Tag Archives: opinion

I Need Some Advice

Questions and Questions

Hi there. I need to ask you a question.

Well, not so much a question as for some advice.

You see, I’ve got this situation I’m dealing with, and I don’t know what I should do. There’s all this emotional sub-text, and my head is telling me one thing, and my heart is telling me another, and… Can you tell me what you think I should do?

So, the situation is this. I’m…

Actually.

Before I explain, maybe I should find out a little more about you. I don’t want to waste your time. You know how sometimes someone gives you some advice, and you listen to it, and you think: Yeah, but you’re not really someone I trust to give me this kind of advice. You’ve got your own agenda here.

It’s like asking your employer for advice on how to pretend to be sick. Or asking your Dad for advice on which mini-skirt to wear on a first date.

And sometimes people just give you the wrong advice. I mean, you listen and all, and you say “thankyou” and “that’s a great idea”, but you know right away that they’re just plain wrong.

When I was a kid, my brother and sister and I would argue over what game we were going to play. So we developed a system where we’d each write five options on pieces of paper and put them in a hat and mix them up. We’d draw them out, one at a time, saying: “This is what we’re going to do first!”

And then we’d draw one and someone would say: “No…. I really don’t want to do that.” So we’d give ourselves a break and draw the next one. And in the end, we’d find what we all really wanted to do.

Which we could have done in the first place if we’d thought and talked about it a bit more, rather than relying on a system of luck and gut reactions .

But sometimes you think and think and think, and you just can’t work out what you want to do. And so you really need someone to give you some advice. To tell you what you should do. To lay it out in black and white and give you permission guidance to do the right thing.

And that’s where I’m at. So please, help me out. I need some advice.

So, the situation is this: I’m…

Wait.

Look, there are really only two options, and if you give me the wrong advice, I’m going to either (a) feel terrible, or (b) decide you’re wrong, and start questioning your intelligence. So just make sure you give me the right advice. Okay? Okay.

So, the situation is this: I’m…

Hold on.

I don’t really know what advice I’d like you to give me.

Let me think about this a bit more and get back to you.

And then I’ll really value your advice.

Do you ask for advice from people who are going to give you the advice you want, or the advice you need?

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Filed under Opinion, Random Stuff

The Thin Rainbow Line

Boys and DollsMy boys love cars and trucks. They dig in the dirt. They run around the house having sword fights and defeating zombie invasions. They like both pirates and ninjas. They also have a play kitchen, with a tea set and play food. They have fluffy toys and dolls and play at looking after babies. Last year, Big Brother spent weeks and weeks building The Ultimate Dollhouse out of shoe boxes, and then decorating it with matchstick furniture, frilly curtains, and artwork on the walls.

Both boys like trying on make-up and wearing my high heels. They also like making fart-noises at the dinner table.

Big Brother’s favourite colour has always been pink. He likes frills and sparkles and fairies. He likes having his nails painted. His ideal Treat Day is shoe shopping and a hair cut.

Or it was.

Because now he’s at school, everything’s changed.

His favourite colour isn’t pink anymore. Because “pink is a girl’s colour”.

He doesn’t like some of the music we used to listen to. Because “it’s girl’s music”.

He doesn’t want to hear stories about fairies and unicorns. Because they’re “girl stuff”.

He fights himself over his choice of clothes and activities. I can see it in his eyes and I can feel the tension in his body and the pain in his heart. And I can’t make it better.

I can tell him that boys can do whatever they want to do.

I can tell him that there’s no such thing as “boy stuff” and “girl stuff”.

But then he goes to school, and he argues with his friends, and he comes home feeling even worse than he did to start with.

“Mummy,” he said last month. “We were having a wedding in the sandpit today — not a real one, just a pretend one — and Schoolboy said that boys have to marry girls, and boys aren’t allowed to marry boys. And I said he was lying. And he said he wasn’t. But he was lying, wasn’t he?”

