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Delicate – by Justyna

20 Feb

When this word was generated by Tabitha and I started mulling over what to write, I could not escape the numerous post ideas concerned with, well myself. I am not a delicate person. Physically nor emotionally nor behaviour wise. And this is not a recent thing. I can almost mark on the calendar when my lack of delicacy was firmly established. I was six. My parents had just announced that they bought me some new clothes, and with great enthusiasm started to pull out three new dresses that I would undoubtedly love. Up until that moment I was a normal girl-child, who indeed wore dresses. But when both my mum and dad started pulling out the three new frocks, something inside my head snapped. I officially became a tomb boy. Those dresses were the most hideous things I had ever seen and I fought tooth and nail not to have to put them on. I remember exactly how two of them looked like. One was purple (ala t-shirt dress – no frills to speak of), with a picture of a girl on it with floppy hair and a sew on necklace, the other was a stripey polo shirt-type dress, with a polo collar (pretty much a tennis outfit dress of the 1980s). My mum made me put on the dresses and started taking pictures of me to send back to Poland to my grandmother. I was mortified. And I chucked a massive tanty, which led to disciplinary action, which led to tears. From that moment on I wore shorts and pants only and my hair was never allowed to be left out. The only dress permissible in my wardrobe was my school uniform. The only acceptable hairstyle, a pony tail or a plait. This lasted up until I was about fifteen.

The delicacy associated with female clothing and my lack of wearing it, probably led to more possibilities for me as a young girl. My dad was just as keen to teach me how to change the washers in the laundry taps and to hook up the entire stereo system in the house as much as my mum was happy to teach me how to appreciate really fresh bed linen. For a long time I prided myself on being able to lug a 20 kg backpack through the mountains as well as being able to knit a scarf. Schwarzenegger’s Commando is still one of my all-time favourite movies. I also loved the winter Rocky IV training scene, the martial arts of Bloodsport, the male camaraderie of Stand by Me (umm, I actually knew most of the words off by heart), and the survival and the rites of passage of Kevin Bacon’s White Water Summer (that’s right ladies, not Footloose). My dad also allowed me to watch Rambo, but the war aspect just didn’t do it for me.

When I was pregnant with my first kid my friend Ves told me over the phone that obviously it would be a boy. When I asked why, he replied laughing I wouldn’t know what to do with a girl. I didn’t take offense because I have always liked that about myself, that I am not a predictable delicate female type. And when I was ready to start a family the idea of having three boys, my own private army unit, appealed greatly.

Meeting Michal and having him draw out the softer side of me however has been a value added. There is nothing wrong, it turns out, in being delicate from time to time and having someone else be stronger than you. I know that Michal knows that I can manage with a 20 kilo pack on my back in the mountains, but it’s nice that he takes the tent and all the heavy water bottles and the gas cooker and the cans of stew, just so that I can have an easier load.


Delicate – by Karen

19 Feb

It has been a much too busy week. It’s true that I despise people who embrace being “delicate”. I also despise people who enjoy being busy and who wear it like a badge of honour. So it is with due shame that I disclose that this week, I have been too busy. I have neglected some favourite activities (like posting on Far Flung Four, and thinking about what I’m going to post on Far Flung Four) and some of my least favourite activities (like preparing pages for the K1 “class pet” journal detailing the exciting week Waldo the Wombat spent at the Gould house. This is made unenjoyable by my son’s disinterest in craft and my perfectionist tendencies resulting in a too professional-looking product which I force him to scribble all over. Learning outcomes?)

But… why do we despise these delicate people? I suppose I have been mulling over it just a little during the week, while never  coming up with a satisfactory answer. You see I suspect it reveals something bad about my character. I can’t quite put my finger on it.

You know the icky feeling you get, when you realise that a grown adult is jealous of a child? When you hear someone say, “well we never had anything like that in MY day”, and you realise that they actually resent an advantage available to a child, which offers nothing but benefit to the child and, through building him or her up, makes the world a better place? Because they never had that. Because they were hit and not taken to ballet and so other children should be hit and not taken to ballet.

I kind of get that icky feeling when I think about “delicate”. That I am being the resentful adult as I’m reminded of a girl I instinctively disliked, who was tiny and frail and yes, Tabitha, WAN. Who trumpeted it to all and sundry and would point out that she simply couldn’t contribute to tasks that other people could because she was a very small girl – it would be too physically demanding and also UNSAFE. These folk seem acutely aware of their peril in the urban environment, as though they’d been living in Singapore too long.

Why should I despise her? Why should her character anger me? She was undeniably small and incapable of lifting heavy things and probably was the victim of citydwellers in a way that robust and earthy types are not.

