Happy Mothers Day

00000002I was not even half way through my 20s when I became mum to Jade. By yesterday’s standards and absolutely by today’s standards, that’s pretty young to be popping out an offspring. Although I will proudly state upfront that Jade was never “popped out”, moreso the caesarean result of a stubborn child who preferred dark warmth to fluorescent noise. I think she still does. I still can’t wake her up.

But I digress…

I was the first of my tribe to bear offspring. And at the time, her father and I had absolutely no idea what we were doing.

“Is it time for a nappy change?” he would ask me.

“How the fuck would I know?” was my standard issue response.

“Is she due for a feed?” was another of his incessant questions.

“Well we fed her three hours ago, how about you do the maths,” was another example of a standard reply.

Somehow though, we got her through to adulthood alive and alert, where she will turn 25 at winter’s end and continues to stupefy and enrich me with her fearlessness, conviction, vivid plans and flat out refusal to conformity.

That’s how I absolutely know she’s my child. She makes me feel I can validate the title of mum.

My arc of friends is wide, colourful and jagged. Single mums, married mums, gay mums, grand-mums, aunty-mums, no mums and a decent sprinkling of never-to-be mums.

My folks, Jade and me 1997

My folks, Jade and me

Yet all are mums in some form, shape or voice.

I met a lady (girl) on my first day at high school who to this day is still my close, supportive, non-judging, available, warm, joyous best friend. That was in 1978 so again I ask you to do the maths (simply because I’m getting so old now, I’m a tad afraid of calculators).

She’s literally the world’s most dedicated and enamoured aunt (or Arty) to her tribe of nieces and nephews. Which involves a set of twins so work with me here. Her wish to be a biological mum to her own kids didn’t eventuate. And that comes with its own separate menu of heartbreak, but at day’s end it never stopped her from loving and evolving with the young ‘uns her brothers and sisters managed to manufacture.

I have another incredible (and again very long term) friend who has chosen to devote her life to her mother’s care and not concerned herself with her own reproduction. And remains nonplussed with her choice.

Yet another shunned the concept of conception outright and embraces a career lecturing in the USA on sleep techniques for babies.

ps15My Brisbane neighbour, who never quite found the right bloke to make the babies with, knew that there were cartloads of abandoned puppies that the RSPCA needing help to process and home. Which eventuated in her full time care of Milo and Peaches, two adorable pups that in lesser circumstances would no longer be with us.

My other best friends M&M are apparently gay but are so fucking fabulous and warm and gorgeous and blessed that being gay is irrelevant and unconnected. Not a hesitation or a stuttered breath in helping me and wanting to take care of Jade. Black Eyed Pea and Kylie concerts spring to mind, the sort of concerts where I would prefer to swallow a battery than endure. Sitting on Dreamworld’s Giant Drop or eating at the Pancake Manor or enduring hours of boogy board surfing… And when she needed it, offering her a full time job in their company.

And my other friend, who held my daughter in her arms when she was three months old while I held her wine glass for her, then went on to give her office work 23 years later. I once spied on them having a cocktail together. They were laughing. Bless. I kept walking, albeit with a very warm heart. I may have taken a sneaky photo.

Fashion shootHere’s the thing. Don’t think for a second they’re not mothers too.

As a single mum from the time my daughter was four, I had to be flexible and open to support, ideas and constructive criticism to make it all work. I had a tribe of people around me who cheered, cleaned up and nodded, and every single one of them needs a Mothers Day accolade for the help and kindness they selflessly offered me. And for what the offered others.

OK, so I’m adopted. From birth all I knew were two people who vocalised unashamedly on their desire to be parents.

They chose me.

I think that’s cool.

And they are the kind of parents people dream to have – easy, supportive, talkative and ready with a wine bottle and a wine glass. They also sent me to Girl Guides, Sunday School, piano lessons and private school. I may have got a smack. I definitely got grounded.

Four decades later I meet the outstanding and liberating lady who not only gave birth to me, but also understood that the best option for me was adoption. How a mum makes that irreversible and devastating choice I will never experience but I absolutely know it was made from a place of love. And a place of hope. Hope for a brighter future and the peace of knowing you did the best thing possible.Jade 3

She’s my mum too. I love her so much. I’m pretty lucky to have the best of both mother worlds.

It’s the motherload. Literally.

I want the word “MUM” to mean more than what Hollywood movies depict or online news forum debate.IMG_0765

If you love unconditionally, I reckon you’re a mum. If you have ached because someone else ached, you’re a mum.

And if you look into a younger person’s eyes and see the future, you’re absolutely a mum.

Happy Mother’s Day. Much love xo

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Why is marriage still defining us?

gold-wedding-bandsMy great-aunt rang me today, to tell me that the daughter of a friend of hers was celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary.

“Isn’t that marvellous,” gushed Aunty Ruth. “Such a lovely thing in this day and age to see people who are still committed to marriage.

“Heather (her friend) is so proud, she must have done something right raising her daughter to have such a long marriage.”

I spat out my coffee. It was purely reflex.

“What??” I gasped, while I hunted on my kitchen bench for the sponge to wipe up the coffee spits.

