Friday, May 28, 2010

The Danger of the Douche

Isn’t social networking a glorious thing? Isn’t it the height of civilization? Doesn’t it make friendship an easy, breezy, commitment free blast? Won’t it keep you enlightened, but never frightened, by all the latest crazy fads hitting youtube? Don’t you feel good knowing the phrase ‘Facebook Stalking’ isn’t meant to sound disturbing?

But there remain hidden dangers – alarming risks we’re leaving ourselves open to. No, I am not referring to privacy. That old chestnut is a thing of the past – if you put a photo up it’s because you want it to be seen people, Facebook is a business why are we surprised they want to make money off the information we are willingly giving?

No, the real threat lies in the danger of the Douche. The Douche is the Trojan horse of the Facebook world. You decision to confirm their friendship will haunt you.

The Douche has gotten their wires crossed somewhere along the way, and found themselves believing Twitter and Facebook are the same things. They’re the ones that may have requested a Friend, but assumed they were getting a Follower. As a result they honestly believe you care about their thoughts, feelings and bowel movements. Then even worse than that… they start acting like John Mayer on crack, declaring philosophical insights with a knowing tone that implies we’re hanging on every word. Before you know it they're live-streaming their experience of sitting on a train and giving minute-by-minute coverage of a run-in with security at a department store as if hoping to give Perez Hilton a chance to cherry-pick his quotes.

It’s a rapid slippery slope, and the problem is when someone this self-obsessed and delusional gets going, it’s kind of mesmerizing. It is so hard to believe people this ridiculous exist that you need to keep checking in on them to assure yourself that it’s all true. Then you feel like enabler, then you judge yourself, and when you’re done judging yourself you go straight back to what you were doing before – judging the Douche.

Ways to spot the Douche:

1. They’re the type of person who will whip out their iPhone after being introduced to you, check the spelling of your name, and request your friendship on the spot

2. They will use Facebook to disseminate the link to a glowing review of their own work… provided by a childhood friend

3. They will offer up lines of poetry as they come to mind

4. They will provide occasional hints at their creative struggle, including the hurdles in completing their novel

5. They will announce they are compiling a manuscript of original poetry to send to publishers and ask if anyone can suggest some personal favourites from the Douche’s blog that should be included

6. They will reveal they are re-reading Nietzsche, then provide a quote as proof

7. They will give rueful accounts of being misunderstood by people who don’t see their talent

8. They're profile page will reveal via one line that 'i'm not like other girls/boys', but never explain why this is so... because as an avid fan you should just know they are an original soul who happens to dress and sound like a lot of other people eager to demonstrate how 'unique' they are

If you can spot them coming and ward off friendship*, then you will save time and frustration. Inevitably, the Douche unwittingly invites backlash upon themself. People can only take so much inane, condescending over-sharing before they lash out in anger via the comment button. It’s never nice, and it never works – it often leads to a Haiku to the Haters which begins the cycle once again.

Painefull Out

* = a term almost rendered meaningless online anyway

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Sickly Man

Mick is a bedridden, sickly man this week. My mother suggested I take him to the doctor. I told my mother Mick has the cold… and I’m not his mother. My mother suggested a home remedy I could brew for him. I reminded my mother that I am still not Mick’s mother. My mother told me to give Mick a hug for her. I was forced to stress that not only am I not Mick’s mother, but I’m also not his wife. My mother said the least I could do was give him a glass of orange juice. I gave in.

Mick’s still delivering tepid little man-coughs from upstairs, so clearly the OJ didn’t do the trick.

Full credit for being a team player though, at lunch he informed me he was going to lie in bed for the rest of the day so as not to infect me. Brilliant move - listening to him struggle to breathe properly was terribly distracting.

Painefull Out

Monday, May 24, 2010

My Mexican Lover Fernando

I’m not yet sure how I feel about high school reunions. I managed to be out of the country for my 5 year get-together, and my 10 year gathering is still 2 blissful years away (I like to hope I will have overcome my current unemployment affliction by then).

Who wants to hear about the marriage/divorce/pregnancy of the people I have been studiously avoiding ever since I finally shed braces, acne and a school uniform that included a kilt? There’s going to be the girl who gives me reassuring advice about finding a man (while showing photos of her dream wedding), the girl who had to toss up on whether or not to bring her own press clippings (she’s got 1 tucked into her clutch just in case), the girl who insists on bringing her boyfriend along (so he can be seen, but not heard) and the girl who’s looking to settle scores (and 5 drinks in, she will. What’s a shoulder without a chip on it?).

