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.