Tuesday, 8 April 2014

I'm Letting My Hair Go Grey

The first time I tried to change the colour of my hair, my high school friend and I, at 14, cut up a lemon and rubbed it all over our heads. We spent the afternoon in the sun hoping our brown hair would lighten and have lovely blond streaks through it by the end of the day. It didn't. We just ended up smelling like lemon (not so bad) and having to wash out lemon pulp and stickiness from our heads. When that didn't work we tried Peroxide; 0 - 100, no mucking around. We poured the entire contents of the bottle into the bathroom sink at my mum's place, filled the rest with water and tried combing it through. We didn't get the instant gratification we wanted as the results take at least a few minutes so we just dunked our heads in. We then filled our water spray bottles with Peroxide and water so that we would continue to lighten our hair each morning when we sprayed it wet to style it. I think mum inadvertently used it a couple of times too....oops!

The result? We both became gingers. Gingers with black roots. We told our school teachers and our parents that the lemon juice had been a success and that the wonderful sunshine we had exposed ourselves to over the school holidays, had done the trick, turning our once brown hair orange. I don't think they bought it. They were always telling us to get outside and enjoy the fresh air when all we wanted to do in summer in those days was to wear black and sit in our rooms reading, listening to music, writing in our diaries and sulking. This is me with my little sister around that time. Black t shirt, black shorts, orange hair. It was 1989.

When my peroxided hair started to grow out, I decided to put a rinse through it to even it up. I chose burgundy, a deep reddish tint, instead of reverting back to my natural brown. It was the beginning of many years of dying my hair to change my look. When I discovered the permanent colours, I tried them all. I dyed it black when I felt melancholic and dark. Red mahogany or aubergine when I felt outrageous and adventurous. I tried every shade, although to be honest, those packet jobs don't really provide a wide spectrum of colour. They always end up looking like one of two colours, black or red. My mum used to say to me that I would regret dying my hair so young because some day I would have to do it to cover up grey hair and it won't seem like so much fun anymore. She was right. That's where I'm at now.

The permanent colours you used to get back then had tons of ammonia in them. They stunk up the entire house and made my eyes water. They stained my neck and my forehead and my hands and the towel and everything the toxic goo touched, but I still did it, regularly. It became a habit, part of my routine that I topped up every 4 -8 weeks to blend in my roots and update my look. 

These days the packet stuff is so much more pleasant. Many of them do not contain ammonia anymore, they develop in under 15 minutes, they have lots of lovely natural ingredients in them and aren't as difficult to scrub off your face when you accidentally scratch your nose with a gloved hand full of dye by mistake. They don't take too long to work and smell pleasant. They comb through your hair easier and leave your hair so soft and luscious they count almost as a treatment. In fact that is why I have continued to use them and have never had my hair dyed at the hairdresser, choosing instead to DIY it at home myself. Except for the time, way back in the early days, when I decided to get a red streak in the front of my hair. I went to the hairdresser and she bleached the front and then dyed it bright red. It DID NOT turn out the way I wanted and if I ever dig up the photo that mum took of me so that she could taunt me with it in the future and prove her point about how ridiculous I looked, I will not post it here at all. I will burn it in the kitchen sink like I used to do with photos of old boyfriends.

I noticed grey hairs very early on. I think the first was in high school in my final year. I put it down to the stress of exams and didn't really care too much about it because I was colouring my hair regularly anyway so no body would even notice. This continued for decades. It is only really in the last 5 years or so that the greys have started to become increasingly abundant and stubborn and noticeable. They are so much harder to cover, because there are so many of them and let's face it, doing a hair dye job at home is not the best way to achieve total, even coverage. In fact, tie dyed is more of an apt description. I just make sure the top and front are covered, what happens underneath is another story. It's all about blending it in. These days the grey roots make an appearance a lot sooner than the 4 - 8 weeks. They start rearing their short, puby little ugly heads by the first wash and it's down hill from there.

I refuse to go to the hairdresser to get my hair dyed to this day. I'm lucky if I go twice a year for a haircut let alone going every few weeks to get my roots done. It is one of my absolute pet hates. I hate the chit chat, I hate the powerlessness and the vulnerability of sitting in front of the mirror after they've washed your hair, dripping wet and looking like a drowned rat. The lighting is shit and hideously unflattering. I hate how they never scrub the underneath part of your scalp. I hate having water trickle down the back of my neck when I'm fully clothed. In fact when I do go to the hairdresser, I wash my hair at home and make them just cut it. I also style it myself, unless I have a very rare important occasion, like my wedding day and even then I never understand what the hell they're thinking when I see the finished product. Three hours of blow drying and straightening and curling so that I can look like anyone but myself. I hate the product pushing and the barrage of questions. I always feel like I'm at a job interview at the hairdresser's. They quiz you about your life like it's their business. They give you the impression that they want to get to know you, but that's bullshit because they never remember you the next time or they get someone else to do your hair. They never want to divulge anything about themselves either. I could pretend I'm on a talk show. I also hate the judgement. So what if I tried to give myself a fringe and it turned out crooked; so what if I sit on the couch and split my ends to my scalp sometimes when I watch tv; so what if I can't get the hair dye in the bits behind my ears. Who else, other than the hairdresser, is looking that closely at my head? 

I can count on one hand how many times I've come back happy from the hairdresser. It's always an ordeal. The best experiences I've had have been when I've gone in for a simple trim or a simple, but dramatic change. Long hair to a short straight bob is one of my favourites; can't go wrong. Trimming long layers is pretty straight forward too, although a few have fucked even that up because I always ask for a V shape, but it always ends up looking like a U shape. 

I once went to a hairdresser who I specifically told NOT, I repeat, NOT to razor my hair; a technique where they run a blade up and down the hair shaft to thin it out. I explained that my hair is quite coarse and razoring tends to aggravate the frizz. It looks great in the moments after it is done, but as soon as it starts to grow again, it goes hay wire. He proceeded to razor my hair with sharp scissors and when I screamed at him to STOP (he didn't hear my initial whimpering) he explained that he wasn't using a razor, but scissors. It didn't occur to him that THE TECHNIQUE WAS THE SAME! I lost my shit that day. I was 8 weeks pregnant, nauseous and emotional and my brother's wedding was that weekend. Luckily I had a birthday voucher from my brother to go to another salon and have it styled for the occasion. They curled the bejesus out of my hair while I sipped on ginger beer and sweated and held back spew and by the middle of the day when the festivities began, the curls had settled and it didn't look half bad. One of the success stories. I also recall a time when I walked out of a salon without paying because after letting me wait an hour beyond my appointment and then spending another hour cutting air so that there was no hair on the ground AND THEN having the audacity to ask for $60, I decided that I would rather have them chase me through Town Hall station (I don't think that particular salon is under the same management anymore) than give them a penny of my hard earned cash. I'm sure the girl that cut (and I use that term loosely) my hair was sedated or recovering from a lobotomy. 

I've had some pretty good experiences too, don't get me wrong. It's just that the bad ones out weigh the good. I once went to a salon where the hair washing chairs were massage chairs and to top it off the hairdresser washed my hair thoroughly and massaged my scalp with a choc peppermint oil that left me euphoric. I vibrated into oblivion. I don't remember the rest of the experience because I was off with the pixies, but I do remember leaving the place looking like a celebrity because she did an amazing blow dry. I told her I would have to go out that night just because I looked instantly dressed up with that hair. I didn't; I got a bottle of wine and watched TV all night, getting up to look at myself in the mirror once in a while to admire my head. By the time I needed another hair cut, I'd moved house and haven't been back since. I wonder if the salon and the same hairdresser is still there? They often aren't.

