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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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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I’ve dated a Trans Person. A lot of us have.

‘….our identity is a sum of our parts, not just one part in particular.’

I’m not Trans. I can’t speak to that experience. So I won’t. What I will speak with is the experience of someone who was once in a relationship with a Trans Man. Some people know about this, some people don’t. I always felt uncomfortable talking about my experience, thinking that in doing so I was revealing something that wasn’t mine to do, so much so that when I did a show about this particular relationship back in 2009 I didn’t mention it. I was really into prop comedy at the time anyway. I argued it wasn’t important to the story. I argued with my director, my script editor. I told them it wasn’t my story to tell. And you know what? In all honestly I didn’t want to distract from the show.  I didn’t want the audience to spend any of their time trying to figure ‘it’ out.  Trying to figure out what that made me? Oh and the much more common concern – watching the audience try to figure out how we did ‘it’.

Does that sound crude?  Abso-fucking-lutely it does. And sadly it was a question I got asked all too often.

No one ever thought they were being offensive or intrusive when they asked how we had sex and my grimaced smile didn’t really send home the message that it wasn’t an appropriate question to ask – the sort that revealed more about the ignorance of the asker then the answerer. I thought by not answering their questions  that that would say, albeit silently, that their questions were inappropriate. Like when they asked ‘have they had the surgery?’ or when they said ‘it’s amazing, they pass so well. You’d think they were a real man’ or my favourite ‘I could always tell.’  I’d tell them finally to shut up, that it was their ignorance and lack of education talking, but I was loathed to discuss it further as I still believed that just because I’d dated a Trans Man, that didn’t give me the right to discuss it.

But now that I’m older and as an LGBTQI ally and advocate I believe it is visibility and experience that is our strongest assets in this community. Putting aside the Bruce Jenner media spectacle we’ve seen in recent weeks, sharing our experiences, even if they are fleeting is important. It doesn’t mean you’re telling someone else’s story, it means your telling only part of your story. So yes, I dated a Trans Man.

As friends, we were great. As lovers, we were fun, tempestuous, fiery, belligerent and miserable – the perfect 20something relationship.  During my time with him, aside from the constant teary eyed break-ups and passionate reunions I never really thought about what being with him made me. People who knew us just thought it was great we’d gotten together, finally. Only when I started telling some close family and friends that didn’t know about him I was asked ‘are you gay?’ I would always answer ‘No, I date a man because I’m straight’ but I knew what they meant. They needed to make sense of it, as open minded as they were. If I was gay it would make sense. It would explain all the Indigo Girls albums and my fondness for the film ‘But I’m a Cheerleader.’ What didn’t make sense was that for all intents and purposes I was in a straight relationship and my boyfriend could be an asshole just like everyone else’s. On the odd occasion his transition  would come up during our time together he used it to try and empathise with me, like when I was complaining of period pains and he tried to empathise and I threw his trainers out the window…

I won’t write about his journey in this post. I still believe that’s his to tell. What I will say is he was an activist and friend to many in the trans community and it was hard not to be in awe of what he had overcome to be the person he really was. And whilst my relationship with him didn’t make me gay, it did make me more aware, more liberal and more importantly, did in some way contribute to the person I am today. But that’s what all relationships should do. The good, the bad – they teach us something about ourselves.

After we broke up and I started dating again, I would sometimes disclose details of my past relationship with him and be met with a mix of curiosity and utter transphobia –  ‘oh so now you’re with a real man’. This comment uttered by more than one but less than a few. Those relationships would last the length of a short breath.

I saw this short documentary once, where a Trans Warrior went around asking people on the street questions about what it meant to be a man. Questions like ‘If you were in a car crash and you lost your cock would that make you less of a man?’ In all of these ‘if you lost your cock’ questions the answer was always the same ‘having a penis didn’t make you a man’.  The interviewers intention was clear – our identity is a sum of our parts, not just one part in particular.

I realised while reading some of the reporting surrounded Bruce Jenner’s recent admission as well as  watching TV shows like Orange is New Black and Transparent –   that while it is important we continue to see trans visibility increase in our society, that it is also important that those of us who have been in relationships with Trans People not fall silent on it. By letting people know that being a relationship with a Trans Person was part of your story it can help lessen the stigma and at times offensive curiosity surrounding the community. It can show young people struggling with transition that they will love, live and have tempestuous and at time shitty relationships just like the rest of us. It might just show them that it does get better. It sure showed me that.

