to stick to your guns, you’ll encounter a lot of questions, but eventually a lot of admiration. It’s hard to watch other people ‘enjoying’ the things that you can’t/won’t eat, but the best thing to remember is that nothing tastes good enough to be worth the negative effects your body will suffer afterwards. (Plus, if you learn to make clean desserts, you’ll never miss out. And people sometimes actually prefer your treats to the traditional versions.)

Interestingly, when I was in the detox stage of my lifestyle change and didn’t consume alcohol either, I encountered almost the exact reactions that I did as a teen refusing a drink. The best part of adulthood and autonomy is being able to control your own environment: food, exercise, hobbies. That’s the whole point of moving out, right? It’s the best chance you’ll have to start from scratch, form new habits, and live the life you’ve always wanted to.

TB