It’s Okay To Man-Hug

Two men hugging.
Photo by Thiago Barletta on Unsplash

We caught up with some friends at the weekend and when the husband and the old man did that awkward shuffle as they greeted each other, our male friend launched into the story of how he had tried to hug his elderly father once, who froze and brushed it off.

‘I’m not much of a man-hugger,’ he admitted to him.

‘But did you like it?’ my friend pushed.

‘It was surprisingly quite nice,’ his dad responded.

What a truly sad world we live in when there are men out there that have never been hugged by their fathers, sons or close friends?

And then, we wonder why they are so emotionally ill-equipped.

Upon further discussion, it turns out that there are rules of etiquette when it comes to man-hugging. Both the old man and our friend agreed that while they hug their inner circle of close friends, they don’t hug the next tier of their friendship group.

‘But I hug everyone,’ I admitted, because I think that women do, in general, once they’ve met once or twice.

But the boys were adamant that it was only their tight circle of friends that got the special treatment. So – obviously – we made them man-hug on the spot, in front of us, which was when we witnessed something truly beautiful happen.

Of course, I’m generalising here. I’m sure that some men are massive huggers, but there is still that stigma associated with men hugging men.

In her book, Boys Will Be Boys, Clementine Ford claims it has to do with the stigma of what the show of affection implied in the past, and the need to prove “compulsive heterosexuality” – one of the issues of “toxic masculinity”.

And she’s right. If we don’t teach our boys how to share respectful, caring relationships with each other, how can we expect them to do the same with women?

She says: “It breaks my heart to know that men – and young men especially – are conditioned against embracing the pleasures of a physically-expressed platonic love for each other for fear that the authenticity of their man-hood may be challenged.”

So let’s change that right now. Any men out there – give your father a big, fat man-hug the next time you see him. And fathers – remember to hug your sons as well as your daughters. Finally, men – for God’s sake, hug your goddamn friends. It’s not a sign that you’re weak or that you fancy them, it’s a sign that you value them.

It’s OK To Be White AND A Man, Just Don’t Abuse The Privilege

 

nick-fewings-532590-unsplash (1)Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Evidently, certain people have a chip on their shoulder about the terrible onus of having white skin.

I agree that it is terrible to be discriminated and victimized for your race and gender, and Pauline Hanson’s motion in the Senate last week reminded me of the backlash that has risen amongst certain male ranks since the #metoo campaign gained traction. And let me be clear, I do not include men that have been abused in that statement.

And yet, what these whinging, self-indulgent groups don’t seem to understand is that while it is okay to be white – and it’s even okay to be a man, I suppose – right now, these fights are not about them. These fights are against white people and men that abuse via the privilege of their skin color and gender.

When feminists point the finger at the harm men do and talk about toxic masculinity, the accusation is not directed at EVERY man.

Let me say that again: When feminists point the finger at the harm men do and talk about toxic masculinity, the accusation is not directed at EVERY man.

It is directed at the men that abuse; the men that refuse to listen to victims, ridicule them or call them liars; and the men that don’t denounce abusers or stand up publicly for equality.

Isn’t it funny how the same people that use #notallmen or “it’s okay to be white” in their defense, are typically the ones that refuse to listen to the opinions of others or support a group that is working to create a mutually beneficial society between the sexes?

I suppose it is inevitable that when a race and gender have held power for a long time that feathers will be ruffled. I get that. I don’t like it when I am ridiculed for being a white feminist, but while I do not feel I need to apologize for my whiteness, neither will I endorse the behavior of certain breeds that are running scared of losing their privilege. 

I am not ashamed to be white. I have never knowingly abused my privilege and I am not a racist. And yet, I have benefited from a system that has always worked in my favor. Maturity has made me more conscious of that. And for the record, I do know that most of the men in my circle believe in equality, and would never harm a woman, but I also know that many of them are scared of change, and that fear breeds anger.

I have never been overlooked or stereotyped as a result of the color of my skin, hence I have never suffered from the social and financial ramifications that go hand in hand with such discrimination. However, I have been felt compromised by my gender.

And yet, I don’t believe that I have the right to moan about my woes in the context of the current climate. Not when refugees are still being caged like animals; not when women are still being killed in their own homes; not when people are still being judged for their choice of faith, and we watch them in shame, powerless in the face of governments that refuse to listen to us, the people that voted for them.

I will excuse Pauline Hanson’s latest shocking attempt to instill fear because she is a mockery to humanity, whiteness, women, and politics. But I cannot excuse the selfishness and arrogance of those who persist in putting their own agenda ahead of minorities at this turning point in history.

And this IS a turning point in history. We are marching for equality; we are marching for our rights and we are marching for what is right. There is no doubt in my mind that change will take time, and there will be many times when it won’t sit comfortably with everyone, but the tide is already turning.

Why Are Men So Obsessed With Sport?

morgan-david-de-lossy-575823-unsplash
Photo by Morgan David de Lossy on Unsplash

The old man is that breed of men that needs to hit a ball at least once a day. He delights in telling anyone who can listen to him (without falling asleep) about his childhood spent in the family garage, throwing ball after ball against its back wall. And while the sporting promise of his youth didn’t translate into a career, that need of a fix – to either hit, kick or knock a ball of any shape – hasn’t dwindled with age.

