Sunday, 25 March 2007

"Landfill Lessons" published March 25

I’m not sure where the landfills live but wherever they are I’m sure they look like something out of a futuristic movie where tattered remains of Foodtown plastic bags flap menacingly in the post nuclear landscape of cockroaches and brooding skies. And I’m sure if there was a landfill at the end of my street I would have swapped to the green bag earlier, but instead I have a nine-year-old daughter to bring home the green bag message.
When my other kids were nine they came home with anti-smoking lectures. They both now smoke. My 18-year-old daughter was the dolphin girl of her generation so there were vague murmurings about only eating line caught fish for a while. When she went flatting last week she left her collection of porcelain/plastic/papier-mache dolphins behind in a box, all of them caught in dusty mid- leap no doubt wondering if the discarded Barbies in the box next door want to play sometime. These days my youngest daughter tells me that the Foodtown plastic bags will never biodegrade. Never, not even in a million years. Whereas wood will do it in a hundred and even metal will do it in a thousand years. All this ladled onto the guilt I still feel for using the 8760 (approximate figure only) disposable nappies which are steaming away in some North Shore landfill.
And so we have become a green bag household. We started with two a week ago, and now I’ve bought another five because a) the kids keep using them and b) I keep forgetting to take them with me.
And to be honest I’m not really that happy being seen with one casually draped over my shoulder because they are so damn ugly. Some genius obviously said to Foodtown: “Here’s a great idea, you sell your customers eco bags for 99c each, you save heaps of money by not having to provide your customers with the plastic bags and what’s more we’ll save on a designer fee because who cares if they’re ugly, they’re eco. And don’t forget we’re all working towards selling people something for free. It worked for water and Pay TV.” So as I head off to the shops I carry a bag which has a logo on it my nine-year-old might have drawn at the age of two. It’s a drawing of bag with two eyes and a vague smile. And circling the uncertain happy bag face are the words: HELP US CREATE A BETTER ENVIRONMENT. EVERY BAG COUNTS. It is also made out of another form of plastic commonly known as polypropylene which has a passing resemblance to a sanitary pad and according to Wikipedia has a recycling code of 5 which means it can only be recycled into auto parts and industrial fibres. What’s wrong with a bit of Hessian? I’m reliably informed by the nine-year-old that Hessian bags are produced from jute which is grown annually as a renewable crop. Also there’s just something about Hessian which says “I’ve been into saving the environment since the 70s” rather than the green polypropylene which says “My daughter talked me into this.”
Surely it can only be a matter of time before Karen Walker or WORLD decides that donating a decent design to Foodtown for their bags would be yet another cynical branding initiative and make my daily stroll down the road a little more stylish. If they can do it for Starship and cancer research surely the entire planet deserves a look in?
Recently I came home with a nice blue one from Brisbane Marketplace which has a graphic of the sun and some waves. And NOSH the gourmet food market has nice black ones although neither of them matches the Foodtown one for sheer size.
Which is great. You can fit the contents of three plastic bags into one green eco bag but then you’ve got to carry it home. Which is impossible because you’re weighted down with about 10 kilos of groceries in one hand. So you end up staggering along with it slung over your back with one hand supporting its bottom and the other hanging onto the handle, not unlike a Sherpa in the Himalayas only you’re in Grey Lynn and you look ridiculous.
But the good news and something which makes my nine-year-old very proud is that they work. Within two days we had no plastic bags left. A remarkable result but highlighting a rather tragic consequence. What are we going to use to pick up the dog shit?

