How Does Facebook Know Me Better Than My Husband Does?

It’s kind of spooky just how perceptive Facebook has become about my personality.

 

The choice of articles, memes and funny/cute dog videos that flood my homepage each day accurately paint a picture of my character (and all its flaws), as well as pander to my quirks and interests far more intuitively than the old man ever has. chocolate-brownie-995134_1280

 

For the man I have shared my life with for thirty years still cannot determine between mine and my daughter’s knickers when he sorts the laundry, nor can he remember that I like weak tea and strong coffee. Yet Facebook unfailingly remembers my birthday, reminds me of the birthdays of the important people in my life, helpfully sends me adverts for clothes for the more mature woman, the latest diet crazes and advice on how to cope with a child with ADHD.

 

Facebook knows that I have an insatiable appetite for any article about mental health issues – particularly in the areas of ADHD and anxiety; it also knows that I have a weakness for wine which looks after my own mental health issues.

 

It knows that I am prone to obsessing about healthy eating and dieting, yet am happy to forgo the latest fad diet for the ‘ultimate’ chocolate brownie recipe, and that although I am concerned about how much alcohol I drink and will do anything to increase the longevity of my life, I am a strict practitioner of ‘living life in the moment’.

 

Facebook has surmised that I am a bit porky and more and more conscious of it, that I am middle-aged and suffer from mood swings, (in fact the full smorgasbord of menopause symptoms), and am well on the way to becoming a candidate for Tena pads. I’m not certain from where the articles on how to improve my sex life emanate, when that ceased to be a priority a while ago, but apparently I also have an interest in lube and vibrators.

 

Obviously, what I thought was a secret obsession with Chris Hemsworth is not so secret at FB Headquarters and prompts many articles about the habits of the middle-aged cougar. I expect to be notified whenever a Hemsworth brother pees. In fact nothing is secret on Facebook, which is why sometimes I choose not to allow my curiosity to get the better of me and click on those articles that may well momentarily intrigue me but which I’m aware could lead to repercussions in the future – I don’t want some employer knowing that I have shown an interest in penis size, lesbian sex or suicide – all of which are obviously topics that I’ve needed to research for my book.

 

Facebook knows I like a good laugh, sometimes at my own expense but especially at the expense of others. It has surmised that I have a serious hang up about being a bad mother, that my kids are my world and hence ‘entitled’, and that I am immature for my age.

 

For some very strange reason it believes it is doing me a favour by suggesting my clients and psychologist as future friends.

 

If only the old man had as much insight.

 

Dear Facebook…About Those Perfect Family Holiday Photos

Dear Facebook,

 

Why do you insist on tormenting me?

 

While the rest of the world (it appears) is basking in the Mediterranean sun in the Northern Hemisphere, we freeze (our nuts off) in unseasonably cold weather down south, yet you force me to gaze on the exotic and ‘perfect’ holiday photos of people I once knew to be friends, on a daily basis.

 

 

Dear Facebook...About Those Perfect Family Holiday Photos
Jumping in Puddles by Nick Page at http://www.flickr.com

 

I am not an envious person and do not covet what others have, generally, yet I am also not a fucking saint. Which is why I am finding it increasingly hard on these chilly winter mornings to feel happy for my so-called friends while they rub suntan lotion into their sun-kissed bodies, languish on exotic beaches, frolic in the ocean, sup on cocktails and enjoy those pivotal family moments that only holidays in the sun can capture.

 

Frankly, I don’t want to see how much better my friends are ageing or look in a bikini and I certainly don’t need to be reminded about how successfully they’ve parented their children, before my first coffee of the day. Especially when my children would rather kill themselves than pose in a ‘happy family’ photo with us.  Does that make me a really shit parent? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?

 

Even worse are the photos of my old stomping ground in London, where so many of my Aussie friends have migrated for winter. There’s only so much I can take of them waxing lyrical about what a wonderful a city it is and their question as to why on earth I moved away in the first place.

