ON THE ART OF OBSERVATION

Maggie Kelly is on to you.

She's also on email: maggie.kelly01@gmail.com

ON DIGITAL DISSOCIATION AND WHY I NEED TO SWITCH OFF

I have a power button tattooed on the inside of my ankle.

It’s a little smaller than the size of a 5 cent coin and is also tattooed on a handful of my very dear friends. The tattoo needs little more explanation that the fact than we were on holiday, feeling merry (read: day drunk) and it was the choice between that or a picture of Jesus riding a dolphin in a clamshell bra.
Suddenly a power button doesn’t seem too bad, huh?
Anyway, this novelty number always gets the same reaction: a person bends down, pushes on the tattoo, sits up grinning and says, “Is that your On Button?” Or, if they are a little spicy, “Is this how I turn you on?” Everyone’s a comedian.

I was looking at it before. Usually when I look at it a faint whiff of Bacardi wafts past and I have a flash of memory standing on a picnic table declaring I was the reincarnation of Peter Allen. Not today, however. I looked at it, and thought, I wish that was real. I wish there was actually a big old power button that is connecting me to everyone else that I could just flick to ‘off.’

Relax, folks – I’m not having an Adam’s Song moment. What I’m talking about is this ever-thickening technological umbilical cord that is tying me to every single person I have ever met. Even with people I haven’t met. I am digitally exhausted and needing to disconnect. So, tell me – where is the off button again?

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My day begins with a beep, an alarm, a vibrate or a ting. Whether it’s an email, a text message, a phone call or a fucking cardiac arrest alarm tone – it’s not real. It’s not a kiss on the forehead, or a cat licking my arm, or the sun shining through the curtain. It’s a piece of technology designed to be so annoying that I MUST look at it NOW.
So, that’s how we begin. For the rest of the day, I am hog-tied to a variety of devices connecting me to a variety of people – important people. People who want a response. People who warrant a response. Whether it’s my mother, my boss, my sister overseas, my boyfriend, my best friend or my nail salon lady who text messages me to ask how my manicure is going: these people need an answer. Simply not answering would spell disaster. I would either be fired, or dumped, or have my mother calling the police because she can’t reach her daughter…and don’t even get me started on my nail lady. She would be extremely distressed.
And then, the day ends. You are in bed, drifting off, when the phone or laptop will make one last defiant shriek for your attention, and with just a glance of the neon white screen, you’re dragged back from a state of sleep into the busy, loud, world of technology. Did you reply to the email? Did you message your friend back? What’s happening on Facebook? Who liked your picture? Busy, busy, busy.

So busy online, in fact, that reality begins to take second stage. I would say the majority of my significant social interaction occurs online. Take a minute to process that. The majority of my talking, my complimenting, my exchanging of love and ideas, my “just wanting to say I’m thinking of you” is happening online.

Wow, guys. That sucks.

Similarly, my work has shifted from an office environment to online environment. Gone are the days of walking into your office at 9am, working hard, and then being free at 5. Thanks to the technological cup-and-string that connects us, the work day begins when you wake up (“Have you not checked your emails yet?”) and ends only when you fall asleep (“Are you still up? I have a document that needs checking”). Overheard in a lift today:
“I’ve been in phone conferences all day…”
“Ugh, me too. When am I meant to get time to do my actual work?”
“That’s called a weekend.”
I often wonder if the school bell at the end of the day means anything to kids anymore, since everything we left behind at 3pm sharp – friends, dramas, bullying, schoolwork – is now shadowing life outside of the school gates, too.

So, in this eternal Groundhog Day of scrolling, typing, reading and double-tapping – when do we get a break?

Omg guys, light some candles and hold hands: I have begun consciously disconnecting. And yes, for those playing at home, it’s exactly like Gwyneth Paltrow’s conscious uncoupling. I’m recognising my long-standing relationship and co-dependence with technology and I am slowly but surely pulling away. DON’T LEAVE ME CHRIS.
Sometimes it’s easy, like leaving my phone at home if I’m walking to the shops to buy dinner. Sometimes it’s harder, like making an effort not to respond to the message tone when I’m half asleep in bed at night. Either way, I’m determined to try and ease myself back into a world that existed in one format, until the years of crooked necks and iPhone chargers came alone.

What I am realising, sadly, is that total disconnection is simply not possible. We blinked and suddenly communication became something new. I crave, with a nostalgic longing reserved usually for backyard sprinklers, jacaranda flowers and Golden Gaytimes; that excitement of human surprise. That feeling of having a boyfriend turn up at your front door unexpected. Or receiving a postcard in the mail from a friend abroad. I miss sitting down, at my desk at home, to write a letter. Getting a phone call on the home phone, one with a twisty cord attached to the wall, that forced you to sit still and just…talk. I resent the fact that we talk about our ‘online personalities’ and our ‘real life personalities.’ I mean, really, how often do we hear “she’s much funnier online”? (Me? All the time. I think I mumble.) As if we need to further split down our being into more separate entities than what are already required. Between work Maggie, girlfriend Maggie, friend Maggie, home Maggie, party Maggie and family Maggie – you now want online Maggie and offline Maggie, too? Diagnosis: John Malkovich Syndrome.

I have found myself, more and more, observing the ‘non digital’ moments in my life with a awestruck incredulity. Coincidences, romance, personal connection, deaths, births, achievements. What do you mean it didn’t happen online? It was just real? Did it really happen, if it didn’t happen online? And yet, regardless of the tangy realness and wonderful OFFLINE NATURE of the moment: niggling, somewhere, that itchy sensation of needing to check your phone. Or post that sunset on Instagram. Or tweet that fucking hilarious joke you just made. Conversations that happen in reality (read: offline) have somehow lost their meaningfulness…has Twitter become the new ‘sit around a dinner table with friends and red wine and talk about life’?

So, back to my urge to switch off. What happens if I do?
How do I work?
How do I talk to you?
How do I stay connected?

The fact that I even have to ask these questions scares me. I want so very badly to be able to switch off and train my brain to be patient again. I want to relearn the art of sitting in a waiting room and just…waiting. This isn’t even meditation, folks – this is just practicing NOT looking at your phone for longer than twenty minutes. Easier said than done, trust me.

Once they burned witches. Then they burned books. Then their bras.
…Will we soon be burning our iPhone cords?

