Day One-Hundred-and-Seven: I’ve made my peace with Valentines Day

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Nothing says romance like a teddy riding a Hummer

My drive to the spice shop today (because you know, nothing says ‘I love you’ like chilli) took me past a florist. It was the usual thing. Nobody really notices there’s a florist there until it’s Valentines Day. Then you can’t get at that place for love or money (or love and money, as it were). And these guys were theming it hard. Apart from the fantastic signage pictured above, they had red streamers hanging from the awnings, teddy bears in the window, balloons-a-plenty, and a big sign reminding everyone who hadn’t yet realised that it is ‘Valentines Day! Roses $40208325805 a dozen!’

Ok, so maybe the roses weren’t that expensive, but when you can use hyperbole if not on V-Day? I love you so much I wanna punch a kitten in the face!

It’s one of those occasions where ordinarily-carefree men scramble in desperation to find a gift that says, “I love you. Like, more than usual. But this ain’t no birthday/anniversary”, and ordinarily-tough women turn to mush over a pink stuffed animal.

Yeah, I’ve always had a problem with Valentines Day.

When I was sixteen, I formed a club with one of my best friends. We called it ‘Fuck Love’. Pretty succinct. It had its own Myspace and everything. I don’t think either of us had really given up on the idea of love, but we were the two singletons in our group of four, and it made days like V-Day a bit more bearable. We’d listen to our friends describe their (what I realise now were totally juvenile, high-school) relationships and roll our eyes at each other over the table. “Fuck love,” we’d chant when the stories got too much.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the idea of celebrating love. I love love. It’s the best. Now that I’m in it, I can’t imagine life without it (lame lame lame). It’s just the expectations and pressure that this one day seems to put on people.

It’s a make-or-break day for relationships new and old. First V-Day together? Be afraid. You wanna get this right. But not go so far that your partner expects similar or grander things every year. Don’t use the diamond ring card, for example, unless you have a shit-ton of money and your girl/guy doesn’t feel that bending her/his fingers is particularly necessary (if you’re really that rich, it probably isn’t).

Those in longer-term partnerships might be starting to get into the comfortable stage (which I don’t subscribe to really – yes, I’m comfortable, but I also still want to jump your bones), and will see V-Day as some kind of chance to reinvigorate their passion. Or something. Either you both forget (we did until yesterday), one of you goes to more effort than the other, or the pressure to be romantic is so great you give yourself stomach ulcers.

There’s another option, of course: Use the day as a reminder to do romantic things, catch up with friends/family, and just appreciate your relationships a little more. Don’t put your partner in the doghouse if they don’t tell you they love you on Valentines Day; put them there if they don’t tell you every day. If you want to take your partner out to dinner, and send roses to them at work, that’s also fine. But do it because you want to, not because you have to. Put some thought into what little thing will say, “Hey, you there! I love you.”

For me, the little thing will be having a special meal ready for my boyfriend when he gets home from work (hence the trip to the spice shop). It’s picking up some things we need and grabbing a treat to share with him later. It’s spending time chatting and giggling and kissing. (Not to gross you out, but we’re that kissing couple. One of my friends timed us once, and said in a social situation it was roughly every thirty seconds that our faces drifted towards one another.)

So, to the guy I saw walking out of the florist carrying a bunch of roses and a look of sheer panic, chill out dude. Give her the roses, tell her you love her, and then bust out that copy of season four of Game of Thrones that you somehow managed to illegally obtain and had to kill, like, six armed guards to get (hint hint).

 

All my love,

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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 Twenty-One: Let’s talk about poo, baby

helen-lovejoy

Humans poo. There, I’ve said it.

Some of you will stare at the page blanky and say, “So what?” Others, I expect, will wrinkle your noses in disgust and note that you might have been OK with it if I’d said “humans produce waste”.

How about this? Humans are pooping, pissing, bleeding, farting machines who have sex and get sweaty and occasionally vomit.

