Archive | July, 2012

Secret – By Beth

29 Jul

When I read this week’s topic I immediately thought of a particular secret from my high school years. It wasn’t my secret. It was the secret of a guy I went to high school with. I did the wrong thing with that secret. And I still really regret it. It was one of my unfinest hours.

Although our school was fairly tolerant in many ways, it was still on the northern beaches of Sydney. So there was racism, and misogyny, and homophobia. Enough homophobia that out of a year of 120 students, only two people came out during school. It was two girls, and they were a couple, or had briefly been involved at least, and when it came down to it, they didn’t really come out, as get outed and then have to deal with it. Lesbianism was seen as enough of a titillating novelty that they didn’t seem to get too hard a time, but maybe I just don’t know the whole story. I can think of at least three gay guys in our year, and none of them were out in high school.

A friend of mine was close friends with one of these guys, and told me his secret. Like a damn fool I told another friend of mine (justifying it by the fact that that friend of mine went to another school), and she told her friend who as it turns out knew a friend of his. There were three people who broke that trust, but he blamed me the most. Because I had “pretended to be someone who people could trust” when in actual fact I was an “evil horrible bitch”. He really told me what he thought of me. Over and over. Aaaah, high school. As my great grandmother said “I wouldn’t be young again if you paid me!”

For about a year after that whole episode I would look around nervously when I was at a pedestrian crossing. Feeling sure that this guy would run me down if he could.

It was such a breech. I’m still so ashamed. Why did I do it?! What haunted me most was the worry that I’d blabbed out of some deep seated homophobia within myself that I wasn’t aware of. I have a very active guilt complex. I saw a show once where this obsessive compulsive guy could never be near a pen for fear he would write a confession to a crime he didn’t commit. I totally got that guy on some level.

I’ve kind of resented secrets ever since.


False – by Karen

29 Jul

I started my new boot camp class a couple of weeks ago, and found myself in the middle of a gym drama. The woman who had taken the previous weeks’ classes, which I had enjoyed, turns out to have been a fill-in for another trainer, who arrived this week. I met one of my co-exercisers on the stairs, who said, “Oh, Cherie’s back,” with a roll of her eyes. “Cherie?” I asked. “Yeah, she’s the normal trainer, but Daniela was way better.” This did turn out to be true, and the new trainer was fairly unengaged. She also filled the room with a cigarette smoke halo, which is kind of weird for a fitness trainer. Seemed like a very nice person though.

Anyhow, afterwards, all the gym girls congregated for coffee while Cherie got a talking to from the gym manager. Suddenly, all the women were excitedly speculating that she might be being fired.

Cherie joined us for coffee, a bit teary, to report that she’d been told to stop talking so much and to give me heavier weights.

Suddenly, all the women were shocked. How could he do that? Doesn’t he know they all love Cherie? In fact, they’d all stop coming if Cherie left. When they saw that hot young Daniela, they just wanted to give up. Clearly Gym Boss doesn’t understand women.

Well, by the end of that, I felt like I didn’t understand women either. To be more honest, I understood all too well, and the scenario was all too familiar. High school. Groups of girls. The bitching and the sucking up in rapid-fire succession. Wanting to get Girl A on side by supporting them, then wanting to bond with Girl B by tearing Girl A down behind their back.

It tastes sweet at the time, but leaves a nasty after-taste. Like a spoon full of aspartame.

Faux. It’s French for False – by Tabitha

24 Jul

This is my new faux fox fur, bought from the Bo Phut night market last week:

His little mouth opens and closes!

Moments before buying him, I was explaining to Nathan that now I’m pregnant and soon to be a mother, I should really try to reduce my cutesy-poo wardrobe stylings. This was prompted by seeing a headband with a faux chocolate eclair stuck on it, which I quite fancied, but talked myself down from. In Vietnam, the maternity fashion is for these awful, tent-sized, short-sleeved dresses tied loosely at the back, and covered in pastel-coloured images of puppy dogs kissing kittens. They look like an oversized version of a toddler’s dress, and that’s exactly how they make the wearer look: like a waddling, oversized child. I’m pretty sure that wearing a chocolate eclair on your head would have the same effect. Actually, no, I’m totally sure.

And then I saw the fox, and knew he had to be mine.

This sums up the internal, fruitless, struggle I have over practically all my wardrobe purchases. I am always drawn to the fabrics with animal patterns, or the hats that have ears, or the scarves with faces, and yet I know these do not a stylish woman make. As I get older, I worry that in fact I look more and more like Kathy Geiss, surrounded by her collection of unicorns and rainbows. And yet I can’t resist a faux fox.

