31 January 2013

Sexism from the cradle - why does it only seem to bother me?

One of the things that gets me all het up, hot under the collar and well - mad (despite being old enough to know better and a very solid grasp of how this is a 'little thing') is people addressing me as Mrs.  Just because I'm married.  When I was single, I didn't go by Miss.  Since I was old enough to know I had the choice, I've been Ms.

Mail addressed to Mrs enrages me.  The only exception is people of very advanced years because I understand for them its an ingrained etiquette and they appear flabbergasted that I've given this any thought.  And when you're that old - you can ignore me. But only when you're that old.

I never fill in a form with Mrs.  But the nameless faces of customer service in nearly every organisation see married and they start sending me mail addressed to Mrs.  They presume to assume I made a mistake on the form.  I insist on cards being reissued if they use Mrs.  My daughters are not Miss either.  All their paperwork is Ms. Because quite frankly - they deserve the privacy of Ms until they choose their own way.

Its bolshie behaviour.  I do understand that.  But my marital status is nobody's business.  The fact that assumptions are still being made about women based on whether or not they are a Miss or a Mrs infuriates me.  Boys growing into men are not discriminated against by title.  Nobody can assume a maritial status, an age, a life experience, anything BUT gender based on the two letters M and R.  They remain a blank slate until they choose to expose themselves.

But for all women in the Western English speaking world, their titles define themselves by the relationship they are in.  It's antiquated, its unnecessary and it's inherently discriminatory because people do make assumptions, they do form preconceptions.  And then there are the women that revel in becoming Mrs as it proclaims to the world that 'they got themselves a pardner'.  It pains me. They were awesome before that.

If I was to run the world as of tomorrow, of course I'd put the emphasis on equality and world peace (DER!) but the next thing I'd do is ban Miss and Mrs.  I would rub them right out of the dictionary and they would become things of yesteryear, to be exclaimed over with the same disbelief as sacrificial virgins and the like.  You can keep your Doctors, your Dames and what not, I'm not bothered with intellectual or hierarchical affectations - its the sexism that's bred into us from day one that bothers me, when at birth a female's card is marked as UNMARRIED and a male's card is marked MALE.

30 January 2013

Why we instagram love

I was looking at this photo and loving it to pieces.  For the bazillionith time.  And for good reason, it's an adorable snap one of about 60 we took trying to get the girls to pose adorably in their Christmas shirts for our Christmas cards.  But they weren't interested in sitting adorably.  They wanted to jump and squirm and strangle each other.  They mooned, giggled, looked left and right at opposite times, fell over, pulled faces, squealed, yelled, jumped about and then they got bored and wanted to downstairs and play.  And we just wanted to fall in a heap and sleep.  Kudos to professional photographers I tell you.

But when we were looking through the photos and saw this one, it made us laugh because it captured them perfectly in so many ways.  So we added some text, a border and headed to the local Big W to print them out.  

And that's the modern way.  

Somebody was bitching recently about Instagram and how it has ruined honest photography.  But photography has never been completely honest.  Few of us hang around in posed positions, or dress to complement each other*, or happen to be laughing into each others eyes with the sun in the right position.  The daily snaps we take of our children, our lovers, our pets are all reminders of when people are at their best.  Moments which make your heart swell.  For some, they feel like this about food if my Facebook feed is anything to go by - but that's fine - love is love. 

And the fact is, when you love someone or something, the love is all the time, not just when they are being photogenic.  You love them when they are yelling, cross, cross-eyed, out of sorts, bruised, toilet training, asleep and drooling (looking at you husband) and a myriad of other times. You love them when they say funny things, stupid things, cross things and loving things.  You love them when they sulk, don't talk, grump or do the eye-roll thing that drives you wild with exasperation. You love them sweaty, smelly, dirty and tired.  And when you try to explain to people how this love works for you, there aren't enough words.  

So you take a picture. And you soften the edges, brighten the colours and frame their smiles.  So that when other people look at your picture, they can see what you see all the time.  Love.  Happiness.  Joy.

