Sunday, 17 December 2006

"Christmas Neighbours" published December 17

A strange feeling overcame me during the onset of Christmas this year. The need to have the neighbours over for cocktails. I had the invite worked out in my head which went something along the cheery lines of “we’ve been here for five years and thought it was about time we got together for a drink or two!’” I’d design the invite on my computer with those clip-art party hats, and champagne bottles and put it in my neighbours’ letterboxes and one Saturday evening they’d all come over for nibbles and drinks and we’d talk about what kind of year it’s been, the local schools, cluck over the new baby at number 14 and all the kids would race around the lawn and eat all the chips and onion dip.
Then I told my husband of my plans and he gave me a look. A look that said he would go along with it, but only because he thought it wise to do so until the real Wendyl returned from whatever planet she was currently visiting.
I soon came crashing down to earth and realised that my cocktail party was something my parents did every Christmas. In the 60s when people actually drank cocktails and downed a good couple of martinis before dinner. In the 60s when the concept of neighbourhoods meant people of like age, interests and incomes lived together and became friends for life, borrowing cups of sugar and bits of string to repair the clothesline. In the 60s when all the men got together to concrete someone’s drive, and all the women got together to organise a gala day or spray the tomatoes. In the 60s when kids rode like wild things on their chopper bikes up and down the road with no helmets, no adult supervision and we survived.
For some reason I had been overcome by a moment of tragic nostalgia which inspired me to imitate the adult world I knew as a child. I’ve yet to commit myself to full psychoanalysis on the matter but I feel it may be a worrying trend.
Recently I’ve started straying off the usual wine list in restaurants. Instead of scanning down the chardonnays and the sauvignon blancs I’ve been having a long, lingering look at Gewürztraminer and Muller-thurgau. My wine guides tell me these are perfectly good wine styles and I will not be disappointed. But as I dare myself to order one, I get a blinding flash of those algae green dimpled bottles of Wohnseidler Muller-thurgau which my parents consumed in great quantities. Not to mention the sickly sweet Gewürztraminer and the Mateus Rose.
I’ve also been thinking about making that chicken casserole where you throw in a can of apricots and a packet of onion soup. Recently I bought ice cream slices with the pink biscuits and demonstrated to my startled children not only how to make an ice-cream sandwich with Milo sprinkles but how to eat it by squeezing the biscuits together slowly….you get the picture. Then there’s the coleslaw and that pizza where you tip a can of spaghetti onto scone dough, sprinkle on a bit of grated cheese and only half cook it so that everything is luke warm and mushy.
Then it came to me. My recent nostalgic leanings can be blamed on the militarisation of Christmas. In Auckland celebrating Christmas seems to have become all about what you can stick on your house and how brightly it flashes of a night. Forget drinks with the neighbours and the season of goodwill, it’s all out war as hectares of multi-coloured weapons of mass illumination furiously blink at each other through the night in their attempts to be the most Christmassy house on the street. It’s no longer enough to actually have the wherewithal to own a house in pricey old Auckland, but you now must be the most sparkly house for the month of December.
There’s no point trying to go against the glow at this stage. Instead of idle chit chat and stealing new babies for a cuddle at some social get together I will take myself to the Warehouse and buy the latest mechanical musical Santa and a reindeer for the roof. I’ll stay indoors wearing my illuminated Christmas tree ear-rings and throw tinsel about the place munching morosely on fruit cake.
Maybe next year we’ll all be over it, I’ll revert to my retro plans and everyone will fall on my egg nog in relief.

Sunday, 10 December 2006

"Stupid" published December 10, 2006

Stupidity is something all of us learn to tolerate, especially if we live in Auckland. Lately we’ve been surrounded by really stupid things such as proposals for stadiums on the waterfront, road systems which keep getting worse not better and everyone is drinking pre-mixes which taste like flavoured water but are actually vodka in some bizarre tastebud denial trend.
Which gets you to thinking about all the stupid things we put up with but don’t notice as they become slowly weaved into the tapestry that is the life we live today. Such asCar alarms that only ever go off when you’re trying to sleep and never when a car is actually being stolen.
-Believing that the polar ice cap isn’t really melting as people in the south look out their windows and see an iceberg float by.
-Sending a bunch of journalists to Antarctica for Christmas when we know only Marcus Lush will shoot anything worth watching.
-Walking around with silly looks of hopeful expectation on our faces dressed in sunhats, sunscreen and shorts expressing surprise that summer isn’t here in November when we know summer isn’t really here until February.
-Acronyms are a great idea if you’re swatting for an exam. They are not a great idea for your company motto because inevitably you’re going to have one letter that you can’t think of a word for. As your entire middle management team gathers to work on your company name of MEDCOM you come up with Making Energetic Decisions Cleverly On Medicine. Everyone knows that “Cleverly” doesn’t really fit but after someone got out the dictionary and went through the “c” section it seemed more believable than “Confidently.”
-Middle management. Apart from coming up with acronyms, holding meetings about the next meeting and writing reports about the meeting you had about the last meeting what do they actually do?
-ACC payments. Why do people who earn a living typing on a computer and sitting safely on a chair in their home office often not leaving the house for days in a work related capacity, pay thousands of dollars a year so that rugby players can get their groin strain treated for free?
-Plateau. Why is it that after you lose a big chunk of weight your body decides it needs to spend three months on a plateau? How the hell are we supposed to keep losing weight with that kind of encouragement?
-Middle aged peer pressure. Even grown-ups with a reputation for being sensible succumb to peer pressure and stay that extra hour at lunch when their friends say: “Go on you big woos have another glass of chardonnay!” Which turns into “what the hell!” and dinner as well.
-Don Brash
-The more TV channels you have the less there is to watch.
-Bras are uncomfortable. No matter what the commercial says they are still bits of elastic restraining your tits from wobbling and jangling like they have for millions of years. We must only be wearing them under the misguided perception that men think they look better trussed up like a chook.
-Newly popular restaurant. When sent the gift of a positive review in some hip magazine they never take on more staff in anticipation of trend conscious Auckland wankers arriving en masse. New customers who wait 40 minutes never come back no matter how nice your crème brulee is.
-Small talk. Do you really care what they are doing for their Christmas holidays?
-Revenge. It just puts the ball back in their court and you’ll be ducking all over the place. Take a ticket on the karma bus instead.
-Saying: “You could be run over by a bus tomorrow.” When did you last hear of anyone being run over by a bus?
-Writing emails and thinking they’re confidential. Say it face to face, it’s the last bastion of secrecy and much more fun..
-Saving for your retirement. Who retires anymore? 80 is the new 60.
-Living in Auckland.


