Hand, and the Glory of Having It

My husband has been traveling quite a bit the last couple of years. A few interstate trips as well as Chile, Dubai, Russia, Canada and Germany. Now, pre-kids, it would have been all “I miss you” and lots of phone sex, but with two little people its an entirely different kettle of shit. It means early starts, lonely evenings, late nights, tears and tantrums and always running late. To childcare, to work, to events, always late.

So when my husband informs me of yet another trip (always in a public place where he is safe from my wrath), my reaction is always 1. FUUUUUCCCCCKKKKK, and then, because I am nothing if not industrious, 2. How can I make this work for me?

Andrew when he gets back from a work trip

There’s an episode of Seinfeld where George laments the lack of hand in his relationship. “We all want the hand. Hand is tough to get.”  At any given point in a relationship, one person has more hand than the other – they’re holding the power. To switch things around, George attempts a pre-emptive breakup. They stay together, but now, “Jerry, let me tell you something, a man without hand is not a man.  I got so much hand I’m coming out of my gloves!”

And as Andrew’s frequent flyer points accrue, so too does my hand. I got so much hand its coming out of my new Oroton bag, paired beautifully with that lovely new Gorman dress, that I’ll be wearing on my solo weekend away (between drinking expensive champagne and getting full body massages).

Now, working out just how much Hand you have can be complex, and will vary between individuals and couples. The critical thing here is to agree on a set value and terms of hand points. As a general guide, these are mine:

Work trip < 3 days: 1 hand point
Work trip > 4 days: 6 hand points
Work trip > 8 days: 10 hand points, plus 1 hand point for every additional day
Solo night out with friends, home by 12am: 1 hand point

Solo night out with friends, home after 12am: 3 hand points, plus 1 hand point for every hour after 3am
Either work trip or night out that ends up at a strip club because “it was the only place open”: as many points as I fucking feel like.

Of course, a good relationship is a flowing ocean of compromise, patience and kindness. You support each other unconditionally, and know more than anything you two are team. But if one half of the team is sipping on scotch and getting a goddamn lapdance while the other is on her third load of post-gastro laundry, well, friends, that’s when you have hand.

Management 101

In 2010, my manager used a magical time machine to travel from 1956 to our office, where he proceeded to make my working life hell. In meetings, he would loudly tell everyone that I was more than just a pretty face, he’d call me sweetheart and treat me like an incompetent, foolish child. Importantly, I was none of those things. Each day would begin with a new Most Important Thing to do, so that week after week, and month after month, I never managed to actually do anything. After he left, there was another.

A book I actually bought. Seriously.

There was also the CEO who was too cowardly to broach any kind of criticism when alone with me, but would happily ream me out when surrounded by his posse of equally egotistical general managers. My coping mechanisms included panic attacks in the toilets, extended lunch breaks drinking expensive wine, and hours spent at my desk with my fists clenched – too angry to be any kind of productive.

I’m sure you’ve had an awful boss – I don’t know anyone that has managed to avoid them. I’ve never quite understood how they manage to worm their way up to such responsibility when they have the people skills of a blind mole rat. How is it that people are so quick to tell us to put a stop to a toddler’s tantrum, but so happy to accept it as normal in the workplace?

So if you happen to be a Manager, a real-life proper manager of people, here a few hot tips for you:

  1. Don’t be an asshole.

Okay, turns out there’s just that one main thing that you should keep in mind. Look, there are courses and degrees dedicated to being a good manager, so you’re not going to find the answers in this little blog post. But as someone who has extensive experience working under managers, I feel completely qualified to give this one piece of advice.

For the last few years, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work for managers who are definitely not assholes. I’ve not been yelled at, or belittled, or lied to. I’ve not had my gender, religion or marital status referred to when discussing my performance. I’ve not been advised to grow a pair, or had my menstruation cycle raised. Amazingly, with all of those limitations, they’ve still managed to guide me, teach me, and let me know when things aren’t up to scratch. They treat me like person first, and it makes me work harder.

So please, Manager, don’t be an asshole.

Product Review: Razor Alliance

Not long ago, my friend Shaun, together with his partner and sister, launched the Razor Alliance. After weeks of empty promises of “free samples” and “I’ll hook you up, Gabi” and “stop using so many quotation marks, Gabi”, I gave up and placed an order online, like some kind of common person.

