The Importance of Being #beautiful

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Dove recently launched another of their ‘every women’ campaigns with #choosebeauty. Their campaigns successfully work on the self-deprecating, self-hating woman, you know, the one that doesn’t know they’re beautiful, like really beautiful inside and out until a major advertising initiative tells them so, all set to muted tones of blue, cream and other unobtainable minimalistic basic design shit.

It’s important being beautiful isn’t it? Like really, really important. Forget health, forget love, forget kindness, it’s all about beauty and if you’re not conventionally beautiful that ok because we’ve got you covered – unconventionally beautiful? Or maybe you’re big and beautiful or better yet-  beautiful on the inside? Oh man, we’ve got a slogan, meme, affirmation or cute instagram pic telling us to be ‘our own kind of beautiful’ for that – we’ll even put it on a mug, frame, canvas painting for you and that’s because it’s important that you’re beautiful because as long as you are beautiful you’ve got value, purpose, you’re ok to be here.

But what if you’re not beautiful? If it’s not of interest to you, or important.

Is it ok to not be beautiful?

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I asked my fiancé this question a few weeks ago and his response was expected, the norm ‘but you are beautiful’. Ah, even in the eye of the beholder it is important. I wasn’t fishing for reassurance and I’m not doing that now, writing this, either.  I was asking him in the wake of all these #beauty campaigns  if were we missing the point. Sure it’s nice to be the most viewed painting in a gallery, but it doesn’t necessarily make you the most valuable piece of art in the exhibition. It all seemed a bit desperate I told him, like it was important everyone was beautiful, more important than say making sure everyone had clean drinking water or education.

I understand the need for self-acceptance. That is important. Being able to say ‘I’m great how I am’ is something we should all strive towards (at 35 I’ve only just started on this little journey) but why is it never ‘I’m great how I am because I speak four languages, love walks with my dog and I pay my library fines on time, every time.’  Why does it always need to be ‘I’m great because I’ve finally come to terms with my ankles’  – surely we’ve got more to offer then that. Can our lives have value without this constant pursuit whether it be from external or internal forces to be seen as beautiful no matter by what the prism we’re seeing it?

I’m asking a lot of questions aren’t I? I guess I’m thinking out loud a lot about this. I tried an experiment the other day. In a group of people I said ‘I’m not beautiful’ – as expected, because it’s expected everyone jumped in with ‘no, are you kidding! My mother thinks you’re very striking! You know you’re gorgeous right?!’ – now I’m not admonishing my friends, that’s their jobs as friends,  fuck as humans on this earth to tell me I’m beautiful but why are we so reluctant to reply with ‘ok, so you’re not beautiful, but you’re a fucking dynamite in the sack and your socially aware design work is going to change the world.’ I’m just saying there’s a lot more to people at the end of the day but if we don’t see them as beautiful do they really exist?

Now I’m not saying if you’re not beautiful or don’t want to be seen as beautiful that you’re ugly. Embracing the ugly is just as problematic, because it’s just validation of the physical as is beauty and anyway isn’t one persons ugly another persons Jimmy Smits?

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We’re all to blame for this. Even I watch those Dove campaigns and get all ‘oh but she’s so beautiful in her muted toned cardigan…how does she not know she’s a supermodel? …how does she get up the morning if she doesn’t have beauty?’

I’m still not sure where I’m going with this, I wanted to start a conversation and now I’m interested to see where it goes.

Beauty is all around us, it comes for the most part from what we as humans, beautiful and not beautiful, create – painting, music, sculpture, perfume, books, poems, film, dance, irrigation, architecture, engineering, science. I’m just wondering if it wasn’t so important that we be beautiful, I mean if we didn’t spend so much time and money making sure we’re all beautiful, that wbeauty-is-not-about-mere-appearances-beauty-quotee might bring so much more achievable beauty into this world. A rambling thought I know, but a beautiful thought nonetheless.

‘What is your story?’ – a much more rewarding question.

When people ask me what my cultural background is I like to set them at ease by telling them I’m half second generation Australian. If you put the word Australian in there it makes them feel better like they could be friends with you. I bring this up because it’s something I’ve been thinking on since Australia Day and whether you celebrate it or not, I think we can all agree on the same thing, being Australian means different things to different people – like to racists it is a day to drape a flag over your car and drive around yelling out to people like myself to ‘go back to where we came from’ or the more enlightened but equally oblivious leftie idiot, it’s a day to let me know that ‘my people’ enrich this country and they’d totally ‘ride with me’.

Australia Day seems an endless parade of the question ‘where you from?’