Sunday, 3 December 2006

"The Rules" published December 3, 2006

When did finding a man become so hard? Why is it that we look around and see beautiful, talented, funny single women and say to ourselves: “I don’t understand why that lovely woman hasn’t got a man?” Because she doesn’t want one, stupid.
In this crazy post-feminist world where we are given the choice of living with or without men, there seems to be unreasonable pressure being placed on women to find a man. And if they haven't found one, then there must be something horribly wrong with them.
This is where The Rules comes in. It’s a book which first appeared 10 years ago and is now enjoying a disturbing resurgence among young women about town.
It claims to contain the time tested secrets for capturing the heart of Mr Right.
Personally I’ve always had more fun with Mr Wrong, but apparently “The One” is someone for whom you must search longingly from the age of 15.
Basically The Rules is a return to the 50s dishonesty and manipulation - or playing hard to get - which popularised so many old romance movie plots entertaining women who continued to cook their man his eggs and lead the slave-like existence which passed for marriage in 1952.
Not surprising then to find that Rule 32 is “Don’t Discuss The Rules with Your Therapist.” Apparently your therapist might find it dishonest and manipulative and they just “don’t realise a woman’s capacity for forcing themselves on men who don’t want them.” We are a terrible burden on ourselves wandering around campus hoping to run into men, sending love poetry and getting friendly with men’s parents. Crikey
I’ll spare you the entire 35 rules but they go a bit like this. Don’t return phone calls. Don’t stare at him. Don’t have sex for ages and when you do be emotionally cool and don’t demand that he satisfies you. Where’s the fun in that rule? This is more like dating starvation than a guide to getting dates. My favourite is Rule 1 which involves “Being a Creature Unlike Any Other.” They don’t mean growing a wart on your nose or carrying around a third boob. Here’s how you do it: “When you hair falls in front of your face, you tilt your head back and comb back your hair with your hand from the top of your head in a slow, sweeping motion.” Man, that must really make you unlike any other. You must also dress in strong colours, because men like those. Be quiet and mysterious. And don’t ever tell him what to do, always follow his lead like a long slow dance.
And when it comes to conversation the rule is strict: “Don’t tell sarcastic jokes. Don’t be a loud, knee-slapping, hysterically funny girl….Remember, men fall in love with your essence, and not with anything in particular you say.”
In fact any poor woman who followed the 35 rules without breaking them might get a husband but along the way she will have lost her personality, her independent thought, her leadership qualities, any hope of a decent sex life and consequently the will to live. She will however know how to flick her hair in an odd manner and will have absolutely no risk of cancer from cell phone overuse. And as for her husband, what kind of prick must he be?
The Rules has it all wrong. Men just aren’t worth it. They are not Mr Right or The One. They arejust a species with which we occasionally enjoy our time and hopefully share the difficult job of raising children. But not at the expense of becoming nothing more than stoned mute Barbie dolls who make men feel important.
There should be just one rule to follow for women and here it is:
· Having a man in your life should make it better, not worse. If it’s worse, dump him.
And I’ll throw in these others just because this column isn’t quite long enough:
If he makes you laugh within five minutes of waking up every day he’s a keeper.
If you throw a baby into his arms and he looks at it with significant interest rather than passes it like a rugby ball to the next person with a look of disgust on his face, he’s a keeper
If he has a decent one and knows what to do with it, don’t let him go under any circumstances.

