26 pieces of advice on love

Stumbled across this gem on the Pop Sugar site, thank you Nicole Yi. Not sure where you’re at in life, but for me, it is a blueprint for my relationship future. (PS my father sadly doesn’t have the awareness nor sensitivity to say these things, so please don’t think it’s from him. Bless Nicole’s dad instead.)

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Some of the best advice I’ve ever received has been from my dad, but I didn’t quite realize that until I got older. My “all-knowing” father spits out life lessons every other sentence, so I usually respond with an eye roll. But as I began to come across experiences in my life where his words were applicable, maybe this self-proclaimed Yoda is onto something after all, I thought. Ironically, I learned most about being a woman from him.

Here are few of my life lessons for you to internalize re: men and life, straight from the man himself.

No man will ever be able to fill your cup every day. It’s impossible and draining.

Most men will fill the cup in short terms to be able to conquer.

You must fill your own cup.

You must love yourself when you’re looking in the mirror.

Don’t ever allow a man to shape who you are.

Don’t ever lower your standards for a man. Be patient.

Women have the same feelings as men. If you want it, go get it, but do it under your terms. And, after . . . leave a note with $20 saying, “I’ll call you, don’t call me.”

Envision the perfect partner. And if you want to attract that partner into your life, be that person yourself.

I hear all the time and in the movies, “You complete me.” Throw that sh*t out the window.

Never allow a man to disrespect you or verbally abuse you, and, of course, don’t ever allow him to physically abuse you. That’s not a man.

Find a man who will adore you, who will treat you like a queen. A real man shows by actions and not words.

Always remember, what he says is who he’s trying to be. What he does is who he is.

In order to have a successful and prosperous relationship, you must be able to self-recognize.

Your partner must be able to do the same as above.

Don’t rush into a marriage or relationship because of loneliness or emptiness. Work on your weaknesses and complete yourself first.
A great man will overflow your cup and not just fill your cup.

Be confident and be happy being alone. Be content being alone. Be confident and be able to go to dinner, movies, and travel alone. Tell the world mentally and physically when sitting at the dinner table alone: “My name is x and I’m a strong, independent woman who is content and secure with herself.”

You’ll notice a f*ck boy coming your way when they’re intimidated by you. Again, don’t lower your standards for these little boys. Play with them if you wish, but do it under your terms.

Wait until you’re in your 30s to get married. Through my personal experiences, I’ve noticed that I started to feel comfortable looking into the mirror when I turned 30ish.

Always work on your relationship. Don’t think everything is fine if you’re not fighting or arguing. There’s always room for improvement.

Find a man who loves himself, also.

Find a partner who’s your best friend, someone you simply like hanging out with, go to the market with, etc.

It’s a plus to have the same interests and hobbies.

I asked a friend who married for the third time what was different about this one. His response: “For the first time in my life, I couldn’t wait to go home.” Sometimes, it’s that simple.

Find a partner who wants to grow and learn with you.

Always be self-sufficient emotionally and financially. Allow yourself to want it but never need it.

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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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I blame Carrie

cbFor a really long time there, I was an avid devotee of Sex And The City. As a wanna-be writer, an Austen-style believer in true love and a stiletto devotee, I felt I had finally met my equals.

I watched those girls wax and wane between love on the horizon and love on the rocks. They talked orgasms, three-ways, abortion, marriage and AIDS. They ran all over New York in their clickety-clack heels and tight skirts, schmoozed their way into club openings and Michelin-star restaurants and shed tears of heartbreak when things turned sour.

The show has been over for more than 10 years, and since then we’ve had two movies and there’s talk of a third.

And there’s a part of me that looks at it now and wants to wring Carrie’s scrawny bloody neck.

Because of Carrie, I felt hideously inadequate for not wearing high heels when I went to the supermarket on Saturday morning or when I went to my letterbox to get my mail. Even if I popped out for a quick Sunday brunch, and all the girls I was meeting were in flats, I’d still wear heels. Because that’s what Carrie did. Don’t get me wrong here, my love affair with heels started ways before SATC. It’s just that Carrie took it up a notch. And I was right behind her in my platform wedges.

Now, when I watch old episodes, my favourite scene is the one where Aidan proposes. Not because he proposes, but because she’s out walking the dog, and she’s in shorts and thongs. Like a normal person.