The whole front of my head, especially my right side is now pretty much white when the hair colour fades. If I part my hair anywhere along my scalp, the roots are grey. I can keep putting colour through and enjoying those first few days of soft, luscious, even coloured hair or I can find another solution.

Ombre or ballyage hair is all the rage at the moment. Basically it is the look bottle blonds get when their dark roots grow out. Like this.
long ombre hair, love that i finally see someone who went from practically black to blonde (:             
Hang on a minute! I was way ahead of my time! If only it was fashionable when the Peroxide was growing out. Unfortunately at the moment, my hair is doing this in reverse. 

I could go for this look instead.
Straigh Hair Reverse Ombre #ombre #reverseombre #hair - bellashoot.com             
It's an option, but I don't think a blonde head near my face would suit me.

If I was 20 years younger I would totally do this! Complete with the tattoos and blue contacts. This is what I tried to do and failed when I was 17, but with red instead of blue - it ended up being more orange than red. I might still do it one day. I can always wear a beanie if it fails. I crochet you know.
LOVE the vibrant blue in this one. If I can do crazy hair colors in the future I will definitely try something like this.
So what are my options? I would like to work with my head instead of against it. It's possible. I wanna be like Helen Mirren and go grey and then dye it pink. Like this. Totally foxy.

Heaps of women rock grey hair. Why is it only considered distinguished on a man? 

What does this make you think when you look at it? She needs to touch up her hair right? Why?


But this doesn't make you think twice, right?

On a woman, grey hair apparently makes her look haggard not honorable. It's the old maiden, mother, crone scenario. Women are bundled into one of these three categories. Maiden is young, flawless, beautiful, relevant; everything we see in advertising, everything we are indoctrinated to value as a society. This can also be divided into two sub categories. Virgin or whore. You can thank the Abrahamic religions for that one. Is the beautiful young woman a Mary the Madonna or Mary the Magdalene? Thanks again religion! 

Mother is the next stage, so if you have moved beyond the maiden 'age' and still haven't procreated, people start to pity you or assume you're a ruthless career woman who is completely self centered and self absorbed. You must be a spinster because what woman in her right mind would decide not to have children consciously? Or maybe you can't for medical reasons, at which stage you'll just cop the pity. Mothers on the other hand are excused for looking a little disheveled because they're so busy sacrificing themselves to rear their children. Well actually no, that isn't acceptable these days either. There are no excuses for not looking like a yummy mummy while frazzled and on no sleep. Comfy clothes and no makeup although understandable are seen as the result of selflessness and martyrdom not a conscious choice made by a woman who wants to focus on something other than her own vanity. 

The final stage is the crone. Yes you can have grey hair and be a nanna (which of course means you have procreated already and your children have now procreated too), but don't expect to be taken seriously unless you're Helen Mirren. You're just the nut bag buying Depends and chuckling to herself at Aldi.

A man can move smoothly from his wild teen years, into fatherhood or bachelorhood (it's not really questioned when men decide not to have children) and grey old age without anyone batting a judgey eye.

Well I reckon I can too. I reckon I'm all three of the categories imposed on me by society and everything in between. I'm a maiden; I'm young at heart, I'm relevant, I'm fit and healthy, I can be sexy and desirable. I'm not a virgin or a whore (not that being either is shameful in any way), but I'm a sexual being. I'm a mother - obviously. I'm a crone; wise, grey, jaded, experienced. Up yours society. Heaps of women are reclaiming their right to go grey gracefully.

I'm tired of colouring my hair right now. That is not to say that I'll never do it again or won't experiment with wild colours again, but right now I want to own and love my grey hair. Mind you I have a packet dye in the bathroom waiting for me and I have a wedding coming up, which is usually the type of occasion that I use as a marker for when to touch up my hair colour. I am strongly fighting the urge to give in this time. 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

March In March 2014

This week I attended the March In March demonstration in Sydney with my husband and my nearly 9 month old baby. It was an opportunity to catch the ferry (for the first time for the bub) and enjoy a day in the city with like minded people; those who are embarrassed and appalled by our current government and their decisions. Those who want things to change and soon.

For me, these rallies are also a way to show gratitude that I live in a country where we can disagree with our government, publicly and en masse. We can peacefully protest without the threat of violence, imprisonment or death. I do not take this right for granted.

We got there nice and early and set up our picnic blanket right in front of the stage. I was mainly wanting to hear the speeches and planned to go home before the march to get the baby home in time for dinner and bed. 

It poured with rain and despite getting a good spot early, we had to take shelter at Central Station for a while and move from the good spot. I did manage to give the baby some lunch and vacuum down a vegemite and cheese sandwich before the down pour; I even breastfed the baby right there in the middle of Belmore Park, another right I am grateful for and don't take for granted.

At first it seemed that there were only going to be a handful of people at the Sydney march. I was reading tweets and communicating with my sister who lives in Melbourne and it appeared that the Melbourne rally was getting quite crowded. Melbourne people have always been that little bit more radical and political and creative. I think Melbourne city is smaller and easier to get to as well as being designed in a grid, not to mention having a very accessible and efficient public transport system. In comparison, Sydney is huge and complicated and distances are vast and difficult to cover, whether by car or public transport. Sydney was colonised, it just happened, it wasn't really designed, particularly the CBD. Even driving to Manly and catching the ferry to Circular Quay then a train to Central, although efficient, took us a good two hours. I was impressed that on a Sunday we could get a family day tripper ticket and my husband and I got pensioner rates; $2.50 each for traveling on public transport all day. As a friend of ours pointed out, you just don't know about these deals until you have kids. Good info for next time we want to spend the day in town on a Sunday, especially if there is another rally on. It's hard to get Sydney siders to be anything but complacent about important issues. Maybe we're more conservative here; more cynical. Nonetheless, as we were leaving, people were still turning up and although not as huge as Melbourne, I would say the Sydney rally was still a success. Here are some amazing photos of the Sydney rally.

When we started to make our way back to the stage from the shelter of Central, the rain had eased somewhat, but it was still drizzling. The baby had fallen asleep and we bought a plastic rain coat, the last one at the shop as most places had understandably sold out, to cover the pram. I forgot to take the plastic pram cover and discovered the pram is waterproof; it got a good wash anyway. Despite the baby being dry and safe and pretty comfortable in there, I still worried that bringing her to a rally wasn't the brightest idea, I've ever had. I was wrong. I saw heaps of mums with babies and toddlers in prams and strollers and didn't feel out of place at all. The biggest concern then was to avoid standing next to someone who was smoking. An ex smoker myself, I can tolerate the occasional plume of smoke wafting in my direction and although I don't like it, I can persevere; I just didn't want the baby exposed to it. In the fresh air of the outdoors, it wasn't hard to stand in a ventilated spot. Mummy jitters aside, we met up with some friends and settled under my Public Service Association umbrella for the formalities.

The speeches began with a welcome to country, something that should continue to occur as often as possible at any public address, in my opinion. It happened throughout the refuge movement when we held conferences, it happens at any union conference or mass meeting and it should happen at any official ceremony as recognition and respect for the traditional owners of our land. In my mind, the current true custodians of this country. Despite what controversies arise, I enjoy this new tradition. It is very new. It was begun in the 1970's by one Ernie Dingo and it has continued to be practiced, sometimes at some expense and elaborate ceremony, sometimes simply stating recognition of the indigenous custodians of the area. There are some who have criticised this practice and depending on who is doing the criticising and their agenda, although I can see their point of view, I have to disagree. I think it is honourable and often very moving. It needs to be done in the right context and with the right intention to have a positive impact. Here are some instances of this criticism from Wiki.