 

I know that in reality, golden, tanned skin is more symptomatic of skin cancer than glowing health and that in the long term binge-gorging on food and alcohol is not the secret to happiness, but after two arduous months of wearing boots and lip balm, I am ready to risk it and chafe my skin, burn my toes in hot sand and add a few extra crows feet to my alabaster face for the sake of some precious vitamin D. I think I could forget all my troubles via a chilled Mojito or eight, served by a Greek Adonis, too.

 

http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/162243320

 

There are only so many happy underwater family snorkelling shots I can stomach as I toil through exam time back here in the cold with a teenager who is hell-bent on failing life, self-destruction and taking me with him in the process. If I see one more photo of iridescent, tropical fish swimming in crystal clear waters, (presumably unaware that their fate will be sealed in the fishing net of some chirpy Ketut-type tour guide later that day, who feigns to like working for over-pampered tourists for the minimum wage, while his own family starve), or lavish beachside barbies full of grilled, iridescent fish, I will vomit into my flu remedy.

 

I know that I don’t HAVE TO torment myself mercilessly by subjecting myself to this daily torture, and that you have kindly given me the option to change my Facebook settings, but I am a weak and vulnerable person whose only latent talent in life seems to be the ability to live vicariously through my old friends. And you prey on that talent.

 

Regards,

 

Bitter and Twisted, Sydney

 

Parenting Teenagers and Ignoring Their ‘Right To Privacy’

English: A small and simple white mortar and p...
English: A small and simple white mortar and pestle, on bamboo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes us mothers have to do things we are not proud of.

I admit that I have inadvertently found myself, on more than a few occasions, skimming through my children’s Facebook pages or stalking their friends; I may even have mistakenly checked their private messages.

Sometimes when you parent teenagers, you have to ignore their ‘right to privacy’ for your own peace of mind and their own good.

To protect them.

I call it ‘parenting’.

What our kids don’t understand is that sometimes we have to do these things to teach them the right values and integrity. Admittedly, it might sometimes be more of a case of divine retribution.

Last week, I had to search clean Kurt’s room from top to bottom. For someone who is so OCD in certain areas of his life, (like having to have his uniform washed every day), that boy can happily thrive in a festering pit.

But the reason I was searching cleaning his room this time was not in search of dirty washing, but for illicit substances.

Kurt’s been a little crazy without the old man’s rod of iron discipline to keep him in check (AS FUCKING IF!), this last ten days.

And my nostrils, (which, for some reason, seem to recognize the sweet perfume of ‘cigarettes that aren’t cigarettes’, if you know what I mean), tipped me off that I might have something else to get anxious about.

And you know how much I thrive on anxiety.

Initially, I convinced myself that the not-unpleasant odour was wafting from our hip but rather cray cray neighbours….well, for all of about three minutes….then I began planning my mission.

First I appointed my team. NC was mission control – being the brains and the Princess Spoodle was our sniffer dog.

I retrieved my forensic kit, which was gathering dust in the laundry as I haven’t had much use for it since the mystery of my chocolate fingers stash, and began my search for the evidence.

Kurt’s room was as dark, fetid and pungent as I imagined it would be when I opened the door. What is it with teenagers and gloom? No wonder half of them are so fucking depressed. I inhaled deeply before I attempted to cross the obstacle course of musical equipment, dirty laundry and shoes that lay between the door and the window.

English: Two regular Oreo cookies. Please chec...
English: Two regular Oreo cookies. Please check my Wikimedia User Gallery for all of my public domain works. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After 30 seconds of inhalation and psyching up, I covered my nostrils to evade the predictable stench of BO, stale cigarettes and decaying left-over pizza (that was no doubt concealed under the bed), and vaulted straight over the mess to the window to release the foul stench of boy germs.

Then I turned around to inspect the crime scene, hoping for obvious clues.

There were none.

There was nothing for it, I pulled on my rubber gloves, got my torch out and began to investigate more thoroughly, carrying out what I have been prepared for my whole life as a mother, a perimeter search of the area, combing every millimetre of foul carpet.

I opened each drawer gently, careful not to tidy any of the dirty shirts crumpled into balls inside and give myself away.

I poked between new school textbooks – books that had obviously never been opened – I recognized many of the books titles from letters that we had received from libraries over the past ten years.