Plenty of people I’ve met will argue that they accept these traits of humanity, but it doesn’t mean that they want to hear about them. Fair enough, gratuitous poo talk at the dinner table is not ideal, but trying to block out the fact that you (or your partner) does these things just makes life more difficult.

“Chicks don’t crap,” my brother once quoted his friend as saying.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “Of course they do. Does he really not know that?”

“No, he does,” my brother answered. “But he meant that as far as he’s concerned, they don’t do it. He just pretends it doesn’t exist, because it’d be too gross otherwise.”

I have to agree that imagining another person huffing and puffing to relieve themselves of a hefty log is not exactly boner-inducing material, but pretending that it doesn’t happen just sets you up for a horrible shock when you one day stumble into the bathroom when your honey is steaming things up.

 

I remember my boyfriend and I discussing farts, maybe a year into our relationship. One day–which one, I couldn’t pinpoint–we’d suddenly stopped trying to hide from each other the fact that we had bowels. From then onwards, it’s been a sweet little partnership peppered with suspicious noises, funky smells, and inevitable giggles.

“Remember back in the day when we were trying not to do anything gross in front of each other?” I asked him.

“Yeah,” he laughed. “I held in so many farts.”

“I did too,” I admitted. “Actually, every time I told you I had an ‘unexplained belly ache’ it was just built-up gas.”

“I know,” he said. “Sometimes you farted in your sleep. It was cute.”

I don’t know if we’re just a couple of weirdos, but knowing this information about each other, and witnessing each other’s less glamorous bodily functions hasn’t killed The Magic. In fact, it just makes me feel completely at ease with the one I love (particularly now that we live in the same home AKA Lucy’s Fart Cave).

It could be because we both come from families where one parent has medical connections. His mum is a nurse (and now he is too), so blood and pus and poo were all treated very clinically. My dad is a pharmacist, and we grew up with him as our pseudo-doctor, investigating our various ailments and doling out treatment as necessary.

“Your dad buys your pads?” my friends gasped. “That’s so embarrassing.”

“For who?” I asked (I know, it’s ‘whom’ but I was young and foolish). “Dad doesn’t care; it’s his job. I don’t care. He’s always bought our medicines for us.”

And yes, if you’re wondering, that does include the more awkward stuff like thrush pills, fungal cream, and herbal laxatives (not all of which were for me… and not at the same time).

When I go to the pharmacy (the one downstairs from work) to buy my ‘sanitary items’, I feel not even an inkling of shame. At least they know I’m regular (and not pregnant), I think as I make aggressive eye contact over the counter.

“But isn’t it weird that the people in your workplace know you have your period?” friends have asked.

It’s about as weird as the people I work with knowing I eat and shit.

 

If anything, a bit of knowledge and openness can actually save you a lot of trouble. The old saying (and I’m loosely paraphrasing) goes like this:

Don’t be a fool; check your stool.

What they should say is this: if you’ve never spoken to anyone about toileting habits because you’ve been too embarrassed to bring it up (even with a doctor), how will you know what’s normal? I imagine that there is a high percentage of people out there suffering from undiagnosed IBS and ignoring the blood in their stool simply because they have no point of reference for how things are meant to be. You only crap once a week? Yeah, that’s a problem.

 

My friends and I had an amazing moment of clarity in year nine when one of us casually brought up vaginas. What followed was an enlightening and uplifting conversation where each of us was assured that our pink bits were, in fact, completely normal (even though they weren’t all the same). We didn’t have to whip anything out or compare pics, but years of pent-up anxiety was able to relieved by a simple and candid conversation, with plenty of description. (If you didn’t have this convo, and are interested in the varying shapes and sizes of fannies, check out the ‘controversial’ Honi Soit magazine cover here.)

If your argument is that children shouldn’t be exposed to images of real genitalia then I have to ask how exactly you figured out what was going on downstairs in your youth. Sure, I would have giggled my ass off and probably made a face about how ‘gross’ the vaginas looked, but in the end I’d keep those photos in my memory for a later date, and save myself a lot of stress about whether I was ‘normal’.