ON BECOMING ONE OF THOSE RUNNING PEOPLE AND OH MY GOD I KNOW I HATE ME TOO

We all have them on our feed. Runners.

Runners are the worst breed of fitness-updaters as they just can’t get enough of sharing their goals and achievements. They love nothing more than smothering their updates with running lingo, distances, statistics, shots of sunsets and sunrises, shots of their feet in running shoes and, of course, inspirational quotes.
“Great run increasing average pace, but had to give up at 7km as the old hammy gave out. #healthy #running #fit #fitspo”
“Smashed my personal goal! 10km on the beach at sunrise this morning. #love #beach #fitness #happy”
“Carried a boulder on my back and two small mountain goats on either shoulder as I did the Bondi to Bronte run four times at 2am this morning. Light training before I move up to strapping 90kg weights to either ankle. Just a small Sunday morning workout #fitness #smug #betterthanyou #fuckhead”

I happen to be inundated with more running updates than usual at the moment, as I am doing some freelance work for…. these people…. on….this thing, ok, look, I can’t tell you what exactly. But what I can tell you is I’m spending every morning trawling the internet for updates about #running. And let me tell you, there are more #runners out there than you care to know. For an individual activity, it seems more to me like this lot are an underground legion bandying together and plotting. There is a whole sub-language that the average #non-runner would have no idea how to decode. And all #runners are in on it.

For starters, there’s the running apps that get directly uploaded to their various feeds, usually with either map of where they have run, or a charming landscape shot with an inspirational quote/ running stats laid over the top. Things I like to look at on Instagram: gross injuries, jewellery I can’t afford, and Kyle Sandilands’s girlfriend. Things I don’t like to look at on Instagram: a map of Surry Hills with a squiggly line indicating the shitty run you just did. (I bet you walked half the way)

Then there is the Running Banter. This is not exclusively limited to online conversations. In fact, I would have to flag this one as primarily IRL not URL.
“First run in 4 days mate,” he sighs. “This fucking knee strain just isn’t recovering. Might lay off the hill sprints and just gun for some 10km flat stretches.”
“Nice, nice” muses his friend, scratching his chin and wondering how quickly he can get away from his moron pal.
And thus, the conversation withers and dies because the Runner wouldn’t STFU about running. We. Don’t. Care. Do you hear me chatting with friends by the water cooler about the amount of sitting I’ve been doing? Comparing my sitting statistics with my neighbour? Measuring how heavily I sit and for how long for? No, but I can – and that’s a real threat because I REALLY ENJOY TO SIT.

Soooo this is awkward part.
There is – how can I say this – a, uh, twist in the tale.
By some perverted twist of fate, I have somehow signed myself up to the Melbourne Marathon in, let’s see, a month’s time.
Yes.
I am Maggie Kelly.
I am runner.

In four weeks time I am donning the lycra and joining a manic pack of the most resented people in social media to run up and down St Kilda road…just because.
And that’s not even the worst part.
The worst part is that I’M REALLY ENJOYING TRAINING FOR IT. After almost ten days of no drinking, no smoking and a couple of genuine-up-a-hill-help-I-can’t-breathe runs, I feel…great. I am going to bed early, waking up early, not feeling tired. I look healthier – my skin (oh god, do I ever shut up about my skin) is noticeably fresher and glowing, the omnipresent pinot bloat has dissipated and I look like someone who makes green smoothies at least – AT LEAST - three times a week. Hate on, haters.

And yes, I am aware that was me until 40 seconds ago.

I kind of feel like I should re-name this blog, “Things I Hate But Then Try And Don’t Hate Anymore.” What does all of this mean for me? An insight into a fickle and extremist personality diagnosis? A key case of Sydney optimism gradually taking over pre-ordained Melbourne pessimism? Or am I just short on ideas for content? (C’mon, who doesn’t love a good ‘before and after’ story…)

Whatever my newfound joy in dragging my battered body up and down hills at 6am in the morning means, I’m hoping it’s a phase that lasts. Mostly so I can scroll through the myriad of health and fitness tweets I see at work and instead of thinking – ‘m going to throw my shoe at your head – I can imagine myself jogging next to them instead, hi-fiving them as we chat about our torn hammys.

ON CHANGE

I was a late bloomer.

Boobs, boys, mascara skills and Aunty Flo were tardy arrivals to the puberty party, and seriously, I anxious for them to hurry up.

Perhaps it was because of my extended childhood that I decided to rush into adulthood so quickly. I couldn’t wait to join the real world. In fact, it was probably little over a year from growing boobs and making use of the Cold War style stockpile of tampons I had accumulated that I decided to leave home.

Young, and in hindsight, particularly ill-equipped, I launched myself into the dubiously exciting world of rent, flatmates, bills, feeding myself regularly and holding down a job. Although I often failed spectacularly – on the last point in particular – I am still here. Still alive. Still the defiantly independent kid I was ten years ago, still desperately seeking independence, adventure, challenges and change. Still struggling with the basic breakfast/lunch/dinner arrangement. Still wanting to quote Dr Dre if I say the word ‘still’ one more time.

Change represents something different for everyone. For some, it is avoided, a symbol of instability and loss of control. For others – like myself – it is sought after, the king tide of life that booms in, washing away the routine and leaving a fresh slate.

Change can be a surprise, or change can be something you create yourself. I’m particularly good at the latter – in fact, I quit my job a few weeks ago. I was commuting back and forth from Sydney to Melbourne on a weekly basis, and apart from collecting some sick frequent flyer points; I was living a split life. Half the week with my fabulous apartment and even more fabulous boyfriend; half the week in a serviced apartment with takeaway and another episode of How The Weather Changed History. I knew it was time to reassess when my Melbourne take-away delivery guy knew my name and order, and yet my local Sydney barista did not. (Barista, Mum – not barrister. Breathe.) So there you go. I quit.

Completely unaware of how old and stiff I had become, I arrived cheerily at my final day at work, shook hands and waved goodbye, drunk a shitload of terrible airplane red wine, landed in my new permanent home of Sydney, and then promptly burst into tears. Change! The life force that used to make me laugh manically and jump for joy was making me cry? What the hell? I wasn’t even pre-menstrual.

