Sunday, 16 December 2007


The approach of Christmas has put my plans to lose 10kg on hold. As I’m sure it has for many women. The intention was there until that first celebratory glass of champagne, and somewhere along the line, lost in a haze of drinking the decision to get a “fresh start’ on the weight loss plans in the New Year was made.
Which is why I ended up in Smith and Caughey’s lingerie department contorted, trapped and unable to free myself from a garment sometimes known as an “easy squeezy” also known as “magic knickers” and in my mother’s day as a “corset.”
The reasoning behind my solo and very clandestine visit was the reliable information that this garment would hold everything in, thus giving the illusion that you have lost weight, which is very useful at Christmas time when you are forced to get out your party frocks.
The woman beside me in the lingerie department accurately surmised that what we were trying to achieve was basically taking a sausage and squeezing it into a shape which had a waist. Where that sausage meat would end up was never discussed but laws of physics told me that it would either be the thighs or the breasts. I was about to find out. As I entered my changing room I heard my new friend rather ominously grunting and groaning next door.
Armed with a selection in black I proceeded to haul one over my head. It got as far as my shoulders where it settled one side under my arm, the other around my head so that only one eye was visible and every increasingly panic stricken breath I took was obtained through the thick gusset of lycra and some elastic substance so strong they should make car tyres out of it. Both arms were sticking straight up in the air and were locked in place by the band of black which seemed determined to squash my face into my armpit before it was done with me. And there I was. Stuck, like some interpretive dancer during the bit when she runs around the stage with her arms in the air cowering from the Komodo dragon .Only this was me, on my own at Smith and Caugheys. As I sat down awkwardly, arms akimbo on the gilt and velvet chair I realised with horror that I could die in here and no one would know where I was. So ashamed was I about my “easy squeezy” adventure that I had told no one, nor had I brought with me water, scrogan and my cell phone as one does on explorations into the unknown. I had another wriggle to see if the garment would budge and then I noticed that the red button by the door. As I pressed it I couldn’t help noticing my friend next door had gone strangely silent also. I waited and wrote the headline:
“Two fat women smothered at top department store.”
A very nice young girl who was yet to endure her first stretch mark peered around the door at me and did a very commendable job of stifling both a giggle and a shriek of horror. What eventually emerged from her mouth were the words “oh dear” with a tone I sensed she had used before in these very changing rooms.
It was at that moment I caught my reflection in the mirror. I now prefer to think of the red face, the sweaty brow, the sausage meat poking out in all directions as a nightmare, nearly as bad as the one in which Jennifer Ward-Lealand shot my horse and chopped down my fern tree.
The garment was eventually retrieved by much pulling over my head and I was instructed to try putting it on from the bottom up.
I now have two “easies” as I affectionately called them. And they’ve changed my life because the constriction on my body is also working on my mind with the psychological effect of making me a bit of a nana. While I have my “easies’ on there is no risk of taking my clothes off and jumping naked in a pool as I usually do about this time of the year, nor have I flirted outrageously with a younger man. And while my friends get drunk and disorderly around me I remain mentally rigid, squeezed and in control of all my faculties. I like the “easy” me, and if I ever do lose that elusive 10kg, I might just keep on wearing them.

Image by Anthony Ellison

Sunday, 9 December 2007


Christmas functions are designed to give everyone the chance to get a bit tipsy and bond with each other in a celebratory fashion. But they also present the danger that you will run into someone you’ve been avoiding all year. The woman you yelled at in accounts when you had the hangover from hell and discovered that your expenses for your last lunch had been declined. You’ve had to get off one floor above your office and take the stairs down all year just to avoid walking past her office.
Then there’s the guy in maintenance you pashed behind the air conditioning unit at the last Christmas function when you decided in a moment of enthusiasm that you like men with dirty fingernails and a mullet. If it’s good enough for Cheryl West, it’s choice for you when you’re five rum and Cokes down on an empty stomach. And then there’s the other woman in the office. The one you hate with a passion because she hates you with a passion and you’re both up for the same promotion next year. You won’t spend a second in her breathing space yet alone propel a thin-lipped word of Christmas cheer in her direction.
Avoidance is therefore a necessary skill to obtain prior to Christmas functions. The most common technique is to employ your back. With your back to a person you can create the illusion that you haven’t seen them. You spend your entire night swivelling on an axis rather like a weather vane, only stopping when your subject is safely behind you. Odd but effective. Of course if you are the one being avoided this can be a very strange experience indeed. I was recently “backed” by an editor whose magazine I had been critical of on the radio. I know a bit about magazines, I like to think my criticism is constructive, but you can’t get it right all of the time. On entering the room and joining a group of women I greeted her only to find that she turned to face the wall behind us as if admiring a rare and unique work of art hung there while the rest of us talked in the circle which now had one piece around the wrong way. Only problem was there was no art, just a blank wall so there she was staring at nothing while the rest of the group chatted about the weather, our frizzy hair and how much we planned to drink that day, as you do. The moment I moved on she swivelled back, champagne at the ready.
Another more successful technique is to hide behind pillars which may be dotted throughout the room. You can nonchalantly lean on said pillar and swivel around without looking quite so obvious.
The “excuse me I need another drink” statement is my personal favourite, and the one most commonly employed to avoid me. The person promptly downs the contents of their glass, makes the statement and heads off. Only problem with that one is you risk getting really pissed if you’re avoiding a lot of people. Someone once said to me: “excuse me but I see someone far more interesting I’d rather talk to” and headed off which was brutal but I admired the honesty in their expression.
But by far the most effective avoidance manoeuvre is the intense conversation. It’s similar to the inappropriate kiss they do in movies where a couple who aren’t together, but will be by the end of the movie pash madly so that they are not seen by aliens or FBI agents running past them at great speed. When you see someone you need to ignore heading in your direction you suddenly find the person who is telling you about the cute antics of their two-year-old on the potty so interesting that you simply can’t take your eyes of them, need to lean in with intense interest and laugh like a drain. The impression is that you are so engrossed you can’t possibly notice someone else walking past, or indeed standing next to you. This can also be achieved by talking on the cell phone with an intense attitude which says “I’m buying a million shares in a dairy farm which renders me incapable of recognising anyone.”
But the simplest method in avoidance is simply to avoid the function which has been my policy for many years. I have one night of drinking scheduled and there’s not a magazine editor in sight.

