Where’s My Murphy Brown?

 

Last week as I wandered the streets looking for purpose, I overheard a woman and her friend bemoan the current state of television.

‘I miss family shows you know? Like, The Cosby Show and Hey Dad.’

Her friend nodded in agreement as if she too had been stuck down a mine shaft with her companion for the last three years…

I watched as they continued on their way, no doubt going home to old VHS recordings of The Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris Variety Hour while eating Subway sandwiches.

Nostalgia can be a powerful thing. It makes us reflect on more ‘wholesome’ times, even if most of the time we are reflecting through rose coloured glasses.

Indeed, when it comes to TV we are particularly susceptible to this, just look at the recent reboots of Fuller House and The Gilmore Girls. We somehow have managed to convince ourselves that these shows were from a better time, you know, when you stayed at home with the family, without a single smartphone screen in site and simply watched families be real families – unlike like the chaos of TV today.

Yet they were from a better time, but for a much better reason – TV was bolder, not always in a good way, but it took chances.

Stay with me on this…

And nothing was bolder than situation comedy…

I can’t cover all the comedy from the 80s through to the 90s, so I’m going with a few that just popped into my head while I thought about this topic.

I’m going to start with Punky Brewster – this is a show you couldn’t pitch today unless it was reworked as a gritty urban drama written by the guy who penned The Wire.

For those of you that aren’t familiar, 7-year old Punky Brewster was a modern-day Annie. Abandoned by her mother, along with her dog Brandon, in a grocery store car park, she finds shelter in an empty apartment, only to be discovered by building manager Henry – a single, older man who lives on his own.  She moves in with this stranger and it all works out happily ever after.

Ok, to recap – abandoned 7-year-old girl, moves into a squat and is discovered by a man, whose other passion aside from building maintenance, is photography. In the 80s this was a ridiculously popular family friendly show. Today, it’s a Law & Order SVU episode.

Like I said, bold.

And let’s not forget The Golden Girls. A bunch of women over the age of 50 (yes, over 50 and on actual television screens) all without the responsibilities of husbands and children (well, with the exception of Sofia, but that’s different) live a wonderful, friendship filled, at times challenging but rewarding life in Miami, with their own storylines and character motivations. They even eat cheesecake at least once a night and they actually look like women who would eat cake. And no, Hot in Cleveland is not the equivalent.  No, this show was groundbreaking and unfortunately one can’t help but feel that after that ground broke we’ve spent the better part of the last 20 years refilling the hole, and filling it with cement…

Let’s see, The Golden Girls tackled important issues such as aging, disability, gay rights, feminism (it was a feminist show full stop), AIDS, aged care, loneliness, death, gun control, reproductive rights – heck, it even covered Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – by using humour and pathos. So a bunch of amazing actresses over 50, on our televisions, being funny, with no fixed lead male characters…our equivalent today is….is….is….is…I’m sure something will come to me…maybe there’s something on Netflix…

Rosanne. There I said it. Weird ending aside, this show was and is to this day still bold TV. Yes, before Mike and Molly, believe it or not we had other large lead characters on our screens – Roseanne and Dan Conner. But being big wasn’t the focus of their show. No, it was about story, family and all the crap we have to get through every day just to survive. It was hilarious, relatable and is the reason I lusted after corkscrew curls for most of my teens.  Our equivalent of a working class family today – The Middle. That is all. I’m just going to leave that there – The Middle.

(P.S. By the way, the fact that real-life Darlene married the lead singer of 4 Non Blondes, makes up for the way the show ended…barely).

And in these days of debate surrounding gender pay gaps, abortion rights, gay and transgender rights and online trolling of women is our god damn Murphy Brown! The only comparison that springs to mind is Press Gang, but even then that show was of the same ilk and time. I can’t help but think our 2016 version of Murphy Brown would be the story of a single working mum trying to have it all, set to a montage backdrop of New York City.

Now I’m not saying that just because a show was bold makes it somehow better. There was definitely a fair share of bold and questionable in the 80s. Just take Perfect Strangers – and the less said about that the better. Much like the questionable set-up of Punky Brewster, Charles in Charge could easily be tainted with the same SUV brush today. Charles, a college-age student moves in with a family who has a teen daughter, as their babysitter and housekeeper. Yep, college student moves in with family, who has a teen daughter…and he becomes in charge of her day, of her life… I’m not saying college-age men can’t babysit 16-year-old girls, but this was the 80s and it was Scott Baio. That’s all I’m saying.