Sunday, 18 March 2007

"Intervention" published March 18

It wasn’t one of the best lunches we’ve ever had. Me, my three friends and the intervention. From the moment I sat down I knew something was up. The nervous looks across the table, the stilted conversation followed by the hastily whispered “do it now!” from one to the other, and the silence which followed.
She cleared her throat. “Umm first of all I just want to say that we all love you, and care for you so please don’t take anything I’m about to say as a criticism of your behaviour. We’ve asked you here today to help. To help you make the changes to your life that we feel need to be made…now.”
I didn’t know where to look. What on earth were they going on about? It can’t be my drinking because I’ve halved that in the last year. It can’t be my drug abuse, because I don’t do drugs. So it must be my weight. Maybe I’ve developed that thing that anorexics have where they look in the mirror and see a fat person, despite being thin only I’ve got it the other way around. I’m actually huge and in danger of being too big to squeeze through my front door, but all the time I look in the mirror and see a size 14.
“It’s your lipstick,” she finally spat out. “It’s got to go”
They all sighed with relief now that it was finally out. The latest hurdle in our foursome friendship had been leapt and now they could all relax safe in the knowledge that change was on its way.
It’s called Deeply Chilli and it’s made by Revlon. It was discontinued but I managed to get 10 of them when I was in Norfolk Island once. Before that it was called Raisin, again by Revlon.
I’ve worn red lipstick as long as I can remember which is sometime in the 80s and I’ve always thought it went well with my brown eyes and gave me an air of sophistication. More Paloma Picasso than Marilyn Munroe. More Katherine Hepburn than Jean Harlow. There’s just something about red lips which says strong.
But they say that the tragedy of the ageing woman is that we refuse to give up the look we had when we were in our prime. We continue to wear the same eye-shadow, shape our eyebrows the same way, die our hair the same colour and wear the same coloured lipstick. And what precisely is wrong with that?
One must follow trends, apparently, which since the millennium rolled over has been to look “natural”. Precisely what part of “natural” means wearing make-up? Surely the whole point of making up is to hide how we look naturally? Especially at my age.
At my intervention I was presented with something Revlon also make. It’s a gloss with sparkles in it and a little bit of foam on the end of a stick and it’s called Coffee Gleam.
I was instructed to wear it. I was to banish my Norfolk Island stash of Deeply Chilli to Women’s Refuge and even though it would be hard and there would be times when I felt a little naked, it would all turn out for the best.
I should have seen it coming. I’d been in the TVNZ make-up room a few times for my brief appearances on the telly and had been asked in subdued but incredulous tones if “that” was the colour I wanted on m lips. When I insisted it was they had to leave the room and fossick in a draw labelled “Angela D’Audney” before reluctantly brushing it on.
So I wore Coffee Gleam. Strands of hair got stuck in it in the wind and began to form dismal clumps of Coffee Gleam, my lips looked shiny for about a minute before I ate or drank it into my system and concerned people said I looked a little washed out.
Just yesterday I found an old Deeply Chilli lurking under the seat in my car. It was like finding a dear old friend and before I knew it we were reunited.
“Nice lipstick!” shouted my nine-year-old daughter who was herself wearing Scandalous Gold on her lips having raided her friend’s mothers’ make-up drawer.
“Are we going out somewhere very dark?” asked my husband, so unaccustomed to seeing the red part of my face formerly known as my lips.
I looked in the mirror and saw a woman I hadn’t seen for six months and felt much better.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

"Lost Love Songs" published March 11

I miss the love song. Something from the 70s by James Taylor or Bread when women were gorgeous things who loved men and saved them from a life of emotional agony and uncertainty. When they sang to us:
“Baby I’m a want you, baby I’m a need you.” “I’m lost without your love.” “How sweet it is to be loved by you.” “Before the day I met you, life was so unkind, but your love was the key to my peace of mind.”
Oh happy days. An era when we were painted as the angels we truly are. Peaceful bearers of soft and soothing spirits, applicators of the salve of contentment, wafting about in a patchouli cloud and capable of mind altering sexual encounters. Sadly the 70s was the last great era of the love song, when, lying curled up next to our teal blue transistor radio listening to Radio Hauraki we could dream of a time when we would be that woman. The one with the long sandy hair, wearer of the muslin dress, living in one long eternal summer’s day and possessing a tanned body about to be ravaged in the wheat fields by a man with facial hair, a “Sh*t Happens” T-shirt and a joint in his back pocket. To listen at the age of 13 to Sammy Johns: Her long legs were tanned and brown …moonlight dancing off her hair.She woke up and took me by the hand. She's gonna love me in my Chevy van and that's alright with me.”
And then to wake up five years later and realise that there you were with your tanned legs in the back of a blue Holden EH stationwagon with your boyfriend living the love song dream. Shame you had to have two melanomas removed from those legs 10 years later, but so far the joints don’t seem to have done much harm.
Today there are no love songs to teach young girls that love can be a simple act of joy. Just misongynistic hip hop lyrics calling them “biatch”, and encouraging them to shake their ass and move their bomb ass pussy. Even pop rock darling John Meyer serves up an encouraging song title Your Body is a Wonderland but manages to insult our intelligence:
One mile to every inch of your skin like porcelain, one pair of candy lips and your bubblegum tongue.
And here’s James Blunt’s Your Beautiful: I saw your face in a crowded place and I don't know what to do,'cause I'll never be with you.
Whimp. Get hard man and find me.Nick Cave writes love songs but says: “All love songs must contain duende …It must first embrace the potential for pain. The love song must resonate with the susurration of sorrow, the tintinnabulation of grief.”
Really, why? When did pain, sorrow and grief become intertwined with happiness, elation and long tanned legs? Not to mention duende (translation: an evil spirit), susurration and tintinnabulation. Note to Nick: too much time with head in dictionary, not enough time getting laid.
But perhaps it is because back in the 70s men were still largely in control. Men were giddy with their newfound drug-enabled self expression and eagerly bestowed emotional largess on we not-yet-equal women. Only then do you find lyrics which display any appreciation of women, a sense that we hold the magical formula to happiness and completion in a man:
James Taylor: I close my eyes at night,wondering where would I be without you in my life.Everything I did was just a bore.Everywhere I went it seems I'd been there beforeBut you brighten up for me all of my days with a love so sweet in so many waysI want to stop and thank you baby.
Oh honey it was no trouble, really.
Men didn’t really like us through the 80s and the 90s, because we confused them with our refusal to let them open doors for us, we went to work, we insisted they change nappies, we emasculated them into a corner. And so when they spoke of love it was with hostility, confusion and darkness. From Gang of Four’s Love like Anthrax, to Nirvana’s Moist Vagina, it just got harder for those teenage girls to curl up and dream of being anything other than a sex object or a provider of torturous demons.
Fortunately some of us have our memories. Of James Taylor, of Bread, of simple love and adoration 70s style. How sweet that is.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

