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.