The great tampon hunt

On Thursday I became a business owner and I ran out of tampons.

You’re probably wondering how those two things are connected, but I’m guessing that anyone who has set up a business knows the answer.

You see, for the past two years I’ve worked as a freelance writer but – as the reduction in the number of these blogs proves – demand was far exceeding supply.

I only have one set hands and one mostly pretty good brain.

Now that’s a good problem to have but, like anyone else who’s been a freelancer, if I was sick, I couldn’t work, and if I couldn’t work, I didn’t get paid.

Plus, it is a pretty lonely gig. I had an open door policy to my study, but no one ever walked through it but my housemate or my lover.

So I spent many months cajoling one of my mates – who’s also an awesome journo and writer – to quit his job and set up shop with me.

I finally wore him down and a few months ago we started quietly to hatch a plan.

But something weird has happened to the hours in every day.

I’ve learned very quickly that start ups are more like: Chat to my business partner; do some work; have a meeting with the lawyer; chat to my business partner; do some work; have a meeting with the accountant; chat to my business partner; do some work; speak to the web designer; chat to my business partner; sign some tax documents; do some work; go to sleep. Do it all again tomorrow.

You see over the past two years I’d forgotten about meetings – not with clients – but the types of meetings with people like lawyers and accountants that seem to last forever and not achieve much but chew up the hours you could be working, you know, on stuff that makes you money.

Oh, of course, that’s because they charge hourly.

But back to the tampons…

You see as a peri menopausal woman, my need for tampons waxes and wanes with, well, the moon.

Some months I don’t need any. Other times, I need ones the size of sheep.

Yesterday was one of those days when I was neck-deep in some type of administrative hell when I realised that it was also one of those days when I needed one.

The thing is, I haven’t really done any shopping all week – and even if I had, tampons would probably not have been on my non-existent list.

Who needs food when you’re launching a business?

So, I looked in the bathroom cupboard to find it was bare. Then I tried my new handbag and the result was the same.

Then I tried my handbag before my new handbag –  because you don’t ever really throw away the old ones do you – and also it was a tampon-free zone.

I remembered about the handbag I had before the old one so I hunted through that like a wild peri menopausal woman. Nada.

I tried my toilet bag, then my three different-sized suitcases, which only held remnants of holidays that now seemed like a very long time ago.

Now never did I once consider walking the five minutes to the shop on the corner because, of course, there was too much work to do.

Then, like some brand-new business owner gift from the universe I found one solitary tampon in a long forgotten bag under my bed.

Then I noticed that in the lounge hung washing that had been there for three days and that the salad in the fridge was actually six days old.

My phone was also alight with text messages and voicemails from various friends that I had forgotten to reply to – some for the best part of a week.

In one of our 29 phone calls to each other every day, I told my business partner about my tampon fiasco this morning – as you do.

He replied that while he’d never had to hunt for tampons for himself, he did forget to wake up his wife and children this morning because he was too busy working.

So, while we start making plans to expand our business six months earlier than we anticipated, I guess the moral of this story is that if you’re starting a business make sure you buy tampons and an alarm clock.

And maybe a six-pack or two to celebrate at the end of your first week. That’s essential.

An overdue ode to fathers

I realised recently that in 107 blogs over nearly six years, I’ve written very little about my father.

I was a little embarrassed at this because, you know, he’s been my Dad for 45 years now so surely I should have devoted more words to him than I have?

It’s not that I haven’t written about him during my 40 years as a writer, but these past few years not so much.

I sat with that and then I had an epiphany – of sorts.

You see, my Dad has always been there for me in a calm, kind, and stable manner. Yet, he also has a wondrous capacity for joy, as I do, too.

No massive emotional upheavals have ever been a part of our relationship – perhaps because I’m more like him than I’m not.

But since we haven’t lived in the same country for more than half my life now, our relationship has mostly been over the phone.

In fact, Dad says I should write a book called “Conversations with my Father” because of the thousands of hours we’ve spent talking about everything and “solving the world’s problems”.

I know I was lucky to have been born to parents who taught us that we could achieve anything we wanted.

He’s always had my back and I know he’s proud of what I’ve achieved.

Although I’m not sure he enjoyed reading my book called Shag Buddies – but I did try to warn him…

Not that he listened because he can also be a “little” stubborn from time to time, too. He actually sounds like someone I know who might be writing this story.

I’m no saint and nor is my father but he has always loved me for who I am, regardless of whether he approved of some of my questionable decisions in my misspent youth – and adulthood, too.

I can’t recall him ever raising his voice with me, even when I clearly deserved it, and I can’t recall him ever being anything but upfront and honest with me. A child (and an adult) like me always needed that.

My boyfriend (yes, I do have one of those now and maybe I’ll write about him one day) has two daughters with one now reaching those tricky teenage years where she doesn’t want to hang with her Dad as much as she once did.

Of course, he is bereft, and while I can’t help with any parental advice, I do remember being a teenage girl of a divorced father.