Because he’s six. And there’s no shades of gray when you’re six.

It’s not the legal concept of marriage he’s talking about. It’s the wedding that happens at the end of every fairy tale, the wedding that means Love. With a capital L. So I said, “Well, most of the time boys fall in love with girls, and girls fall in love with boys. But sometimes boys  fall in love with boys, and girls fall in love with girls. The important thing isn’t if they’re boys or girls. The important thing is the Love.”

“But Schoolboy’s parents said boys can’t marry boys.”

And then I’m stuck. Because I don’t want to tell my son that his friend’s parents are wrong. Or… anything else that will undoubtedly make its way back through the classroom to the parents in question. So instead I say, “Maybe his parents just don’t know any boys who love boys.”

And then he’s distracted by asking me about the boys I know who love boys, and the conversation trails off into me telling him stories of working in exciting places. Like retail stores.

And I don’t mind having those conversations. I expect to have many, many more conversations about love and sexuality over the coming years. Those conversations don’t make my heart ache.

My heartache is about gender roles.

It’s about my little boy feeling suddenly uncomfortable telling his friends he does ballet.

It’s about my little boy feeling ashamed for doing what he loves and being who he is.

It’s about my little boy coming to me a couple of days ago and saying, “Mummy, can I tell you something funny? Can you imagine (giggle) a boy wearing lipstick!”

And me not even realising why that’s supposed to be funny, and answering, “Yes.” And then waiting for the funny part.

But it wasn’t funny.

It wasn’t funny when I had to explain that boys are allowed to wear lipstick if they like it, and girls don’t have to.

I don’t like this sudden shift. I don’t like seeing my child having a great time playing with a toy, and then see him suddenly stop, put it down, and mutter that it’s a girl’s toy. I don’t like sending him out into the world and watching him struggle.

I don’t like it at all.

I wish I could wrap him up in love and paint his toenails bright rainbow colours and give him a ribbon for his hair and pink ballet shoes for his feet, and then let him run through the mud and build a city full of dinosaurs with lasers on their heads to fight the horde of brain-eating zombies about to attack.

I wish I could protect him from the gender-bias of the world. But I can’t. Not completely.

So I do what I can.

But I feel like I’m swimming against the tide.

No.

I feel like I’m using an umbrella to protect him from a tsunami, while walking on a tightrope above shark-infested lava.

But, you know what?

I’m going to keep walking that line, holding my umbrella in front of us, until my boys are strong enough to walk it on their own.

Because no matter how hard it is, my boys are worth it.

Worth It

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Filed under Life With Kids, Opinion

You Don’t Need an Audience to Do The Right Thing

awesome

I like stories.

So I’m going to tell you two. These are true stories that happened at different points in my life. The first happened when I was 18. The second when I was 28.

I may have told these stories here before, so please forgive me if you’ve already heard them.

#     #     #

It was Thursday morning and I was working my usual shift at the local library. In between shelving books and answering questions, my job was to check in the returns. Every morning I did this. I’d pick up a book, open to the back cover, scan the barcode, and stack the book on the trolley. This morning was no different to any other.

Until I opened a Large Print edition of a Ruth Rendell mystery and was faced with a mystery of my own.

I flipped open the cover, barcode scanner at the ready.

I flipped the cover closed. Had I just seen… Was the really…

I put down the scanner and carefully opened the book again. Then snapped it closed.

There was money in there. Lots of money.

I was 18 years old, working two jobs, trying to study, and living on ramen noodles slathered in cheap tomato sauce. Money was something that happened to other people. But there I was holding a book that appeared to be full of the stuff.

Gently, carefully, as though the cash would disappear in a puff of dream-stuff if I moved too quickly, I opened the book again. This time I kept it open. I flicked through the $50 notes inside. There were twelve of them. I had six hundred bucks right in front of me.

What I could do with six hundred dollars….

I carefully closed the book again, took a deep breath, and pressed a few keys on the keyboard.

