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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Warning: Toilet Humour (or How I Learnt To P** Again)

I read once that a guy was so constipated that he took a hot shower, bent over and tried to spoon himself out. It was a success and that spoon is supposedly still in circulation today. A true hero’s journey.

Why do I mention this?

Because I too once thought the idea of removing a shit with a spoon was beneath me, that is until five days after having my son, I found myself hunkered over a hospital toilet, toothbrush in hand, contemplating a similar fate.

Here’s the thing. No one tells you that your first shit after having a baby is going to quite possibly be a worse pain than actually birthing said baby. No one says you become so consumed by the painful and never ending reluctant evacuation that you can barely focus on your new child, let alone name them. No one tells you that the downside of being pumped so full of painkillers is the cementing of your intestinal tract, much like that of a heroin addict.

And absolutely no one tells you that you might end up squatted over a toilet, crying, staring at sign warning against ‘anal strain’ and considering, just considering…

‘JK – are you there?’ I shouted out through the slightly ajar toilet door, into my hospital suite.

‘Yeah, babe. Any movement at the station?’ he asked kindly.

Yep, this is what our relationship had now come to. With the intimacy of childbirth a distant memory, our joint focus had turned to whether or not I would ever be able to provide a stool sample again.

‘No’ I whimpered. ‘The trains still delayed.’

‘Oh, babe. Sorry.’

Pause.

‘Is there anything I can do to help?’

Pause. I looked at my toothbrush.

Dare I ask?

Could I ask?

Should I ask?

I mean he had just seen a human ripped out my intestinal lining (did I mention I failed biology in high school?) and that had, I was in no doubt, brought us closer together, so I mean surely a request to bend me over and scoop poo out of me would only bring even more intimacy and meaning to our relationship?

Or…

Well…

There was always the possibility that it would destroy our relationship.

But here’s the thing – for a fleeting moment, as I saw my strained reflection in the mirror (yep, great place to put a mirror btw) I thought that it might be actually worth ruining my marriage for. I mean I could always meet someone else…

‘Lou, everything alright in there?’

He’d picked up on my silence. My contemplation.

‘Um…is there a spoon out there?’

‘Um…I don’t think so. Why? Do you want me to ask the nurse for one?’

‘Um…’

‘Lou?’

Pause.

‘Are you going to ask me to scoop you out?’

Silence.

We had reached this point. If I said yes, that could be the end of us. If he said no it could be the end of us. 

I took a deep breath, ready to give me answer –

BANG!

The door flew open.

‘And how are we going today?! Still no movement at the station I see!’

A nurse beamed down at me.

‘Nup’ I replied. A sudden wave of relief washing over me.

‘Best we get you some laxatives.’

Laxatives!

‘To help move things along. Can’t have you doing all the hard work on ya own.’

Fuck! That was right! Laxatives! Other drugs! How had I not thought of that?

‘That would be great’ I said, beaming like an idiot, as JK cried tears of joy in the other room.

‘No worries, I’ll go grab some right now.’

She paused. Turned back.

‘What’s with the toothbrush?’

THE END.

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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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Hello Leakage, my new friend.

Date night.

  1. Soft candles – check
  2. Billy Joel love-making soundtrack – check
  3. Dog locked out – check
  4. Temperature just right – check
  5. Billy Joel love-making soundtrack destroyed in mysterious house fire – check
  6. Incense…lots of incense…because we can’t quite seem to shake the smell of –

‘Urine’ my partner confirmed. ‘The whole room smells like urine.’

Then he sniffed me.

‘It’s you. You smell like wee.’

‘That’s ok’ I cooed ‘it’s just a little leak, we can push through.’

I burped – ‘wasn’t me’ I giggled ‘it’s the baby. They must be awake.’

And with that, my partner rolled off me.

‘You really smell like wee, it’s quite intense.’

I heaved myself up onto my new, yet-to-be colostrum stained U-Pillow.

‘You’ll need to get changed’ he stated ‘and wash.’

‘What are we talking?’ I asked ‘Flannel wash? Laundry trough dip or are you suggesting full shower?’

He took another sniff.

‘Shower. I’ll be needing the trough to soak your pyjamas.’