I try to placate him with the knowledge that girls will always need their Dads, even if temporarily it appears they don’t, because I know I still do and I’m now, gulp, middle aged.

My best friend’s Dad died earlier this year and he, like my father, was a very gentle man. Unlike my Dad, who loves a good chat, he was a man of few words but those words were always golden.

We all miss him very much.

But his passing made me realise what a blessing it is, and was for her, too, to be born to fathers who were calm and authentic, and who choose kindness over aggression.

These past few years, as you know, my emotional heartbeat was focused on losing Mum to Alzheimer’s, which I guess is why I haven’t written about Dad much now I think about it.

Writers write about things that make their hearts sing or cry after all. Not so much the people in the background who quietly keep them on the straight and narrow without them knowing it.

All the while, though, he was there to take my tearful, and sometimes drunk, phone calls when I struggled in the beginning to accept what was happening to my mother.

When Mum was finally diagnosed, it was him that I called – even though they have been divorced for decades.

He silently listened to my snot-infused ramblings and has continued to be my regular sounding board as her illness continues year after year.

I know that even though their time together was almost a lifetime ago, he has also grieved for the woman who is the mother of his three children.

And he has remembered, through long-lost photos now found, a beautiful young woman who entered his life as a teenager and who didn’t deserve the ending that life has handed her.

In fact, the past few years have made me admire my father anew, hence this long overdue ode.

He’s always been a good man and he married a woman who became the World’s Best Stepmother.

A daughter can’t ask for anything more than that.

We need to talk about Harvey

When I was 19, someone yelled “show me ya tits” at me while I was at work.

I worked at a tertiary education campus, in the engineering section no less, and didn’t have to wear corporate clothes – so I guess they thought I was just another student as I strolled along the corridor and that it was therefore “OK”.


That event was 25 years ago – not long after sexual harassment legislation came into force. Not that it made much difference back then. Generations of bad workplace behaviour takes more than a new law to turn it around.

But I was one of the lucky ones.

My boss at the time was a man of many principles. He was probably the same age that I am now and was the father of two teenage sons.

As I rushed back to my office reeling from the type of language that I’d regularly encountered simply walking down the street, but never at work, I came across my boss and he could see straight away that something was up.

If our paths hadn’t crossed, I’m not sure I would have said anything because, well, men had often made sexual comments to me (and all my female friends) – perhaps because they believed they had a right to do so and we were just sexual objects, right?

It was a very “blokey” work environment but my boss was a softly-spoken, academic type of guy and when I outlined what had taken place he became something different entirely.

He was outraged and appalled.

Within two hours, he had identified the culprits and hauled them into his office where they were threatened with expulsion from their degrees unless they made amends to me in a number of ways – including a formal, and sincere, apology.

My boss gave me the option of hearing the apologies in person or by letter – I choose the latter because I didn’t really want to ever see them again.

In the past few weeks, with the Harvey Weinstein scandal, I’ve thought about that experience many times.

And it’s not as if it was the worst thing that has happened to me in my life as a female because it’s not even close.

What was so memorable about that was that my boss – a white successful male – acted immediately when he became aware of sexual harassment on his turf.

It’s quite sad to realise that was quarter of a century ago and it appears that in some industries not much has changed since such abhorrent workplace behaviour became illegal.

Of course, Weinstein’s behaviour was all about power and using his position to satisfy his creepy desires.

I read recently that the only way that a woman can truly protect herself from “getting into such a situation” – apart from some men simply acting like decent human beings – is to have power herself and that usually means having money.

While there is a supposed push to redress the gender imbalance in business and the arts, one only needs to look at the continued poor representation of women in board rooms and that out of the 18 Emmy nominations this year for drama or comedy writing two were women – and they were part of male writing teams.

In fact, a blind screenwriting competition I recently entered resulted in one female finalist and five males.

It seems that even when you don’t have your name attached to a film, the bias still skews to male stories rather than female ones.

The woman won, which I’d like to think was purely on merit, but does seem a little like tokenism to some degree.

I’ve tried to get better at not watching purely male stories lately and have been known to walk out of cinemas if the female characters are non-existent or their only dialogue is a vehicle to progress a male story arc. If there is less demand, surely one day there will be less supply?

Ditto why I haven’t watched such wonderful new TV series such as The Deuce, which is  “a look at life in New York City during the 1970s and 80s when porn and prostitution were rampant in Manhattan” or the delightfully titled “SMILF”.

One thing I’ve always struggled with is the huge number of TV show and movies that feature prostitutes or business meetings that conveniently happen in strip clubs.

I mean, really? How many people do you know that go to a strip club to talk about a new start-up business?

But we all know it’s about tits and arse because revolting men like Harvey Weinstein commissioned the story in the first place.

But I digress, what my reminiscing over the past few weeks has taught me is that I wish there were – and will be – more men in the world like my old boss.

The type of man who not only doesn’t partake in inappropriate behaviour because he has all the power, but the type of man who takes action when he witnesses sexual harassment of any kind anywhere.

Only then, I believe, will things truly start to change.