Monthly Archives: May 2013

Why do married people behave so badly around single women?

I’ll cut to the chase. Last week I behaved like an arsehat.

I was out at a book store event with my splendid, 40-something friend Zoe when I took it upon myself to insult her. More on that in a sec.

Let me tell you about Zoe. Zoe  is one of those people whose life is brimming with interesting. She works in the music industry and studies international business at night and joins cool clubs and plants herbs at her community garden and  takes fabulous holidays and embarks on country drives and speaks French.  So she’s the opposite of, well, me.  ( I go to bed at 8.30pm and spend much of my time folding laundry and clicking on stories on the net that feature the words “Ricky Martin” or  … nope that’s pretty much it.)

She also happens to be single which is a bugger because I happen to know Zoe would dearly love to be married with a baby on her hip.

So naturally when Zoe and I sat down for a coffee post-bookstore event, I  decide to tell Zoe what she’s doing WRONG

That’s right, I started – uninvited – dishing out advice on what Zoe needs to do to meet the right man.

It gets worse.

My low point is the moment I actually hear myself saying (while shoving marshmallows in my gob), “I just think you’re closed.  I don’t think you come across as open.”

It’s entirely possible I then trotted out something about “self-sabotage”. And then attempted to bully her into trying internet dating.

In other words:  “It’s your fault you’re single, Zoe. Try harder, why don’t you?”

I know, I hate me too.

Of course at the time, I thought I was being helpful as all smug married people think when they are explaining to other people exactly how to FIX THEIR LIVES and have what they have (a life of laundry and Ricky Martin cyber-stalking). But when I got home I realised with horror that I’d possibly left Zoe feeling like she’d just been pecked to death.  Or worse – made to feel like the fact that she’s single – and doesn’t want to be – is because she is living her life, you know, ALL WRONG.

Screen shot 2013 05 06 at 9.42.23 AM  	BEC: Why do married people behave so badly around single women?

Bridget Jones’ at the ultimate ‘smug married’ dinner party. Can you see Bec?

Thank you, Rebecca “Dr Phil” Sparrow. No, really.

Saying to a single person that they should “Be more open” (or worse that ‘love will come when you stop looking for it’) is akin to saying to someone dealing with a serious illness that they “Just need to be more positive.”.  Or like saying to an anorexic person “Just eat this burger, why don’t you?”

Could I have been more patronizing?

Sure, you may have a single friend who perpetually hones in on married men. Or cheaters. Or abusers.  And maybe some thoughtful advice in those instances could be helpful if it’s requested.  (After I complained to a good friend that the last few boyfriends I’d had were charmers and emotionally abusive she said to me “Next time you meet a guy and think ‘He’s not my type” … date him. Because your ‘type’ hasn’t been working for you …”  That piece of advice helped me find my now-husband Brad.)

But Zoe is not one of those people.

And maybe the reason she hasn’t met the right person  is  – wait for it – because she just simply hasn’t met the right person. Hold the phone … maybe it’s nobody’s fault.  Maybe that’s just how life is right now.  Maybe she’ll meet some great love of her life tomorrow.  Or next week. Or in five years.  Maybe she’ll fall pregnant at 44.  Maybe she’ll meet someone with three beautiful little boys who could do with a splendid step-mum.

Maybe she won’t have a child but will continue to be an incredible aunty and godmother to the tribe of kids already in her life and at some point she’ll meet a great man who makes her go weak at the knees and they will be entirely happy and fulfilled and speak French to each other on weekend drives through the country … while I fold the laundry and mutter swear words about them in French.

“If grass can grow through cement, love can find you at any time in your life,” said that famous philosopher, er, Cher.

Amen to that.

But this isn’t even about whether or not Zo finds love.  It’s about the fact that Zoe is enough.  Right now, today, she is enough. Splendidly single.  And people like me need to stop treating all single people like they’re broken and need fixing.

Love is not a paint by numbers game.  You can’t strategise your way into it.  It happens when it happens. (Well any fool can be hooked up with a jerk — I’m talking about finding a terrific relationship).  And as for me? Next time I feel tempted to give a single friend some unsolicited, unqualified advice, I’ll try shoving a marshmallow in my mouth instead. Merde.

This post first appeared on Mamamia.

Kate Winslet and the lesson I’ll never forget

My timing could be better.

We’re just weeks away from Mother’s Day and here I am writing a post that essentially criticises my mum. Let me tell you, it makes for uncomfortable writing. And it’s entirely Kate Winslet’s fault. More on that in a moment.