Because of Carrie, I spent close to five years hanging around waiting for some publisher type person to offer to turn all my columns into a book. I’d even made the lame joke to my friends about not getting chemical peels the day before my book launch. Reality being that if I’m ever going to publish my columns as a book, I will at some point need to engage a publisher.

Because of Carrie, I wake up in the morning and wonder why I look so shit. Those girls were out till 4am dancing salsa and sinking tequila and their noses didn’t get shiny and their mascara never wandered away from their eyes. Which brings me to more of my 10-years-on favourite scenes – Carrie getting sprung in the shower by Charlotte following her failed birthday dinner, where she’d just stuck her head under the tap and she sported black panda eyes. Like a normal person. And in the first movie, when the girls got to Mexico, and Carrie went into the bathroom and washed her face that was sans make-up. She looked like a normal person would look when that normal person has been left at the altar.

How Carrie lived her extravagant life on the earnings of one column a week is perplexing. Even if she was paid say $100,000 (back then) I really doubt she could be trotting off to Manolo B’s each week or whatever for a new pair. Plus the wardrobe that included Prada, Chanel, D&G etc. We never saw her in Big W trying on a pair of Emerson’s or at Valley Girl buying a $10 sequin top.

And how did they do their washing? Apart from the time where Miranda came face to face with Steve’s skid marks, did any of them actually wash? Or vacuum or dust?

I think the most powerful annoyance for me is Big. When SATC first came on TV, I was dating a bit of Mr Big dickhead myself, so I felt I could commiserate with Carrie’s frustrations. My guy wasn’t that much into commitment yet I thought the sun shone out of his feckless cheating arse. I would loll around all morose and beleaguered, knowing full well he was out with another woman, and wonder what was so wrong with me that he wouldn’t commit.

Every now and then he’d have a fit of loneliness, or fear, or both, and scramble over to my place to tell me how much I meant to him and how hard he was going to work to make it good. Sort of like Big did when he was married to Natasha. Of course it was never genuine but I sure as hell fell for it each time.

Now all these years later, I look back on Carrie and me, and wonder why, at the first sign of what Bridget Jones eloquently called fuckwittage, we didn’t just call them tosspots and jaunt off on our high heels. Love, if it’s meant to be, shouldn’t be that stressful or destructive.

And there are better ways to lose weight.

The reason I know this, is that when I met my now husband, he was upfront from the first glass of Pinot Noir. He said he was absolutely intent on a long-term commitment, he thought I was the most gorgeous woman on the planet and he booked me for dinner every Saturday night for the next 40 years.

And so I took myself off the dating rollercoaster and put myself in a very happy, fulfilling and equal place. And I look back at those not so wondrous years and wonder why the hell I let myself put up with such crap. And do my best to get word around to friends and friends of friends who are dating their own version of Mr Big to let them know that life without a tosspot is still pretty good.

Of course I still have a wardrobe stacked with high heels which I wear with great regularity. I just not longer have a life that is stacked with angst and drama.

I guess that makes me what Bridget Jones calls “a smug married”.

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Single woman vs married woman

002Having been both single and married for equally significant periods in my life, I feel well qualified to share these insights. Let me know if you agree with anything I’ve said…

What to do when there’s a noise in the night

Single girl: She’ll prod whatever random lover she chose for the night, and ask him to go investigate. Ten bucks says that while he’s poking around and finding there’s nothing sinister going on, she’ll suggest that, seeing as he’s up, he may as well head home. That way she can snuggle down and have a blissful solo sleep and not have to contend with the morning-after-the-night-before issue of making a noise in the toilet.

Married girl: She’ll prod her husband, who is lying flat on his back and snoring louder than a coffee grinder, and ask him to go investigate. Ten bucks says that while he’s poking around and finding there’s nothing sinister, she’ll ask him to bring her a cup of tea on his way back, check on the kids and empty the kitty litter. No point wasting the effort of getting up.

What to do when cooking for one

Single girl: She uses her oven for storage and keeps hair accessories in her Tupperware. She’s not cooking for one. Either she makes a massive pot of something on the weekend, and eats the same thing every night, or she has a glass of wine and a piece of cheese. Because who can be bothered. Mind you, if she’s got herself organised, she’ll have one of her attentive admirers take her out for dinner. Straight after work of course, because who can be bothered going home to change when all you want is food.