Since he began to work from home and has more flexibility with his time, his obsession has returned; which puts a lot of pressure on his most obvious opponents. Admittedly, The Princess takes some of the pressure off me by collecting and returning the hundreds of air golf balls he whacks into the back hedge of the garden, and he has made a couple of friends that play tennis with him or accompany him on silent missions around the golf course. However, I’m the unlucky sod that picks up most of the slack.

For our recent anniversary celebration in Bowral, I picked a quaint hotel with a nine-hole golf course, because, a feminist, I wanted to demonstrate that the romantic weekend was about both of us before we trawled around the main focus of the two days to the town’s mecca of interior design shops. img_8680

With a forced smile on my face, I followed him around what was a beautiful, scenic, (and thankfully) short golf course on our first day. In arctic temperatures, I searched for balls, complimented good shots, sympathized with bad, whilst maintaining a smile on my face at all times, my eye firmly on the prize of the hotel bar at the end of our two hours of hell.

The following morning, he was awake three hours before me, and when I opened my eyes to a bouncing puppy on the end of our bed, eyes pleading to let him play golf again and forgo his much-anticipated first-day cushion-shopping, I gave in.

We met up again later that morning, to play tennis – a warm-up for a grueling afternoon tour of the local wineries – and a sport that I have come to enjoy since I’ve learned to ignore his scathing comments and tantrums from the other side of the net. Nevertheless, it took some control not to laugh in his face when he suggested a game of pool that night.

Is your partner obsessed with sport?

My Husband Seems To Have Forgotten This Year That Valentine’s Day Is A Competition

I choose not to remind the old man about special events during the year, such as our anniversary, my birthday and Valentine’s Day because it makes our relationship so much more interesting.

I know that many people frown upon the commerciality of Valentine’s Day, but personally, I have always lapped up the opportunity to receive the only bunch of dead flowers from the petrol station I’m likely to receive in any given year as well as a meal out – nothing too expensive, mind you, because as a friend reminded me today, then they think they deserve sex.

In the old days, the old man used to cook for me on Valentine’s night, a mistake that I soon realized wasn’t romantic at all when I had to stand over him the whole time and interpret the methodology into a language he understood, then had to clear up his mess afterwards.

In our forties, when we thought we were rich, (before being rudely reminded about the cost of care homes and healthcare), we progressed to dinner out – generally not on the night itself due to the sacrilege of increased pricing that the old man couldn’t quite stomach – but the sickening sight of young couples, and particularly men, squirming in their seats, praying not to fuck the night up, (albeit highly entertaining), wasn’t how we wanted to celebrate our own special love.

So our current Valentine status is that we pretend we just don’t care are pretty chilled about the whole thing, even though, deep down we both know that there is still a competition going on. Generally, there is a reluctant exchange of cards with a few lovey-dovey words that convey that although we hate each other most of the time, VERY, VERY deep down, there is obviously something deep and meaningful there. And perhaps we’ll treat ourselves to a pizza.

This year, however, I had been somewhat out of sorts after a virus knocked me sideways, increased my intolerance to wine and gave me a cold sore as its finale. Added to which, he-that-rhymes-with-Burt has been stretching every last ounce of my patience since Xmas as he continues to deny my rights to retire from parenting. So, I have been lethargic, bad-tempered and meaner this past week than normal. Everything is the old man’s fault, including the length and debilitation caused by my illness, because he made me play tennis when I was literally still on my death bed.

I am of the belief that if you try hard enough, it is possible to blame your husband/partner for just about everything.

So I was not feeling particularly amorous when I spotted the first red cards in the shops, and perhaps it had nothing to do with the virus at all, and the reason Cupid has been on an extended holiday from our house is because we work from home together, hence get on each other’s nerves 24/7. Anyway, call me bitchy, but I knew that the old man would have no idea what month we were in without a reminder as salient as billboards in our street when I decided to surprise him with my card.

You get where I’m coming from, Ladies?

Unfortunately, however, last week was one of the rare occasions that the old man left the house over the past year and he too spotted the red balloons and the heart-shaped stickers and didn’t wonder whose birthday it was. Something resonated, and because he has no respect for my privacy and is the type that raids my in-tray and text messages regularly – he says, to check which bills I’ve forgotten to pay and what library books I’ve forgotten to return; I say, to see if I have a lover, because deep down I like the idea that he thinks that I could get a lover – he found my Valentine’s card to him and hotfooted it down to the petrol station to buy one for me that was no-way near as offensive as mine – in fact it was downright romantic – and so this year, I suppose, he wins in the game of love.

But where exactly are my dead flowers, ass-hole?

Taking The Middle-Aged Man On Holiday

Mini breaks are what you do in middle age when the kids get too cool to come away with you (and you can’t afford to take them, anyway), and the idea of a long holiday with your other half is too daunting. They should be long enough to give you a break from the pressures of normal life, yet short enough to ensure that you don’t run out of things to talk about or start to plan your partner’s death. pots-738172_1920

The old man and I have bravely booked a couple of such mini-adventures away this year, on our own, and our first took place this week, when we ventured south of Sydney to Bowral in the Southern Highlands, and then onto Kangaroo Valley and Jervis Bay.