Sunday, 26 November 2006

"Rural Guys" published November 26, 2006

When you’re born and bred in the city it pays to take some time out once in a while. For some this means taking a helicopter to Waiheke, sitting in a vineyard restaurant and bunking down for the night in a 5 star. For others, like me, it involves a 1968 caravan and a drive no shorter than three hours out of Auckland, because that’s how far you have to go these days to rid yourself of jet skis, oxymoronic convertible four wheel drives and white shirts over jeans.
Someone happening upon my visage at the caravan will be hard put to recognise me with my salt water beach hair from the daily snorkelling excursions (oysters aplenty) and the absence of any make up. Sometimes I even forget to apply my Crème La Mer.
One friend suggested I was morphing into a Topp Twin, and another wondered if my time spent alone at the caravan was a cry for help.
Perhaps. Because when you’re an Aucklander who had kids young, there comes a time when you demand a few days to yourself in the country, alone. You can eat toast for dinner, read chick lit uninterrupted and swim naked in the moonlight (haven’t quite done that yet but fully intend to). And after two nights with nothing but a big black dog and the radio to keep you company the desire for conversation overwhelms but it’s always nice to get to the stage where you crave company rather than cope with it.
Which is when the city girl gets to sample the home made delights of the Rural Guy. He’s easy to spot in a plaid shirt (flannel with singlet combo in summer, Swanndri -not Karen -in winter).
Rural Guy will also have hair. More hair than you can spot on a good day in Ponsonby with its shaved heads and manicured lawns which pass for stylish man hair in the city. Rural Guy hasn’t had a hair cut since last summer and it’s all luxurious and bouncy and flowing and just everywhere. That goes for the face as well. Rural Guy doesn’t shave unless he’s got a wedding to attend and it’s his own. And again, it’s full beard action here, not your landing strip goatee employed by City Guy.
But by far the nicest thing about Rural Guy is his manners. Somewhere along the evolutionary chain, Rural Guy remembered the manners he was taught while City Guy just became a smart arse.
You can be having a beer with a Rural Guy and need to adjust your awning. Up he gets and does it for you: “Watch out love I’ll get that for you.” You can be having a glass of Pinot Gris with City Guy and need to adjust the sun umbrella. He’ll sit back and watch you struggle with the weight of the thing and attempt to impress you with a witty one liner about the inadequacies of the sun umbrella design. In fact take any group of City Guys in a social situation and they won’t get off their arses once, unless it’s to move under the sun umbrella to save their complexion.
Rural Guy will be up and down like a yo yo, offering a woman the last camp chair available (remember that), grabbing you another can of beer (remember that), whipping down to the beach to check the surf caster, starting up the barbie, cooking tea and lighting the bonfire afterwards. He also calls his missus “Baby” which is so sweet it hurts. And you wake up the next morning to find a flounder on your collapsible table.
Then there’s the conversation. Rural Guy has all these cool stories about near death experiences involving fishing, hunting and planks of wood at work. The kind of stories you just go: “Wow!” at. City Guy drones on about obscure movies, books, albums and how easy it is to grow rocket, all with a witty repartee rivalled only by Oscar Wilde on one of his off days wandering Europe shortly before his death. The kind of stories you just go: “Really?” at in a bored monotone.
But after a while at the caravan when your head starts itching from all the salt and your lips start cracking from lack of lipstick, you start to miss your child-minding, dinner cooking, breakfast in bed bringing, laugh-a-minute Oscar. And home you go where he flourishes a bottle of “Sensory Therapy Peace of Mind” and proceeds to massage it into your temples and neck.
“Better?” asks City Guy.

Sunday, 19 November 2006

"Get out of jail free" published November 19,2006

Imagine this. You have a weekend away from your partner. You are in a luxurious hotel suite and you are there with any man you like for two days and nights. The best bit is that when it’s over you go back to your life and it’s as if time stopped while you went away so your actions will never hurt anyone or alter your life in any way.
Welcome to Get Out of Jail Free. It’s the new game sweeping ladies lunches all over town as wined up women let rip with their imaginations and share their fantasies.
The initial list is fairly obvious. Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom turn up and drape themselves over the beige and mocha themed hotel couch, while you react with shock and amazement that you, yes you, are the one woman they’ve been looking for all their life.
Because that’s the other rule of the game. The man you choose is SO into you. There’s no need to flirt or reel your catch in, you basically hit the ground running.
But there’s a problem. Once you’ve had your way with Johnny, Brad and Orlando (and let’s be generous here we’re talking maybe six hours once you’ve consumed two bottles of Dom, taken Ecstasy and had the most glorious sex) what’s next?
Well, conversation obviously. Post-coital mind exploration which in our fantasy scenario involves bare chests, snuggles, cigarettes and discussions about how big your environmental footprint is on the beach of life.
Which is where Johnny, Brad and Orlando start to pale. Because even the most delusional woman knows that Johnny will mutter on about the joys of living in France and how he did Pirates of the Caribbean for his kids not the money, and he’s really sorry about the small dick but he’s never had any complaints before. Brad will be an absolute nightmare once he’s finished moaning about having to live in hot countries with starving children as Angelina insists on saving the world from poverty. And how she insists he actually changes nappies. Him, Brad Pitt, changing nappies! He just wants to be in Las Vegas with the Oceans 11 or 12 or whatever they are now team and cuddle up to George Clooney’s aura.
And then there’s Orlando who has never really got over Lord of the Rings and insisted on wearing his Huffer “I (heart) NZ” T-shirt while making love to you because you’re a Kiwi.
Crikey, you’ve got another 42 hours to get through, and on top of that they don’t seem to be hungry so you can’t even distract yourself with room service. Guys lose their appetite when they’re in Get Out Of Jail Free land.
So you need to have a rethink. It now becomes necessary to find a drop dead gorgeous man who has a brain which can enthral you for 42 hours. Comedians are an obvious choice but when have you ever met a gorgeous comedian? They’re usually short, fat or odd looking which is why they became a comedian in the first place because everyone treated them like shit at school. Ah, but there is Dylan Moran from Black Books who is a big favourite although it was noted at his live show here earlier this year that he had rather a big bottom. Big bottoms don’t feature in Get Out of Jail Free.
Which is the other rule. You have the body of a 15-year-old whose mother is a French model and father is an East European ballet dancer. Nice.
Some women get to this stage in the decision process and forget all about the sex, deciding that 48 hours in a hotel suite with Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King or Paul Holmes would be worth the sacrifice of not having sex in return for their vision and lessons learned, not to mention their entertaining delivery.
Others attempt a brain/good looks combo which is an extremely hard ask of the male species. But there is George Clooney, Clive Owen and Alain de Botton (pre-bald).
Personally I never participate in Get Out of Jail Free. I made up the game to entertain my friends. Honestly. But if my husband didn’t read this column I’d try out Clive Owen and have Dylan Moran after a diet in the next room on standby.