Married girl: If she’s cooking for one it means either of these: She’s put herself on a diet and won’t be eating a morsel until next Tuesday, so she has to rustle up something for her husband. In instances like this, hubby should count himself fortunate if she bothers to microwave the baked beans before she dumps them on some toast and hands them to him. Or, option two, hubby is away for the night and she’s got the whole house to herself. She won’t be cooking then either. She’ll be busy watching back-to-back episodes of Game of Thrones or Sex and the City, and pouring her dinner into a wine glass.

What to do when the car breaks down

Single girl: She’s sensibly a member of some reputable breakdown service. She’ll phone them up and once they know she is a) single and b) stranded alone, will have a mechanic to her in no time. He fixes up her car, checks her hand for a wedding ring, asks her out, gets a polite rebuff but he still says he’ll watch her drive off just to make sure everything is ok. If she’s not a member of a reputable breakdown service she’ll take the only other viable option. She’ll ring her dad.

Married girl: Of course, it’s the husband’s fault. Isn’t he in charge of servicing, battery replacements and fuel? She’ll ring her husband up, and berate him for forgetting to ensure her car was roadworthy, tell him it’s all his fault she’s stuck on Gympie Road with a car that won’t start, and ask him what is he going to do about it? The husband then rings the reputable breakdown service on her behalf and gives them the address of where she is, and wishes them luck. The husband will probably get cold baked beans for dinner that night. The wife will have wine.

What to do when there’s a big electricity bill

Single girl: She never has to worry about a big electricity bill because she rarely cooks and when she’s home, she only uses small side lamps or candles because this type of lighting makes her look younger, softer and more alluring. Even if she’s the only one in the house, there’s no point in scaring herself when she looks in the mirror. She really only needs electricity to keep her wine cold and her hair straighteners hot.

Married girl: Instantly blames the husband. He’s the one who comes home and switches every light on. He stays in the shower for 20 minutes, insists on having five televisions with Foxtel, and will put the dishwasher on when it contains only two dirty saucepans and a knife. He’s the one out in the shed with the drill and angle grinder and bench and saw goodness knows what else. Therefore, it seems logical that he should pay it. She usually rings the utility provider to let them know this.

(Part 2 to follow shortly)

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Let him be

The first time I noticed it, I mean really noticed it, was when I was wedding dress shopping with a girlfriend. Her wedding, not mine. She wanted a frothy concoction for her upcoming beach wedding.

We were in some over priced, under resourced dress shop at the top of Broadway on the Mall, trying on dress after dress after dress, closely followed by countless skirt and top combos. Alternating between hysterics at how aged and superficial we looked in some of the kit, and fury at the price tags for garments which amounted to no more than a square metre of chiffon held together precariously with two paper clips, albeit diamante paper clips.

Poised on the de rigueur pink circular couch taking prime position in the centre of the shop was this miserable looking bloke. He had shopping bags at his feet, bearing the logos for David Jones, Napoleon and Mollini. In his fidgeting hands were a thrice-folded racing guide and a mobile phone. On his face was a look of desolate boredom.

He didn’t want to be dress shopping. He wanted to be at the TAB. Actually I think he would have more fun kissing Jim Carey or having surgery in the Bundaberg medical precinct.

That’s because behind one of the change room doors was his wife/fiancé/girlfriend, resplendent with giggles, guffaws and gladiatorial intensity to find the perfect frock for her particular function.

Every few minutes, she would squeal in delight or dismay, open the door and parade around him like a five year old girl showing daddy her first fairy costume.

The man was made of steel. Step aside Superman. He had a look on his face as straight as the Queen Street Mall and politely “oohed” and “aahed” and correctly answered all her inane questions without the benefit of asking the audience or phoning a friend.

“Do you think it’s too low at the back?” What a stupid question to ask a male. Women’s clothes, in men’s cultured opinion, can never be too low at the back nor the front.

“Do you think it’s too low at the front?” Sentence above answers this question.

