Worlds Best Parent. Ever. Full Stop.

I have to admit I was riding high, thinking I was the best new mum in the world when I went to my second maternal health check. Sure we didn’t have it all figured out, but from where I stood, we were smashing it –  bub was still alive, we were yet to drop him (on a very hard surface) and I’d started vacuuming our carpet at least once a month in anticipation that he might, you know, one day crawl and the last thing I wanted was him choking on the remnants of a truffle flavoured potato crisp from our earlier, decadent child-free days. There was no hiding it, we were nailing this parenting shit.

So you can imagine my surprise when I met Kathleen. My new maternal health nurse, complete with a nifty fanny pack around her waist because she liked to keep everything she needed close to her as she wasn’t a fan ‘of reaching for things.’

As was usual I’d gone to this ‘not mandatory but strongly advised’ appointment with our sex trophies’ co-creator, his father, which doesn’t seem so odd until I point out that it would have been just as useful to bring a potted plant along, given Kathleen chose not to even acknowledge his existence.

‘These appointments aren’t for the father’ she pointed out. ‘There to see how your son is developing both emotionally and physically with you as a mother.’

‘Detrimentally’ I joked. She did not laugh. Kathleen never laughed.

‘The thing is’ I pointed out ‘Kathleen, I can call you Kathleen right? Both JK and I are around all our son all the time. We’ve both taken time off, together, to be with him and I think it’s important to –

‘- it says here you had a c-section’

‘Um, yep – but as I was saying, it’s important we acknowledge the father-’

‘If that’s the case you shouldn’t be sitting like that…with your legs crossed.’

‘Crossed? It’s fine.’ I said ‘my physio said it’s fine.’

‘Oh well, feel free to take someone else’s advice, that’s your choice pet, but I’m saying I don’t think it’ a good idea.’

‘My doctor also said it was ok.’

‘Well if your doctor said it was ok, and they are a doctor and I’m just a -’

‘Nurse?’

‘Huh! Maternal Health Specialist Nurse deary –

‘ – it wasn’t meant to insult you’

‘ – no insult was taken. If you want to believe your doctor that’s your call but if I were you and I’d had a c-section I wouldn’t sit like that, not if I wanted to have another child in the future, just saying.’

I kept my legs crossed in silent protest. Her eyes flaring up, my defiance noted.

‘Are you breastfeeding?’

‘Yes’

Exclusively?

‘No. He’s been combination fed since he was born.’

‘Was there a reason?’

‘He was early. It should all be written there. We did discuss this last time we came in.’

She sighed, rubbing her temple as if the fate of every child rested on her shoulders.

‘Louise, is telling me your child’s health history an inconvenience to you, because please let me know if it is and I’ll take some time now to read up on him?’

I crossed my legs a little further.

She continued.

‘So you bottle feed?’

‘Yep, about once a day. It’s good, it allows JK to be part of  the feeding process and lets me get a little sleep.’

‘Formula?’

Yes.

‘Hmmm,’ she scribbled something down for effect.

‘And what’s the reason for that?’

‘Like I said, I get a little sleep, JK can bond –

‘- well it is your choice. Sleep is very important…’

I couldn’t hold back.

‘But?’

‘It’s just if I was you and I could breastfeed, well the literature says to breastfeed exclusively, but that’s just me, and the literature.’

‘I’m not very literary,’ I said ‘I’ll continue to give him a bottle then.’

And then to my astonishment, she mumbled under her breath ‘You do what you want, don’t mind me. I’m just the maternal health specialist.’

I turned to my pot-plant for support but he was focused on distracting our sex trophy from his mother’s demise.

‘Ok’ Kathleen jumped up.

‘Lets get him undressed and weighed.’

JK stood up, starting to get bub ready, when Kathleen turned to me.

‘I’d like to see the mother get him ready’

‘I’m assuming I’m the mother in this scenario’ I sparked back.

She did not smile.

‘I’ll let you get on with it then.’

The colour drained from my face. JK was the master of getting bub’s t-shirts off quickly without squashing his head. I was not. My strong suit up until this point had been keeping bub alive with my boobs, but even that seemed to hold no sway at this point in time.