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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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I’m not a slut but I do like to walk.

‘Hey slut!’ my girlfriend yelled at me as I greeted her for a coffee.

‘I’m reclaiming the word’ she informed me as I sat down opposite her in my denim-on-denim ensemble.

‘Yeah, I gathered as much’ I bemoaned partially because I knew where this conversation was headed and in no small part because the cafe she’d insisted on meeting at didn’t do soy milk.

 

‘It’s fine’ she said ‘I don’t know why it’s such an issue for you. Just get skim milk. Same, same Lou.’

This is why I needed a boyfriend, not for any other reason than to avoid these type of catch-ups. I imagined friends of old calling me up wanting to meet for a dairy laden latte and I’d be all ‘oh I’m sorry, I’d love to but I have a boyfriend and he has a penis I need to attend to…yeah, I know, it is a shame, but what you gonna do?’

‘You’re a slut Lou! I’m a slut Lou! We’re all sluts! Isn’t that great?!’

I looked at my tea delivered with nothing but a lemon wedge to mask its tea-like flavour.

‘I’m not a slut.’ I said as I eyed a woman leaving the Vegie Bar with a take-away coffee which I was certain was a soy coffee, probably a flat white by the looks of it; after all, we had the same shoes.

‘But of course you are’ my friend interjecting my hypothesis.

‘You’re a woman and you have sex, ipso facto you’re a slut Lou.’ I watched as she slammed her fork into her crumbling tower of cheesecake and I enjoyed the last bits of my lemon wedge.

‘The fact we have sex didn’t make us sluts, an ingrained misogyny in the lexicon did.’

My biscotto wasn’t hitting the spot but then again biscotti never did and yet each time I was still surprised by my little realisation.

‘No Lou you’re using traditional definitions. It doesn’t just have to be a woman who has multiple sexual partners at any one time Lou; it can also be applied to woman who just has sex in the winter in lieu of escalating electricity bills such as-‘

‘-so help me god do not even finish that sentence.’ I commanded, discreetly rubbing my new hot water bottle I’d only bought hours earlier in my bag; the only rubber in anyone’s life certain to stave off winter madness and combat escalating electricity bills.

Annoyed and scratching at her Henna tattoo from a hens night past she turned on me ‘I just don’t see what you’re problem is. Everyone’s talking about it! Come on Lou, Slut Walk – it’s what this is all about!’

‘You want the truth as unpopular as it maybe I just don’t believe in the word slut. There shouldn’t be such a word. It’s always been a bad word with bad connotations. You can’t reclaim a word created to be negative. I’ll concede that perhaps you can rehabilitate it – ‘

‘-Amy Winehouse was rehabilitated.’

‘Yeah, and it’s worked to startling affect hasn’t it?’

‘-What about cunt? That was reclaimed and it’s the same as sluts.’

‘What? That in a lot of ‘sluts’ have cunts?’

‘That’s a very simplified way of looking at things Lou but yes mostsluts’ do own a cunt but also that the word was reclaimed.’

‘If you want to get in a tit for tat about the word cunt – ‘

‘Ha! You said tit!’ squeeling like a school girl.

‘I also said tat but where’s its credit…’ I mumbled as waitress quietly put the bill down on our table.

‘Did you enjoy your lemon?’ she asked

‘Yes, yes I did. Thank you very much.’ She smiled as she took the lemon wedge and empty tea cup away.

‘Well someone’s got a cunt and that someone definitely likes a girl who enjoys a good lemon wedge…’ my friend languished back in her chair.

‘Shut it’ I said as I hunted around in my hand bag for my strawberry lipgloss.

‘I reckon you could slut it up with her good time.’

‘You’re using it as a verb now?’

‘When in Rome…’

‘That in no way applies to this discussion. We are not in a situation that warrants a deflection to the hedonistic times of ancient Rome.’

‘We are in Brunswick St…’

Neither of us said anything. Not a week earlier I’d been somewhat hedonistic just off Brunswick St…my friend didn’t need any more wins.

‘What I was getting at is that cunt is a word imbued with positive connotations until it was reappropriated for another means. A negative, oppressive means, but over time and with limited success I might add it’s started to live in a more positive light in the lexicon.’

‘So it’s kinda like the Rob Lowe of words?’

‘No, a woman’s vagina is nothing like Rob Lowe.’

