I try not to watch too much tabloid reality TV (except Masterchef and the Biggest Loser because they’re great and don’t count in my middle class snooty selective TV watching), mainly because it’s shit and I’ve got a shed load of binge series backed up on Netflix. To keep myself up with the cool kids, I tend to watch Gogglebox, which not only makes me laugh (what a malaka) but also gives you a quick précis of all the crap telly that’s on.
This week, amongst the usual dross, was the ultimate dross, Married at First Sight, which is currently airing on that bastion of the highbrow taste, Channel 9. For those not in the know, complete strangers meet for the first time at the altar and get married. We then follow the outcome of this pretend marriage to see if loves eternal sigh has been reached or they just fucking hate each other. All good stuff (apparently).
Now, normally I wouldn’t give this sort of fluff a passing thought. If you want to make a dick of yourself on national TV by looking sad and desperate, knock yourself out. It’s your crummy life after all. But in the week when we have the political debacle which is the same-sex plebiscite, this bloody show really stuck in my craw.
OK, so your far-right, still living in the 1950’s, Christian nutbag can’t seem to accept that society has moved on from a paternal dominated society, that your archetypal family is not (and hasn’t been for a long time) Mum, Dad and two rosy cheeked kids and that all the polling indicates that the majority of us would like to join the rest of the western world in the 21st Century and afford same-sex couples the same rights us breeder hetro’s have been enjoying for centuries.
A quick glance at the internet and these are the main arguments the socially challenged put up in their retro-defence:
- It Is Not Marriage (yes it is)
- It Violates Natural Law (I don’t even know what this means, but sounds incorrect)
- It Always Denies a Child Either a Father or a Mother (But offer’s a loving and caring home)
- It Validates and Promotes the Homosexual Lifestyle (And?)
- It Turns a Moral Wrong into a Civil Right (according to whom?)
- It Does Not Create a Family but a Naturally Sterile Union (Or a loving home for an orphan perhaps)
- It Defeats the State’s Purpose of Benefiting Marriage (Horsehit, just share the rights around equally.)
- It Imposes Its Acceptance on All Society (fine by me, I’m progressive not regressive)
- It Is the Cutting Edge of the Sexual Revolution (Ooh those naughty gays with their iOS 10 style sex stuff)
- It Offends God (How do you know? Has anyone seen her/him recently?)
(Source: TFP student action (twats)
Back to the stupid show. This programme does a lot more damage to the sanctity of marriage than will the coming together of two loving and committed adults of whatever gender. It’s a total fucking farce and I’m not the only one who thinks so. There is a petition on Change.Org which I urge you all to sign. If its Ok to totally devalue marriage like Channel 9 seem so happy to do in the pursuit of profit and ratings then it should be totally OK for our MP’s to do their frigging job, grow some balls and vote it through Parliament. It’s a win/win – our broad community gets to enjoy the same rights whichever team you play for, the government can then save the $200 million odd it was planning to waste on the plebiscite and could then spend it on something far more worthwhile, like a school perhaps, or a hospital or foreign aid even.
I’m pretty confident we’ll get there eventually, but it saddens me that we have to make it so hard and convoluted for ourselves. With that and our wonderful treatment of refugees we must look like the ranting and eccentric uncle of the global family. The one we humour, but we are all just a bit embarrassed by and hope they go home soon.
Rio, we’re going to Rio. Not really, can’t afford it and term 3 has just started, but via the wonders of digital TV, come Saturday we will all be glued to the tellybox at odd hours of the day, cheering on people we’ve never heard of in sports we’ve never heard of . C’mon!
This great event will also bring around the husband/wife 4 year Olympic argument. It is also a nationalistic argument between Great Britain and Australia.
My argument is this:
The only reason Australia appears to do well at the Olympics is because of swimming and the totally ludicrous amount of strokes and distances which offer medal opportunities.
To me, track and field was always the centrepiece of this sporting extravaganza, as it was in ancient Greece. And of those disciplines it was always the running which was the blue ribbon event. Now if we were to offer equal medal distribution, then swimming, like running would only be one stroke – freestyle, the one most people do. Scrap breaststroke, butterfly and backstroke and reduce the amount of distances which offer medals.
Now before you start shouting at me, even Australia’s own national broadcaster, the ABC agrees with me:
“Take swimming. Freestyle is by definition the fastest stroke of them all, because freestyle swimmers can swim however they like (though almost all of them do a version of the “front crawl” … because that’s the fastest).
So why do we celebrate the self-imposed limitations of other swimming events?
If you’re the best in the world at swimming backwards, you get a gold medal. But if you’re the best in the world at running backwards, you have to make do with being a curiosity on YouTube and going in the Guinness Book of Records alongside the person with the longest fingernails.”