Razor Alliance promises a close shave for less – providing a reusable handle and disposable razors delivered to your door as often as you need them. Aside from individual products, you can subscribe to the monthly service which sees your razor needs completely fulfilled, at minimal cost. I chose the pink kit to remind me that I’m a girl and girls have vaginas that are pink.

The Winter Shave Zone: for optimum aesthetics and comfort
The Winter Shave Zone: for optimum aesthetics and comfort
Despite our shaky beginnings, I was thrilled to receive my sexy little black box of razors. I was eager to test them out, but I have a strict shaving schedule I adhere to. Because I am a lady in the truest sense of the word, I aim to shave my legs anywhere from 3 to 5 times per calendar year.  I received the razors in the middle of our first proper winter snap, but needed my extra fur to provide vital warmth.

With a wedding over the long weekend, I had no choice but to take blade to hairy flesh. Now, I’ve had two decades to perfect the leg shaving process, so heed these words: I still don’t know what I’m doing down there. I’m like a clumsy Edward Scissorhands, and my legs invariably look like I’ve been attacked by tiny swordsmen. Because I’ve been blessed with dumps like a truck, truck, truck and thighs like what, what, what, I don’t tend to wear anything too short, so my shave area is thankfully limited to the knee. Even in this small area, its possible to have to deal with a number of issues:

How to shave your legs; a pictorial guide
How to shave your legs; a visual guide
  1. The ankle. I mean, shaving around a little round bone is hard. And there are always a few sneaky little strands that are kind of lower than your ankle, almost on foot territory. It doesn’t matter how carefully to try to shave them – its impossible. They’re like the Catherine Zeta Jones of hair, and will glide between the blades of your razor to avoid laceration.
  2. The knee. Its a ball of wrinkled rough skin that hair loves to hide in. Knee hair will find safety in trenches of the skin that are impossible to access without taking actual skin with it. Which you will, of course.
  3. The shin. For the closest shave, you’ll want to go against the grain. Because the hair on your leg grows in multiple directions, you’ll want your shave to follow the pattern of a late 90’s Nintendo cheat – up, up, down, left, left right, A, B, start.
  4. The calf. As with the shin, try to continue to – nah, jokes. If you can’t see it in the mirror, its not your problem.

The verdict
The razors are smooth, and the weight balanced well with the handle. I shaved slow and close, and my legs felt smoother than a pick up line. A 12 month subscription would make an excellent gift for the frequent shaver in your life – especially those men that are so hard to buy for! They’ll receive a monthly reminder of how much you love them – and who wouldn’t want that?

Oh, and if you are wondering how the razors fare on more intimate areas, I’m sorry to tell you that I’m not mad enough to bring 5 shiny, sharp blades anywhere near the most beloved part of my body. Instead I let a stranger pour hot wax on it, like any other sensible person.

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The Gaye Cure

Marvin Gaye first put it into song with killer lyrics like “you’re my medicine, open up and let me in, you’re so great, I can’t wait for you to operate.” Well, this is how I operate.

That Sinking Feeling

Fig.1. Highly accurate render of a public bathroom, where the tap is disproportionately tiny to the sink.
Fig.1. Highly accurate render of a public bathroom, where the tap is disproportionately tiny to the sink.

Lets just take a few moments to talk about giant sinks with short taps, specifically, why the actual fuck they exist. They seem to be a particular favourite in dodgy train station bathrooms where mirrors, lighting and a cleaning schedules are considered a danger to us frequent urinators.

Typically, you have an enormous sink, with an itty bitty tap. This is illustrated in diagram 1.

Besides being aesthetically absurd – like those body builders who clearly skipped head day – the practicality of using these taps is frustrating at best, and impossible at worst. The water flow is usually weaker than my husband’s excuses and narrower than a right-winger’s mind. All lathered up, you must somehow rinse your hands in the millimeters of flowing water cleared from the edge of the sink. This farce is illustrated in the cross section below.

Fig.2. Cross section of tiny tap water flow and how dumb it is.
Fig.2. Cross section of tiny tap water flow and how dumb it is.

Hand Hygiene Australia  provide very clear and helpful instructions on how to wash your hands (you can view and print the poster from here). You’ll notice that nowhere in the 11 steps is it advised to make intimate contact with the sink.

Why is this happening? How complicated is a standard bathroom design and installation that decisions like goddamn tap choice so poorly thought out? Why have all that empty bowl space but still have to wash your hands one finger at a time, palming the grotty sink edge like a young boy discovering himself?