Image by Anthony Ellison

Sunday, 2 December 2007

End of Year

I’m sure there are many parents who find the end of the year flurry of prize givings and drama productions an exhilarating time. The prospect of rushing straight from work through peak hour traffic to school is immensely rewarding because once you get there and discover there are no seats in the hall, you can stand at the back for three hours immersing yourself in the creative and intellectual endeavours of several hundred children.
I’m not one of those parents. I’ve been doing end of year stuff for the past 16 years and every time I sit in the hot, stifling, overcrowded hall for three hours, my pampered bottom hurling abuse at me because of the harsh reality of wooden form seats, I tell myself never again. Because the only part of those achingly boring hours I would ever want back is the 75 seconds it took my child to receive an award, flit across the stage dressed as a sunburst, or swing a poi. I’d gladly keep that 75 seconds of pride wrapped up in ribbons in my mind forever. And I’m sure my child quite liked me being there. The other two hours, 58 minutes and 45 seconds I add to the ever increasing pile I like to call “Time which could have been used to cure cancer or at least read a book.”
This is the time you spend in waiting rooms, at bus stops, in queues when you come to understand why God put the backs of heads where he did so we would have something to look at when we get bored to the point of screaming. Is that nits or dandruff? Dyed or natural? Air dried of blow dried?
This isn’t restful time such as sitting on a beach and breathing deeply while de-stressing. This is time where you are locked in conflict with your brain arguing that a) you cannot simply get up and walk out, much as all your senses are screaming that you do so b) just because Helen Clark did it with the Queen, doesn’t mean you can start sending texts and c) yes we still have two hours, 58 minutes and 45 seconds to go.
I’ve always been really happy that my children go to a school full of talented children. I know that, I don’t need to see them play the flute, twirl pieces of ribbon, sing, and give speeches. I have no connection with 99 percent of these children, I will never see them again and I don’t think the kids themselves are really worried who is watching them, as long as they can do that weird half smile and fluttery semi-wave to Mum and Dad just before they go on.
Nor will I find myself lacking if I never hear another school principal bemoan lack of funding, NCEA drawbacks or in one rare case a treatise on the changing values of society since he was a nipper. (Turned out things hadn’t got any better.)
The end of year gathering is also a form of elder abuse as grandparents are expected to join the stifling, heaving, uncomfortable throng. There is a real possibility they are actually enjoying the interpretative dance solo set to the theme from Star Wars, but they are old. Which means their arses are screaming louder than yours and they are unlikely to be able to pick out their grandchild from the back in the hall for the required 75 seconds. The last time I put my parents through an end of year torture session, my mother was convinced my daughter was the pumpkin when in fact she was the tomato for the entire three hours. On discovering her mistake there was a palpable sense of loss in the air at having devoted so much reflected pride to a stranger’s child. I haven’t encouraged her to attend again and my husband later confessed he thought our daughter was the banana.
And I never, ever leave an end of year event without feeling enormously grateful that there are people on this earth who are prepared to be teachers. Because they rally, cajole and organise the very children who have tortured them throughout the year.
The only consolation left is that even if the space-time continuum is shattered or I fall through a wormhole into an alternative universe, sooner or later – well, later – the torture will come to an end. I can even tell you when – in exactly two hours, 58 minutes and 45 seconds.

Image by Anthony Ellison