(* I obviously exclude young hand holding Christians newly in love - who always seem to wear matching stripey tops in either navy or red.  It's true. You'll notice them everywhere you go now.)  

21 January 2013

Returning my wings

So today I read a really great article by a Dr Stephanie Burns (here) on establishing good habits and I resolved in that spontaneous I'll-regret-it-for-sure-way that tomorrow I start a 21 day program to establish a habit of NOT consuming Red Bull and Coke as a daily pick me up for when I hit the "I-have-two-small-people-and-I-am-not-getting-anywhere-near-enough-sleep-ever-at-the-moment" slump at about nine o'clock in the morning and then again in the afternoon.

The fact is - I drink a bucket load of water every day.  I don't drink tea or coffee or hot chocolates.  I don't even like the taste of red bull - I just appreciate the sharpening of my brain and the kick to get me 'zoned' again.  And it's absolute bullshit that apples give you the same zing.  I tried.

I know its bad for me.  I KNOW.  But it works. It gives me wings. And you can't beat the real thing.  And Mark Weber races for them.  They jumped out of a spaceship and parachuted to earth.  It got me through to five o'clock still able to string a sentence together. That pink crap is goooooooooooooooooood.

But I told my work team, and now I'm putting it out there in a public forum, that for the next 21 days I am eschewing the gentle addiction and hoping that the fear of public failure will provide me with the same afternoon rush to push me into the brave new world.  It means that I'll drink even more water and will probably end up with the reputation of "that lady from the marketing team that has some kind of obsessive compulsive relationship with the toilet" but surely a small price to pay for the imposing of self discipline and new good habit.

Which surely frees me up for a new bad one?  Whatever will I choose.

19 January 2013

Ranjini should have a photo album

When my second daughter was on her way, some friends of mine gifted me a photo session (with credit for photos) so that we could have some professional snaps taken.  Today, with the cheeky monkey almost ten months and her sister almost two years and four months - we went in and performed like a deranged circus act to have them look in the same direction while two very patient women snapped a trillion photos of them. 

And then we sat down and went through the photos and loved pretty much all of them. Those talented ladies caught some brilliant moments. 

Now is a precious time with our girls.  Both of them have really distinctive personalities emerging and a genuine love of each other's company.  The younger is learning to walk and clap and high five.  The elder is exploring language and dance and stories.  They are remarkably alike and yet very different and we document daily.  Photos on our iPhones or the camera, video footage and old fashioned notebooks.  Their every moment is precious and we adore seeing them interact with the world around them.  I don't trust my memory so I put it all down so that they can see when they are older what we thought, how we saw them and what we hoped for their futures.

And I am aware, every step of the way, like the bleeding heart that I am, that people like Ranjini and her three boys are being denied the same freedoms.  The same opportunity to document their histories and their stories and record wrinkled brows, thumb sucking, pursed lips, raspberries, bruised knees, family hugs, and that myriad of banality that is universal yet so intensely personal.

Because the wrinkled brow of your newborn is so much more wondrous to behold than any of the others. so many moments are fleeting, beautiful, unrepeatable. 

And with over 90 per cent of refugees found to be genuine in every way I can not work out how the government in any form or in any name can justify Manus Island, Naru, indefinite detainment.  I can not comprehend how we lock up the Ranjinis without recourse.  We are living in Australia in 2013.  We are contravening accepted UN behaviours.  We are fostering fear.  We are depriving people of liberty.  In 2013.    We are not allowing families to put together photo albums, build histories, integrate.  We are not allowing meaningful input and the sharing of knowledge.  

If Ranjini is so dangerous - monitor her in the same way you monitor people who have given you justification.  Have her touch base daily with her local police station, randomly drug test her or question her.  Whatever you think is working to keep us safe from the genuine criminal element born here.  But let her be with her husband.  Let the other 'nameless Ranjinis' out.  Let them put together photo albums, stories of first bike rides, pencil marks on doorframes to mark off the growth of their children, have cross words about school report cards.  Let them argue like all parents of small people, let them worry about the cost of school shoes, where they can find childcare, where the eldest two are picking up such terrible language.  Let them laugh at the bad jokes, let them write to their families, let them donate to the bushfire appeals, vote on The Voice.  Let them breathe. 