As the world of unemployment rolled in, and my impermeable old routine was watercoloured down to late sleep ins and a growing attachment to my tracksuit pants and Netflix, I fell into a depression of sorts. Change was here, and it was kicking my ass. The same power that buoyed me through a break up, sleeping on inflatable mattresses on my cousins floor when I was homeless, last minute overseas work trips and being alone in a new city had somehow grown an evil second head, and was destroying me.

It was nothing short of pure grunt and motivation (and a few “get real, loser” messages from family and friends) that eventually pulled me out of bed and back into the real world. Sitting here now in my local café, bunging out some writing, sipping coffee, and wearing form fitting/ non-elastic clothing, I am feeling myself again. Excited by the change. Ready for the adventure.
(And no, the barista doesn’t know my name yet, although he does give me a familiar smile each day. It’s a start. Either that or he wants to bang me.)

Like many unemployed folk in my area - shout out to Bus Stop Mary, y’all, no I don’t have a lighter - I spend my days sitting, sipping, watching. Students and business people rush back and forth: home to work, work to home, to dinner, to breakfast, to lunch, to the gym, to anywhere they are needed but rarely where they want to be. Busy days and busy nights and busy minds. It is little wonder that when change comes a knockin’, and basically fucks shit up, the general reaction mirrors mine: fear. We take such little time to stop, to be kind to ourselves, to imagine how we would cope should everything be turned on its head. Gen Y can tell you the name of the surfboarding pig in Hawaii or the latest death toll from the Gaza Strip, but probably not where they want to be in a few years time. We have bumped back the consistent and reliable constants – love, self confidence, friendship, bargain prices at Aldi – to prize the transient, time consuming variables of life – work, ego, social status, Facebook.

My goal for now is to embrace change. To go back to seeking it, to use it’s tidal quality to wash away all the flotsam that inevitably gathers in modern life, and have a clear mind to work with.

Here’s a little story to finish off.

My cousin, the same one who loaned her spare room, air mattress, remarkable fridge contents and patience during my difficult start to 2014, has just done something particularly cool. Married and managing an extremely high stress job (yes, they’re two different things), she recently took a personal hiatus in New York. Two weeks, by herself, embracing change. Practicing change. Sharpening her claws of independence, walking away from the safety of routine and feeling the almighty force of ‘the new and scary’ again. I feel like we could all do a little bit of this is in our lives – seek a challenge, a change, and use it to practice flexibility and a positive response to those times where Shit Gets Fucked Up.

That, and ditch the tracksuit pants and Netflix.

ON WONDERING WHEN GRANNIE CHIC BECAME CHIC

A fresh bunch of daisies stand in an old jam jar, perched on a bedside table.

A china teacup sits next to the flowers, atop a vintage copy of The Great Gatsby. A pair of horn-rimmed glasses completes the picture of vintage perfection.
Wait, no. The sepia tone of the Valencia filter completes the picture of vintage perfection. Wait, actually – maybe it’s the mahogany wooden finish on the table that completes the picture of vintage perfection. Wait, no, no, let me try again. It’s gotta be the fine lace and floral print nightgown draped over the four-poster bed with a sapphire brooch and 1927-issue Vogue near the painting of blue bells behind the four-poster bed behind the bunch of blooming flowers and horn rimmed glasses that completes the picture of vintage perfection.

Fuck it, you know what I’m saying. Old shit has become the new cool shit.

Let’s play a drinking game. I want you to scroll through your Instagram feed. Every time you spot a picture that fits the term “vintage perfection”, I want you to take a swig. Apart from being a sure-fire way to get wildly pissed, it’s also going to lessen the pain of realising the majority of your Insta-mates are a bunch of trendy morons, fast tracking their twenties to their seventies with every porcelain purchase they make at the Sunday markets.

Lace-trimmed bobby socks, two-tone brogues, tea-cup sets, cupcake parties, flower arrangements on your bedside table, ‘Sundays in bed with a cup of tea’ (don’t lie, you arse-hat, you’re hungover and I know that’s coffee) – Grannie Chic has taken over as the hot new thing. I blush with shame, as I too am guilty of uploading smug photos of a bunch of flowers, but in fairness it’s usually because I’m mortified I have spent such a hefty chunk of my measly pay on something that’s going to die in approximately 48 hours, and I’m likely to view less than three times. I’ve had Sea Monkeys that have felt like a better investment.

I would like to take this opportunity to blame Taylor Swift and Pinterest for the Grannie Chic Trend.
Taylor Swift has been parading around in her high waisted pleated skirts, and pin curl bullshit for just a little too long for my liking. And just for the record, anyone who pisses off Kanye pisses of me. I not only do not trust people who don’t dye their hair, but I definitely do not trust someone who wears red lipstick on the beach. WHO WEARS LIPSTICK ON THE BEACH?! (I can’t even manage to keep my bikini pants up in the surf, let alone wrangle haywire red lipstick across my face. I would look like the victim of a box jellyfish attack.)
And Pinterest? Well fuck you, Pinterest. I don’t need to know that people are hot-glue-gunning strips of velvet to their wooden coat hangers to prevent silky tops sliding off. Because now, when I can’t get my goddamn silky tops to stay on my goddamn wooden coat hangers, instead of being like a normal person and having a tantrum before letting the silky shirt sit on the floor of my wardrobe, I am now burdened with the guilt of knowing there is something I could have done about it.

Grannie Chic is some kind of bastard-child between the Nouveau Hippy movement (flower headbands, fringed kaftans, dolphin bongs) and the 20-Is-The-New-30 movement (22 year old advertising gurus, Jack London suits, buying dogs). It’s all about staying in, cooking gluten-free fruit flan and taking cute Instagram shots of your home-made whiskey sours in old jam jars. Where the hell is everyone getting these jam jars, anyway? The jam I buy comes in a plastic jar. No one wants to drink a shitty homemade cocktail out of an old plastic Aldi jam container, do they? No. Fail.

I cannot help but wonder what the repercussions of the Grannie Chic movement will be. Are all these trendy floral-clad fancies going to keep up the game until they are actually Grannies, and then reverse into dressing like a 20 year old? We are essentially grooming a generation of future slutty Grannies, mutton dressed as lamb, tits-and-arse geriatrics with shimmery eye shadow and scuffed Lipstik heels. Christ, it will be like the apocalypse, with a sea of skanky old people shuffling the streets. And I mean shuffling in the glow stick/ Ben Cousins kind of way.

Let me end this all with a lesson, kids.

