A pocketful of practicality

LET me take a moment to pick your pocket. I mean your brain! About pockets.

There are so many other important issues I could and probably should be writing about, but I’m here to lighten your cerebral load, and mine, with unimportant piffle.

Pockets.

I love them, don’t you (no answer necessary). In fact, I feel pockets should have featured in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s My Favourite Things, because they are in fact, among them, much like schnitzel with noodles.

I appreciate these nifty sacks in my jeans, coats, shorts, shirts, skirts and dresses. Except that their presence in women’s clothing is sorely lacking, especially in professional clothing, which these days seems to constitute figure-hugging dresses and pants, floaty blouses and tiny, ineffectual jackets, usually without a practical compartment between them.

My work means I often carry a notebook, pen, phone, keys, business cards, camera….Ok – the camera can go over my shoulder, but if I already have a handbag there, it just becomes cumbersome. And running from danger, or towards deadlines, becomes, well, inelegant and lacking in vital speed.

Except for when I wear this one dress with the most bottomless pockets I’ve ever experienced! So deeply satisfying and right on Target (shameless promo alert), it is now very well worn. My keys, phone, pen, small palm-sized notebook, lip balm, a couple of mints and a credit card all fit in these two generous storage silos, leaving me hands-free. And only partially bulky, and jingly.

It’s just like a gentleman’s suit pants and jacket with their overabundance of easily accessible and/or secretive receptacles for … stuff, which men probably don’t even use, especially now that fob watches are a thing of the past.

Is it a marketing conspiracy between designers of womenswear and handbags? If women’s clothing remains largely pocketless, handbags will always be necessary, along with our imagined need to squeeze everything, except for the kitchen sink, inside them just in case.

These purpose-designed clothing cavities prevent a security blanket approach to life. They also prevent that quaint habit of prancing around a sticky pile of handbags on the dance floor, or tripping over the strap as the bag plummets to the floor during other…activities.

And I’m so over being cheated by that flattering pantsuit or snappy jacket that appears to have pockets, only to discover they are sewn-on pretenders. That’s just cruel! Almost as barbaric as those flimsy pockets that develop a fraying hole after just a handful of key insertions.

Maybe it’s about cost. Pocketless clothing does seem cheaper that the pouchified alternatives. But like diamonds, I’d prefer to pay for the real thing than settle for the zirconia version. Yes, it’s that crucial to my daily happiness, and the warmth of my hands during winter.

It’s time to stand up for our pocket rights! Women too, need and value pockets. Maybe even more than men.

For a sing songy reminder of what would we do without pockets, Sesame Street has this beauty from the YouTube vault.

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The electric blanket of guilt and other magical winter discoveries.

They say necessity is the mother of invention, which could explain why Perth’s recent and persistent freezing cold morning temperatures have colluded with my body’s inability to effectively circulate blood to my extremities.

I call it the perfect epiphany storm, and here’s why.

I’ve had several. Epiphanies.

Those beautiful, crystalising moments when something becomes so blindingly clear that the relief you feel is merely an echo of your brain as it expands slightly in size and weight.

Cogs meet and turn, and click……So thaaaaaaat’s why!

Ugh (my spelling, and hopeful shield against copyright war) boots – I’ve never understood the hideous things. Until now.

And my sensitive little feet want them desperately.

From their thick, rubbery soles splaying clumsily beneath each foot, to their stain-prone ovine hides, to the sweat-absorbing innards of woollen pelt, I fear necessity has invented actual reasons why these ghastly-looking cave shoes deserve a place in my post-modern footwear-worshipping life.

When it’s -1.6 degrees just a couple of suburbs away at 6.59am on a Wednesday, I need a full-body Ugh boot!

Which brings me to my (secret) leg-warming electric blanket. Can’t I just wear one of these ‘mother guilt’-inducing garments to work, or stay put in my animal-print lined cave (bed)?

Convention (like computers), says no. But I can imagine now, how Ugh boots and a ‘down’ electric blanket could really compliment each other on the sardinous train journey to Perth nestled among fashionable fellow commuters. Can’t you?

