Thursday, 13 October 2016

Spare me the small talk


I don't just dread small talk, I LOATHE IT!  It's draining, it's unnecessary and most of the time it's not an interpersonal exchange: it's just some inane person firing meaningless scattergun questions at you to fill the silence.

 Well guess what? I don't mind silence, in fact, I ADORE IT. Especially when I am sitting in the hairdresser's chair: that captive torture chamber where you not only have to stare at your own face for 40 minutes but you also have to field INANE small talk questions from a 20-something hairdresser who thinks "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" is SUCH A GOOD SHOW.

"Going somewhere special tonight?" Unless your definition of 'somewhere special' is my couch with a gin and tonic and the entire fourth season of The Good Wife ready to roll, no I am not.
"What are you up to on the weekend?" Nothing. Nada. Zip. Even if I was up to something, I doubt the details of it would be of any RELEVANCE OR INTEREST TO YOU!!!

And my personal favourite, the lazy person's way of starting a conversation:

"So ... what's been happening?"

Translation: I can't remember anything about you since the last time we made small talk in front of this unforgiving mirror that makes you look like a lizard lady, so give me a few clues about who the fuck you are again.

Well, news just in: a hairdressing salon in the UK has cottoned on to the fact that some of us dread the inane chit-chat of the salon chair and are now providing a 'quiet chair' for those who 'dread small talk.'

UK hair salon offers "quiet chair" for those who dread small talk


I dread small talk so much that I engage in random trips to different hairdressers all over my locality, just so they can't get to know me and start asking more personal questions every time I come in.

In FACT, what I would like is just a hairdresser's version of the public bathroom 'glory hole' that gay men have. You know, you just sort of push your hair through the hole in the wall and it gets magically 'serviced' by someone on the other side and you don't have to look at them or talk to them. 

Because the problem with salon small talk is: I have nothing in common with hairdressers (I have nothing in common with ALOT of people)  and it's really hard to get the conversation 'firing.' And a conversation that doesn't fire, is DRAINING.

Recently I tried to get on board with the chit chat 

 

Here's how things went down:

"Got any plans for the weekend?"
"Yes. I'm going to Melbourne."
"Omigawd, how fun! What are you going to do, go shopping?"

At this point I should have just said, "Yes, I am going shopping," But then I thought, if I opened up the whole shopping can of worms it would probably lead to more questions about shopping about which I'd have to make up some more answers and ... you know the tangled web ... 

So I answered truthfully, hoping it would sound so boring it would SHUT THIS SHIT DOWN.

"No, I'm going down for work."
"OMIGOD YOU POOR THING!!! OH NO! THAT'S TERRIBLE!"  

Seriously, it was like I had just told her I had inoperable brain cancer. 

"No, it's fine. It's fine."  I really felt like I had to calm her down before she started to cry. "I actually like what I do for a living. So it's fine."
"Oh, what do you do?"

Don't answer that! DON'T ANSWER THAT!

"I'm a writer." I said, walking FACE-FIRST into more probing questions.  "I'm going down to do some work with my sister."
Awkward silence. Foolishly, I decided to fill it.
"On a script." 
"Oh! Like for television?"
"A film script."
"Oh! My friend works for Home and Away and they do script meetings on yachts."
"Well, we will not be on a yacht. We will be in my sister's kitchen, so ..."
"Oh."

Insert: the awkward sound of conversation grinding to a halt.

"So when are you flying down, tomorrow morning?"
"No, I'm going down tonight at 8:30."
"OH NO YOU POOR THING! OH NO!!!"
"No, it's fine. It's actually easier than going in the morning, it's not ... it's fine. I'm fine."
"Oh you poor thing! Oh no!"

Another awkward silence as she ponders the absolute TRAGEDY that is my sad little life and the way I spend my weekends flying to other cities in the dead of night to NOT GO SHOPPING. 

At that point, I pulled an old New Idea off the shelf in front of me and started flicking through it indicating that the conversation was over. But it felt awkward and I felt bad about it, so then I started saying inane things about the celebrities in the magazine just to make her feel more comfortable.