“Do you think $899 is too expensive?” Silly woman, I thought. Don’t ever tell blokes how much clothes cost. Even if you’re earning more than they are; even if you’re one of the world’s eight supermodels and can easily afford crazy price tags. They don’t understand.

They will spend the same amount on golf clubs or a limited edition State of Origin signed print, but not on clothes. And certainly not on one dress that will be worn for approximately six hours in total then put in the back of the wardrobe.

“Which one do you like best?” was the next fatal utterance. Don’t go there mate! Whatever you say will be wrong, and you will pay dearly for it for some time to come. Why doesn’t she ask him something simpler, such as how to test an egg for freshness or whether this season’s eyeliner is worn across the top rim or under the lower?

As soon as she ducked in for another change, he’d scan the racing guide and furtively text whom can I only assume was his bookmaker.

Put it this way, I don’t think it was to his best mate. Men don’t tend to send the sort of text messages to other men like girls do. I am yet to see a male send a text saying: “I am in hell; I’m in a dress shop with her”.

With blokes and clothes, I am discretion central. Some may call it deceit central, but I totally disagree. Here’s an example. I might buy say a fabulous skirt and wait until there’s no one around to chop all the labels off it, and throw away the store bag. Then I’ll chuck the skirt into the laundry basket and generally let it subsume itself into the other clothes.

When next I’m washing, I pop it in, stick it up to dry and just carry on as if it’s a regular wardrobe item. Or I’ll buy new shoes, but wear them home. Hiding evidence is a trick my mother taught me years ago. She also told me to always wash off my make up before going to bed so she can’t be all that bad at advice dispensing.

If it’s not in their face, they don’t notice. They might say, “Darl, is that new?” Just give the standard answer, “What, this old thing?”

I say let him be. Do your dress shopping sans boyfriend. Take your sister, mother, girlfriend, third grade teacher – whoever – but not your man. Unless he’s gay. It’s just not his scene. You don’t want to be at Bunnings or Trade Tools with him on a Saturday morning, so don’t drag him out for haute couture with you.

There is ample opportunity for joint retail frolicking that doesn’t involve change rooms. Think Bose, Mercedes, Flight Centre. And yes, I know that he is incapable of purchasing a pack of 7-days-in-Rio men’s briefs without your consultation and support, but accept it. Blokes will be blokes, girls will be girls and Gwyneth will never live down that embarrassing Oscar acceptance speech.

That is, of course, unless he makes you sit at The Gabba for the Boxing Day test match or prop him up at the $25 minimum bet roulette table at Conrad’s. Then you’ve got every right to retaliate.

Oh, and my final piece of advice – hide your credit card statement. My mother might have told me that one too.

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My “Pretty Woman” moment

If they could get it so wrong with Julia Roberts, who even as a hooker looked amazing, then it’s not so far-fetched that they could get it wrong with me.

I know it’s a movie, I know it’s make-believe, I know it’s all fantasy but the principle remains. Remember how Julia – all legs and torso exposed – struts into some high-end Rodeo Drive clobber shop and is just as quickly evicted as not being suitable calibre? Or some such nonsense.

Yet she returns replete in Prada et al, in a fab hat and total glam. And tells the snooty assistants to get stuffed. Brilliant moment (and one that she revisited at the tail end of the movie “Valentine’s Day”, possibly the best part of that labouring movie).

Here’s what happened with me.

Living in New Farm, on Brisbane’s lazy meandering river, means that my favoured mode of public transport is usually the ferry. The other day, I had reason to catch the ferry twice.

First time was just before lunch. I had an appointment in the city and figured that while I was there, I’d reacquaint myself with my gym. We’re like long-lost friends. “Hi sweetie, gosh it’s been ages, how’ve you been?”

So I chucked clothes for my meeting in my backpack and trundled to the ferry in my daggy gym gear. I know gym gear has a tendency to be daggy but mine is a little daggier than most.

I run in the old shorts I painted my house in. My sports bra is so stretched that I usually need to wear several of them to get adequate support. I hide my bed-hair up in a baseball cap. Etc.

The guy who puts out that little bridge for you to walk onto the ferry was a bit cute. And being the lovely person I am, I called him a  cheery “good morning” and smiled a bit as I boarded.