Kevin and Janine, the couple in question, fight continuously. I’ve seen them bicker and nag each other silly. Kevin drinks beer all night until he passes out. Janine has trouble adding some vegetables to the dinner plate. Their daughter had her first baby at 16, and followed up with a second one, to a different dad, two days shy of her 18th birthday. They all live with them. Kevin has lost his license twice for DUI. Janine’s internet shopping habit means their credit card bill tops $20,000. I’ve never seen them say a nice word about the other one. Janine is desperately unhappy, and desperately unfulfilled, but it seems none of that matters, as long as you can boast a long-term marriage.

I was single for a very long time between marriages. My first one, to Jade’s dad, ended in 1996 and I didn’t remarry till late in 2011. You’ve got an iPhone, you do the maths.

In those intervening years, I bought property, secured job promotions, travelled overseas, started this blog, hosted dinner parties, put my daughter through private school, did part-time study, volunteered in aged care, guided my daughter around her teenage years, and loved and supported and expanded my network of friends.

But as a single woman, when I was chatting with friends of my parents or really anyone I hadn’t seen for a while, the first question was always, “Are you seeing anyone?” closely followed by “Is marriage on the cards at some point?”

No one was interested that my latest blog post had more than 1000 readers, or that I was just back from skylarking in Italy or New York. Eyes looked a bit blank when I told them I was working on a high profile project with the Premier or Jade had been made Music Captain at school.

There was a murmur and perhaps a faint, “Oh that’s nice dear” and we got straight back onto the subject of boys and marriage, ergo success.

“Your mum says you’re seeing someone, is that right? Any chance he might pop the question soon?”

“Ha ha, no there’s no chance, because it turns out that he has an anger management problem, probably because his sister tells me he has Asperger syndrome that is untreated, and I don’t feel too safe in that relationship, so I ended it.”

“Oh dear, that’s a pity, I mean, you know what these men are like. They always think they’re right and they hate being criticised. Would it just be easier to agree with this bloke, and then he might not be so angry? Then you can get married.”

I wish I was kidding. I am so sorry I’m not kidding.

So apparently it is ok to stay with a cranky pants man who has an untreated mental health issue, just so I can say I’m married.

Meaning marriage isn’t meant to equal happiness.

The last time I looked at the calendar, which was probably this morning, it was 2016. Not 1952. But there you go.

My daughter will be 25 a bit later this year. In her short time since she left school, she has been to uni, left home to live with friends, travelled to Kenya, lived and worked and supported herself in the UK for two years, backpacked for months throughout Europe, worked for the government, played with elephants in Thailand, and has just returned from a year in South Africa working for an humanitarian organisation. Her next project is in the hospitality industry and she’s full steam ahead with these plans.

My daughter is without question the most phenomenal human being I know.

Yet, the constant question I get is, “Is Jade thinking of settling down yet?” Not, “Wow, your daughter is amazing, look at her travels, oh the wonderful things she is doing!”

What if, just what if, Jade chooses to spend her life in service to others, helping out those less fortunate than herself, and never ever ends up getting married? And what if she receives accolades for her tireless humanitarian efforts and has the deep satisfaction of knowing how much she has contributed to humanity? Having said that, there’s every chance she will marry and be a mum herself, but I hope and pray it will be entirely on her own terms and in her own timeframe.

I think it is also hard for women coming out of a divorce. There’s no dignified way to go about it. Because suddenly you have to put “Ms” when filling out a form. And the whole world and everyone on Facebook sees you change your name from his back to your maiden name. Yet the blokes are still called Mr and their surname remains the same. Their professional careers and their personal reputations can remain unchanged if they wish.

That’s why I didn’t bother changing my name when my first marriage ended. It was a lot simpler (I still ticked the Mrs box just for a lark) and a lot less paperwork, to keep his name, plus I really liked that name. It suited me. My first husband would have preferred I didn’t use “his” name (I think his words were along the lines of “give me back my name”) so there is a teeny tiny chance I also kept it to annoy him. Oh, that stung…

Why are single women called spinsters, and old crones, and barren? Unglamorous and unsexy. Yet some of the most remarkable women I know are not married, have never been married, and to be honest, I think they’re a lot happier than the married ones.

Case in point: My gorgeous friend Edwina. Nearly 50 years old, very senior position in her company, an absolute ace at her job, and one of the most loyal friends a girl could ask for. Travels overseas twice a year, and has get-aways down the coast often. Owns her home, has money in the bank, is independent, considerate and confident. She’s a dedicated auntie to her tribe of nieces and her family’s well-being is never far from her mind. About five years ago, after 10 too many wines, I asked Edwina if she wished she’d got married at some point. I can still hear her laughter echoing in my memory, followed by a robust, “Are you fucking kidding?”

Versus another friend Hillary. She’s also turning 50 in a few years, and married to a pig. He questions every decision she makes, even if he agrees with her, because he loves to see her become confused. Yep he’s a pig. Every dress she puts on, he says, “Oh, is that what you’re wearing?” and not in a good way. If she tells her sons no, he says yes. He loves it when she makes a mistake, because he gets to gleefully tell all their friends about it. And because her husband is the main breadwinner, she feels she needs to put up with this.