You see,  I have always seen my mum as amazing.  I have looked to her as the benchmark of how to be a mother who is loving but not cloying, who nurtures but doesn’t stifle.  She raised me to be strong and independent, to laugh often, to work hard but to keep things in perspective. Mum encouraged me to cherish my girlfriends, to show compassion, to earn my own money, to always find time – regardless of kids or work – to do something that is my own.

So let’s just make it clear that my mum would beat Carol Brady, Mrs Partridge, Clare Huxtable and yes, even Julie Rafter if there was ever some boxing match involving my mum and, you know, fictional mums from TV.  Which there’s not. Obviously. But if there was – ‘You going down, ladeeeeeeeez. Word.”  Or something. Anyhoo …

Soooooo writing this post is a just a leetle difficult.

Because last week I had a lightbulb moment thanks to, well, Kate Winslet.  Yes, Kate “I’m-flying-look-at-me-look-at-me-there’s-only-room-on-this-plank-in-the-sea-for-one-of-us-Jack” Winslet and I’ve realised that while I want to (and should) hope to emulate much of my mother’s parenting habits – there’s one thing I must do differently. And it’s the way I speak about my appearance. My body.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I grew up in a household where my mum routinely sledged her appearance in the mirror. But I didn’t.  I can – hand on heart – tell you that I never once heard my mother complain about her figure.  Never heard her bemoan her thighs or her arms, the size of her boobs or the shape of her hips. She may have thought it in her head – I’m sure she did – but she just never verbalised it. Certainly never in front of me.  Consequently despite the fact that I am an entirely different size and shape to my mother (I look like I ate my mother, frankly) I rarely utter a negative word about my appearance in front of Ava or Brad.  Do I think it?  HELL TO THE YES.  It’s like my head features a soundtrack narrated by Anna Wintour. But  I don’t say any of it out loud.

And for year YEARS I have thought this was enough.  More than enough. Just last week I was congratulating myself on my awesome body image parenting while simultaneously stuffing several of Ava’s Easter eggs into my cake-hole.

But last week Kate Winslet made me realise it’s not enough.

Last week on Facebook I stumbled upon this quote from the actress about what she says to her 12-year-old daughter Mia:

kate winslet daughter mia nyc2 BEC: Kate Winslet and the lesson Ill never forget.

Kate and Mia

“As a child, I never heard one woman say to me ‘I love my body’. Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend.”

“No one woman has ever said, ‘I am so proud of my body’.

“So I make sure to say it to Mia because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.”

I heard my mother say many things while I was growing up. “Am I the only person here who knows how to unpack the dishwasher?” being one of her personal favourites. But I have never ever heard my mother say that she loves her body. Or that she’s proud of it. Or grateful to it.  Not once.

And I think that’s a tragedy.

When I mentioned this to one friend she said, “Hello? As if you’re going to say ‘I love my body!’ in conversation with your child.”

She has a point.

And then I thought about it some more and thought, ‘Hang on, no she doesn’t.”

Why can’t we bring ourselves to say, “I love how strong my legs are” or “My body is awesome because it grew a baby!” or “How brilliant are our bodies that we can run and skip and jump and climb hills and ride bikes.” (Okay, I don’t say that last one because I’m not a member of the Famous Five and I only run if a serial killer is chasing me with a meat cleaver but still …)

Why can we brag – even in a jokey way – about how good we are at other things (I’m the Queen of Trivial Pursuit, I’m an awesome driver, I make the world’s best shepherd’s pie, Nobody writes a better business plan than me…) but we can’t ever say something positive about our bodies?

Because we’ll look up ourselves?

Because it feels uncomfortable?

Or because so many of us loathe what we see in the mirror?

I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe it’s all of the above.  But I do know that I want Ava to grow up appreciating what her body does for her.  That despite the disgracefully neglectful way we often treat our bodies that we should feel gratitude for the fact it keeps going. We should be in awe of what it does for us often under the toughest of circumstances (and, really, despite some of the hideous clothes we made it wear in the 80s. Culottes and shoulder pads, anyone?). I want her to be proud of how she looks.  To look at her body with affection rather than disdain.

So Mum, you have been the greatest of mothers to my brother and me. Without question.  But when it comes to body image, I’ll be taking a leaf out of Kate Winslet’s book. And I know – because of the woman you are – you’ll be just fine with that.

This post first appeared on Mamamia.