Offensive economics

Men for land

Yesterday I learned that as a woman my contribution to the economy is shopping. That’s it. I didn’t read this online on a “sexism for dummies” website or via some troglodyte’s tweet. No, unbelievably, this was a well-known economist at a highly-paid speaking gig.

Now before you wonder whether he was joking. I can assure you he was not. There was not a hint of humour nor irony when he delivered the following assessment of the economy (not a direct quote but enough to give you a rough idea of his archaic thinking): “The women consumer confidence index is also up. Women, you see, are responsible for economic booms or recessions because above all else they like to go shopping.” Silence.

I was there with a female colleague and admittedly we made up about five per cent of the audience given the industry I work in is male-dominated. But a bit like that line about whether trees still make a sound when they fall in the forest if no one’s there to hear them, just because we were in the minority doesn’t mean you have permission to be an ignorant prat.

I sat there white with fury after he disrespected nearly every woman in Australia. My brain was doing annoyed cartwheels while I simultaneously pontificated on what I myself would tweet about it in response (nothing as it turned out) or indeed whether I’d have the gumption to ask a question at the end of his presentation (which, from that point on, I stopped listening to) about whether he really was a cave man from the Stone Age.

I turned around to my colleague and the look on her face spoke (economic) volumes. Our male colleague, who’d invited us, looked on sheepishly. Funnily enough, he technically is our subordinate. Lord knows how we managed to score such plum “superior” jobs when we clearly should’ve just been out doing our bit for the economy by splashing some cash on clothes we do not need.

In the past 24 hours, I’ve been thinking a lot about that offensive economic comment. While I recognise that such entrenched sexism and outdated ideas are often more to do with the generation above mine (and thankfully not every man of that age – like my dad – believes such nonsense either), it sure makes me wonder how far we as women have really come.

My colleague sent me the image at the top of this blog after the function and pondered the same question: “This poster is from 1928. How far have we come in 87 years?” Sometimes it seems a million miles and sometimes, like yesterday, it seems we’ve made little progress at all.

For me personally, that stupid “economic theory” of course failed to consider the myriad ways that women in the year 2015 contribute to the economy. While there still may be pay disparity and less than favourable representation on boards, amongst other valid complaints, many of my sisters today are leaps and bounds ahead, financially and professionally, of their male counterparts.

One of my girlfriends is the CEO of a mid-sized company and she doesn’t like shopping at all. Another is a senior economist, who prefers trainers to high heels. I, myself, am responsible for the livelihoods of my staff as the editor of a national magazine. I am also the owner of rental property, which provide shelter for people to live in, which are managed by agents, who in turn hire tradesmen for repairs and maintenance, who buy their tools and whatnot from retail and trade outlets, which previously were manufactured somewhere else at some other time. And all the while, I haven’t bought one pair of shoes or sexy undies but it certainly sounds like economic contribution to me.

The economic tentacles of today’s modern woman are indeed spread far and wide across the country and the globe, and are much more complex than a proclivity for shopping. In fact, it is also usually the women in relationships who make the buying decisions on such things as, you know, million-dollar houses. I’m not too sure you just can simplistically call that “shopping”.

Finally, when the presentation was over, I turned once more to my female friend and sweetly said: “What a dick” because it really was the most insightful way I could think of to sum it all up.


Run, run as fast as you can

Running image

The finish-line was supposedly 250 metres away, but it might as well have been on another planet because all I wanted to do was give up. Everything hurt and I wanted to punch someone in the face. And the worst part about my suffering was that it was all my fault. I’d paid to put myself through this purgatory.

Four months ago I decided to teach myself to run. I’d tried various fun runs over the years and become adept at power walking over quite long distances, but when it came to actual running I could never manage it for more than a few hundred metres. Even when I was the fittest of my adult life in my mid-thirties, I couldn’t run very far at all. Back then, I was also still smoking and binge drinking every weekend, so my anxious brain often told me that to run too far meant a one-way ticket to heart attack city.

