Tuesday 26 June 2012

Holiday blues

While planning for our annual Christmas holiday, I was sent a link by a friend to the “perfect destination”.

And it did look perfect. The crisp white beaches, the turquoise waters, the couple in the advertisement running around laughing (who actually does that?). 

But then I found myself panicking. 

No bars. A handful of restaurants and the odd shop.  A total population on par with the amount of people in my office building.

Uh oh.

Here was a virtually secluded island with nothing to do besides alternate between lying by the ocean and the pool all day, every day. And I was scared. 

“That’s the point”, my friend soothed when I worriedly told her my concerns. “It’s one of those relaxing, isolated getaways where it’s just you and your partner, and there’s nothing to do each day but bask in each other’s company and watch the waves. No iphones, no laptops, no one to talk to but each other.” 

She may as well have said we'd be chained together in a four by four prison cell.

This is going to sound terrible because I love my partner more than anything else – but there’s no way I could last two weeks with just the two of us and the ocean and nothing else in between. 

Sure, I could happily do a few days. Maybe five if I’ve got a good book on me. But after a week, cabin (or resort) fever inevitably creeps up. 

There’s day after day stretching ahead of you, where the limited amount of things to do means the schedule always runs like this: breakfast, pool, sex, lunch, beach, sex, run around laughing – and this takes us to the next day, where it all starts again.  

You’ve probably guessed it already, but I am one of those people who constantly needs to be doing things.
When I’m not doing things, I’m making a list of things to do. 

In short, I am a control freak. Can control freaks relax? Sure they can. Just not on a deserted island.
I need atmosphere, people, music, shops and new restaurants to try together.  I simply can’t have every day the same on a holiday...or I go a bit nuts. 

I’m sure you’re all thinking I need to see a therapist or pull my head out of my ass...but I’m not alone. This has happened to (fictional character, cough) Miranda from Sex and the City.  

On her honeymoon in a cabin in the wilderness somewhere, with no TV and her mobile battery dead, Miranda and her husband are cuddled in bed. 

“Mm this is nice,” he says. 

“Yeah it is,” she agrees. 

After about thirty seconds she asks: “Now what do we do?”

Not content with staring into eachother's eyes all day, Miranda, like me, found it difficult to adjust to doing absolutely nothing.

I’m sure we’ll figure out a happy medium for our holiday, a place that’s somewhere in between New York and nobody-knows-it-because-it’s-miles-from-anywhere. 

In the meantime, I’ve got my list-writing pen poised and ready to go. 

Are you the same? Can you happily do nothing on your holidays?

Sunday 3 June 2012

Shopping envy

I went shopping with my boyfriend recently. And I must admit: the experience left me stunned, shocked and more than a little envious.

Let me put this into context. This man almost never enters a shopping mall. Yet on a bright autumn Saturday, when his old jeans had finally had it, he decided he needed to get a few things.

So he did. He bought ten items in the space of an hour. Everything he needed on his list – and strictly nothing more. Two pairs of shoes, a handful of shirts, a few ties, a pair of jeans and a jacket.

His winter wardrobe, sorted – all in the time it usually takes me to get lunch.

There wasn't any groaning or moaning or demanding to know opinions. 

He knew what he wanted and didn’t get distracted by anything else. Me on the other hand  – well it’s a little different.

I can go two hours and still not find the one thing I need. Of course, I’ve bought three other things I noticed along the way that I didn’t need, but somehow, I still can’t find anything on my mental list.

And even if I do, there’s endless hours of scrutinising, analysing, comparing, and asking for opinions that comes into play.

Shopping for me is that bittersweet, classic mixture of pleasure and pain – the pleasure when you finally find something you need that looks good outweighs the five hours of pain you endured trying, and failing, to find it and being stuck in a florescent change room staring back at your cellulite.

Oh how I envy men with their typical ensemble of jeans, a top and perhaps a scarf or jacket if they’re getting a bit out-there.

There’s so much more women are dealing with as our fashion changes by the minute – fur vests, leather trousers, skirts, poo catcher pants, cropped blazers, skinny legs, high cut shorts, bandage dresses....I’m exhausted just thinking about it. It’s a minefield.

“Done and dusted for another year,” my boy said smugly, carrying his bags as we walked out of the mall and I seethed silently.

Men, you don’t know how good you have it sometimes. Although, I’ll still choose getting to wear heels anytime.  

The Modern Paparazzi

Recently on one of my favourite sites, Mamamia, there was a post on Photo Nazis.Or snapaholics, if you will.