“Excuse me,” I said to the little old lady perusing the Large Print section of the library.

“Yes?”

“Are you Mrs Newman?”

“Yes.” She fingers tightened on the strap of her handbag and she leaned away from me.

I held up the book. “Did you just return this book?”

“Yes,” she said. Her smile was gone. “Is something wrong?”

“No.” I proffered the book. “But I think you left something inside the back cover.”

She cautiously took the book from me and opened it. The colour drained from her face, and she all but collapsed into a nearby chair. “Oh, my. I…”

“Are you alright?” I was eighteen. I thought I’d killed her.

“I’m… Oh. Thank you. I’m always nervous about keeping money in my purse, so when I take my rent money out of the bank I hide it in the back of a book. For safe keeping. I must have forgotten it was in there. I’m so… thank you. So much.”

I smiled, waited for her to take her money, and then took the book back to the counter. She left shortly thereafter, and returned with a box of chocolates and a bouquet of flowers for me. I walked on air for the rest of the day.

#     #     #

It was Friday evening. My husband and I were walking through the mall on the way home, past restaurant after restaurant full of happy, smiling people intent on a good night out. We were heading home to have cheese sandwiches for dinner. We didn’t have enough money for restaurants or take-away food. (But on the plus side, we could afford sandwiches!)

“How about we get some Coke on the way home?” my husband asked.

“Sure,” I said. Because sometimes you just have to splash out.

So we dropped into a 7-11 and while my husband was grabbing the soft drink, I went to the ATM. May as well try my luck and see if I can get $20 out, I thought. (Although I was pretty sure I only had five dollars and some change in my account.) I put in my card, typed in my PIN and looked down.

Sitting in the tray where the money is dispensed was a fifty dollar note.

I picked it up. Fifty bucks. There was no-one around. No sign of who it belonged to. I ran it between my fingers. With fifty bucks, we could buy a piece of steak and some vegies on the way home. Or a bottle of wine. Hey, we could probably even go out to dinner.

Or we could do the responsible thing and use it to pay one of our massively overdue bills.

I flicked the note back and forth between my fingers while I pushed buttons on the ATM.

– TRANSACTION DECLINED. INSUFFICIENT FUNDS. –

We should still have enough in our bank account to just use EFTPOS to pay for the drink. And there was always the fifty dollars…

“Excuse me,” I said to the guy behind the register. “I just went to use the ATM and someone forgot to take their money.”

“Yeah…” the guy said, like he didn’t know why that would have anything to do with him.

“Can I leave it with you in case they come back for it?”

He looked at me like I was an idiot. Then he took the money, wrote a note about it, and put it in a drawer under the counter. My husband came back with the Coke. We paid for it (holding our breaths while we waited to see if the transaction would be approved) and then left.

And as I ate my cheese sandwich and drank my Coke, I was happy.

#     #     #

I’ve told people those two stories a few times over the years. Not to blow my own trumpet, but to illustrate the importance of not hiding money in library books, and to remind people to check they’ve got their money before they leave the ATM. And without fail, I get the same reactions from people.

When I tell the first story, I get people saying things like: That’s so sweet! You’re so honest! Not everyone would have returned that money! It’s a good job it was you who found the money and not someone else!

When I tell the second story, I get people saying thinks like: Why would you do that? You know the guy just kept the money, right? You should have just kept it. Anyone else would have.

Maybe people are right. I mean, who knows what happened to that fifty dollar note? Maybe the guy at the 7-11 waited until I’d left the store and then pocketed it and spent the night telling people about the stupid woman who handed it over.

Or maybe it was a couple’s last $50 and they came racing back into the 7-11 five minutes after we left, frantic that they wouldn’t be able to buy any food for their children, and were overwhelmed with relief when the cashier handed them the money.

There’s no way to know.