No response. Almost dismissive. Now this happens a bit to me anyway, most times when I’m going about my business. I think it is because I work from home and alternate between slothing in my pajamas and donning the ugliest clothes known to mankind to slip down to get coffee and the papers.

So I wasn’t that surprised at the ferry man’s reaction. As the song so aptly says, “don’t blame the ferry man”.

Fast forward about four hours. I’ve been to the gym, had my meeting in the city, done a bit of work at home and now I’m heading back to the city for a pre-dinner drink.

So I stepped out of character and glammed up a bit. Straightened my hair, popped on some heels. Even my treasured Chanel lip gloss had an outing.

And as these things go, old mate on the ferry was still working his shift. Again, I repeated my cheery greeting, using the p.m. version, not the earlier a.m.

Not only did he simper and smile and coo a bit, he sat with me on the trip. Couldn’t shake him.

Bugger being Wonder Woman or Lara Croft or even Medium’s Allison DuBois. My superpowers are GHD and Chanel.

Sha-zammmm!

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The mother of all laws

What do you do if you miss your mother-in-law? Reload, and take better aim.

Mmmm.

Well, we’ve all either got one, had one, are one or know one. Like “great-aunt” or “stepmother” it’s one of those ambiguous relative categories. Sometimes you hit the jackpot; sometimes the poker machine sucks the very life out of the marrow of your bones and leaves you a heaving, angry, impotent raging mess.

This column isn’t about hitting the jackpot. It’s more like coming third in the chook raffle at a local RSL.

My own mother-in-law (albeit now ex) had more issues than The Courier-Mail. And was so dumb she wouldn’t have passed a blood test. She had the personality of a dial tone. Could have been because she was short, could have been because she was married to a verbally abusive alcoholic, could have been because she ignored her son for his first 20 years of life and right when I married him, she was in the throes of deciding that she needed to make up for lost time.

Her way of doing this was to adopt a fragile, helpless persona and wail away about how she needed things done around her house and how my husband’s father was a good for nothing layabout and how her darling boy was the only man she could rely on. Etc.

He could be mowing the lawn, cooking a bbq or watching football and she’d ring, demanding his attention.

“Oh son, I’m just having trouble changing a light bulb.”

“Oh son, I can’t quite reach the mix master on the top shelf of the pantry.”

“Oh son, could you just move Ayers Rock fifty miles closer to the coast.”

The dear thing tried so hard to get on with me, but I was having none of it. Not after she cooked my parents a pre-wedding supper at her house and asked them to contribute to its cost. Not after she left my two month old daughter alone on the change table while she went to answer the phone.

My other mother-in-law (interestingly also an ex, but by de facto only) was a nightmare as well. My boyfriend was the youngest of all-girl siblings and he had spent his life being cosseted by females. Until I came along and expected him to pull his weight. He was pretty much incapable of doing this.

And why should he when mummy was always there to rescue him.
She didn’t like me one bit. I got in trouble for not making him lunch every day. I got in trouble for not keeping the children quiet when he wanted an afternoon nap. I got in trouble for not bounding to the clothes line to retrieve his work shirts when it started to rain. Etc.

For every great story you hear about a mother-in-law, there is an equal and opposing story.

Things like rearranging of the kitchen cupboards when they house-sit. Feeding children sugar then admonishing you for their hyperactivity. Buying the kids wildly inappropriate outfits but creating the expectation that they should wear them. And then photographing the poor kids in this nauseating get-up. So years later you have huge psychiatrist bills when the kids discover photos of themselves at a school function wearing something akin to the Danish national dress.

Why are mothers-in-law so suspicious of us? Is it because their sons now share all their secrets with us instead of them? Do they not realise that grown men don’t usually have thought processes that run that deep? Or that any secrets they have sometimes involve some sort of group lesbian fantasy and frankly we’d rather they kept that secret all to themselves.

Were Adam and Eve the happiest and the luckiest couple in the world, because neither of them had a mother-in-law?

Mmmm.

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A dating dictionary

ATTRACTION… the act of associating horniness with a particular person.

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT… what occurs when two extremely horny, but not entirely choosy people meet.

DATING… the process of spending enormous amounts of money, time and energy to get better acquainted with a person whom you don’t especially like in the present and will learn to like a lot less in the future.