Fumbling as I got him undressed, under the vengeful eye of Kathleen I suddenly became concerned that as his jumper stuck around his head, and his little arms flailed about that I might lose custody of him just for being a bad baby un-dresser. I wasn’t smashing this parenting thing. I’d deluded myself. Maybe he was better off being raised by a woman who didn’t cross her legs?

Finally, his little head came free and he smiled as if to say ‘I only lost a little oxygen mum.’

I nodded my thanks back.

‘Turn him over’ barked Kathleen.

‘Now I have to tell you…Baby is dry’ she said.

Finally, I smiled. Something I got right. ‘Yeah, I dried him after his bath this morning. I was pretty thorough -’

‘ – no, I mean his skin is too dry. Do you moisturise?’

‘Um yes, daily.’

‘It should be forty times a day!’ (*slight exaggeration in the retelling but you get the idea…)

‘Ok’

‘And what do you use?’

‘Mineral oil – just like we were told’

‘No! Edible oils only’

And that’s when I cracked it.

‘Really? Because last time we were here- ’

‘ – Yes we!’ JK shouted out. Thanks, babe…

‘We were told there was new research and edible oils could lead to skin conditions when he’s older’

‘Then you were told the wrong information.’

‘By two of your colleagues, the other midwife-’

‘We are not midwives. We are maternal health specialists and we’re here to help you be better parents. You need to listen to me for the sake of your son. You need to know I have his best interests at heart before you continue to have a go at me.’

My hands curled up in anger.

‘Me, have a go at you? You’ve done nothing but make me feel like a barely adequate parent, no, a barely adequate human being since I’ve been here and -’

I stopped. Suddenly Kathleen’s face distorted. Her tongue recoiling back into her face with horror as urine sprayed out at her care of my son’s well aiming and meaning penis.

Squad goals.

And then just like that, any concerns I had about being a bad mum have washed away. He’d done me proud. He’d done every mother and or father being told they’re doing a bad job proud. He was my hero.

And so without finishing the appointment we grabbed our naked, still peeing son and left.

JK making a point to say we would be making a formal complaint against Kathleen because he was concerned she would upset other parents, what with her fanny-pack full of judgement. I watched him go to bat for me, I couldn’t help but smile as urine continued to run down my leg and into my shoe because we’d left the spare nappy at home…that wasn’t important right now. Being righteous parents was.

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With All Seriousness

‘You’re a mum now Lou’ my friend informed me as I sat before her, tea in hand, despair draping my face. ‘You’re going to have to learn to deal with it.’

I silently opened a packet of Teddy Bear biscuits as she continued.

‘You’re just won’t be able to be funny anymore. Happens to the best of us. I use to be fucking Conan O’Brien till I had kids. Now everything I say comes across as if I’m giving a speech at the Hague.’

And just like that, she had confirmed my deepest fears – that now I’m a mum, everything I say and do will forever be read and taken with all seriousness.

F**k. For someone that makes a living from writing funny things, this did not bode well. I mean, I’d had a baby, there were bills to pay, a new car I’d bought to live in…

Yet the thing is, I had/have cause for concern. It had already started – the ‘with all seriousness.’

Last week my boyfriend/fiancé’s face flashed up on my phone – ‘F**k, he can’t live without me’ I chuckled to myself as I paused Netflix’s F.B.I Files (‘True stories from the F.B.I.’) ‘I bet he’d kill for me if I asked him….’

‘Yo, waz up?’ I casually enquired with my usual greeting.

‘Is everything ok?’ He blurted out between tears. I sensed something was wrong so I paused the TV. I’m good like that.

‘Why? Should something be wrong?’

‘I just got a text asking if We were ok. Are We ok? Why would We not be ok?’

I thought about it. Were We ok? Perhaps this was my out? Mark Ruffalo had recently landed in the Gold Coast and I had just gotten my legs waxed a month earlier…coincidence?

I decided to give it a go.

‘I don’t know. You tell me. Are we ok?’

‘What?’

‘I mean unless you’ve done something wrong?’

I un-paused the TV. This definitely was a conversation that could continue with background noise.

‘No, no…I mean don’t think so.’

‘Are you sure…?’

He fell silent for a moment, searching his brain for an incident, one where he’d fucked up so much that it would undoubtedly drive me into the arms of The Hulk.

‘Someone from work rang. Said you posted something on Facebook, about our relationship. She was worried.’