I remember going to a school dance aged twelve looking like a present day Britney Spears. Total hot mess. I was an electrifying shock of crimped hair, kohl-rimmed eyes, glitter fucking everywhere and an outfit that would likely be better suited to a drag queen than a pre-pubescent child. I came home in tears because no boys wanted to dance with me. Little bloody wonder, they would have been terrified.
“Honey, dress your age. Then the boys will dance with you” was the sage advice my wise Mother offered. (Just for the record, I’m pretty sure it was my bottle-opener teeth and erratic dance moves that could have been to blame, I thought the outfit was pretty cool….) And thus, I offer up the same advice to my Grannie Chic peers: dress your age. Act your age. There is a long, long stretch of retirement ahead of you in which you will have more than enough time to collect miniature dachshund statues.

Do you want the boys to dance with you or not?

ON BECOMING AN OLD HAG AND WONDERING WHAT THE F*CK I CAN DO ABOUT IT

Tonight I did something I never thought I would do.
It was weird.
The internet told me to.

I put Vaseline…on my face.

Yes, Vaseline. That thick glutinous substance oft used by professions in which a plastic glove is involved. I took a great hunk of that clear goop and I smeared it across my face. Why? Well, mostly because the internet told me to, but also because I’m getting wrinkles. Deep lines, life scars of sleepless nights, stressed out days, and weeks and months and years of dirty living that are etched across my forehead, under my eyes, into my cheeks. Little whispery lines around my eyes like the creeping veins of dried up creek beds. Fine slivers of ageing criss-crossing my face like deep cracks in the ice.
Half-baked poetics aside, what’s happening here is plain and simple: I’m getting old.

It was a realisation that hit me pretty quickly. A real sudden death situation where you go from feeling one day that you are still potentially able to get away with buying a student ticket on the bus to wondering the next day why the fuck you don’t have a license and why on are you still getting a fucking BUS? Like, at least get a train. (I saw Sam Neill on a train once, which restored a) my faith in public transport b) my belief that trains truly are the most glamorous mode of public transport and c) my understanding that all Australian actors end up broke and on public transport.)
Yep, it was a swift kick to the ovaries: I was no longer a young spring chook. Am I old? No! Is my young adulthood over? No! Am I still able to wear Doc Martens in a cute, semi ironic way instead of a Mid-Thirties-Generally-Unemployed way? Regrettably, No (!) to that too.

Guys, huddle in, I have a secret: age is creeping up on me, and I have the sinking feeling my current lifestyle is only seeking to speed up the process.

Regular readers will know this about me: I love a drink. Love a fag. Love a late night, love a party, love a smoke-filled basement with $3 glasses of house red until the early hours of the morning. And yet, in the time which is not spent behind - or on top - of a bar, my life still moves at breakneck speed. I work interstate on a weekly basis, have been sent overseas twice already this year and maintain a vice-like grip on my work email that’s positively white-knuckled. (Quick check at 3am, anyone?) I haven’t slept in properly since around 2009, and my idea of a quiet night in is a Temazepam and attempt #37 at passing step one of my Meditation application on the iPad. If life was a candle being burnt at both ends, mine is currently a pool of wax collecting somewhere in the middle.

Unsurprisingly, my once resilient young body is beginning to say “Fuck it, I’m out” and then ripping it’s contract up in my face. It’s bounced back one too many times and is now looking tired. Tired, and wrinkled. And oh, trust me – wrinkles are only the beginning: consider now the purplish bags under my eyes, the dry and papery skin, the weak nails, the dull hair, the slight discolouration to my eyes. Even the prized Kelly Chompers are now starting to betray me with a twinge of You Tick All The Boxes (coffee, red wine, cigarettes) to them. And they’re big teeth, too. Ain’t no hiding them. It’s the beginning of the end, but I’ll be damned if I give up this easy. I’m on a one way street to Patsy Stone and I’ve pulled over to reassess. Or at least I’ll ask the bus driver to let me off.

Perched in front of my laptop as I now am, looking like an original glazed Vaseline Krispy Kreme, I can only begin to contemplate my new lifestyle. Am I staring down the barrel of Home Before Midnight-Nights and kale juices? Do I have to be that person who orders a mocktail, without saying “with vodka” or “just joking” afterwards? Will I begin to partake in dawn beach runs and bikram yoga and vegan cooking classes that are full of pottery teachers? In a culture and generation in which drinking, late nights and hard partying are the central core to our socialising, I ask myself the question: what’s more important, my lifestyle or my wrinkles?

It’s usually at this point of writing that I put my face in my hands and wail for the navel-gazing Gen Y moron I have become. But, greased up as I am, I can’t do that tonight so I’ll just whisper it sorrowfully at your instead as I glisten in the light. Folks, I fear this isn’t a case of wanting my fountain-of-youth-eternally-21-birthday-cake and wanting to eat it too: I am actually serious. My health may come at the cost of my happiness.

AND YET:
As I lay in bed last Saturday morning, clutching the pillows like a life raft in one of the choppiest hangovers I’ve survived in a while, I cursed that same booze that supposedly makes me so happy. It took away my planned morning run, a good chunk of my money, my quiet breakfast with the weekend papers. It took away my day and left me with a violent headache, empty bank account, vague embarrassing memories and yes, undoubtedly, another bloody wrinkle.

So unless this Vaseline works it’s magic (the internet doesn’t lie, does it?) then there may be a new chapter about to begin, floating a trend that I believe has been around for a while: VANITY. I’m gonna embrace that shit like it ain’t no one’s business. I mean, self destructive partying is like, très passé.

Yep, I dream of a day where I don’t cringe at the line, “The morning sun/ shining in her face/ really shows her age” in Rod Stewart’s dubiously accurate ‘Maggie May.’ I dream of fresh skin and rosy cheeks and general other signs of life that my current cadaver complexion lacks. I want some of that magical youth elixir that Miranda Kerr is somehow illegally harvesting. I want it all and I want it now! (Is it wrong I also want a wine?)

Watch this space.
….er, face.
Watch this face.

ON CRAFTY CHRISTMAS CUNTS AND FEELING LIKE I AM FAILING AS A CREATIVE.

I know it’s all I talk about, but like, social media is fucked, right?

It is truly a curious contradiction of our age.
On one hand, social media lines us up like duck-pout sitting, erm, ducks, organising us in order of the best to worst. And yet on the other hand, it connects us in the only way we can be connected.