Six years later, when thankfully ciggies and grog were history, I suppose I could no longer rely on such illogical ‘medical’ reasoning to stop me running, yet still I couldn’t do it. B likes to run. I like it that he runs. He has nice legs. I tried to run to impress him in our first year of dating but I usually just ended up looking like a middle-aged, sweaty beetroot-lady who was clearly trying to astonish her younger paramour with her vigorous faux-athleticism. It’s a miracle that he took it all in his stride (see what I did there?) when I was mostly just making a clammy knob of myself while simultaneously worrying about having a coronary.

Then I realised that I’d gotten fat. Fatter than I’d ever been in my life. It seems that giving up drinking and falling in love at the same time may be good for your health and happiness, but not for your waist-line. Sure B and I often spent much time feeding each other organic chocolate while taking part in our saintly, mutual attraction sober-fest, but I didn’t expect that all of that love nobility would result in me looking like a walrus.

Because I am vain, I tried a personal trainer, spin classes, hot yoga, weight training, more power walking and that horrendous five and two diet which actually made me go a bit bonkers, but nothing worked. I was still wobbly in all the wrong places. My legs looked like two anaemic sausages that had been caught in a violent hail-storm and my stomach had more rolls than a Vietnamese bakery.

So begrudgingly I knew what I had to do and I didn’t like it one little bit. I thought there must be a more gentle way but the cold hard fat of the matter was that as a woman of 42, the old bod needed to be kick-started back into action big time. Eating a forest-full of salad, and upping my lady-like power walks, was no longer going to cut the skinny mustard when one is in mid-life. The only option was to run. Boo.

I downloaded a free app which strangely ended up being more motivational than my $75 an hour personal trainer. I started by walking 1.6km on the first day and by the end of week seven, I ran non-stop for five. I didn’t set any land-speed records, but I didn’t stop either. In a moment of euphoric weakness that same morning, one of my mates (who is a real runner) encouraged me to enter a 10km run in six weeks’ hence. Sure, I said, I’ll do it! What an idiot.

Over the course of the next 42 days, I ran and ran and ran. I think part of me was also running away from my demons. I ran outside, on the treadmill, perfected my playlist after much googling, lowered my pace per kilometre from a very old-ladyish seven minutes to closer to six and worked up to running continuously for eight (is this ever going to end?) kilometres. Oh and along the way, I lost 3.5 kilograms without starving myself to insanity.

Race day was Saturday just gone and it felt liberating for an A-personality like me to have a goal of just finishing the 10km distance. Of course, two kilometres in, I decided that I might as well try for a personal best for the first five, which I achieved, but admit now was a mistake. Because after that first half, there wasn’t anything left in the tank, plus I couldn’t get the sport gel bloody open so there was no delicious caffeine pick-me-up for me. Nope, I just had to keep on running as fast as I could.

I don’t remember much about the last few kilometres. I’d hoped that I could pick up the pace at the nine kilometre-mark.I even had Split Enz’s I See Red as the final motivational track. But even the Finn brothers couldn’t lift my spirits or my legs. I was rooted. I really, really wanted to stop but the crowds lining the route meant my pride wouldn’t let me. Bugger it. I was damned if I’d let all those strangers, who I’d never see again, witness me fail. I didn’t care if I had a heart attack. Plus I’d run all those days, mostly when I didn’t want too, so what a crap result would that be if I faltered so close to the mythical chequered flag?

So, I shuffled with what dignity I had left to the line. Never again I said to myself. As I crossed the line, I thought about vomiting but didn’t. B was there to congratulate me. He’d just run the same distance but looked like he’d just sauntered out of a day spa. I resembled a corpse. Then something strange occurred.

Within five minutes, I was checking my results and my pace per kilometre. Within 24 hours, I was back at the finish line, cheering on some friends in the half-marathon and marvelling at their awesome achievement. Within 48 hours, I was going for a light five-kilometre jog to “shake the legs out a bit”. And then the next day I jumped online to search for the next running event so I could work towards improving my time over 10km.

I still don’t really understand what’s happened but I do know it’s time for my run.

Ninja by name, ninja by nature

Ninja picEvery night our cat sleeps with her eyes open just in case she needs to defend herself against the ‘enemy’ through an astounding display of well-aimed scratches and bites. Alas, as she’s an inside cat, it is us that is her imaginary nemesis, so we grip our pillows tight in fear of the mad moggie who was appropriately named Ninja.

