Women – our own enemies and saviours.

Obviously, I’ve been fairly terrible at keeping the promise to myself of posting at least every Saturday. Honestly though, work has been so insanely busy that my weekends are full of all the bits and pieces of things I haven’t had time to do during the week. Poor excuse I know, but it’s the truth.  I don’t think I’ve ever been this challenged in a role, and it’s testing my ability to stand firm on my work-life balance – I did overtime for the first time this week! Trying to keep a tight handle on that, but the next two weeks are critical for the project I’m on, so I don’t have a whole lot of choice!

Anyway, just because work has been consuming the bulk of my time, it doesn’t mean I’ve been completely isolated from the world. The internet remains my friend, and my free moments have been curled up on the couch with Simon. He’s been amazingly supportive of my forgetfulness and tearful confessions of being overwhelmed and exhausted by the brain drain of this new job.

This week has been an up and down one as a feminist also. Early in the week, I became aware of something called the LFL. It’s been around for a while, apparently, but I hadn’t encountered it before. And I have to say, it made my feminist hackles raise up and I got as angry about the world’s view of women as I’ve been in a very, very long time. For those of you who are yet to encounter this abomination to the women’s movement, it’s the Legends Football League. Sounds awesome, right? It’s not. Take a look at this video:

It’s more commonly known as the Lingerie Football League. It’s a bunch of women wearing underwear, playing gridiron. What…the…damn…hell? How on earth are women going to ever be treated as equals when we participate in our own degradation? I’m sorry ladies, no one’s there to watch your sporting prowess. If you were fully clothed, your football league would fall into the same category as every other women’s sporting group. We all know that women’s sport is horribly under represented in the media (Gender in Televised Sport). But taking your clothes off for the visual titillation of the audience? Not the way to get respect, ladies. I’m completely horrified by the whole thing. Simon quipped that maybe it’s aerodynamic. My response – if that was true, why aren’t all the male sportsmen running around in their jocks? The ‘outfits’ these women are wearing are lingerie, pure and simple. They even go so far as wearing garters, suspenders (sans stockings) and ribbon collars a la Playboy. I’m so angry at them for doing this, contributing to the sexual objectification of women. Seriously, are we only worth paying attention to if we’re pleasing a male audience? Have we done nothing to dispel this?

Whilst I was raging about this, I saw a fantastic video trying to change the way we speak about girls and the impact our words can have on a developing young woman. It’s a powerful little video and very telling about how far we still have to go in our society. But it did go a long way to restoring my faith that there are people out there still ‘fighting the good fight’ trying to make things better for women. I just hope the girls in this video never witness the LFL.

 

Not married, no kids. And perfectly happy about it, thank you…

I made a new rule for myself last weekend. Every Saturday I will write a blog. I made this rule last Friday. And then rebelled against it my very first Saturday. Because I’m awesome and take my writing very seriously. This week I have been stern with myself and put on some writing music (got to get my groove on to get going) and voila – here I am!

I’ve had something I wanted to write about for a couple of weeks, and conveniently life has handed me a couple more pieces of material while I’ve avoided putting finger to key. It’s the perception others have of you, and force on you, when it comes to your relationship status. And it gets me all riled up!

A few weeks ago I went out for birthday drinks with some girlfriends and the birthday girl’s other girlfriends. I didn’t stay too long because my new job is insanely exhausting and I’m also fairly lame when it comes to late nights out. I was going stag for the night as Simon is in the thick of exam time and therefore in social lock down. I hadn’t met a bunch of the women there, so we were testing the waters and getting to know each other.

The topic turned to men, as it inevitably does. I hadn’t really said much, just laughed along with the tales going around. One of the girls turned to me and said something along the lines of maybe we’d get lucky and meet someone that evening. I went ‘oh…no…’ and my friend jumped in with ‘Oh no, she can’t, she already has a boyfriend’. And I watched the other girl’s face shut down. She went ‘oh’ and then turned away from me and started talking to the girl on the other side of her. Shortly after that, she declared she was so glad to be out and about on a Friday, because otherwise she’d just be doing what she always does – ordering a pizza, drinking wine and watching tv at home on the couch in her trackies. She was so self-disparaging, and shot me a quick look like she expected judgement. It really made me pause. I’d been single for a very long time before Simon came along and rocked my quiet little world. It was odd for me to realise that having a man in my life has pushed me into another category in other people’s eyes. It’s been weird for me to hang out in the couple world, where there are little kids running around and we have doggy play dates with each other. I was feeling like I was back in my old comfort zone hanging out with these women, until the singletons made it very clear I didn’t belong with them anymore. All because of a man? I really wish I’d piped up and said what I was really thinking – that getting a pizza, having a drink and bumming around on the couch is pretty much every Friday night for Simon and I. Why does having another person there suddenly make that a more valid, worthy way of spending a Friday night? Give or take a bit of sex, our lives are pretty much the same as this woman’s.

It really bugs me that people judge you on your relationship status. It used to annoy me when I was single, with all the sympathetic looks and clucks from people – ‘Don’t worry, you’ll find someone one day’, ‘You never know who might be right around the corner’. Do I look worried? Do I look like I’m hating being able to sleep like a starfish in my queen sized bed and watch whatever I want on tv? No. Leave me alone and go back to your own life, it needs your attention more than mine does. When I met Simon and we moved in together, I thought maybe those judgements would leave me alone at last. Oh, I was so very wrong. Because once you’re in a relationship, the next gates of societal ranks start getting thrown in your face.