And here’s the thng: It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter what happened to that fifty dollars. It wasn’t mine to keep any more than the $600 I found at the library was mine to keep. Just because I couldn’t personally hand it back to the person who lost it doesn’t mean I had a right to keep it.

It’s not my responsibility if someone else chooses to do the wrong thing.

It’s my responsibility to make sure I do the right thing.

Even if no one is watching.

When have you been called an idiot for doing the right thing?

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An Extra $15.80 per Week

Money

This week the Australian Fair Work Commission decided on the increase to Australia’s minimum wage. After much debate and to-ing and fro-ing, the figure arrived at was $15.80 per week.

This means that those Australians earning minimum wage (all 1.5 million of them) are due a payrise. Yay!

But it’s only fifteen bucks a week. Boo!

Or… yay?

Depends who you ask.

According to various business-types, it’s an excessive rise and guaranteed to affect job stability and blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda.

According to students, youth councils, and other representative groups, it’s a kick in the teeth for hard-working young Aussies just trying to get ahead and blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda.

So, which is it?

When I heard the news, I felt the familiar stirring of Youth Pride and Teen Angst stirring in my gut. Yeah! F the man! We deserve more! Let’s have us a protest!

But when I tried to stand up in solidarity, my knees locked and I realised that I’m more Creepy Middle Aged Woman Holding On To Lost Youth than Youth Crusader For Justice.

And that got me thinking.

The fact is $15.80 a week isn’t much. You can’t buy a movie ticket for that price. You can’t buy a six-pack of beer. You can’t even pay the cover charge to get into some nightclubs. It’s a paltry amount.

But…

But $15.80 a week is $821.60 per year.

For a small business with three employees, that’s an extra $2500 dollars a year in wages. The unions were asking for twice that amount, which is excessive when you think about it from the small business owner perspective.

So is the raise too low?

The youth radio station I was listening to certainly seemed to think so. They made quite a joke of the whole thing. “I want to hear from you,” the DJ said. “Tell me what you’ll spend your extra $15.80 a week on. Bonus points if you come up with something that costs exactly $15.80.”

And as people called and texted and tweeted in with their answers (Fake dreadlocks! A McDonald’s meal! A bath towel!), I got to thinking.

I’m not on minimum wage. In fact, I’m not on any wage. I’m a Mum who does some freelancing work on occasion, and dreams of selling enough books to buy a chain of deserted islands. So what could I buy with $15.80?

And this is what I came up with:

  • Two loaves of home-brand white bread: $2.00
  • One stick of home-brand butter: $1.90
  • Two dozen home-brand free-range eggs: $7.90
  • Four litres of unsweetened orange juice: $4.00

For $15.80, I can provide breakfast for a family of four for a week.

It’s funny, isn’t it? When you remove the instinctive Disaffected Youth Mentality reaction, the $15.80 pay-rise seems pretty damn reasonable.

Or maybe I’m just getting old.

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Boston: Evil Acts, Epic Unfairness and a Message of Hope

Boston

My puppy woke me up at 4:30 this morning. An hour earlier than usual. I staggered out of the bedroom, told him to shush, and tried to go back to bed. He started barking again.

After the third trip from the bedroom to the back door, I gave up on sleep. I put on a pot of coffee, made myself some toast and sat down to write a blog post. I had an hour of free time before it would be light enough to take Buddy for a walk.

At 5:00am, just as I was at the halfway point of my blog post, my Facebook timeline exploded.

“What’s happening in Boston???”

“Is it true? Were there bombs?? Is anyone hurt??”

“OMG, Boston!”

“The news is saying two people are dead in Boston. Are you guys okay? Were you there?”

I could barely bring myself to click on the news links.

Not again, I thought. I just can’t take it.

And then, I hope no one I know was there. 

I looked back over my half-finished rant about a very First World Problem and I hit the ‘delete’ button. And then I read the news.

I cried.

But around and around in my head went a single thought. This is so epically unfair. Not the loss of life, or the injuries, or the shattered innocence of the children who were at ground zero this time around. That was all too much to process at 5:00 in the morning.