In 2012, Northern Territory MP and traditional Warlpiri woman Bess Price told a reporter that Welcome to Country ceremonies were not meaningful to traditional people, saying "We don't do that in communities. It's just a recent thing. It's just people who are trying to grapple at something they believe should be traditional."[10][11] 
This I find completely justified - if anyone has the authority and authenticity to comment on such a practice it is a traditional indigenous woman and I believe she is simply stating that because it is a recent practice, it shouldn't be claimed as a traditional practice. I don't think she is dismissing its importance.

In 2010, Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott said he thought that, in many contexts, the Welcome to Country seems like out-of-place tokenism.[12]  
This I find sinister - our now PM, although he wasn't when he made the comments is coming from a place of prejudice. He is implying that there shouldn't be any obligation to do this because it is meaningless.

In 2012, Rhonda Roberts, a prominent indigenous Australian and head of Sydney Opera House indigenous programming, echoed Tony Abbott's criticisms.[8]
Again I find this an acceptable statement by an Indigenous Australian and although I disagree with her sentiment that the practice is tokenistic, I still feel that she is entitled to make that statement more than Tony Abbott and if she feels it is out of place then I respect that. 

Indigenous Australians have the right to comment on this practice and determine amongst their very diverse community whether it should continue. A white, male, privileged politician doesn't. 

Regardless, at the march it happened and it was wonderful. People cheered and applauded and it didn't seem at all tokenistic or unnecessary. It was practiced with respect, pride and joy and a sense of rebellion; a sense that no matter what, we will keep acknowledging that our indigenous heritage is valuable and worthy of mention EVERY TIME we gather for something purposeful on this land.

There were seven speakers at the rally all up and they all spoke about different things. The topics ranged from our treatment of asylum seekers to cuts to education and the erasing of Gonski, Australia's trade agreements, indigenous rights, disability support, marriage equality and class division to name a few. In between making sure my baby wasn't getting wet or having smoke blown on her (some of which was not tobacco - wonderful for me, not for the baby) I listened closely to what was being said. None of it was new to me and hearing all the negative realities of how this PM and his ministers are governing supposedly on our behalf caused me to tune out half the time. Except when this man  spoke, Hamoun Iranmanesh. I heard; I felt every word. I goosebumped and fought back tears. I wanted to hug him. Instead I shouted and woohooed and cheered and clapped with the crowd. He elated us.

Then Billy Bragg came on, which was a nice surprise, I've always admired him and didn't know he would be at the rally. He sang some politically angsty songs and spoke about Gina Reinhardt and her comments last week about how our country needed more Thatcherism. He commented that she timed it perfectly for his arrival, he wasn't impressed. She obviously made those remarks knowing full well that it would infuriate most people, especially those who weren't born into the kind of wealth that she enjoys. Even if she truly believed that that period of English history was somehow economically favourable; I'm sure it was for some, it wasn't for many; it was insensitive at the least and down right inflammatory and a little bit cunty at the most. Pardon my language. Well no actually; cunty, amongst other c word derivatives, is now in the Oxford English Dictionary. Hooray!

Billy Bragg spoke about how destructive the period of Thatcher's Prime Ministership was for the economically and financially marginalised (it starts at around 2:57. Apologies for the loud distortion earlier at around 1:50 - he was having issues with his sound). He told us we would know Thatcherism when the recipients of welfare assistance are demonised 24/7, when the disabled are disempowered by having their payments made to someone else instead of directly to them, when people living in department housing with one spare bedroom are evicted and made homeless because their accommodation is thought to be superfluous and no smaller dwellings are available, when people needing state provided food rises from 30 a week to 1600 a week as it did in Newcastle in England during Thatcher's years in power. Billy talked about how a conservative government like Thatcher's and like Abbott's degrades and diminishes the well being and prosperity of the most marginalised people in our society "and if socialism is not at heart a form of organised compassion then it is not worthy of the name socialism." Brilliant. 

He then went on to say (at around 6:50) that our greatest enemy is cynicism not capitalism or conservatism - cynicism in our media and particularly attacks on intelligent young women on social media. I could have hugged him too.

Those two speakers; Billy Bragg and Hamoun Iranmanesh were to me the highlight of the day and what it was all about. They summarised my intentions and the reasons I felt so strongly about attending that I dragged my husband and baby through the rain and crowds to be counted as someone who is unhappy about the state of affairs in this country and to stand up and say that the government is not behaving on my behalf. I didn't vote for these idiots, #NOTINMYNAME! 

 These are a great example of some of the signs at the rallies and how humour can really demonstrate a point peacefully and effectively. I was disappointed to see at the Sydney rally an example of the exact opposite of this. A group of angry young men holding a very long banner that said something which ended in KILL THE POLITICIANS. It pissed me off. There is absolutely no need for that sort of aggression and instigation of violence at a peaceful rally. It was unnecessary and the antithesis of what the whole day was about. It really annoyed me and I was tempted to approach them, but I didn't. I was afraid. 

Anyway, it was a successful movement and I hope we have more. I hope as a nation we continue to call out the government when it blunders. Not just this government, but all future governments too. They work for us you know.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Unnecessarily Giant Cars

It seems that everyone owns a four wheel drive (4wd) these days. Or a gigantic ute. You know for all the off road driving and stuff carrying these people have to do. The parking spaces are too small to accommodate them and you can't get your door open if you park next to one. It is especially difficult trying to get a baby capsule out of a hatch back when you are parked along side one at the shops. And forget seeing anything ahead of you if they happen to be in front of you in traffic.

When I found out I was pregnant, I knew I had to buy a new car because I only had a three door hatch and there was no way I was going to maneuver myself over the front seat to get the baby in and out. I had a few options. Get the same size zippy car in a five door hatch, buy a larger sedan or station wagon or get a 4wd. I chose option number one. Why would I spend more money on a massive car and more money on rego and insurance when a giant car is superfluous to my needs right now?

I rarely get out on the road without incident; without someone cutting me off, or sitting close to my behind, or overtaking me aggressively, or running a red light, or misusing a roundabout, or not indicating, or parking crookedly, or flying past me when I'm sure I'm doing the speed limit. Often, the offender is in a huge 4wd. Well it seems that way anyway. I started to resent these people, especially if they had the stick figure stickers on the back of their car to describe their family unit. I prefer this sticker:

This summer, my family - my husband and I and our baby, went to the beach a fair bit. Living on the Northern Beaches of Sydney means we are close to the sea and we can commit to a whole day at the beach without being deterred by a long car trip to and from the beach on a hot day. So when we make a day of it, we take stuff to see us through the day and with a baby we had a bit of extra stuff to take along - namely the pram, nappy bag and her floating turtle seat thingy. Not too much extra. Her food (mainly my boob) fit into a small cooler bag in our esky (not my boob, I don't put my boob in the esky). Our tent and chairs are pretty compact. Towels and clothes occupy one bag. We can fit ourselves and our stuff pretty easily into my car, a Mazda 2.