 

So, have a chat to someone about how many poos you’ve done today; proudly purchase your tampons and/or condoms and refuse a paper bag to hide them in; Google pictures of vaginas (or penises, guys) that haven’t appeared in a Playboy magazine.

And always remember: your parents had sex at least once (and they probably liked it). You don’t have to trade tips with them over Christmas lunch, but never forget that you are a product of one of the most basic (and sticky) human acts.

You’re welcome.

 

TB

 

Day Nineteen: Making new house rules

I keep mine in the bathroom, but whatever.

I keep mine in the bathroom, but whatever.

 

Living with your partner has its perks (massages and sex on demand, anyone?), but more than anything it’s a learning experience.

When you’re a kid, you kind of assume that everyone else is the same as you. Other kids think the same things and have the same kinds of families and play the same games, right?

When I was in early primary school, I met my first child-of-divorced-parents.

“I’m at Mum’s house this weekend, and she’s going to take me shopping for a new skirt,” my friend said casually.

“Your mum’s house?” I asked. “Where does your dad live?”

“Oh, my parents broke up, so they don’t live together,” she explained breezily. “I spend half the time at one and half at the other.”

I was gob-smacked. I’d never thought that there was anything but living in one house with two parents and a bunch of siblings.

 

Moving out with someone is kind of the same, except with more adult stuff. (OK, and sometimes less adult stuff.)

For example, my boyfriend and I had a moment in the kitchen, when we’d first moved in, about where to keep the glad wrap. He couldn’t understand (and fair enough) why I wanted to put the alfoil and the baking paper in the bottom drawer, but keep the glad wrap in the pantry. They’re the same shape and size, and logic would dictate that all wrapping materials should be housed in the same space.

“Well, it’s just easier to access from the pantry,” I said. “Maybe. I don’t know. It’s just where Mum kept it, so I’m used to finding it there.”

In fact, a lot of the stuff I do is just ingrained in me from living a certain way for so long. If there’s no other explanation, it’s safe to assume that I’m just doing it out of habit.

My boyfriend keeps fruit in a basket on the bench; at my family home, we’d always kept it in the fridge (except bananas, of course).

He puts onion in salads; my family was more of the ‘lettuce, cheese, tomato’ persuasion. (Now that I look back, I can only assume it’s because we were a bunch of bland-palletted sissy-kids. We never had chilli much either.)

He fishes teabags out with his bare fingers (what a man); I use a spoon and wrap the string around to squeeze the liquid out.

He puts knives in the dishwasher point up; I put them in point down.

 

None of these things is inherently right or wrong, just different. Usually, we can find some happy medium. (I cut myself about five times on upturned knives in the first week, but I’m getting better at dodging.) Sometimes it takes someone challenging your habits for you to stop and think, yeah, actually this does look kind of crazy, and perhaps stems from mild OCD.

There are some things, though, that I absolutely will not compromise on. If you hang your toilet paper like this, we just can’t share a bathroom.

 

Oh, how convenient. I’ll just reach under here and grab blindly until I find the end.

 

TB

Day Thirteen: Five things that you absolutely should not say to someone ever

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My mum used to tell me that I was about as subtle as a ton of bricks. (Hint: bricks are not subtle. They are, like, the least subtle ever.) Subtlety is key in being an adult though. Being able to say the rights things at the right times without making people hate you is a fine art. I’m working on it. In fact, I’ve compiled a list of “don’ts”, so that you can avoid the mistakes that I’ve made.

 

The Bopf Blog presents (in association with Common Sense and Social Graces)…

The Five Things That You Absolutely Should Not Say to Someone Ever:

 

1. “You will love this!”

Will I? Really? Unless you are me or you know me incredibly well, it’s probably not safe for you to tell me what I love. If my boyfriend of four years finds a new food product, brings it home, tries it, and then offers some to me with those words, I would be inclined to believe him. He knows what I love. When a salesperson in a store sees me looking at a pair of pants and grabs a similar (but, let’s face it, hideous) pair and gushes that if I like those ones then I’m going to freak when I see these, I have to stop myself from openly grimacing. And what then, if I don’t love the proffered item? I have to pretend that I’m eternally grateful for the recommendation, and endure the smug look of satisfaction on their faces when they think that they were right.