‘But he was a good guy and then he shagged and filmed an underage girl and then bam! He’s on the West Wing!’

‘Ok the likelyhood of ever seeing a cunt on television over Rob Lowe…’

‘You’re missing my point Lou. I’ m just saying that women should be allowed to be sluts!’

‘How about women just being allowed to be women? You know to dress how they like as a woman, say what they like as a woman, live like they want as a woman and not be concerned with the ever present threat of being sexually assaulted or shamed? I’m just saying that seems like a better use of our energy as opposed to rebranding a word already fraught with problems.’

‘That wouldn’t fit on a t-shirt Lou.’

‘What?’

‘Your feminist rhetoric needs to fit on a t-shirt.’

Sadly she was right…

‘So for the walk what will your t-shirt read?’

‘Oh I’m not wearing a t-shirt, I’m just going to write slut across my breasts.’

‘Ok, fair enough. I guess I’ll just walk next to you.’

 

SlutWalk is happening on Saturday 28th May at 1pm, State Library and contrary to popular belief I believe it’s about how women should have the freedom to wear, say and live as they please without the threat of sexual violence and shaming. It is not about reclaiming the word; it is about taking away its meaning so that arseholes can’t use it to hurt us ever again.

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Matt Day Homewrecker aka Australia’s very own Angelina Jolie

Last night I was woken by an anxious friend calling me from overseas concerned that her boyfriend was on the verge of cheating on her.

‘It’s horrible, like I know he’s not right now cause he’s making me a smoothie but when he asked if I wanted avocado I just thought of my god that’s her vagina and him making me the smoothie well that’s just him metaphorically f**king her.’

‘With the avocado?’

‘No, she is the avocado. Don’t you see?’

‘He’s not going to cheat on you with an avocado, there’s not enough room’ I mumbled as I rolled onto my side and was greeted with my flashing clock and the reminder it was 3am – clearly finest advice given hour.

‘It’s my own fault you know, I hired her for this campaign and she’s his ‘free walk around the park.’ Oh my god, I’m Jennifer Aniston. I can literally feel the pity of others dripping off me.’

‘Not that this is important, but you do know it’s free to walk around a park?’

‘Not in LA Lou.’

‘Since when?’

‘9/11 Lou.’

My pillow fell on my face but to my shock and horror I was still able to breathe…f**k I can’t even muffle myself properly at this hour…

‘So what she’s his ‘if I could cheat on you it would be with her’?! Everyone knows they’re just the thing of fiction, something couples do to add meaning to a relationship.’

‘You so know this is how it started with Brad and Angelina.’

‘You don’t know that.’

‘Him and Jen were just kicking back at their house in Malibu and Jen’s all like she’d so go Captain Picard – ‘

‘-Captain Picard, from Star Trek?’

‘- yes Lou, he’s very commanding and anyway I thought you liked bald?’

‘I’ve done bald, but it never set a precedent.’

‘That’s a shame; I think you and the Captain would work well together.’

‘He’s not real’

‘Those things from your past you’ve called relationships aren’t what we’d call real either but let’s not split hairs, I was talking about Jen and Brad.’

‘Yes, back to those close friends of ours.’

‘Don’t get sarky.’

‘I’m tired.’

‘And so am I Lou, from this constant fight to keep my man.’

My pillow smelled nice, I could feel my oxygen levels running low…

‘Fine, continue.’

‘Well they were just hanging and she’s like her night on the town would be Captain Picard and Brad laughs and knocks back some carb-free popcorn and Jen tickles him until he admits he’d so go Lara Croft from Tomb Raider and then they both laugh cause they know they’ll never cheat on each other cause their cheats are fictional characters and then Jen’s like ‘hey Brad, we just got this script, it’s called Mr & Mrs Smith I’m thinking of producing it post Friends and then BOOM he’s suddenly adopting Asians.’

I hung up, still alive.

Now a few years back when I was living in London I’d had this same conversation with my then boyfriend who at every turn made it very clear he was never out to impress me.

‘Any page 3 girl’ he said. ‘You know just for something different.’

‘Different how?’ I asked

‘You know naked with boobs.’

‘Oh as opposed to myself?’

‘Well I can see you naked any time I want so it doesn’t count.’

‘I can guarantee you from this point on you will not be able to see me naked anytime you want.’

‘You going all frigid or something?’