And I also made a note in my head not to come back to this particular salon for a while. At least six months should wipe her memory of my sad non-shopping, nocturnal flights to Melbourne life to have script meetings in kitchens and not on yachts.

Here's another thing I dread:  the head massage


Every time. EVERY TIME! And because I keep forgetting to have my file stamped, "NO HEAD MASSAGE" and also because I keep randomly going to different salons so that they can't get to know me,  I have to wait for the hair-washing hand movements to change to 'strangely intimate head molestation' movements and head them off at the pass before it becomes too awkward.

"I don't want a head massage, thanks."
"What?"
"No head massage ... please ... thanks."
"Oh ..."
"I just don't like it."
Incredulous, that I would not want to sample their massage expertise. "Really?"
"Yep. I hate it." Why would I want some 19 year old apprentice MOLESTING MY SKULL? 
"Oh, that's fine." Said in a tone of voice that implies, it's so totally not fine and now they are offended. 
"Yep sorry. Just don't like it."

Now I feel bad because it's awkward and they're still touching my head to rinse off the conditioner, but sort of doing it in a way that indicates they are trying not to 'touch' my head too much because I am so clearly a pathological weirdo.

"It's fine, I mean some people love it." She says, sulkily.
Translation: people who are NOT WEIRD LIKE YOU, YOU TOTALLY UPTIGHT ARSEHOLE.
"I know. I'm weird."  I concede.

And once again, note to self: wide berth on this salon. At least 12 months due to the offence the 'no head massage' move has caused.


Anyway, my point is: when is the quiet chair (or even better, the glory hole) coming to a salon near me? I'd be up there EVERY WEEK getting my hair blow-dried and relishing the SILENCE.

Ahh. Silence.  But not awkward silence. Just. Silence.



Sunday, 14 August 2016

15 types of internet commenters



Since the interwebs was created, women have really come to the fore in online forums and comments boxes.  There are three reasons for this female-forward phenomenon.
  1. we are very opinionated
  2. we like to talk
  3. in the digital space, we won't get talked over by a man
Personally, (notwithstanding what follows here)  I prefer a "lean back" sort of judgement, with my hands behind my head and not on the keyboard. But I do enjoy the spectator sport of perusing the comments boxes every now and then.  Who doesn't?  If nothing else, it's always surprising how many people don't know the difference between "your" and "you're."

In my internet surfing travels, here are 15 types of commenters I have seen A LOT:

1. "All about me" commenter

 

As in: enough about this post, here’s a story about me and how good I am that is in no way related to the post above.

2. "Random activist" commenter 

 

This commenter has an agenda and will find any way they can to shoehorn in their pet protest topic.  For instance: on a post about brownies that happen to be made with Tim Tams, they will write something like …

“Buy Tim Tams and you’re supporting the use of Palm Oil and an unethical company”

I have no argument with this commenter. It’s a valid point, but if she’s serious about her protest, she should perhaps take her case further up the chain, like say, to the Arnott’s website.

3. LOL passive aggressive patroniser

 

This is a digital pat and slap manoeuvre. While pretending to be friendly as denoted by the use of ‘LOL’, in truth, they are pointing out to everyone else what an idiot you are.

Case in point: I once wrote a very compelling post for kidspot.com.au about how to poach the perfect egg (I know, Walkley Award, here I come.) I was thrilled that someone had bothered to comment and assumed it was because they were thanking me for some really useful tips .  Then I realised they were just laughing at the fact that I had specified the use of an 800g egg (not realising that the 800g on the pack referred to the ENTIRE weight of all dozen eggs. Mea culpa):

“LOL are you using dinosaur eggs?”

(Maybe I was. You don’t know the truth about my egg supply sources.)

Then there were these recent comments on a post about what to cook for dinner if you forgot to defrost the meat:

“Who needs meat for dinner? LOL. Hardly a big crisis!”

“Microwaves have a ‘defrost’ setting for a reason. LOL”

It has become clear to me that sometimes,  LOL is just code for, "YOU STUPID FOOL."  In which case let's all just be straight shooters and type, YSF instead of LOL wherever applicable.