Sunday, 12 November 2006

"Undies" published November 12, 2006

There was a lot of talk about muffin tops a few years ago when Kath and Kim used the term to describe the layer of flesh which lives above the low-waisted jeans and below your belly button. It was something I never gave much thought to, being the proud owner of several cream buns myself. Until I shed some pounds and started fitting into muffin top creating jeans. Since then I’ve been obsessed with how to wear a low waister, because not only does it come with the muffin top issue but it throws in a butt cleavage problem as well. Suddenly you are walking around perilously close to exposing either your mid-section or your bottom at any given moment. The only time you are really safe from indecent exposure is after you’ve a) hitched the jeans up and b) stood stock still in one spot without moving a muscle. All because the people who design jeans make the nice slim legged well cut ones with low waists, saving the high waisters for their junior designers who can’t seem to see past wide legs, an abundance of pockets and that cheap denim which is crying out for a decent blue and a bit of a fade.
Most women have had a few years to adjust to the low waister and work out how you sit at a bar without displaying your gulf of endless possibilities. I have only had two weeks.
I spent one long agonising night with friends over for dinner, trying to work out how to retrieve stuff from the oven without exposing my guests to my pearly white arse. As they made their way home down my perilously slimy front steps I was in the bedroom whipping those bloody low waisters off as fast as you could say jami bottoms. As I drifted off to sleep I calculated I had hitched and wriggled those jeans back into place 50 times in one night.
Emergency advice was sought from adult daughters and it soon became all about suitable underwear. One daughter advised cotton underwear not satin, to stop the determined slide south by the low waist. She also suggested granny undies which come all the way up to the waist, because at least that way people might think it’s the bottom end of a T shirt when you bend over, and you’re sparing them from the sight of your bum. The other daughter advised tucking long T shirts well in, like right down to your front bottom to disguise the rampant flesh.
The same daughter told a harrowing tale of dropping some books and simply having to keep walking past without picking them up for fear of a bottom flash. And I tried going without undies, figuring that the skin is more likely to grab hold of a bit of denim and keep it in place than any layer of cloth. That, I was told by my husband was just asking for it.
So I rattle around Grey Lynn, hitching up my jeans every two minutes, wearing a granny undie/ long T shirt tuck-in combo and just to make sure I top it all off with my favourite long cardi, which has the unfortunate effect of cancelling out any good looks my favourite jeans had in the first place. As you slide up my leg, admiring the cut of the jeans you hit the long nana butt-cleavage-hiding cardi and think: "mmmm Grey Lynn mum off to check the near dead cat at the vets, pop into Foodtown for some Bolognese ingredients and off home for a cuddle in front of Coro St.” This is sadly accurate.
But the good thing about my discovery of low waisters is the chance it’s given me to discuss the current trends in underwear with my daughters. Apparently a woman who wears comfy cotton from Farmers is a confident woman. If you take her clothes you are looking at a woman who says: “I like myself. Take me and these 100 percent cotton, not an ounce of slimming lycra in them, not even high cut undies and be damned.” However a woman who wears a slip of ass itching man-made fibre lace is trying too hard. She’s saying: “Okay so on the outside I look alike everyone else, but get my clothes off and I’m somebody. So somebody that I’ve walked around for the last 12 hours in the equivalent of a cilice like that albino in the Da Vinci Code. Just ignore the rash and get on with it.”
And my other daughter who at 8 really didn’t have much to say about undies has informed me that low waisters are so over. It’s all high waist next season…can’t wait.