Source: Michael Collett: Rio 2016: Five ways the Olympics aren’t always fair – http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-04/five-ways-the-olympics-arent-always-fair/7685322
See, I’m not just a whinging Pom, I have the ABC behind me.
Swimming is great fun, don’t get me wrong, but it has way too much Gold swinging from its kneck. It’s a pretty exclusive and elite discipline. Everyone can run, but not everyone can swim. Usually you need access to great community facilities to learn how to swim and to get the right coaching. If you want to run, just walk out the door and you’re good to go.
Sure let’s keep swimming in the Olympics but let’s scrap the crap and have one stroke and limit the amount of distances.
I now declare the Rio Olympiad open. Bring it on Australia.
You oft hear that one of the reasons cited for marriage breakdown is the drifting apart explanation, so it is with a heavy heart that I have to tell you…nah only joking, I’ve no plans to split up with the amazing missus. Saying that, it’s my one-sided view, you’ll have to ask her her future long term plans.
No, my drifting apart is in only one aspect of our life and that is FOOD. This thought came to me last night when I was standing on the sidelines of yet another muddy pitch, watching one of the boys in his sporting endeavours. I was chatting to a friend and we were talking about the daily dreaded question which is uttered every early morning as we all run around stressed. As we try to get our shit together for the forthcoming day, the question is asked ‘What do you want for dinner?’ or the more inclusive ‘What shall we have for dinner?’
My immediate thoughts normally run like this: ‘I can’t think straight, you make the decision’, ‘something with bread and or spuds please’, ‘I can’t be arsed to eat tonight’. Whereas I know my wife is thinking ‘Veg, pulses, fish, more veg, heaps of herbs, small portions, no carbs’. Eventually, we come to a compromise, the deal is struck and I’ll pop to Coles post kid drop off to get the required ingredients.
Please don’t think I/we don’t like our food. We do. My wife has endless bookshelves full of cookery books and foodporn mags. She loves a good cook up. We enjoy a lot of global cuisines together (in and out) and when we travel (another shared passion) we love nothing more than immersing ourselves in the local fare. But someone has come between us and we find ourselves drifting apart. That someone is Yotam Ottolenghi. In fact, I have coined a phrase for it (just now), I call it the Ottolenghi effect (sounds like a prog-rock band). Mr Ottolenghi is a famous London chef with roots in Israel. His modern take on vegetarian food has had a huge impact on current tastes and trends (note here: I’m not a veg hater). What I don’t enjoy, and my wife clearly does, are some of the combinations and ingredients. Pulling his veggie tour de force Plenty off the shelf, I open the book randomly to be greeted by vine leaf, herb and yoghurt pie. No thanks. Try again. Quinoa salad with dried Iranian lime. Not for me. I could go on (the wife will confirm this).
It would be churlish just to blame good ol’Yotam. Foodporn mags and Sunday supplements are littered with kale that, pomegranate this, no food fun here, thank you. So often at the weekends, if we are home, the dinners will run like this: Friday – my choice (I’ve got something nice and simple planned tonight with baked beans), Saturday – the better-half’s choice, which will very likely involve a trip to the fish markets and a specialist grocer with 5 hours prep after, Sunday – family dinner night, so we usually play safe with a trad roast for the kids. Every now and then I will be surprised by the Saturday night choice and we will have something, rich, luscious and fattening (I love those Saturdays). The weekday meals are a simplified rendition of the weekend’s food battles.
I know I’m not alone on this and I also know that my wife is also not alone. We simple minded blokes (my elder brother besides) like bolder, hearty flavours which can be enjoyed with one utensil, whereas my wife, and her chums, enjoy freshness, texture and healthy bits (& the occasional hot chip binge). I guess with more thought, this is some complicated and ill thought out metaphor for the difference between he and she. And that, actually, in hindsight, I’m not sure what I’m whinging about. Ok, so some meals/ingredients I don’t like and this is a two way street but we all grin and chew and say ‘that was delish, thanks very much’ because food, like relationships, is all about compromise and balance. I am the salt to her pepper.
Food note: No tolerance can be shown for fucking kale. That stuff is just plain wrong.
It’s a rare week when the papers don’t run an article regarding Mens slack effort when it comes to them doing their fair share of the household chores.
Stats abound and for the benefit of this article I’ll give you one (from UN women no less and not just the general opinion of my wife). Apparently, even in this more enlightened age, women do 2.5 times more unpaid work than men. Now don’t panic, this is not going to be a piece about how useless and lazy men are. We already know. And as I already stated, not a week goes by yada-yada…
No, this piece is to tell men where they are missing a real trick. According to Facebook executive, Sheryl Sandberg “couples who share chores equally have more sex…choreplay”. I haven’t seen any personal proof of that yet but I could try harder. What my proper tip is this…IRONING, the king of all the domestic chores.