Nathan was horrified by the idea that I was suppressing my innate urge to wear a chocolate eclair on my head because of impending motherhood, and tried to insist that I buy it, which is one of the many reasons he is the best husband ever. I agree there’s something really, really wrong with the idea of “age-appropriate” clothing, one that dictates all mothers should wear natural fibres in neutral tones from Country Road, but it usually goes hand-in-hand with what actually looks good on a person. I am not so blinded by my love of A-line skirts covered in dachshunds that I don’t know I look, well, better, in fitted dresses that show off my womanly features. The dachshunds, against my better judgement, are just more me.

At various times in my life, I have made brief bids to look a little better by looking a little less me. Based on the increase in compliments, I suppose it’s worked, but I have no staying power. I have heard the sentence “Wow, you should wear make-up every day!” many times. I have learnt that at new workplaces, you should never set the bar too high by letting them see you in lipstick. The same rule can be applied in the bedroom with sexy underwear, which is why Nathan’s never seen me in anything other than black Bonds hipsters. One day he discovered my collection of frilly knickers – purchased over the years in extremely fleeting attempts to be sexier – buried in the deepest, darkest sedimentary layer of my underwear drawer. “What are these?”, he said, like a geologist discovering a very lacy fossil from an unknown time. “Haha”, I said. “You can forget about it”.

So, what does this mean for the future? Will our child be asking me not to wear my faux fox when I pick them up at the school gate? Yes, yes they will. And then this will temporarily remind me to dress better, and maybe I’ll even wear lipstick for a week or so. But then the fox will call me back, and how can you ignore a face like that?

False – by Beth

24 Jul

The random word generator says “false” and I think “false teeth”! Here are a couple of false teeth stories for you.

Back in the day in small town NZ, it seems that the cleverest gift to give a young man setting off to the big city for university was the removal of his teeth, and their replacement with dentures. So that’s just what happened to my Dad.

He still has all of his bottom teeth, but his entire top row of teeth are false. Pearly white for always. He’s only just recently gotten his second denture – he had the other for 40 years or so. His gums are impossibly smooth, pink and toothless.

The falsies have made for some laughs. One cousin, now in her thirties, still asks Dad to push them in and out for gross effect every time she sees him. The other day Dad was telling me that he was giving directions to a stranger while he was out on a bike ride. He sneezed, and his false teeth flew out with great dramatic effect. The stranger was left open-mouthed. Awkward.

Mum tells a story from their courtship that would have sent many women packing, but not her! One night they went to see Roman Polanski’s Macbeth. Dad was drunk and had eaten his meal too fast (can you see what’s coming?) He was making noisy drunken remarks in the theatre “Bloody Thane of Cawdor, eh?” he guffawed. “Bloody Macbeth, eh?!”, nudging Mum in the ribs. It was no surprise when he had to go to the bathroom urgently in the middle of the film. He hurled up not only his guts, but his teeth out and into the toilet bowl! Mum says she felt funny kissing him for a few days after that. Dad has no memory of the whole episode.

The other day, Mum and Dad stayed over and Dad was brushing his teeth in the sink, as you do… Leo insisted on watching and was a seemingly aghast to see Grandad holding his teeth. But when I talked about it to him later he had no memory of it. Too odd a sight to even register maybe? Or maybe kids are just the coolest and hard to phase.

Cake and other C words – by Karen

20 Jul

Now, I’m on my phone’s internet connection, so it’s just not practical for me, but I believe if you watch that video right through, you’ll see some of the most arresting choreography since Single Ladies (Put  a Ring on It). Most especially arresting, is the erm, crotch framing move which has since been christened the Pussy Pat, the Vag Vogue and the Cake Cutter (at least partially in reference to her unfortunate Chris Brown collaboration, Birthday Cake). The significance of this move in a feminist context boggles my mind in a way I find pleasing. Is it liberating for a woman to adapt and adopt the crotch-grabbing incorporated by most male hip-hop and r&b artists post-MJ? I think so. It’s also definitely a little bit gross.

I find myself liking Rihanna, originally with the placidity of a Singapore radio listener, and more recently, against my will. And one of the things that I like most about her is her willingness to be gross. I think this might be the only thing  I still like about her post her cynical Chris Brown endorsement (aka the Birthday Cake saga). Her hypocrisy in pretending she hadn’t used the relationship for publicity in that interview is very off-putting, and she acts similarly affronted when questioned about him in interviews, despite the deliberate and unnecessary collaboration on Birthday Cake. In the same way, she’s offended when the douche bag in this interview asks her to teach him the cake cutter because it’s “disrespectful” and inelegant (only because of the dress of course), but seriously, did she think she was in private when she performed it in her music videos? (Honestly though, that interviewer deserves worse treatment, what an embaarassing fool – – skip to 2:05).