‘Yes, that’s it. I’m going all frigid or something.’

The conversation had been prompted when my ‘night off’ guy had moved into the same street as us, Matt Day, previously of A Country Practice…ok, so it had been a long time between long term relationships and I hadn’t gotten around to updating my list. It happens to the best of us.

‘You have to change your guy’ my boyfriend stated.

‘Why?’

‘Cause he now lives next door.’

‘And?’

‘You’re more inclined to have sex with him if the he’s next door. It’s a presented opportunity now.’

‘I don’t want to have sex with him.’

‘It doesn’t matter if you do or you don’t.’

‘I think you’ll find it does both legally and human rights wise’

He closed his copy of the Mirror, Sandra from Cheshire’s breasts saw the light of day no more…

‘No. You see if we’re together forever then he’s your only way out, whereas I get page 3 ladies and Julie Sawahla but only from her Press Gang days, you’ve should’ve given yourself more options.’

‘So you’re saying I either sleep with Matt Day, cause that’s bound to happen at some point when he walks past our flat with his baby and wife, or never sleep with anyone but you ever again?’

‘Yes. It’s really a concept that doesn’t involve that much thought Lou.’

‘There’s a lot things in this room at the moment that don’t require much thought…’

We’re not together anymore. 15 years on (yes, it was that long ago I made him my ‘get out of jail free card’) and Matt Day is still a hottie, but as my relationship ended and I matured with age I was very aware of the severe limitations I’d placed on myself with only one option, now I have more, starting with Ron Weasley and ending with Shaun Micallef (yeah, I just haven’t made my career more awkward). That is why there is now a chair on my front porch, just in case they move in down the street.

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‘I’m not your pimp mum; ask dad’ and other things I can envisage being said to me one day…

At a BBQ on the weekend, a friend of mine after checking I was single, over my slight thing for sexually ambiguous and in some cases ambitious men, wasn’t a little bit gay as was the current rumour of the day or celibate, declared to me that she had found me the perfect guy  – her son.

‘He’s good looking’

‘All mother’s say that.’

‘Yes, but I can appreciate his good looks not only as a mother, but also as a woman.’

‘This is how Norman Bates got started…’

‘No, you’re wrong there – maybe if Mrs Bates had appreciated her sons beauty then he wouldn’t have done the horrid things he did.’

‘I think you’re wrong. I think it was her ‘appreciation’ of her son that started all the ‘troubles’.

‘Well my son is not Norman Bates, Louise.’

‘I think someone doth protest too much…’

‘Anyway’…choosing to ignore me…’He’s not only good looking, but he’s also funny, smart, well read and likes strong woman.’

‘I just don’t think so…’ I mumbled back as I played with an ingrown hair on my leg.

‘So, he’s got a girlfriend – I’m sure a woman like you Lou can work around that.’

I watched as my piece of cheese fell into the make shift ashtray of a coffee cup – perhaps I could invoke the 10 second rule – it began to felt into the tar and ash – perhaps not.

‘I don’t do mistress very well – it’s got something to do with a level of self respect I’ve built up over the years – both a blessing and a curse, I know.’

My friend adjusted her skirt, so her undies were no longer visible.

‘No, no, you wouldn’t be his mistress, you’d be his girlfriend and then you’d get married and I’d become your mother-in-law – oh it’s almost too perfect Lou.’

As I reached for a handful of potato chips I was confronted with the sudden realisation that perhaps I’d forgotten to put deodorant on that morning…and then suddenly the penny dropped.

‘You want me to break them up?’

My friend grabbed for the wine bottle, but it was empty – a half drunk, slightly warmed crownie would have to do. She lit another cigarette.

‘Yes, yes – fundamentally your role would be to break them up, but you would have other activities to fill your days with.’

I now felt like a character in a Bronte novel, sent away to act as Governess to three wayward daughters, but always knowing that the true meaning behind my employment was to give the Lord of the house the heir he always wanted and the heir his now barren (after an episode of Typhoid), frigid wife could not give him.

‘He needs an older woman to show him the ways.’

‘Older?’

‘Yes, an older woman to take control of the situation so to speak.’

‘He’s got a girlfriend, I’m sure he’s coping just fine.’

‘To be honest, I’m not sure he’s ever bought her to orgasm, and that concerns me Lou, as a mother that concerns me.’

‘Drugs, as a mother drugs should be a concern – maybe he takes drugs?’