Last Friday I went to after-work drinks with a bunch of other business analysts. Because I’m being proactive about this career and actually do my darnedest to network (!). As the evening wound down, I was left briefly at the table with just one other BA, a 51 year old guy (we’d been comparing ages earlier at the behest of a 22 year old). I was looking at him, wondering if he’d kick off the conversation or if I was going to have to. I was relieved when he opened his mouth, as my mind was blanking on what to say (all the good small talk options had been exhausted). His opening line?

‘So, you’re not married.’

What the? I have never been asked that question before. I was completely thrown, and switched into auto-defensive mode.

‘No, not married. I have a boyfriend though. We live together. And we have a dog.’

Inside, I was asking myself why I felt like I had to justify my life to this man and list my relationship credentials like they had any kind of bearing on my worth as a person. Luckily for me the mention of a dog got us off onto that topic and I survived until my cousin returned from the bathroom.

I thought that was it, just a weird moment, possibly the result of him panicking and blurting out the first thing he could think of. But then yesterday I had a similar conversation. There’s another new BA in my team at work, so me and Kevin, who started on the same day as me, took him out for coffee. So it was a get to know you conversation. Kevin asked Nick, the new guy, if he had a family (he’s older). Nick said yeah, a wife & two kids. He asked Kevin if he was married & had kids. Kevin said no, not married, no kids. Not even a relationship, but having a date that night. Probably doing the same auto-witter I did the week before. Nick turned to me & asked the same question. So I parroted Kevin and said, no, not married, no kids, haha. But that I do live with my boyfriend. Nick gave me a sympathetic look and said ‘Oh well, you just enjoy your time’.

Oh well? Sympathetic look? Oh hell no. I got a little fired up and said ‘Enjoy my time? Why, before marriage comes along and ruins everything, you mean?’ Yeah, that’s right dude. You insult my life, I’m going to challenge you on yours. He got a bit of a surprise and said ‘Oh no, marriage makes it better. But that’s ok, you just enjoy your time’. What the hell? Why is he pitying me and implying my relationship is less worthy than his because I don’t have a ring and a certificate? Does getting a piece of paper from the government define our level of love? No. It blew my mind. I was used to getting that attitude when I was single. I hated it and thought it was ridiculous, but I understood that society is geared towards finding your other half etc etc. But now suddenly I’m still to be pitied because I’m not married? I do not understand. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. That is what matters. No one has the right to judge another person’s situation in life. I don’t judge them or deem them worthier of respect because they’re married. It means nothing to me. I just wish others would have the same attitude.

I don’t really have a point to this post. It was mostly to rant and get all that off my chest. It still puzzles me. Why do single people feel inferior to couples? Why do married people feel unmarried folk are inferior to them? I know not everyone feels that way, but I’ve copped it from all sides lately so it feels a little like it’s the majority. Do you guys encounter this judgement and pity about your situations? I know the answer is probably for me to just not care what other people think, and I honestly don’t care if Nick thinks I’m settling for second best by not being married – in my world, I’ve won the lottery when it comes to relationships. But I really, really dislike those conversations. The looks that get shot at me. The shut downs from single people, the ‘there there’ attitude from the married. It makes me so mad! Everyone needs to leave each other alone and stop passing judgement.

It’s not you, it’s me…oh, and the new salary…

I got the job! I mentioned in my last post that I had a job interview coming up, I ended up with 2 at the same place, different role levels as a Business Analyst. I got both, which was a huge surprise, after thinking I’d completely flunked at least one of the interviews. Luckily for me, and for my cousin who will now be my new boss (and dare I say, mentor?), the higher level role called me first – beating the other role by just a couple of hours. Simon also got his job and has been in training for 3 weeks now. He’s looking forward to getting into his normal roster as the demands of studying law and working full time are making themselves felt!

It’s been a hell of a stress roller coaster the past month or so. Getting ready for the interviews, surviving them (very glad I glammed up, as my new office building is plusher than anywhere I’ve ever seen, let alone worked), the interminable wait for a response, getting the response and then facing the moment of resignation. I’d been primed for a senior role in my current job, which is lovely but not where I’d like to end up. I felt awful handing in my notice though, knowing it was throwing a huge spanner in the works. My ops manager, who up until this point has been very friendly and approachable, hasn’t spoken to me since. It’s honestly like breaking up with someone, right down to all the empty reassurances given that it’s not you, it’s me. It’s not that the role here sucks, it’s just that I have a wonderful new opportunity. Blah, blah, blah. It’s excruciating. Made worse by people not believing you when you say you’re sorry for leaving – my manager took it well, but when I apologised, she said ‘oh, you’re not sorry!’. I was quite shocked. I said that yes, in fact, I was, and if I could be in two places at once I wouldn’t hesitate to stay, but that this was a career opportunity too good to pass up. She keeps making remarks about how much I have to do before I go, or how she bets I’m glad I’m leaving, etc etc.

Telling other people was a mixed bag. My good friends were genuinely thrilled for me, while being sad to see me go and worried about the impact it will have on the team and them. My ‘enemies’ (they hate me, I don’t give a damn about them) were thrilled for far more selfish reasons. One gave me a giant, awkward hug which said less ‘I’m so happy for you, well done’ and more ‘Hooray, she’s leaving!’, and the other has been the most chipper I’ve ever seen her. Others who don’t know me so well are completely puzzled how an ‘admin girl’ managed to land a BA role at a big four bank. Which is amusing, slightly insulting and a little unsettling.