My car is the one with the baby capsule attachment so we have to take my car out when we travel as a family and so far we haven't had any trouble fitting everything in. We do our grocery shopping each week with no trouble - the boot fits the pram and grocery bags easily. We even traveled by car to Melbourne for a week over Xmas and the three of us and our stuff for the week fit in easily. I guess you adapt. You learn to take what fits and what you need without over packing. However, we have started to consider the future, especially when we notice that the majority of families we see out and about drive a big 4wd. What if our family grows and we have another child or get a dog? What if our activities change and we need to take equipment with us like snow gear or bikes? How much can you pack into and strap onto a 5 door hatch back and still be comfortable and safe inside?

So I started to look around for some research into the use and safety of urban 4wds. I wanted to either justify or eliminate my resentment and understand the reality of why sales of 4wds has continued to increase over the last couple of decades, despite tariffs, penalties and increases in petrol prices that should deter people, but don't. One study seems to think that this has made no difference to the people who buy 4wds; they can either afford it or the expense increase is minimal compared to the benefits of having a big people mover, because that is what they are usually used for in the suburbs, to transport people. And their stuff.

I found this page really interesting. Four Wheel Drive Australia is an organisation that advocates for the 4wd 'community' and presents information to distinguish the facts from the myths. When I first clicked the link I honestly thought 'here we go, bias city'. I was wrong. The information is really eye opening and in comparison to sedans, it appears that 4wds have sometimes been demonised unnecessarily. The site is incredibly thorough and gives people resources and information to contribute to the safe and responsible use of these cars in an urban area as well as 'off road'. This site argues that the people buying 4wds have been unfairly labelled - often really irrationally - by the media, promoting the perception that the large cars are dangerous and damaging to the environment. They can be, but so can any car, they say. It is about looking at the facts and the reality of how these cars are used or misused and what factors contribute to harm to passengers, pedestrians and the environment. This organisation appears to be one really positive step towards ensuring people are informed and equipped to properly operate and get the best possible use of these vehicles for their needs and if those who own 4wds use them properly, it also ensures safety and convenience for the rest of us who don't want or need to have such a huge car.

This study concluded that:

"Urban dwellers are voting with their wallets and purchasing flexible and safe (for the occupants) vehicles, 4wds, in record numbers. They are often used as substitutes for people movers, being used 25% of the time to ferry passengers around. Indeed, one in five couple households in Sydney with young children owns a 4wd. The types of households owning these 4wds are wealthy enough not to worry unduly about moderate pricing measures to alter their choices – significant price incentives (or penalties) would likely be required to encourage a behavioural shift towards vehicle types more acceptable in a safety and environmental perspective to the community as a whole. The tariff equalisation program and the current trend in petrol prices are likely to have an impact, but maybe not a large one. Current station-wagon-like people movers such as Honda Odyssey and Holden Zafira offer safety and environmental advantages over many types of 4wd vehicles in urban areas while retaining much of the flexibility and carrying ability that 4wd users require. Are there any other options? Well, it may surprise to learn that there is no strong evidence for 4wd owning households using public transport more or less than other households. Thus, methods to encourage greater use of public transport by 4wd owners may be as successful as with any other households in the population. In addition, households owning 4wds are almost twice as likely to own adult bicycles than other households (.9 of a bike per household vs .5 of a bike for non-4wd households), perhaps indicating more active lifestyle, but also perhaps another reason for the 4wd purchase – for carrying bikes." Tim Raimond, Transport and Population Data Centre, NSW Dept of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources

It was so interesting to me to consider that the people I see driving around in these giant cars, may actually need them to transport their kids and their kids' belongings, their shopping, their equipment such as prams, bikes, skate boards, pets, scooters, sporting equipment, clothes, food, pillows and blankets and whatever else they needed that particular day, or weekend, or indeed longer if they were going on holidays. It also got me thinking that perhaps it was the infrastructure that needs to evolve quicker to accommodate the shifting needs of families. Maybe we need wider roads, bigger and more abundant parking spaces, better systems of public transport and better bike lanes/routes. The other side to that is that maybe we need a shift in culture too. Maybe we need to think about our reliance on cars, especially in a place like Sydney. Everywhere is distant, we have to drive to most places, in particular to work. What incentives do we have to stay local to our area? What services and facilities are available in each suburb to cater for the demographic? How can we adapt our lives generally to need less commodities, to live simpler and more efficiently? How can we learn to enjoy a world and lifestyle that is slower, less complicated with "things" and "objects" to gratify us as opposed to connecting again with each other and our natural world and accessing that which is available to us easily and without fuss? It seems we spend much more time and money equipping ourselves and getting to the activity than actually doing said activity!

In fact when I read this study from Monash University, it really put some things in perspective. It looked at the age of the driver, their gender and their location. It also took into consideration the age of the vehicle and the technology it possessed as well as the distances it traveled, which made speed and the condition of the road a contributing factor. So for example what is the difference between a driver who is a young male in an old ute or jeep flying down a country road for work compared to a mature parent who has been driving for years in a brand new 4wd with all the mod cons, dropping their kids off at the local school and doing the shopping, driving mainly short distances in a 60km zone?

The study used NZ and Australian statistics and concluded that particularly in NZ, 4wds had a lower crash risk compared to other classes of vehicles when driven in urban areas. Both Australian and NZ studies in the past had shown that 4wds were more likely to protect the occupants of the vehicle in a crash, but there was a higher risk of serious injury to other drivers when they collided - this is referred to as aggressivity. Despite 4wds having higher aggressivity, they had a lower risk of collision depending on how they were used, ie. for shorter distances at lower speeds (say by families in an urban environment) compared to long distances and higher speeds (say by young males in a work capacity in rural areas). The study also found that the most dangerous vehicles by far were sports cars driven by young males in the country side. The study did find that 4wds were more prone to rolling than other vehicles and were more likely to kill the passenger if it did roll, but again this was more likely to happen at high speeds on longer distances, especially if driven by inexperienced drivers and in older vehicles.

So what does this all mean to me? Maybe I have something similar to small dog syndrome. Small dogs are wonderful when left alone; they're low maintenance, they do small shits, they don't eat much and you can put them in your hand bag. They also bark a lot, at everything, including really big dogs, because they are always shit scared and on high alert. They live on a knife's edge and are forever feeling threatened and defensive, feeling the desire to bark loudly and puff out their chests and bare their teeth as a warning and a mechanism for self protection. They are fucking annoying. 

I'm in a small car. I love my small car. It's easy to park, it's fuel efficient and compact, but when I'm surrounded by really big cars, they feel aggressive and over bearing to me. I feel suffocated, closed in when they're behind, in front and on either side of me. They always appear to be going really fast and coming up to me really close. Perhaps it isn't just a perception. They do tend to promote a false sense of security and a confidence in their drivers bordering on aggression because of their girth, but by the looks of this research, perhaps the sense of security is justified as you're definitely going to come out better off if you crash into someone and you're protected by a big metal box instead of a smaller one. My fear gives me the need to bark and I'm starting to think I might be annoying like the small dogs; maybe only if I whinged about 4wds to their drivers' faces. I'm intimidated on the road by bigger cars. Sometimes it's in my mind, sometimes it isn't. I reckon there is definitely a whole lot of bullying going on on our roads by people in big cars - whether they are 4wds, or big yutes, or trucks, or buses. The thing is the vehicles don't drive themselves. People do the driving and they do the bullying too.