I don’t think it’s a lack of love that makes unhappy marriages. I think it’s a lack of friendship. I have seen married people speak more politely and generously to their friends than their spouse. Look at cooking juggernaut, My Kitchen Rules, as a case in point. This is my favourite reality television show. And over seven seasons, I’ve watched friends who teamed up remain courteous and supportive while the spouses were either haranguing (“hurry up, hurry up”) or flat out being horrible.

Maybe we feel that, because it’s our spouse, we don’t need to edit our words or actions as perhaps we would with a best friend. What if we wanted as much success, happiness and glory for our spouses as we do for our friends, or indeed our kids? Is it the familiarity that sucks out the friendship? After the hot nasty sex dies a little, what is our sustainable base?

This quote is from a book called The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer.

For me, it sums up an ideal of marriage…

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

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Women over 40

andy-rooney-300Just stumbled across this on Facebook (thanks Kendall). This is what Andy Rooney thinks about women over 40:

As I grow in age, I value women over 40 most of all. Here are just a few reasons why:

A woman over 40 will never wake you in the middle of the night and ask, ‘What are you thinking?’ She doesn’t care what you think.

If a woman over 40 doesn’t want to watch the game, she doesn’t sit around whining about it. She does something she wants to do, and it’s usually more interesting.

Women over 40 are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant. Of course, if you deserve it, they won’t hesitate to shoot you if they think they can get away with it.

Older women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it’s like to be unappreciated.

Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to a woman over 40.

Once you get past a wrinkle or two, a woman over 40 is far sexier than her younger counterpart.

Older women are forthright and honest. They’ll tell you right off if you are a jerk, if you are acting like one. You don’t ever have to wonder where you stand with her.

Yes, we praise women over 40 for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it’s not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed, hot woman over 40, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 22-year old waitress.

Ladies, I apologize.

For all those men who say, ‘Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” Here’s an update for you…………….

Nowadays 80% of women are against marriage. Why? Because women realise it’s not worth buying an entire pig just to get a little sausage!

Andy Rooney is a very intelligent man! Pity he is no longer with us.

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10 things every woman should know

stretchmarks1. Everyone has rolls when they bend over.

2. When someone tells you that you’re beautiful, believe them. They aren’t lying.

3. Sometimes we all wake up with breath that could kill a goat.

4. For every woman unhappy with her stretch marks is another woman who wishes she had them.

5. You should definitely have more confidence. And if you saw yourself the way others see you, you would.

6. Don’t look for a man to save you. Be able to save yourself.

7. It’s okay to not love every part of your body….but you should.

8. We all have that one friend who seems to have it all together. That woman with the seemingly perfect life. Well, you might be that woman to someone else.

9. You should be a priority. Not an option, a last resort, or a backup plan.

10. You’re a woman. That alone makes you pretty damn remarkable.

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For the mums

off to schoolIf my memory serves me correctly (because there are often times it doesn’t) it was 19 years ago that I took my daughter’s five year old hand and walked her into her Grade 1 classroom to start her schooling.

The night before had been fairly riotous. In a bid to quell her excitement, I had invited close family friends over for a barbeque. They arrived at 4pm, bearing sausages, gin and zero expectations of etiquette. How could they? There was an excited five year old bouncing off walls and the side of the pool, showing off her brand new uniform to the younger offspring of my friends.

As responsible parents, we poured ourselves large measures of Bombay Sapphire, frightened it with some tonic, and set about dissecting the pros and cons of private schooling and whether head lice was really an issue.

Eventually we cooked the sausages.

After they departed, I was unable to settle young Jade. She wanted to stay up to practice her reading (which was no more than using her own words to describe what was happening in the pictures of the book) and practice her singing (she opted for Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl but sensibly changed the word brown to blue so it matched her eyes).

I think I was asleep before she was.

Jade 2Now, when morning arrived, something happened that had never happened before. Never. Let me explain. You see, my daughter can sleep for Australia. When her father and I first brought her home from hospital, we fed her and changed her, and popped her into her bassinet. It was 4.30pm. At 8.30pm, I anxiously started to do five-minute checks, worried she’d stopped breathing. But she slumbered.

At 10.30pm, I wanted to wake her but her father was militant and declared you never wake a sleeping child.

At 11.30pm, I opened the scotch bottle.

At 1.30am, I passed out, as you do when you haven’t had a drink for nine months.

At 6.30am, I woke up in my own bed, my sleeping husband on one side and the dregs of a scotch bottle on the other. I lay in bed for approximately one full minute, happy in the knowledge it was a Sunday and I could sleep in.


I remembered I had a baby. In my house. That hadn’t been fed or changed since 4.30pm the day before.

And I screamed.

I ran to her bassinet, sure in the knowledge that I would find her suffocating in her own nappy or perished from lack of food.

Not at all. She was still contentedly sleeping.

Jade 1She eventually woke at 8.00am, happy and chirpy. Had a feed, had a bath, had a cuddle, and went back to sleep. Just like babies are designed to do.