 

The locality of these areas is renowned for its rolling green pastures, quaint village towns, wineries, cooler temperatures, (much more agreeable, if like me you are of a certain age and become completely unreasonable in the heat), and during some parts of the year… flies. If you take out the fly factor and the fact that each little homestead we’ve stayed in has warned us not to antagonize snakes in the small print, it is very reminiscent of the British countryside.

 

The problem with dragging the old man out of his comfort zone – ie. away from home – is that he needs to acclimatise to any new and potentially threatening environment and he tends to flail awkwardly for the first few days, rather like when you take a fish out of water, while he adjusts to life without his regimented, “home” routine of work, exercise, food and annoying me.

 

I, on the other hand, have the propensity to sleep for a disconcerting number of hours on holiday, both night and day, so I’m rarely conscious long enough to help alleviate his boredom.

 

I feel no guilt. Why should I entertain him? He is a grown man and I refuse to disempower him. Perish the thought that he turns into one of those poor men you see dragged around the supermarket, tethered to an invisible leash and a nagging wife, henpecked to death because she’s lost respect for him. So in much the same way that I have tried to ignore inane conversation this holiday, I have resisted the urge to rise to trigger questions such as ‘do you think I need a jumper?’ when we go out.

 

Although in hindsight, perhaps I should have checked that he’d packed his towel before we headed out to the beach this morning.

 

This destination of the south coast was his choice, although whether he realized that outside of the arresting scenery, the highlight would be the charming, small towns, I’m not sure. Full to the brim of cute antique shops, local crafts, cafes that serve high tea and wicked flavours of home-made fudge, as well as chic homewares stores far superior to those in Sydney – in which I like to whittle away as many of my conscious hours as I dream about my Hamptons house – I imagine this week has turned out be the old man’s idea of hell.

 

Within 24hrs of our departure from civilization and the National Broadband Network, he had stalked every meter of the perimeter of our hotel, eaten every lolly (including the licorice) in the mini bar and asked me several times when we could go home.

 

Fortunately, the weather has been kind to us after the abysmal rain of the past two weeks in Sydney (see here), and thank fuck our first hotel had a pool to entice him in, (in spite of its icy temperature), where he burned off some of the scones and cream that we’ve been eating with gay abandon restlessness incurred from two hours of looking at lamps made from ginger jars and lengthy discussions with local shopkeepers about different types of Indian tea.

 

‘This is the life!’ he pronounced unconvincingly as he lay on the hotel sunbed, soaking up the afternoon sun and gazing at the unnerving sheet of ice on the surface of the pool.

 

“Shall we go back to the room now,’ he then asked, five minutes later.

 

We have mutually come to the realization that we need to plan our days from this point onwards because whereas my main aim now is to be fed, watered and to relax on holiday ie. a daily plan that ultimately leads me to a good pub, the old man needs more structure. He needs to know the time of each meal and activity between breakfast and dinner time, when he can finally unwind as he gets one step closer to our return home.

 

 

Suicide, And Making Men Understand That They Don’t Have To Be Heroes

man-1465525_1280It seems a million shades of wrong to be preparing for Christmas drinks when a week or so ago another family lost their son, in his early twenties, to suicide. I cannot imagine their ongoing suffering as I worry about whether we’ll run out of wine or if I’ll poison everyone with my Thai chicken meatballs.

 

A week has passed since the funeral and while the rest of us move on with our lives, prepare for Christmas and celebrate another day of life, that family’s life is shattered. Somewhere on his journey, their young son who always wore a smile on his face, lost his will to live; he lost sight of the value of his life and how much he mattered.

 

We have a duty to find out why our men are choosing to leave us when seemingly they have everything to live for. It’s doesn’t seem right that a child should find justification to end his life before his parents. That’s not the natural order of things. But castigating ourselves about how that boy could not know how much he was loved and valued, or how much he touched the lives of others, is futile now.

 

We accept the powerlessness we humans have in the face of the blows dealt by fate to change the lives of some irrevocably. We accept that we are mere pawns in the game of life with no power or foresight to change the direction of its steely hand. Illness, political gamesmanship and even climate change all impact and mould our destiny.

 

But we should never accept suicide as another of nature’s or God’s ways to control our population, because it is a choice.

 

However, unless we fund the research to identify the triggers that provoke men to give up on life prematurely, the statistics will continue to increase. Change will only come about via education and sniffing out the vulnerability before it takes hold. We need to change the way we raise and talk to our boys to make them understand how much their position in the world has changed. We need to talk to our boys. We need to remind them that they don’t need to be heroes, and perhaps, if they understood that they don’t need to carry the weight of responsibility or swallow and store their emotions to maintain a mask of strength, we could prevent such loss.

 

Television series such as the “Man Up” series are starting to embrace this rhetoric – to “start a conversation about male suicide.”

 

Because the statistics are appalling.

 

“In 2015, preliminary data showed an average of 8.3 deaths by suicide in Australia each day” – approximately two-thirds of which were men.

