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Combining – by Karen

24 Jun

For me one of the greatest bonuses of creating a child*  is the fun of throwing up all your genetic material in the air and seeing how it lands. That’s all metaphorical throwing of genetic material guys, I’m not being gross.

* watch me pretend it’s not the whole point

The physical combination is intriguing, especially if you are very different-looking from your partner. It’s even more fun when the personalities start to become apparent. It’s also enlightening, as it shows up your blind spots. A trait in one child will seem to us to have sprung up from nowhere, but our friends or family will point out how it’s just like one of us.

As we all know, my son  Finn looks exactly like Shiloh, the daughter of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie:

This is hilarious, and as I’ve explained before, it’s because I look like Brad Pitt and Richard looks like Angelina Jolie. It also highlights the random element of creating a child – they can, theoretically, just get the bad bits or the good bits of both of you. I think that’s what scares a lot of people about having a child. You don’t get to pick.

In the womb, I could see that Anika had Richard’s nose. She has my chin and cheeks. They both have my blue eyes, but perhaps slightly larger, like Richard’s. They have my shaped lips, but again, slightly fuller, like Angelina’s Richard’s. Finn is a budding engineer with a grasp of the abstract that must come from his father, and an ability to be orderly that I would trace to him too. He’s also a prolific early reader like I was, and fascinated by animals and plants. Anika is stubborn like her mother, and has a lot of traits Richard and I both would like to claim (charm, flashes of brilliance) but if we’re honest have to throw up our hands in grateful mystification.

A psych lecture I once attended explained that when we use a computer to “average” faces a bunch of faces, creating composites with intermediate features of pairs of faces, the resulting generation will be more attractive than the previous one.

I wonder if this happens with personalities too. If we continue to manage to interbreed for a few more centuries, will we be kinder, more patient, more balanced? Well, it’s a nice thought.



Combining – by Tabitha

24 Jun

When Nathan and I consider our combined strengths, it’s really just a case of taking one skill (say, mine) and throwing it in with the same identical skill (his). Combined, we are not greater or more diverse, just redoubled. If you picked couples as you picked players for a sports team, you wouldn’t put me and Nathan together.

We’re both good at cooking and eating and hosting and crafting and writing and reading and making puns. We’re both bad at driving and computer problems and financial planning and studying and gardening and cleaning the bathroom. Every time we look at our bank account, it’s a complete mystery to the both of us how the money arrived in it and how it went out. When we go to a computer store we both stand there, passive and helpless, hoping the other one will work out what to do first. We once needed a new battery for our laptop but when we were in the Apple store neither of us could actually remember what size computer we owned. Yay! Go team!

But we’re not the same. Not at all. The way we each approach our shared skills could not be more different. Nathan is slow, considered, perfectionist, while I’m impatient, efficient and slapdash. So you have the dinner party where I do most of the preparations and most of the cooking, while Nathan works all day on one ridiculously elaborate dish that will inevitably steal the show. Or I will quickly write a message on a birthday card, with whatever happens to come to me, while Nathan will labour over the perfect one-liner, even if it means being late for the party.

I had a bit of a crisis of confidence about this when we first got together. He seemed to be better than me at all the things I thought I was good at.  And he kind of is, but in an impractical way. I get things done; he gets fewer things done, but better. So we are actually a great team. I will do a half-arsed job at some craft project, and be unhappy with it, and then he will devise a painstakingly fiddly way to improve it.  We’re hoping to apply this same principle to child-rearing.

In our beach bungalow on Koh Samui, we are currently engaged in a game of Scrabble. We are both good at board games, one of our shared strengths, but the way the game is played is the perfect representation of our personalities. When I come up with a word I’m happy with, I will play it. I am too impatient to work out if it’s absolutely the best word I can make. My turn usually takes about one or two minutes. Nathan, however, takes 20 to 30 minutes – PER TURN – as he shuffles the letters around on his rack and creates amazing seven-letter words that he can’t actually place anywhere on the board. I get a lot of reading done.