Since getting pregnant my body has been full of surprises – finding ingrown hairs under my boobs – where no hair had lived before; something I like to call Circular Vomiting much like circular breathing, except, vomit forms in my stomach, comes out through my nose into my mouth and because I’m driving and can’t pull over, I’m forced to swallow it back into my lungs and nearly die. REPEAT. Then there’s hair that grows across your stomach giving the illusion of a moustached man being trapped inside you. And though there are many others wonderful #miracles I’ve been experiencing none have thwarted me as much as the leakage.

The constant leakage.

I was at Pilates (because I’m one those really fit pregnant woman – see pic) getting my leg extensions on when I felt a warm liquid start running down my grey leggings. It was also at that exact moment I saw the horror in the other members of the class who for some reason were positioned opposite to me, as they too saw the amber liquid trickle down my leg.

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‘Lou’ my instructor quietly said ‘do you want to go get yourself cleaned up?’

I raised my leg in defiance, displaying the full-scale saturation that had engulfed my crutch

‘Nup, I’m good, still got two more sets to go.’

And with that I squeezed, maintaining eye contact with everyone the whole time.

But even I knew as acted out urine soaked vengeance on my Pilates class that I couldn’t go on like this forever. That at some point I would need to concede that I had a bladder problem, albeit a temporary one, but a problem just the same and I needed to face up to it.

Driving home that night I pulled into a pharmacy and found myself standing in front of the incontinence shelf. Based on the amount of incontinence ads I’d seen on midday TV I guess I was expecting more of an entire aisle dedicated to leakage, but alas, I’d make do with just a shelf. Now, at 28 weeks pregnant I needed to decide what sort of leaker I was, a decision, if I was being honest, I wouldn’t have thought I’d needed to make at least until I was 60 years old, at least.

Was I A Sneezer-Leaker?

A Giggle-Leaker?

A Dog Walking-Leaker?

A Making-Just-An-F**kin-Cup-of-Tea Leaker?

Or was I…

A Just-Being-Alive Leaker?

An Everyday Saturator?

A Cold-Drip Urinator?

Answer – I was all of the above. I am all of the above. I’m an All-Day, Every-Day Leaker. Feel my moistness!

Arriving home I told my partner about my latest self-realisation. He hugged me,let me know it was all going to be ok. That this was only temporary and that there was nothing I could do that would turn him away from me. It was a relief to hear.

‘Lou’ JK whispered as he hugged me close.

‘Yes?’ I cooed back.

‘Did you just wee on me?’

‘Yes, yes I did.’

He started to cry.

‘There, there…’I comforted him.

‘It’s nothing a shower won’t fix.’

 

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Diary of An Adequate Mother

A few months ago I found out I was pregnant. 

‘How did this happen?’ I asked legs spread atop the toilet seat, testing for the third time that morning.

‘You pretty much did that’ my boyfriend replied smugly, motioning to my legs akimbo.

Now to be perfectly candid, we had talked about having kids for while, even getting a rescue dog at one point and naming it ‘training baby’* but talking is theoretical. I’m the greatest mum in the world, theoretically. A Full House remount is great, theoretically.  The new Milo bar was meant to be great, theoretically! My point is, lots of things are great theoretically, but the actual real thing, that’s a more harrowing prospect.

‘Well too late now’ a friend of mine said to me over daiquiris ‘but look, don’t worry. I think you’re going to be a great mother’. I felt reassured as I ordered another round of soft cheeses ‘or at the very least an adequate mother’ she continued.  

And as I bit into my sushi I knew she was right, I could handle adequate. I was great at being average. Fuck it, I could rock adequate!

But if it was the eighties I don’t think I’d harbour as much doubt in my parenting skills as I currently do. The eighties was a great time to be a parent. Kids entertained themselves, cut themselves, broke themselves, got stung by bees, ate peanut butter and shoplifted copies of Playboy and VideoHits. Broke a bone skateboarding on the street with no parental supervision? No problem, casts were cool. DOCS hasn’t been invented yet. It was a golden time. And we all survived. I was even flown to Queensland to model for Japanese investors at the age of 12 and I survived. Of course that’s not to say that some people didn’t come out unscathed, but for the purpose of this blog post, they’re of no interest to me, as I’m clearly romanticising the era. 