Having got through all of that, my body has done its usual post-stress reaction and become incredibly sick. It happens every time I have a prolonged stressful period, and is just such unfortunate timing in one way because it’s meant of the 4 weeks notice I’ve given, 1 of them has been spent sick in bed. Which I’m sure my manager and my enemies think is just me using up my remaining sick leave. I hate it. I suppose in one way it’s good it happened now and not once I’ve started my new role, but I know I’m leaving my current team in a lurch a little by leaving so I wanted to get as much done as I could before I left. Mum and Simon tell me not to worry about it, they will just have to deal with it and my loyalties no longer lie with them. I keep reminding myself of the horrible things that have happened there, and how unhappy I’ve been a lot of the time. I still feel bad about having to take time off though!

But, looking forward, I think this new role is going to be amazing. I’ll admit, I am a little daunted by the prospect of the new challenges it will hold, but it’s really time I stepped up and had a ‘proper’ career. It’s bizarre for me, someone who has jumped from crappy job to crappy job, just doing whatever came along, to suddenly have a dream career, with a dream salary. I’ll not say I’m going to be rich, because there are people out there earning more than I ever will. But for me, it’s a lot of money. I feel as though I’ve gone from being a vagrant-20-something with no idea what she wanted to do with her life, to one of the successful-under-30-year-olds. Bit of a mind bender! But a wonderful one. It will mean Simon and I can save for a house properly, and if he needs to drop back another day, he can.

A huge change for both of us! For now though, I just have to limp through the final weeks of awkwardness in my current job, and cry my way through farewells. I truly hate this transition period. But as my mum always tells me, a hermit crab has to have its uncomfortable moments before it finds its new shell.

Makeup, schmakeup

I have a dilemma. It’s something that has been bugging me for years, and never fails to get me all riled up and confused. Here it is – can I wear makeup and still be a feminist?

There’s a lot more that goes into that question, but that’s what it all comes down to. I understand that feminism is about choice, about having the option as a woman to be whoever we want, and I guess as a side step from that, look however we want. But makeup to me has always been about changing who I am to please others, not ‘a way of expressing myself’ as some people put it.

This has all come to the boil again after a shopping trip last night. Simon and I both have job interviews next week (both very exciting and the perfect jobs for us & where we’re at in life), so we wanted to get new clothes. Simon has been needing a new suit for a while. Now, I need to point out that Simon loves wearing suits. He’s been wearing them ever since he was an insurance broker, and has continued to wear them even when working in call centres. People think he’s weird until they get used to the fact he dresses better than most of the higher management. He believes it’s important to look your best and to dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

I, on the other hand, tend to choose comfort over impressive stylings. I believe I look nice and presentable, but I don’t like to make myself all about my clothes. And as a woman, I find a lot of the time if you’re wearing a nice dress or have nice hair, that’s all people comment on. If I look presentable, people listen to me rather than simply look at me. I know the idea of dressing up for work is so that people take notice of you, but I’ve never found that to work in my favour. I’m not an unattractive person, but I don’t give any great value to my looks as they are just due to genetics. I have little to do with them. My brain, on the other hand, is something I have had a lot to do with, and is what I like to be valued for. One of the sweetest moments in my life was when I was first dating Simon and overheard one of his mates say to him “God, well done man, she’s so hot” and he replied with “Yeah, she is, but that’s not the best thing about her – it’s her mind“. Needless to say, it swept me off my feet.

Last night, I faced the usual hideous process of shopping for clothes. I like my body and am happy with all its lumps and bumps, curves and flats. Until I go shopping. Then I turn into a hideous swamp creature with no self esteem. My interview next week is for a Business Analyst role at one of the country’s biggest banks, so it’s a pretty huge deal (organised for me by my now-permanently-favourite cousin). Time to buy my first lady suit. Feeling like a kid playing dress ups, I tried on a number of jackets before we found one that fit fairly well. I have an ‘unusual’ body shape if you use the way clothes are designed as a blue print for women, as I have a small waist compared to my chest. Fitting my boobs into things – nightmare. Ladies always want what they don’t have, I know, so there are probably pert C cupped women out there reading this, hating me. Trust me, I would love to have smaller boobs when it comes to shopping time. My usual clothes induced boob hatred was already kicking in when the saleswoman decided to weigh in with her two cents, clutching my bosom and hoiking it up to my chin (well, wishful thinking there), telling me that ‘everything will fit better if you just had a better bra…what is this, a sports bra? (it wasn’t)… you need to get a bra properly fitted…’ etc etc. I felt like yelling at her that I have heavy breasts, if a bra put them where she wanted them to be it wouldn’t be properly fitted because hey, I have skin under my boobs as well and my stomach isn’t meant to be stretched up to my collarbone, and you know what, just LEAVE ME ALONE. But I didn’t, of course, because that’s not what I’m like when I’m the Creature of Lowselfesteem.