 

“We need a revolution in the way we think about and deliver mental health care and suicide prevention across Australia,” wrote Jeff Kennett for The Sydney Morning Herald

 

Sometimes it’s hard to truly believe that our lives are equal in value. But whether we’re in the support team on the plane of football stars that crashes, refugees seeking new lives or the nurse in the rehab centre where the multimillionaire seeks sanctuary, when our time comes our material wealth becomes immaterial. I believe that our legacy is about what we leave in the hearts of others.

 

That young man’s death has left a gaping hole in so many hearts, so we have to ask the question, why?

 

Here’s what we do know:  We know that when they are young, men can be impulsive because their brains are not fully formed until their twenties, which means that their ability to manage emotional crises may be compromised. So in those moments of despair, they don’t have the experience to comprehend that the searing intensity of pain will diminish, that things may not be as bad as they seem or that communication may contribute towards healing.

 

What we can do is encourage them to talk, ask them if they are okay, look out for signs of depression.  We can remind them that they don’t have to be heroes.

I’m Learning About ‘Privilege’

‘Privilege’ is a word that crops up increasingly in conversation at the moment – as it should – to make every one of us question our attitudes towards different races and genders. woman-1302674_1280

 

As a middle-aged woman with some free time now that the kids are older, I have noticed a reignited hunger and enthusiasm for learning to understand what the world holds for my young adults entering into it and the generations of our family in the future. I’m becoming more aware about the different kinds of ‘privilege’, in particular those that have been staring us in the face for centuries – that of ‘white privilege’ and ‘male privilege’.

 

I learned more about these when I went to the launch of Clementine Ford’s book ‘Fight Like A Girl’ in Sydney last week.

 

Sometimes when I try to convey my personal feelings about inequality, whether it’s with friends or here in this blog, internally that little voice in my head tells me that I don’t really have the right or enough knowledge to speak about this important topic that divides nations. I was never an activist for feminism in my youth and when I read articles by leading feminists that are so much more intelligently written and researched than the meagre offerings I put out, I feel like a novice. Yet everyone has their right to their own opinion, everyone has a voice, and we should use it in whatever forum we have if we are to progress and make any change in our society.

 

I suspect that if I mentioned the term ‘male privilege’ in one of the heated discussions about feminism that I have monthly with my dad on Skype, he’d laugh in my face, in the same way that he does when I talk about the pay gap and climate change. I’m not making excuses for him, but there is a distinct generational gap of understanding when it comes to equality, I believe, and interestingly his opinions don’t necessarily anger me – he’s entitled to them – it’s the fact that he won’t listen to my perspective that irks me.

 

Perhaps because he’s male.

 

I’m sure that Clementine would disagree, but I can’t draw up a huge list of times where I’ve been the victim of male privilege, either on a personal level or in the work place. I’ve been fortunate to have been given the same education opportunities and I don’t believe that I have ever lost a role due to my gender or colour, so I am undoubtedly the perfect example of ‘white privilege’.

 

Perhaps my bolshy nature has helped because I’m no pushover and I’ve always voiced my opinions loudly, so although I can admit to being witness to sexist and racist remarks that I since regret not jumping on immediately, and I’ve equally suffered at the hands of the occasional, ageing male predator, I’ve made sure that my circle of friends and my partners have inherently feminist ideals, even if they choose to be more ‘silent’ than I’d like.

 

Certain among them have required some extra coaching – not mentioning any names.

 

There was one situation in my late teens when I was hitchhiking through France and the initial delight that a Mercedes had stopped to pick me up quickly turned to fear when the driver’s hand found my knee and I was forced to bolt at the next petrol station.

 

Inevitably, more and more stories about male dominance are currently bombarding the media due to the catalyst of Trump’s march, nay limp, towards the Whitehouse – thwarted recently (*praying*) by the exposure of the level of his abuse of women, (and it seems to me), general misogyny.

 

How any nation could consider putting such a man in power when girls and women around the globe continue to be kidnapped, raped, tortured, married off and made pregnant when still children – often for political gain – or silenced and abused in the workplace, I have no idea.

 

Yet in spite of these daily events and stories of male dominance, (that even the most ardent anti-feminist can surely not remain immune to), astoundingly there remains an underbelly of male supremacy that continues to try to curb whatever progress women at the coalface of the feminist movement, such as our own Clementine Ford and Germaine Greer, or politicians such as Julia Gillard and Hillary Clinton try to make. And they employ brazenly vitriolic bullying tactics and threats.

 

The state of Victoria is about to introduce a new program to public schools to educate children about ‘male privilege’, not to ‘man-bash’, but in an attempt to get to the root of where this concept of male dominance comes from and to reduce the number of female deaths at the hands of domestic violence, before this privilege spreads like a cancer into the developing brain cells of the next generation of young men.

 

Of course the program already has its skeptics, who have accused its creators of brainwashing our children into a campaign of ‘man-hating’ – yawn – the atypical reaction to feminism in spite of statistics that prove that many of us man-haters continue to put up with them, and some of us even like and marry the fuckers.