So, like a self-flagellating moron I scroll through the endless procession of Best Dressed, Most Travelled, Nicest Tan and Largest Selection of Nike Fitness Gear on the daily. Well Bah, Humbug homies, this time of year has something special in store for the weak of ego…. The Craftiest Christmas Cunt.

Here is what is currently infecting my Facebook and Instagram, ie. ‘My Life’:
Homemade native flower Christmas wreaths.
Homemade individualised party bon-bons with self scripted jokes.
Homemade gingerbread biscuits with edible sparkles.
Homemade Miley Cyrus wrecking ball Christmas tree decorations. (Ok, that one was actually pretty cool.)
What the actual fuck, people? Did you not get the memo that as Gen Y, we are genealogically programmed to buy everything in crycovaced plastic? And, oh! That’s right, WE’RE NOT MEANT TO CARE ABOUT THINGS AS SENTIMENTAL AS CHRISTMAS?!

As my panicked weeks stumble closer and closer to the white hot danger of Christmas Day, the pressure is beginning to get to me. It would seem I stand solo among a sea of Frankie Magazine worthy Crafty Cunts who have spent the last month hand-gluing sequins on reindeer cards, and making tiny Christmas hams that will accompany their special spiced pumpkin fucking martini. I am alone. The other day, I told my mother I didn’t have a Christmas tree, and she called me sad. SAD.

I can think of a few obvious reasons for this Country Women’s Association inspired resurgence in crafty shit. Things are getting expensive these days. The standard Gen-Y occupation of Going Out And Getting Pissed requires a small mortgage in 2013. Hell, TV ain’t even free any more – I spend more on Apple TV that I do on my own dental hygiene. And let’s not even talk about how much it costs to entertain…a dinner for ten of your dearest friends would normally equate to the cost of going out to a restaurant, buying the restaurant, buying the restaurant owner a new Toyota Prius, and then buying the restaurant owner’s new Toyota Prius a full service and pine-scented air refresher and one of those wooden bead seat covers. Expensive shit, man.

And thus, the economic crisis has clearly herded the panicked, impoverished masses indoors to their 1982 mustard-carpeted living rooms, or VB strewn backyards, to sew/stick/stitch/glue/bake/brew their way to hipster heaven.

Outside, I stand on the sidewalk, face pressed against the glass of their living room window, shaking my head sadly as I contemplate both their fate and my own. For them, they will never know the joy of frantic runs around Westfield at 11pm on Christmas Eve, gathering presents, decorations and trying not to vomit up the three litres of egg nog you just gulped down for free from the stall out the front of Dan Murphy’s. For me, I know that I will never acquire the skill to mix more than three ingredients to make anything more exotic than a vodka, lime and soda. The last time I used superglue I attached the hand to my bottle, the bottle to my broken reading glasses and my broken reading glasses to my desk. The Crafty Cunts were doomed, and I was going down with ‘em.

As the title of this article suggests, I feel like a failure.

As vitriolic and jaded as I may seem, I too once enjoyed the crafts as much as the next Noni from Playschool. However, I then got older, and realised that spending money was way more enjoyable than actually making something. And now, as the festive season brings the beaders, bakers and home-made organic beeswax candlestick makers out of the woodwork, I face the double whammy insult of realising I am a) not festive and b) not crafty.

Well, as my favourite saying goes; “Fuck You All, Motherfuckers.”

Whilst you all while away the hours whittling down a eucalyptus branch from your backyard into monogrammed salad tongs for your boyfriend, I’m going to be strolling around the air-conditioned comfort of Myer, buying heavily reduced gift packs and sipping on complimentary T-2 samples. And whilst you bitch and moan picking crispy dead pine needles out of your carpet for months to come, I’ll be NOT packing away a Christmas tree and NOT removing tinsel and NOT trying to undo the super tight wire holding the wreath to the front door. (Or, if you’re my Mum, trying to undo the super tight white shoelace holding the wreath to the front door. Extra crafty. And I’M sad?)

So save your hand drawn Christmas cards, spiced rum sweet potato pancakes and recycled timber placemats: I’m done with you Crafty Christmas Cunts. I will take my disposable, pre-purchased, commercial ass out of here and take a Xanax until this nightmare is over and a new one begins in the wily form of 2014.

Merry Christmas to you all!

ON MOVING CITIES, CRYING INTO PILES OF CLOTHES AND MASTERING THE ART OF ‘FRIEND DATES’

Confidence is easy to pick.

I have a firm handshake and I remember people’s names. I don’t have a polarising laugh and I got my blushing fully under control a couple of years back. I’m damn funny on cheap champagne. I don’t mind speaking to groups of people without palm cards, and even if your name contains zero vowels I will give it a bloody good shot. My voicemail is so confident it sounds like Rhonda Burchmore after ten lines of rack. I welcome awkward hug/handshakes and I honestly don’t care if people see me buying boxes of tampons at the checkout in Coles. Hell, I’ll even buy YOUR tampons if you want.

Then I moved city.

In the space of a few months I have withered, shrivelled, shrunk into a shadow of my former crowing crowned glory. Someone offered me a slice of humble pie and I gobbled the whole fucking lot until I slumped down into a self-worthlessness food coma. Ah, Moving City And Making Friends As An Adult: a challenge that sounded so easy - yet ended up being one of the hardest things I’ve done in a long, long time.

+ + +

I’ve long since subscribed to the belief that there are just a few things that people should avoid doing as adults. There’s stuff that you simply lose the ability to grasp or conquer as the years roll on. Sitting cross-legged, for example. When I try and do that now for long periods of time, I lose feeling in several of my toes, start cramping in my knees and get hysterically giggly at the thought of a tiny, squeaky fart slipping out. Try sitting cross-legged on carpet for a long period of time – that’s even worse. There is something very specific about carpet itch – all I can think about are those damn vacuum commercials where they zoom into microscope images of tiny, translucent carpet lice. I’m itchy just writing about it.

Also on the list of Things Not To Attempt As An Adult: learning a language (it will ruin your personal perception of your own intellect forever), learning to drive a car (see above, plus, L-plates over 40 is embarrassing), getting braces (I’m just being an asshole now) and trying to teach yourself to like a food you have always hated. (Just on that last one – am I actually the only person in the world who doesn’t eat olives? Seriously? I feel like that guy at the bar who just ordered lemonade). I would like to take this opportunity to point out that I am a non-bilingual, licence-less loser with crooked teeth and a limited palette. So calm your tits.