BIRTH CONTROL… avoiding pregnancy through such tactics as swallowing special pills, inserting a diaphragm, using a condom, and dating repulsive men.

EASY… a term used to describe a woman who has the sexual morals of a man.

EYE CONTACT… a method utilised by one person to indicate that they are interested in another. Despite being advised to do so, many men have difficulty looking a woman directly in the eyes, not necessarily due to shyness, but usually due to the fact that a woman’s eyes are not located in her chest.

FRIEND… a person in your acquaintance who has some flaw which makes sleeping with him/her totally unappealing.

INDIFFERENCE… a woman’s feeling towards a man, which is interpreted by the man to be “playing hard to get”.

INTERESTING… a word a man uses to describe a woman who lets him do all the talking.

IRRITATING HABIT… what the endearing little qualities that initially attract two people to each other turn into after a few months together.

LAW OF RELATIVITY… how attractive a given person appears to be is directly proportionate to how unattractive your date is.

NYMPHOMANIAC… a man’s term for a woman who wants to have sex more often than he does.

SOBER… condition in which it is almost impossible to fall in love.

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The reality of fairy tales

Perhaps Cinderella had it right all along. To secure your handsome prince, you need – in this order – one mean step mother, two ugly step sisters, a fabulous pair of shoes and a party invite. Stage an intervention, dance like Ginger Rogers, flirt outrageously with the queen’s son and pretend to lose a shoe.

Oh, and have an affinity for pumpkins.The curious part in all this is that Cinderella knew nary a thing about her prince. Would he relegate her to the role of football wife each weekend? Would he always open the door for her, or did he only do it that one time to impress her? Did he fart in bed and clip his toenails when watching tv? Would he have a teeny tiny willy with absolutely no idea how to use it?

Yet, there she was, blithely happy to marry him; happy to clamber up behind him on his white steed and ride off into the stereotypical sunset. Interesting how happy endings always seem to occur at twilight. Unlike ones I’m more accustomed to which seem more likely to occur at 2am when the bar is calling last drinks.

We know they lived happily ever after. It says so in the book. It doesn’t say that they had to go live with his mother while they saved for a home. Or that they ended up with three kids under four and were too exhausted at the end of the day to say hello to each other, much less share a kiss and a pony ride.

So perhaps we should stop berating Cinderella for not being pro-feminism; for not dating more; for not getting herself a decent education, taking out a mortgage and developing a network of friends.

She went to a party. She had a few drinks and met a bloke. He looked all right. He had a bit of money and a nice house. He clearly understood the close relationship women have with their shoes as he was so keen to make sure she got her missing one back.

So why doesn’t the Cinderella theory work for me? Am I really just searching for a good looking bloke to cart me off on his horse or equivalent? What if I didn’t like the suburb his castle was in? What if I preferred he go out to work each day to give me some peace instead of sitting in his counting house counting out his money and getting under my feet?

You see, he could be a prince, but if he’s shorter than me, he doesn’t get looked up, much less a look in. He could be a millionaire, but if he’s got a million issues from his first marriage that he hasn’t addressed, all the money in the world won’t make me stay. He could be the heir to Microsoft Systems but if his systems in bed are either micro or soft, he won’t be doing any point and click with me.

How much of myself am I prepared to abandon to secure a relationship? And does that amount rise with each passing year? Is the set of goal posts that I once firmly concreted into the ground now being excavated so I can move them?

Or should I go to more parties with a pumpkin under my arm and the strap loose on my sandals?

Snow White didn’t have it so bad either. Living in a house with seven gays would mean that you could talk at length about your “issues” and your “feelings” to an attentive audience. There would always be home-made pesto and a decent wedge of brie in the fridge. You could drink chardonnay all the time and not have to pretend it was a sav blanc.

The toilet seat would be down, the dishes washed up and you would never need to worry about your house-mates trying to cop a quick feel.

And then, just when you think you’ve done your dash and there’s no hope whatsoever left, some spunk of a bloke pops along, wakes you up with a dirty big pash in front of all your friends and there it is.

If I lived with seven adorable gays, I’d never want to leave. One of my very best friends is gay and I never want him to leave. We holiday together, shop together, cook together. He very patiently listens to me rave on for extended periods of time. Once I did it while we flew all the way to Singapore. He just kept ordering more red whilst simultaneously nodding and saying “yes sweetie, of course you’re right”. It’s fabulous.