 

To be clear I’m half Spanish, half Port Melbourne bred Irish. I’m as white as they come but to quote  Rashida Jones ‘I’m ethnic’. I have a certain glow about me, a tan like I’ve just returned from holiday – really you must tell me your secret…

My gripe with the ‘where are you from?’ is that the question lacks nuance or a curiosity for a more complex answer. As if saying where you are from gives us all the answers. Surely we would get a more enriching response if we asked ‘what is your story?’

My father who immigrated here as a teen built a life and became a successful chef, but what came before that I don’t really know. I’m not sure what Spain was like other than being acutely aware that ‘the food’s better there’ and ‘they sleep after lunch.’ I was never told stories of the old country, partly due to my dad’s unrelenting work ethic and my  relationship with my Abuela (Spanish for grandmother).

It has always been fractured. Since I can remember she didn’t seem to like me. She displayed this lack of affection towards me in her own special way, like only an emotionally estranged adult could – like buying me bras made for flat chested men and making me put them on, parading in front of her. Or refusing to speak in English to me, or getting annoyed when I voiced an opinion that challenged her traditionalist sensibilities, or forcing me to role play being a ‘maid’ or ‘wife’ whilst my brother got to be a ‘man’ and was rewarded grandly with lollies and personal freedom whilst I was ‘allowed’ to learn the secret art of ironing men’s underpants…

I never knew why my Abuela had so many issues with me. My mother explained it away over the years by telling me she didn’t like her either and true to form, when my grandfather (Abuelo) died late last year mum found photos of my father and the woman they wanted him to marry instead of my mum stuck behind old picture frames. They now sit pride of place in my parent’s house because my mum reckoned my dad looked pretty hot in them and it would have been a shame to have thrown them away.

Of course I never confronted my Abuela over any of her problems with me, I was young and, to be honest, my biggest interest was myself. As far as I was concerned, I was her granddaughter and it was her job to love me and shower me with praise regardless of clashing personalities. I always knew I could blame her reluctance to speak English to me as the reason I never really got to know her.  If she didn’t like me then why should I have bothered asking her questions about her, about her life, you know before she became my grandmother – the role she had been reduced and relegated to only in the last 16 years of her long life.

It was only at her funeral that I got a bit of a glimpse of the person my Abuela had been and it was eye opening.

The crematorium was filled with other Spanish immigrants as expected, armed with tortillas and paellas, but there were also other ‘new Australians’ all eager to pay their respects to a woman who had opened up her home to them, helped them set up homes by donating furniture, clothes, food, accommodation and providing language classes run in the front room of her house when they arrived in Australia, isolated and alone. WTF? As her eulogy was read I couldn’t help but think ‘this was a woman I wanted to know. How come these guys got to know her and I didn’t?’

A few years after her death my parents, on one of their regular pilgrimages to Spain to eat and talk of retiring there one day, connected with some relatives long ago estranged. It was on this trip that my father learnt that his mother hadn’t always just been his mother. She had a been a woman with a challenging, complex and at times brutal past.

The story starts with my bisabuela (great grandmother). She worked as a caretaker and domestic whilst actively involved in the Republican movement. In my fathers words ‘yes, she was a communist.’  She was also a mother of two boys and one girl. One of the boys was adopted, a result of a rumoured illicit pregnancy of a famous Spanish actress whom my bisabuela worked for.

My father learnt that one day when he was out playing, a priest with strong fascist leanings in the town, frustrated by the noise of children playing outside his window, tossed out a brick, killing the boy instantly. This was the catalyst for my bisabuela to become a gun runner for the resistance movement, hiding and stockpiling live ammunition in her home for her fellow comrades. The story goes that she outed by a fellow freedom fighter (snitch!) and one day the police turned up her house and arrested her, well not before she blew up the arsenal she’d been in charge of.

Taken to a prison, that to this day people are very reluctant to admit existed (even though it functions as a prison still…) she was summarily sentenced to death. My bisabuelo, told that she had been executed eventually hung himself but not before being known to sit in his backyard with a glass of wines as bombs dropped around him because he wanted to face his death. His body was discovered by his remaining son, who realising what the death of his parents meant to the children of the resistance, fled Spain and joined the Foreign Legion. My Abuela, now alone, was sent to an orphanage that from all accounts was abusive (think Pan’s Labyrinth) and eventually she was released into a life of servitude. The kicker in all of this, it turns out, was her mother wasn’t killed. The powers that be had lied. My bisabuelo was eventually pardoned and returned home to find her husband dead, her son gone and her daughter living in the belief her family was dead, as a domestic.