Simon, of course, was no help, nodding away merrily, because he would love to have my boobs up and out on display at all times (I bought a push up bra a while ago – basically a bra a few cup sizes too small, because they don’t make push ups for women with large chestal regions, he liked it but I jiggle like a bowl of jelly on a pogo stick). He did, however, get to experience the gorgeous lighting they put in women’s change rooms. He was out on the man couch in front of the big mirror, and kept telling me how hideous he looked, check out the bags under his eyes, etc. I cottoned on to what was happening and reassured him it was just the lighting – all change rooms in women’s stores do it. He finally understood why I come home depressed after shopping trips.

In case insulting my top half wasn’t enough, the shop lady decided to lay into my legs when we moved on to the big decision of skirt or pant suit. Apparently I look better in skirts because I have…long meaningful pause and a sliding gaze…”women’s curves” on my legs. God forbid. I wasn’t even in a bitchy teen shop, where I’d expect the sly comments about my body. I was in a woman shop, and this shop assistant was at least 15 years older than me. Thank god Simon was there to give me positive, constructive feedback on everything I tried on, otherwise I’d have melted into a puddle of doom and slunk away convinced my horrendously ugly body would lose me the job before I’d opened my mouth to answer the first interview question.

We finally made our purchases (skirt suit, with the option to return for the pants when my size came back in) and escaped. A haircut and a suit for Simon later and we were home. Then Simon suggested I wear makeup for the interview. I don’t wear makeup. Only on special occasions (like a noughty birthday) or as part of a costume. I just don’t see the point. I’m happy with my face how it is. Even back in the day when I had more blemishes (oh, early 20s, you were cruel), I barely wore cover stick. I’m cool with how my face looks, and think that if someone has a problem with it, I don’t really want to know them anyway. I had been considering wearing some makeup for the interview though, to help hide the inevitable initial blush that kicks in whenever I’m talking to new people. I told Simon this, but said I feel like I’m setting a false expectation, because I won’t be wearing makeup while I work there. He bit his tongue but I knew he wanted to say something. I told him to go ahead, and he said he knows it shouldn’t be that way, but people do respect someone who looks good, they take you seriously, etc etc. Hackles instantly went up. The words ‘Fuck them’ and ‘Not going to be a corporate puppet’ may have been unleashed.

It all comes back to my ambivalence about makeup. For me, it seems like a symbol of conformity. Which immediately puts me off. I’ve been trying to get my head to think of it another way. Simon’s mum never goes anywhere without her ‘face’ on, and his sister is a makeup artist. I respect and love them both as women, and I’ve been trying to adjust my thoughts on makeup. I don’t judge them for wearing makeup, but every time I’m over for a party Simon and his mum push me towards Amy to get my makeup done. My mum never wore any, so I haven’t grown up around someone doing their face every morning or experimenting with her makeup while I was still young. I just don’t get it. And I don’t see the point of spending hundreds of dollars to coat my face in chemicals that I then have to remove every night.

Can someone explain it to me? Any feminists out there who are proud makeup wearers, sassy dressers and still kick ass women? I keep throwing mental images of Tina Fey, Angelina Jolie and Professor River Song at myself, but it’s not sticking yet. Women of the world, help me!

Growing my green thumb

It’s been a while since my last post! I had expected life to calm down once we got through the insanity of two families at Christmas and New Year’s (chucking in some milestone birthdays for both of Simon’s parents!), but I was so wrong. We reached a point where I had to start turning down invitations to things with the response ‘I’m sorry, we’ve actually got something on that weekend…and every weekend until April…’. Insane. I’m not used to this much activity, and my introvert energy levels were starting to drain away entirely.

But now I’m on a holiday from work (if not from everything else) and that has given me a little space to breathe and get myself back to some sense of equilibrium. Not so for Simon, who is only mildly more extroverted than me, and is stuck in a job he hates, so many social obligations and a new year of study impending. I’m both worried about him and excited that he’ll be back at his books – he does love the mental stimulation, even though it’s exhausting. For myself, it means I’ll be turning from fun times girlfriend to feminist housewife again – I keep the house ticking over while he studies. He may not have helped with the dishes during this uni break, but he’s certainly been cooking, helping out with the garden and hanging out with me, which has been wonderful! I’ll miss all that when he dives straight into his study every evening.

At least we’re driving to and from work together now – a necessary sacrifice as we’re saving for a house! We both keep swinging between getting excited and freaking out about our ‘grown up’ future together – we throw ideas and imaginations out there about our dream home, our future kids, marriage etc. And then seize up and go ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, let’s slow this down!’ We both know we want those things (well, Simon perhaps not so convinced on the marriage front, but he was the first person to suggest it as part of our future – not a proposal, just a suggestion), but we both have the same reaction to change, haha. Which is perfect, I guess!

Around the house, we’ve been getting our green thumbs on – my initial attempts at gardening were a mixed bag of success – the flowers in the front door box carked it thanks to a lethal combo of sunlight and slugs. But the flowers I put in the palm pot went gangbusters when I put the pot out the back. We experimented with popcorn (just the kernels you get at the supermarket, we had a whole container of them just sitting there), keeping them on damp paper towel, like a Grade 4 science experiment. They started going mouldy and we were about to throw them out when we realised they had tiny tendrils growing out of them. Simon planted them and voila:

For Christmas, amongst other things, my Mum gave us a raised garden bed – because we’re in a rental we can’t really go messing around with the garden too much (as much as we’d love to!). We finally set it up a couple of weekends ago, and planted some snow peas, shallots (green onions), heritage carrots and iceberg lettuces – they’re coming along nicely!