4. Shoehorn self-promoter

 

These are the people who shamelessly post links to their own piece or links to their latest self-help book in the comments box in the guise of selfless altruism.

"My new e-book, available here, How To Stop Buying So Many Tins Of Tomatoes  may help you with this."

5. "Random sentence" commenter

 

These commenters are my favourite. They sort of relate to the post, but mostly that person just wants to say something ‘out loud’ and get involved. For instance, on a post about "10 quick things to cook for dinner" this commenter will type:

“I'm making fish for dinner!”

I love this commenter, she’s like the friendly person at a party who will burst into your circle and say something like: "I just ate three of those prawns on sticks!" Whilst everyone else is deeply engaged in a conversation about the state of the economy.

6. "Personal attack" commenter

 

The funny thing about the internet is you can’t always see the person you are attacking, so you have to have a bit of a "paint a word picture" stab if you want to have a really personal go at someone. This comment below was seen on a post that made fun of Kim Kardashian's latest red carpet outfit (a dress made out of string, just so you know.)  It gets 10/10 for visualisation effort.

“And this article comes from some chick sitting back at her desk wearing her Supre pants and Portmans blazer.”

I didn’t even know you could get pants at SUPRE!!! I thought they only sold crop tops and oversized t-shirts with "RELAX" printed on them.

7. "I’m not laughing and it’s making me angry" commenter

 

Ironically enough, humour posts are the most divisive of all.

After all, not everyone finds the same things funny. And the more everyone else is laughing and having a good time in the comments box, the more the person who doesn't share the mirth feels compelled to sh** all over everyone else’s good time.

“This is not funny AT ALL!”
"What a stupid waste of time this post was!"

I get it. I do.  I was once at a comedy club when an older male comedian came on stage and started doing some very sexist, “women on their rags” material.  Worse still, everyone was laughing their heads off and it made me FURIOUS.  So I  "booed" him - I opened my mouth, cupped my hands in a makeshift megaphone and went "Booooo!" Like I was at a pantomime and he was the villain.

So I do understand the impulse to let your feelings be known. I guess these people are just exercising their right to "boo". But I should point out that as soon as the "boo" sound left my mouth, I felt inordinately silly and ineffectual in the face of all the laughter.

But the far end of the humourless spectrum is the person with no sense of humour at all: this person cannot comprehend that some posts are just flippant listicles. From what I’ve seen, the problem seems to be a lack of awareness of "tone".

For instance on a post titled "Supermarket Rules" someone wrote:

“Who are you to tell us what we can and can't do?"

I felt compelled to let this person know that the rules were not legislated in parliament and so there would be no charges laid if they chose not to comply with rules like: "Don't bend your arse halfway out into the aisle when reaching for something on the bottom shelf."

8. The hijacker

 

These comments box terrorists take control of the comments box and steer it in a hitherto unforeseen direction: a place where no one could have predicted things would go.

And that place is: a comments box bunfight.

This is the person who, when faced with a news item about say, a missing woman, will say something like:

“She looks like a botox whore!”
To which someone else will reply:
“Shut up, I know her and shes (sic) not a botox whore. YOUR (sic) a Botox whore!”
To which the original person will reply
“YOU are!”

And so on and so on until a post about a missing woman becomes more about the pros and cons of Botox, who has it, who doesn’t and how people who have Botox should die anyway.

And just to clarify, to my knowledge the woman had not had Botox.

Which brings me to ...

9. "You're/your what's the difference?" commenter

 

You're -  a contraction of "you are" e.g: You're an idiot.
Your - possessive pronoun e.g:  That's your problem.

10. "Alarmed by sugar" commenter

 

“OMG! One and a half cups of sugar!”

Um, yes, it’s a cake. MOST CAKES HAVE SUGAR IN THEM, THAT’S THE POINT OF CAKES!!!!

11. "Wrong gender" commenter

 

These are the men who complain bitterly when a women’s website is not speaking directly to them, including them or considering how they feel. Boo hoo middle class white man, this corner of the universe is not calibrated for you.