I flipped over to a documentary entitled ‘My Time in a Cult’. Winner.

‘And then she said it was something about me no longer being your lover, that I’d become your carer.’

‘Oh, that? It was a joke.’

‘She didn’t think it was a joke.’

‘It was clearly a joke. That’s my thing.’

I scrambled to pull up Facebook on my phone, only to notice 11 unread text messages had popped up, including 3 voicemails and various Facebook notifications.

‘And then my brother left a message asking if it was true –

‘- You are not my carer.’ I assured him from our bed, wearing an adult diaper, pushing 100 kg, wheelchair idling by my side table, power pumping two boobs at a time…

‘All I wrote was…’

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‘Remember, from the other night when you were reading that SBS article, and I thought it was funny given I’d just wet the bed for the second time that evening and we’d laughed about how we really needed to get around to buying a mattress protector. Remember? It was funny.’

I scrolled through the messages:

Saw your post – it gets better xx

You and JK will be fine xx

I’ve sent you a link to a single mother’s Facebook group. Mostly widows but heaps of great tips. xx

I never liked him. Let’s do coffee soon x

This is just a kindly reminder that your ANZ card payment is now overdue.

I’m on my way over. Bringing chocolate! How could he!!! ☹ ☹ ☹

Did I leave my hairdryer at yours????

The Facebook messages were much the same

‘Thinking of you and the bub during your turbulent time xx’

‘Not you guys!!!’

‘Hi, my name is Kirtia and I like sex and men. Please meet??’

I couldn’t understand what was going on.

It was clearly a joke. I only ever posted funny things. I was the funny girl. What was happening?

And so this was when I called my friend for reassurance, the one who now works for the Hague…

‘Everything you do, write or post about from this point onwards will be met with a degree of earnest belief and genuine concern. Gone are the days of flippant remarks, you’re part of something bigger than yourself- being a mum on social media.’

‘But I’m not just a mum.’

‘As of now Lou, yes, yes you are.’

I took the last remaining Teddy Bear biscuit offering none to my friend.

‘Don’t despair Lou. You can still be funny in private, you know, as long as no one is watching, listening or reading you, but once you post your funny on Facebook, Twitter, Insta, blog about it, or continue to post on that YouTube Channel you made that no one ever watches – it will only be seen as a cry for help, a need for support, a plea for understanding, shit Lou, I mean with any luck you might end up a mummy blogger – purely by default.’

‘You shut your mouth!’ I spat at her.

It was a truth bomb I clearly wasn’t ready to hear.

‘You need to leave’ I said shaking ‘Get out of my house’.

And with that, she was gone.

A few weeks late I took to social media again. This time posting on the hilarious feeder-esque situation I now found myself in.

It was my comeback. A nuanced, funny observation on breastfeeding-


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My phone beeped:

‘OMG Lou. Are you ok? Just saw your post. Can I recommend Lanosin for your chafed nipples…’

Beep! Another message…

And just like that, my fate was sealed. My friend had been right. I was f**ked. Chafed and f**ked.

 

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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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Dream A Little Dream

I’ve always been a firm believer that if someone, even with all the best of intentions, feels the need to unburden last night’s dream on you over coffee, it’s ok to end the friendship there and then. They’ll understand. If not, in time they will. They will.

But being the massive hypocrite I am, I’m now that friend, the one with the dreams, and I just have to talk about it.

The other night I had a dream where I had to mediate the Weasley Twins from Harry Potter as they navigated a polyamorous relationship they were in while identifying as pansexual and admitting an attraction to each other because they’re turned on by the whole being related thing. This ongoing issue was further complicated by the fact that Jon Snow’s alive head had been left in my care and he just wouldn’t go to sleep, no matter how many times I drove him around the block. He also didn’t like being bounced up and down by the knees. It was a nightmare, a literal nightmare.

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Or how about the dream from last night where, after not falling asleep until 4am, Samuel L Jackson, Devon Sawa and myself found a secret castle just of the Burnley Tunnel Richmond exit, where Holly Valance was being held hostage by a guy I knew in high school whose claim to fame was his calf muscles. In order to free her, Samuel and I had to embark on a 15 year career as exotic dancers in Singapore. We were quite the act, but my biggest concern was how I was going to get back to my parents in time for Sunday dinner. I finally made it home from my erotic oddessy only to be disowned by my family, with my father vowing never to speak with me again because he was forced to throw out the lamb due my tardiness. Oh and for some reason Tom Cruise was there and he was mad at me as well.

