This juxtaposed life


Recently I learned that I love big cities but I also love little towns, too. I can visualise myself living happily in both of these locations, which either makes me adaptable or really quite confused.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about such juxtaposition, which also happens to be one of my favourite words. And strangely it has to do with rugby, so let me explain… the week before the All Blacks won the 2015 World Cup I spent a fair amount of time telling a bunch of Aussies that I don’t really follow rugby any more. In fact, I wanked on about how I much preferred the theatre and the “arts” generally to the game that is supposedly played in heaven (well, it will be now that Jerry and Jonah are there).

Up until that point I hadn’t watched a single game of the tournament, but found myself a few hours later screaming at my television set, while simultaneously scaring my cat, as the All Blacks sneaked over the line to semi-final glory.

A week later, I was again telling a bunch of Aussies (this time in Sydney) that I wasn’t overly fussed with who won the final, while simultaneously betting them 50 bucks a head that the ABs would be victorious. Their misguided optimism meant they were happy to take such a wager. A few hours later, after getting up at 3am to watch a game that I seemingly wasn’t interested in, I was one of millions of kiwis who witnessed the All Blacks triumph – and also started counting my winnings.

Later that same night, as fate would have it, I flew back to New Zealand for a short holiday. My dad and step-mum now live in a smallish town so the juxtaposition from my “home” in a big Australian city and where “home” now is in New Zealand is profound. And while I was there I realised that I liked both places equally because each gives me something that I need.

There’s no question I thrive on the frenetic pace of big cities. There are plenty of opportunities, plenty of things happening, and certainly plenty of weirdos, which helps to keep life interesting while also giving me plenty to write about.

When I go home to my parents’ house in New Zealand, the pace of life automatically reduces by about one billion. To me, the grass is literally greener, the food is literally fresher and everyone literally has an accent that I never used to notice because I had it too. I still do, to a degree, but when I’m in New Zealand a lot of people think that I’m Australian, which really is quite confusing for me.

This trip home involved many wonderful hours of doing not much but hanging with my dad. We spent hours talking about everything and nothing – an aspect of our relationship that has never waned in all the years that I’ve lived overseas. We took a road trip one day and cruised the back country roads in one of his vintage cars. I soaked up the magic of a day of just him and me, as well as the scenery, which seemed more vibrant and alive than ever before. I guess compared to the grey, concrete vistas that engulf big cities the visual contrast is pretty bloody obvious.

While I know that one day, if I so wished, I could live a more simple and quiet life, my reaction to the beauty of my homeland didn’t make me want to migrate back there again. It just made me happy that I come from such a spectacular place, which I can visit whenever my “busy” life allows. Then I get the best of both of my worlds.

And so it was that the day before I was due to fly back to Australia, I did something that reinforced the utter bullshit that I’d been talking just a few short weeks before – I just hadn’t known it at the time. The All Blacks were in town for their victory parade, you see and I happily jumped on a bus for the 90-minute journey to see them. And then when I got there, I joyously joined the throng of thousands of proud supporters on the sidelines.

As the Men in Black cruised down a blocked-off, rather unremarkable city street – on the back of utes with hardly any security or police and not a barricade in sight – I clapped and clapped and clapped until my hands smarted. I think there may have even been a proud tear or two, which I quickly wiped away probably pretending it was allergies.

And then with a massive grin on my face, and the honest realisation that you can take the girl out of New Zealand but not vice versa no matter how much I think I’ve changed, I jumped on a bus and then a plane to head back to both of the places that I now call home.

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.


An ode to aunties

Aunty image

When I was a child, I had six aunties. Through divorce and the passage of time, I now have only one. We farewelled one of my aunties last week, taken from her loved ones far too soon and without any warning. The swiftness of her passing has left her family in a daze, which is a state of mind that I fear will linger for many months or years to come.

I am an aunty to three nephews and one niece, who is also my god-daughter. I’m also “aunty” to about eight other kids who are no blood relation but whose use of the term “aunt” has mostly be thrust upon them over the years by long-standing friendships… and by needy old me. One of these ragamuffins is also my god-son so I guess that makes about 10 or 12 children who are in my life and whose lives, God willing, I may have some tiny influence on over the years. Not a bad thought at all for a “childless” singleton.

The passing of two aunties on one side of my family in just six months has smacked our proud clan around like never before. Indeed, the funeral service this week was held in the same venue where everyone had gathered to farewell another beloved woman just a few short months ago. The sadness was palpable as sons and daughters, husbands and brothers, and grandchildren and cousins gathered once more to say goodbye to a vivacious woman who loved life and lived it well.

Later on that night, while celebrating her life with quite a few drinkies, we realised that while this year there’s been two deaths in our family, it’d been some 25 years since the last one. A quarter of a century, during which time the children became adults, got married and started families of their own (well, apart from me, but I am still the youngest) and then all of a sudden (it seems to me) the cycle of life comes full circle and we’re all much older than our parents were when they had us, and now it’s our turn to say goodbye to them.

We also worked out that some of us hadn’t seen each other for decades. Such is the way of the global world these days I guess. Nonetheless, gathering for a funeral gives you a chance to say farewell to someone, regardless of whether they had more relevance in your past than your present. It is your shared familial history and the vivid memories of much happier times that you reminisce over. We spent hours talking about the past and sharing funny anecdotes but most of all we just spent time being together, sometimes saying nothing at all. Families are the very best place for things like that I find.

Of the three women our fathers originally married, only one is left and she has Alzheimer’s. It’s a harsh reality to accept but I suppose we don’t really have much choice in the matter. This is the way life is and if we live long enough, it is also the natural order of things – even though it still sucks big-time. I guess our family was blessed for those 25 years to not have to say goodbye to anyone out of order, we just didn’t know it at the time. We do know, however, that we will see each other again much sooner and for no other reason but to sit down close together to talk.

So, this is my ode to aunties. Those crazy women (me included) who let us get away with too much when we’re young, and who are still there for us years later when perhaps our own mothers are not. They’re the women who will have our backs until the day we die. We can confide in, and laugh and cry, with them, and they’re the ones we’ll always think of with love in our hearts when the Mother Nature eventually comes to claim back her own. That’s just the way it is so we might as well as have as much bloody fun with them as we can in the meantime.

And like my sister said last week to her teenage son, my nephew, before I boarded a plane to come home “Hug your aunty, bud. One day, you might not see her again”, maybe the next time you see one of your aunties, you should do the same. Or better yet, how about just giving her a call for no reason other than to say “Hello, remember me?”