I imagine spending my entire time giving people the same biographical information, telling the same stories, reminiscing about the same ancient moments and then we all lurch off into the distance. I’m reliably informed 1 girl actually squatted and urinated in the street after the 5 year reunion. Sounds like a blast.

But then, today I was sent an email that almost makes all those conversations worth it, one that hinted at a story worth hearing in full. An old boarding school friend sent me this:

“i left in october, for columbia and we headed north, spent 2.5 months in panama, then to guatemala. after that ended up in mexico and im still here!

had no plan when i left and still don´t. not working, just travelling. bought a van.. which i still have so have been road tripping around.

i am travelliing with my mexican lover, fernando! im in his house now with the whole family... quite scary really. but they re lovely. i think the language barrier helps, who knows what each others saying but with a smile it doesn´t matter!”

Aside from ignoring the existence of upper case lettering… can anyone else claim to have traveled with their Mexican lover Fernando?? It’s like being given a window into a book about a redemptive journey of self discovery. Just take away the redemption and the discovery and add Fernando. Can you hear the drums?

In about 2 years, I will have fully recovered from this seething sense of jealousy. Then I think I’ll be ready for the full story. She can even bring Fernando along to the reunion if she likes.

Painefull Out

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Name Game

The other day I met a friend, only to discover that her name wasn’t her real name. The name we all knew her by (Meg) is in fact her middle name – she had simply decided that she preferred it over her actual name (Imogen). It was quite the revelation for everybody at the table. I didn’t know that was a thing. Am I allowed to come up with my own name, while legally keeping my old one, and simply introduce myself using it?

I’m toying with the idea of Delilah.

When do you have to reveal your true identity? Once you have revealed your real name, which one will people use? Which one do you answer to? I’m sure those closest to Superman/Clark Kent struggled with similar issues.

I get it. When I went to pre-school I lied and told everyone my name was Sarah. I guess I was just desperate to be a generic member of the large, overwhelming group of girls my age who were legitimately called ‘Sarah’ (kind of like if I was born 10 years earlier and yearned to be called ‘Jennifer’). Clearly I was desperate to fit in, and thus picked the title most widely associated with girls my age. In the future these girls will share names like Miley and Taylor.

Like so many youngest children, my elder siblings named me. They were inspired by a character from a popular mid 80’s Australian film (yes, my name is Mad Max). It could have been worse. I always feel sorry for any person called Richard – the jokes that come from having the first name ‘Dick’ work on every generation of children. Anyone under 20 called Winifred, Norman or Gerald also lost a special sort of lottery. Parents who invent names… get bashed enough, no need for me to join in.

I do love it when a family gets carried away by the naming process. It’s quite the feat that the Duggars have managed to give each of their 19 kids a name starting with ‘J’. Jinger and Jedidiah are the real unfortunates of the group – it’s not like mum and dad were running out of names at this point, Jason and Josie are both much younger. Special props to the parents who insist on rhyming names as well.

In the end, it’s always going to be a tough choice. Aside from giving life and emotional scarring, a name is the most permanent thing you hand over to your child. But I was under the impression you couldn’t get a do-over. Turns out I was wrong, an acquaintance recently changed her mind on the name of her son… 3 months after he was born. Of course she announced this via Facebook, so it’s all very official.

What’s in a name, really? If Barack Hussein Obama taught us anything, it’s that what someone is called can’t hold them back if they have potential. Prime Minister Judas is surely just around the bend.

Painefull Out

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pimp My Ride

The other day I gave my parents a lift to the airport. They were due at my place at 11am, and at precisely 11:02 dad came roaring into the house yelling at me to hurry up, stop dawdling, show a sense of urgency, stop mucking about, take him seriously, pull myself together and for god’s sake get in the car! The shock of hearing my father’s voice raised that loud actually slowed me down… luckily he didn’t see me pause on the stairs, he had already frantically run back out onto the street. I got into the car where mum, who was behind the wheel, was on the phone. We sat in tense silence for 5 minutes while she finished up, dad staring at his watch.

I didn’t take any of this personally. Dad’s a remarkably chilled out guy most of the time, and we weren’t even running late, but this was a special circumstance. My father’s personal kryptonite is going to the airport. It brings together all the variables that haunt him – packing, time, a hard deadline, traffic, paperwork and (in the most extreme examples) my mother. My mother is a brilliant woman, but she’s not famed for her timeliness. You could be sprinting to get the last train to the lost city of Atlantis, and she will hold you up because she’s just had a quilting epiphany and she needs to add a few stitches. All this comes together to haunt dad. The uncertainty of making it to the plane, and the sweaty panic this evokes is the stuff of legend.