The running theme through my list of Things Not To Attempt As An Adult seems to be, well, learning. More specifically – to give up learning. Going back and looking like an amateur all over again is a daunting prospect: I mean, isn’t the primary aim of adulthood to like … look like you know what you’re doing? GIVE UP NOW PEOPLE: IF YOU CAN’T ASK FOR A GLASS OF WATER IN FRENCH NOW, YOU NEVER WILL.

And yet - here I am, having moved cities, and learning to do something far more basic than fucking French. I’m learning to make friends again. Ya know, how to open your mouth and speak to a stranger. How to walk into a party and not know a single person. How to remember interesting conversation starters. (NB: “Did you know Oprah has six toes on her left foot?” does not fly). Re-learning how to establish yourself with people, in a new town, is difficult. These are forgotten skills. For a while there, we were being forced to do it almost daily: from preschool years to university years, walking up to a stranger and saying “Hi, my name is…” was not such a hard thing. As long as you remembered to include your name in that sentence.

Yet as an adult I have been struck by crippling shyness, from nowhere. It’s been years since I’ve sat in a far-flung pile of my wardrobe’s entire contents to tearfully declare: “I have nothing to wear!” Yet now it happens almost on a weekly basis. I haven’t blushed in years, yet now even talking to the barista for too long turns me a potentially dangerous shade of Burst Blood Vessel Violet. Slap on some braces and some coke bottle glasses and call me fucking Urkel. How the hell did I get here, and more importantly, how do I fix it?

In a world of cyber-friendships, online networking and contrived, image-based interaction; the art of face-to-face contact has become one increasingly difficult to master. It’s becoming a tired argument now, this lamentation of Facebook and Instagram and Twitter – yet one that I am starting the learn the true reach of. We have become incredibly lazy as human beings, preferring the no-risk option of creating and nurturing friendships online, rather than in ‘real life.’ Fuck, when did we start referring to reality as ‘real life’?

So here I am. Mid twenties and in a new city. A few weeks into the move, I see teeny tiny green sprouts of potential friendships poking up through the dirt. My decision lies now in how to grow them…from inside my iphone, right? Do I add them on snapchat? Introduce them to my friend list on Facebook? Let them see behind the scenes on my instagram? Or do I take the decidedly more difficult path of asking them for a coffee, or a wine, or even over for dinner one night? Listen to me now people: friend dating is hard. Way fucking harder than trying to find a boyfriend. Like, at least whilst on a romantic date you can flash your boobs and be almost guaranteed of your success – with friend dates, you have to make small talk, laugh at their jokes and try to avoid saying anything weird. NO BOOBS. Seriously…none.

Rattling through the back arse end of Sydney city trainline towards my lovely new home on the water, I was momentarily taken aback by a sudden and most vivid memory: four years ago, in London. I was on the train, heading out to meet a new friend I had made in earlier in the week. We had a music festival or something to go to, and I was so fucking excited – not scared, or apprehensive, or worried about my outfit. Just … excited. And suddenly, it occurred to me – my problem with meeting people didn’t have anything to do with me being a social spaz (although that is definitely a contributing factor); it was because I wasn’t excited anymore. That train ride in London to make a friend was so easy, because I devoid of my current anxieties. I was overseas, free.

So there you go: tip one of learning to make friends as an adult? Adopt the same “I’ll shag who I want/ dress how I want/ say what I want because I’ll probably never see you again” attitude that seems to sneakily pervade one’s mind as soon as you open your passport. Don’t worry so much about what people think of you, and worry more about whether you’re having fun. I sound like my mother here. Except she would follow it up with that story about her friend in high school was super popular even though she never wore shoes, and I’m not going down that path because let’s face it – no shoes is no the right message to send. Wear shoes guys.

So line up, potential friends!
I’m ready to add you to my contact list and make you an especially bad cup of tea.
And look, if things go pear shaped…I can always flash you my boobs.

ON TWERKING AND THE FACT AWKWARD WHITE GIRLS JUST CAN’T DANCE

Awkward white girl issues. It’s a THING.
Whether it’s singing the wrong words to rap songs, always having to hike up your jeans because you have no ass to hold them up, or receiving withering looks whenever you and a girlfriend happen to say ‘OMG!’ at the same time and burst out in Regina-Georgesque-giggles; white girls cop a lot of flack. We’re lame. We get it.

But it is one white girl who has, this week, trumped Amanda Bynes for the ultimate Embarrassing Lame White Girl trophy. Worldwide, the rest of us white girls huddled over our laptops and let out a collective squeal of horror as we watched Miley Cyrus at the VMA awards, twerkin’ and humpin’ and gyratin’ her way to infamy. Miley, Miley, Miley. What the FUCK, sister? Miley has committed the cardinal sin of being a white girl: trying to be ghetto. The result, as we are all now aware, was an epic failure.

If you are a private school girl with a penchant for Zara ballet flats and chilled white wine, there is absolutely no way in hell you will ever, EVER be able to carry off high-top Jordans or flat-caps. Ghetto is just not your schtick. WE ARE NOT COOL.
Don’t think I’m not empathetic - I understand that a seismic shift is currently underway with the young folk of today, in which ghetto is the new grunge. And grunge was hard. Hell, I was barely able to carry off Doc Martens in my day (it all became more believable when I moved out of home, worked two jobs, drank like Clive Palmer and legitimately looked like a junkie) – and ghetto is WAY harder. All we had to do was stay up for a few days without washing, and chuck on a $10 Big-W flannelette. These kids are staring down the barrel of acrylic nails and cheek piercings, for fuck’s sake.

Oh dear, the young ghetto-wannabees. Unsatisfied with being flat-chested, small assed and toting a fair dose of catholic guilt that directly opposes ghetto principles of being FLY (not 100% sure what that even means) I ask: what future do they have?

Whatever that future may be, it’s significantly more grim now that they now have a new hero in Miley ‘I swear I’m not on drugs’ Cyrus. From the moment that bowl-eyed, plate-faced bitch slunk out of a giant teddy bear, all I thought was: drugs. You are on drugs. Or, the person who conceptualised this musical abortion was on DRUGS. It was senseless, shocking and crammed with things you want to do when high, but barely stop yourself so you don’t get kicked out of the club: her tongue lolling about, eyes manically searching for someone to give her the thumbs up and dancing like she felt. Which, judging from her performance, was somewhere between slutty and invertebrate.