ImageWe’ve put a mesh covering over the garden bed now, to keep off the birds and the bugs – it seems to work like a slight hot house, because everything’s starting to shoot through like crazy! I always suspected I would enjoy gardening once I was in my own home – I’m just glad I didn’t leave it until I owned a house!

Obligatory looking back over the year post…

I know everyone does this – my blog and facebook feeds are full of people getting sentimental about the past year and the lessons they’ve learned, the people they’ve met, the triumphs and failures they’ve experienced. If I followed more forms of social media, no doubt they are also riddled with it. And I get why – once a year we get a chance to pause (thanks work for letting us off early!) and reflect on what we’ve done over the last 365 days.

For me, life is completely different to how it was this time last year. Back then, I was also sitting at my computer. But I didn’t have a job, I was alone in my house (apart from my pets) and I had no idea where I really stood with Simon. We’d been together briefly and then on an extended hiatus of sorts whilst he grieved his old relationship and tried to both push me away and lean into me. I had stuck around because I loved him and when I asked myself the painful questions the answer came back that the thought of my life without Simon in it hurt me more than any of the pushme-pullyous he was doing to me. I was reaching a point where I needed to know if it was all in my mind or not though (all the signs were to the contrary, but I tend to disbelieve it when people care that much about me!).

Later in the evening I was playing World of Tanks and he came online, as usual. Despite not seeing him for months we had talked nearly every day, either by text, phone or online gaming. We spent the evening alone in our homes but together in the battle world of tanks. A quick pause to watch the fireworks and we were back. We’d been flirting on and off, and had joked about me going over to see him the next day. As we said goodnight I said I’d see him in the morning. He laughed, I said I was serious, he lol’d again and we went to our lonely beds.

The following morning I screwed up every skerrick of courage I’ve ever possessed and piled myself and the presents I had bought him for his birthday and Christmas and not been able to give him yet into my car and drove the 45 minutes to his house. About 10 minutes from his house I had to pull over and inhale some Ventolin as the nerves kicked off my faulty lungs. Even just writing about it kicks the adrenaline of nerves back in – I really had no idea what reception I would be given.

Arriving at his door I took a deep breath and knocked. Waiting, I knocked again a little louder. A third time and no answer. I hovered uncertainly. I figured he might be in the shower or walking the dog. Or, a quiet but evilly determined voice in my head whispered – he’s avoiding me. I decided to give him a call. No answer. Sitting down at his door (on the concrete in the full summer sun), I tried calling after another 5 minutes and another knock. I sent him a message explaining I’d wait 15 minutes and then leave, all I was doing was dropping off his presents. Then I sat and waited. Strangely, a calm descended over me as I boiled quietly away on his front step. This was the moment where everything would be decided and I knew I’d done everything I could in this chance at love. As the minutes ticked by I became resigned to it being yet another pipe dream of mine, and started composing my farewell message. Just as I was about to hit send, his name flashed up on my screen. Answering, he asked me ‘Are you at my house?’. I said yes, I was, but I was just about to leave so not to worry. He said frantically ‘No, don’t go! Um…’ I said it was fine, I just wanted to drop off his presents and I’ll go, I can leave them on the doorstep if he didn’t want to see me. I could hear him running around and he started going ‘Oh f**k, no, just wait. My house is a mess, hang on…f**k’. And then he opened the door.

And the rest is history, as they say. I spent the day at his (yes, filthy) house, just chatting and hanging out. A few days later I went over again at his invitation and a couple of weeks after that he told me I was his girl. At this time of year, the things I’m thinking about in those nostalgic pauses we’re all taking are the big and little moments I’ve had with Simon this year. And how different my life would be if I hadn’t had the courage to take my heart in my hands and sit on his doorstep for those fateful 15 minutes. I’m so glad I had the strength to do that, because I am now happier than I have ever been in my life, and have the most wonderful best friend in my boyfriend. I hope everyone gets a chance to take a leap of insane courage and reach their dreams, whatever they are. 2013 has been a big, wonderful year for me. I won’t say goodbye to it with sadness, but look forward to 2014 – I have a feeling it’s going to be even more amazing than this year has been!

Socialising and an insight into society

I’ve had some fairly triumphant social weekends lately. I say triumphant because for me, social outings can be a bit hit and miss. I imagine this to be the case for many people, but I’ve had too many nights where I’ve come home cringing internally, a real life socially awkward penguin.

Not so now! A couple of weekends ago we had Simon’s dad’s 60th birthday party. It was a surprise party, and hearing his dad’s exclamations of joy when he discovered the people who had come along (some from far away) was wonderful. For me, it was the first big family event I’d been to with Simon. I love Simon, and really wanted to make a good impression on his family at large. I shopped for a new dress, and asked his sister Amy to do my makeup. She’s just completed a makeup artistry course and is very talented. I felt like a canvas as she mixed colours like an oil painter and layered my face. I don’t generally wear makeup. Only on the very rare special occasion or when on stage (dancing and school productions when I was a teen). So it was quite the ordeal for me – I focussed every ounce of my energy on sitting still and looking up/down/at the plant outside when told to do so. Simon’s mum Jane had the best time watching me transformed, laughing at my inexperience and delighting in her daughter’s work.