Now because I’m not an asshole, before I inflicted these dreams on my partner and friends I turned to the internet, mummy blogs and forums to be exact. WTF? What fresh hell are those things?! It’s like someone took all the judgement in the world and gave it a landing page.

Typing in ‘bad pregnancy dreams’ I was met with mixed responses that ranged from:

  • ‘Oh don’t get me started on crazy pregnancy dreams.I had one the other night where tiny angels appeared to me, looking, I kid you not, like Blue Ivy #beyonceforeva and they whispered into my ear as I slept peacefully, the names Ebony and Archer, which is crazy because my husband and I were thinking of naming our twins those exact names. Crazy right?’
  • ‘Bad dreams are a sign your baby will be born with severe communication problems. To learn more about the dangers of vaccination…’
  • ‘I just ate more carrots before bed and they disappeared, now I just dream of acceptance, oh and Peter Rabbit :)’
    DIE ALREADY – yes, I’m judging them..so what? When in Rome…

Nowhere could I find what I was looking for, a kindred, someone who had also dreamed of going to a Beyonce concert at Rod Laver arena only unable to find a carpark had to move to Ireland, join the IRA and live the rest of their life under a new identity (in that dream, I also had to get reconstructive face surgery without anaesthetic). I also was unable to get a refund on my Beyonce tickets. I woke up crying.

So I was forced to turn to a friend. My non-pregnant, gay male friend, but someone I was certain would have a concerned ear I could bend.

‘…and then mum said they wouldn’t pay to get my ears pierced and Hillary Clinton agreed and said she could do it herself but we needed to go to Greensborough to get the equipment and I didn’t have a valid Myki card on me – ‘

I could barely finish the sentence, as a shaking hand gripped my decaf weak long black, with extra water.

‘ – and there was nowhere to recharge it in Australia, so I never got my ears pierced and Hillary was so angry she wouldn’t let me go to Hungry Jacks with her. And she’d promised. She’d promised!’

My disinterested confidant frowned.

‘Are you telling me about your dreams Lou?’

I gulped. Damn my transparent demeanour.

‘I thought we had an agreement about stuff like that.’ He pushed.

‘I thought that was only boring dreams, not horrifying scenarios involving various pop culture icons that will inevitably come true knowing me.’

‘A dreams still a dream Lou. What if I told you about my dreams, how would you like that?’

I feigned interest in the name of self-preservation.

‘I’d love to know about your dreams. I’ve changed. I’m cool with stuff like that now – puppies, potpourri and vision boards, bring it on I say.’

He knew I was lying, but we’re the sort of friends that would never call each other on stuff like that. True friends.

‘Great. So, I had this dream last week where my dad just turned up at my house and we spent the week just hanging out. I even learned to fish.’

Silence.

‘Crazy right?’

‘Yeah…’

‘Cause dad was only here like last week and we talked about going fishing but we never actually got around to doing it.’

‘Crazy…’

‘Yeah, it’s like my subconscious knew what I hoped we’d done and made it a reality for me. Dreams are amazing.’

‘Dreams are amazing like that.’

Silence.

‘That hurt you a little didn’t it Lou, listening to me talk about my dream?’

I paused, letting out a deep breath/burp-fart.

‘Can I be honest?’

‘Of course Lou’

‘I died a little inside.’

‘Oh’

‘Your dream wasn’t even a dream. It was at best a memory, a distorted memory, but, and I say this with the utmost respect, it was no dream.’

He took the barb well, toying with his gluten free pistachio cupcake, for which he no longer had the appetite.

‘We can’t all dream about the universe being constantly disappointed in us.’

‘Is that what you think my dreams are about?’

‘Absolutely, I mean, take the dream about Hillary Clinton not taking you to Hungry Jacks – ‘

The waiter came over, refilling our water.

‘ – are you sure you have time to talk about this?’

My friend adjusted his glasses.

‘Plenty, now back to Hillary and the fact you’ll never reach her heights of success and your own ongoing inadequacies…’

I couldn’t help but smile, maybe talking to friends about dreams wasn’t so bad after all…

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I love you, just not what you’re into.