12. "Random bad experience" commenter

 

For instance: This person once had a really bad experience with an umbrella and so posts about umbrellas really upset her and should be banned from all websites so as not to upset her further and cause her flashbacks. Posting things about umbrellas is just plain INSENSITIVE!

13. "Responds at length to the headline" commenter

 

This is the commenter who responds at length to the header but doesn’t actually read the article wherein they might find a more nuanced exploration of the topic that negates their need to rail against the header alone.

14. "Pro capital punishment" commenter

 

E.g. “This person should be (insert violent method of extermination here)"

15. Parenting choices militants

 

Breastfeeding, bottlefeeding, co-sleeping, control crying, sugar, no sugar, attachment parenting, nude parenting …

What are they vehemently opposed to? What’ve you got?

Thursday, 3 March 2016

10 commandments for kids *




When Moses came down from the mountain with Yaweh’s Ten Commandments it was a different world. People were being smote, bushes were spontaneously combusting and God was broadcasting from the sky in an ‘attention Kmart shoppers’ announcement for the desert.

It’s also worth noting, that men were partial to big flowing kaftan garments and women were regarded as livestock-type possessions.

My point is, times have changed since then and therefore, so should the rules.

Here are 10 modern commandments* of life that we should be teaching our kids.

1. Thou shalt put thy shoes in the same place every afternoon. 


That way, thou shalt be able to find them again in the morning.

2. Thou shalt honour thy mother by eating whatever is put in front of thy face every evening. 


For there shall come a time in thy early 20s when food shall not spring from this magical source, the Lord thy mother and thou shalt be in for a rude shock.

3. Thou shalt put thy dirty clothes in thy vessel marked: THE DIRTY CLOTHES BASKET.


That way thy clothes shall be cleaned and thy shall be able to wear thy favourite Methyl Ethyl band t-shirt or say, a pair of matching socks when thouest most desires it.

And lo the Lord thy mother doth sayest: be it not in the basket, be it not washed.

4. If thou cannot sleep, thou shalt not wake thy mother and tell her about it.


Lo the Lord thy mother doth sayest: If thou cannot sleep, I am not interested in hearing about it, especially if it doth be 3am in the morn.

5. Thou shalt not leave homework and assignments until 10pm on a Sunday.


For that is the time when the printer shall surely run out of ink and all the printer ink shops shall be clos-ed.

The Lord thy mother, cannot help you with this.

6. Thou shalt put thy dishes in the magical device known as THE DISHWASHER.


Putting thy dishes in the purgatorial place known as the bench top above the dishwasher, shall be a sin.

7. Thou shalt not worship false gods such as the empty milk carton or empty jam jar.


For lo it is not magical and it does not refill itself if you put it back in the fridge.

8. Thou shalt honour thy father and thy mother by vomiting directly into the toilet bowl.


As opposed to: all over thyself and thy bed clothes, on thy parent’s bedroom floor or directly into thy mother’s lap.

 

9. Thou shalt honour the kitchen sabbath.


The kitchen sabbath begins at 9pm sharp every evening and ends the following morning at dawn.  No bowls of cereal, toast, sandwiches or snacks of ANY KIND shall be madeth by you or the Lord thy mother during the kitchen sabbath.

The Lord thy mother, lo she does not give a shit how hungry thouest be beyond this holiest of hours, 9pm sharp.


10.  If thou dropped it on the floor, thou shalt pick it up.


Thy lint from thy pocket, thy scrappy piece of paper, thy pointy piece of Lego, thy shoe. For lo the Lord thy mother doth sayest: nay I am not the freaking maid in this joint.

11. Thou shalt not covet thy siblings’ toys, privileges, ice blocks, sweets, biscuits and the like.


For lo he got the same as you and the Lord thy mother does not give a sh** how unfair thou thinkest life is.

The lord thy mother giveth and the Lord thy mother shall taketh away.

* May contain 11 commandments

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Confessions of a toy pusher



Hello, I am that annoying person who compiles a list of dumb-arse toys you should buy for your kids every Christmas.

 

Kidspot.com.au calls this list, 'Top 20 Toys for Christmas (insert current year here)' and everyone clicks on it. 