‘And if he did Lou I’d have no control of it – you know what teenagers are like these days.’

‘Teenagers?’

‘Well he’s almost 18, so I guess we can’t really call him a teenager anymore!’

She popped the cork on another bottle and offered me a glass – in a state of befuddlement I accepted.

‘I think you’ll find you can call him a teenager a lot longer– because he is one! – What the hell!’

‘Don’t be like that Lou, I’m totally cool with you dating my son, it’s not exactly illegal – I mean he’s 17!’

‘And I’m almost 30.’

‘Exactly – that’s why it will work.’

To be fair, with the exception of his age he sounded great and it wasn’t like I’d be scraping the barrel on this one, I mean the fact he didn’t have a drivers license had never been an obstacle before, the fact he didn’t have full time employment (fuck Lou! when did you start demanding the world!) and the fact he hadn’t finished high school …well you see where I’m going with this…

‘Come on Lou, you know you’d be perfect together.’

‘He’s a child – I don’t want children.’

‘It’s not like you gave birth to him.’ She spat out as she ashed her cigarette on my dissolving bit of cheese.

‘…Oh well when you put it like that, it doesn’t seem nearly as wrong as society would dictate.’

‘I’m just saying Lou, I understand now why some fathers send their sons to older prostitutes…like in France.’

I put my wine down and considered for a moment what she was saying…it didn’t take nearly as long as I’m making out.

‘I’m not a prostitute.’

‘And you’re not French either…don’t split hairs Lou.’

‘I don’t really see it as splitting hairs, more as a much needed clarification it would seem.’

‘Well if I were you Lou, I’d take it as a compliment – the French are a very sophisticated people.’

‘Ok  – so why not send your son to France, may be on a high school exchange program? – You know, under the guise of getting an education, but really what he’s getting is an education…but then he finds out he’s barren….’

‘What – my son isn’t barren.’

‘That’s not what he told me the other night when he couldn’t find a condom.’ I joked to lighten the mood, in retrospect it was ill timed.

‘That’s not funny Lou. Nothing to joke about.’

‘I know – I’m sorry.’

Grabbing her car keys I watched my friend as she busied herself to leave.

‘You know what Lou, on second thought I think you should stay away from my son – I thought an older woman would be good because of the maturity you’d bring to the situation, but once again you’ve proved me wrong.’

‘It was a joke.’

And then my friend Tom came over to introduce me to whom I could only guess was his new girlfriend and her 12-year-old son –

‘Hey Lou’ he yelled.

‘I’ve been looking for you everywhere – there’s some special people I’d like you to meet.’ He tussled the 12 year olds hair, as if they were about to toss a ball around.

And before I could respond my friend turned to me with a kindly reminder, just before she was to storm away from me…

‘Sex with teenage boys is nothing to laugh about Lou’

Suddenly everyone stopped and stared.

‘Stay away from my son – it would do you good to remember that.’

And with that she left.

I turned around to my friend Tom and his newfound family.

‘Who wants to play a bit of football?’ I asked Tom’s proxy son.

‘I don’t think so.’ Tom replied on his behalf.

‘Yeah…I thought as much…’ I replied.

It was time to leave the BBQ – the Mister Whippy van had arrived and I felt a lynching on the horizon.

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Sex adventures with idiot boy

It was high school and ok, by my own admission my short hair, black Levis jeans, bloodstone boots and Jack Daniels t-shirt had me at a distinct disadvantage with the boys. Not to indulge the stereotype but I wasn’t the kinda girl you’d ask to split a milkshake with, no I looked more like the girl a knowledge hungry high school boy might come to for advice on fisting.

Then came the summer of 96 and with it came the shedding of my sexual ambiguity and out sprung a bonefide boy fancying girl (granted I’d still kept the souvenir of being about 7 pounds overweight, but I wore it well, namely in my breasts, and anyway I was more then willing to work it off with any member of the boys 1st Eight Row team – I had to settle on the 3rds; private school politics).

But the boys were noticing me and I’d recently developed a talent for giggling and batting my eyelashes. As such I found myself being invited to parties for the first time based on my bustling wit and less to do with my earlier approach of ‘you can put it anywhere I can’t reach’.

One such party was at my neighbour’s house on a Saturday night. She was the year above me at school and for a short while we were friends, until she picked up a pamphlet on ‘Bullying, bitching and f&*kwit behaviour’ and became an instant convert. Now there was a boy at this party – Peter, slightly older, less inclined to wash and shave, more inclined to smoke Wini blues and call girls ‘babe’. HOT!