Airports are dad’s Stress Vortex.

For some people their Stress Vortex is their annual attempt to quit smoking, for others it’s having the in-laws over for the full Mother’s Day weekend. Some people’s minds boggle at Christmas, and the family fun-ride it entails, for other’s it’s Summer and the threat of the cricket season kicking off.

Some people don’t have a Stress Vortex. That’s because they’re lazy.

My current Stress Vortex is based around my parent’s car, which I am babysitting. It’s full-time fancy. My neighbours would probably be pleased to see it gracing our street instead of my Red Wagon which has a dent/scratch on every available panel. My neighbours don’t get to see it though, because I’m so freaked out about damaging it in any way that I park it on a different, wider, more expensive street where I feel it truly belongs. The cars there wear smoking jackets and play polo in their spare time. I can barely bring myself to drive it, and when I do I show my rapidly approaching middle age by cruising a good 10km under any speed limit. I must be turning heads though – I received a toot of admiration from a truck driver as I crawled along the Eastern Distributor.

How can people with fancy cars even bring themselves to pull out of their gold-plated garages? I drive with reckless abandon because I know the only thing of value my car has to it is me (and that’s still being assessed). In my parents car it took me 10 minutes to perform a reverse park. In the Red Wagon I swerve in and know I’m suitably close when some part of the vehicle hits the curb. I’ve had to get so many tyres replaced the guys at the tyre shop call me the Black Widow.

Painefull Out

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Making the Sale

Does anything feel more dick-ish, than when one attempts to sell ones self? I imagine whores struggle with this all the time – how does one make a case for their professional ability without feeling like a giant knob? In the case of male escorts, I suppose that’s the aim, but for everyone else it’s a real struggle.

I have never spent so much time on a 2 page document in my life. That document is my Resume (also moonlighting as the bane of my current existence). Words and phrases I refuse to use include ‘goal orientated’, ‘go-getter’, ‘team player’, ‘leader’ or ‘track record of success’ – for one thing, I have never heard anyone use those words to describe me, and I don’t want to be the person who starts a trend. Those words and phrases describe the kind of person who creates their own committees and over-indulges in powerpoint presentations. Those words and phrases describe someone who is likely to ask you to “action that”… which IS NOT A THING. People who say “action that” are clinging to a catchy slogan the way Gretchen Weiners clings to “Fetch” in Mean Girls (“Gretchen, stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen! It’s not going to happen”).

So should I be honest? When I left my last job my boss’s farewell speech referred to me as “The most cynical person I have ever met.” Is that a selling point? One boss once asked me if I was retarded. Perhaps I should scratch him from my referee list.

Writing a resume is like being allowed to write your own obituary. Gloss over the war crimes, skate past the infidelities and allow that bankruptcy/embezzlement moment to slip your mind. I imagine Lara Bingle’s resume refers to her ‘ability to make headlines’ (and money from the interviews that follow), Troy Buswell’s states he has a ‘nose for business’ (not to mention chairs) and Tiger Woods drops in that he’s a ‘world class player’ (insert comedic golfing pun at will).

I have also been informed by my siblings that I will struggle to impress any employer the minute they figure out I am in Gen Y. My siblings are all bitter Gen X-ers who envy my overwhelming ambition, selfish attitude to life and current unemployment. Of course they can’t help their bitterness, I’d be bitter to if I had to spend my professional life being thwarted by Baby Boomers. Most of the Baby Boomers I know are also now worried - probably because they’re my parents and they fear I may need to move home soon.

Perhaps I should add a non Gen Y quality to the list of skills on my resume to ease the concerns of those who might pay me to work. ‘Am philosophically opposed to Peter Pan’s lifestyle choices’, ‘Does not partake in Twitter’ and ‘Is ashamed to share a generational title with Justin Bieber’ are all options I am considering to beef up my credibility. If I really was properly Gen Y in all those horrible clichéd ways, I’d simply auction off my services on Ebay.

As is, I’m left with a blank word document and the burning desire to eat next month. First I need a few more cups of tea, a glass of wine or 2 while I read the paper, then plan a dinner party. Then I’ll sample some Mint Slice, vacuum the lounge room and have a nap. After that, I’ll get back to selling myself via The Resume – I will totally action that.