The real issue at hand, however, was all that damn twerking.

In the words of 2-Live Crew, it was all face down, ass up, as Miley planted her hands on the ground and bounced that sad little white girl ass up in errrrryone’s grill. (Sorry, I won’t do that again. See? Ghetto just doesn’t work.) As I watched her performance, I was transported back to a my grade ten school dance, which – in one of my first attempts at slutty dancing – threw my hands in the air and tried to shake my hips. With great disappointment I realised that my hips, unlike the Pussycat Dolls’ hips, did not move autonomously to the rest of my body. I must have looked like I was impersonating a tree swaying in the wind. But it was ok, because I got it. I was a White Girl, and White Girl’s can’t dance.

But Miley, well…Miley hasn’t got that yet.

I hope, for the sake of white girls worldwide, she does soon. Because, before long, there are going to be girls going down a road that’s straight from the Miss Shop section in Myer to the fucking House of Dereon. AND THEY DON’T EVEN SELL THAT IN AUSTRALIA.

Until Miley twerks herself offstage and into Betty Ford, I vote that older awkward white girls worldwide unite, and provide an achievable role model for the younger awkward white girls. Ya know, celebrate the shit we are actually good at. Here is what middle class, boring, white girls are good at. We can mix and match Sheridan sheet sets, text faster than anyone, and recite the words to the SECOND verse of the national anthem. We know how to wear a cardigan, and what washing cycle is best for La Perla underwear. We quote Seinfield. We like Whitney Houston. We RSVP before the expected date, stand up for old drunks on the tram (even when they are yelling profanities at us), drink chardonnay with ice in it, still call people’s parents ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’ and you know what? We just don’t agree with the whole ‘Fuck Da Police’ vibe. We LIKE the police. They keep us SAFE.

Lame white girls worldwide, hold your heads high through this brief stage of feeling exceptionally uncool. You do not have to trying and figure out what it is to be ‘fly.’ You do not have to try and learn the words to Dr Dre. You do not have to twerk. I repeat, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TWERK. You are an awkward white girl, and that’s ok.

Stay tuned for the next in this series with the episode: Madonna, Why Are You Wearing Grills?

ON THE ASHY BINES BIKINI BODY CULT

It is no secret that I live as a banished outsider from the walls of Clean Eating City. I sit, huddled, glaring down on the thriving city where sweet potatoes are burger buns, chia seeds pepper every meal and kale smoothies come in pretty jars with striped white and red straws.
In recent weeks I have noticed a new tribe gathering within the walls of Clean Eating City. They are a growing army of cleaning eating, quad squatting, montage uploading, Lorna Jane minions; their gleeful cackling heard for miles. They are armed and dangerous with protein shakes and they WILL use them. They are the Ashy Bines Clean Eating Cult.

Some time ago I was informed my Clean Eating piece had been posted on the wall of a Facebook group, causing some serious fucking femme outrage. Feet were stomped, hair was pulled and bitches were scratching with their acrylic nails like Tyra Banks at a House of Dereon sample sale. Curious, I requested to be added to this page, the “Ashy Bines Clean Eating Diet Plan.”

In the days and weeks that have followed I have watched, curiously, as my news feed became overrun with a guerrilla marketing campaign of stomachs sagging over a plethora of terrible underwear (cotton, baggy, floral, leopard, synthetic, take your pick), all-kale-everything, Nike Free Run mania. I saw recruits as young as 16 asking how to ‘shred’ and mothers of a mere matter of weeks lamenting their weight loss struggles. It was a scary and dark world of body obsession that had me guiltily recount my previous night’s dinner of water crackers, a bottle of wine and a bottle of Moet. I was behind enemy lines, and Ashy Bines was watching.

So. Joining the ranks of John Malkovich and James Boag, we ask: Who Is Ashy Bines? According to my research, she’s a 24 year old blonde Queenslander (uncomfortably close to home, friends) who has made millions selling a $69 diet plan to achieve the perfect bikini body.

You know what? NO.

Here’s another theory.
I am of the utmost belief that Ashy Bines is actually a mid-forties, transition lenses, smock wearing, obese man who has started a cult. Tapping into the current obsession from women worldwide to ruin perfectly good food by making it with bizarre substitutions (I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, SWEET POTATOES ARE NOT BURGER BUNS) he is gathering his minions preparing for international takeover. Looking like a modern day Mark David Chapman, he operates from his mother’s paisley living room, barking orders to Stella McCartney for Adidas wearing secret agents. He has declared war on food-induced endorphins. Prepare yourself people, in ten years you won’t be spending your hard earned bones on ratsak pingers, you will be hitting the black market for contraband Mars Bars. You think global warming is bad? Try having to blend your breakfast every day and struggle to pronounce the ingredients in your lunch. Acai, quinoa, cacao nibs anyone? The world will collapse under a growing army of early risers who compliment you on your body mass index and could drive a truck through the gap in their thighs. I’m already reaching for the Xanax.

Like any lunatic conspiracy theorist, I feel so alone in my tinfoil hat hell. I have prodded a couple people over the course of writing this to ask what they thought about Ashy Bines, to not a lot of success. Mum’s convinced I went to school with someone called Ashy Bines, my friend thought it was a Selena-Gomezesque Disney star and my flatmate was found yesterday morning with several bags of McDonalds strewn across his bed, so I figured he was out of the equation. My favourite research subject, however, was the lady who washed my hair at the hairdressers the other day.

WASHER WOMAN: “What are you writing?”
YOURS TRULY: “An article on Ashy Bines.”
WASHER WOMAN: “Who’s she?”
YOURS TRULY: “She invented a diet to look good in a bikini and has a Facebook group and I think she might be a cult leader. What do you think about clean eating?”
WASHER WOMAN: “Yeah, like with all the pollution, you shouldn’t be putting crap in your body…I live in an apartment so I can’t grow food but like, as a promotional model I really like to eat clean food. Or make sure you wash it. Pollution is bad for your skin.”

I was very confused until I realised she had no idea what ‘clean eating’ was, and took a stab in the dark at thinking it was food devoid of pesticides. I like her.