I found my nail scissors, tweezers, hairdryer and deodorant…….. but, alas, still nothing to suggest that my son was a junkie.

Finally I put on my ski mask, to get down to the real nitty gritty. I got down on my hands and knees and braved the underworld that grows beneath his bed.

The Refuse Mountains in South America have nothing on the debris that collates in that dark, dank habitat.

Kurt
Kurt (Photo credit: S. Ramírez)

The decaying scent of old Pizza, congealed Nerds, empty Coke bottles and Oreo cookies assaulted my senses immediately, but aside from my own pestle and mortar (that I have never used to mash up fresh herbs but it just looked right on our wedding list), there was nothing I wasn’t expecting to see under his bed.

I sat back up on my knees and relaxed for a second, praying that my assumptions had been misplaced.

PESTLE AND MORTAR? HERBS? WTF!!!!

I shoved my head back under the bed as quickly as a middle-aged Ninja might and dragged the bowl out with difficulty – (it’s surprisingly very difficult to pick up anything with rubber gloves).

The bowl was full of white powder with a straw protruding from the centre of the incriminating pile.

My worst fears had been realised. I sat down on the bed and shed a tear for my son.

I called mission control NC on my phone. She picked up immediately from her bedroom next door.

‘The eagle has landed,’ I whispered.

‘Why are you whispering? Kurt’s at school,’ she responded drily. ‘And what do you mean, the eagle has landed?’

‘Sorry, I mean’t ‘mission accomplished.’ I still whispered, shakily. ‘I’ve found his stash….the evidence,’ I said, ‘and it’s worse than we thought.’

‘Bring it in here,’ she answered, sounding authoritative but bored.

I covered my tracks by throwing a few more crumpled tee shirts on the floor as well as three wet towels from the bathroom, and then proceeded to the lab NC’s room to get the evidence examined.

NC looked at the bowl sitting in the palms of my trembling, yellow rubber hands, gravely.

She put her finger in the powder and licked it, (authentically, like those real detectives on CSI), while I held my breath.

‘This is serious,’ she said, as any final hope of saving my son began to disappear in a cloud of Cocaine. The shower scene in Midnight Express flashed before my eyes.

‘Kurt’s seriously addicted to WhizzFizz.’

See How Easily You Can Wind Up A Teenager

Wet Towels and Coco PopsHow many irrational and menopausally bitchy comments does it take to wind up a teenager?

Not many, in my experience.

Obviously I failed the perfect parent test AGAIN this week with my latest fracas with the ADHDer. And the implications of this one, our most serious humdinger yet, were a little more serious than our usual lower-grade battles. He took his revenge to a new level this time, by posting as me on my Facebook page with the words “I am a terrible mother.’

WHO ME?

It was (almost) funny with hindsight, (and the alternative to Rescue Remedy in the form of a good bottle of Chardy), but witheringly embarassing nevertheless. I suppose it could have been so much worse; I mean he could have posted a photo of me first thing in the morning, or that video of me doing my Dita impression after that burlesque party and way too many Mohitos on Australia Day. But nevertheless……it hurt like hell.

The message was only visible for a precious minute or so; the time it took me to remember my password under inordinately stressful conditions. Long enough for a couple of loyal friends to instantly jump to my defense, fearing presumably that I had finally lost the plot and was on the verge of a breakdown, (which I probably was, at that point). You might find it hard to believe, but I don’t really like the whole airing my dirty laundry in public thing – laundry is fine, the really ‘dirty’ stuff stays in the basket.

There’s a sisterhood of us sharing teenage hell at the moment. With the breath-taking evolution of our once ‘little’ people becoming adults, and the benefits that go hand in hand with that growth, (like them finally communicating properly, sharing humour, sharing clothes), come the complexities of learning to control developing emotions and impulsivity, to understand the consequences to actions.

Afterwards, at my debriefing with the old man, I questioned my own contribution to this new stage in the turbulent relationship I have with my son, and I realised to my horror that I was as guilty of the same childish errors of judgement as him.