 

At first I thought it was going to be like Tom Hanks' job in Big. And at first it kind of was: I was sent free toys, I was invited to morning teas with FREE CAKE, I was pretty much on the take and sold to the first person who sent me a free sample of Barbie's Glam Camper van.

But I have been doing it for three years and this is my scorching of the earth to ensure I never have to do it again.

As part of the ‘research’ for this list, I am sent invites from toy marketers to all their morning teas, toy fairs and toy exhibits so that they may show me their wares. I have attended many of these fairs, I have been given a private viewing of a Furby Boom during which I lost the will to live and I have read countless marketing blurbs describing the latest revolution in bead art technology.

After three years, this is what I know and I will now impart it to you, free of charge:

There are about 15 categories for ‘new’ toys every year and despite their efforts to polish up the same old turds, every year when I show up to eat their free cakes, the 'new' toys are the same ones they dazzled me with last year.

Here are the 15 categories of toys I am guaranteed to see every year

 

1. The toy that connects to an app


This is actually every single toy in existence. Once they’ve finished showing you all the features of the toy the rep then excitedly tells you that the toy also ‘connects to an app’ on your mobile device. LIKE THAT’S SOMETHING WE PARENTS WANT TO HAPPEN!

Like we want our kids stealing the iPad AGAIN to play their stupid games on it and ask us for money to buy into the next level.

Like we want our kids to sign up with our email addresses to ANOTHER COMPANY THAT WILL END UP SELLING OUR DETAILS TO THE HIGHEST BIDDING SPAMMER.

Like we want our kids to load up our iPad with so many apps and games that we can no longer download the latest episode of The Walking Dead!

ENOUGH WITH THE APPS!!!!

2. The A.I thing that talks to you and eventually reaches self awareness so that it can kill you in your sleep

 

I just do not get the appeal of these creepy talking things. Not only are they stupid battery chewing hunks of plastic landfill CRAP!!!! But there is something so passive about a toy that does all the story-lining and voice work for your kid.

Remember playing with your dolls and doing all the voices? Even the voices of Ken and Stiffy (Ken’s weird friend the GI Joe doll whose legs did not bend hence the name, ‘Stiffy’ Just me?)

That was half the fun. Now there’s a Furby that names ITSELF before multiplying by having its own Furby babies to amass the army that will eventually take over the earth.  It also comes with its own arsehole 'personality', takes virtual showers and complains when the water pressure is too low.

If I wanted an arsehole for a toy, I'd get an old G.I Joe doll and name it Stiffy.

3. The animatronic pet for sad kids who aren’t allowed to have a dog or a cat

 

Sometimes they come on a skateboard and have sunglasses because what's more fun than a real dog? A dog on a skateboard with sunglasses.

Then there's birds in cages that whistle and repeat back what you’ve just said, a butterfly that lands on your hand and there may or may not have been a faux stick insect in a cage.

Just buy your kid a freakin’ guinea pig for Christ’s sake!

4. The pink horse thing with hair

 

I don’t know why the horses have to have hair, but they do. And I don’t know why they all have to live in a house  or a shoe together, but they do. What I’ve discovered about girls’ toys is that there is a big focus on:

  • Share house living
  • Lurid pink d├ęcor
  • Horses with hair
  • Big eyes. BIG BIG EYES
  • A thematic tie-in to the movie coming out that you will have to sit through next school holidays.

5. The teeny tiny cute thing with big eyes and lots of teeny tiny bitsy pieces and it lives in a house or a tree with other teeny tiny things and it’s from a TV show

 

Some of them live in a pet shop in Paris or some shit. I dunno. Are they dogs or cats or beavers? I just don’t know. I just know that they come in a box with one squillion tiny bits and pieces that will be lost and sucked up by your vacuum cleaner within the month.

Toy companies STOP MAKING TEENY TINY THINGS THAT END UP INSIDE THE VACUUM CLEANER YOU ARE WASTING EVERYONE’S TIME!

6. The digital gaming device that 'reinvents' the entire digital gaming device genre

 

I don’t understand these things and I do not aspire to understand them. As soon as the marketing material comes through for these waste-of-space-in-my-living-room pieces of digital-gaming-excrement my brain just shuts down.