My beige gloves with the bow became an essential ingredient of my daily get-up since the breakfast temperature dropped below 12 degrees. Along with stockings, laddered or not.

On the back of the paleo diet, this new winter uniform is Neolithic in its sartorial relevancy, Aurelio!

In my desperation to stay warm, avoid fingers and toes that turn white with a lack of blood and buzz with an almost electrical numbness, these phalange-saving epiphanies have been sprouting thick and fast.

  • Put that bloody electric blanket luxury item on the bed, even if the kids don’t have one!
  • Oh, alright then! Get the kids their own electric blanket luxury items!
  • Buy a pair of godawful Ugh boots, and sloth smugly around the house in cocooned comfort!
  • The winter solstice was an anti-climax and the sun still sets way before 6pm!

133 days ‘til summer.

Wolf whistle-ee bites the hand that feeds

HE wasn’t anything special physically, possibly even under par – but that could just have been his scruffy garage work uniform. Perhaps he scrubbed up ok in a suit at a mate’s wedding, or even after a shit, a shower and a shave, as blokes are wont to say.

But I would never make an ‘out loud’ judgement specifically directed at him to let he and everyone else within earshot know what I thought of his appearance – beau or bogan.

That would be rude, bullying, arrogant – lord knows I’ve tried to model behavioural traits that contradict these to my two daughters.

I didn’t know the first thing about his personality. He could be someone my mother would love, or a fraudster, or very sensitive about being thrust into the spotlight. So me making an ‘out loud’ physical judgement would only be telling part of his story, a story I didn’t know intimately enough to tell accurately. And it would limit him to one thing only – his appearance. And we all know that’s only skin deep and changeable, depending on the day, the mood, the circumstance, the lighting for gawd’s sake.

So why do some men (or women) find it necessary and acceptable to let a woman (or man), usually a complete stranger, know they look above par…attractive…hot…to them, personally, in a way that also sends a clear message to others with ears in the area?

And are there times, in this politically correct age, when the controversial wolf whistle is acceptable behaviour?

If I’m honest, hearing a stranger wolf whistle me when I was in my mid-teens was sort of thrilling…I may have felt differently had I seen the source of this admiration. It usually came from a passing car. Probably driven by a balding married man with middle-age spread; or a pimply late teen with P Plates on the floor beside a clinking crowd of empty stubbies. The beer bottles, not the shorts…

Somehow in my salad days, those whistles gave me an idea I looked acceptable in a public sense. That I wasn’t embarrassing myself with how I presented my very ordinary appearance. It wasn’t until years later that I realised the wolf whistle said more about the whistler than the whistle-ee. Perhaps those early ‘commenters’ had an inappropriate thing for young girls. **My skin has actually grown legs and is crawling all over itself!**

Inevitably, after a few years of sustained ‘comment’ I began to lose confidence, avoid or fear certain situations and cringe to my very core – my initial thrill had briefly turned to anger before nestling in plain old dread and humiliation.

I was 41-years-old before I stood up for myself, by standing up to my wolf whistler. My daughters were so proud!

As I arrived at my place of work, where I was a senior manager, I would park in the nominated car bay and start the 20m walk to my office’s back door. It was double the distance to the front door and in the rain, it felt triple that on those dark whistle-laden days.

As I made my way to the closest entry point of my workplace, I had to walk up to and past the open roller door of a neighbouring auto mechanic business. Men often stood in the communal access way, having smoko. I would nod and smile politely in greeting. It would be rude not to given I was walking straight past them in a relatively confined space.

This was all very normal and acceptable. Until. The wolf whistle. My eyes dropped straight to the bitumen as I walked more efficiently than ever to the door, willing it to be unlocked so I wouldn’t have to navigate my key into its sticky innards. The relief once I got inside that door was immense. It was a one-off. Incident over.

