Sunday, 28 January 2007

"Facing the Music" published January 28

One of the great injustices in the world is that men control the music. How many of us have endured hours of Lou Reed at full tit, longing for just a track or two of James Taylor to take the edge off? But James never makes an appearance because when you’re in a relationship you may think you wear the pants, but it’s the bloke who wears the music.
It’s an unfortunate situation which the feminist movement failed to address while they were dealing with equal wages and the right to have abortions. But I wish they had somehow found the time.
My musical life has been cluttered unnecessarily with the albums of my men. From the first one’s penchant for Devo, Talking Heads and Ian Dury to the last one’s Beach Boys, Lou Reed and opera. In-between there was George Thorogood, Ry Cooder, Neil Young (surfer), Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Bowie and Dylan (not surfers).
Because when you meet a man somehow any musical knowledge or taste you may have is immediately dismissed as insignificant. It’s the last stronghold of male domination as he flicks through your collection sniggering and tisking at your Eurhythmics, your Carole King, your Seal, your James Taylor, your Jazz and Blues collections and your Bridget Jones soundtracks. He’ll pause thoughtfully at the Violent Femmes, but when he comes to Hootie and the Blowfish he let’s out one long sigh and offers to whip around to his flat for some proper music.
Of course there is one practical reasons for this. In our early years the boys owned the stereos. While we spent our disposable income on Lindaur, shoes, hair dye and books, he saved up for a proper stereo with an amplifier and things on it which said EQ and had little displays with lots of colours which show how loud the bass and the treble are. Cool if you’re a guy.
Later when the relationships became more serious, the music decision was left to the man because by the time we’re ready to move in with him, we’ve learned to choose our battles. And after we’ve trained him to put the undies in the washing basket, change the bed sheets and make a cup of tea, listening to a bit of Lou Reed just doesn’t seem like a battle you’ll win in a hurry.
These days our music collection has long ago been relegated to the bottom of the pile. So eager are our men to impress other men, that his collection is racked impressively from A to Z while your meagre leftovers from the days you had any musical independence are stacked down the bottom somewhere gathering dust and cat hair.
We’ve also been beaten into submission over who actually operates the stereo. Apparently they are so complicated that only a man with the knowledge of a NASA scientist could possibly know exactly how to make it work properly. All of us have had that agitated “What are you doing!” yelled at us as we’ve gingerly tried to insert a CD into the stereo. “Not like that, let me do it.” So even in the unlikely event we got to play our own music, we can’t use the stereo.
Which is wrong. What I fail to understand is our overwhelming willingness to submit to the dictatorial attitude towards our aural environment. We seem unable to put up an argument which supports the rights of our ears, and our finely tuned musical taste to listen to what we want to.
And so thousands of women can be found every day hiding out in the bath just so they can listen to Ella Fitzgerald on our 8- year-old daughter’s mini stereo or driving to work with Joni Mitchell on full blast. Others attempt to slip something on the stereo when they’re men are too drunk to notice or under the guise that it makes her more relaxed, hint, hint. (Barry White).
But help is on it’s way, and it’s called the iPod. Few women have not seen the irony in their stereo-obsessed men devoting just as much time and expertise to something so tiny that the word masculine just romps straight over it. Now our men dream of the day they can put their entire music collection onto that little darling and dominate it to bits with their little headphones on.
Meanwhile we get to drag out our antiquated CD’s and have a good old listen while he’s nodding away in his own awfully cute little world.
Thank you Apple.