Since we nearly broke up a few months into our relationship after I told my Lord of The Rings loving boyfriend (JK) that ‘I didn’t care for fantasy’ I’ve made a concerted effort to champion his interests while remaining detached and uninvolved. Like he’s really into historic drama TV shows – Vikings and Hell on Wheels type stuff. Sometimes he even insists we watch them together so I try and make a game of it, guessing how far into an episode I’ll see a woman’s breast, or her rape or perhaps her sale to a wealthy landowner.

He’s also really into reading books about dogs, which is cool, if that’s your sort of thing but he thinks I should read them as well so I can get a better understanding of our staffy. But I’m not sure how much reading is going to solve the issue that our dog, who is so in love with JK, will one day kill me in my sleep, proceed to make a Lou suit out of my skin and resume her rightful place on the pillow beside him.

Anyone in a relationship will admit it’s hard to like all the things your partner does, well unless you’re these guys…

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…and while it’s great to share interests and be introduced to new ones, there comes a time, let’s say past 30 where you just think ‘fuck it’. I mean most of us spend our 20s pretending to like things we don’t in order to get laid or not die alone, so why, as I head into my late 30s should I continue the charade? After all, don’t all of us die alone?

This leads me to where my preamble has been heading – gardening. Yep, gardening.  My boyfriend is really into gardening. He loves it. He’d be a gnome if he could be, complete with short man syndrome and pointy little hat, but alas he is 6’1 and refuses to wear a waistcoat, even though I think it would be totally cute, but whatevs.

Myself, I’m not into gardening.  Never have been and at 36 unless I’m struck by a bolt of lightening and wake up from a coma as a totally different person I never will.  Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a good garden as much as the next person, some of my best friends garden but I’m more of an applauder than a performer when it comes to a good mulch or a well watered vegie patch. I love that in my yard I have a slew of burgeoning red cabbages, spring onions I can always count on, sprigs of thyme perfect for soup and even a passionfruit tree. I love that there are pots of flowers all over my house, mainly all gifts I’ve received over the years from JK, and only alive due to his efforts, though my ongoing disinterest in their welfare has made it touch and go on occasion.

But what I love most of all – I’m not responsible for any of it.

And so it was, that on Melbourne Cup Day, I found myself dressed in flannel and a 80s vintage jumpsuit, reading instructions on the side of a bag of fertiliser that assured me it would not burn my eyes, playing gardening assistant to JK, or apprentice as he liked to say. We were planting tomatoes because that’s what you do on Melbourne Cup Day, that and kill horses for sport.

He had requested my company. Said it would be fun. It would be my job to hand him things, fill buckets with things and control the afternoons music selection. One of those things I did with great abandon, the other two, I did somewhat half assed. To be fair he had offered me a way out earlier in the day, suggesting he fix up the hammock so I could read but I was tired of being cast of the bad witch from Wicked in our relationship, so I insisted on helping. My ego thwarting me once more.

We gardened for what seemed like days, no months. Winters came and went, summers were cruel, the springs a welcome break from the intense labor that came with handing JK a watering can at varying intervals and clipping off bits of twine to secure the vegetation. It was exhausting, soul destroying. I think I lost a piece of myself that day…

I was about to give up, walk away, perhaps get lost on the way back to civilisation and Foxtel on Demand and starve to death in our driveway when JK suddenly turned around, smiled, running a well calloused hand through his beard. ‘Thanks for today’ he said ‘I know you don’t like gardening, but I really like getting to spend time with you. It’s been nice.’

With such crippling accusations levelled at my feet I realised he was right. I do not like gardening, that day being no exception, but there is something I like more – spending time with JK, watching him do something he enjoys, so I smiled back in a way that communicated ‘I love spending time with you too, but no, we’re not watching The Hobbit after this.’
There’s only so few compromises I was willing to make that day.

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Give So I May Brunch

Dear Reader, 

It’s not often I ask for help. I’ve never been very good at it, what with being a lone-wolf, renegade adventurer, blogger.  But today I out to my friends, I can call you that right? You see, the other day I went for brunch, dressed in clothes that I would come to realise, could also function as a cloak of invisibility. As I entered the well-lit inner city café/bookstore/ carb intervention centre, for a moment I thought perhaps I’d made a mistake and fallen upon the sign in booth at the start of a triathlon or at the very least, a competitive Mother’s Day power walk. 