It was set; I had a date with pash rash and passive emphysema and then Jared showed up. Tall, gangly, most certainly a virgin in every regard and recently suspected of playing with himself behind his Cello in music class, Jared opened every conversation with me the same-

‘Hi Lou, can I touch you…get it it rhymes….good times, good times.’

‘No Jared. Shut up and die’.

He’d then spend the next hour or so sulking and then finally I’d feel bad and dance with him and let him touch my wrist.

The truth was though this was high school and hanging out with Jared, well it made me a loser, and at 16 I’d take the potential labelling as the ‘town bike’ over being a known associate of Jared Robuckle any day.

So pulling my t-shirt down and my skirt up I made straight for Peter, he liked short girls and as long as the school midget Katie didn’t make an appearance I was in a with a shot.

‘Hi Pete’

‘Oh hi Lucy’.

‘It’s Louise’

‘I thought it was Lucy’

‘Oh you’re right. It is. I forgot. I’m always forgetting things like that, I’m such an idiot’ (cue giggle)

‘Cool – so do you go to school?’

‘Yeah, I go to your school’

‘Cool’

HOT!!!!!!!!

…and then I could’ve been as in as Flynn, nothing was going to stop what happened next.

I felt heaving breathing on the back of my neck and knowing it wasn’t the good type I was reluctant to turn around, there was a distinct home invasion feeling in the atmosphere.

‘Hi Lou…’

It was Jared – why was he not dead? I’d told him to go and die somewhere. Could no one commit to basic direction anymore?

‘…good times, good times…’ he mumbled.

Something was wrong.

‘I really like you Lou…’ and with that he threw up all over me, and looking at Peter’s face as he ran away I suddenly knew why so many teenage girls killed themselves, oh and then it started to rain.

It’s not often you get someone’s life placed firmly in your hands, that power to decide if someone lives or dies and unlike the time my little sister locked herself in the fridge and I knew the right thing to do was let her out before she suffocated to death, I was conflicted over to whether to save Jared from choking in a pool of his own vomit. Surely it was his decision – conscious or unconscious?

The rain was persisting and so realising I wasn’t going to be getting to know Peter in the laneway next to the bins anytime I soon, I dropped to my knees and picked up Jared’s head. He drew breath, tried to open his eyes and then started vomiting again, this time down my top –, my own personal money shot.

Seven hours later I awoke to find Jared passed out next to me, one hand trying to reach my wrist, the other trying to get down his pants. Quietly I picked up my shoes, reconciled that the vomit was going to have be shampooed out of my hair and made my escape.

That should have been the end of it, but oh no the Victorian government had to be all serious about school being compulsory and ‘you will be going back to school on Monday Louise –whatever happened on the weekend, well young lady you’ve made your bed and now will just have to lie in it.’

‘But mum, that’s problem – it was the wrong person, wrong bed’.

‘Explain to me Louise, when did beggars become choosers?’

I retuned to school, ready for the stares, the whispers, the gossip, the tabloid press, but to my relief there was nothing but by my own admission it was 6.30am in the morning and I was hoping to make it to the library before anyone noticed I still existed, and that’s when I discovered Jared standing by my locker, my vomit covered bra clutched in his hand.

‘Hi Lou..can I-‘

‘Why have you got my underwear!’

‘You left it behind and why are you yelling at me?’

‘You have my underwear!’

‘Underwear you took off when we spent the night together’

‘Underwear you threw up on’

‘Yes, when we were doing it’.

My world stopped.

‘’We did not do it – you were unconscious’.

‘How do you really know we didn’t do it, you were asleep’.

‘Basic logistics idiot boy’

‘I’m just saying I didn’t feel like a virgin when I woke up the next day’

‘Well I didn’t feel like a virgin when I woke up either, but then again I didn’t go to sleep one!’

‘Exactly! Ha! You admit it – we sooo did it.’

‘No, you threw up on me and kept passing out in pools of your own vomit. No one would come near me because I was also covered in vomit and so I spent most of the evening holding you up over a toilet.’

‘Maybe we can just agree to disagree on this one…?’

‘No’

‘Oh’

I watched as he fingered my bra.

‘Can I have that back’

‘Finders keepers’

‘What!’