We never meant to adopt a kitten. We were supposed to rescue one of the cats on show at an RSPCA pop-up event, but none looked like “the one”. They just looked bored. We didn’t even venture near the kitten display that was crowded with disillusioned families about to unknowingly wreck havoc on their lives by taking home a furry bundle of “fun”. That fateful day, however, lead to a conversation about a connection who is a foster carer for rescued animals, which lead to us looking on her Facebook page and to a photo of Ninja aged four weeks who was slightly cross-eyed and adorable, which transgressed to an email about said pussy cat, which resulted in a visit where we fell in love with a 400 gram kitten whom we christened Ninja McJones.

But it was her back-story, too, that sucked us in. A man on Russell Island had gone into his backyard a week or so before and noticed that one of his dogs had something in its mouth.  That something was little Ninja. Where she came from no one knows. How she survived that experience no one knows, either. But her “saved from the jaws of certain death” story was enough to make us sign up as her potential owners on the spot.

We waited impatiently for a few weeks until she was big enough for us to bring her home. I must admit the first few hours were cuteness personified as she sniffed out each nook and cranny and learned how to use the kitty litter with wondrous aplomb. Unfortunately, rather too quickly, we also learned that kittens like to bite and scratch your hands, feet, legs, face, inside and outside the couch, laundry basket, newspaper basket, newspapers, magazines, plastic bags, shoes, shoe laces, electrical cables, every single piece of clothing ever invented as well as lick and chew your hair. She can also stand up on her hind legs like a kangaroo, which really is a sight to behold even if you know she’s inevitably about to launch herself at you.

Now for the first month or two we weren’t overly worried because she’s a kitten and they like to play – a lot. As time went on, however, we started to wonder whether Ninja, she of the impressive pounce and no fear – of anything – was maybe, you know, a little fucken crazy. It was about this time that I turned to B and asked: “Are you pleased we got Ninja?” and he looked at me with a half-smile and replied “sometimes”.

Meanwhile, Ninja’s weight increased rapidly so she was no longer the fluffy wee kitty. She also learned how to jump up on anything. Her favourite place is near a sink full of water on the kitchen bench and also the bath, because she (rather strangely I presume) loves water. No spraying water on her to calm her down or train her to be good. We quickly learned that to Ninja, water is nirvana. Last night she shuffed her face in my water glass five or six times. Maybe she thinks she’s human.

She jumped out of the window (we live on the second floor) when she was three months old and got stuck on our neighbour’s ledge but that taste of adventure means she now tries to escape out the door every single time we open it. I’ve chased her around the courtyard so many times – including in a ball gown  and heels – that it’s now part of my regular exercise regime. Last week, I let her come with me while I hung up the washing because she and I were both desperate for her to be outside. She took off when my back was turned and was gone for several hours. But as long as she didn’t get run over, I wasn’t too concerned because I knew anyone who found her would quickly give her back to us once they got to know her.

She’s bitten or scratched every single visitor we’ve had so she now is mostly relegated to my writing room (where she’s taken ownership of the $1000 egg chair) to keep everyone safe and in a new low the other night she bit B’s eyeball. Although he did make the mistake of trying to hongi with her (which is the touching of noses and is something she loves to do with me all the time) when she wasn’t ready or even remotely interested. He’s Australian, you see, so he didn’t understand that everyone has to be onboard to hongi. You can’t just spring a hongi on someone – even a cat. Us kiwis know this intuitively, of course.

As I write this blog, Ninja is in short spell of time-out because she does love to run up and down on my keyboard to help make my stories better. If Marley was the worst dog in the world, then Ninja must surely be the feline equivalent.

Lately, though, she is having very brief moments of stillness, where she even allows us to pat her and her purring is loud, long and happy. She also spent the whole day lying on my chest, giving me hongis whenever I wanted, recently when I was feeling under the weather and also a little blue. It’s at moments like that you that forgive her myriad moggie maladies – until, of course, her eyes widened devilishly and she slaps you across the face with her paw.