Yep, if it was the eighties I’d be a great mum. Golden Circle would make me mum of the year or something like that for letting me kids use the non-contractor built tree house in the backyard to jump onto the illegal trampoline, using it as a launch to the swimming pool, sans pool gate. Can you say Australian of the Year?

But it’s not the decade that changed the world, it’s the year 2016 and if you’re not in the business of being a responsible parent, you’re not in business full stop. And all this responsibility starts straight away.

At the doctors, I was asked how I wanted to approach my pregnancy. 

‘I want to make sure it gets out’ I responded cautiously, sure it was a trick question.

‘Safely’ my partner interjected ‘we’d like to approach this pregnancy safely.’ Thank god for JK and his folder marked ‘Baby’ he had carefully opened across his lap.

‘Wonderful’ my obstetrician responded ‘but what sort of information would you like?’

See, I knew it was a trick question.

I’d read somewhere that the smarter you are, the more you’re compelled to know about the in’s and out’s of pregnancy, the pros and cons, dangers etc. As I’m smart and suffer from anxiety I decided that ‘knowing things’ would not be the best approach for me, thus I answered accordingly.

‘I’d like to approach this pregnancy, like a teen girl, from the Appalachians, who believes in creationism and virgin birth and who’s only warning she’s pregnant comes when she gives birth in a KFC toilet, mid shift.’

‘OK…’ my ob-gyn managed to say.

‘What she means’ said my partner ‘is that if you want to give us any information, best you give it to me. I’ve got a folder I can put that stuff in.’ Like I said before, thank god for JK and his folder.

And my lack of responsibility only got worse from there. 

A few days later I got an email asking if I’d like to donate my babies’ cord blood. Sounded like a good enough idea. I’m an organ donor. Baby cord blood worked on pretty much the same principal. There might be a family out there waiting for a donation and if I could help in any way it seemed like the right thing to do. Wrong.

‘You opted to donate the blood?’ a mother queried me, in much the same tone I imagine the question ‘you told them where Anne Frank was?’ was asked. 

‘Um, yep, seemed like the responsible thing to do.’ 

‘You didn’t save it for your own baby, in case something goes, god forbid, wrong?’

‘Um..no…’

‘Oh, well I’m sure everything will be fine. I’m sure if, god forbid, something goes wrong, that they’ll be a donor there, just like you.’

‘And if there isn’t?’

‘Well god forbid…’

That night I went home to my partner. He was reading through his well-eared copy of ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’.

He looked up, seeing my pale face.

‘What’s wrong?’ he asked.

‘I think I did something wrong’ I muttered.

He jumped up, enveloping me in a hug.

‘Come here, it can’t be that bad.’

I started to sob.

‘You know how I ticked the donate cord blood option?’ (imagine heavy wheezing at this point)

‘How we chose to donate the cord blood.’

‘Sure…well, there was this woman and she told me that – ‘

‘- what woman?’

‘- the one that runs the café near work.’

‘Ok’

‘  – and she said – what If you’re own baby gets sick, god forbid, and you’ve donated their cord blood to someone else’s baby? And then I started to think, what if that happens right? And I go all determined Sally Field, like ’Not Without My Daughter’ determined and try and track the baby down with our babies cord blood and they reject me JK? Our donor baby rejects me? What then? Oh my god, I’m responsible for this little life in here ( pointing to my stomach) and I’ve already ruined it!’(more sobbing, lots of snot).

‘There, there…’ JK muttered softly ‘its ok. You haven’t destroyed anything. That woman’s an idiot. What did I tell you about listening to unsolicited advice, hey? What’d I tell you?’

(sob, sob) ‘Not to listen to it.’

‘Exactly.’

He stroked my phlegm covered hair.

‘Our baby is going to be fine, cord blood or no cord blood.’

‘You sure?’

‘Yep, I’m sure. Now let me make you some dinner.’

I pulled back, wiping  the tears from my eyes.

‘That’s ok, I’m not hungry. Grabbed a Subway wrap on the way home.’

‘You did what?’ a voice came from him, no longer soothing.

‘Grabbed a wrap.’

‘From Subway. You know you can’t eat anything from an open salad bar. Did you at least get it toasted?’

‘Umm…I got them to put extra chipotle on it…to kill the germs.’