Us working mums are all too familiar with the ‘getting home from work’ domestic ritual. You wearily open the door, (shattered after ten hours on the computer, after ten hours of worrying it you’re good enough, after ten hours of faking it, after ten hours of not knowing what your children have been doing in your absence).

You wearily walk into the chaos that has ensued, because it’s the school holidays and you have to work nevertheless, and you have two teenagers and a dog left to their own devices, (deep breath). The dog hasn’t been walked and is pandering for attention that you no longer have the energy to give (deep breath); music is blaring from every zone of the house; the televisions are harmonizing and the back door is open and welcoming every lonely mosquito in the neighbourhood.

The ADHDer is in your room (OOOF!), even though you’ve tried explaining to him countless times that this tiny 12sqm space is YOUR zone; he’s on your computer (BAM!), lying in your fresh new sheets (WHAMM!), and by the mound of wet towels on the carpet, he has obviously used and abused your shower, AGAIN (KAPOW!).

He looks up, oblivious to your mood and innocently asks you what’s for dinner. This is a trigger question. You know it and he knows it.  You show no mercy. You tell him (spitefully) you’re making fish (purely out of consideration for his Omega 3 levels) and you watch the tell-tale signs of nausea flood his face. You are better than him at interpreting facial clues. He swallows and informs you that he WANTS ‘something nice’ (‘WHY CAN’T YOU EVER COOK ANYTHING NICE?’ is what he actually says. What, like another three bowls of Coco Pops, you think, the remnants of which are scattered over your bed?).

You start to froth and then erupt like Mount Vesuvius.

He is ill-prepared for your change in mood. His sinewy, growing adolescent body doesn’t have the experience to prepare for your verbal assault properly. He’s been in a good place all day, innocently trashing the house, while you’ve been repressed at work, building up to this outrage and resentment. Being a male and an ADHD male, he doesn’t understand your facial expressions or body language (as you frantically grab at stray Coco Pops off the bed, and forcefully kick your way though the wet towels that are getting caught up in your work stilhettos, all the while making as many tutting sounds as possible).

Bad stuff is said. Verbal bile that you know you’ll regret later, but unfortunately, you’re simply just not that perfect.

He says he wishes you weren’t his mother (ouch!), you say you wish you weren’t his mother either (childish). You are both in the teenage ring now. Verbal upper-cuts, right hooks, the match is on.

Fortunately you do have that lightbulb moment before it’s too late. There is indeed a God. For Dr Spock whispers magically in your ear somewhere in the midst of the intense heat, and the awareness that you are the adult finally kicks in.

And you stop yourself. You can’t deal with him leaving the house again, not knowing where he is. You hold up the white flag and walk away, like you should have ten minutes earlier. He storms off, huffing and puffing, you hope to calm down.

Your iphone flashes with a Facebook message. Apparently all is fair in love and war.

Teens Need Parents To Get A Grip

5 Ideas For Dealing With Teenagers

Trimming The Bush (Of Friendship)

There comes a moment in every girl’s life where the necessity arises to trim her bush. I am, of course, alluding to pruning the tree of friendship.

‘Trimming’ only becomes possible once you gain the wisdom, the life experience, (and bloody mindedness   that makes you do something that irrational without truly considering the consequences), to fully appreciate the true value of friendship. (Or, if you truly don’t give a f..k what anyone thinks of you).

Because although meeting people and making friends, on the surface might look as simple as choosing a new phone, securing life-long friends is much more problematic. Sometimes your initial intuition is right about people, and you luck out and make the right choice, sometimes you get distracted by clever packaging, and end up having to prune them from the tree.

You see true friends are about as rare as celibate Catholic priests, which is why the quest for long-term friendship can be a life-long chore.

The quest usually begins in the uneven playing field of high school (like you don’t have enough on your mind!), where focus is generally directed towards ‘Survivor’ style skills and the formation of alliances, which may or may not ultimately evolve into real friendships, with time. Your main mission is to ‘fit in’; academic education ranks a poor second.

The difficulties of ‘acceptance’ into high school’s microcosm of society has never fundamentally changed. The social hierarchy in my childrens’ school, replicates my own high school hell, although these days the pressure to be popular is further compounded by the demands of social media platforms. ‘Social ranking’ is now determined by the number of ‘likes’ on your Facebook page, where once it was determined by the quantity of food in your lunchbox.