‘Ok’ reluctantly he handed it back, his fingers now lingering around my wrist.

‘What do you want Jared?’

‘I just thought now that we’re officially boyfriend and girlfriend…’

‘Are you retarded?’

‘I just wanted to sit down like adults and talk about us, thought maybe I could buy you a milkshake?’

‘Oh and then what? We go down to the army barracks and I give you a hand job?’

‘Christ Lou, that wasn’t what I had in mind…I mean after we did it I thought we’d be talking blow jobs if anything’.

I’d like to say Jared mysteriously lost his penis that day. I’d like to say that I wasn’t so easily swayed by milk products and declined his invitation of a milkshake – to be honest there are a lot of things I’d like to say I never did.

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Even if you looked like a man I wouldn’t touch you like that…

Leaving a friends birthday party with a close friend of mine, a rather cute man confronted me, a gay man but still cute in a way I could appreciate. He asked me if I could light his fire, we giggled, I battered my eyelids, my friend rolled her eyes, lit his cigarette and proclaimed ‘oh for fuck’s sake Lou, he sucks cock!’


Fair point.

I waited in the cold, looking for a cab as my friend finished her ciggie, making idle chit chat with my newfound man friend when he asked how long my friend and I had been dating. I laughed, warming my hands in my pockets.’ We don’t date.’

‘But you’re both gay right? I inhaled deeply, adjusting my scarf.

‘No.’

‘Oh wow, I’m sorry, I just assumed because you were leaving together…’ he trailed off.

Correct me if I’m wrong but last time I checked the phrase ‘leaving together’ did not always mean ‘I’m leaving now to go get finger banged by my same sex travelling companion.’

I was just about to say something when my friend piped in, rather enthusiastically ‘but it would be awesome if we were both gay, because we’d be great together’.

My awkward silence said it all.

‘What? You don’t think we’d great together?

‘Let’s not get into that here’.

Cute boy put out his ciggie and looked to be heading back inside, ‘sorry guys, I didn’t mean to cause an argument’.

‘It’s fine really; she’s just had a little too much to drink – let’s just get in a cab and go. I’m tired.’

‘No, I don’t get it.’ I could see she was getting more upset ‘we’re great mates, your dog likes me, your dad even made chicken soup for me…’

A crowd had begun to draw ‘look, you’re making a scene, shut up.’

‘I’m not going to be silence on this. I’m a great girl’

‘Yes, you are. I’m not debating that, it’s just..don’t make me do this…’

‘Say it, go on, you know you want to’

‘You’re not my type. There I said it. Happy?’

The crowd drew breath, as my friend lit another cigarette.

‘What? You have a type now – I’ve seen the guys you’ve hooked up with lately – seriously you have a type? That’s just bullshit!’

Finally a cab pulled up and I pushed my reluctant friend into the backseat. We both fell silent.

‘I don’t get you Lou. Don’t you want something comfortable, something predictable?’

‘No’ I whispered under my breath. ‘I want more.’

We drove off into the cold wet night and I couldn’t help but be reminded of an incident much like this one….

It was 2002. A bunch of us had gathered at my house for a dinner party. A few bottles of wine in, a game of Yatzee and chocolate cake the conversation began to become more intimate. Each of us revealing some of our most personal desires. My friend Sophie stood up. It was her turn. ‘If Louise was a man I’d date her, we’re great together.’

I remembered that dry feeling on the back of my throat, the way I looked away as she waited for me to reciprocate, the humiliation in her eyes as I helped myself to another piece of cake wishing this moment away.

It was no surprise she’d fancy me as a guy. I knew I’d be her type. Olive skin, dark hair, dark eyes, arty and a good cook and yes, by my own admission we often finished each others sentences, but as she stood at the end of the table, begging me to answer with her silence I knew in my heart she could never be my type if she was a guy.

Sure, I could lie and we’d gone with our lives, occasionally joking to friends about how like a married couple we were, but I’d know in my heart it was wrong. I couldn’t live a lie and she couldn’t ask me.

I needn’t have said anything, we could’ve got on with the evening as planned but I felt compelled to make things right.

‘Hey, enough of this. Sophie I think we’ve run out of wine sweetie, why don’t you make yourself useful’. I could see the tears in her eyes as I tossed her the car keys.

Yes, I knew what I was doing. It was a rainy night, sure she’d been drinking…but I digress…

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