This, of course, charted a course for Jade, where she became the Queen of Sleep. When she was four months old, we had a dozen friends over for Christmas drinks. Apparently the neighbours found our music (which was only Abba for God’s sake) so loud they called the local police to hush us. I politely showed the nice constable my sleeping daughter, who was in the room next to the music and sensibly said “Officer, if she can sleep, I can’t understand now the neighbours feel the music is loud”. The nice constable didn’t have an answer.

A few years later, Christmas morning was a laugh. Whilst every child in Australia was terrifying their parents at 5am with squeals about Santa and presents, Jade slept on. In frustration, I went to her room at 9am and woke her.

“Darling, it’s Christmas morning, don’t you want to see what Santa brought you?” I begged, camera at the ready.

“Mmmm,” was her muffled reply. She lifted her head, nodded at the bulging sack at the foot of her bed, rolled over and slept for another half hour.

So when it came to her first day at school, I was fully prepared to drag her out of bed by her plaits and force-feed her Weet-bix.

Instead, she wanders into my bedroom at 5.30am, fully dressed apart from her shoe laces, holding her brush for me to plait her long hair. She’d already had an attempt at breakfast and had her backpack by the front door, ready to go.

That has never happened again.

We drove to her new school and when I took her into her classroom, I instinctively knew she was in good hands. Her capable teacher, Mrs Bird, had taught Grade 1 for a hundred years and there was nothing she couldn’t soothe with a smile and a hug.

I went back home and sat at my kitchen table with a cup of tea that I’m sure went cold. The day I had been waiting for, almost dreading really, was here. My girl was growing up and I wasn’t sure if I liked it. I was sure there was nothing I could do about it but that doesn’t mean I liked it.

Like all the other new mothers, I was at the school gate an hour before I was needed. My reward was this tiny blonde creature, long plaits flying, running through the quadrangle and into my waiting arms to tell me about the “bestest day ever Mummy”.

That night, I stroked her hair as she slept, and wondered if I’d still feel the same way when she was in high school.

Jade 3Of course, within a nanosecond, she was in high school, and I was traipsing up to All Hallows’ School to again drop her off, this time for Grade 8. The plaits were replaced by a messy bun and she slung her mobile phone into her pocket, but I was still the worried mother, carving myself up inside wondering if I’d made the right decisions and armed her with the right skills to handle high school.

And then, in another nanosecond, it’s five years later and I’m sitting in the All Hallows’ graduation ceremony and high school is done. They’re off to schoolies week and university, driving their cars and kissing their boyfriends.

And I sat there and wondered where the time had gone. I remember week after week of being a single working mum and that relentless cycle of washing, ironing, making lunches and driving to her to netball, ballet, music, choir and her father’s. Of making sure we had enough money for holidays and a laptop, and eventually private school fees. Of making sure I was a sort-of-cool mum but not an over-the-top-cool mum – nothing that would embarrass her. Of thanking my workmate for covering for me while I was at sports day or home with a sick child.

In a blink, it was over. No more lunches, no more ironing uniforms, and if she needed to go somewhere, she could drive herself.

I had all this free time and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.

So, to the mums out there who today started the school trek or continued it, I will tell you what a wise person told me many many years ago.

When it comes to parenting, the days are long but the years are short.

Make the little moments count.

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Faux singleton

Those of you who catch up with me on Facebook already know that my husband Alan and I are relocating to Wellington, New Zealand as the first leg of our adult adventure. We are so fortunate to have dual citizenship in UK/Europe, so our adult adventure extends beyond Wellington’s glistening harbour. Our loose plan is to spend some years in Wellington, then move to my husband’s birthplace in Edinburgh. Alan will work in CEO roles and I will train, write and test wine quality. Not necessarily in that order either…SEX AND THE CITY BEGINS NEW SEASON

After that, our plan gets looser. Right now we are thinking of a stint in the south of England, perhaps Plymouth or Folkestone. Which in Bron-speak can quintessentially also mean Bordeaux or Mykonos. Regardless, we have decided our final resting spot will be Spain. Anywhere I can drink wine before noon, jangle an inordinate quantity of bangles on my wrists and float along in excessive white linen garments is my “Ole”.

Alan set full steam into the NZ job search market and, what with those Kiwi folk being pretty savvy talent spotters and what have you, he is again a CEO. He’s back to this first love, aviation, and I love how happy he is.

I wasn’t as happy that he left Brisbane in January to start his new job while I bided my time working, waiting for our slime-ball real estate agents to earn their commission. But it seems an unconditional contract is on the table. Phew. My belongings and I must vacate Cook Castle around the middle of May.

So now, I find myself no longer gainfully employed, but instead flying frequently to Wellington, actioning plans for my next business venture and, when back in Brisbane, spending an inordinate amount of time alone in my marital home.

Which has, in turn, led to a slow decline back into some of my long-forgotten Secret Single Behaviour.

Do not be alarmed. By single I don’t mean going on dates or joining RSVP or watching endless re-runs of Sex And The City in a futile attempt to gain inspiration from Samantha.