The Regression Of Middle-Aged Man Back To Toddler

You worry about how your marriage will evolve with age. You prepare yourself that one day there may not be enough to hold you together and you’ll end up another divorce statistic. What you never consider is that you might end up alone when your husband decides to become a hermit. sand-1500351_1280

 

As another dinner party looms ominously closer this evening, I’m concerned about getting the old man to actually leave the apartment. I understand that this is a common problem with middle-aged men, who can become so set in their ways they regress back to the behaviour of toddlers who are known to be highly reactive to change and things they don’t want to do.

 

It is becoming more and more apparent that the old man is not just the grumpy, old, middle-aged sod I had begrudgingly grown to accept, but that he would actually prefer to live on his own and pledge his troth to his man shed and the dog rather than me.

 

There have been signs of his yearning towards a solitary lifestyle for some time, that I’ve either chosen to ignore or bullied out of him, but the attraction has strengthened with age and as he becomes more intolerant to life in general.

 

Since he began to work from home, he rarely leaves the apartment unless he has to –  for exercise and to buy food. Fortunately for him there is a gym in our building – I call it a ‘gym’, but it’s actually the size of our kitchen, which as you know makes an appearance in the Guinness Book Of Records for being the smallest functioning kitchen ever designed. The gym holds two pieces of equipment, which the old man fights over with the Chinese lady on Level 1, who cleans down the saddle of the bike each day before her husband uses it.

 

The old man never cleans it down after use.

 

I managed to persuade him to come out to lunch with me at my favourite noodle restaurant the other day, because he was looking a bit peaky and I had watched an ugly, nervous rash develop when I reminded him about our weekend plans, but he got himself in such a state about the hoards of ‘people’ at the train station that he accidentally rubbed chilli in his eye and ended up crying through the entire meal, then made some excuse about needing to get back to check the post box.

 

The little conversation he has these days is with The Princess, who does a good impression of listening to him. However, I suspect that she isn’t as bright as we her proud parents like to believe, and so their dialogue is more likely to render her into a permanent state of confusion, and maker her more and more anxious by the day.

 

I’ve stopped turning around to him now when he says ‘hello, beautiful!’

 

He occasionally shifts from the two seater sofa to the three seater sofa, I assume to mix things up, which I see as a positive sign when he is such a creature of habit and bagsied the two seater when we first moved into the apartment. No-one apart from the Princess dares sit there.

 

Instead of going to the golf driving range, he has converted the small area in front of our lounge window into his golf practice area and we have the dents in the ceiling to prove it. He practices his small game down the narrow hallway to the bedrooms and The Princess, a willing partner in their symbiotic relationship, retrieves the ball for him each time.

 

Meaning there is less and less reason for him to leave the building.

 

He has told me that he will only holiday in Australia next year and now I am beginning to think that by Australia he actually means the Lower North Shore, which is the area in which we live. He has begun to graffiti ‘keep free’ through weekends in the family calendar.

 

This is why I expect him to throw himself on the carpet and kick and scream around 6pm this evening.

Pippa Middleton Doesn’t Need A Man To Define Her

double-665158_1280I’m so relieved that Pippa Middleton finally found a gorgeous, generous man who took pity on her, pulled her off the shelf and played with her like some old raggedy doll from Play School.

 

She has finally been defined as a person.

 

And she’s in her thirties, after all, so phew! how lucky was she to get off that shelf, just in time. How lucky for all of us married women to have a man to look after us.

 

And how sad for Lady GaGa, who lost her man recently when she split from her fiancé after five years together. What on earth will she do for money now? How on earth will she survive in the world on her own?

 

If I read one more fucking article with these bullshit insinuations about how happy women such as Pippa should be to get hooked up with a man, I will melt down my wedding ring and make a piercing for my clitoris.

 

I blame biology and the clock ticking partly, because apparently it incites many women to become psychopathic about marrying before their eggs shrivel up, and all men to believe that we need them.

 

Two words: Sperm bank.

 

It’s not like Pippa would be out on the streets exactly, if James Matthews (did I mention that he’s a hedge-fund multi-millionaire?) hadn’t taken her in. No doubt educated at one of Britain’s finest public schools and with the support of a middle-class family behind her as well as some rather fortunate connections to royalty, I doubt she’d have to interview for the role of Kate’s lady-in-waiting should she find herself in the dire circumstance of being an old maid.

 

She also possesses the only ass in the world to rival the great KK’s, and we all know that a good backside is the new currency, so surely some young man… somewhere… would have adopted it.

 

Lucky for her that James is a hedge-fund multimillionaire, yes, I did say A HEDGE-FUND MULTI-MIlLLIONAIRE, because poor Pippa hasn’t had quite as much luck with her failed book and…um… career.

 

Still…

 

“She can settle into domestic bliss with her rich husband, shuttling between what no doubt will be houses in London and somewhere in the English countryside (to indulge in shooting, riding and other sports) and then winters (with or without her royal sister) on the ski slopes of France or Switzerland and, no doubt, on the beaches of St Barts.” (WWD.com)

 

But every cloud has a silver lining and James’ proposal also helped burst the unfortunate strumpet reputation that poor Pippa acquired around the same time her sister entrapped her own man sending Pippa off the rails for a bit, which led to a very public succession of relationships that further compounded the media’s belief that she really was a little bit desperate and that all women are fundamentally whores when they don’t have a man to tame them.