“I knew you would love it!”

No, I’m just trying not to offend you–which isn’t really fair since you’ve already offended me by suggesting that I would love a photograph of an ejaculating llama.

Why not just say, “based on the choices you have made in the past, you might enjoy this item, but I won’t watch you expectantly to see if you do and then look crestfallen when you don’t”. Or something.

 

2. “I know how you feel.”

Someone has just poured their heart out to you about losing a child or being diagnosed with cancer, or maybe even both. What should you say to them? There are lots of lovely, sympathetic words you could offer, but “I know how you feel” does not fall within this category. It’s especially inappropriate when you follow it with “because my dog died last year and it was tough”. I’m sure it was tough, but do you know what you’ve just done in trying to empathise with your friend? You’ve made this about you. You’ve also compared losing a child or getting cancer to the death of a pet. (I will add here that my dog is part of my family, and to lose her would be a lot like losing a family member, but a dog who can make it to ten has actually had a long life.)

Try one of these more appropriate phrases instead:

“That’s really terrible news. Is there anything I can do for you?”

“That sucks, but I know you’re strong and you can get through this” (probably applies more to the ‘cancer diagnosis’ scenario than the ‘lost a child’ scenario, depending on how soon after the trauma you’re speaking to them.)

“I’m here to listen and I also know of some great support groups that you can look into if you feel you need to talk.”

Even if you have been in their exact situation, they probably still don’t want to hear that you know how they feel. Excellent. Somebody else knows terror and misery. That makes me feel better. When in doubt, hug it out.

 

3. “No offence, but…”

This is generally followed by a highly offensive statement. People use this one like an insurance policy. You can’t be insulted if I said ‘no offense’ first, right? This one’s kind of a no-brainer though. If you say to someone, “No offense, but your baby looks like Smeagol”, you’re unlikely to get off the hook.

Try just keeping the inflammatory remarks to a minimum.

 

4. “That thing you’re eating/using/doing gives you cancer.”

Oh, thank you, Doctor Tactless. Your sage advice has just saved my life. And made me feel like shit. I’m drinking from a plastic bottle, not chain-smoking and guzzling vodka. When someone says those words to you, your next question should be:

“Where did you hear that?”

If their answer is one of the following–“I read it in an article online”, “Someone at work was talking about it”, or “It’s just a well-known fact”–you have permission to reach across and slap them with a peer-reviewed study of your choice. I’m all for the spread of information, and am aware that some things are indeed carcinogenic, but putting fear into the hearts of your friends because you heard something somewhere is just circulating misinformation and hysteria. You could at least wait until they’ve finished eating/using/doing that thing, and bring up the topic at another time. After you’ve done some research please. I want sources, people!

You know what else gives you cancer? Oxygen.

 

5. “You look really tired.”

Why don’t you just get really specific and tell me that the bags under my eyes are big enough to put all of your groceries in and that my skin seems to sag like a well-worn leather satchel? I get that this is kind of a concerned statement, but it just comes across as pointing out flaws. If I am tired, I’ll feel shit because you noticed, and if I’m not tired I’ll just be plain offended. It’s in the same school as, “Holy shit, you’re pale! Are you sick or something?”

Nope, just not wearing any makeup today. Thanks for the confidence booster. Why not try inquiring about someone’s health instead of making bold statements about how they appear?

“How are you feeling today?”

“How are you going with keeping up with that new baby?”

“You are the nicest shade of alabaster.” (A girl can dream.)

 

The common theme here is that making assumptions and tempering snarky comments with disclaimers makes you sound like a jack-ass. You should work on that.

Also, no offence, but you look really tired. I totally know how you feel though because one time a dog barking woke me up. You should try this eye cream that I use; you will love it! It’s so much better than the one that you’re currently using which has been proven to give you cancer.

 

TB