Hearing this story made me wonder, why had Abuela come here? Was she still afraid of persecution and rightfully so? I heard that my bisabuela was almost stopped from visiting when my father first immigrated because of her communist connections – maybe my Abuelo wanted to escape that ongoing association and that’s why she never spoke of it. Maybe her problem with my outspoken opinions and causes scared her because after all she had experienced first hand the devastating effects fighting for what you believe in can cause. Maybe her work with immigrants and refugees was fuelled by an empathy and understanding for their situation, their want and need to escape their old life. Maybe because as cliches go I ‘look’ Spanish…maybe, maybe, maybe.

I don’t know. Sadly I didn’t know the woman. I wish I had.

 

 

How being Confirmed only confirmed I couldn’t be Catholic anymore.

‘The day of my Confirmation arrived and I marked it by wearing a brand new pair of floral culottes and a cream gypsy blouse. I knew how to play the game and had dressed accordingly – as an adult virgin.’

It’s not easy been 12 years old at the best of times but for me in 1991 things were tough. I’d lost out on the school captaincy by one vote because my rival had strategically asked one of the more influential voters of my year out on a date prior to the election, and as such, defeated, I’d been relegated to Vice School Captain. They didn’t have a badge for vice school captain and it had been proving harder then I’d thought it would, wedging my title into day-to-day conversations.

For me though, being at a catholic primary school, aside from my lack of status there was also the religious aspect to contend with. I viewed religious studies as more of a history class to be debated and questioned, than to be understood as blind doctrine and unquestionable truth. Even at such a young age I was aware of the human nature to romanticise and fictionalise our past. The bible – particularly the New Testament, as far as I was concerned was written by Jesus’s frat brothers who weren’t afraid to don slightly smudged glasses when the need arose.  Take Mary Magdalene. The first time I heard of her she was described as a fallen woman – a prostitute who supported Jesus through her own private means AKA private parts. I asked my religious studies teacher if the other male apostles also supported Jesus through their own private means? This was met with a frown and the reminder that the men were apostles and the women in Jesus’s circle were not, they were prostitutes.

‘How do we know that?’ I asked. She carefully explained she knew it because it was written in the bible.

‘By men’ I remarked.

‘I don’t know that has to do with it?’ she replied.

‘You have to consider that don’t you?’ I posed to my teacher. ‘There’s no stories in here written by women.’

‘And?’

‘It’s just they might have offered another perspective that’s all, like they might not have cast themselves as prostitutes in their story.’

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Detention. Punishment: to read the New Testament and make peace with it’s absolute authority.  When I asked for a highlighter and some paper to make notes they agreed sending me to the naughty corner would be a better use of everyone’s time.

I learnt a few months into Grade 6 that in order to graduate I would need to be Confirmed. Whilst most of most schoolmates got excited at the prospect of a spring garden party I asked the more pertinent question ‘what is Confirmation?’

‘It’s the adult ascension into the church, when you take responsibility for your own faith and destiny. Once Confirmed you will be seen as an adult in the eyes of God.’

12 years old!? An adult? Responsibility?

‘But what if you’re not even sure you believe in a god?’

‘Well you better get on it’ my teacher said ‘No belief. No graduation.’

‘This is bullshit’ I mumbled to a friend as we sat on the back fence throwing rotten eggs at the private boys school passing by. ‘I mean are you tell me that once I’m Confirmed I can be charged as an adult in say a court of law?’

‘I dunno’ my friend responded, trying to be supportive.

‘You don’t understand’ I spat at her ‘you’re a born-again-Christian. You chose to believe in god and all that crap. We Catholic’s are forced to.’

We sat in silence as we worked our way through the rest of our eggs.

Part of Confirmation is that you choose the name that you wish to represent you in your adult life. The only caveat, it has to be a saint’s name.

‘Any saints name?’ I asked.

My teacher paused, knowing that if she lied to me I would undoubtedly uncover the truth and then subject her a reckoning of repercussions.

‘Yes, any saints name Louise. Any.’

My mother was all to happy to drive me to the Australian Catholic University library, after finding my own school library lacking in the way of books on saints name. Of course there were the usual offenders, your Luke’s, Matthews, Mary’s and Anne’s, but I wanted something more. If I were going to have to carry this name around with me through life it would need to mean something. And so it was, in the stacks of a university library I found what, or should I say who I was looking for – St Dymphna.