He huffed and went back to his folder and pulled out a sheet listing foods I was now advised not to eat. 

‘I thought we agreed you were going to do all the reading.’

And with that, he went to make dinner, and I was left with an overwhelming burden of responsibility in my hand…

*may or may not be true.

*I write a satirical blog. If you’re not into what I write or about, that’s ok, just go read something else that will make you happy, on someone else’s blog, or start your own 🙂

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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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It’s been 132 days since my last diet.

After over two decades of being on a diet, yep 20 years and I’m only 35 (I could’ve raised a teenager in that time, or at least two primary school aged kids), quitting dieting is like deciding to stop brushing your teeth. It’s gross and there was the chance that giving up on brushing my teeth, like not dieting might also make me less desirable. I mean if I wasn’t lemon detoxing I wasn’t living.

That makes me come across like a superficial bitch but you’ve got to understand, for years I’ve seen myself as one of those women that come across like they might be on a diet, could be a diet, like they’re kinda just one week of losing self-control away from standing in for the marshmallow man in Ghostbusters.
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I told my fiance that I was giving up dieting. He smiled, said he supported whatever decision I wanted to make and returned to writing his blog about the lacklustre third installment of The Hobbit. But I was resolute. I told him that by not controlling everything that went into my mouth over the next 12 months there was a possibility I could double, maybe even triple in size. Was he ok with that? I answered for him – ‘you’ll just have to be!’ I shouted as I started to feverishly delete most of the diet and fitness apps off my phone.

Whilst my decision to get off the diet choo-choo train sounded altruistic in my head, that I was taking a long needed stand against the diet/fitspo culture that seems to consume most our lives, it was more selfish than that. I just wanted to see if I was good enough just the way I was. I know I’ve accomplished a lot of things in my life, I’m not denying that, but deep down inside I’ve always believed that I was about 5-10 kilos away and committing to a 3 week starvation diet away from achieving proper success, financial stability and happiness.

If I was a size 6 I’d get more work, I‘d get more money, more friends, more love.  It made sense to me. The world rewards the size dropper doesn’t it? I mean look at New Idea, Woman’s Day, fuck Ricki-Lee’s entire career is based on her talent to yo-yo. My time as a performer only saw to amplify this delusion as I saw my size scrutinised even more than during my frumpy teen years. There’s a fear of fat that drives most of us to try and be slimmer versions of ourselves, but that’s just crap, I’m a rational person, how can a fear of something so irrelevant lead to such an ingrained self-hatred? It’s disgusting. I was ashamed of myself. I needed to let myself become whatever it is I was destined to be and furthermore, love that version of myself.

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By the end of 2014 I started to realise that all this time spent obsessing over the latest fad diet or exercise plan to date had yielded fuck all. It got me thinking, what if I took a year off from trying to improve myself and see what I might be able to accomplish as me, just the way I am? (I couldn’t avoid that Bridget Jones moment- sorry guys). If I just let the year ride out and took opportunities as they came and believed that I was merited in taking them, that I didn’t need to fit into a pair of Esprit socks to succeed, what’s the worst that could happen?  It was a fraught decision based on a lot of what if’s and uncertainty but so far it’s going ok.

Taking all that time spent thinking about improving my physical self and channeling it into other things has seen me start to make headway on a lot of projects, that I otherwise might not have had the self-confidence to pursue. Of course currently it’s about 80% faking it to make it, but that’s pretty good.

I understand for some people dieting is important. Some need to do it for health and well-being and some of those people need support to do it, so it makes sense to look for programs that do that and are backed up with science, ongoing support and results but fad dieting isn’t the answer. It’s isolating. It makes you obsessive. It makes you sad. It can even make you smell, but most importantly it’s a waste of your precious time.

Of course I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to moments of weakness with a diet shake and a bottle of wine, followed by a punishing Jillian Michaels workout, but for the most part I’ve resisted. I’ve learnt to take deep breaths and then after a few moments I find the urge to try the latest fad diet passes and I’m able to get on with the day.

I now believe that sometimes it takes a lifetime to break the habit of the lifetime. If no ones said that before, I’m claiming that quote btw.
**this writer must declare she does still exercise because she loves it and it’s good for her mental health.

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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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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

 

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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.

 

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