You know the ones, who at every outing must document every single moment, from the ice-cream they ate to the movie they saw to the paint drying on the wall. And it doesn’t just have to be by photo. It can be by a status update or a check in.

You’re familiar with these people right? Perhaps you’re one of them yourself.

I’m torn on this, you see.

On the one hand, I can’t stand people must constantly tag themselves at the gym, or the movies, or their bed at home. I simply don’t see the need for endless documenting on pointless occasions, other than these people want to show off a little.

BUT – and that’s a big but – I am also kind of thankful for Photo Nazis, and here’s why.

I have a terrible short term memory. I can remember what colour top I was wearing at my fifth birthday, but I cannot for the life of me remember what I did last week, or a month ago, or this year. What have I been doing? A quick check of Facebook is all I need, where my Photo Nazis have been furiously snapping away, at various events from weddings to dinners to lunches at KFC. It means I can look back and go “ah – that’s what I was doing last weekend.”

From that timeline I suppose I can piece together moments of my life. Whether they are significant moments, is another matter.

My only issue is that I want to make sure people are living in the moment rather than missing out because they’re too busy documenting it and making sure they look cool and interesting on Facebook.

I sometimes look fondly back on photos of my grandparents when they were my age; only taken on very special occasions and now locked in precious gold frames rather than a disc or on a social media site.

I doubt I’ll keep the photos of me eating lunch or seeing a movie. But the ones I do have, of very special occasions, I will keep forever and am thankful for. 

Cooking, anyone?

“I love to cook,” she said. “It just relaxes me, as soon as I turn on a pot or pan I can feel all my worries ease away.”

That’s my friend talking – not me, obviously.

As she tells me this I’m picturing my kitchen at home whenever I cook – me, red faced, in a dirty apron surrounded by cookbooks, spilt food, and a thousand pots and pans boiling all at the same time. Relaxing? Not for me. I relax when I’m at a restaurant, eating food – not when I’m cooking it.

But lately I’ve been on this project to be a good cook. I thought it would be easy enough; but it’s an uphill battle, and it aint getting any less steeper. Just putting on a cute apron is unfortunately not enough to say “I’m the next Masterchef.”

Last night, for instance, I tried to make salmon in the oven, for something different. After ten minutes I smelt burning, and after fifteen it was on fire and I was hurriedly trying to put it out.

All in all, not the best start to my cooking venture.

I will keep you posted as I continue this challenge; but in the meantime, if you have any fail proof recipes, send them my way and I’ll try and see if I can not burn the house down when I try them. 

Sunday 27 May 2012

These are a few of my favourite things...

Well, it seems winter is well and truly here. (Not that it ever really left, our excuse for a summer was unforgivable).

Believe it or not though, there are a few good things about winter - that I even sometimes look forward to.

DVD nights

Think copious amounts of peppermint tea, a heater on full ball, a big chunky knit jumper and cuddles with your fave person while the wind howls outside. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night when you can't be bothered heading out!

Cosy, romantic dates

If you do venture out, it's got to be a cosy, dimly lit venue where the bottles of red are flowing and you have all the time in the world to sit and chat.

A new doona and sheets

Yep, I am aware I sound sad. But when it's freezing outside - admit it - how GOOD is it to clamber into a nice warm soft bed with new or freshly washed sheets knowing you've got the next morning to sleep in to your heart's content.

Suede boots and trenchcoats

Ah, boots. Probably my favourite thing about winter - besides trenchcoats, of course. Both of these items are classics will always be in fashion. A cute trench can not only make you feel warm but with a cinched belt is oh-so-flattering for a dame's figure! And boots? What can make you feel more on-trend than boots? Nothing, that's what.

Hearty meals

Nothing says winter like a hearty minestrone soup beside a wood-stocked fire. That and my new other fave winter meals - slow cooked lamb with red wine or chile con carne with avacado.

By the time the gloss of all these things wears off, hopefully it will be nearly summer again (you better perform next time weather - *shakes fist*) and you can toss those leggings and chunky knits aside for next year.

Sunday 6 May 2012

Clothing and memories

Sometimes, there’s no better therapy than cleaning out your wardrobe. 

It’s as if throwing away all those unused clothes signifies a clean slate, a fresh start – or at the very least room for newer, better things. 
I did this recently. 

Most of my clothes went to charity, but the rest I decided to make some money from and sell at a vintage market. 

I set up a stall, and as I carefully hung my clothes on the racks, they suddenly looked like new again – shinier, glossier. 

I had gone into this in sales mode: sell the clothes, pocket the money, done and dusted. I was hoping to be as clinical as a clinician. I never thought emotions would come into it. Selling a house, yes. A car, maybe. But clothes? 