Her story, putting the incest and murder aside, read like the fairytale Frozen. A young princess in Ireland, who’s father stricken with grief at the death of his wife decides to take the saying ‘to get over someone you need to get under someone else’ to mean his daughter, chases Dymphna and her priest (yes, it’s all sounding very Thornbirds) through the Irish landscape, only to finally capture and behead her because she wouldn’t marry him. Even over 1300 years later I could relate. To add to her allure she was also the patron saint of the mentally ill and victims of abuse. Perhaps I could funnel my disbelief in god into my belief in her? Just till graduation anyway…

Not to boast but I’m one of those kids who was baptised by rock star priest Father Bob Maguire and hold onto your hat, book ended it with now Cardinal George Pell when he was only starting out as a career catholic.  For people like my opus dei loving uncle this was a big deal, like being Confirmed by the hand of god. For me it was an elaborate ruse to graduate Grade 6 by letting a man wearing a dress touch my head.

The day of my Confirmation arrived and I marked it by wearing a brand new pair of floral culottes and a cream gypsy blouse. I knew how to play the game and had dressed accordingly – as an adult virgin.

As I approached the alter I quickly turned around to check for the authorities – for surely given that any moment I would become an adult, it was fair to say I might be charged as an adult for my egg throwing shenanigans. They were yet to arrive…

George recited some prayer and asked me what my chosen name was.

‘Dymphna’ I said.

What was meant to happen next was that he was meant to give it the tick of approval and move me on my way towards a hall filled with cordial and fruitcake but he didn’t. Instead he took a step closer to me and told me that I couldn’t take the name Dymphna and that my name would be Angela. She was a nice saint. A wholesome saint, a less defiled by her father kinda of saint.

‘No’ I said ‘I’ve chosen Dymphna. I was told I could chose whatever saints name I wanted.’

He said nothing. The congregation had started paying attention by now as the line of their own children heading towards the alter came to a grinding halt.

‘Who told you that?’

Out of the corner of my eye I could see my teacher sweating through her own culottes.

‘My teacher.’

‘Oh your teacher’ he smiled ‘but I’m a priest and I’m telling you that’s not true.’

‘I thought you might say that’ I replied ‘that’s why I went to the Australian Catholic University and did some research and no where is it written that I can’t chose my own saints name. I also rang the office of the Archbishop of Melbourne and they said the same thing.’

Silence.

‘Excuse me a moment’ the priest went off leaving me kneeling at the alter, thinking about the reality that might be me repeating Grade 6.

‘Just go with Angela or Mary’ a mother of another classmate hissed at me.

‘She’s the Spaniards daughter’ another remarked under their breath.

The world was turning against me. I had to hold strong.

After about 20 minutes he returned.

‘We’ve discussed it and decided that we will allow you to proceed with the name Dymphna.’

I sighed. I’d have to make do with winning the battle this time and the war; well I’d win that another time. Perhaps after cake.

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For the months after my Confirmation and leading up to my graduation I wrote my name in the top right hand of all homework, essays and tuck-shop orders as Louise Marguerite Dymphna Woodruff Sanz (lots of names yes, but as the woman at the Confirmation service pointed out, I am a Spaniards daughter). This resulted in my parents being called in to address this blatant acting out as my teachers saw it.  My mother was confused and rightly so. Surely, this was my new name? Had they, the school not insisted upon it? Was it not a prerequisite for me graduating? Ok, yes it was, they admitted but I wasn’t meant to take it literally.

That was what hit the nail on the head for me. Whilst I was meant to take the bible and it’s archaic and at times prejudiced views of the world literally – like the women of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John being either Madonna’s or whores, when it came to things like becoming an autonomous adult, who was now according to the church equipped to navigate my own faith and destiny, that was to be taken with a grain of salt, be seen as a token act and nothing more. I could bend my idea of being confirmed.  I couldn’t be expected to blindly follow a religion without question and conversation. Wouldn’t it be dangerous? Fanatical? To  just behave?

And there you have it – it was all about behaving. To be a good at any religion, at the root of it, was to behave and to follow. Not to ask questions about supposed virgin births, frankincense and myrrh. Not to challenge issues of gender, sexuality, women’s rights, domestic violence, divorce, worship, faith, reform, fanaticism and terrorism.

There are good things in the bible too, just as there are some good things in Fifty Shades of Grey (if you just ignore a majority of the book) but as a way to live, as a way to practice a life without question I’m afraid it wasn’t for me.

Now look I could be wrong and when I die I find myself in a place called Heaven with a lot of people walking around wearing t-shirts that read ‘Told You So’ and ‘I’m With Stupid’ but either way I think I’ll be ok. I’ll have a whole new identity – Dymphna – patron saint of the mentally ill and victims of abuse – knowing the allegations about the church I doubt I’ll be short of friends up there.

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 🙂

What The Big Bang Theory Can’t Teach You – To commit.

I found myself looking at my fiancé last night thinking, that if our relationship had played out on a TV sitcom we would have broken up at least 500 times by now.