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For as far as the eye could see there were Lululemon Compression tights and Northwest Fleece Vests filling every table, bar stool and cranny. It was as if a neighbouring gym had had a gas leak and this was their evacuation point.  As I stood there in a dress and opaque tights, a look I describe as ‘leaving the house chic’, being ignored by a waitress dressed in last year’s best goat-milking coveralls, I couldn’t help but think – was I allowed to eat here? Perhaps, much like a Cannes red carpet, there was a dress code I’d missed as perhaps it was only communicated via weathering stares and spelt-milk fuelled eye-rolls. 

Finally, my boyfriend, wearing leather soled shoes, an obvious silent protest against the Adidas that surrounded us, were seated. Seated at a table with four young women, all wearing matching lavender tights and fit bits, all talking about how they were too busy to hit the gym that morning. Unlike my boyfriend and I, they were served promptly and not judged when asking for extra bread and could heartily indulge in a large stack of pancakes because they were dressed to burn it off. I on the other hand, well the fact I was dressed in ‘day clothes’ meant I’d given up for the day, might as well turn in for the night, hoist open my mouth and roll me towards a trough…the end was nigh.

And then suddenly it struck me, as a tried desperately to get the waitresses attention because I needed cutlery to eat (though I’m pretty sure given I wasn’t wearing the appropriate amount of pre-workout foundation that she had just assumed I ate with my hands), that I was invisible. That without perfectly coifed and overly expensive exercise gear I might never have brunch again. My tears could have filled a thimble that day.

Of course I have my own workout gear but somehow I’m pretty sure my black leggings, the ones with a hole where my vagina begins, adorned with an oversized grey t-shirt hiding two Kmart sports-bras, well it’s not going to give me the visibility, the relevance as a person I need. 

So that’s why I’m turning to you guys, my friends, my bestie’s, my compadres. Sure if I budgeted better, perhaps stopped having my one-a-day instant coffee habit or my monthly trim at Just Cuts, I could afford to buy all the ‘going out’ gym gear I needed, but I don’t see why my frugal lifestyle should suffer when I have you guys – haven’t I suffered enough by wearing ‘going outside clothes’ for years?

But lets be serious for a minute –  If I don’t get your support then I’ll probably never be able to out for brunch again – don’t look away from me- I know it’s hard to see one of your peers begging for help, begging to be seen by all the coverall wearing waiters and waitresses of the world, but look at me! Look me in the eye – surely you can see I deserve to eat coconut infused muesli with optional pomegranate placenta at 11.30am on a Saturday just like everyone else? Do I not bleed if you stab me?  Am I not you, just with a lot less shame?

From as little as $20 a day you can keep me in the attire I should’ve learned to grow accustomed to by now and I know that with your help I might be served before 5pm on a weekend, once again 

Thanking you in advance 

Lou

x

ps. This is how I will look once your donations start rolling in.

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I’d F**k A Funny Woman Any Day.

I find women funnier. I just do. There, it’s said. It’s out there. For years I’ve taken a diplomatic stance – funny is funny no matter what the gender, no matter who is telling the joke, but who was I kidding, give me an Amy over an Arj any day. Now by no means is that meant to be taken as a disparaging comment on the Arj’s of the world, it’s just that my pen is inked from a different well, um, a well of ladies.

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I was born this way. From the moment I came into the world, as my mother looked at my tanned skin and joked between puffs ‘oh look, she’s nicotine stained’…it was inevitable.

About a week ago some guy called Wippa from a radio show mentioned that funny women don’t get the guys. Mama Mia writer Lucy Gransbury posted a great response to his assertions – ‘Eat a bag of dicks’. A more articulate response to the ‘funny women shut up if you want to get laid debate’ I’m yet to see. My fiancé, a man no less, decided he too would post a response. Less barbed he conceded that funny was sexy no matter what gender but I begged to differ, and I did. Under his post, I wrote ‘I find women funnier.’ It was out.

As much as I’m a fan of David Sedaris, it’s his sister Amy Sedaris who I stalk with unwavering commitment. Her Instagram account is ‘what Instagram was made for’ a friend recently declared. Her recent turn in Broadcity, something to behold ‘where isn’t a toilet?!’