We are close to the end of the game and at the moment I am ahead by twenty points, but I know exactly what will happen: I will get bored of placing my last few tiles, making those unsatisfying little two-letter words, while Nathan will craft a series of perfect Scrabble dictionary-inspired moves, winning the game. But I will claim moral victory, saying that I won with the words that matter. Plus I finished my book.

A language – by Beth

21 Jun

In Year 7, a guy in my class called Anthony had been to New Zealand during the Christmas holidays. He arrived at his new high school with a slight New Zulland accent. It was so slight that a real New Zealander like me didn’t even really notice it, but it was enough to get him hassled by his new classmates. Not the full-on rotten-mango-pelting hassle that I experienced as a newly arrived Kiwi in Australia – but he was mocked. The thing the boys most picked up on was that funny phenomenon of Australian accented e’s being pronounced as what sounds like Aussie i’s when spoken in NZ lingo; and i’s become u’s (as in “eatung fush and chups un the shower”). And the word that most stuck in the teenaged popular imagination was Anthony’s pronunciation of “bist” (meaning best).

That one word became the cornerstone in a shared language which evolved over our 6 years at high school. For example, “full bistness” was the highest compliment you could pay. That’s the “viry bist” was said with a knowing wag of a finger in the air, and usually applied to some witticism or another. ‘Bist’ set the tone. Although there was a mocking quality to how the word became famous, having the foundation word of a language be something inherently positive, meant that the language itself was very benevolent (for teenagers at least).

Inside leaf of my folder, Year 8, featuring a spiral of bistness and also “monkey womunn” – an endearing way of telling someone they were driving you nuts.

It was a very masculine language at first, but us girls also made a big contribution. For example, the boys referred to a girl’s period as her “rigs” (as in rags given the ol’ NZ vowel treatment), and us girls called tampons “jeam reig tichnologies” (jam rag technologies). In fact, that was the other cornerstone – most things had a “tich” added, as in technology. Wood tech was probably the reason for this. So it was miths-tich (maths), wood-tich (wood tech) and I was Bithtich.

The unnamed language’s speakers were mainly confined to our class of 30 or so students, but it did spread a bit to other people in our year. After Year 12 I took it upon myself to write down all of the sayings and words we’d made up/repurposed in what I called Every Pinzy Mutant’s Dictionary of Full Bistness (below). In all I recorded 257 words and sayings, not counting nicknames.

In retrospect, although it all started with Anthony’s holiday-acquired accent, the language evolved due to cross fertilisation (this week’s theme is combining) from many language gene pools:

  1. English, obviously, is the main one.
  2. Other language backgrounds (we had classmates from Hong Kong, Denmark, Bulgaria and California)
  3. Northern beaches slang. We were the second ‘selective’ year at our high school, and the older years were pretty rough surfies. They looked straight out of Puberty Blues.
  4. Internet bulletin board slang (Adventurer’s Realm)
  5. Popular culture: lots of the sayings were lifted or adapted from movies like Clueless and Sixteen Candles, TV shows like The Late Show – “like a tiiiiiger”, computer games, music, and texts we studied in school e.g. Shakespeare, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

I write about this because I was driving home from Ikea with Jeff and Leo last night. It was peak hour and, unimpressed by a big line of traffic, I suddenly had the urge to shout out: “bit me off with ya bum cheeks ya maggot cunts!” (to “bit off” means to wank) A standard insult you’d yell at someone who was bigger than you as you ran away from them. It made me laugh out loud uncontrollably to have this memory flood back to me. I tried to explain it to Jeff but he was left as bemused as you probably are dear reader. Although Jeff and I were friends at high school, we weren’t in the same group, so all these words and sayings are new to him.

Many of the funnier and more colourful sayings were based on things we’d heard some older surfie say (mainly when drunk or off their face). For example “schmell dis, you have to lick it off”, “you get the nirra boys, you schlip ’em off the rails, and you schlap ’em in the vin”, “don’t be shy, show us your pie”, and “bit me off with your bum cheeks…”

Looking back at the words, you can see our shared preoccupations: sex, masturbation, swearing, distrust of authority, and ways of hassling or insulting people without getting beaten up, but most of all, through the act of its creation, it was about belonging.