In truth we haven’t broken up all, not even once, haven’t even got close. Even through all the long distance, the late and complete out of sync work schedules and meeting the parents, we’re still together and happily. That didn’t stop my thinking though that if we were Leonard and Penny in any episode of The Big Bang Theory (TBBT) none of our struggles to stay with the one you love would count for anything, especially if, lets say, I said something stupid like ‘I just don’t care much for fantasy.’

Because I did say that.

About 2 months into our relationship. While we were watching an episode of TBBT One of the characters on the show made a reference to something I didn’t get, I think it was Howard. With no canned laughter to direct me to whether or not the comment was funny, I asked my partner what it meant. ‘It’s a Lord of the Rings reference’ he casually told me but than a look of horror spread across his face as if he was suddenly faced with an awful reality ‘you do know what Lord of Rings is don’t you?’

‘Yes, of course’ I said ‘it’s a movie.’

I watched as he recoiled from me, his body stiffened, his emotional distance becoming palpable.

‘It’s three films.’ He stuttered, processing the unbelievable reality that maybe the woman he loved, that maybe she was a stranger to him.

I turned back to the TV. Sure enough, Sheldon had said something funny and I’d missed it.

‘You have seen the movies Lou?’…less of a question, more of a plea for calm.

‘Sure. I think I’ve seen maybe one and a bit of the third.’

‘The films are based on the stories of perhaps the greatest author that ever lived.’

‘Patricia Cornwell?’ I asked. He jumped up, pacing now.

‘Oh my god Lou. Please tell me you’ve read the books? You can’t not have lived in this life that you were given and not have read the books.’

‘They were really long right? And yellow, the covers were yellow?’

‘Seriously? You’re not just fucking with me are you? Because this is serious Lou, it’s time to leave the funny at the door.’

‘I read a bit of them, but to be honest The Baby Sitters Club books were really hitting their stride than and with one coming out each month I had to prioritise.’

For a moment he said nothing, gathering his thoughts.

‘I just don’t understand’ he stated. Sounding a confused, a little defeated perhaps…

‘I just don’t care much for fantasy’ I told him. It was an elegant truth, no longer hidden, exposed. He would just have to accept it. I needed to go to bed. I was tired.

In the middle of the night something woke me — his thinking. He was wide-awake and thinking more loudly than anyone I’d ever shared a bed with before.

‘Please don’t tell me you’re still thinking about the Lord of the Rings stuff’ I moaned, rolling over.

‘I just don’t see how this relationship is going to work out if we don’t have anything in common?’ …less a question, more a conclusion.

I flicked on my bedside light.

Fuck this shit.

Now if this was an episode of TBBT his comment might have held more weight. Our discussion about my lack of interest in fantasy masking a deeper insecurity about our relationship, or not being deserving of love from a blonde or some crap like that, but we would never say that if we were on TBBT — instead we would just break up and the rest of the season would play out with us trying to just be friends, whilst navigating Sheldon’s obvious ‘on the spectrum traits’.

Instead it went something like this…

I flicked on my bedside light.

‘You’re shitting me right? Let me tell you something. I’m a 33-year-old woman. I’m over the point where I have to pretend to like things you like just so you’ll like me. I know what I like and you know what you like and occasionally you might show me something and I’ll like that or I might do the same to you, but fundamentally as long we have share the same values we do not have to like the same fucking things. Now go to sleep.’

And just like that I turned the light off, rolled over and we both went to sleep and woe and behold when we woke up the next morning we were still together — that was until of course some months later he said to me at the conclusion of the film Bridesmaids ‘Who are Wilson Phillips?’….

Written by Lou Sanz

 

I’m a good person. I’m a dog owner.

I’m a dog owner. When I say it like that it sounds more loaded than it actually is. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, society says I am because I’m a dog owner. To give my position in society more gravitas I can also tell you that my dog is a rescue dog. I can also tell you that I wrote that line whilst sipping on an almond milk latte in Brunswick. I bet you can tell what sort of person I am can’t you? If I let you know that she’s a staffy and I named her after a lesbian bouncer I once met called Roxy it kinda seals the deal – I’m a northside wanker. I might as well call myself an artist, live with my artist boyfriend and not eat sugar (thanks Sarah Wilson!). I am all of those things – a wanker, an artist, sugar free and a dog owner. The last of which is the most important.

But I’m an anxious dog owner. My dog is a rescue dog and she was fine when we got her but then an off leash dog attacked her and lets just say it triggered something in her and she’s gone from ‘oh your dog is so cute, lets pat her to death’ –

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-to ‘look away children, if you look it directly in the eyes you will turn to stone.’