Of course, if you do make it into the lions den, (aka the ‘popular’ crowd), high school is a breeze. Most of us don’t. We either sink or swim, (or like me, frantically doggy-paddle, all the while trying to be as inconspicuous as possible).

Unfortunately, high school will never celebrate ‘difference’. While the stereotypical ‘populars’ preen (and prematurely shag and imbibe), the ‘losers’ quietly run the slower race, much like the tortoise in Aesop’s Fable.

And if the underdogs are astute, and invest their time (spent hiding from the bullies in the toilets and library), wisely, there is every chance of them empowering themselves with enough knowledge and skill to develop into intellectually more superior human beings than the ‘pretties’ they leave behind to their mirrors and adulation.

They will end up the winners, ultimately, when they discover that talent and integrity are the valued currency in the real world, (unless you’re Lara Bingle of course). Much like the tortoise did. Because the tortoise’s confidence grew out of the stupidity of the hare. And when the race had finished, the tortoise probably downed a few schooners and rolled a few joints with his nerdy mates at the RSL, and became much more chillaxed in his approach to socialization.

And what were the rest of us doing while the hares and the tortoises were sparring?

We were ‘faking it to make it’ of course, like all good fence-sitters. And some of us are guilty of ‘faking it’ beyond the walls of high school too. We gather ‘friends’ like superfluous Qantas frequent flyer points, although we have very little intention of flying anywhere with them.

Until that magic ‘lightbulb moment’, that happens when you just get too tired to fit everyone in and Masterchef suddenly becomes more appealing than hitting the town. When you have that epiphany and realise that no, you don’t actually have to be friends with people you have nothing in common with, want to spend time with or actually even like.

And with that epiphany (that stems partly from maturity and partly from that grouchy middle-age intolerance that makes us moan about absolutely everything), comes the bravery to prune the tree, that has grown so out of control it’s hanging over next door’s pool. And that trim gives you the respite to focus on the people who count in your life, because you’ve finally identified them (with all that wisdom and sh.t).

You’ll know that I’m no gardener if you read my post ‘The Definition of Lazy’. So you might be asking WTF all this crap about trees and bushes and sh.t is really about?

Well, it’s about life being too short, and too precious to waste, and ‘faking it’.

Apparently removing dead wood encourages new growth.

‘There comes a point in your life when you realize who really matters, who never did, and who always will.’ Unknown

Best Friends Forever by Speccywoo courtesy of Flickr.com

Midlife Mayhem – Margaritas Should Carry A Health Warning

Was it the drinking goggles or age-related brain cell depletion that made me think that I could swill frozen Margaritas, served in glasses the size of goldfish bowls, without consequence?

I’m certain I only had two, but eyewitnesses swear it was three. All I remember is that by 11pm, time began to stand still and I stopped counting drinks and calorie. I then proceeded to gabble incoherently into whatever obliging ear would tolerate me.

An inebriated middle-aged woman, who thinks she can simultaneously slurp a Margarita and ingest a steaming plate of tacos, should never provide the entertainment for the evening. At the point where the melted cheese/salsa ‘combo’ began dribbling erroneously down one of my chins, I spotted the furtive ‘code red’ sign between my friends and husband, symbolising that it was time to ‘get her out of here’. The SWAT team duly arrived and I was extracted from the premises by 11.15pm, before further embarrassment.

In my previous life, I would have knocked back three cocktails getting ready, and another en route to the venue, but these days, two pitiful units of alcohol reduces me to a semi-vegetative state. Slurring words, spilling friends drinks and missing the toilet while trying to alleviate some of the excess fluid circulating my already bloated body, are all behaviors synonymous with my transition from party girl to drunken mess.