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Judith Lucy and Jane Kenndey were the reasons I fought to stay up well past my bedtime to watch The Lateshow, it had little to do with Mick or Santo. Then of course there was Lynda Gibson in Let the Blood Run Free, Madge in Big Girls Blouse, Smack the Pony, Lucille Ball, The Golden Girls, Mona from Who’s The Boss, Ruth Cracknell, Lily Tomlin, Bette Midler and Shelley Long in anything. Oh and then there was Girls on Top that introduced me to Tracey Ullman, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. And Julia Davis pretty much revolutionised my viewing experience with Nighty Night, um and Jo Brand, Ab Fabs Patsy, Tamsin Greig, Janeane Garofalo, Olivia Colman and Parker Posey, and that my friends is only a list encompassing my formative years to say about the time I started working in comedy in the early 2000s.

Now sadly it was only when I started working in the industry did I learn, or sorry, I was told that women weren’t funny from some punters, some promoters and the odd comedian thus negating my entire back catalogue of inspiration, well they would have if I’d actually given a shit and for a moment believed them. I guess it doesn’t help that near every year some journo with space to burn poses the question ‘Are women funny?’ it’s about as relevant and interesting a question as that from my Year 12 debating final ‘Should you be permitted to choose whatever clothes you want to wear outside of school?’

Sure I have friends who are professionally funny and successful because they’re funny, but it’s also my lady friends from other walks of life that crack me up just as much, if not more. I think it’s the reason I think I’m drawn to them in the first place, that and their hair. It’s what I value most in a friendship, a good laugh and good hair. My mum is one of the funniest women I know, now whether or not it’s intentional we’ll probably never be certain, but on more than one occasion she’s made me pee my pants and this is well after the potty training years. My friend Clem never fails to make me laugh-cry in my face and then there’s Hattie. I see her maybe every 5 years or so, but I’m still left smiling for years after our catch ups because of  her tales of exotic world travel engrossing me while her cigarette animatedly dances around the table as she weaves her squeal inducing stories. Actually if I’ve invited you around for dinner and plied you with booze and you’ve got a vagina it’s probably because you’ve made my tummy hurt with laughter at some stage….feel used? Good.

I’m sure if you know me you’ve probably always suspected that I’m funny girl inclined, there’s been rumours floating around for years and I just felt it was time to set things straight, on my own terms. I plan to raise my children as lovers of funny women and you know what, I don’t think they’ll be alone, especially if the recent spate of fan obsessing ver the Amy’s, Mindy’s, Tina’s and Ilana’s is anything to go by and they’ll be in the best of like-minded sexy funny company, I’m sure.

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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.

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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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How You Made Me A Bad Person

I’m going to write something in a moment and straight up it’s going to come out sounding like I think I’m a better person than you. It’s not the case, trust me, I’m so self-deprecating that I still don’t think I’m ever going to top this one day in 1984 when I received the ‘Best Cursive Writing Award’ in primary school – an award I had to make and give myself, an award deserved nonetheless.

So here it goes:

In recent months my partner and I have given up gluten.

Yep, notice how I used the partner as opposed to boyfriend and yep, we’ve given up gluten, as in, this is not an action I could do on my own, it’s something that can only be done in pairs like playing weekend tennis, shopping at Ikea and watching Mad Men Season 3.

Of course the exile of gluten from my diet is not the only one thing that might be considered ‘wanker-esque’ – I also don’t drink dairy. Yes, I refer to dairy as a drink. I don’t do it, can’t do it, won’t do it. But most café’s accommodate that these days, just as they did yesterday…

‘I’ll start with an English Breakfast tea if I can, with soy milk on the side. Thanks.’

I watched as the waitress walked away, briskly, making sure not to look back as my boyfriend and I hung mid sentence – ‘could we see a men….’

‘You’re cursed’ He said to me, as he pulled out his iPad, so as to enjoy another meal with me.

‘She probably just didn’t hear us because she’s wearing her hair over her ears.’

 

He checked his Facebook account.

I checked how my life had come to this…

With all faces checked and accounted for he looked up.

‘Maybe we should just get up and grab the menus ourselves.’