And if they are evil, if they are planning wrong, if they have lied - prove it and then punish them.  Don't punish them while you try and prove it.  That is not who we are. That is not good parenting.  That is not good government.  That is not good anything.  

That is bullshit. 

15 January 2013

The wonderful world of Disney (my first sponsored post!)

I spent twenty years in Canberra. I moved there when I was 5 and left there when I was 25. That means I spent my childhood there and a lot of Sundays.

Growing up, Sundays tended to follow a fairly familiar pattern. First off - church. Normally in your 'Sunday' best which was actually 'all the time' best because lets face it - when you're that young you don't have much opportunity to dress up. Then because the shops didn't open on Sunday in those days (I KNOW WHAT WAS THAT ABOUT?) you used to go with your Dad to the rubbish tip (which you could do for FREE and you were allowed to sit on the trailer when your dad reversed it and this was considered fabulous child suitable entertainment) or maybe to a family/friends bbq lunch where you'd climb trees and steal extra fizzy drinks when the grownups weren't looking. Long afternoons playing in the backyard followed before your parents made you come in and have a bath and then - provided you hadn't been caught stealing extra fizzy drinks or standing on the trailer instead of sitting - you'd be able to turn on the TV for 6.30 pm to watch The Wonderful World of Disney.

And it would silence all of us. Even if it was a repeat. The opening sequence would roll, the music would play and a simple story would transform the evening. Even when we were too cool to technically be watching so we had to hang over the back of the couch on the pretext of annoying the younger siblings.

It was a magical halcyon time which no child today will ever get to experience. And I can say that now because I'm officially old (like over 30, closer to 40) and because it costs so much money to go to the bloody tip these days you're better off paying less for real entertainment. And also, because at 6.30 pm these days they insist on putting terrible current affairs programs or reality shows which tend to crush dreams rather than cherish them.

Now that I have girls of my own, I look for opportunities for them to nurture their imaginations and thankfully, Disney are still pumping out magic - albeit in different formats. The Little Mermaid, Pocohontas, Toy Story, The Lion King, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, Brave - these are all feisty tales where good triumphs, evil loses and a catch phrase is born.

The traditional and enduring Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and the gentler and darker tales of yore such as Mary Poppins, Jungle Book, The Aristocats, Snow White, Cinderella and so on are still lurking about the DVD shelves enabling me to share some of my fondest Disney memories with small people who can access children's television 24/7 if they want to do so. It's a different world. Not better, not worse. Just different.

Which is why it is exciting for me when shows like Disney Live! Mickey’s Rockin’ Road Show start touring and somewhat bittersweet when their best show of the tour is scheduled for the AIS Arena in Canberra. Mixing old school favourites with modern heroes such as Woody and Buzz and the awesome Jessie ensures that not only do I enjoy the show but my daughters do too and it means I have to return to the stomping grounds of my child hood and annoy my parents (lovingly). Win! Win! Win! 

And even better - I've been given some tickets for the show at the AIS Arena on 9 February 2013 for a family of 4 (all sorts of family configurations allowed - under 12 months on a knee go free). If you don't win the tickets you can always do it the old fashioned way and just phone.132 849 or go to www.ticketek.com.au. Click on the picture above right to get more details on the show.

But back to the free tickets - if you want them - all you have to do is comment on this post citing which Disney character you would most like to sing a duet with, what song would you choose and why? Like if I wanted to win the tickets I'd say that I wanted to sing with Sebastian from The Little Mermaid, singing Under the Sea and its basically because I have an awesome little 'air drumming' routine which I am hoping will go gangbusters just like Psy's Gangnam Style.

Best answer in by 6.30pm on Sunday, 27 January (for old times sake) will win.

And please enter and spread the news - get your friends to enter - otherwise my first sponsored post will be an abject failure and I'll feel terribly sad. And that wouldn't be very Disney now would it!?

7 January 2013

BTW. About the weather.....

If it gets to 43 degrees tomorrow, please disregard my post here. You may bitch and moan about the heat for a whole day. But then you must go and see The big rubber duck and desist as you remember that such a sight would be less fabulous if the weather was cold.