Sunday, 5 November 2006

"Clutter" published November 5, 2006

Clutter used to be a sign that you were quite interesting. The type of person who has actually read the 2000 books that line the walls of your house, collect interesting old bits of expensive china, and take a keen interest in the arts, thus owning a house which looks like the interior of a dusty old bric a brac shop.
And one day someone will come and take a picture of you with your mad frizzy hair, lounging artistically in your antique arm chair surrounded by all your curios and the odd cat and remark at how, well… deranged you look.
Because today living with clutter means you’re grubby, disorganised and have a nagging tendency towards nostalgia. It means you have never thrown away a present that has been given to you because as much as you dislike the teapot with the words “cuppa time!” emblazoned across it’s belly, you just can’t get rid of it. Someone very dear to you presented it to you on your 35th birthday. And that’s what you do with presents. You keep them as a continuing souvenir of your friendships.
But as I gaze through people’s houses, the inspirational tributes to minimalism that they are, I have come to the rather slow and sad realisation that they must have thrown all their presents out. How else do you maintain a house with nothing on the surfaces except a Country Road glass bowl placed strategically at the entrance to the house, where you keep a glass bowl in case you happen to be overcome by the need to toss a salad while answering the door. That and a solemn little group of white virgin scented candles on the coffee table just in case you feel like a séance. That’s it. No rugs, no book, no piles of magazines, no vases and one piece of art, which isn’t technically art because it’s an Andy Warhol reproduction of the homeowner cleverly reproduced in four different colours a la Marilyn Monroe.
To maintain a truly clutter free house you must therefore never keep a present from anyone unless they buy the right colour of solemn scented candles or a Country Road glass bowl.
If most people have at least eight relatives who are close enough for present giving that’s conservatively 16 presents a year if you count Christmas and birthdays. And most people would like to think they have at least five good friends so that’s another 10 presents a year. Which brings us to a massive input of 26 books, CD’s, pieces of kitchen stuff, pashmina, ear-rings, lamps, pot plants and not solemn scented candles which must be disposed of each year. This means you are throwing out a present every two weeks. And then there are the cards. What must it feel like to idly toss a greeting card into the bin after reading the words “Our friendship is the one thing that’s kept me together this year, you are my rock.”
But perhaps, like the Queen these tidy no-mess people wrap them all lovingly in tissue paper and store them in neat cardboard boxes with our names on them in the garage. Then after our death they will be delivered to our distraught relatives as a lasting memory to our love and generosity. Or maybe they take pictures of them and put them in a “Present Album” each carefully notated with the gift giver and the date before they dispose of them.
Recently, after reading one too many “De-Clutter your House” articles which you find in every magazine these days, I tried throwing a few gifts out because according the article I hadn’t used them in the past six months therefore didn’t need them. I’m not sure how you actually use a pot plant, but it went anyway. Some I’ve passed on to very happy Trade Me customers, others have simply been hurled into the bin. Each action crippled me for days with the nagging feeling that the gift giver would turn up just when the rubbish is being collected and see their precious gift being hurled into the back of the rubbish truck by two swarthy men.
But now I miss them. I can still see those little gifts staring at me from their wrapping paper the day I opened them and I wonder how they are getting on in their new homes or at the bottom of the tip. So I’ve stopped the purging. I like presents, and their memories and at least my “cuppa time!” teapot survived.

Sunday, 29 October 2006

"Pull Your Head In" published October 29, 2006

Any New Zealand woman who may be contemplating getting pregnant at 16, having a marriage break up with her business partner or becoming an advisor to the Prime Minister should be very afraid. Just when you thought sexism was over, along comes the media flogging.
Keisha Castle-Hughes, Annette Presley and Heather Simpson are just the latest to feature in a new media strategy designed to send a strong message to Kiwi women that while we may have won the vote early, we need to pull our heads in.
Keisha was front page news for days as journalists desperately tried to find someone who would have an insulting word to say about her teenage pregnancy. But after a long and exhaustive week it was found that she had a stable partner, her family was happy, her agent was happy, the guys she works for in Hollywood were happy. Disappointingly her career is not in tatters due to the shock pregnancy because in breaking news: women can work while pregnant. Welcome to our unique little corner of post-feminist backlash, as brought to you by the media.
Annette Presley’s crime is none other than she ended her marriage, and her ex-husband decided she would also end her involvement in their business. His word was widely reported before she had a chance to say “I am woman hear me roar” because disappointingly she was on a “luxury” yacht in Fiji and chose not to rush home to give interviews. Such was the media storm that one fully expected to see Annette being hauled home in chains and presented before the Bad Wife and Business Partner Tribunal for her sins. Personally I was anxiously awaiting Princess Diana style paparazzi shots of Annette in her bikini dangling one leg casually in the ocean while chatting eagerly with a tanned male friend of Greek origin. But I guess that would mean sending someone out to Fiji, and as we know media, whether on a flogging mission or not, are cutting costs.
And then there’s Heather, who unlike the other two has not appeared in Whale Rider or Dragon’s Den, so isn’t putting herself out there as public property. She’s just pissing a lot of people off which is the worst Womanly Crime of all. She does stuff we don’t know about behind smoke screens stirring away at her pot of sage advice and indifferent sexuality. If there was a media flogging equivalent to witch burning, Heather would be on the stake.
And accompanying every media witch hunt is the inference that the woman involved has gone loo loo la la, lost the plot, taken to the bottle, isn’t coping, can’t hack it. “See!” cries the inference, “this is what feminism gave you. You should never have strayed over into a man’s world where we do only one thing at a time and think really, really hard about things sometimes.”
Am I over-reacting to the portrayal of women who are anti Stepford Wives in their behaviour and refuse to join the army of blandness currently gripping this country? Let’s look at those who have gone before.
Diane Foreman: still the Scarlet Woman for having an affair with Don Brash. Suzanne Paul: made one bad business decision out of the countless good ones she made to become one of the richest women in New Zealand. And she’s paying every one of her creditors back. Judy Bailey: did nothing except get fired. Susan Wood: did nothing but dispute a pay cut. Julie Christie: crowned Reality Crap Queen and seldom gets a good local review for her shows, yet the public love them. As do the TV people in other countries, and she just happens to be really rich because of it. Lana Coc-Kroft: nearly died and has friends who took drugs.
I rest my case. Paul Holmes can call the secretary general of the United Nations a “cheeky darkie” and we still love him. Marc Ellis can receive a class A drug conviction and use a phrase like “sweating like a rapist” and he’s still a good bloke. Don Brash can’t keep his dick in his pants but is still taken seriously in the world of politics. David Wikaira-Paul, a former Shortland Street actor who became a teenage Dad had all the magazines ooh and aah over him for months. Where was his front page shock horror revelation?
Meanwhile news that Echinacea really does work heartens me greatly. That’s what I call news.