The last one that was foisted upon me like it was the re-invention of the hula hoop was Disney Infinity.

I couldn’t attend the ‘presentation’ so I had to hear about it over the phone from a 12 year old toy rep. She was nearly hyperventilating as she told me about it and I could barely keep my eyes open. Sensing my total disinterest, she sent one through by courier to seduce me with its magical gaming-like-you’ve-never-seen-before properties.

It had figurines and consoles and Mr Incredible was running through Shrek’s castle and my GOD it was dull. My kids played with it for about an hour then lost interest.

7. The faux learning device

 

Ever since Baby Einstein CDs were touted as the way to make your baby smarter, I have hated this 'make your baby smarter' horseshit. But I have always included them in the list, because I figured at least they were trying to offer something educational.

Last year it was a watch that rewarded kids for getting off their fat arses and doing some exercise. It was so depressing. It detected their movement and then said things like: “Good job you just earned five diamonds.” And then it sent them a pic of five diamonds that went ‘brrring!’ just for getting off their fat arses and moving around.

Really? Is this where we’re at?

8. The dumb toddler thing that makes annoying noises and sings alphabet songs


I call this section: It don’t mean a thing if it don’t talk and sing.

Sometimes it’s a train, last year it was a chair with a lift-up seat that looked suspiciously like a commode. As one of my colleagues shrewdly pointed out, it would only be a matter of time before you lifted the lid and found a crap in there.

It sang, it made up games, it affirmed you effusively for choosing the triangle. It was like The Singing Bush in The Three Amigos: it just would not. SHUT. UP. In my defence, I suggested that parents take the batteries out and just use it as a little chair. Because how much do toddlers love little chairs?

9. The  remote control ... whatever


Helicopters, cars, 4WD vehicles, boats, flying fairies. They climb up walls, they respond to the touch of your palm, they chew up batteries, they end up gathering dust under a bed because the batteries ran out and no one wanted to buy any more.

Batteries, batteries, batteries.

I predict that in the future, human children will have devolved in such a way that they will no longer be able to make those very complex 'vroom vrooom' 't-t-t-t-t' vehicle noises they can now make because the toys will be doing it for them.

Sad.

10. Some kind of Elmo toy that will do the parenting for you

 

Big Hugs Elmo started out as a big soft toy with long arms that cuddled you. Then the following year, Elmo started handing out affirmations: “You give the best cuddles.”

Then the year after THAT Elmo started putting your kid to sleep for you by shutting down and saying: “It’s time to go to bed now.”

Perhaps next year, Elmo will be running an ethics class.

11. Some kind of doll that shits its pants

 

Disclaimer: I have an deep-seated hankering for one of these because my mum would never let me have one as a kid. To be fair, I can see her point now.

They are revolting. But still I want one. I don’t know WHY!

This year it was Big Snacks Sara (or something) and you made her snacks. She ate them. She shat them out. Welcome to motherhood, girls. Are we having fun yet?

12. A nerf gun that REINVENTS THE ENTIRE NERF GUN GENRE

 

I don’t know where they are going to go next with these because every year the cartridge that holds the bullets gets bigger or the bullets come out faster. Nuclear capability perhaps? It’s a slippery slope.

13. Small rubbery pieces of crap with eyes that are breathlessly described as ‘collectables’

 

 Remember Trashies? Then they made these weird Shopkins things plus a crappy little supermaket shop with a stiffly turning conveyor belt that tipped all the Shopkins things over when it moved and would probably make your four year old cry.

These are just more teeny tiny bits of crap that end up all over your floor at home. FUCK YOU TOY COMPANIES! FUCK YOU!

14. Something overpriced and elaborate from a Star Wars movie

 

But with no female characters obvs.  Because extensive research has shown that girls are weak and need to be chucked in the creek.

Am I right toy companies?

15. A pillow that does something a pillow probably shouldn’t do like glow or turn into a monster

 

Don’t get me wrong, I like Pillow Pets, but I’m just not sure about the psychological effects of your pillow morphing into a monster while you sleep. What will they think of NEXT?

Oh wait, I know, an app.