Maybe I just miss Let The Blood Run Free or Doogie Howser MD too much and that’s why I wrote this, but I’m not sure how much I’d like a reboot of a show about a teen genius that would inevitably just make me question the life choices that have lead me to still be a blogger and a renter at 36. Perhaps I don’t need bold TV like that, perhaps I should be content with groundbreaking TV like Modern Family that finally gives much-needed visibility to the older man/ younger woman relationship.

I’ll think about it… while I’m thinking about a TV comedy that stars women over 50 not being predominantly caregivers – sorry, couldn’t resist.

 

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It’s a Straight Issue.

‘As far as I’m concerned, everyone – gay or straight –  has the right to be as unsure and skeptical of the institution of marriage as I am.’

I watch wedding shows. Heaps. Say Yes to the Dress, Four Weddings, anything with David Tutera in it. I watch them to see how the other half live. They’re my version of Animal Planet. When a bride turns to camera to share with us that they’ve dreamt about this day since they were a little girl that to me is the same as David Attenborough telling me that male Koalas have two penises. WFT? Mind blown! Really? And there is where I disconnect. I never had dreams of getting married as a young girl, having a wedding, of wearing a princess dress. It never made any sense to me. There were so many other things you could be doing like swimming, bike riding, reading ALL the Babysitters Club books, studying, debating, dressing up as a playing card to attend your friends 10th birthday party, reading all the POINT THRILLERS but planning a wedding at 8 years old – surely that was a thing of the past? Something to be frowned upon in a more civilized and evolved society.

Clearly it is not.

Now here’s the thing, before I go any further I should let you know that I’m engaged to be married, which sounds a lot like ‘I’m a hypocrite’. But hear me out. Turns out the guy I fell in love is really into the idea of getting married. I can’t say he tricked me. I knew pretty early on in our relationship, well our first date exactly where his cart might be hitched when he told me in great detail about his ideal wedding (Spoiler alert: involves the Speigletent, a flash mob and some sort of trapeze with dolphins). As he concluded with the idea of rounding out the ceremony with a song from the Titanic soundtrack he turned to me and asked ‘so that’s my perfect wedding, how about yours?’ I nearly choked on my vegetarian dumpling.

I’m not the marrying type. I have problems with it. In some countries it’s still about property, abuse and subjugation or/and same sex discrimination and sure I hear you scream at me ‘but marriage has evolved in the Western world. It’s about mason jars, commitment and Ed Sheeran songs now, not ownership. You can even keep your maiden name! It’s evolved!’

Oh really? I reply. Has it? It’s evolved has it? Then tell me why in this country it’s still only the domain of straight couples? It hasn’t really evolved has it when you need a legal proclamation in your wedding service that really drives home the discriminatory practice of straight Australians participating within an antiquated and frankly embarrassing piece of legislation that is as old as settlement itself.

My issue with marriage? It’s exclusionary and as it stands in regards to certain sections of our community – discriminatory. My straight partner and I can sit and talk about marriage and plan a wedding in the knowledge that we can do it. However if in Australia you sit outside of the heteronormative, that is to say you’re not a man marrying a woman to the exclusion of all others well you can talk about it, no law against that, shit you can even plan for it but you can’t do it. And why? Because you’re not straight. But don’t worry, sure you might not be able to marry, but you can put your name down on a registry/ excel spreadsheet in most states. Isn’t that enough?

To be clear I might be ambiguous about marriage but I do like weddings. I love love and all that goes with it. Celebrations, parties, get togethers with an open bar –all a good thing. The idea of having one ‘snuggle bunny’ for life – adorable. Maybe not entirely realistic, but it’s f**king adorable. However not all of my friends can stand in front of their friends and family and tell their ‘snuggle bunny’ that they love them, nor can they declare the whole in sickness and in health thing either and look if you want to be pedantic there’s a whole bunch of rights in regards to equality in this country that same sex couples don’t have because basically they can’t marry. Same sex couples can’t jointly adopt in Victoria and some other Australian states because they’re not married. Rights to your partners pension should you die, carers benefits etc are also not the same and absolute as married couples. Inheritance rights in many states are not recognised in the case of same sex and defacto couples.