Sunday, 22 October 2006

"Rocked Out" published October 22, 2006

The fact that Graham Brazier is hot is not a new concept. I first heard it 25 years ago as Graham was then the quintessential rock god combo: tall, dark and drug convicted. But never in my wildest dreams did I expect to hear it in 2006. Because when you’re young watching rock bands at the Gluepot, you don’t pause for a moment as you puff on your ciggie to transport yourself 25 years into the future where you’re standing in the St James among a strangely spherical crowd of bald-headed and pot bellied middle-aged men receiving texts about Graham’s supposed ample package.
So this is middle age. We all take a few decades out to work hard, buy a house, have children and then regroup at the St James to pick up where we left off watching Hammond Gamble and Hello Sailor as if nothing ever happened.
I’m not sure I ever spent any time in my youth wondering what I would be doing for amusement in my mid 40s but if I had I’m sure it would have gone something like having dinner parties, discussing politics and listening to Handel’s Water Music.
How lovely that Graham and Hammond were kind enough preserve themselves so marvellously for me and my texting friend’s pleasure. At the St James we took cautious looks at each other, we couldn’t believe our luck. Hammond and Graham still sing like angels. It was almost like the old days wasn’t it?
Well not quite. I’d forgotten what you do.
At the Gluepot, Windsor Castle and Mainstreet I used to stand at the back bar affecting an uninterested air. Unless I was pissed in which case I would dance like a loon. All these years later at the St James there was no bar to lean on to do this, so you stood near the front, sipping your bottle of Lindaur (which had an off putting thrush-like yeasty odour) and watched other couples solve the problem of what to do by holding on to each other and swaying.
And then we went home for a cup of tea and Marmite on toast which we used to do in the old days, only at 2am not 10.30pm. Wasn’t our fault, who knew the bands started on time in this middle-aged dream time?
We are, of course, part of a world wide phenomenon which sees the huge bubble of our age group eagerly encourage the likes of the Rolling Stones, The Who and the Eagles to perform for us. And this time around we’re not nearly as demanding for new material. All the old hits will do us very nicely thank you.
Personally I don’t ever want to see the Knack reform because hearing My Sharonna again would be just cause to slit my wrists. Talking Heads would be good, and I'm wondering about buying a ticket to Carole King, but by the time I discovered her I was 15 and spent far too many hours in my bedroom listening to Tapestry than was healthy for a girl. So no, we won't be reliving that little uncool period of my life.
On a local level I send out a plea now to Ric Salizzo’s Plastic Pegs to never reform. Same goes for Russell Baillie’s Bitumen Waltz and Andrew Snoid’s Coconut Rough. The Mockers, The Swingers, Screaming Mee Mees, Peking Man, Citizen Band, Blam Balm Blam, The Chills and the Verlaines, please feel free.
Because the reality is that money talks, and at the moment there is a big bubble of us mooning around inner city Auckland, tired of lattes, lunch and laughing at each other’s expense. We have bored ourselves stupid talking to each other about our worthy and materialistic lives where cooking duck three different ways, painting your house interior the exact shade of white – not too grey, not too yellow, and sipping "pinot", gris or noir from stemless wine glasses has us all a bit glassy eyed and over it. We want to be entertained again preferably in a pub, by a pub band. We want to gaze at Graham’s long lost package, be amazed at a guitar solo and lean against a bar getting slowly inebriated.