How to be a Proper Working Mother

I really hope this kid was photoshopped into this stock photo. image via steppingstonellc.com

Fellow Mamas, listen up. We all know that balancing work and parenting is a great way to feel inadequate in every aspect of your life. Isn’t it fun to rush through every moment of your day, hoping your boss forgets about deadlines and your toddler magically toilet trains themselves?

To help you out, I’ve collected some actual real-life tips (or “hacks”, as the young’uns call them).

  1. THE NIGHT BEFORE
    You have few precious hours without kids running underfoot, and while you’ll be tempted to lie on the couch in a state of semi-consciousness, chocolate in hand and bra undone, spend a few minutes preparing for the day ahead.
    – Pack the kids bags, or something
    – Put a fresh bottle of wine in the fridge. And a couple of beers, just in case.
    – Brush your teeth twice – its unlikely you’ll have a chance to in the morning.
    – Layout clothes for the next day. Whatever you choose for you toddler to wear, will be the opposite of what they want to wear.
    I’ve heard some people also use this time to “catch up on housework”, but I don’t know. Seems like a lot of work.
  2. MORNING ROUTINE
    This is VERY important, so obviously, you’ll never stick to it.
    – Set your alarm to wake up about half an hour before your children wake. You can have a quiet shower, do some yoga and give yourself a solid foundation for the challenging day ahead.
    – When the alarm goes off, you’ll tell it to fuck right off and fall back asleep, until woken by a crying child.
    – Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! You’re running late now. You shower in under 90 seconds with one foot precariously keeping the shower door closed as your crying toddler attempts to enter.
    – Put on your underwear, but DO NOT GET DRESSED until the moment you leave home. Kids are messy, gross little creatures, and because you love them so much you’re vulnerable to sloppy breakfast kisses, toothpaste cuddles and something that someone found in their belly button. Ideally, you’ll want to buckle them into their car seats while still in your underwear, but your neighbours may object. WHY DONT YOU LANDSCAPE YOUR YARD, NO. 22?!
    – You’ll likely haphazardly be applying make up at the traffic lights while you drive to day care. Good on you! But avoid applying mascara until you’re at work. That way, when you inevitably cry after dropping the kids off, you don’t need to worry about wiping away black streaks from across your face.
  3. “Either give me more wine or leave me alone.” ― Rumi, cleverest man ever
    “Either give me more wine or leave me alone.”
    ― Rumi, cleverest man ever

    AFTERNOON/ EVENING
    Regardless of your frightening to-do list, or the looming deadlines, or the panic that sets in every time you look at your inbox, you have to leave work earlier than you’d like to pick up your beautiful children. After reunion cuddles, the childcare educators will tell you how lovely your kids are, that they are calm, play happily, eat everything presented to them, and even manage to squeeze in some crafts.
    The moment you’re all in the car though, SHIT WILL GET REAL.
    – To try minimise the sound of satan’s roar emanating from the backseat, make sure you have some snacks on hand. As above, the snacks you have will be the opposite of the snacks they want.
    – Discreetly insert some headphones and play your happy music of choice. Compared to the screaming echoing hellhole you’re in, heavy metal will seem like a lullaby.
    – Once home, feed them dinner as quickly as possible. TV is an excellent way of doing this – let the dulcet toot toot of Thomas and his Friends seduce your little ones into sitting still and mindlessly scoffing their dinner. Yes, you know this is the opposite of optimum parenting and you can feel guilty about it later.
    – In a pickle, breakfast = dinner.
    –  If they smell, give them a bath, or at least a quick rinse under the sink.

    Hey gorgeous! You’re almost there, okay? You got this. Take a deep breath
    – At this point, you will do whatever it takes to these kiddos into bed and fast asleep. They will be over tired, over stimulated and will develop a sudden and urgent interest in reading every book in their collection.
    – I recommend a big cuddly tickle off, with extra kisses and tummy raspberries. You’ve all had a tough day, make sure they know you love them and need them desperately.
    – Then the yelling will start. Them, you, them. Threats, bribes. Crying (them). Crying (you). Eventually sleep will come, and you’ll stagger out, shattered.
    – I mean, you could eat something healthy and restorative, but cottage cheese and Cruskits work too.
    – Cry, again, regretting the yelling and the threats.
    – Remember the bottle of wine in the fridge! Drink 1/4 glass, fall asleep on the couch.