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Since her attack she’s been on antidepressants, anti anxiety medication and to top it all off she has to wear a mask that makes her look like Bain from Batman. We tried to jazz it up but the paint flaked off and now it just looks like an old jail cell strapped to her face. We are the worst kind of dog owners because we didn’t tell the owners of the unleashed dog to piss off, or report them. We thought because our dog was a rescue dog that we were to blame when their dog grabbed her head and wouldn’t let go because they told us so and well they were dog owners and dog owners are socially responsible people. They buy food for something other than themselves. They’re meant to be good people.

Well I call bullshit on that. The time I spend with my dog now includes avoiding off-leash parks, forcing my partner to run up ahead to corners to make sure the coast is clear and hanging out in parks where dogs have to wear a leashes, most of our time is taken up avoiding other dogs off leash and their owners in streets, roads, parks where they have to wear a leash – basically everywhere they’re not meant to be. It’s exhausting.

We found a nice park, leash only for our dog to run around in. Brilliant. We were even able to take off her mask. Great. A 20 minute walk about the pen, Shawshank Redemption Style. That was until two dogs came bounding over, barking at our dog, off leash followed by their owner. We kindly asked they keep their dogs away saying the usual ‘she’s a rescue dog who was attacked blah blah blah’ – they ignored us, saying their dogs were fine – we did the usual ‘I’m sure they’re great, but she’s a bit unpredictable blah blah blah’ – they kept coming towards us. We had no option, we had to leave. The one thing we didn’t say – ‘this is an on leash park you ass, there are signs everywhere, your dogs need to be on a leash’ – why didn’t we say it? Cause his dogs looked like fluffy balls of joy with sun shining out of their ass’s and ours looked like…well, a bouncer.

Our neighbourhood is full of off-leash dogs. There’s the two dobermans, the angry fluffy white dog who also attacks children, the guy who enjoys crossing the road to us just to see us have to cross to the other side, amongst others.

And then there was the other night. I took her for a quick walk around the block, stopping in an on-leash park and she was mask free. Suddenly through the darkness though came bounding a dog, a huge dog. Roxy played it cool, but as the dog started barking we all knew she wasn’t playing. I tried to get her mask back on ensuring my dog couldn’t defend herself and was at a loss of what do to (my dog weighs 15 kilos of pure muscle and subordination) and the owner appeared. I yelled out at him to call his dog back. He laughed. I yelled again, this time too time poor to do the ‘not to cause offence’ dance and he continued to find the whole thing hilarious. I told him to leash his dog. He laughed and so with no alternative left, as the other dog jumped for mine I threw my body on top of my dog, like a secret service agent taking a bullet and slammed into the ground. His dog bumped into me and when the owner came nearer he saw me lying on the ground, trying to catch my breath and all he could do was pause and say ‘sorry bout that’ before disappearing off into the night.

I’m sure he went straight home and told his family that a crazy woman stacked on her dog in the park and he would do so while I hobbled home with a shaking dog, bruised down one half of my body and bleeding from a cut on my hand.

But hey, he’s a dog owner. He’s a good person and I’m an injured almond latte drinker with a problematic dog who blogged about it.

Man it’s hot in Melbourne.

It’s really hot in Melbourne at the moment. You might have figured this out from the barrage of Tweets from Melbournites proclaiming it to be ‘f**king hot.’

A heat wave in any major city  is a great test to see how your fellow residents might react in say an armageddon.

The Family

Have you seen or read The Road?  If you have it will give you a slight indication of the harrowing desperation a family displays in a heat wave. If you haven’t, someone eats a baby to survive and the way I saw a mother push a young Goth out the way for the last remaining bottle of coconut water at the 7/11 I thought yes; she’d eat a baby if she had to. Not hers, but she’d definitely have no problem eating someone else’s. When the Goth girl dared to ask why she was entitled to the last bottle, the mother let out a hiss and in her greatest Walking Dead moment spat back at her ‘I have children. They need water. There’s a heat wave you know.’

Now look no ones saying that breeders aren’t a necessary part of the human race, but in that one moment this woman basically told this young girl that her families life was more valuable than hers and her black clothed brethren and what for? For the naturally occurring electrolytes in coconut water, that’s what. It’s a jungle out there.

I’d like to say this was the end of it but while waiting in line to top up my Myki card, her husband, short of a hand gun and the face stubble that the only comes with the end of days, was holding the line hostage as he made sure their family had all their supplies and if he wasn’t satisfied he’d send one of this own children back into the isles to grab another essential apocalyptic item – like low fat cheddar or the unsalted cashews. The clerk was doing his best to reassure the rest of us in the 10 deep line that we’d be served shortly, that we would survive, but we all knew the truth, we were stuck while this kids figured out what Magnum’s they wanted and as a result we would die in a 7/11 whose air-conditioning had broken.