When I started to write this I was definitely vehemently opposed to ever owning a 4wd while I lived in the suburbs and I absolutely had the shits at people who do. Although I feel like I am growing out of my little hatch, as I am no longer a single young woman, zipping around the place in nothing short of a roller skate; I still think that I can manage my expanding spacial requirements that having kids causes, by upgrading to the next still compact level - perhaps option number two, a larger 4 door sedan or a station wagon. They do make 4wds in a more compact version though, so after doing just a bit of research, that is now an option I am willing to consider if we have another baby or get a dog or if I join my husband on the snow fields (which is highly unlikely to require me to buy equipment as the best maneuver I can manage in the snow is just a really awesome snow angel). 

I can now appreciate that some people have the need for a larger car to cater for their family sizes and their activities and that these people aren't out to kill me. I also understand that some of the intimidation I feel might be self imposed because I have resisted surrendering my discreet place in the world as an invisible single woman living in harmony with the still and silent. I'm starting to get the 'if you can't beat them join them' mentality. It's a little bit more reassuring to have discovered that in urban areas, there may be less opportunity for 4wds to do a lot of damage because they are not going to be driving very fast or over long distances and they're likely to be driven by more experienced drivers, but that's referring to damage to themselves, the 4wders. It doesn't erase the fact that in my little car, with my baby on board (and a big fucking sign declaring it, in lieu of the stick figure family shit), if I were to collide with a 4wd, I'm going to come off second best - the sheer terror, the horror of the thought keeps me awake at night. 

I'm probably going to buy a 4wd. 

But it won't be a Jeep. Just because of that fucking ad where the wife goes 'I bought a Jeep' and the husband is so chuffed that she bought a man's car that he gets a boner because she upgraded to masculinity and legitimacy instead of being a pussy and buying a Mazda 2. Maybe I'll just get a Mazda 3, in a station wagon.


I conceived twins and we bought a 4wd - a Mazda CX5. We had to, we simply had no choice because we had to have a vehicle that would fit three children (at the moment it's two capsules and a seat, eventually it will be three seats) in the back seat. I must say it is a dream to drive and my experience on the road has been vastly different to that whilst driving a little hatch back. I'm definitely more confident on the road because I sit higher and the car is bigger, but the biggest difference is how others drive near me; or at least my perception of other drivers. I don't feel as bullied. I don't feel as overwhelmed by bigger cars because I am one of them. I still drive like a nanna, in the left lane, not much over taking, sitting just below the speed limit if it's safe to do so, making very thought out decisions to make my trip more efficient with the safety of my babies paramount in my mind, like changing lanes or over taking. I don't feel defensive anymore. I'm not a barking little dog anymore. I think I'm a big dog now. Well at least medium sized. There are still truckies and bus drivers to contend with and I've already nearly had my mirror swiped off by a passing bus as I sat at the traffic lights; on my way to hospital pregnant with the twins. Bottom line; I'm a convert. Necessity won and I'm not at all unhappy about it.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Picture Perfect


My friends and I used to take selfies in high school in the 90s, before digital cameras. We'd hold the camera out at arms length and point it towards our faces and click. Then we'd have to wait until we'd used up the whole roll of film (35mm) and get the thing developed, hoping for the best outcome. Sometimes it was blurry, or I'd close my eyes or roll them back. These days we have no such dilemma. We point and click with our phones and the results are instant. If the photo is 'ugly', we  delete it and do it again and again and again until we're happy with it. Same goes for any picture for that matter. A group shot, the scenery. If it's not up to scratch, we can correct it. Is this reality? Or is it edited, enhanced pretense?

Of course this luxury is advantageous, we can create beautiful images, perfect moments, wonderful memories, but what have we lost in the process. Spontaneity, authenticity, heck even comedy.

Sometimes selfies do go wrong, a quick google search of funny selfies or selfies gone wrong will illuminate my point.  I have to say, this one is my all time favourite.

With the digital age has come a narcissism so intense, that the desire to look perfect in a photo has surpassed any notion of what beauty actually is in real life. Sorry I'm distracted, I can't stop looking at the turd in the photo above and I can't help wondering where the toilet paper is, didn't she wipe her arse?

The reality is that anyone can look amazing in a photo with the right lighting, angles, make up and technique and sometimes the photos we hate of ourselves caught off guard, upon future examination become a beautiful rendition of a moment in time in our lives. Has that happened to anyone before? It has certainly happened to me. I'm not the kind of person that aims for perfection in photographs especially if they are of myself, I don't pose unless I'm taking the piss. I want to capture what I'm doing and how I'm feeling in that moment. Mostly I take photos when I am doing something that I want to remember. A lunch with family, an outing with my husband and baby, an event I'm attending or just something I see that I think is beautiful that I want to capture, something I know I will want to remember, something that has a story attached to it. Very often when I see pictures of myself, I hate them initially. Especially if someone else has taken the picture. I may be standing at a weird angle and my body looks out of proportion. My face isn't symmetrical and certain angles make me look completely hideous. Often however, when I look at that same picture months or years down the track, I don't see the imperfections anymore. I see a younger self, someone who is smiling genuinely because I can never pose in a picture and I remember that I was doing something I loved and having a good time. I used to be embarrassed by photos when I was young, now I look back and think what a self conscious kid I was and for no good reason. The pictures have captured happy memories, mostly. Sometimes I just had the shits and those moments are clear as day as well.

So is it only a question of perception? Do we judge what we see in a photo or in the mirror only by what our brain has been programmed to think is beautiful? That could be an unanswerable philosophical question, but there has to be some influence on what we value as attractive from the images and value systems that surround us. For example if every woman on television is thin, has ghd curls and fake eye lashes, is pouting and has her hand on her hip to look more symmetrical and in proportion, doesn't that become the standard by which we measure ourselves by? With advertising companies bombarding us with images, particularly of women, that have been digitally manipulated - sometimes slightly retouched, sometimes completely altered - does our brain become programmed subconsciously to think that anything outside that idea of perfection is ugly or wrong; despite how completely unattainable it is. In some of these images, necks are lengthened, eyes widened and moved further apart, hair lines lifted, blemishes and lines removed, teeth whitened, skin lightened. Dove have created an amazing video highlighting this reality.

It seems that people these days judge their appearance based on what they see in a photograph or video not what they look like in the mirror or what they look like to others around them, at least those who know and love them and whose opinion of them actually counts. They are not even considering their relationship with themselves when they look at their own reflection or their relationship with others like the person taking the picture or the people in the photo with them, they are looking at the face as an object instead of a subject; measuring and considering its parts individually and independently of each other. Are the eyes wide; are the lips pouty; is the skin smooth. They are not analysing what is behind the eyes or what story the face as a whole is telling. You can smile and pout all you want, but if you are miserable, it is obvious. You can be caught off guard with your eyes rolling back in your head and a stupid shape to your mouth; but if you're blissfully happy, you look it.

With the prevalence of social media and the instantaneous way with which we post self images online, for some people it is becoming more important to look good in a photo than in real life. This brings me to the obsession with erasing lines. We know all too well the claims that cosmetic companies make about creams that are age defying. There's always someone in a lab coat telling us about a new scientific advance that will retard or reverse the process of aging. Nonsense. There is absolutely no scientific (real science, not pseudo science) evidence anywhere that proves that this is true. 

However, these days there are more dramatic ways to iron out our faces short of surgery. Injectables. These do work. They reach the nerves to the muscles to stop them from contracting, which erases and prevents wrinkles. It is temporary. I don't know what that means long term with regular use, I'd be interested to see some studies about the long term effects of this procedure. This study looks at the use of botox on children with cerebral palsy in their lower limbs to limit spasticity. It appears that they needed several injections to make a difference, but not too many otherwise there was no benefit. I wonder if it is the same with its use cosmetically. This article in the UK's Daily Mail talks about the possible risks and these articles in the British Medical Journal bring up some great points about the fact that the 'botox industry' is not well regulated, so although you can find high quality practitioners who know what they are doing, inexperienced and misinformed individuals can get access to the substances and equipment quite easily and hold what are commonly referred to as 'botox parties' where shit can go wrong. There are also concerns about these cosmetic treatments being unlawfully tested on animals.