It’s more like eating brie and basil dip for dinner at 11pm, whilst washing it down with a hefty glass of sav blanc. Or waking at 2am, missing the joy of my husband in bed beside me, and mainlining episodes of Breaking Bad till dawn breaks.

Eating alone has never ever bothered me. Just ask Gino and Tony how many times they have prepared a solo table for me at Pane e Vino. But there’s a difference between eating alone when single, versus eating alone when your regular dining companion is more than 3000 kilometres away.

I was single for many many years (those confounding years in torturous relationships with difficult men do not count). During that time, I became most adept at eating alone. But since meeting Alan, it doesn’t hold the same appeal.

I miss you darling.

At night I secure all the entry points of our house. I spend a bit of time wondering if my gorgeous neighbours will lend me their German shepherd. I’ve moved a small desk and my laptop into our over-sized bedroom which has Foxtel, air con and an ensuite. So into my room I go and I pretty much don’t move for 10 hours.

As I write this, I counted nine pairs of heels littered on the floor, seven water bottles on my bedside table (six of which contain no water), and two half-full wine glasses. Why two glasses? Because tonight, when I got home from a training seminar at 9.20pm, I was desperate to watch the season five opener of Game Of Thrones. So I poured two glasses of wine, turned off the lights and retired to my bedroom, comforted by the knowledge I wouldn’t have to venture out for a refill.

I stack the mail up and open it once a week (don’t tell Alan). My smoothie blender, egg cooker, skillet and toaster haven’t been put away since I waved farewell to Al. I stay up till 5am writing (yes I’m writing a book…) and sleep till 11am.

I close my windows, search for Night Fever by the Bee Gees on YouTube, and replay it 27 times while I attempt to replicate Travolta’s disco moves.

Three times now I’ve been to bed without a shower. Twice I ate nothing all day but Weet-Bix. And once I cried so hard I thought my chest would split.

There was also an entire weekend when I didn’t bother with a bra. But it was ok. I get the paper delivered and I had enough milk.

It’s a kinda half life. Half my life is over the ditch and the other half is here in Brisbane. Every jacket, scarf and pair of boots I own now reside in Wellington. Every sleeveless summer dresses and strappy pair of stilettos I own now reside on ebay.

Mercifully just a couple more weeks till I am a Kiwi import. I’ve got some things to sell on Gumtree (let me know if you want to buy my car) and I am still teaching my cat to meow in Maori. And I desperately need to clear all the soft cheese out of the fridge before the removalists do their thing.

You know, for so many years there, I ticked the single box. More particularly, the single mother box. I carelessly left high heels around my place and ate copious quantities of Weet-bix. I set my own hours, refuted anyone’s judgement and answered nobody’s questions.

Except one pivotal question. The one that goes along the lines of “Will You Marry Me?” I effortlessly surrendered my Secret Single Behaviour and started ticking the Mrs box.

Suppose I better start on boxing up those shoes.

(Credit to my talented, inspirational and big-hearted friend Al, who coined our phrase “adult adventure”. It’s become our brand xo)

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Nikki Gemmell – why she hated 50 Shades Of Grey

This is a direct copy of Nikki Gemmell’s column in the Weekend Australian (14 March 2015). It is just brilliant. Please read. (PS I haven’t seen the movie, nor read the book and have no intention of doing either.)

Why Fifty Shades of Grey made my skin crawl

nikkkiHATED it. The film of Fifty Shades of Grey. Because it is a romanticisation — a glorification — of the controlling man.

And, like the in-built gaydar, many women have a control-dar that pinpoints the controlling man and all his dismissive, belittling, esteem-battering behaviour — and run a mile from it. Because no woman deserves that. But, of course, a lot of us put up with it.

The controlling man comes in many forms. He’s Christian Grey from Fifty Shades, demanding his particular form of sex that’s all about violence, demand, pain and power; not to mention selling his lover’s treasured car without telling her. He’s the GP who cuts me off mid sentence, repeatedly, because he’s not interested in what I have to say about my own body or my child’s; he knows best. He’s the friend’s husband who will not let her go out for dinner with the girls because she has to stay at home and be with him. He’s the imam decreeing a woman’s head and face be covered in public, and her education limited to ignorance. He’s the boyfriend who never answers your calls, addling you with indifference then demanding you appear right here, right now, in clothes to his liking. He’s Oscar Pistorius. Charles Saatchi.

“You know what happened to me?” said Rosie Batty. “Greg had finally lost control of me, and to make me suffer, and the final act of control — which was the most hideous form of violence — was to kill my son.” Her courageous voice has given us a fresh insight into what it’s like in the web of the controlling and insecure man. The tools of their repulsive trade are manipulation, isolation, psychological battering; the wallop again and again of emotional, intellectual and physical abuse. The constant aim is to assert their authority and superiority when they’re often, deeply, inferior. He’s Gerard Baden-Clay, who murdered his wife in Brisbane. He’s Arthur Freeman, who tossed his four-year-old daughter off Melbourne’s West Gate Bridge. He’s Simon Gittany, who threw his fiancee off his inner Sydney balcony.