Our only relief came when a woman scraping 90 turned to the mother and said ‘I waited so long for your kids to decide on an ice-cream my catheter started to leak. You’re standing in my urine.’

Transport

For those of you that don’t know, the reason you often find lines of people at 7/11’s these days isn’t because of their Slurpee’s but because about 2 years ago our state government decided it made no sense to be able to buy a ticket to ride on a train/bus or tram or the actual train/bus or tram you were hoping to ride on so you have to either pay online and wait at least 24 hours for your card to top-up or head into a 7/11. The State Government also decided around the same time that it no longer wanted Melbourne to bare the title of ‘Most Liveable City’ and instead would now compete for the title of ‘Most Leavable City’.

You think I joke? The other day I watched as a Customer Service Officer (not sure what their role is other than to tell people they can’t buy a ticket to ride) asked a partially blind woman with a walking stick to get off the tram and top up her Myki card at the shop across the road. Yep…

So in a heat wave if your travelling colleagues don’t beat someone to death by the time they get on a tram, that in and of itself is an amazing feat of self-control.

On the tram I soon realised that the men of Melbourne had all decided on mass that because they have cocks that meant they should take up more room than usual. With legs spread, displaying sweaty groins it’s easy to be intimated, but fuck, it was fucking hot. I was going to sit down. I found a seat next to a guy that if asked would have taken two extra stools just to sit his balls on. My first instinct would be to apologetically sit next to him, half a bum cheek on what remained of a seat for two, but no, not this time. I asked him to move over to allow me to take up the room allocated for me. He told me he was hot. I said ‘yes, that’s often the problem with heat waves.’

He farted next to me for the rest of the trip, on purpose. It was decided – I would sell him for meat and than donate his skull as a sex toy to a jail.

Mania through lack of sleep.

When we got our new house I’m pretty sure the first words we spoke were ‘oh my god, it’s air-conditioning. Fuck yeah!’ If anything we couldn’t wait till sweet, sweet summer where we would be able lie in undies in front of Foxtel and occasionally glance at each other, smile and say ‘fuck yeah, air con.’

That’s what should have happened. Instead last night consisted of wearing nothing but undies, yes, but also screaming at each other ‘don’t touch me! I don’t want your body heat! Get away from me!. For the love of god don’t touch me!’

Seems our air-con is actually a swamp maker. It works on the principle of blowing hot air into cramped spaces, thus ensuring the occupants of the house intermittently pass out from something I’ve coined ‘thick air.’ ‘Thick air’ leads to heat wave mania, where suddenly the thought of standing in a puddle of leaked catheter urine is the only option to lower one’s body temperature.

And just like that, we become animals. When you honestly think that pissing on each other might be the key to a cool nights sleep, humanity has lost all hope.

 

Teaching Your Lover to Drive by Lou Sanz

 

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Over the last few months I’ve been teaching my boyfriend to drive. Life got in his way and he never got around to getting it. I’ve learnt to accept this excuse as an ingrained narrative of how his life has played out thus far. Relationships I’ve learnt, for the most part are a lot about letting things slide. I’m good like that.

The first thing you’ll realise when teaching a lover as opposed to a child to drive is that deep down you still have a need for them to not leave you and to like you, really like you. You also have to make sure their self-esteem is propped up at all times, regardless of your own personal safety and reassure them that everyone nearly runs over a pedestrian from to time.

Also as you’re not a parent to your lover, well hopefully you’re not, you can’t say the following:

‘Sharpen up’

‘You nearly killed someone’

‘You nearly killed that whole school bus’

‘Stop being an idiot’

‘What do you mean you don’t know how to reverse park/ do a 3 point term/ merge…’

‘Get out of my car’

‘Fine! Walk home!’

‘You wanna drive an automatic? And I guess you wanna get your legs waxed after we finish?’

‘This car is worth more than it was to raise you, remember that.’

‘Stop!’

‘For the love of god stop!!!!’

‘Shit we’re going to die’

‘Merge…merge, merge, merge, MERGE!!!!’

‘Have you put your seat bell on?’

‘Hand brake! Hand brake!’

‘Do that again and you’re grounded!’

‘There’s still so much I want to do with my life!’

When you’re teaching a lover to drive it’s all about wanting to say those things and finding other ways to say it.

‘Hey babe, maybe the cars not turning on because you haven’t put the key in the ignition? Must have been a really tough day at work. Here, let me turn the car on for you. Love you.’