I just kept thinking about the runners.

The other competitors.

The people who had trained and trained and trained to run the marathon.

The people who made it almost 26 miles — and then watched the finish line explode.

The runners who (mercifully) hadn’t made it to the end. The ones who were within a mile of their goal, and were then redirected elsewhere.

For those people, that race will never be finished.

It will never be over.

No matter how many other marathons they run, in their heads they will always be half a mile, or a mile, or ten miles from the end of Boston 2013, watching as the finish line vanishes in a blast of flame and terrorism and unfairness.

Epic unfairness.

Later in the day, when the dog had been walked and the children fed and dropped at school, when I was standing in the supermarket trying to decide whether to buy lemon or lime scented dishwashing liquid, the full weight of the tragedy hit me.

The true epic unfairness.

The unfairness of good people killed in the midst of a celebration of strength and fitness.

The unfairness of people injured, lives derailed, and a long-held tradition besmirched with blood.

The unfairness of small-minded people committing evil acts.

You’d think that by this stage of my life, considering the number of times I’ve grieved and emotionally bled for victims of terrorist attacks, I would have developed some kind of coping mechanism; some kind of system where I could hear about tragedies and just be okay.

But I haven’t.

So I stood in the supermarket, one hand hovering in front of the dishwashing liquid, and I cried.

And then I came home.

Because there’s more important things in the world than washing dishes.

When I got home, I re-read Patton Oswalt‘s statement. I shared it on Facebook this morning, but it wasn’t until I read it again that I was truly able to appreciate the message of hope he offers. Here’s what he had to say:

Boston. Fucking horrible.

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, “Well, I’ve had it with humanity.”

But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”

Just take a moment and say it with me.

“The good outnumber you, and we always will.”

It doesn’t change what happened in Boston. It doesn’t minimise the terror or the grief or the sadness. But it does give me hope.

I hope it does the same for you.

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Why I Still Hate Halloween (in Australia)

On October 31st last year, I published a post explaining why I hate Halloween in Australia. That post has turned out to be my third most popular post in the history of The Happy Logophile. (The two more popular posts are the ones I’ve had Freshly Pressed.) It even resulted in me having the opportunity to be a special guest speaker on a local radio station, presenting my opinion on Halloween as a “Social blogger and commentator”.

I’ve seen a resurgence of people winding up at my blog over the last few weeks with search terms like Why doesn’t Australia celebrate Halloween? and I hate Halloween and Australia Halloween stupid. So I figured I’d break this post out and reshare the reason I hate Halloween (in Australia).

Halloween, also known as All Hallow’s Eve, is a holiday that is both new and old. While its roots can be traced back to ancient times, it has really only been celebrated in the modern way for 50 or 60 years, primarily in the USA and Canada.

More than 2000 years ago, the Celts lived in modern Ireland. The time between harvest and winter was an important one for them, and on the 31st of October each year they celebrated Samhain. This celebration mainly consisted of bonfires, food, and sacrifices to the Gods (mostly crops and animals). It was believed that the spirits of the dead could return on this night, and that the veils between life and death, summer and winter, were thinner and more easily pierced. So the celebrants would often dress in costume to hide from malicious spirits.

When the Roman empire spread through Europe and Britain, they brought with them their own customs and beliefs. The Romans celebrated the passing of the dead in late October, as well as a day of worship for Pomona, the Roman Goddess of fruit and trees. Both of these holidays were incorporated into the Celtic Samhain, adding an extra element of ghostliness and Pomona’s symbol, the apple, to the day.

As Christianity spread through the world, heathens were encouraged and then instructed to stop practicing their own celebrations. When that didn’t work, Catholic leaders began moving Christian feasts and holidays to coincide with Heathen feasts. Thus the day to celebrate Christian martyrs and saints was moved from May to November 1, and called All Saints Day — or Alholowmesse in Middle English. The night before, the traditional night of Samhain, soon came to be known as All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween.