Misadventures in Social Cues

For my 16th birthday, my parents  arranged to surprise me with my first flight! This was before the days of cheap air fares, when families tortured themselves with car trips that lasted a week and made Mummy drink until she couldn’t feel feelings anymore. I left the house at about 4.30am with my Dad and  my sister, Nina, under the guise of having to go to the seafood market to pick out some fresh crayfish for my party that evening. We’d then go into town where my Dad would buy a celebratory breakfast for us! I was so excited! Breakfast! In the city! Unfortunately, we took a wrong turn and ended up at the airport. We had to park so that Nina could go to the toilet, and as we walked through the goddamn airport, I still stood there wondering if all the good seafood would be gone, sold to people with better bladder control and a more reliable sense of direction.

“Hold this,” Nina said, handing me some papers. She stopped rifling through her bag, and stood there, with a stupid grin on her face.
‘OH MY GOD LOOK AT IT!” she yelled, flapping the flight ticket in my face.

Several years later, I went on a date. Of course, I didn’t actually realise it was a date until he tried to kiss me. Um, whoa, what’s going on here? I have a boyfriend!  I mean, I thought we were just two workmates going bowling, playing pool and having a drink. I even thought it was weird when he gently touched my thigh in the car but I guess his hand slipped. Is that what a date is?

At a work function last year, I was speaking a senior manager who I didn’t yet know very well. We started talking about music, and discovered a shared love of Leonard Cohen. For those who don’t know, he is a wonderful poet, artist, musician and frequent visitor to my Fantasy Land and Happy Place. I happily explained that when attending his concert, I wore my most beautiful lingerie and a dress that wouldn’t wrinkle if left in a heap on his hotel room floor. After a few moments of considered silence, he said “Well that’s a very interesting story to tell about yourself.”

And that’s the crux of it, folks. I’m missing whatever magical sense it is that lets others read between the lines, that picks up subtleties in human behaviour, and that knows that you really shouldn’t talk about breasts in a job interview.

I didn’t get that job, and I definitely didn’t get Leonard.

I’m a MOTT Mum!

So you know how everyone says about having babies – “they don’t come with manuals!”. Bullshit. Because they come with about 1057 manuals, written by various experts of varying expertise. And if you are a real person living in this real life real world, you’ll be CONSTANTLY exposed and schooled ALL THE FUCKING TIME. Especially Mums!

For starters, you must absolutely breastfeed your child, unless you want them to be fat, dumb and poor. But like, don’t breastfeed them in public, because boobs. And hold off on solids until at least 6 months. Unless you want to prevent allergies, in which case, start at 4 months. But they don’t actually need food until about 12 months. And you should definitely just do baby led weaning. No, she’s not choking, she’s gagging. Teething pain isn’t a real thing, you know, it’s just your spoiled baby manipulating you into giving it love and attention. Those tiny things might look cute, but don’t let them manipulate you, because you’ve spoiled them into being assured by your safe presence. I mean, haven’t you heard of all those hardened criminals whose life of crime started because their parents loved them too much? Oh. My. God. You’re giving your kid toys that were made in China? I guess you don’t want to stimulate your infant’s frontal lobe cortex with organic wooden toys lovingly crafted by organic vegan virgin fairies living in tree-houses in the Himalayan mountains. Screen time? Why don’t you just give them a crack pipe and a lighter? And I hope you’ve started toilet training! Well, it only takes 3 days! But also, don’t toilet train too early or little Mary will end up with a continence problem to rival her grandmother’s!

I’m the sort of person who says “I’m the sort of the person who” and also likes to have access to all this information. I understand that recommendations are continually updated in light of the latest research, but I also am naught but a humble human dealing with shit. So my parenting philosophy is simply “Most of the Time”. Most of the time, I breastfeed my kids, because it works for me and I love it. Most of the time, they don’t watch too much television. Most of the time, I’m calm and patient and practice gentle parenting. Most of the time, I don’t want to lock the door behind me and drive far away into the night, as fast as my little Prius will take me. Most of the time my kids eat healthy food and play creatively. A little bit of the time, we have ice cream before dinner, watch Thomas, Peppa and my girl Ms Rabbit. Occasionally I yell and make stupid threats that even I don’t believe, and have even been so exasperated that I screamed at my 3 year old to please stop acting like such a child!

And most of the time, everything is fine. And if you’re the sort of person who wildly inhales the parenting blogs and bookmarks posts with dumb titles like “Stop Yelling and Start Loving”, you’re probably doing fine too.

My Couch

One day, when we’re better friends, I’ll tell you what lies between the cushions.

Notebook (2)

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