“My wife is my property.” That’s how Bertolt Brecht summed up the message of Shakespeare’s Othello. No, she isn’t. She never is. She’s not in any way less than a man. If they perceive us as unequal, the propensity is there to control us; keep us in line. A woman never says, “A man is my property.” We often ask, “Why did the woman stay with that monster?” Yet we don’t ask, “Why did he inflict his inhumane violence on her in the first place?” Who says that’s acceptable? It never is. The onus should be on him, not her. I’m sick of excuses being made for angry, vulnerable, unhinged, threatening, uncentred, wounded masculinity. Like it’s someone else’s fault. Society’s. The victim’s.

Christian Grey is a different version of the many versions of controlling man. He sold Anastasia’s car, wanting to take away all that was individual and particular about her, wanting to change her, transform her into the image he wanted of her. The sex was ugly. Penetration looked like it hurt. There was an absence of tenderness. He did not ask his virginal lover at any time, “What do you want? What would give you pleasure? Tell me what you’d like.”

Nigella Lawson said that her husband, Charles Saatchi, had subjected her to “intimate terrorism”. It’s a phrase that could describe a lot of the controlling man’s abusive behaviour, in all its varied forms. We need to tell our daughters to beware of the controlling man. To avoid him if at all possible, call him out; and to pull up our sons if they demonstrate that kind of behaviour. It’s unacceptable, on a deeply human, empathetic level. The controlling man should not be normalised. He’s offensive to women; to what it means to be human. His repulsive, deeply selfish modus operandi should not be made to appear romantic. Which is why Fifty Shades of Grey made my skin crawl.

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The eyebrows have it

eyebrows3There’s only one part of my body that I don’t want to be any thinner.

My eyebrows.

These bits of hair that sit above eyes are so important. It’s utterly correct when our eyebrows are called the frames of our faces.

For us women, our eyebrows are a hugely significant aspect of our appearance. They are one of the most defining features of our faces, and we pay a lot of attention to them. Keeping them in tip-top shape for me is an essential.

Especially because mine are blonde. So I spend a spend a lot of time and money getting them tinted.

And tattooed. Yep, I’ve taken the plunge. Those suckers sitting above my eyes are now inked baby. It’s kinda cool to finally, in my late 40s, be able to say “yes” when someone asks me if I’ve got a tattoo.

It all started about three or four years ago. I was getting my nails done and I made the most rookiest of rookie errors.

You see, I needed an eyebrow wax and tint. I do this every four weeks. Because they’re blonde, without the tint I resemble an alien with a pronounced forehead and mothership issues. If I don’t get around to having the tint, I am left with no option but to attempt to draw them in myself. This often results in hilarious outcomes, especially if I’m going out at night and am having a warm-up wine. It also doesn’t help that I usually need glasses for looking at things up close.

This also results in me wiping my brow because it’s hot or I’m laughing, and – whoosh – there go my eyebrows, or worse, there goes one of them and I look unbalanced. Which is easy to do when I’ve been drinking but not a look I’d aspire to longer term.

Now my usual plan of action is to attend with a supremely talented Chinese lady who waxes and plucks and tints with enormous concentration. There’s even some alignment thing with her ruler and the side of my nose. Not sure, but she says she does it to make sure they’re exactly even. That makes sense.

But on this particular day, at my nail place, I was desperately short of time, and desperately in need of eyebrow attention. As she’s filing and painting, my nail lady casts a casual wave to the corner of the room and says, “Bec over there can do your eyebrows.”

I said “sure”. And that’s where I went wrong.

Here’s a piece of advice that I really want you to take. So pay attention. Before you get your eyebrows done, take a long, hard look at the eyebrows of the lady who is attending to them, and let your feeling about that look be your decider.

Bec’s eyebrows weyebrows2ere thinner than Nicole Kidman. A fact I didn’t notice until after she’d done the wax and tint and joyfully handed me a mirror so I could admire her handiwork.

Pretty much three-quarters of my eyebrows were gone. Forty years of growing them, and in one heroic strip of wax, they were gone.

Now I also had eyebrows that were thinner than Nicole Kidman.

If this ever happens to you, let me be the first to tell you that your eyebrows never really “grow back”. You think they will – after all, the hair on your legs never stops sprouting, nor does that whisker that feels like a tree stump coming out of your chin.

Not so much with the eyebrows.

I laboured way with the tinting for a while. It failed. I tinted and pencilled and drew and whatever and it didn’t really work.

Of course my supremely talented Chinese lady was mortified. And a bit angry. Take Crayola to a Picasso and then get the artist to clean it up. That sort of thing.

So a year or so ago, I had my eyebrows tattooed. By the supremely talented Chinese lady. I can’t believe people do this for fun. That scratching, picking thing where the pain is so niggling I think I’m going nuts.

Then I’ve got three days of looking like Mal Maninga in his hey-day before I can put any sort of liquid over them and the colour begins to settle down.

But it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Well, no… Marrying Alan was the best thing I’ve ever done. Oh and having Jade. And starting this blog.

Ok, it’s up there in the top ten.

Be kind to your eyebrows girls, because, like your knees, you will miss them if they’re gone.