I recently saw the movie Gravity with Sandra Bullock. I love her, she's such an amazing actress, but her face put me off in this movie. She played such a beautiful, heart wrenching, emotional, thought provoking character who found herself in an impossible situation; one that no ordinary human can even begin to comprehend the enormity of - she was out of this world, literally; BUT SHE COULDN'T MOVE HER FACE! I could see the effort; I could see her eyes forcing themselves to convey her emotions, I could feel the expression and the sentiment, BUT HER FACE!! It was literally frozen. All the feelings were behind a mask, bursting to come out, trapped, their only outlet her eyes, hidden behind muscles that were no longer allowed to function. I'm gobsmacked an actress would do that to herself. And there are so many others. Nicole Kidman in Baz Luhrmann's Australia was another one - amazing film, brilliant cinematography, but all I could focus on was her bloody forehead and her lips, which kept distorting in volume in various scenes. It gave it away that they didn't shoot the thing in sequence that's for sure.

I've always wondered why all the beautiful actresses go nuts with the botox. I remember the first time I saw Courtney Cox on Family Ties. I cut out a picture of her from a magazine because I thought she was the most beautiful actress I'd ever seen. I remember thinking to myself that she was going to be huge and I was right. She was stunning on Friends. Seen her lately? What the hell happened? 


I'm not judging her. I reckon there is plenty of pressure on women to stay young and 'relevant' in certain industries; I'm not blaming the victim, I'm demonstrating the result of what the Dove exercise produces. She was gorgeous, lines and dimples and crows feet and all. Now she looks like a fucking lion whose been smacked in the mouth. She looks like she's in pain. It pisses me off a bit. I feel angry on her behalf. She didn't need to be corrected so extremely. 

Now I don't want to ignore the hypocrisy I feel creeping in. I dye my hair. I must admit, I'm too lazy to do it often these days and am embracing my grey hair. I've never had it coloured at the hairdresser, I do it myself. When I was young I dyed it for fun, just to change the colour and style. These days it is to cover the grey and because the store bought stuff nowadays is ammonia free and full of lovely oils that work as a treatment. I love how my hair feels when I have just coloured it, even though I miss bits underneath because I do it myself and can't justify buying two packets for coverage. I can't reach or see the underneath bits anyway. But at least the top bits look nice. I'm really not that serious about perfecting it, it's just an illusion - smoke and mirrors. 

The irony and inequity hasn't escaped me. My husband whose silvering hair (especially since he's met me - coincidence?) is increasing, wouldn't dream of colouring his hair. I know some men do it, but most don't. It is acceptable. It is seen as distinguished. Aging on a man is ok. It demonstrates maturity, wisdom, wealth. Brings to mind that stupid Budget Insurance ad where the man looks twice the age of his partner who he patronising calls 'love' because her French accent prevents her from pronouncing the word Budget correctly. She's naked in the shower, he's shaving in the mirror, fully clothed. It's normalised to see a man much older than his younger partner. If it was reversed she would be branded a cougar. Which brings me right back to Courtney Cox. I would have been more impressed with her new TV show Cougar Town if she'd let her hair go grey, kept her lines and aged gracefully and still got laid with younger men.

It's time to rethink why we take pictures, what is the purpose? What are we saying when we put a photo of ourselves up on the internet? Are we sharing a moment in our lives, genuinely or are we representing ourselves as an image, an inanimate object?

Here's a fun exercise. Pick a friend on Facebook and go to their photos. How many facial expressions can you count on their faces? Is it the same smile over and over again in every situation or do they sometimes look surprised, puzzled, bored, happy, deep in thought, cranky, drunk, distracted, jubilant, neutral....

Don't judge! Just observe and tell every one you love that they are beautiful once in a while. And look at yourself in the mirror often. Look deep into your eyes, smile at yourself and say it out loud....."I FUCKEN LOVE YOU! "

Monday, 3 February 2014

Kept Woman

As of now, at the time of writing this, I am officially without an income. As mentioned in my bio, I have been an active member of the workforce since I was 13 years old and now I am officially unemployed, not unoccupied; as I write, my baby is crying for a feed and a soothe. She needs me. I am 38 and a stay at home mum.

My first job interview was unconventional. I used to go to a coffee shop, owned by two Greek brothers, before and after school, I was 13. I'd hang out with friends and we would buy a doughnut and a milkshake or something. The older of the brothers was married with a family. He was respectful. The younger brother was single, he was sleazy, sexist, but harmless. The interview went like this:

Sleazy guy: Hey you wanna wash my dishes?
Me: You gonna pay me?
Sleazy guy: Come Thursday night.
Me: Ok

I worked a four hour shift on the Thursday night, learning about how to clean the coffee and soft serve machines and clearing tables and of course, washing the dishes, by hand, they didn't let me use the dishwasher. The older brother cooked; burgers, chips, battered goods. The younger brother served at the counter and made coffees. I helped out where I could. They were impressed and asked me to come back for four hours during the day on Saturday. For the two shifts I got $50. I thought I was rich! Back then, a 13 year old making $50 a week, cash in hand, no tax and getting some work experience as well as keeping myself occupied and learning some great skills. My parents encouraged me to earn an income, but they wanted me to spend half of the money I earned as I pleased, as long as I saved the other half. That never happened. I saved up if I wanted something, like my first pair of Doc Marten boots, but I spent the lot. I loved the independence.

That job led to others and I haven't been unemployed for very long since. I worked in food service some more, I got some casual shifts at a factory with my dad and this supported me throughout university. I got my dream job in a Women and Children's Refuge upon graduating from an Arts Degree at Sydney Uni. I got great marks after high school and had my choice of courses and universities, but I chose the biggest and oldest one in Australia, mainly because great bands played there and they had awesome old buildings and gargoyles and I could hang out in Newtown if I wanted to; and I did Arts because at 17 I had no idea what vocation I wanted to pursue. I did my three years and left. I majored in Sociology, Anthropology and Women's Studies and I still view the world and people through those eyes.

In third year, at enrollment (back then you had to go in person and queue up for hours to sign up for courses, there was no internet in 1995), I was told that I hadn't fulfilled my unit requirements to graduate. Unbeknownst to me, I had failed English in first year. I was great at English at school because I had a wonderful teacher and we studied interesting texts that he brought to life for us. He even ended the year with a study session in the form of a game show to help us remember stuff for the HSC. At the end of the gameshow, we all had to recite a memorised monologue from one of the texts; Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. I'll never forget when the quietest most unassuming girl in the class recited Cleopatra's death monologue and the whole class gave her a standing ovation because she absolutely blew us away, she was that good. I still get goosebumps thinking about that moment. I got Cesar's monologue and I was crap. I always hated public speaking and I made a fucking idiot of myself, I was so nervous. 

Anyway, English in high school - good, at Uni - not so good. I had an old fart of a lecturer who had taught one of my high school teachers, he was ancient in the mind not just the body and he sapped every ounce of joy out of every text we ever looked at. He never made eye contact, he just waffled on for hours about what he thought the author meant. He destroyed any interest I had in the subject and failed me. Prick. I didn't even notice. 