So in hindsight, the decision to paint the town red at a new and hip Mexican eatery should have triggered alarm bells. It is, after all, written in the Mexican book of folklore that Tequila takes no hostages. Where, in my excitement, did I forget my golden rule of  stopping at three units, possibly four if I remember to line my stomach with goats milk and hose it intermittently with tanks of water? That rule is there to protect me and was instigated around my fortieth birthday when my alcoholic tolerance first went AWOL. I obviously ignored it. Although I only indulged in two ‘buckets’ of Margarita, with the addition of the gin and tonic ‘pre’ and a couple of cheap and nasty white wine chasers, my head never really stood a chance.

My complete lack of disregard for my well-being is disappointing on a personal level. The discipline required to cut back on alcohol in my new approach towards living longer, has been far easier to achieve than curtailing my food cravings. I’m not some masochist who gets a thrill out of hangovers, (which are now tantamount to being hit over the head with a cricket bat, repeatedly); whereas I still get an orgasmic thrill from the first bite of a passion fruit macaroon for dessert.

I did search the web vainly for a cure for my ‘intolerance’ initially, which is, I’ve discovered, as bona-fide a medical condition as being allergic to bee stings and kiwi fruit. Begging the question of when exactly this condition is going to be taken seriously enough for the pharmaceutical companies to invest in an EpiPen to counteract the symptoms?

My initial research pointed to the tannins in Chardonnay as the possible culprit, so in my desperation to carry on drinking like a real adult (as opposed to ‘the designated driver’), I explored some alternative beverages. Unfortunately, alternative therapies often fail to deliver in terms of a solution, although the treatment is pleasant enough; sadly, my cure does not lie with over-priced white wines, spirits, or even Champagne.

So my decision on Saturday was a brave one, some might even say an impulsive, potentially fatal one that was borne out of a need to re-discover my party-girl roots. The old man says that I shouldn’t need alcohol to augment my personality, my outlook is immature, and that our days of new friendships evolving out of alcoholic consumption competitions are over. Meanwhile, the ‘inner circle’ have been vocal in congratulating me for not vomiting, on Facebook.

Red on Green photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com (Bachpics)

Coctail photo courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Midlife Mayhem – Who Stole My Daughter?

A pile of Maltesers candies and one split in half.
A pile of Maltesers candies and one split in half. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apparently, I am one of the few mothers to have procured a ‘relationship’ with my teenage daughter.  Out of the ashes of the domestic warzone that started seventeen years, there has been an armistice, although the fragile ties that now bind us are still perilously loose. I fear a reprisal at any time, so celebrating our reunion prematurely makes me a little nervous. I know that one false move could catapult me back into the battlefield, but so far, we are both still here.

A portion of the advice I inhaled anxiously (in my quest to be the ‘perfect’ parent) from those patronizing parenting manuals, must have resonated after all. I discarded it at the time and in despair followed my own instincts, but could I finally be reaping some reward for my efforts now, like they promised me I would?

A young adult has definitely superseded the mutant that used to slither around the house, like some predatory reptile, waiting to pounce on its next unsuspecting victim. Usually me! Somewhere along the line a truce was made, an unspoken agreement drawn up, a ceasefire erected. The same possessed and angry she-devil, who screeched her way though adolescence has evolved, and finally blossomed into a ‘normal’ person.

She no longer persecutes me for attempting to associate, appease or spend time with her; I have even been invited to shop with her, although my request to befriend her on Facebook still receives a definitive ‘no’. She now ‘suggests’ the cinema to me and I am a sycophant to her charms, even though a three-hour fantasy film incites as much pleasure as sticking pins in my eyeballs. You see, I want to spend time with her, now that she’s on the cusp of leaving the nest. So I force-feed myself with ‘Maltesers’ to stay awake, for I must never become reticent and forget the ‘dark years’. Those years of exclusion and her self-imposed exile to her bedroom were painful rewards for the unconditional love shown to her in the early years. And during that period, I believed that they would never end.

But in reality, she has evolved from nappy to short skirt stage in the blink of an eye, although the crows’ feet and the grey in my hair tell a different story. Why did I have such little faith in my ability as a parent, or in her ability to metamorphose into a decent human being?

Our future looks brighter. I find myself entertaining the notion of her offspring (not spawn) – my grandchildren. Such is the circle of life.

Circle of Life photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com (Piškuntál)