‘No, I waitressed for 25 years – ‘

‘ – really, you started waitressing when you were 8?’

‘- yes, JF I did. It was what you did in the 80’s.’

‘- endorsed child labor?’

‘- had a work ethic JF, a work ethic.’

‘And so it’s this work ethic of yours that’s the reason I’m sitting here starving?’

‘Collateral damage.’

And so as is often the case in our relationship, against my wishes JF got up, and like a Dickensian orphan went to find some menus. I wondered if the winter cold my get him and if he’d ever return….

Moments later, he did, just as the waitress placed our drinks down.

Clocking our self-secured menus she asked the question that was on everyone’s lips.

‘Are you here for breakfast? Would you like to see a menu?’

‘Are they different to the ones we have?’ I asked.

‘No’ she replied ‘Would you like me to grab you some?’

My boyfriend sensing I was well on the way to making a new best friend and couldn’t bare the competition for my affection, stepped in.

‘I think we’re ready to order actually.’

Unsettled by the uniqueness of the situation the waitress enquired ‘food?’.

‘Why not?’ I said ‘Let’s shake things up a bit.’

And it was then I noticed I been bough Earl Grey tea, not English Breakfast. Normally when presented with something I had not intended on drinking I would just smile and swallow but having just returned from the US where it’s custom to send back things you didn’t order,  I decided to mention it.

‘I ordered English Breakfast. This is Earl Grey.’

Her silence masked her confusion.

‘And?’

‘I’d like English Breakfast.’

‘That is English Breakfast.’

‘It says Earl Grey on the label.’

‘That’s how they spell English Breakfast sometimes.’

I smiled through my mouth, the way I’d been taught.

‘If you could just take it back and get me the English Breakfast that’d be great.’

‘And if we could order…’

She left before the words could leave my boyfriends mouth.

‘Really? You couldn’t have just drunk the tea?’

‘Milk with Earl Grey? Never, like sure if I had some lemon and honey on offer I could possibly make do, but look that’s not the point. The point is, I ordered English Breakfast. It has the full-bodied flavour I need this morning. I’m not the bad person here.’

She returned, only to inform me that they had no English Breakfast tea but her boss had told her that Earl Grey tea was the same. It was like comparing Britney Spears to Keisha – a waste of my time.

I won’t bore you with the details, but we ordered. Nothing flash. My boyfriend, something with croquettes and bacon, myself,  an omelette and a side of gluten-free toast.

Surprisingly our food arrived with little fuss. I felt we were all turning a corner. Mornings can be hard on anyone and I was in a mood to forgive and forget. That is until –

‘Um, I ordered a side of gluten toast?’

She looked at me, as if unsure of whether we’d met before…perhaps earlier that day…I watched as it all fell into place for her.

‘Yes, and?’

Tumbleweed…

‘Is it on it’s way?’

‘No.’

‘Why?’

‘We don’t have any gluten free bread.’

‘Were you going to tell me that?’

‘No.’

‘Ok, glad we cleared that up.’

With her tip clearly in the bag, our waitress wandered off, leaving us to our meals.

‘Is it me?’ I asked JF.

‘I don’t see anyone else here’ he rhetorically replied.

After breakfast we wandered the streets for a cup of English Breakfast tea and some toast with a passion not often seen outside the finale of any season of ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’

Finally we settled on a little café that boasted a menu of quinoa’s and goat’s cheese and on the bottom just under the surcharge disclaimer, there it was, gluten free toast.

We sat down, smiling at the waitress who waved at us as we came in. With pure joy we ordered English Breakfast tea, not the Earl Grey variety, and when all was said and done and they asked me if I’d like to order some food I said ‘yes, I’d like some gluten-free toast with jam thanks.’

I kissed JF lightly on the face mouth, even allowing the waitress to linger a little longer than was appropriate to watch us, but even after our chaste embrace ended she remained.

‘I’m sorry, we don’t sell gluten-free bread.’

‘But it’s on the menu.’

‘Doesn’t mean we have it.’

There was nothing more to say. She was right…just because it was written down on a menu of goods for sale, it didn’t mean they had to have it.  And so I walked away knowing that when this story of one woman’s search for the breakfast she ordered would be passed down through generations, that I was going to come off as the wanker and years from now, they’d still be right.

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