Ha! You said defacto couple! – so it’s not really about discrimination just against homosexuals is it? Yes, yes it is. There have been a few moves to overhaul rights for defactos in regards to adopting, inheritance and property rights, however because that would mean giving same sex couples the same rights as the marrieds…well no we can’t have that. They’re slippery little suckers those gays – trying to get their civil rights by bootstrapping their cause to the average straight Australian defacto relationship…well I never!

And of course never mind the fact that inequality of the Australian Marriage Act is in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, because who gives a shit really. I mean for most of us, the fact that same sex couples can’t marry, or can’t even opt out of getting married (just like the rest of us, because choosing not to do something is as much a right as doing it) doesn’t affect us and our day-to-day lives. And why should it? We’re the first class. We’re straight. I mean the only way it might start to affect us was if straight people stopped getting married, as a protest. That, until everyone had the same rights, the BILLIONS of dollars pumped into the Australian wedding economy every year would just stop. Imagine that – florists, cake shop owners, wedding dress designers and wedding DJ’s the country over out of work like employees of the ABC.

People will start to ask why the people of Australia stopped getting married and we will tell them – that we will no longer help our government facilitate discriminatory practices against members of our community. Leaders of business, feeling the sting of dried up bridal spending will write letters to their members of Parliament asking for bailouts to help them in this time of wedding austerity. Members of Parliament will put pressure on their political parties to change their stance of the Marriage Act as the Australian economy cripples under the weight of the estimated loss of over 2 billion dollars a year. Even the most homophobic misanthrope wedding car hire service owner when faced with such a financial loss like will declare – ‘oh for the love of god, let them marry!’

Now I don’t imagine everyone will jump on this protest straight away. Like with any social change it will start small. A few couples here and there will cancel their upcoming weddings after realising their newly out cousin might feel uncomfortable and excluded at the wedding when the celebrant has to legally declare that their union is ok because it’s between a man and a woman. Then we’ll get a hashtag started like #letthemmarry (spit balling here) and that’s when things will really take off. A groundswell of support will emerge and Tony Abbott who by then will be Minister for Menstruation and the Hymen Renewal Scheme will be forced to make a change.

I can’t take credit for this idea. One of my best friends who is gay (don’t worry, I wanted to stab myself in the eye as I wrote that) told me the only way things would change was if the straights got involved. Succinctly put, he said ‘same sex marriage is a straight issue’.

I’m part of the small grass roots movement. When my partner proposed, I paused, realising that if I was to try marriage it would be with this guy and only him and so I knew that when I said ‘yes, but on the proviso we don’t get married until everyone can’ that he would say ‘that was a given.’ And he did. And so we will wait.

People ask us all the time when is the big date? How are the plans going? And every time someone asks we tell them that we couldn’t imagine inviting our gay friends to a wedding only to have them hear that due to their sexual orientation they are denied the right to stand in front of their nearest and dearest and let the world know that they are in love. Sure, it makes some people uncomfortable but I’m completely ok with that. A little bit of discomfort for equality seems a relatively small sacrifice for both sides of the conversation.

I’m still not sure I’m the marrying type but given I’m in a position to at least choose if I want to get married or not, it means I’m in a position of privilege and I should exercise the responsibility that goes with that accordingly. As far as I’m concerned, everyone – gay or straight –  has the right to be as unsure and skeptical of the institution of marriage as I am.

Now because I’m engaged, I can’t watch my wedding shows with as much irony as I once did but they have helped give me a clearer picture of how my partner will look on our wedding day in his resplendent white dress being led down the isle by his father and presented to me. I’m very much looking forward to that especially with all my friends looking on and taking cash bets on the side to see if I go through with it.

If you support marriage equality as you no doubt do you can go here: http://www.australianmarriageequality.org/ and further show your support! Or you know NOT GET MARRIED TILL THINGS CHANGE 🙂

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Being fat in the ’90s.

1476484_10151783278006039_1435343232_nI was fat.

See this photo.

In this photo what you see here is me, sitting, being fat.

I was probably being funny too, cause that’s what fat girls do best, funny.

You can’t see it, but I reckon everyone in the room was laughing at something I’d just said.

Somebody probably peed his or her pants.

So back to the photo and me being fat in it.

I know I was fat because at the time this was taken I was constantly being picked on for my weight whether it be by ‘friends’ in the playground, or ‘friends’ of my parents commenting on my ‘full figure’ or my grandmother who would purposely buy my clothes too small for me and than make me wear them in front of her. Boys called me names.