I think it’s two things. Firstly, an evolutionary drive to kick out the weaklings that will sap resources and threaten the success of my tribe. This is sound. Secondly, a jealousy that there are some people who, through congenital lack of robustness, get to sit back and enjoy the pleasures of being cared for. This is unsound, Karen, unsound.

Delicate – by Tabitha

15 Feb

“Delicate” is not a word I like. Wan people are delicate, and you know how I feel about wan people.

I don’t like making delicate things, be they foods or crafts. They’re fiddly and intricate and time-consuming, and require patience.

I don’t like delicate issues that require sensitive handling or tact, because I have neither. And I don’t like people with delicate health, or fragile dispositions.

I don’t like subtleties. I don’t like pastels. And I don’t like the delicate washing cycle which always leaves clothes too wet to dry.

I like things that are robust, bold, vibrant, strong, distinct and overstated, such as the co-authors of this blog.

There’s only one thing worse than a delicate person, and that’s a person who hates delicate people having to admit they feel delicate themselves.

And that’s me, right now.

I have an enormous infected pustulous lump in my armpit, some kind of gross, angry staph infection. When I went to the doctor, they told me to wait until it was ready to burst, then come back. I waited two days, practically unable to move my arm, or find any comfortable position to sleep in, then returned. As soon as I gingerly raised my arm as much as I could for the doctor’s inspection, the lump erupted in an explosion of pus. I guess it was ready.

It turns out a pustulous armpit is exactly what it takes to throw me off my game. I came back to Hanoi with energy and excitement to Get Shit Done in our remaining few months, and instead I’ve spent the past five days in a self-pitying slump at my desk, precious petal that I am.

Is it because of this slump (and this lump) that I can’t even work out how to end this post? Will I be forever wan? All I know is I wasn’t wrong about people with delicate dispositions. They really are goddamn annoying.


Delicate things go in the closet by Beth

14 Feb

Hello All. When I think about delicate things, I think about things that are hard to talk about. I also think of washing delicates and flowers. I think that things that are hard to talk about are the most interesting out of those, so I’ll go with that.

My parents have raised me to be able to talk to them about most things. One time (in my youth) I came home from a night out and was having a “psychedelic pot freak-out” (my term). I felt able to tell them – during an ad break of ‘ER’ – and my Mum was so down to earth about it. She ended up climbing into bed with me and gave me a cuddle. She never lectured me about it, just showed concern. I’m very lucky to have that kind of relationship with them.

The closet thing we have had to a skeleton in the closet in my family was the discovery my Dad made at his Mum’s funeral in 1995. His Dad had died in 1988, and Dad’s cousin said to my Dad dramatically at Granny’s funeral that Grandad had “done time and your mother had to live with the shame!”. This came as news to my Dad and his brother, and begin a long slow process of them discovering a truth about their parents that had been kept from the boys (they were 6 and 2 years old at the time) by their whole town. Grandad Taylor went to gaol in Wellington for a year, charged with having stolen money from the local council he worked at as a clerk. He had used the money to buy rare books. He had always been a bit of a fish out of water in the small country town they lived in – a bit of an intellectual in place full of God-fearing farmer folk. My Dad remembers Granny and Grandad’s relationship as being a bit prickly, and this goes a long way to explain that. During his gaol term, Granny had contracted tuberculosis and passed it onto my Uncle. It was an incredibly difficult time for all of them. The thing is, that Dad hadn’t really registered that his Father had been away. What with the upheaval of his Mother and brother’s illness, it was probably pretty strange time. Dad has a few memories that have helped him piece it all together: a new girl at his primary school once taunted him: “at least my Daddy’s not a gaol-bird” to which Dad thought “ha, what do you know?!”; and he remembers his Mum getting a shock on day at seeing his Dad having climbed in the window. He must have gotten out of gaol unexpectedly and didn’t have a key. He also recalls a definite frostiness in his Mum’s attitude to his Dad’s book collection.

In the Information Age it is pretty much impossible to imagine such a thing happening today. Over 10,000 people in their small town knew, and kept the secret. The children of the town were all sworn to secrecy, so that my Dad and my Uncle didn’t have to live with the shame as my Granny and Grandad did. Grandad never went back to his old job, but the town’s people made sure he was always employed. He was the bowling greenkeeper for a time. My Granny had half of her lung removed, but her and my Uncle recovered well.

Was it a gentler time back then? Or is it in fact harsher to make a secret out of something that had nothing to do with the boys? Would it have been better for everyone to have been honest about it? When my Uncle was a rockstar, he got busted on drug charges while they were on tour. He remembers my Grandad saying to him in hushed tones “the bastards have got you now”. My Uncle thought – ‘what would you know, Dad’. It turns out he knew a whole lot.