The modern idea of Halloween in the US and Canada has only existed since around the 1950s. Although Halloween was celebrated in North America for a couple of hundred years before that, the traditions of today weren’t around prior to mid 20th century. But most of them date back to the older, heathen customs.

Costume wearing is from the Celtic tradition of hiding from mischievous dead. Trick-or-Treating was the Church-sanctified replacement for sacrificing food to the Gods. Pumpkin carving relates to the Celtic practice of extinguishing all hearth fires and then re-lighting them from the communal bonfires. Apple bobbing is a nod to the Roman Goddess Pomona. And the name, Halloween, is a version of the Christian All Saint’s Eve.

All of which is very interesting, but doesn’t explain why I hate Halloween.

I grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, without ever hearing about Halloween. Back in those days, no one in Australia celebrated it. Or, if they did, they did so quietly. There was certainly no costumes or trick-and-treating. And doing so would have made no sense. It’s the start of summer. Why celebrate something spooky when the sun is just starting to stay out late?

But when I was 8 years old, we moved to the States for two years. And, my oh my, didn’t I get an education in Halloween?

The food! The candy! The costumes! The candy! The bigger-than-your-head plastic orange pumpkin buckets to carry said candy! The songs and riddles and games! The parties! The candy! The decorations! Did I mention the candy?

I don’t honestly remember what I dress up as for the two years I was there. But I remember wandering the neighbourhood, going door to door to ask for candy, and having total strangers gush about how great we looked and drop handfuls of cheap chocolate and sugary goodness into our outstretched buckets.

I remember getting home and tipping our loot out on to the floor, and staring in wonder. And then eating as much as I could before falling into bed with a stomch ache.

I remember going to the most amazing party I’d ever been to, with witches and wizards and ghosts and goblins and a few devils. (I was too young to understand that all devils weren’t scantily-clad young blonde women.) We played games, and listened to ghost stories, and did some apple bobbing, and ate candy, and I had the best time of my young life.

I remember my parents going all out with decorating our house, and my Dad getting right into character as a mad scientist/psychopath, ready to hand out candy to all comers. I will never forget walking home after our trick-and-treating was finished, and meeting another group of kids who were just leaving our house. “Don’t go up there,” one of them said, his voice shaking a little. “I think there’s dead bodies. And that man’s crazy.”

I loved Halloween. Even more than Christmas.

And then we moved back to Australia.

We don’t celebrate Halloween in Australia. Just like we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, or the 4th of July. Halloween is not an Australian holiday. And after I got over my initial disappointment that there would be no more tubs of free candy or school days spent watching scary movies, I was okay with that.

I am okay with that.

What I’m not okay with is the way that faux-Halloween-fever invades Australia at this time of year.

Walk into a shopping mall, and everywhere you look there are cheap Halloween costumes for kids, tacky decorations, and spider-webs strung everywhere. The thing is: none of it is really for Halloween. It’s just a way to display dodgy old stock in an attempt to cash in on the idea that Halloween is cool.

And it is.

If you’re in the US or Canada.

Turn on the TV at the end of October and all you’ll see if Halloween specials. Even on Australian shows. Perhaps they didn’t get the memo.

Memo: We don’t celebrate Halloween in Australia.

Every year, one or two groups of children knock on the door looking for candy. And every year I say no. If for no other reason than because everyone (who celebrates Halloween) knows that you only trick-or-treat at houses with the light on.

Do I wish we celebrated Halloween in Australia? Sometimes. Actually, yes. Yes, I do.

But hanging fake cobwebs over the confectionery aisle in the supermarket and using Halloween Specials to boost TV ratings doesn’t mean we’ve got a holiday. It means we’ve got an excuse for more commercialism.

And that’s why I hate Halloween in Australia.

What do you think, am I just a cranky old curmudgeon (get off my lawn!), or do I have a point?

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