Sunday, 15 October 2006

"Things Not to Do" published October 15, 2006

The problem with being part of an ageing population which sees itself as eternally groovy is that we are constantly confronted with lists of things we must do before we die. Death is no longer something which happens when your body has had enough. It is now the finish line for the race to experience all that life has to offer, or we think it has to offer. So we are now confronted with lists of 100 books, 100 films, 100 albums, and 100 places to see before we die. We will not retire, we will simply buy all the “to do” guides and spend our newfound leisure time doing those things the guides tell us to do because we are so boring and lacking inspiration that our lives have become dictated to by a small pool of editors who publish the guides.
Well quite frankly I think that shows a distinct lack of creativity and individuality. What we should be telling people is things we should not do before we die. Avoidance of pointless pursuits is surely a more admirable achievement on your death bed:
1) Do not have a Brazilian. Yes I know lots of your friends have them, but ask yourself why. If your answer has something to do with looking like a prepubescent girl and making themselves attractive to balding, rich Parnell types who watch too much porn, then you have your reason not to. The other reason is it just hurts like hell, and life is already full of too much pain.
2) Take a year off. Why? So you can get out the “to do” guides and visit Machu Picchu while reading Moliere, listening to Mott the Hoople on your iPod and watching My Man Godfrey on your laptop (you’re up to the “M”s).
3) Run a marathon so you can have a nasty mishap involving blood, vomit or poos. Good times.
4) Video yourself having sex. The lighting will be all wrong. Have you really ever seen yourself from that angle? You will look terrible and who gets to keep it when you break up? And if you think he destroyed it like he said he would then how come his mates never look you in the eye anymore?
5) Go to university as an adult student. Yes they do all think you are a nana even if you do wear low waisted jeans and Chuck Taylors with your hand knits.
6) Eat curry flavoured mushrooms from Scotland.
7) Make love on a windswept beach. Two words “sand” and “crack”.
8) Rent a villa in Provence or Tuscany
9) See the Mona Lisa. It’s really small and surrounded by tall German tourists. There are better Da Vinci’s around the corner.
10) Have kids. Your unborn children will never know.
11) Dye your hair red. You will not look vibrant or whacky. You will just look like Kerry Fox in Angel at My Table.
12) Take an Italian cooking course. Buy a cookbook, oh but then you can’t bore your friends with the experience can you?
13) Write a blog. Send a chain letter, more people will read it.
14) Look into your child's eyes, see yourself, and smile. Give them a break, they don’t look a bit like you.
15) Have sex with a celebrity, unless you are actually aged 100 which would be interesting and worth selling the experience to a woman’s mag.
16) Win a date with an All Black at a charity auction. What would you talk about really?
17) Have an affair with a gondolier called Mario.
18) Start a petition.
19) Have Christmas drinks for the neighbours
20) Write a children’s book.
21) Buy a breadmaker.
22) Learn ventriloquism.
23) Wear Trelise Cooper.
24) Give children invented names.
25) Become head of TVNZ news and current affairs. Just ask Bill.
26)Hear yourself saying hello Leighton I’m a first time caller.
27)Do an Intrepid Journey. Have a real holiday with toilet paper, you’re a celebrity, you can afford it.
28)Have your portrait painted. You are not the Mona Lisa, take a photo
29)Be an extra on Shortland St. Oh hell why not, everyone else has.