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Packing it all in

suitcase1I write to you from the land of the Kiwis, the home of the All Blacks and bottlers of the finest Sauvignon Blanc. Where chips are “chups”, sex is “sux” and lots of fun things “hair-pen” (happen…)

New Zealand.

It’s a bit of a mini-break. My husband had a few meetings in Wellington and I had a few dollars spare on my credit card.  Win win – for him, for me and for Westpac.

Wellington has more bars and restaurants per head of population than anywhere else in the world. It also has more shoe shops. Walk down Lambton Quay, which is the shopping equivalent of the Queen Street Mall or Orchid Avenue in the 1980s, and you’ll get sore feet from walking in and out of shoe shops.

The only smart thing to do of course is to have a nice sit down on one of the comfy chairs in the shoe shop. And while you’re there, it would be silly not to try on a few pairs. Wasteful, really.

I know I’m not alone in saying that I love to travel. Hell I get excited at an overnight stay in the country to attend a wedding. By country, I mean Ipswich. I try not to go too far west of Kenmore.

What I’m not good at is the packing part. I’m not good at working out what I’m going to wear for the next few days or weeks and getting it all into a suitcase.

Sure I check ahead to see what the weather is going to be like. I see what functions and events we will be going to. I ask my husband to tell me what the baggage weight limit is on the plane.

Then I pretty much open my wardrobe and throw its entire contents into as many suitcases as required.

In the second Sex And The City movie, Carrie gets on the Abu Dhabi-bound flight wearing a hat so enormous it needed its own boarding pass. That hat is never seen nor heard from again. Yes yes I know it’s a movie but she sent a very clear signal that packing doesn’t need to measured or sensible.

What I tend to overlook is that for the most part, I’m travelling to places that have shops and credit card facilities and ATMs etc. If I forget something crucial – a particular lipstick in a fetching shade of rose pink or a pair of black tights – there’s always more at the shops.

The bigger problem is that I don’t leave room for any holiday shopping. That normally requires the purchase of an additional bag. And quite often the purchase of additional baggage allowance.

Travelling by car, whilst devoid of the whole international immigration clearance and duty free shopping fun, means that there’s no real limit on bags.

And it means I become delusional.

Say I’m going to the Gold Coast for a week. I get it into my head that I’m going to be all Mother Nature and Mrs Home Maker and cook a few recipes that are on my cooking wish list. This requires the packing of the wok, my knives, my mortar and pestle and goodness knows how many other kitchen gadgets.

Reality being that we eat out pretty much for three meals a day.

Once I was determined to embrace a healthy outlook and packed my juicer and all manner of vegetables. The juicer never left the boot of my car and the vegies went the way of the compost bin.

About 10 years ago, I was in Singapore with one of my best friends, enjoying this Asian hub’s sights, sounds and tastes. There was lots of fun things to buy, especially in the newly emerging electronics sphere. When it was time to come home, I couldn’t for the life of me get my bag shut.

In desperation, I held my bag firm while my friend bodily dove from one of the twin beds to the other where my case lay gaping, attempting to use the force of body weight to shut it. It is possible we may have been drinking when we came up with this Herculean idea. It didn’t work. I had to buy another bag.

Another time, in Europe, I was at a check-in counter in Slovakia being told that the baggage limit was 15kg or face horrendous fines.

I got the weight of my case to the prescribed limit, but only through wearing three jackets, draping two pairs of boots about my neck, throwing out my shampoo, conditioner and body lotion, and dragging two carry-on bags.

This trip is only a week but I think I’m doing ok. The test of course will be at the Qantas counter on Monday.

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Hair crash investigations


I’ve just returned from my hairdresser, $155 and four inches of hair lighter. The $155 I’m ok with, as this includes a colour, a toner, a treatment, a cut and a straighten.

The four inches of hair is another matter. It is a result of a hair crash.

I’ve always embraced long hair. Apart from that short period circa 1981 when I went all Diana-esque – if I couldn’t have a prince, I was sure as shit going to have a princess’s hair – it’s been long, long, long. Like do it up on your head long. Like plait it long.

And it seems that just when I’ve got it looking amazing, I do something brainless to ruin it and then spend the next year or two recouping.

Here’s what I mean.

About 1985, I landed on the brilliant idea of having a “body wave” put through my hair. Think Farrah Fawcett. Lots of lustrous fat curls all sweeping and swooning about.

I instructed my hairdresser as to my wish. Pulled out copies of TV Week to demonstrate. And I walked out of that salon with hair curled as short and tight as the old lady who calls bingo on Tuesdays in the Valley.

I’d noticed he was cutting quite a bit of my hair off. I’d noticed that the rollers he was using were worryingly small. But I had faith. Belief. What a sucker. Turns out that LJ’s Hair Salon in Coorparoo specialises in perms for the lawn bowls set and I got caught up in their pensioner enthral.

I rushed home and washed it and blew it dry and washed it again. I kept it wringing wet for the next 24 hours. But just like a pensioner in the right lane, those curls weren’t moving.

I put my head down and waited for it to grow again.