Painefull Out

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ode to Mothers

If I had created life
I’d have a God Complex too
If I could always be right
And know just what to do

Then I’d be a mother
All-seeing and all-knowing
All-cooking and all-cleaning
Eyebrow cocked at tantrum throwing

With an unofficial medical degree
And a passion for weekend sport
Owning a collection of vomit-stained shirts
And stretch marks of every sort

A Mother Look is crucial
From her guilt-inducing glare
To finding the latest lost object
You could’ve sworn wasn’t there

She will always be on duty
She will nag you because, “I know”
She will learn to think, not say
“Well, I told you so”

Mother is not her definition
But one of many parts
A mother is a Woman first
Capable, independent, smart

She will fix you when you’re sick
She will help you when you’re in strife
And she will call you all the time
To swap details on daily life

But isn’t it reassuring?
To know there will always be another
One who cares, and hopes, and gives
Because she is your Mother

Painefull Out

Friday, May 7, 2010

More Important Life Lessons

In a thrilling and (I believe) just piece of news, it has been announced that the American remake of Death At A Funeral will not be getting a theatrical release in Australia. Rejoice citizens, we have been saved from one of the most pointless movie remakes since Valentine’s Day tried to pretend it wasn’t Love Actually minus any charm, wit or heart. Now if we can somehow thwart the release of Wog Boy 2, we may yet save the human race from itself.

The British version of DAAF is so superbly funny, it remains absurd that Hollywood thought it needed re-doing at all. The fact that Martin Lawrence is still getting jobs after Big Momma’s House 2 is even more appalling. If the trailer of the latest version of DAAF is anything to go by, it seems it’s makers still have a lot to learn from the UK original. The Brits don’t always make great choices (especially when it comes to cricket team selection, and how to punish convicts), but their movies are worthy of study. Which got me to mulling…

The Things British Films have taught me

1. First and foremost, things are infinitely funnier when done with a British accent

2. Americans are also often funnier when employing a British accent (see Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones’s Diary… but only the first one)

3. If you insist on gathering in a stately manor and surrounding yourself with snobbish, feuding relatives, someone will die (see Gosford Park)

4. If you insist on attending 4 weddings with your quirky, eclectic mix of friends, someone will die (see Four Weddings & A Funeral)

5. There is no setback life can throw at you that can’t be solved by dancing it out (see Billy Elliot)

6. If the above setback persists, try stripping (see The Full Monty)

7. Even the Spice Girls are fallible (see Spiceworld: The Movie)

8. If you are an old, venerated British actor and you haven’t been offered a role in the Harry Potter movies, you really should feel offended by now

9. Gwyneth Paltrow can be under-appreciated (see Sliding Doors)

10. Gwyneth Paltrow can be over-appreciated (see Shakespeare In Love)

11. Only the British could bring together Cher, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Benito Mussolini in the one movie (see Tea With Mussolini)

12. Women of all ages should be comfortable in their bodies (see Calendar Girls)

13. It’s true, school children really are much sluttier than they used to be (see the remake of St Trinian’s)

14. If you are standing beside Hugh Grant and he is dithering like a wet rag he is probably your soul mate, if he is leering, suggesting transparent clothing or in a fist fight in Colin Firth he is probably your biggest mistake (see Sense & Sensibility, Notting Hill, Four Weddings & A Funeral, Love Actually, Bridget Jones’s Diary, About A Boy, American Dreamz, etc)

15. Some people should stick to the small screen (see Ricky Gervais)

16. It is unwise to compare your age and achievements with the kids in the Harry Potter movies, you are better off reminding yourself that they are never going to escape the shadow of the franchise that spawned them (poor little typecast millionaires)

17. If you are standing beside Kate Winslet, step back, she's probably about to get nude. Good for her (see The Reader for most recent example, and lesson number 12)

18. There's nothing shameful about being a well dressed, brand savvy man, but it does help if you have a license to kill (see James Bond)

19. Of course the UK has more strong female film roles - they're wise enough to let women run the country (see Elizabeth, The Queen, The Young Victoria, Mrs Brown)

20. When the world is eventually overrun by zombies, and you must impersonate the undead in order not to get eaten, it's important nail their facial expression - "Vacant, with a hint of sadness, like a drunk who's lost a bet" (see Shaun of the Dead)

Painefull Out

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Fake Husband

The break-up isn’t going to be easy, there’s the emotional fallout to consider, not to mention the way the kids are going to react. I know we can still be friends, but that’s easy. It’s because we’ve only ever been friends… it’s my family that seems to be getting confused.

My poor housemate Jim has met my parents one too many times. I suspect they think we’re in the middle of some sort of romantic comedy – the kind where 2 people who’ve known each other for years turn to each other at the end and realize they belong together. We are not those 2 people. We have had several discussions where we have clarified we are not those 2 people. But until we can prove we are not those 2 people, my family may well cling to the idea.