But no. It became an almost daily occurrence over about two weeks. And the whistler wasn’t shy. He would lean against the outside wall and blatantly make his comment as I came within metres of him. By this time I was worrying about it on the drive to work, I’d shared the story with a couple of close workmates, girlfriends, even my daughters. We all thought this bloke was an absolute tool.

It was making me miserable. I started to ditch the heels and wear flats, hoping to look less ‘womanly’, more homely, or at least less like the siren he thought he should activate.

One morning though, I was in a bad mood, some incident at home, and I was still stewing over it on the drive to work. The perfect storm. My dander was already up.

So I just let him have it, in my own understated, direct fashion.

As the whistle came, I surprised myself by changing direction and heading straight for him.

“Why do you do that?” I asked.

“I thought you liked it,” came his stuttering reply.

“No. I don’t like it at all. It makes me feel really embarrassed. Could you please not do it,” I stated.

“I’m really sorry. I won’t do it again. Sorry,” he blustered, visually shrinking before me.

“That’s ok,” I said, before propelling myself towards my destination and victory!

It never happened again and I’ve shared this story a few times, mainly as a way to subtly let men know women don’t appreciate being singled out with a wolf whistle and to let other women, particularly younger ones, know it’s important to step up sometimes, and say what you really think, without overreacting.

Everyone has agreed with me that this sort of wolf whistle is inappropriate. Except for one person. A former colleague, an English woman in her early 60s who said women should take it as a compliment, and that it was harmless. She said English men often did it and that they weren’t afraid to show their feelings or their appreciation of an attractive woman, unlike Australian men, who were more interested in their cars. While that sounds like a great theory, anecdotally, that is rarely how we are left feeling.

I can think of times I’ve wolf whistled my girlfriends quietly, but in a public forum, like when I’ve discovered them in the same aisle at the supermarket. And the look on their face is always one of embarrassment-slash-annoyance, until they see me. Then we smile and hug. This might be the only time it’s acceptable – among very real friends. When we know the whole story.

Mascara malcontent – an ancient first world problem

It’s just me, isn’t it…

I have an unhealthy dependence on mascara – extreme black, because black isn’t black enough. Noir, it’s not.

I don’t mean your mascara, the must-have mascara of the moment, or mascara per se.

I don’t horde it, sleep in it, or get sucked in by the unearthly claims some cosmetics marketers of the humble eye lash filler, tout.

No, it’s nothing like that.

My issue is this.

I can’t. Let. Go. Of. My old mascara!

Over many months (more than the three recommended by opthalmologists) I develop a trusting relationship-slash-addiction, to the way my particular brush intimately understands each of my individual lashes, and how the perfect gooeyness of the waxy pigment spreads on them so perfectly and evenly. And in a jiffy, too – I know my mascara so well that it allows me to deftly apply it in just a moment. Or two. No slaving over a steamy mirror for me.

But of course, inevitably, sadly, the tube’s contents get low, even though I have convinced myself its contents are bottomless. About a month after I have begun scraping the bottom of that skinny little barrel, I begin to admit that I’m going to need to buy – shock, horror – new mascara.

It fills me with such fear! Why? Because new mascara, as shiny and as exciting as it looks in its alluring-slash-confusing packaging, it never fails to disappoint me! Even if the claims of extra length, volume and thickness have raised my naïve hopes.

The brush is always too clean – I prefer it perfectly caked in aged pigment; the paint too thin – I prefer it perfectly caked in aged pigment. The whistle-clean brush and watery paint DOES NOT cover my eyelashes!

Like a balancing crane, I stand before the mirror cultivating a stiff neck for an inordinate amount of time so that the fine hairs growing from my eyelids are not naked in public. And it makes me late for work, socialising and life!

Why can’t new mascara be like old mascara! Revlon, Rimmel, Rubinstein – can you hear me! It needs to be viscous – I don’t have time to apply 127 coats to each lash every morning!

And so, what generally happens is, I go back to my old mascara. For another week. Or two. Why? Because I trust its performance even though I’m down to the dregs.