Which it must have, because when my daughter was born in 1991, there are pictures of me in unattractive hospital gowns with metres of hair all down my back.

Not much went wrong in the 1990s, mainly because I was too busy working full time, raising my girl, paying back a home loan that Paul Keating had set at 17% and getting divorced.

So I was a bit late to join the Jennifer Aniston/Rachel Green hairstyle party. I’d known about it, I’d seen the invitations, but I’d never gone along. I was determined to change that.

So I rang my hairdresser at the time. Groovy lady, ran some uber-cool salon in that antiques precinct in Woolloongabba. Comes complete with Foxtel, champers, ensuite, gay assistant and scalp massages.

I must admit I sprung my visit on her. I committed that heinous offence of ringing in the morning for an afternoon appointment. So I wasn’t surprised when she remorsefully conveyed the news that she was, in fact, already booked (doh!) but if I really wanted to come, her associate Greta could assist.

I said that would be fine.

Not realising the catastrophic mistake I’d made, I arrived for my hair cut confident in the fact that if the lovely Greta is working under the tutelage of my fabulous hairdresser, nothing can go wrong.

So Greta is chatting to me about her adorable son, I’m throwing in appreciative quips and anecdotes about my daughter, her scissors are doing their thing, blonde hair (mine) is scattered across the floor, I’m paying little or no attention – until I glance up from my magazine to see a huge chunk of my long hair fall victim to her sharp scissors. From a place on my head where I had asked for it to please stay long.

It’s pretty hard to get upset at a hairdresser when you’re sitting in a chair with plastic wrapped around you like a straight jacket, and they’re holding sharp scissors, sometimes upwards of three pairs at once.

Instead of a gentle layering around the front of my face, she’s hacked at right angles, creating this harsh stepped layering. It was awful.

I grabbed her wrist, and pleaded with her to stop. “You’re ruining my hair!” I wailed.

“But it’s the Rachel cut,” she countered.

It seems that her version of Rachel was somewhat different to mine. I think the Rachel she was referring to was on work release and lived with her tattoos and rollies in a caravan park down near Eagleby.

I wore my hair up for nine months after that one.

Around 2007, I got myself in trouble again, and this time there was no one to blame but me. My GHD straighteners were less than a year old but were put to good use most days. No more hours of blow drying, no more clumpy “snakey” hair, just a perfect sheet of blonde.

On this particular day, I shooshed a bit of hairspray on the front strands to hold them in place. I examined the end result and wasn’t totally happy as my hair wasn’t as straight as I’d prefer.

Not to worry, I thought, as I fired up my straightener and swiped its paddles over my hair. A sizzling noise, not dissimilar to pork fat being thrown onto a super hot bbq griddle, was emitted. A hideous smell not dissimilar to rancid meat being microwaved was expelled.

I’d burnt my own hair. The chemicals in the hairspray clearly weren’t too happy when the heat was applied and they took it out on my hair. How could I be so dumb!?

It ended with me at the hairdresser in tears, watching my locks fall around me as this poor fellow muttered to himself in Spanish about how silly blonde women shouldn’t be given access to things that required heat. Or electricity.

Which brings me to my recent hairdresser visit. You see, one night a few months ago, it was quite late and I was in my bathroom taking out my hair. That morning, I’d tied it in a high ponytail, looped the tail part over the elastic and then messily pinned it to create one of those chaotic-on-purpose hairstyles.

It had been a long day. I was heading overseas on holidays the following week and there was much to do at work to get things in order. I’d lurched home late, guzzled a glass of wine, reheated a plate of food, and then headed to the bathroom for a shower.

As I was taking my hair out, the elastic band got caught. The more I pulled and tugged the more my hair entwined itself around the offending elastic. Desperate for a shower and sleep, I grabbed some scissors and maleficently chopped at the elastic band.

Without a mirror.

After a glass of wine.

As I snipped, I heard a sound and remember thinking, “this can’t be good.” It wasn’t. I pulled away and in my hand was a good six inches of my hair, and no elastic in sight.

It was, of course, still caught in my hair.

My wailing brought my husband, who cut the elastic for me, after he had finished rolling on the floor in laughter. For better or worse anyone?

The next day I was at the hairdresser, having layers and layers cut all around my hair in an attempt to hide the cruelty of my home haircut, while my hairdresser and all her assistants rolled about on the floor in laughter.

Which brings me to this week, where I can proudly say that my hair has been behaving nicely and growing steadily, and the four inches I lost yesterday brings the layers of my hair closer together.

Once upon a time, I used to get my hair and nails done at the same place. Triple As for convenience in geographical location and efficiency in dialogue. I didn’t have to make separate trips and I didn’t have to give the same updates twice. They could cut, file and listen together.

Until the day dawned, about three years into this mutually festive partnership, that I was no longer thrilled with the quality of my nails. I knew I’d have to find another technician. Which women of the world will understand meant I had to find a new hairdresser as well. I could hardly waltz in there for a haircut and bypass the nail studio. I had to cut all ties (pun intended) and start again.

Here’s hoping I get to the end of this decade without another disaster. My husband has my hairdresser on speed dial, however, just in case.

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