 

Please stop feeding us this false image that all women want the Disney dream of marriage, preferably to a prince with a big… ring and car. Stop giving us wedding shows like Bridezillas and The Bachelor. Please stop stereotyping us as crazed, catty vixens prepared to do just about anything to entrap our man, compared to how the opposite sex are portrayed as down-trodden, coerced, manipulated and cool.

 

Interesting how many women are abused or violated due to the anger management and jealousy issues of those same chilled-out men.

 

It terrifies me that my daughter’s generation are buying back into the concept that they need a man and a ring to define them when we have come so far, a view that is further enhanced by the modern dating game of label-free relationships, weddings as a social status that break the bank, (because obviously the bigger your wedding, the more you must be in love), and the expensive divorce which usually follows it.

The Secret To Long Relationships

I was bemoaning the fact that breakfast is my most disappointing meal of the day with the old man the other day, and he responded with ‘that’s because it’s the only meal you can’t justify having wine with.’ bridal-636018_1280

‘True dat,’ as our son Kurt would say.

 

Equally, our marriage might be more pleasurable if I didn’t have to listen to the old man scrape his bowl seventeen times in search of every last oat at breakfast time, I remember thinking, although I guess that’s just the fuckery of marriage.

 

So while I suppose that I should be writing a tribute to my soul mate on the weekend of his fiftieth birthday, instead I’ve chosen to focus on why I believe we’re still together after thirty-four of those fifty years – an Everest of an accomplishment and in my book, a far greater achievement than reaching the big 50.

 

Especially when you consider what we’ve had going against us, as polar opposites in interests, personalities and idealism, the most diametrically opposing yin and yang you could ever have the misfortune to meet at a dinner party, with a child with special needs thrown into the mix.

 

Like any long marriage, ours has floundered on the rocks a few times, drifted uncertainly in wild seas before finally gathering momentum on a forgiving wave back home. And those battles have stemmed from the typical marital rubs such as money and kids and usually fought under the influence of alcohol.

 

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve played the divorce card numerous times to get my own way, threatened to walk out, and each time the old man has responded in that annoying way my mother used to when she reminded me not to slam the door on my way out.

 

While he has never resorted to a dirty game.

 

The challenges of Kurt have come close to sinking us several times. Parenting is hard enough with a “normal” child, but the rate of divorce amongst parents raising ADHD kids is very high. The parenting manual doesn’t warn you that you may not agree on every parenting code or that when your child irritates the fuck out of you, one of you has to assume responsibility at all times.

 

But we’ve survived, fundamentally because I married a good man, so the durability of our relationship must prove that you don’t need to be chocolate box happy or have bells on it all of the time to stay together.

 

NC often comments on how much she has learned about relationships from observing us, her role models. She particularly likes our pet names for each other – “shit for brains” and “fucking knob”, on a good day.

 

But I guess that if it works, why fix it?

 

 

Feminism, Body Image And The Curse Of A Big Gob

And in other news to (WHAT THE FUCK?) Brexit…I’ve noticed this week and am very proud to announce that (in spite of our dysfunctionality), we’ve managed to nurture this raving feminist for a daughter, someone very close to Germaine Greer on the radicalism scale. barbie-458618_1280

 

You see, unlike her vanilla mother when it comes to fighting for the people, NC has made it quite clear to us recently that she refuses to simply settle for equal rights, she wants to quash every aspect of blatant male privilege imposed on women.

 

As she explained to me last night, ‘you can’t effect change within the current constructs of society, Mum, society needs to change.’

 

So every day some new book on feminism lands on our doorstep from Amazon, so much so that the postman now leaves them in front of the gate, and the old man is getting a major complex from the amount of shade she throws at him, even when he’s not (knowingly) being a sexist twat.

 

Of course, he blames me.

 

Frankly, I’m surprised that the Astronaut has survived this long, although she does keep him safely at arms length on some secret government mission in Canberra.

 

She’s been growing out her armpit hair for some time, (although that might be due to winter), but this week she informed me that she’s decided not to wear makeup any longer – ‘because if men aren’t expected to, then neither should she’, and when I looked at her drained face, the black rings and lank hair (because she’s been working long hours recently) and asked her if she was sure … she stomped out of my room, came back and lobbed a copy of The Beauty Myth at my head.

 

I suppose I must be more influenced by body image perfectionism than I thought. I wouldn’t describe myself as shallow, always believed that what’s on the inside is more important … but then I do love clothes and lipstick and shoes and I do try my best to stay slim, within the unfair boundaries set by my hormones.

 

Admittedly, one of the most liberating parts of middle age is to go out in public without makeup, freak out the local kids and seriously not give a fuck. Nevertheless, sometimes I still like to put my face on. Not because I feel more confident, or for the old man’s benefit (who frankly wouldn’t notice if I had a face transplant), because I honestly feel more empowered when I don’t have a mask on, it’s just that occasionally I like to feel feminine and pretty, which I do when I conceal the rings, the veins and the Rosacea and pluck the stray foliage from my eyebrows.