Then I swap brushes, mix pigments (not recommended by health professionals, at all!) and eventually – like in 5 days – the consistency and the new brush starts to become a little more malleable. It would be so much easier if the transition could be seamless, like when you run out of lip balm.

Then I wouldn’t have to store one of my favourite old mascaras in the car’s centre console, for emergencies such as these. And I wouldn’t have to feel as if my eyelashes are dressed only in their bra and knickers instead of the full outfit.

Eventually, my trust builds and again, I am in torrid love with my mascara. We go everywhere together, never disagree and rarely cause inconvenience or lash shame (yes, it’s a thing), until…

Look. I blame being a child of the 80s when it was not unusual for me to wear purple, blue and teal mascara…not at the same time.

In the 60s it was eyeliner, in the 70s blue eye shadow.

In the 90’s, actually, I’m not sure. I stuck with my trusty mascara…old habits die hard.

After all, historical records show that mascara was used as early as 4000 BC in ancient Egypt.

Even I know that mascara is just too old 😉

 

Be head strong

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I CAN be an arrogant arse at times.

I know! Some of you are saying, “Arrogant? No, you’re not!” (thanks mum, and Aunty Sue) but sadly, it’s true. And it could also be true of you – prepare to navel-gaze.

I admit this unenviable trait is not completely obvious – it’s not like I throw tanties at restaurant wait staff over below average food, or refuse to let cars merge in front of me on Kwinana Freeway. It’s something more subtle.

It’s the harbouring of ingrained attitudes that really are just plain selfish. Let me explain.

As some of you may know, I had a bicycle accident a few years back, and no, I wasn’t wearing my helmet. Apart from my bitumen-biting chin, my head remained injury free (on the outside, anyway) so I was very fortunate not to have sustained more serious damage…even when you consider my two broken arms, I got off very lightly. I thought I knew this.

Turns out I don’t . Or I didn’t. Until a couple of weeks ago.

With a long Sunday riverside bicycle ride tantalisingly ahead of me, I made the decision not to wear a helmet, and discarded it like yesterday’s news because “I’m an adult, I shouldn’t have to wear a helmet if I don’t want to. Bloody nanny state!”

Before I go on, the ride was blissfully incident-free. I rode along with an unencumbered head like some faux European, wind blowing through my loose locks, a sensory-overload smile on my face.

The riverside dual use path was a popular route and it was a bit like peak-hour traffic at times, especially with the addition of dogs, prams, toddlers, errant soccer balls and chatting or headphone-wearing pedestrians.

Slowly but surely, as I passed and was passed by my smug fellow outdoorsy types, it dawned on me that I had not seen one other cyclist not wearing a helmet on their precious head.

The realisation hit me like that bitumen did all those years ago and I immediately tried to rationalise it; the Lycra-clad racers needed helmets in case they ventured onto the road, it was part of their trendy uniform. But recreational riders, too, were wearing them. Maybe it’s because they are a bit doddery and have a higher chance of falling off. (Yes, I realise that was both arrogant and hypocritical).

The only person I did see without a helmet was a boy of about 13 and even if he is arrogant, he has youthful ignorance on his side.

Belatedly, I’ve decided I should know better and pledge not to endanger the lives of others or my own by not wearing a helmet when I ride a bike. There. Now I’ve typed it in black and white I have to honour it.

But seriously, being the only one not wearing a helmet made me realise how incredibly selfish that is. I was basically giving the finger to all other pedestrians in my vicinity, ignoring the fact that they were taking as much responsibility for their own safety as possible. Even if I caused someone to fall off their bike, their helmet would go some way towards hopefully protecting their cranium, and saving me the added trauma of feeling responsible for causing them a traumatic but preventable head injury.

Yep, sometimes I get quite cosy gazing into my own navel, despite the lack of lint furnishings.

I think it was all that fresh air in my hair as I rode along, giving root to some profound thinking processes.