Sunday, 8 October 2006

"One in Five" published October 8, 2006

The wonderful thing about research is that it gives us all the opportunity to take the litmus test of life. The average person has sex twice a month – cool, so if you have it 2.5 times a month you’re Above Average. The average age of a resident of Grey Lynn is 34 – cool, if you’re 38 you’re Above Average. One in five Kiwis are mental – cool, you’re not mental so once again welcome to the Above Average club.
Of course the problems begin when you have sex every day, are a 65-year-old Grey Lynn resident, and you’re actually feeling a bit mental. Oh my God I’m not normal.
Who gave research people, most probably sociologists with Government funding the right to tell us what is, or isn’t normal?
Did cave man and woman have to pick up their stone tablet delivered by the dinosaur to their cave door and be confronted with the news that most cave people exist on an exclusive diet of meat, shit in the bush and hang elephant tusks from their ceilings for decoration? No. They just woke up, chewed on an ear of corn, went for a shit on the campfire embers where it is nice and warm and makes good fuel before returning inside to gaze at the glow worms on their ceiling. And felt quite content.
Today feeling content is just wrong and there’s always a handy piece of research to tell you why. There’s a whole industry of feel better material possessions or food just waiting for you to read the paper and get worried. Our personal debt is too high. We drink too much or not enough to prevent heart disease. And thanks to Marsden funded research into the orgasm, we will soon know whether we are orgasmically normal or not. Thank God. Reading the paper these days is like hopping on the scales one morning and spending the rest of the day ready to slit your wrists because in 24 hours you gained five kilos. Or perhaps your scales are mental today because latest research shows that 8 out of 10 scales read incorrectly at least once a month according to the cycle of the moon and the magnetic force field surrounding gravity’s pull.
It takes a very secure person with a strong ego not unlike that of a celebrity to withstand the constant barrage of surveys. To live in a house which doesn’t look like a space station with nothing but white, silver and clear surfaces. It’s called clutter, and nine out of 10 people live in it despite what you read in “home” magazines. To eat butter, not some horrible chemical spread invented in an American laboratory to prevent cholesterol. To let our kids eat junk food because they’re kids and that’s what you do when you’re a kid.
But by far the worst survey result cost us $8 million to tell us that one in five New Zealanders will suffer a mental health disorder in any one year. Christ we’re a nation of walking nutters, thought most people.
I wasn’t at all surprised. I’m old enough to remember the shell-shocked gentlemen in Queen St wracked with fear, ducking and diving, hands shielding their face from shellfire. To see my hairdresser greet an obviously confused street woman called Elaine and spray her hair while Elaine pirouettes and morphs into Grace Kelly, leaving with her new friends “dignity” and “pride.” To hug the Grey Lynn Park tramp when he needed a cuddle after someone beat him up…smelly, but what are you going to do? To walk past a school mother screaming her head off at another over some minor issue and think to myself “interesting way of expressing yourself.” To see the shame and humiliation on the face of yet another teenage boy arrested for shoplifting at Foodtown. To hold my 8-year-old daughter’s hand firmly and try to distract her as the cops pull over and beat the shit out of three youths with nothing but truncheons and a frightening dose of raw fury (pre-Tazer). To watch various friends battle bipolar, anxiety, schizophrenia, agoraphobia and Aspergers over the years, whether they knew they had it or not. And to recognise in myself the deep dark hole that I’ve descended into three times in my life, and treat myself for a depressive episode.
Surely we’re all a bit mental in our own way, and we’ve become accustomed to seeing and accepting the way it manifests itself around us. That’s life, and perhaps five out of five researchers should get one.

Sunday, 1 October 2006

"Affairs" published October 1, 2006

So, is everyone having affairs? Tell me, because I need to know. Are there really 20 illicit couplings going on in the Beehive? Are all my friends having affairs? Am I having an affair?
It would seem that the main take out of the activities of the unlikely Lothario Don Brash, is that everyone is doing it. It happens, it is part of the human condition to fall in love with another, to be torn between two lovers, to let the heart dictate where the dick doth dip. Apparently everyone is totally cool with it. Get over it Wendyl.
Gosh I had no idea. Every week I sit down to write this column feeling reasonably confident about my ability to lick the finger and feel which way the wind of social behaviour is blowing, but alas I have totally missed the boat on this one.
I can hardly look anyone in the eye now, for fear that I’ll realise they have in fact been having an affair with me for several months without me noticing. I feel like I’ve just landed in an episode of Big Love. Everyone’s rooting everyone else, in some new polygamistic take on modern marriage, and it’s normal and acceptable behaviour. I feel strangely uncool.
It is true that everyone thinks about having an affair at some stage in their life and few marriages get by without an incident. You’d be hard pressed to find a partner who hasn’t taken a sneaky peak at the cell phone Inbox, pondered carefully the mountains of new underwear coming into the house, or wondered why hilarious Nova at the office is featuring so heavily in conversation these days. But surely affairs are the exception not the norm? Perhaps not. In previous years secrecy and affairs have gone hand in hand, but now, just like abuse and alcoholism, we’re just talking about it more. Especially when it involves ageing, non sexy politicians.
Why am I surprised? Marriages end all the time these days, people move on, get happy.
But what I don’t understand is how come everyone has given up saying “no.” At what stage do you stand there thinking: “If I get stuck in now, I’ll then have to lie every day for the rest of my life, my marriage may split up, I’ll only see the kids on the weekends, my finances will be halved, my children will turn 16 and be totally screwed up, and hate me. I’ll spend a fortune in counselling and by the time all this happens I’ll probably be onto another affair with the potential to screw up another couple of kids and split my finances again. Oh be still my beating heart, you rule, drop those pants now.”
When has “no” not been a good word?
And at what stage do you not ask yourself the question: “Do I have better than this at home if I put the same amount of effort in?”
Most people would reply “yes.” And you can fart in front of them.
A friend of mine thinks that people who have lots of affairs are late virgins and simply can’t believe their luck when they reach a certain power level which attracts. This is a valid theory if you’re thinking along the lines of Don Brash. But perhaps it’s more about hedonism. The pure pleasure and head rush of attraction, something many marriages struggle to maintain once the nuts and bolts of mortgages, childbirth, weight gain, body odours and boredom are screwed tight. That and a teenage-like belief that you won’t get caught, which as Don will tell you, you always do.
My main concern is that now I know everyone is having an affair, will people think I am? I do have lunch with men occasionally at SPQR. And Don Brash was seen having lunch with a gossip columnist at SPQR recently, so is that a sign? Don’t lunch at SPQR or do lunch at SPQR? Is Prego a better option?
The grim reality is that no one ever asks me to have affairs these days. But if they did and I found myself unwilling to make use of the word “no,” the person asking was bigger and better than the one I have at home and I got caught up in a tidal wave of hedonism, at least I’d be safe in the knowledge that everyone will be down with it and totally cool. What a relief.