The hour in the makeup chair was well worth it though. I got to spend some quality time with Amy, which continued through the night, and we went from her referring to me as her brother’s woman (affectionately) to calling me a part of the family. And she did an absolutely amazing job on my face. I’m happy with the genetics life handed me, but to see myself all done up like that was almost overwhelming. She’d gone for the 50s pin up girl look, as the dress I’d bought was very 50s (it’s all that works on my shape). Once I was in my full outfit I felt almost too fancy and worried I’d overdone it. Apparently, as Simon told me later in the night, there’s no way for a woman to overdress.

I was completely unprepared for the compliments I received that night. I don’t write about this to gloat in a pretty-girl-drawing-attention-to-herself kind of way. I was genuinely touched and amazed at the impact a bit of (well, a lot of specially applied) makeup and a pretty dress can have on people. I know we’re a very visually stimulated species, but to me what’s inside someone really is more important. That’s not to say there are some physical attributes I find attractive or off putting, but I’ve never really placed great importance on appearance. After flustering some men, being asked for photos and being told I was the ‘prettiest girl at the party’, I’ve started to think about it a bit more. I doubt I’m ever going to become one of the many who hop out of bed and straight into their ‘face’, but I am thinking a bit more about the image I project to the world.

One interesting thing that came out of it was a conversation I had a few days later with Simon. He was saying that he found it odd that every time he introduced me to someone as his girlfriend they gave him a look like ‘well done, son!’. We were laughing about that, and then he realised no one did that to me about him. I said that people come up to me more quietly to say he was lovely or they were happy for me. The contrast between the two standard responses to a couple really piqued my interest. I mentioned it to my mum, and she said that men are judged on their career, financial stability etc. So possibly if I’d introduced him as my boyfriend and said he was a lawyer, we’d get the same results. That disgruntles me. It doesn’t do justice to either gender. Why are women judged on their looks and men looked upon favourably only because of what they do to earn money? I could be the most beautiful woman in the world but be a horrible person, and people would still look at Simon like he’d done well. Simon could be a multi-millionaire but never come home, and people would say I had hooked a good one. These little ways that so many people categorise the world, and that rely so much on external appearance, are what has put me off valuing physical presentation for so long. I’m toning that back now – everything has grey areas, no black and white, after all. But I don’t think I will ever be able to embrace being a ‘trophy girlfriend’. Even when I do have a ‘successful’ lawyer boyfriend. To me, he’s already successful. He’s happy, he’s found what interests him in life and he’s grown through some really tough times and come out just as lovely on the other side as I’m sure he always was. And there are many things more valuable about me than just my physical appearance. Faces change, outfits come and go. Who you are as a person stays forever.

We also hosted our first BBQ last weekend, and it was a great success. What started out as a quiet dinner with my best friend Lauren and her husband Simon (the 70s murder party folk) quickly grew into a gathering of about 10 from Simon’s group of friends, my friends and our shared friends. We were a little worried about blending the groups – you never can tell if someone’s going to react badly to someone, and we have a quite diverse bunch of friends in terms of lifestyle preferences. And it’s also a bit of a test as a couple – will our worlds combine well? But it all went off without a hitch! We had far too much food, but we had a lot of fun preparing for it. I was actually a little amazed how much fun we had getting ready. Hosting events has always been very stressful for me, but I made up my mind to try to relax and Simon did an equal share of the preparations so it went really smoothly. By the time people started arriving we were nearly ready, and all I had left was preparing the salads. I received my first lady-of-the-house bunch of flowers, which made me feel very grown up. On a side note – when do you start feeling constantly like an adult? I’m 28 now and I still feel so young inside most of the time! It was a lot of fun sitting around with mates, and bringing them mountains of food. Most people left around 11pm, some more at 1am and then Simon, his mate Dan and I stayed up. I collapsed into bed around 3am and have vague memories of Simon coming to bed sometime later and offering me part of a jam sandwich he’d made (I declined…).

Sunday felt just as laid back as we ate some more BBQ munchies and chilled out in the sun. Once Dan had left and Amy had picked up her car, Simon and I collapsed on the couch and gorged on Mad Men. That’s pretty much my ideal Sunday afternoon. I was so glad our first couple hosting event went so well. I know things would have been fine if it had been a complete disaster – we would look back in years to come and laugh, just as his Uncles Jim & John laugh about a dinner party they had once where the guests fought from the first moment and all the food shrivelled or burned. But I’d much rather the pleasant feeling I get when I look back on how well we worked together and how our friends got to just sit back and relax in our yard. All in all – triumphant social weekends!

Inspired, but to what?

My wonderful man has finished up uni for the semester, smashing his way through his final exams. We get the results next week, but to be honest, I doubt I could be prouder of him than I already am. Like a lot of us, he’s struggled with working out what he wants to do with his life and his career. He finally got the idea of getting into the law, tossed up between being a cop or a lawyer and went with what I think suits him perfectly – lawyer. He didn’t stop there though. He enrolled, he took the entrance test and then he picked up that first scarily large text book and got started. And kept going. I have every faith in him that he will keep going until he graduates and gets a job that will bring him fulfillment and interest every day. Not everyone can say that!