Anyway, if I’m brutally honest, one of my main “concerns” about wearing a bicycle helmet is that it causes helmet-hair and makes me look even sillier (for those of you familiar with my rat’s nest, you’ll know what I mean). But, honestly the mat of hair created by the wind was no better.

Culturally, perhaps it goes back to women and girls being conditioned to think they need to look ‘pretty’ at all times. If that’s what prevents some of us from being safe, its well past time we discarded that baseless notion. As Swifty says, “shake it off”.

So, featuring far too many similarities with another community service announcement, simply put, if it’s not on, it’s not on!

 

NB – You have no idea the difficulty I faced trying to find a useable image of a woman wearing head armour! These femme fatales were either holding their helmet for show or it just didn’t feature in their warrior uniform, replaced instead by arbitrary long flowing locks. (teamed with very prominent breasts, but that’s another story)…. 

 

Howling with a heavy brogue

IF a man indulges in casual sexism in an unintelligible accent, is he really being an ignorant oaf?

Or consider this.

If a woman doesn’t realise she is the butt of a man’s casual sexism, does it mean she’s no longer a feminist?

Hard hitting questions, all.

This post is a confusing one for me to write – so I’ll just tell it as it happened, because, it was an amusing blip in my otherwise ordinary day.

It was a Monday. I’d happily survived another one and was walking post-work from the train station to where I park the car – about a five minute walk; I’ve convinced myself if I don’t have time for formal exercise on any given day, at least I walked briskly for 10 minutes. And used the stairs instead of the lift. And only had two chocolates at 3pm with a cup of tea.

Deep in aimless, western society thought…what should I make for dinner, damn I forgot to book the dogs in for a groom, again, that champagne on Saturday was really nice, what brand was it…I was pulled from my mental meanderings by a rogueish brogue.

Well. I didn’t know that’s what it was until my mind had caught up with the situation – someone was talking to me, or attempting to.

As I turned my head toward the train station access road beside me, I noted a white 4WD ute had slowed to walking pace and a male driver, dressed in hi-viz, was talking out his open window. Probably to me. Because there was nobody else around.

My thoughts began to speed up, I checked my surroundings wondering if he was slowing to give me a warning about some sort of nearby danger, maybe someone was nicking my car, but how would he know which car was mine, and why do we suddenly think these weird sorts of things?

There was only one thing to do.

“I beg your pardon,” I genuinely asked, looking for clarification of the impending danger.

“Yaprollydoneffennohowotyearrrr,” came the repetitive, slur-ry reply.

Now, I know the helpful grinning man was repeating his statement so I could better understand it, but it sounded just the same, only slightly slower.

As my brain worked overtime to decipher it, and matching it with his boofhead smile, I instinctively realised bodily danger was not imminent. Besides, there was a fence and a car between him and me.

And then it clicked.

“You probably don’t even know how hot you are,” was the helpful offering of life advice, in a thick Irish brogue.

And what was my brilliant reply?

“Okey doke.”

Brilliant! A wordsmith without the wherewithall to wield them.

Well, what was I supposed to say? And what was it all supposed to mean?

But, back to my first question – was this harmless gent a sexist oaf?

No. I think he thought he was giving me a compliment. Because, it’s a looong walk from the train station to the deserted car park and I don’t know how much more silence I could have endured without a reassuring ‘compliment’ from a stranger. Withdrawals already!

We women need reassuring that we are hot, don’t we. I will refrain from making a dad-joke about the weather at this point. (Ooops, was I being sexist then? Sorry dad.)

Was I being an anti-feminist by not calling him out as a sexist or in fact, not realising that’s probably what he was being? It only became clearer when watching this week’s hooha following Chris Gayle’s clumsy and inappropriate flirtation with TV sports reporter Mel McLaughlin. I’m a bit slow on the uptake some days.

I say inappropriate because it’s not nice to show someone up in public for your own entertainment. If a romantic relationship did eventuate from this shallow televised attempt, expect more of the same top quality respect for your feelings. Privately and publicly.

But, unsurprisingly, I digress.