When I received my invite to my brother’s wedding it was addressed to Painefull & Jim. It wasn’t your classic, unconditional ‘plus one’, it was your highly rigid ‘plus Jim’. Some of my nephews refer to him as Uncle Jim (admittedly he did attend one of their birthday parties dressed as a teenage mutant ninja turtle - Rafael I believe - complete with face paint and a washing basket attached to his back). He scores special baked goods from my mother, special shout-outs at family events and the spare bed in my old room has been christened ‘Jim’s bed’.

At a family dinner on Sunday (which Jim attended), I made some quip about my sibling’s kids being further confused by the fact that Jim and I live together. It was as if I had called everyone at the table Parking Inspectors, such was the defensive response. Snorting derision and purposeful mouthfuls of Chinese food abounded in between declarations of ‘no one being serious’, ‘we’re definitely not serious’, ‘no one’s confused’ and ‘we’re certainly not planning your wedding, drawing up a guest list and agreeing Autumn is probably best for an outdoor ceremony’. Maybe not that last one, but the gist was there.

Jim is my Fake Husband – the husband my family has in their head whenever they’re forced to imagine my future. They can’t imagine Colin Firth, Gerard Butler or Justin Bieber (too old, can't act, and who?), and they certainly can’t leave the face blank. Jim is their go-to guy, their bench warmer. I pity the woman Jim eventually does marry – she won’t just have to get through his mother, she’ll probably have to get past mine as well.

If my family ever does realize Jim and I are not star-crossed lovers, then there remains the high possibility that he will simply be adopted and take my place. Mum also spent a great deal of Sunday night introducing him to waiters as her son.

Then again, if they give up on Jim, there’s also my other housemate Mick. Jim will become the red herring, and Mick will Mr Darcy his way into their lives to take up his rightful place. Poor guy, doesn’t stand a chance.

Painefull Out

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Drunk Look

There are many things that are guaranteed when having a night on the town in Sydney. You are guaranteed to pay too much for a cab. You’re certain to see at least one girl wearing shorts that used to be considered underwear. There’s a high possibility you’ll come across at least one reality television aspirant hurling or snorting while providing commentary on someone else’s philandering fiancé during a visit to the bathroom. Also in the bathroom will be a bleached blonde talking about the bitchin’ new beamer daddy gave her, and a natural blonde gossiping about a brunette who’s crying in a nearby stall.

I can now add, with the assurance of experience, that a bouncer will look me in the eye and tell me it’s time to go home.

This Saturday past, I was walking in to the kind of mediocre establishment that seems to latch on to new music the second it starts being considered old. Benny and I were catching up with some friends who had moved on to the next watering hole ahead of us. Benny (a girl… great name huh?) was at least a bottle of wine ahead of me and swaying, as if being rocked by a gentle breeze. I was perfectly coherent, and considering heading home before the taxi shift change went down. Benny got in, I didn’t.

“I think you’ve had more than enough. I can’t let you in.”

This has happened to me so often in the past 2 years that I laughed in the security man’s face. Once I was watching a friend who was so drunk she was crawling under the pool table when yet another (vertically challenged) bouncer tapped me on the shoulder and told me to leave. Then there was the bar wench who, when I tried to order my second glass of wine for the night, had me escorted out.

My friends tell me it’s my Drunk Look. My Drunk Look is what happens when you place me within the vicinity of a bar, and people assume my natural air of sarcasm and cynical irritation at the world is actually the appearance of someone who is heavily intoxicated. Essentially my regular, default expression can easily be mistaken for a drunk expression.

And now there is proof. This particular Saturday night, after laughing at the security guy, calling my friends to bid them farewell, and watching Benny trip up the stairs and run into a wall on her way in, I had to ask.

Me: This happens a lot, and I am intrigued. What about my general demeanor gives away the fact that I am drunken, lecherous and highly unstable?

Bouncer: (missing all sarcasm) Your pupils are too big… and you don’t blink enough.

Side note: I don’t do drugs (in case the pupil business got you wondering). So there you have it – the Drunk Look exists. To avoid it, stare into light fixtures and blink as rapidly as possible.

After making Jim walk into 2 other bars with me to prove a point (a pointless point, because the first bouncer didn’t know about it, but a moral victory none the less), I went home. At home I danced so vigorously I threw my knee out (wow, my knee, I’m that old, next step walking frame). This going out business is clearly a young person’s game – I imagine that’s why I spotted so many 16 year olds wandering in and out of various establishments. You can spot them as they discuss Justin Bieber’s latest baseball cap choice, tweet about their general awesomeness and avoid smiling so as not to display their dental braces. But their pupils are bang on, and they blink like a dream.

Painefull Out