Including me. I’ve struggled for 10 years to work out what I wanted to do/be. I originally also wanted to be a lawyer, and we have tossed around the idea of me joining him and doing the same course, but as I, in a very un-feminist moment said – who would run the household? Urgh, I hate that those words came out of my mouth. I never wanted to be that person, the one that put their dreams on hold because life ‘got in the way’. And it does get in the way. There are so many things to fit into such a short time – work, food, housework, amazing tv shows (I’ve just started watching Mad Men – there’s a whole series of feminist blog posts right there!), online games, craft, friends, family, pets, boyfriends, lazy Sunday mornings in bed. It’s so easy to just let the days slip by and suddenly wake up 60 not having done what you thought you would. I took a year off from life about 4 or so years ago, mainly because I was on the point of having a full nervous breakdown, but also because I had a book that needed to be written and I wanted to get it out before I had life commitments and lost the moment youth offered me.

I guess that’s always been my life long dream, to be a published author. I used to fill exercise books and journals with little tales and attempts at fantasy epics when I was a child. When I was a teen, I managed to become the ‘Youth Affairs Reporter’ for the regional newspaper after doing some work experience there and accidentally starting a little war between two local pollies. Puffed up on the success of that, I sailed glibly off to uni to study ‘Professional Writing’ and media comm, a course that very nearly killed my creative heart. The internship in my third year certainly killed any plans of becoming a world renowned journalist – the politics and hazing of the office and the way advertising took precedence over the real stories horrified me. So I lost my way. I’ve dabbled with the idea of ‘becoming a writer’ ever since, as I’m sure most of us on here have. I’m starting to feel like it may be like being a waitress in LA – always waiting for your big break, for someone to stumble upon you and go ‘yes, you are who I am looking for’. I’m realising now that is highly unlikely to happen.

My illusions about the whole career as a writer dream were given a good ol’ rattling the other week when I came across this article on the Australian ABC news website: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-18/anna-funder-hits-out-at-media-companies/5032444

Even well known or paid writers are being asked or are assumed to be willing to work without pay. What chance do we, as ‘amateurs’, have of making something of ourselves and our writing? The part that depressed me most of all was the line “Writers’ incomes have halved in the last decade, from a peak of $23,000 per year in 2001.” Halved from $23k? My god. That was what they were earning in the year I became a Youth reporter and felt I had my whole literary career ahead of me? Times are tough for the creative out there, it seems. Oh how I wish for the days of rich benefactors who would put you up in a loft so you could churn out your next brilliant novel or poem.

The rise of the internet has made it both easier and harder to ‘be a writer’. We’re a dime a dozen but also a strong community. We all put our words out there, for whatever reason. I think my reason has to switch back from waiting to be ‘discovered’ to the joy and contentment I had as a child pouring the worlds that are in my head onto the paper. Or in the case of this blog, the world I actually live in, onto the screen. Because despite the niggling feeling that I should be doing something more with my life, I am very happy with how things are going. Living with Simon is a lot of fun, and he’s a wonderful boyfriend. I think next year when he goes back to uni, I will write a new book. Not to make money, not to go to a publisher, but just because I have a story I want to tell. I might even publish it myself as an e-book. To hell with trying to make the measly $11.5k we’re all apparently going to average. It’s about practicing a craft and the pure fun of putting words on paper/screen. In the meantime, I’m going to let life ‘get in the way’ and enjoy the holiday from Simon’s studying!

Social butterfly with tired wings

Life as part of a couple is far more social than my solo life, I’m discovering. I must admit, I was pretty much a hermit before Simon came into my life – weekends spent pottering around the house, Friday nights in front of the TV. I wasn’t a complete social outcast, but I tend to only have a couple of friends at a time, as I’m naturally extremely introverted and being around lots of people, while fun, tires me.

Luckily for me (well, luck probably has little to do with it, as I’m not generally attracted to gregarious folk), Simon is also an introvert. So he’s perfectly happy to sit on the couch and watch a movie with me, and ‘parallel play’ as my primary school teacher mother calls it. He’s closer to the introvert/extrovert line though, so we do have friends over fairly regularly and go out and about a bit more. While we were dating, it felt like we had someone or something on every single weekend. Which I greatly enjoyed, but also found my reserve energy tanks draining.

The past couple of weekends have been lovely for me, as Simon’s hard at work on his law assignments (3500 word essay last weekend, 2000 word research assignment this weekend). This has meant social lock down, and a chance to potter around the house for me. I’ve been using the days to have some ‘me’ time – pampering more than I generally do, eating chocolate, reading books etc. And getting things sorted around the house. We live in a rental, in a suburb bordering the gentrification wave, so that means we’re in a half dodgey, half decent neighbourhood. It’s taken me until now to get kind of used to it, as I’ve moved from a well established, wealthy suburb (also renting, but in a much nicer part of town!). I love that the rent is so much cheaper here, but I do miss the prettiness of the surrounding area. We did have the trees out the front of our house burst into pink blossoms recently, which was a welcome relief from the drab facade of our place, but the blooms are gone now. It does bode well for a crop of plums, however!

Today, I did something I never really did before when I was living at home, in a share house or with my mum. I gardened! It’s a glorious spring day here, and I inherited some plants from Mum, who I spent the day with yesterday. We have a potted palm plant we called Pamela, we’ve had her since I was 5 and we moved out of my Granny’s house. A few years back, Pamela had a sprout, which grew into an equal sized palm. The deal was that when the time came for me to move into my own house, I would take Pamela’s shoot and start my own Pamela. Yesterday, Mum bequeathed the shoot to me, along with one of her jade plants (a jade at the door, you’ll never be poor!). So today I potted the palm, positioned the jade and then made a trip to Bunnings, along with half the suburb, to buy some pansies and lobelia to put around the base of Pamela and in a cemented in flower box we have by the front door. I’m hoping I can keep everything alive and we’ll have a riot of flowery goodness by our entrance soon.