Oh, and I’d never go near an apple again.

So does that mean relationships aren’t all they’re cracked up to be? When the theory is deconstructed, is it really trying to tell us to find more peace, contentment, happiness within ourselves first?

Once upon a time, a guy asked a girl “Will you marry me?” The girl said “no thank you.”

Instead, the girl went shopping, dancing, had a great job, drank expensive wine, always had a clean house, cooked only when she felt like it, made her own decisions, never argued, read many books, didn’t get fat, travelled the world, took many lovers, didn’t save money, and had all the hot water to herself.

She went to the theatre, talked for hours with her girlfriends, laughed often, never watched sports, always looked fabulous and didn’t own any of that scratchy lace underwear that gets stuck up your arse.

And she lived happily ever after.

The end.

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X & Y

This one time, my fella was getting ready play touch. He hadn’t played touch in goodness knows how many months. But it was a bloke thing, the guys were keen, there was beer at the end of it and, well, you know the rest.

He went to the back of his garage, got his sports bag and brought it back into the house. He unzipped it, looked perplexed at its contents, then stuck his nose right down into it for a smell.

“Eeeewwwwwwwwwwww!” was his resounding reaction. You see, it still contained the remnants of his last touch football game and, judging by his reaction, these remnants had evolved and taken on a life force of their own.

“Hey sweetie,” he calls, “come over here and have a smell of this.”

“You are disgusting,” I said, not bothering to hit the pause button on Episode 4, Season 2 of Sex and the City. “And take that stinky bag out of the kitchen.”

Undeterred, he ventured further into the house where the boys were waiting for him. “Hey fellas, you gotta have a smell of this!”

And I kid you not, one by one they all stuck their noses in the offending bag, all with similar reactions. And oh how they bonded over it.

Now, I won’t even take my shoes off in the presence of anyone except my dog. But that’s because I once found him getting cosy with a rat that had met a gruesome end in the corner of my yard. That dog is up for anything.

A visit to the lavatory is executed with military precision to ensure no observers. I am almost tempted to run a census of my immediate neighbourhood to gauge awareness levels and the number of open windows.

I shower at the gym to make my homecoming that little bit sweeter. I shy from morning kisses in case too many vinos from last night shine through.

That’s the difference between women and men. He’ll mow the lawn and come in all sweaty and filthy and think he’s a contender for the next Lynx commercial. I haven’t washed my hair since yesterday morning and don’t like him smelling it when he cuddles me. “Ooh, get away from me, I stink.”

To be fair, not all men are the same. I mean, they have different faces so the women can tell them apart. They don’t see it as a beer gut; they see it as a fuel tank for a love machine.

This fellow has framed every rugby league jersey he’s ever worn. In his defence he was a premier league player in his youth but for God’s sake, he’s in his mid-40s now! He once wanted me to move in with him but he made it clear that not one of those suckers were coming down from the walls to make way for my tastefully framed Renoir prints and hand-drawn charcoal sketches of the Trevi Fountain.

Just as I couldn’t get him to relocate his New York Yankees yard glass or collection of poker chips from that time he played a hand in Las Vegas.

Needless to say I’m still living at my place.

Probably because when we were having these early co-habitating discussions, I went through his house and addressed his furniture like an airhostess does at the end each flight. Bye-bye. Bye-bye …

The penis should never have its own name. Even less its own personality. This isn’t Princess Diana and her marriage to Charlie. There aren’t three people in this relationship thereby making it a bit crowded.

Maybe Ms Bobbitt lopped it off because she grew fractious about constant referrals to “Big John” or “Donald Pump”. And if that was indeed the case, she has my instantaneous sympathy.

When I was growing up, my dad agonised each morning over what tie he should wear with his suit. He’d seek counsel from my mother and she’d reply with a flippant “the one in your left hand” whilst never averting her eyes from frying eggs and buttering toast.

I used to think that she was heartless, even mean. Until I got married. And realised that my husband was doing the same thing to me and I too was caught in the neck-wear decision vortex.

What would men be without women?

Scarce.

What would women be without men?

Fat.

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