So there I was at enrollment, smug about it being my last year when the student volunteer told me with glee that I would have to pick up another first year subject if I wanted to graduate. I did, Government 101. Boring as bat shit, but it came in pretty handy eventually and I passed with no trouble. 

On graduation day, our valedictorian was John Bell from the Bell Shakespeare Theater Company; all I remember from his speech was that he got drunk at Manning Bar heaps too. I have to say, I didn't make any friends at uni; I was so shy and completely unprepared for the social and political side of study at that age. I drank and watched bands alone and hung out at the library or in quiet corners of the magnificent buildings by myself. I wish I had my personality now, back then. Oh and for the record, no body EVER, in any job interview EVER, has given a flying toss about my degree. Well maybe once; my Women's Studies major impressed them at the interview at the refuge. That's about it. The piece of paper now hangs proudly in my old bedroom at home at my parents' place. I loved studying and being a student, but I couldn't do it for very long because I had to make a living. I wish I could go back to it. I have considered doing some post graduate studies, perhaps via correspondence; these days it is so easy to do that, but it's expensive and time consuming and well that ship has sailed.

The refuge was the jewel in my working life's crown. In high school I was very passionate about human rights. I'd joined Amnesty International and participated in their letter writing campaign to help with the release of political prisoners. I loved the writing aspect of it and thought it was the least I could do from my privileged existence and I took on the task with gusto; memorising whole sections of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At uni in first year, a mature aged student in my Sociology lecture befriended me and told me that she thought I would really enjoy Women's Studies, so in second year I dropped Medieval History (which, like English I nearly failed, but the lecturer at least had the decency to warn me that I was failing, so we agreed that if he gave me a score of 50 and passed me, he would never see me again) and enrolled into Women's Studies. This course changed my life. It validated my gendered experience, it allowed me to understand what viewing the world through a feminine perspective meant, regardless of a gendered body; men can be feminists too. It exposed me to incredible literature and texts, amazing female lecturers and tutors and topics that although directly affect women exclusively, half the population, have consequences for all of humanity. Everything clicked into place. I knew I wanted to work in women's services, so not long after graduation, when I saw the ad in the local paper for a junior to work in a women's refuge, I jumped at the opportunity and I got the job. I thought, 'sheez that was easy!' Especially after hearing that old Arts joke over and over again. You know the one that goes something like: What did the Arts student say to the Economics student? Would you like fries with that? 

Working at the refuge was a hard slog, but inspiring, emotional and empowering. I started there at a time of great transition for the refuge movement in NSW, particularly ours and was at the time working with three generations of women. The first generation were the women in their 70s who had been there from the beginning. They were old school. They still did things the way they did when refuges were first established in the 1970s. With a sense of emergency, they practiced separatist feminism. Men were the enemy most of the time, unless they wore a uniform and even then they weren't to be trusted too much. They didn't document their work other than in day books and journals and photos; they were secretive and cliquey. They were maternal and traditional, but radical for their time. The next wave were the baby boomers. They had money because they worked compared to their predecessors who were often happy to just volunteer, they were occasionally sole parents, they were business minded and professional. They were multicultural and multi denominational. Men too were the enemy, but they focused on educating the boys. Then my generation came along. We introduced computer programs to document our services and designed forms and manuals. We used a consultant and established a value and motto system. We created a structured service worthy of the stretched funding we received. We built upon the values and services that were established over the three generations and reached out further to the women in our community and the network of refuges across the entire state. In my opinion, we had easier relationships with men; we were fortunate to have the strength and independence fought for and won by the women before us. Men weren't the enemy, authority and systems were. Through all three generations - the personal was still the political.

We were a women and children's refuge - a service for families escaping and surviving domestic violence (physical/sexual/psychological/emotional violence) and where in the past, the services were focused on the family as a unit, we could now divide the services into those aimed at the woman's needs and those focused more on the needs of the child. That was the straw that broke this camel's back. I was 23 when I started, 26 when I left. I felt strong and motivated to empower a woman; an adult able to make her own choices, a woman whose potential and instinct for survival I could harness and reflect back to her to encourage her to fight for her rights, to respect herself, to demand safety and justice and the freedom to nurture herself and her children. But when I moved from the women's services section to the child protection aspect of my work, I crumbled. I didn't have the stomach for what I witnessed and saw. I didn't have a heart yet strong enough to protect those babies. I regressed to a child myself and felt too helpless, too weak to revive them. All I could do was suffer with them. As a mother now, I wonder if I could go back to that work. It was debilitating. I'm simply not strong enough and the rage just drowns the compassion and that doesn't help anyone. I quit after a particularly difficult case and after only three years took some time out to process what the refuge experience gave me. I tip my hat to the women who have made this their life. My refuge coordinator is still there 30 odd years later. Her salary was only slightly higher than what I earned as a junior admin clerk in the public service. I bumped into her recently at a union rally for community workers who were fighting for a pay rise. I asked her how she can still do it and not break after all these years and she said to me, "I just keep going".

I've worked in so many different industries: property valuations, community housing, disability support, engineering, domestic cleaning, child minding, fashion, insurance and banking, call centers, medical reception, mostly in a service or admin capacity, never really wielding any power, but certainly making a significant contribution. Eventually I ended up in the public service. I finally got to where I wanted to be; a secure, well paying job, with great benefits, interesting work focusing on social justice, unionised protection, a great bunch of people to work with, in the city - I secretly love Sydney for all it's fast paced, impersonal, aggressive flaws. By the time I was 30 I figured it didn't matter where I worked, as long as I was contributing something meaningful to society, was earning a decent wage so that I could be independent and self sufficient (pay rent, maintain a car, travel a little and not need anyone to support me like my parents or a partner) and build upon a foundation so that I could become a parent and do it right, planned, organised. People tell me you're never really ready to be a parent, but I disagree. You can aim towards being prepared somewhat. I take the role of creating humans rather seriously, shouldn't we? And one important lesson I learned in my studies about women's issues and working in women's services is that if you empower women; if you protect them; if you give them the right, education and freedom to determine and control their reproductive bodies; we would solve the world's problems.  It would certainly be a kinder and healthier society. Matriarchal societies have demonstrated this over and over again, but today we still choose to ignore them. We prefer the patriarchy, we let it win. It destroys men as much as women. Why can't we achieve a balance? What have we got to lose in trying?

I didn't know at the time the circumstances in which I would have a child and although I was raised in a fairly traditional nuclear family, I wasn't sure if I wanted to get married and have babies; I was never going to be a perpetual breeder, but I knew for sure that I wanted to have a child or two if I was fortunate enough. I also knew that I would risk not having children if the right circumstances didn't present themselves. If I wasn't financially and emotionally stable, healthy and well ready to give up myself, even for just a short time while they were babies and dependent on me completely. I would have rather not had kids than had them and not been prepared.

So here I am. At 38, married - I buckled under the pressure. Marriage wasn't important to me. I didn't care about it all, but mine and my husband's parents did and he did and well in the end I did too. We gave everyone, including ourselves a decent party. I wore green; I had a celebrant; we ate great food and cake and danced. I got a nice (cheap) ring, we had a great honeymoon in Tahiti and I took my husband's surname. I struggled with that one, but with every option it was a man's name anyway. My maiden name was dad's, my mother's maiden name her dad's, my grandmothers' names all went back to a man, so I stopped fighting it. My first name matters more to me anyway. So we gave our parents their first wedding, we were both the first born. My husband's sister and my brother soon followed. My sister is a lesbian. She lives with her girlfriend and they've been together for six years. They're still waiting for the government to pull their giant finger out of their sphincter and change the law. It's shit and not fair and we will keep fighting for equality. 