‘Hey babe, I know technically you’re in the right and that pedestrian shouldn’t have j-walked but remember regardless that you’re in a car and as such you have to be the more responsible one. Yes, they were definitely in the wrong. Yes,  I reckon they got quite the fright. Yes, you were right and they were wrong. Love you.’

‘Hey babe due to a traffic incident happening right now we’re about 10 seconds away from impending death if you don’t stop right this minute…or whatever makes you comfortable. Love you.’

‘Hey babe there’s a park…there’s one there and there and there and there…that’s ok, we’ll find another…there’s one…and there’s one and another one, and another one…nup you’re right, let’s circle the block and see if we have any luck next time.’

‘You look very handsome today, have you done something with your hair? No? Oh you’re sitting in the drivers seat, that’s what it is. Makes you look all sexy and full of authority. Wanna drop me at work? Sure you’ll have to leave the car there and catch a tram home but I’ve got a real hankering to be your passenger, sexy driving man.’

‘No babe,  I only grab the door like that when we get really close to trucks going 110 on the Hume Hwy because I’m working through my own stuff right now. Love you.’

‘Indicators are cars ways of expressing their feelings and intentions to each other and sometimes even when they don’t feel like talking to each other, they have to.’

‘Hey babe,  you’ve got to understand that sometimes when I tell you do something, it’s not as your girlfriend beating her man down, but as a woman who has over 16 years of driving experience and a responsibility to other people on the roads telling you not to do something. Love you.’

Teaching your partner to drive can either cement your relationship or tear it apart limb by limb, leaving a rotting carcass by the road side with nothing but a smear of blood; your only reminder that once you deeply cared for each other.

At the time of writing this blog we’re still together.

 

2014: I’ll probably fail, again.

It’s New Year’s Eve and I’ve still got a script submission to finish so I’ll be brief. I’ll try to be brief. Look I might fail to be brief and so what? Who gives a fuck about failing?

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I do. We all do.

I failed a lot this year. I even wrote a show about failing. That failed too.

2013 was not one of those years that I’ll look back on and think ‘that’s the year that defined the Sanz legacy.’ It is most likely a year that I will look back on and need reminding that it fell between 2012 and 2014 – ‘Oh that 2013….!’

But of course with failure must come success – they’re like Will and Grace. I had some of that too. I moved in with my boyfriend, properly, not just both of us living out of suitcases in various states of the country and undress! BAM!

I overcame rickets. (I think, I have to book a blood test but I’m feeling less bendy).

I moved house again with my boyfriend (twice in one year without breaking up. Win)

I discovered you can lay-by holidays.

I finally decided to count listening audio books as ‘reading’.

I was published.

I made a film.

None of these things were resolutions. I resolved for none of them to happen in 2013. In fact last New Year’s Eve I decided the only resolution I was going to do something great in 2013. I didn’t specify what. Just something really great.

How I thought an ambiguous mega goal would be more achievable… slow clap Lou, no pressure there.

It turns out that was the hardest resolution I’ve ever had to keep and I failed at it. In fact I failed so badly my social anxiety only seemed to get worse as soon as I decided to really make my mark. My stage fright returned with the vengeance normally only associated with recurring thrush, I drove my partner crazy with sleepness nights (and not the sexy ones). By saying I would do something great I somehow managed to mangle it’s meaning beyond recognition and question my own relevance in the world.

It’s only sitting down tonight and making myself write a list of all the things I did in 2013 that I realise I did do something great. I made stuff. I did stuff. I got frightened. I got excited. I felt disappointment and happiness. I was betrayed. I suffered loneliness and made some great friends. I got through to the other side. I made it to 2014. I get another year and I will no doubt fail and succeed in 2014 as well. It shouldn’t be how will I change’ in 2014, it should be where to from here.

I think that’s what New Years Eve should be about. Not about what you’re going to do differently next time or how much weight you’re going to lose, how many times you’ll go to the gym or about quitting sugar or finally filling out your E-Harmony profile honestly. It’s about what you have done and where you might go from there.

Which leads me to my new resolution. I did write down ‘thigh-gap’ but it seems everyone’s doing it and much like a Big Brother contestant I want to be ‘different and original.’

Looking back on 2013 I realise I need to get stronger. I need to get to a place where people’s opinions don’t affect me as much (we all need to do that). I need to not constantly be getting out of other people’s way in the street and apologising for taking up space in the world.

I would also like to crush a walnut with my bicep.

I’ve also learnt that if I don’t manage to get stronger by 2015 than no doubt I would have accomplished something else, something I didn’t resolve to do….like crush a walnut between my thighs…I don’t know, anything is possible.

Happy New Year.

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