Yet I still felt the sting of rejection when shoppers flitted nonchalantly through my clothes and abruptly turned on their heel, uninterested, to the next rack. 

There was a pang of regret when the designer baby doll dress I bought for $300 – and had never worn – sold for $40. 

And then came bitterness when a woman smaller than me tried my Sass & Bide jeans that I could no longer get past my hips and looked…better than I did. 

“Look away,” my friend consoled me, as the girl happily walked away with the jeans for $30. 

“At least they went to a good home. It’s like the sisterhood of the travelling pants! Except they, er, just didn’t fit you.”

It’s not just the pain of someone looking better than you in your own clothes: it’s the many memories that come swarming back when you remember what you were doing when you were wearing them. Like perfume, a piece of clothing can instantly trigger a moment in time. 

As I pulled together my unworn, crumpled clothes from the back of the cupboard, I was piecing together those significant moments in my life, good and bad. 

The jacket I wore on my very first date with my now partner. 

The dress I wore to my school formal. 

The sweatpants I was wearing when I was told my grandfather had died. 

The red dress I wore when I spent the night crying in a nightclub toilet after a breakup. 
The top I proudly bought with my very first pay cheque.

Although some of these clothes didn’t even fit anymore, I wasn’t sure I could bring myself to put them on the sale rack. I felt like selling and watching someone else walk away with them was like throwing away a link to a memory. 

I always had visions of me, old and gray and losing my marbles, suddenly being able to connect the dots through said garments. 

One of the shoppers at the market approached my stall and held up the lace skirt I was wearing when I had my first kiss. 

“This is beautiful,” she said shyly. 

“It is,” I smiled, secretly wondering how I could somehow snatch it back from her without causing a fuss. 

Although it didn’t fit me anymore, when I looked at that skirt the same butterflies I felt back then entered my tummy again. I could even almost smell the (copious amounts of) Lynx deodorant my date had been wearing and the scent of lavender outside my house.

“I was thinking I could wear this to my engagement party,” the woman said, smiling.
Watching her eyes light up, my urge to snatch the skirt slowly faded. 

I knew I was being silly, that I’d always have my memories, no matter what – and rather than sitting in the back of the closet collecting dust, this lace skirt could have a new life, creating new memories for someone else. 

Resisting the urge to tearfully whisper: “take care of it – it doesn’t respond well to water above 30 degrees when washing,” I packed the skirt into a bag, pocketed $30 and locked away a memory in my mental filing cabinet, which will hopefully be easily found later when I’m old and gray and losing my marbles.

Thursday 26 April 2012

(Wo)men at work

Recently in the media we heard a whole lot about women not getting paid as much as men.

Reasons ranged anywhere from plain old sexism to women not being confident enough in the workplace to ask for a pay rise because they “didn’t believe their position to be worthy enough.”

I know in relationships, many women are perfectly capable of speaking their minds and are at equal terms with their partner – and no one questions that. 

But with employment, it’s a different matter. And I’m not just talking about the pay.

Sadly I have noticed that in many cases in the workplace, women are still treated differently to their male colleagues.

For some offices, it’s tradition that women are filed into two annoyingly neat and restrictive categories: the “ball-breaker” who gets the promotion; or the “push-over” who gets the corner office and who will gladly do your filing for you while you go on holidays.

Of course, we all know women are a lot more diverse than this. But these are the stereotypes people in the office tend to fall back on time and time again – they’ve become as comfortable and familiar as tea breaks.
I remember a woman in a mid-level position in my office. She was loud, domineering and opinionated; but fantastic at her job. She negotiated a pay rise and ended up with a nice little package: the office with the view, a promotion – and the nickname “ball-breaker.”

There was a man at the same level who was also loud and domineering, regularly slamming doors and stomping around the place – but I never heard any names whispered about him apart from “busy and “important.”
It seems pushy or powerful men in the office get the privilege of more favourable words like “stern”, “firm” or “putting the foot down”. They are seen as someone to be respected, even feared.

But for women? “Psycho bitch” is one I’ve heard thrown around from time to time about certain and powerful women. I can’t say I’ve heard that said about any successful men I’ve worked with, even if they do have psycho tendencies.

It’s worth noting these words aren’t just used by men – women can be the worst perpetrators at times.
Of course, I know there are women out there who are both confident and forthright employees while remaining well-liked. I just want those less-than-favourable, stereotypical words not to make it to the workplace so often.

We’ve landed the right to work. We’re still working on equal pay. Can we at least start with this?