At 38, married and a stay at home mum. I felt a bit lost and emotional this week. This is what I worked towards, so why am I feeling like this? Nostalgic, afraid, ripped off, but ultimately content and vindicated. I earned this! I knew that if I had a baby I would stay at home as long as was necessary to look after it because I don't have my own business and the option from working from home. I'm slightly OCD and there is no way that I would be able to work from home and keep the baby and the house and everything clean and ordered and organised anyway. I'm learning to let things go and writing is one way to immerse myself in something that allows me to ignore everything else (except the baby of course). I also knew that I couldn't go back to the 9 - 5 or in my case 7 - 630 (work is an hour and a half away) straight away so I've decided to take a couple of years off without pay. This makes me utterly dependent on my husband's income; utterly dependent on someone else for money for the first time since I was 13 and I'm a bit terrified and sort of not really ok with it. Now that the maternity and parental pay have run out, and it has literally been a few days, I'm looking for the next way in which I can earn an income, even though I don't really have to.

I fared better than most. With a public service job I was entitled to 14 weeks at full pay (or 28 weeks at half pay - I took the former); then the government helped me out with the parenting payment - 18 weeks at minimum wage. I was happy to take a pay cut knowing that everyone gets the same, including a mother who may be struggling working in a low paying job without the generous maternity leave package that I have access to. I am completely astonished that the current government wants to allow mothers on maternity leave to be paid their actual pay up to $75,000 a year. That is really attractive to someone who earns a great wage, including myself, but what about the women working in factories or retail or the community sector and care industries or the million other jobs dominated by women that don't pay anywhere near what is necessary to live on, particularly when you have dependents to look after and either a low paid partner or an unemployed partner or no partner at all to rely on. A government's obligation is to ensure an even distribution of wealth by promoting and implementing equal opportunity and access. Who are they to determine the value of some mothers over others.

I'm a bit sad and uncomfortable about being without an income even though we more than manage financially because I feel like given all my experience and contributions, in the past and now as a mother, I must be worth something! I've never worked harder than what I do at home, by choice, but also because I care about this role more than any other occupation I've had before - including the refuge. But it's not a job as such is it? I don't clock in or out for that matter; I don't get paid, but I do have unlimited access to the household purse and I don't have a boss besides myself and the baby, she bloody owns me most days. 

For now I must accept this new me and I'm enjoying every fleeting moment of my daughter's childhood - when they say it flies and they grow up quick, they weren't even remotely incorrect. I'm taking pleasure in the little things. Yes they can be mundane and tedious, but I don't mind doing the house work and the cooking (although my husband contributes to both). I am loving spending days just watching my baby play and learn and develop. I don't mind changing her and feeding her and cleaning her and babbling back at her and chasing her around the house as she becomes mobile and ensuring her safety. I've been lucky to find a wonderful network of other women in my community in my mothers' group and on social networking who are doing the same and most of them have more than one child, do all of the above and hold down full time jobs! Women are amazing! And men too, some men, are becoming increasingly focused on the important things in life too. Working to live instead of the other way around. 

Come to think of it, it is exciting to think about the prospect of the next chapter in my working life. Perhaps another baby. Perhaps another job. Maybe neither, maybe both. Time will tell.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Top of the Food Chain

Yep, Louis C K got me thinking. Are we at the top of the food chain?

Not in Australia apparently. Sharks and crocodiles don't think we are, they eat us here. If we venture into their habitat, THEY FUCKING EAT US HERE! They are at the top of the food chain not us! AS THEY SHOULD BE IN THEIR OWN HABITAT. They don't stalk us on the streets yet, but if we don't control them, according to some governments, they will.

Should we be killing them, or as the hunters prefer to call it, culling them? Killing them to reduce their numbers to a "safe" amount so that there aren't more of them than us and they don't eat us. Or is there another way to deal with this? How do we share the planet with animals who may pose a threat to us? People stomp on spiders all the time, they don't consider whether or not they are harmful. They don't catch and release. They squish them, even though they are just minding their own business and actually, unknown to many of us humans, they are contributing to our environment in their own way. All creatures have their place on this planet.

The state government of Western Australia has employed a 'catch and kill' policy to deal with the sharks in the state. According to the premier Colin Barnett or 'Cullin' Barnett as people have started calling him, the sharks in WA are climbing too high on the top of the food chain and are eating people too frequently so they need to be killed in their own habitat, if they pose a threat to people - or if they are just minding their own bloody business and some, what they consider food, comes along and they are in need of a snack. 

The Department of Fisheries Western Australia put out a commercial tender and they are basically going to go out and murder these magnificent creatures. I'm with the people who think this is bullshit, like these guys - WASC. If a shark ventures into an area where there are swimmers, it is difficult to have a boat and harpoon handy to kill the thing before it eats anyone. Real life isn't like Jaws. So the government's alternative is to go out and hunt them before they reach the swimming areas to keep their numbers under control, but it's not like they are hunting us in packs. It only takes one shark to come into a swimming area and eat a person, by itself. We can't kill them all! How about preventing this from happening by designating safe swimming areas? What about constructing large rock pools, like the many on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, but bigger so that people can swim and enjoy the beautiful beaches of Australia's coastline and not be threatened by large, people eating sharks?

There will always be people who prefer to swim or surf at secluded surf beaches and will probably do so quite safely, but isn't that a risk you take when you choose to swim in the ocean? If the sharks grew legs and started stalking our streets, they would then be risking reprisals from us humans too, wouldn't they?

This debate is happening in the Northern Territory as well. A twelve year old boy is said to have been taken by a crocodile at a billabong in Kakadu National Park . The local indigenous community is understandably distraught as it is an area where the locals have enjoyed the watering holes for decades and some have said that since protections were put in place to prevent people from killing crocodiles, their numbers have increased and so has their fearlessness of people causing them to be bolder when requiring food of the human variety. So does that mean we should be culling them? We do this with kangaroos, particularly when their numbers become too large and they threaten crops or livestock. And we eat them. Most don't go to waste, I would hope. Some people eat crocodiles and sharks too, so perhaps they won't be going to waste either.

Recently there has been some outrage about a whale murdering session that takes place in the Faroe Islands in Finland annually, where mostly teenage boys, go out into the water and hack lovely whales to death, turning the sea red with their blood. There are some hideous pictures traveling around the internet, look it up, I don't have the stomach to see them again by posting a link. It's traditional and they consume most of the meat, but there are concerns that some of the whales die slowly and are left to rot on the beaches, what a waste!

My instinct, as a mother, as a compassionate human being, is to oppose the reckless slaughter of anything - even if it is for human consumption or protection. There must be a humane way to treat creatures who we share the planet with, whether they be insects (don't gas them, don't squish them - catch and release or divert their path or just learn to live with them; unless they are cockroaches, those fuckers creep me out and I am guilty of killing them, I need to grow in this area); or dogs that bite (be careful around dogs, socialise possibly dangerous breeds, don't hold your hand out); or livestock that we hugely demand for consumption as food (I don't know how the animal I am eating has lived and died, I don't have much of a choice of where to buy ones that lived and died humanely, I'm too selfish and potentially anemic to be a vegetarian); or bigger creatures that need us for food, especially in Australia.

I don't know what the answer is, but we need to have this conversation.