 

And there’s nothing wrong with that, according to my daughter, because feminism is about having choices. Just as it’s okay to opt for plastic surgery, even though personally I’m like WHY?

 

Cynics will accuse me of being indoctrinated, of course, and they have a point. I’m the biggest sucker for women’s magazines, love those shots of celebrities when they get papped without their face on, but for me it’s not about cow-towing to the demands of society or men, it’s like the secret thrill you get when you wear new lingerie. No-one’s going to see it an no-one but you knows it’s there, but it still makes you feel good about yourself. And men are not immune to using props to improve confidence and appeal.

 

Understandably though, with the evolution of social media and the popularity of the selfie, there are concerns about where this obsession with body image will eventuate. Body Dysmorphia, conditions like Anorexia and women’s growing obsession with surgery are not trends that should be ignored.

 

Mentioning our kids’ weight these days – in particular the F word – is almost as reprehensible as feeding them processed meat or pretending that ‘I feel sad’ is a normal emotion that doesn’t require an intervention from social services.

 

I remember when NC went through the podge period that a lot of pubescent girls go through between the growth spurt and metamorphosis into swan – usually when they give up serious sport and console themselves by eating all the pies when boys refuse to notice them – and I suggested over tea one evening that she might want to eat more healthily, proud of myself for being so uncharacteristically sensitive.

 

She remembers it differently, of course. She says that I told her she was fat.

 

Which I’ve never believed until I heard myself tell Kurt this morning that if he carried on eating ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner, he’ll never get Justin Bieber’s clear complexion.

 

I’m sorry, but if your child is obese (and doesn’t suffer from medical issues that cause weight gain) and their health is at risk, you don’t keep harping on about how beautiful they are, or how much you love them just the way they are; and neither do you continue to feed them on McDonalds for afternoon tea or stick your head in the sand – you get them some help.

 

Very soon I will have to affix a very large strip of Gaffer tape over my mouth to prevent me from traumatising my children any further, even though, I assure you, that I have always had their best interests at heart and just suffer from a very bad case of Big Gobbitis.

 

 

 

The Male Short Term Memory Issue: A Valid Reason To Nag

You’ll be aware by now that I’m a fervent believer in gender equality and the old man and I have heated discussions on the subject most weeks over a bottle or three of wine. And the one area in our discussions where he really gets to me is when he argues that because women don’t have the same physical strength as men, there are some jobs that women simply can’t do. cleaning-268134_1280

 

So I admit, women probably can’t pull trucks with their bare hands for stupid tv programs such as The World’s Strongest Man. (Remember that?)

 

However, they can fight in wars, build houses and cut down trees and I believe that in all other areas of work, (given the same opportunities), they are equal. Apart from one – because in my experience men have an unfortunate handicap when pitched against women, that of a severely underdeveloped limbic system, the area of the brain responsible for memory.

 

First of all, let me say that this is not a general attack on men (or the old man), more a statement about the ‘nagging’ label that some men assign to women with such onerous ease each time they are asked to do anything something in the house;  and more so because in this age of equality, the old man does his fair share of nagging in our house.

 

However, and it saddens me to admit this, as much as I find the verb offensively belittling and sexist, sometimes the act of nagging is a necessary evil, due to aforementioned genetic mutation that some men are born with when it comes to remembering shit; one which seems to become most noticeably apparent on the domestic front.

 

It should be noted that some scientists believe that selective memory is also a co-morbidity of this serious condition.

 

I’ll give you an example. I have asked the old man, kindly and without raising my voice, for about five years now, not to pour crap down the sink onto the cleaning sponges, as well as explaining to him patiently the reasoning behind my request – in that we use them in the hygienic capacity of keeping the kitchen devoid of bacteria, germs and creepy-crawlies.

 

Yet every day I go to use the dish cloth or sponge, it is soaking in a puddle of unidentifiable ‘kitchen grossness’ that not only turns my stomach, but has the capacity to turn all our stomachs into a bad case of gastro.

 

So, between clenched teeth, I remind him again about the fucking irritation sad disappointment his lack of care causes me, and I will be told to stop nagging – about the same time that a force as powerfully threatening as a platoon of White Walkers climbing over the wall takes over me.

 

Men will always deny they’ve ever been told or shown how to do something foreign to their intuition, of course, or they’ll say it’s not important enough to worry about, or come back at you with helpful suggestions like maybe you should take ownership of the chore, ‘because you’re so much better at it’ than they are. But it’s a ploy, people, a sad little ploy not only to get them out of helping you, but to pass off their share of the chores back onto you.

 

The statistics speak for themselves, when 79% of working mums admit that they do the bulk of the housework.

 

Worse still, we women have been brainwashed to believe that it’s not worth asking, or wrong of us to suggest they help out for fear of that most heinous of accusations, being a nag.

 

Interestingly,  men appear to have a perfectly developed short term memory when it comes to how much money you spent on clothes shopping in any given month.

I Don’t Want To Be So Middle-Aged, I Have To Manage My Money

I’m certain that the old man and I can’t be the only middle-aged couple in the universe to argue about money. savings-box-161876_1280

 

The question of what to spend your money on can put pressure on the strongest relationships at this stage of your life, when you have no idea how long you’re budgeting for, when you have different ideas of how to make the most of your time left.