Yes. That is the rule.

'That' friend is coming to stay and I'm soooo excited

Tonight I'm going to be hanging out with one of the most amazing girls I know.  I've known her for the best part of twenty years and she's been inspirational, hilarious and so amazingly honest in the way she's approached life that I love spending time with her even if we never get around to talking about anything serious, because I know that inside her head she's probably got a whole lot of awesomeness bubbling around ready to spew out at some time.

Even having a conversation about bad traffic gives her cause to laugh.  She's just positive.  And when she's negative, she's pretty bloody positive about the negative and you understand that sometimes being negative is a positive.  Because it is all yin and yang at some level.  And probably funny.  But definitely worth thinking about.  But not too seriously.  Or too often.

From her point of view, her life is just ordinary.  And she doesn't see herself as anything special.  And I'm not saying she's perfect because that would burden her and me with a weight of expectation that could ruin a friendship.  But she's a lovely human being.  She is so awesome that when she doesn't know something, she asks.  And when she doesn't understand something, she says so.  Can you imagine if we all lived that way?

And while we live hundreds of kilometres from each other and real life gets in the way of speaking as regularly as we used to, the idea of having her stay as she takes her boys on a road trip north is fabulous.  It's making Monday sparkle like its been bejazzled by a bejazzling fanatic.

4 January 2013

Motivation is a nowt but a money spinner

Motivation is a capitalist stratagem.

There I've said it.  I realise that I've just exposed a trillion dollar self help industry with such a statement but I really have had it with the elevation of motivation to big religion status.  It all starts with irritating questions and rises to a crescendo of fevered spending to help you 'achieve your goals'.  And largely it's unnecessary unless we buy into conforming to one view of what a person's life should look like.

It starts with questions such as what motivates you to go to work? stay healthy? exercise?  And goes on to a level of bullshit unseen since the 'reds under the beds' hysteria of fifty years ago.

What motivates you to go to work?
Well money obviously.  But that is not really a motivation is it?  It's kind of necessary if I want to live in a house, feed my family and afford Chardonnay.  So while it might adhere to the strictest definition of the word its not motivation in the way that people say it.  Like, dude, what MOTIVATES you to go to work?  Sigh.  Money.  Obviously if I like the people I work with that helps, and if I enjoy my job that helps.  But if I like people you don't have to pay me to hang out with them and if I don't enjoy my job I still have to feed my family.  You see the hamster wheel of motivation here?

What motivates you to stay healthy?
Well not dying obviously.  Once again, healthy is much cheaper so it reduces my need to work as much so I can afford more Chardonnay, but I am not motivated to be healthy just for the hell of it.  It's just good sense. I want to stay alive to hang out with my lovely husband and children.  But then I have to work more to fund my longevity, so the incentivising effect of good health being cheaper starts to cancel out with funding my retirement Chardonnay supply and the Christmas gifts for the great-grandchildren I'm now going to live to see. You don't see the self help books mentioning this now do you?

What motivates you to exercise?
Well if you've seen me lately you'll guess that I'm not.  What might start me?  Getting fatter means buying new clothes and I hate shopping and I have to work more to fund those new outfits and they dig into the Chardonnay budget and the gifts for those great-grandchildren so this is where the strictest definition motivation as goal oriented actually starts to come into the equation.  I'm motivated by the fact that essentially I'm a lazy lush who despises clothes shopping.  But still - it's not quite the mantra that the exercise gurus are peddling as their advertising slogan is it?

If I want to do something it's generally because I want to do it or I need to do it.  And that's not motivating.  That's just life. It doesn't make it saleable.  It doesn't mean I need to see it in every news article and magazine and feed as part of "Theme January: The New Year Resolution and how money can be made out of people's good intentions."  

Perhaps its my 'leftie leanings', but I'm over the the motivation mantra and giving them my money.  I aim to be a good person, leading a good life and if I'm not the richest or the skinniest, perhaps it'll be okay after all. And I'll definitely have money for Chardonnay.  Now that's motivating.