But I really did think it was kind of funny that she wore her C**t necklace to a Catholic Church. And that when someone tweeted that her red hair made her look like a tampon, she publicly replied that at least she wasn’t a c**t. Hmm… Maybe I only think she’s funny because she uses the C word a lot. May need to reassess.

Cake – by Tabitha

17 Jul

“Cake” is a word for which I have entirely positive feelings. I have very much enjoyed thinking about it over the past couple of days… maybe a bit too much. Indeed, I am writing this post at the first available opportunity so I can stop thinking obsessively about cake.

I have been reflecting on all my most wonderful cake-eating experiences – the banana cakes and sultana tea cakes of my childhood, the treasured gateaux carefully selected from French patisserie windows, the homemade Women’s Weekly birthday cakes – and have realised that while cake is indeed delicious, the joy of cake is not really in the taste, but its symbolic social role. You don’t eat cake alone. Well, you shouldn’t.

This was, for me, the hardest thing about being a vegan. Giving up butter and cream was easy, but not partaking in the social ritual of sharing sweet treats was unbearable. It seemed the most antisocial thing a person could do, to reject a cake which someone had lovingly baked, purely for the purpose of giving and sharing. I spent my veganism baking vegan cakes to try to compensate for my rudeness, but vegan cakes are by definition revolting. Bringing a vegan cake to a tea party is almost just as insulting as not eating cake at all.

If ageing has taught me anything, it’s that’s holding steadfastly to one set of morals doesn’t make you more righteous, it just blinkers your view of all the other morals you’re violating, to make you feel more righteous. These days I’m much happier with the imperfect complication of reality, the balancing act of values and life philosophies and feelings that informs my decisions. I still support most of the ideas behind veganism, and would certainly like to return to not eating any factory-farmed animal products soon, but I won’t ever subscribe to capital-V Veganism again. Instead I’ll just make decisions on a case-by-case basis, according to what I’m comfortable with, and that includes eating cake. For me, the hypocrisy of violating an ethical stance is less personally troubling than self-exclusion from the world of baked goods.

I think one of the reasons that this world – the one of baked goods – is so important to me is because it’s so very clearly for, and about, women, always has been, and always will. Our grandmothers nattered with their sisters and friends over tea and a slice in the same way we meet under the pretext of craft, but we all know it’s for the cake and the gossip. I have a very clear image of what my friendships will look like in my old age, and it’s the same image of my friendships now – ladies, around a table, with a teapot and treats. And I wouldn’t give that up for the world.

Cake stories – by Beth

16 Jul

Carrot cake is my favourite. Got to have cream cheese icing. But really I have yet to meet a type of cake I don’t like.

Like most little girls/ladies of a certain kind, I love the whole aesthetic of the tea party: dainty plates, beautiful tablecloths, teapots and drinking tea from a cup with a saucer. I fantasize about that stuff.

Thinking back on my favourite books from my childhood – some of which Leo likes, and some he calls “your books” because we both know I like them more than he does – almost all of them feature a tea party/ shared cake/pie/baking moment at the end. So is it a coincidence that I’ve got a tea party fetish, or did my parents make me that way by the books they read me?

Allow me to give you some examples. It is seriously 80% of the childhood books we’ve kept! The other 20% have a meal in there somewhere and then they end with someone (usually a little person) going to bed. If you click on one of the images the slideshow mode says the name of the book.

My Mum and Dad can still recite the last page of Oh Lewis! – I think that was “their” book in the same sense that Leo talks about. The last page sums it up:

“Then Mama and Lewis and Ellie sat down to eat their tea and cake, and Lewis had two slices because he had had a very hard day.”

The Ladies, a Plate series is my baking bible. New Zealanders know how to bake. 99% of the recipes start with “cream butter and sugar”. Ooooh, yeah. Here is a quote from Alexa Johnston’s A Second Helping: More From Ladies a Plate. It’s the adult version of what all of my childhood books are showing:

“Time spent in your kitchen can be a joy rather than a penance; baking for and with others can be highly satisfying and will build lifelong memories for the recipients of your offerings; and that sharing food with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours helps build stronger communities and can contribute a little to the mental health of our society.”

So true in my opinion. Alexa is both a home baker and a historian, and so she brings the two skills together to collect the best recipes from many sources, including old community cookbooks (from Church fetes and the like) and her own friends and family. Each recipe includes a little history of the dish. It’s magic. Makes me happy just looking at those books. Even happier to imagine who I/we will make them for.