 

I’m the impulsive romanticist, the princess in the Disney film, who due to some dodgy family genes has always been convinced of a short innings, so I want to make the most of each day and therefore am happy to spend our money somewhat irrationally.

 

Buying shit makes me feel better when I’m down, I enjoy the fulfilment from being generous, I love eating in good restaurants and going away.

 

I don’t even mind having to work a few extra years for nice wine and good shoes.

 

The old man, on the other hand, has calculated to the cent how much money we will need for the rest of our lives, should we exceed all expectation and live beyond the oldest existing pensioner in China; and tries to budget accordingly. He slams the brakes on impulsivity and locks the wallet wherever he can to support his dream of retiring as early as possible, because he no longer has the stomach to be someone else’s bitch. Except mine, obviously. He is happy to go without, if it means he can spend the rest of his life in the simple contentment and comfort of watching golf videos all day long.

 

One of the biggest frustrations and realities of the long-term relationship is that you have to meet each other halfway on grown-up issues.

 

Due to certain, blown out of proportion, past disagreements over my desire/need/sickness (his words) to shop, the old man has recently set me a monthly budget to curb my self-medication/extravagance, yet still has the gall to tut disparagingly if I dare mention I’m going to the shops.

 

And it irks me, because he simply doesn’t get it. We are different genders with different personalities and our happiness is triggered by opposing stimuli.

 

The old man has worn the same combo of polo shirt and boating shoes for the past three decades – he is no David Beckham – so in my opinion, he has no authority to discuss the dictates of fashion with me. You know when you’ve had a really exhausting, shite day at work and you just want to be a lazy bitch and suggest dinner out? Well, in our household, if the night doesn’t fall within the weekly allowance of one take-away and one dinner, the old man looks at me in complete disbelief, like some disappointed parent with their spoiled brat.

 

Very soon I expect to be banished to the naughty step.

 

Of course, there’s nothing stopping me from taking a stand, AND I HAVE, I can assure you. We are equals and we both earn money, however I also know that dependent on my mood I can be quite appallingly irresponsible with money and also quite like the idea of early retirement, so I’m in the painful process of slow acceptance. I haven’t forgotten that when I came into our relationship I bought with me some extra baggage of a huge Mastercard bill, nor am I likely to forget it when the old man still reminds me about in every conversation we have about money.

 

His heart in the right place – sort of – put it this way, we don’t go without, and what I see as him being parsimonious is really about money management;  we simply exist at opposite ends of the budgeting spectrum.

 

So my old argument that we might get run over by a bus tomorrow falls on deaf ears these days; apparently, we need to save for our future, not handbags.

 

Anyone else identify with this little relationship problem?

Can I Body-Shame All Middle Aged Men Who Wear Speedos?

There is this bizarre conspiracy in Australia where middle-aged men, no matter what the size of their girth or tackle, believe they can wear Speedos in public and remain beyond reproach.

 

Middle-aged women on the other hand, are demonised if they dare squeeze their middle-aged frames into a bikini.

 

I  might question the style and sanity of a tubby middle-aged man’s decision to wear a pair of Speedos, but I have no serious issue with it; what does offend me, however, is the double-standard, whereby women are picked out, shamed and publicly flogged for flaunting their bodies in public, whereas men are largely ignored.

 

I should point out that I also have nothing against the brand of Speedos, which I wear myself whenever I pound down the lanes of my local pool in an effort to control my wobbly bits, just as I would not be averse to marketing their wonderful products here on this blog, should the opportunity arise. They just happen to have given men the means by which they can display their beer bellies and sagging testicles in all their glory.

 

Below is the proof that some men look good in Speedos. And for the record, this not an ageist blog post, because even Tony Abbott – who I can commend for very little other than his obvious aversion to the middle-aged beer gut – has proven that Speedos, even on a dad-bod, can be acceptable.

 

michael-phelps-560x421

 

Although if you’re Prime Minister, they’re still a bit ewww!

 

And I don’t hear the younger generations bemoaning their Dad’s choice of Speedos over the more reserved short, quite as vocally as I hear them berate women of a certain age and over a certain size for wearing bikinis in public.

 

For the first time in a very long time I bravely donned a bikini this year. The decision might have been borne out of my new fifty-plus ‘fuck it’ attitude, the wisdom that my child-bearing wobbly bits should be something to be proud of, or simply because it’s been a fucking hot summer, I’m menopausal and the more hot skin exposed, the greater the relief.

 

And I can imagine that it might be a bit of a drag (literally) for men to have to wear surf shorts when they’re swimming.

 

So we’re on the same side. We just need a little bit of equality here.

 

I’m happy to ignore the beer bellies, love handles, extra tyres and tiny, almost embarrassing tackle, if men can ignore my muffin top, saggy boobs and thighs that touch all the way down. Let’s all agree that there is no greater natural feeling than the sun on skin, and that it’s really not important what we do or don’t wear …unless we’re talking nudist beaches, which obviously brings up the problem of penises on the loose and all sorts of horrible awkwardness.