In a nutshell, I was momentarily confused. I didn’t feel like a victim, because I don’t think our Irish friend set out to make me feel that way. I think Chris Gayle distinctively did. Ms McLaughlin certainly didn’t appear as a slaughtered lamb.

So, I am not an anti-feminist for just ‘shaking my head’ at the thoughtless things some men will do to communicate to a woman that they think they’re a bit of alright. I don’t think I needed to take any stronger action…I think my ‘okey doke’ will have convinced him beyond doubt of his stupid, sexist actions…pfffffttt!

But, seriously guys, what do you want us women to do when you offer an uninvited impression of our attractiveness? Scale the fence between us, clamber through your open window and plant sloppy, thankful kisses all over your dusty, stubble-pocked face, then use a hanky to wipe the spittle away and remind you to put your dirty work clothes in the laundry basket and not on the bedroom floor?

No. Well, behave then.

On another aside, we women don’t publicly voice our impressions of men’s physical appeal because from the moment we are born little girls are conditioned to behave politely and be sensitive to the feelings of others. It’s as simple as that. Or is it?

Blokes, it’s time to be awesome role models for the little men in your lives. It can’t just be mum’s job any more.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Picture: Norbert Rosing/Getty Images

 

 

Designer vaginas – the next must-have beauty treatment?

Is your vagina designer?

What? Don’t play stupid with me – Has it seen better days? Have people been complaining about its appearance? Does it need redoing, you know, like your holiday house décor, or your roots?

Because, apparently if your ‘ladyparts’ don’t look like a petite, perfectly closed purse you need surgery to fix that – a bit like those boobs in need of perkifying and that unattractive non-trout pout.

According to a gloriously pink full page ad in a weekly newspaper delivered to Perth’s most elite beach and riverside suburbs, local women should contact a particular ‘medical aesthetic centre’ to find out how they can get their own designer vagina.

‘Tighten vaginal tissue, remodel collagen and rejuvenate the vulva. Revive the sensations, revitalise the tissue of the vagina and improve urinary incontinence’ is the ad’s teasing hook line (and sinker), with a web address using the words petite and lady, because that’s what we all aspire to be, isn’t it!?

I mean, I don’t know about you, but I would love myself sick, and so would others, if my brain, pay packet, personality, role and presence on this planet was so much smaller, thinner and petite than they really are.

I’m so thankful I have the choice to get a designer vagina if I want one – hooray! Unless it’s just another way to make women part with their hard-earned and their self respect by buying into the pressure to conform to yet another sanitised, feminine ideal of sameness.

What is the perfect vagina? One that can adequately birth children and still function as a pleasure receptor and provider, surely.

If you need help with urinary incontinence, pelvic floor exercises work wonders and if not it’s a bone fide medical condition that may need specialist surgery; it’s not an excuse for a ‘medical aesthetic centre’ to charge you thousands to improve the appearance of something that is already unique, beautiful and functional.

Is this pressure to possess a ‘healed’ over vulva coming from men, if so, is there a particular age range flexing their muscles? Is it women – it seems unlikely, you can’t even show off the finished product? Is it the cosmetic surgery industry?

I’ll go with the last one – I’m informed there is a demand for the service at this western suburbs clinic, but advertising the designer vagina treatment perpetuates what is a sad, damaging cycle – it doesn’t just involve medically unnecessary surgery with a painful recovery but the reiteration of an unhealthy and inaccurate belief that as women, our natural appearance is not good enough.

I’ve even heard the frightening anecdote of a teenage girl so ashamed of her vagina that she is convinced she needs surgery – and she hasn’t yet seen what an amazing array of yonis are even out there, so that she can see she is perfectly normal, or given birth…but that’s a topic for another day.      

We cry foul at the thought of women undergoing female circumcision and/or genital mutilation. I don’t see how this is any different, except that the patients have been brainwashed into thinking it’s just a normal desire all women have the right to fulfil.

Get real. There’s nothing wrong with your vagina. Embrace it. And do your pelvic floors.