One of my more humiliating moments I recall was when my grandmother returned from Spain with a bra for me. It was a 12AA. I was a 10DD. It didn’t fit. In my head now I know it didn’t fit because I wasn’t a boy, but at the time with very little around me to compare my figure to, I assumed that it didn’t fit because I was fat. And my grandmother didn’t correct me. My mother, I think burnt the bra. It didn’t matter how much my mother told me that I was OK how I was, I didn’t hear her. She was also wise enough to let me know there was nothing wrong with being fat either, lots of people were but that didn’t matter, all I heard was fat and now at 34 years old, I still hear it and the worst part is I view it as negative. When it comes to fat shaming myself, I’m my own worse bully. When this photo was taken I was 156cm tall. For those that know me, I had a very minor growth spurt after that (a whole 4 centimetres…small victories). And I was roughly a size 4-6 if not smaller. I weighed about 40 kilos.

It did not help that I didn’t look like all the other girls at my school. They were all so tall, like beanpoles, like all the girls in Australian magazines and soap operas. Thin, blonde, worthy. I had a tiny waist, boobs coming in and hips. Some adults often described me as ‘womanly’ or ‘sexy.’ I was 13.

And so it began. The great disconnect with my appearance. It’s been over 20 years since that photo was taken and I still struggle to see what everyone else sees. I hide behind mainly baggy clothes; I’ve been on a diet since I can remember. I get sick to my stomach if I break 1200 calories in a day. I exercise constantly. I honestly think that when I look in the mirror, that if I could just lose a bit more weight I’d be able to wear clothes that draped. I’m an idiot. I’ve got curves like a Kardashian minus the personal tailor. There will be no draping in my lifetime unless I make friends with flesh-eating bacteria…but hey you can only cross your fingers for so long…

The narrative of my chubbiness has informed so much of my creative work that I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was imperative to my identity. I write from the perspective of the outsider looking in, the best friend character, the strong personality driven girl, the underdog, the alien. I’ve done pretty well out of it, whether it’s the truth or not. Here’s the thing, it shouldn’t matter whether I’m chubby. I might not be. I might be. I really have no gauge anymore. I know I can wear children’s pyjamas but I’m not sure that means anything.

The thing is when I saw that photo the other night I got upset. I wanted to go back and tell my 13 year-old self to not listen to all the fat shaming and than maybe the next 20 years would be different. Social engagements would not be so crippling at times, I wouldn’t always think somewhere in the back of my head that my relationships didn’t work out because of my appearance, I would write populist chick-lit fiction that opened with lines like ‘the clacking of $700 heels only served to heighten her enviable calf muscles and say to the world that she was ready for anything’ as opposed to ‘she masturbated quietly to a poster of Zach Efron as her boyfriend sat in the study on the phone to his new girlfriend.’ But telling my 13 year old self that if anything I was actually almost underweight at the time that photo was taken wouldn’t have been enough, after all it wasn’t myself that thought I was fat, it was everyone else saying it, making excuses for saying it and shaming me into thinking it was the truth, a truth I’ve lived by ever since. It takes up a lot of my time thinking I should like myself better, sorry correction – it wastes a lot of time. My time. No one else’s, mine. I’ve decided next year I’m going to have a body shaming detox and take up sword fighting or podcasting, I don’t know, I could do anything. All I know is, it’s got to be more productive than what I’ve been doing.

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What Would Miranda Kerr do?

I’ve started keeping a gratitude journal. I’ve been told it’s something Miranda Kerr does.

The idea is that you find at least 5 things to be grateful for each and everyday and by keeping a list of them you can reflect back on the good things in your life, making the bad things, well trivial and in making them trivial give them less power in your life.  It sounded right up my alley so I was eager to get the gratitude ball rolling.

Before I started though I had to give myself some rules so that my daily entries didn’t read like an ode to just ‘making it through the day’:

So NO –

  1. Woke up – still alive!
  2. Passed urine without trouble
  3. Still breathing
  4. Bowel movement regular and unforced
  5. Internet usage rolled over 🙂

Basically no gratitude was to be given for just being alive. I needed to be grateful for more.

So here’s Day 1:

  1. Heaters! Heaters are amazing.
  2. Mango’s – how good are mangos?
  3. Really good Crunchy Bar – are there any other types?
  4. Bath – how good are baths?
  5. Went to gym and it was awesome. Caught up on James Spader’s The Blacklist.