Life hasn’t all been about vegging out at home and catching my soul back up though. We did have a crazy busy weekend back at the start of the month. We’d been invited to a Murder Mystery Party thrown by my best friend, Lauren and her husband Simon (yes, we both have a Simon now!). The day leading up to the party was spent buying a lot of food and then putting it all together, as we were in charge of the appetisers. It was a 70s themed night, so we did dip with things on toothpicks, savoury celery, Jatz crackers and prawn cocktails. We also had to dress up according to our characters. It was an excellent night, and I had a lovely feminist moment while in the kitchen with the girls, discussing our preparations for the evening. They’d all been slaving over their food alone, and I was able to proudly say that Simon had helped me with everything. Admittedly, they are all Mormons, so they have a different attitude to these things, but I felt so happy, that I’d got ‘a good one’ in Simon – a partner who shares the load. Even when it means going completely out of his comfort zone – spending a night with teetotaling Mormons. It was a lot of fun though, and I had a wonderful time, all the more so because I had Simon there.

The next day it was Father’s Day, so we headed to his parents’ place for a bbq. That was also a nice experience for me – it’s been over 5 years now since I’ve had a Father’s Day with a dad figure in my life, and it was really lovely to feel normal for once, sitting around eating delicious food and chatting. It was a wonderful day, but the combination of the two outings left me exhausted. So I’ve really enjoyed the law lock down and am now ready to be social again, once Simon’s through the current nightmare of studying!

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My first attempt at gardening here – hopefully the box and the pot will soon be flowering!

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Getting our groove on

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Dip time – french onion dip in a cob loaf, with toothpicked goodies and savoury celery!

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Simon and I looking quite unlike ourselves, as a sleazy disco mechanic and a tarty dancing diva.

 

Adjustment period

ImageBeing back at work has definitely made my new living situation both feel more normal, and a lot harder. The first two weeks of living with my man were filled with quiet days of unpacking and then vegging on the couch. Indulging the ‘playing family’ fantasy we all have as kids – cooking, wearing an apron when greeting him as he walks through the door, all that schmaltzy but kind of awesome jazz.

Then reality set back in, and instead, I’m coming home with little over an hour of me time before he gets home, which just gives me time to collect myself and then wash the dishes from the night before. Ah, dishes. The bane of a shared household. I know when I lived in my first share house, the Christian hippies I lived with didn’t seem to believe in cleaning. The dishes, the floors, their baby… I’m not a neat freak by anyone’s standards, but I do appreciate seeing the surface of tables and knowing there isn’t mould growing on unexpected things (just don’t look at the lemon that decided to mutate overnight in our fruit bowl, ok?).

Learning how to live with someone new is an adjustment, no matter who they are. When it’s someone you love to bits, the pressure to make sure things go well is even stronger. So when the inevitable stresses and strains of working life started back up, it filtered into our home life a bit. We got snappy, we had tense moments. I asserted my feminist foot stomps just slightly too much (refusing to do both the cooking and the dishes didn’t go down well – could have handled that conversation better!). The moments have been fleeting, however, and now Simon is sharing the cooking with me we’re both responsible for the series of disastrous dinners we’ve had this fortnight.

We did have our first big storm away from each other, impassioned ‘discussion’ the other night, which was a highly unpleasant but apparently healthy part of being in a relationship (so everyone has been telling me). We’re learning more about each other every day, including the signs we should just stop whatever we’re doing to each other and cool down. Some are learning these lessons more quickly than others! But in the end, we love each other. For those who know the MBTI system, you’ll get a fair idea of our mismatch moments when I tell you that he is a very strong INTP and I am a very strong INFJ. We’re considered the ‘golden couple’ by many in the personality typing world, generally because of a glorious misunderstanding of each other. I don’t think that’s entirely true for me and Simon, as I like to think I’m getting to understand him more each day. And I love everything about him being an INTP, even the bits that frustrate the hell out of me or confuse me. Sometimes we are that couple in the picture above (thanks Pinterest), taking it in turns holding the umbrella.

All up though, I’m very happy. It gives me a warm glow thinking of waking up next to him in the morning (and also gives me the giggles to think of his sleep talking). And our dinner disasters have been fairly hilarious. We have developed an uncanny knack of planning one thing, it going horribly wrong, like the time the steak we had planned to stir fry had gone funky, and then our back up plan also going haywire. Like putting frozen fish in the oven, turning it down from the high heat used to start cooking the frozen chips and not realising that turned the oven off. I came back, cooked our vegetables, opened the oven to serve up and found some slightly soggy, partially melted fish. Mmm, tasty.

Not all dinners have been complete write offs though. We made the mistake of grocery shopping while hungry on the weekend, and Simon convinced me we should get some rib eye steaks. One each. I have never had a rib eye before, so I didn’t realise how huge they are. I have never eaten so much meat in one sitting in my entire life. The thing didn’t even fit on my plate! I didn’t quite make it through the whole thing, but by god, it was delicious. It’s the little things like this that are making it heaps of fun to be living with Simon. That and the stupid goofy feeling I get when I look over at him and realise I get to see him all the time.Image