I feel the Ashy Bines cult members cropping up around me like ingrown hairs after DIY wax job. Today on the tram, as I shovelled a Nandos wrap down my gullet I felt someone watching me. I looked up to see, across several heads and bodies, the iron glare of a woman several rows away. My eyes darted to her running skins, her Nike Frees, her protein shake cup….oh good fucking lord, it’s one of them. Looking back at her, I locked in eye contact as I polished off the last of the wrap. You will not get me too, Ashy Bines.

This is a warning to you, readers: Ashy Bines is out there, and he’s hungry. That heaving oaf will sing you a siren song of lettuce cup burgers, chick pea cookies and vegan meatloaf (I am simply BOILING with anger) but you must stay strong. Think of your children, and the cheeseless-pizza world they may have to live in. THINK OF THE CHILDREN.

So next time you think a Before And After Shot instagram session is rinsing around your mind posing as a good idea – stop. If you want to lift up your shirt next time you’re out with your mates and ask what they reckon about your BMI, be my guest. If you want to make photo collages of your rabbit food green slurrie bullshit with overused axioms like ‘rise and grind,’ knock yourself out. But remember who’s watching you. Ashy Bines and his posse of bikini body bitches, ready to knock that cookie out of your hand and shove it down your throat instead.

ON FREQUENT FLYER FUCKWITS

Braggers. Boasters. Show offs. Angela Bishop trying to sound casual about interviewing Brad Pitt.
We all know someone who fits this mould - people who just love to one-up your story with a bigger, better, more glamorous tale of their own. A topic that attracts these types like a mosquito to a mid-summer pool tarp is TRAVELLING.
Ah, international travel: fancy people love to write about it. Ladies who lunch love to gossip about it. Under 30’s love to boast about it on every social media platform possible and over 30’s love to frame pictures about it. Some of the worst offenders are singers:

- Charlene, who always sounded like a bit of a slut: “I’ve been to Nice and Isle of Greece while I sipped champagne on a yacht. I’ve moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo and showed ‘em what I got.”

- Corrine Bailey Rae, who clearly needs some lessons in geography and time zones: “Oooh ooh, you’ve taken me up so high, Paris nights and New York mornings.”

- Lucky Starr, who everyone wishes was never born and could probably do with his throat ripped out: “I’ve been everywhere man. I’ve been everywhere man…”

Ok, guys, we get it. You have travelled the world so many times over that if you were trailing a piece of string the planet would look like a gussied-up Christmas ham.

It doesn’t matter if you are a singer, a dancer or a candlestick maker; people who incessantly boast about their travels are generally considered a pain in the arse. In the true spirit of the inherently Australian ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’, the average punter would far prefer to hear about someone’s long weekend escape in the Kalgoorlie caravan park than their two month escapade in the south of France. Australians just don’t want to hear about what goes on offshore.

This grim realisation came to the fore early last week, whilst walking down Chapel Street with my flatmate and her friend. He was chatting away on the topic of claustrophobia. Oh, I thought. Oh. I have a great story about claustrophobia. See, there was this one time in Florence when I was climbing the inside of the Duomo and - oh, fuck.
It hit me.
I was becoming one of those people. A bragger. A boaster. A show off. An Angela Bishop. Somebody who can’t walk five meters down the road without proclaiming that something reminded me of NEW YORK or that person looks exactly like my friend from GREECE and ohhh that half-eaten donut in the bin looks just like that half-eaten donut in a bin that I saw in MOROCCO!
I was becoming one of those people: an A-Grade, Frequent Flyer Fuckwit.

You will encounter FFF’s in both I.R.L. and URL realms; they’re hard to miss. Whether it’s a status update that says too much, or a picture that says a thousand words too many more; FFF’s want you to know where they are. And it sure ain’t Kalgoorlie Caravan Park. From here, they will jump on a jet (complete with eye-rolling status updates: “OMG! Upgraded to first class!” or “Missed flight – another night in Barcelona – yay!”) and touch down on Aussie soil. And thus, the infection begins…no topic of conversation is safe from them dropping the bomb of “This one time overseas…” And, to avoid feeling like Erica Yurken in Hating Alison Ashley, you must simply smile and nod knowingly. Because of course you agree it’s crazy how much expensive cocaine is in Australia, and how much milder the sun is in Europe, and how no one really likes the taste of Club Mate…right?

So: how to avoid this?
I won’t deny that I have been blessed with international travel.
My favourite memories are built upon wildly varying locations: sure, the standard Aussie beach trips to the Gold Coast, but among that also family holidays in Japan, European summers with my sister in Greece and Croatia, wild nights partying with friends in Berlin. I travelled alone, grew up, and learnt a lot about myself. I realised the world is a lot bigger than anything home can offer, and that can be both wonderful and absolutely fucking terrifying.
And even now, recounting but a few of my memories, I can hear myself sounding like an irritating asshole. Like, if I was actually in conversation with myself at this point, I would probably be giving myself the face that Tyra Banks gives contestants when they cry because they’re voted out on America’s Next Top Model. The fart face.
So - am I spoilt? Hardly. I am as down to earth as they come. I have simply been encouraged since a young age to travel; travel opens minds, extends horizons, creates adventures, teaches lessons….ok, yeah. I still sound like an asshole. Can’t dig up.

So what does one do? Pretend one hasn’t travelled? (Speak like one is Queen Elizabeth?) Keep our internationally spawned tales a dirty secret that we can only talk about in hushed downs in dirty underground dive bars? Is there such a thing as interesting traveller tale, unmarred by jealousy or intolerance? Oh, and don’t even get me started on what happens when one Frequent Flyer Fuckwit is challenged in conversation by another FFF. It’s war. It’s like watching Carmen Sandiego on bath salts trying to eat the face off a competitor with her overseas travel stories. If you ever encounter this situation…just walk away slowly. Say you’ve never left the suburb you grew up in.

I suppose when we get older, and our lives shrivel down into something smaller and sadder than the current pulse of youth; we might actually welcome Frequent Flyer Fuckwits. They can regale us with slutty stories from the old days when they were travelling the world. And as for now? Well, it’s a great way to tell if someone is a nice person. If they are kind, patient and polite enough to let you get all the way to the end of your story about having a claustrophobic panic attack halfway up the inside of the Duomo in Florence, you know they gotta be alright. And if you’re the one telling the story…
Just shut up, ok?