Sure my period was on it’s way, my credit card wasn’t rejected at the supermarket, they’re letting me pay off my computer in installments and the fuckwit across the road did me the honour of letting me park out the front of my house and sticking his truck there – but that’s too ‘poor me’ to be really grateful for it. It’s not really gratitude, not the sort of Miranda Kerr grateful I was aiming for.

Day 3:

  1. Glass of Rose. Wine is awesome. Thanks life.
  2. Bought a new hairdryer 🙂
  3. Weather’s pretty good
  4. Accomplished Pilates
  5. Really great raw dinner due to my strict no grain-diet. Raw is well, raw.

Didn’t need to mention the new hairdryer was a result of the fact I couldn’t afford to get a haircut that week…

Soon I was grinning so hard with gratitude that my face hurt.

Day 5:

  1. Friends. Yep, just generally friends are pretty good.
  2. Heat pack for menstrual cramps – phew
  3. Nice outfit  – looking pretty good today. Thanks clothes.
  4. The RTA wants to keep me alive by sending my rego reminder to me – how considerate
  5. Oh look, gas and electricity is due on the same day as rego – how convenient? Can just put one reminder in my diary.

Hmmmm….

Day 7:

  1. Sever sinusitis aside, it’s great they’re back burning to prevent further bush fires
  2. Periods are great. They remind us of fertility and that our bodies are efficient machines.
  3. It should always be further than you expect to walk to get an ice-cream on a really hot day – makes you appreciate it more.
  4. Airplane turbulence is just life’s way of saying ‘Boo!’ – Happy Halloween Lou!
  5. The broken drawer at home is just its way of telling me it needs to fixed.

Day 8:

  1. Parking fines are fine by me. Thanks for the reminder not to be selfish and hog parking!
  2. Scratching my car on a wall makes me grateful for insurance.
  3. Not having up-to-date insurance is just life’s way of saying ‘gotcha!’ – oh how we laughed…
  4. The best thing about not bring lunch into work today is seeing it still sitting on the kitchen counter defrosting and leaking everywhere – buzz me swimming in soup water FIRST when we get home!
  5. Someone better than me got the job. That’s better for everyone in the world, gotta be grateful about that 🙂

After days of working out what I’m grateful for, I feel I’ve found a happy medium. I think Miranda would be grateful that I was finding my own path.

Today:

  1. Woke up
  2. Passed urine without trouble
  3. Still breathing
  4. Bowel movement regular and unforced
  5. New security light installed. New security light doesn’t work. Can’t wait to see what fun that leads to…

 

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Dear Public Transport Department

Dear Public Transport System: While it may have startled some people lately the idea of a man going around on your trams with a camera in his worn out Dunlops, a bum bag and a perverts dream, it barely raised one of my newly shaped eyebrows – you see I catch your trams, buses and trains and not a day goes by where I’m not propositioned, gyrated against, spat on, smothered, kicked, sneered at, pushed at, leered at, had God introduced to me, gotten a stain on my favourite dress, something smeared on my good shoes and beeen photographed without my permission (and I’m not talking a nice tourist shot of an ethnic girl on a busy metropolitan tram – ah la Mary Tyler Moore style). Your trams particulary upset me, but I guess it’s not your fault. I mean it’s not your responsibility to help me when a strange little woman assaults me because I don’t know if the No 96 stops at Elizabeth St, but all I’m saying is maybe I’d still be able to see out of my left eye if your driver had responded to her countless queries when the tram was in a stationary manner, and when I say respond I mean not pretend he couldn’t hear all 5 people tapping at his door to enquire as to why he’d failured to stop at the last 3 stops even though they’d all pushed the button, but like I said I guess maybe I’m laying blame far too easily on your organisation, I mean it’s my fault I felt the compulsion on a 36 degree day take public transport (your tram looked so bright and inviting) and you should bare no responsibility for the 13 year old boy trying desperately to rub himself against his girlfriend right opposite me on one of the hottest days of the year – a day when he was quite dearly in need of lubrication, and when I say lubrication I mean a nice cold drink – like the one your driver was drinking while he watching my 13 year old attempted porn show through his monitor in his sound proof room. No, no…I should not be so harsh, afterall you did catch the shoe camera bandit, and I’m sure much like you are, that public transport is safe once again and no copycats shall prevail- God know I expect nothing less. Kind Regards, Louise Woodruff Sanz

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