Sunday, 21 January 2007

"Second Best Men" published January 21

It always pays to start the year with a strong mental list of nice men to think about. There’s the screensaver to update, the traditional search through the old videos just to see the guy naked. (I once watched three movies just to see Clive Owen’s bum and wasn’t disappointed.)
But the problem with nice men is that they’re just too perfect and our motto for the year 2007 should surely be reality. After last year’s general theme of disasters from Don Brash to Marc Ellis, it’s time we women got used to the fact that life is full of imperfections. News that there is a man drought should also encourage us to throwaway our “perfect” list with it’s demands for good taste in shoes and wine, and substitute it with the “second best.” In this list the guys can still be as gorgeous, kind and lovely as a vintage Sam Neill, but the edge is there’s something just a little bit off. Which is why it’s useful to cast your eye over a second best list of gorgeous men.
Let’s start with the guy who plays Wolf on Outrageous Fortune. Grant Bowler comes in the list first for having the most beautiful body we’ve ever seen in a pair of stubbies on New Zealand television but being absent for most of the last series. Bummer
Then there’s Mike Hosking, who I’ve observed is very popular with the ladies when he’s out and about, but he comes in second best because he’s one of our best broadcasters and doesn’t have his own TV show. Shame on you TV people in charge.
Jeremy Wells really deserves to be on the Perfect Man list, but he rides his bike without a helmet in rush hour traffic down hills very fast which is very second best behaviour.
John Campbell comes into the list for being tiresome.
Simon Dallow for being tired.
Steve Maharey deserves a mention because he’s good looking in that lawyer on the telly way but he’s a politician which is so second best.
Leigh Hart comes in because we’ve all seen him in Speedos on the Golden Kiwi ads and he’ll just never get into the Perfect Man list even if he can make grown women cry with laughter over lunch.
Antony Starr because he had to play twins on Outrageous Fortune which must be the equivalent of double time in Actor World, before we noticed him. Shame on us.
Looking further a field Josh Hartnett deserves a mention for being such a second bester to think that we don’t take paparazzi photos down under.
Owen Wilson for not using last year to play a character other than the one he plays in every movie, apart from the war one were he just sucked.
Adrian Grenier for being unbearably cute on Entourage but unbearably misused in The Devil Wears Prada.
Daniel Craig for being a cute little blonde Bond which was nice but the words “cute” and “little” just don’t go with the word Bond.
Adrian Brody for looking great in Prada, but that nose, man, that nose.
The American Office guy Steve Carell because despite being the first American to make a British comedy work, he’s still really, really hairy.
Leo De Caprio for still looking like the little boy he was in Gilbert Grape. There’s just no getting over it.
And there it is. Something to ponder as you sit at your office desk wondering why the hell we all rush back to work in January when no one really starts doing anything till school’s back in February. Now you have the “second best” list to Google one by one and get screensaver busy.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

"Kids at Home" published January 14

Every mother has that moment at about day 10 when they look at the screaming bundle of supposed joy they just gave birth to and mentally calculate that there are only 18 years minus 10 days until it is an adult and will leave home.
Which gets you through another sleepless night, sure. But then 18 years minus 10 days later you wake up one morning and they’re still there. Still waking you up at 4am as they stumble home from a party, giggling with their mates who you later find dotted throughout the house with blankets thrown over them. And you realise that you are never, really rid of them.
My son did leave home for a minute last year, causing a premature plunge into empty nest syndrome. It only lasted a week by which time my two daughters pointed out that the wailing and moaning was unnecessary because they were still in the nest, so technically it wasn’t empty. Remember us?
But then he came home, with girlfriend. And while it is reassuring to have friends compliment us on the busy home we have: “always someone coming and going isn’t there? Such a mix of people, you’d never get lonely!” I’m not feeling the love.
The day I attempted to sit down and write my incredibly difficult but surprisingly engaging book and realised that I had just spent the morning cleaning up after two adult children, (I omit my son’s gorgeous girlfriend because she’s so organised and tidy it just wouldn’t be fair to moan) an 8-year-old child, a husband and our friend from Wellington who is staying for a month, was a very dark day indeed. Actually I’ll omit the friend from Wellington because he washes dishes and can cook fish with banana and coconut.
It is the curse of those who work at home that you simply cannot ignore the dishes, the washing, the mess, the dust and the animals getting run over. The rest of the family trot off to offices and jobs, universities and schools while you tell yourself to just ignore the shuddering pile of collective mess six adults and one child make in just five minutes let alone a day. You tell yourself that work comes first, not a tidy house, but the minute you say that someone pops in for a visit. That rare breed who knows that you work from home but you are really spending all day just waiting for them to entertain you with their stories which you do indeed find fascinating when you’re not working and obsessing about the mental clock in your head counting down to the moment you miss your deadline.
As I head into a new year of working from home and another house full of gifted, funny and entertaining children I’m dreaming of the following:
The day I can find the scissors. Any scissors will do whether they’re the ones I keep in the kitchen, in my office or in my sewing basket. Even the ones I hide in my undies drawer just so I an always find them. Somehow my children seek, find and eat scissors.
The day I can find one of the four phone handsets (it’s a big house) These days they seem to live in children’s beds, outside in the hydrangea bush and in the fridge.
The day I can stop cooking dinner for 10 every night because you never know whether the kids’ friends will be there. Then the kids forget they have a late lecture and there’s three of you staring at three lasagnes.
The day my friends don’t use the “children’s bathroom” and come out pale and shaking from the Ebola virus lurking within. Five years ago I stopped cleaning their bathroom in an attempt to make them learn about cleaning bathrooms. Now if we ever sell the house we’ll have to call in a Hazardous Substances Removal team.
The day you arrive home and the beer/wine/Coke Zero/bread/milk/fruit and other necessities of life that were there at 10am are still there at 11am.
The day you clean the kitchen floor and later that afternoon it isn’t riddled with spilled yoghurt, discarded shoes, bits of paper the scissors ate and a disgusted lizard which just escaped from the children’s bathroom.
And the day when I can sit in my office all day for eight hours or longer, writing without interruption from friends or family. Which will also be the day I miss my kids terribly and pine for a pair of lost scissors.