"Rejected Mentors" published March 4

There are people I live in awe of. They’re people who teach me things about myself, who inspire me to be a better person, encourage me to take a few risks, and generally create a career I think is worth having. I listen in awe, hanging on their every word and never once questioning their authority or knowledge, because there’s still stuff I need to learn, even at my age. It’s called having a mentor and to my mind no one should ever be without a couple tucked in their back pocket for various musings throughout the day when one is trying very hard to break their Trade Me addiction.
But lately I have come to realise that mentors are no longer cool. Apparently if you are a woman in your early 30s you are perfectly formed, immensely talented and destined for great things. It’s as if they all read Bridget Jones Diary and decided that they too could have a fabulous career even though they’ve never actually done anything to deserve it except flirt with Hugh Grant look-alikes and be unlucky in love.
Some social observers might suggest that this is a healthy sign. That women in their early 30s have a strong self esteem, a sense of self worth and a go get’im attitude which should make us proud. Well, yes, but they don’t actually do anything with all that. They totter from social gatherings to envelope openings and occasionally trip over something called work. And me and my mates aren’t happy, actually. Groups of us have recently begun seeking each other out in unhealthy grumpy old women covens to complain about this new breed who have all the trappings of success, but I’m sorry when did one of them go that extra mile, work that extra hour, achieve that extra target? What happened to “proving yourself” and “climbing the ladder? Apparently work is the mere conduit to the lifestyle and is no longer something women aspire to be good at. They look good, they’ve got the job, isn’t that what life is really about?
Well no actually, not if you care about your craft. But then maybe my friends, my mentors and I are just part of a fading breed of people who believe that every day you can do your job better. And if I’m honest we’re also mentor rejects. Every one of us has woken up one morning full of the joys of being alive and decided that when you get to our age it’s time to give something back. It’s a bit Eastern in origin but basically you return the favour your mentors did to you by turning around and passing your knowledge onto someone younger than you. So you gaze around your industry, select someone you think shows promise and take them out to lunch. Where you are astounded to learn that your great expectation has been there done that, bought the T-shirt, written the book, please tell her something she doesn’t know and then finishes it all off with a thinly veiled criticism of your own work. Ouch. So you blame the wine and give her your numbers and wait for that call you’ve made a hundred times:
“Oh my God I have no idea how to deal with this one, have you got time for a drink?”
And you wait, and you wait and you wait. And then you have no choice but come to the conclusion that your knowledge, and let’s throw in your career here too, is of little or no consequence to these perfectly formed beings.
C’est la vie. I guess they’ll never be told to take some risks in life so that when you’re in the rest home looking out at the rain you’ll have lots of memories to make you laugh.(Pauline) Or be taken to Patrick Steel two days before your wedding to get a the dress you forgot to organise(Angela). Or be told not to rush off to Canada with a pig farmer you just met because your career is too promising (Maggie). Or how to fight the last vestiges of male chauvinism lurking in the corridors of newspaper land (Vanya). Or how to charm your way into or out of anything (Cath) Or to swear like a trooper, work like a dog and fight tooth and nail for your magazine above all else (Nene). And be gently persuaded to write a book (Dorothy).