I think I saw the great benefits of ironing subconsciously from my father-in-law. Thanks V. Male readers are probably now envisioning a huge pile of crumpled laundry, waiting to be ironed and thinking that ‘if I wear a jacket, that crumpled shirt doesn’t need ironing anyway’. Well, if you want to look like a scruffy arse, that’s your lookout. The reason ironing is the best chore is TV and the watching thereof. If you are prepared to attack the laundry mound then you can also watch TV and no one can accuse you of slacking. Winner!
My father-in-law obviously realised this early on, because he is now the master of the iron. This is how it works. Set up your ironing board in a suitably convenient spot (tip: it needs to be near a power point, a table for stacking the completed work, a good viewing spot for the telly and preferably not in the main thoroughfare. You don’t want a scalding iron on top of the cat/kid.)
Once the ironing board is in position, international rules clearly state, that you have dibs on the TV and its programming. If you have banked enough wrinkled clothing, this could be at least 2 hours. That’s a Tarantino movie (just) or 4 episodes of Veep or 2 gut ripping chapters of the Walking Dead. Score. It’s also an opportunity to watch the game your wife said you definitely couldn’t watch because she wanted to watch Heston Blumenthal on the other side or to catch up on all the great boy shows (cars, Hitler, criminals, engineering) you banked in your cable-providers hard-drive. Now, if you want to avoid arguments (even though you should be being thanked for doing such a laborious job as the ironing), it helps if you have other TV/Tablet options in your household. This gives you the negotiating edge “but honey/kids, I’m doing this really boring job for you, at least I should be able to choose the show, why don’t you etc.…” (note: if you don’t have these other screen-options, best do the ironing when the residence is empty. This also applies if you want to watch MA+ shows or Porn).
Negotiation successfully concluded, make yourself a suitable beverage (preferably not Alcohol. booze and Ironing never mix as we all know), get that super-glide, steam frothing bad-boy cranked up, set the ironing board to your required height and press play. (Tip: don’t choose a show which is too complex, involves subtitles or has got really strong accents because you are working on that devilish crease, so every split-second you will be distracted by the task in hand and soon lose track of what’s going on).
Two hours later, the job is done, the creases are vanquished, you’ve had some quality TV time and everyone is now in your debt. Now that is my sort of chore.
1930: Mickey Mouse make his first appearance. Mahatma Gandhi begins civil disobedience against the British Empire and Don Bradman scores a world record 309 runs in one day.
2004: Social media behemoth Facebook launches, Googles releases Gmail and the Cassini probe passes the Saturn moon – Titan.
1940: World War II rampages across Europe, Disney releases its second full-length feature – Pinocchio and Bugs Bunny makes his debut in ‘Wild Hare’.
2008: The Space shuttle makes another delivery to the International space station, the Australian Government makes a formal apology to the Stolen Generation and in London the first bionic eye operation goes ahead.
Confused? History? Grandparents? Where is this idiot going? Time machine, trivia facts, no none of that. Let me take you back to the last week of the school holidays, which for the non-Australian among you was the week commencing the 18th April. The boys and I were fortunate enough to be down the south coast hanging out with the maternal grandparents. This is our home away from home. The boys are lucky enough to have their own room (as are we), we have a beautiful sandy beach 5 minutes from the front door and the most welcoming of hosts. The weather was sunny and autumnal, the food, tasty and comforting and the company, warm and engaging. Although L&V are not my parents, I have always and I mean, always been made to feel part of the family. The peace and tranquility afforded me the time to think about Grandparents, what part they had played in my own life and how important they are (although they don’t know it yet) to my own kid’s life.
The years listed above are the years that L&V were born in comparison to my little sods. The changes that the world and society have experienced in that period must be the most dramatic in history (I say ‘must’ in the knowledge that some smarty smartarse will flick me an email saying that no, the most dramatic change in human history occurred between the agrarian and industrial revolutions – I don’t care, it’s my blog so it’s my facts). But I do think it’s fair to say that a shit-load of stuff has happened in the last century and the boys’ grandparents have been and seen a great part of that. That’s a walking history book, which talks, has insight, has direct personal experience of world events and as a result, has wisdom.
The greatest pleasure I get when watching the boys interact with L&V is when the boys are asking them questions about their own childhoods – “Are you serious? You didn’t have a TV? How did you cope?”, “Did German bombers really fly over your house?”, “You actually like tripe?” and so on. I didn’t say they were the most insightful questions but what is slowly happening is the boys are learning of a life before multiple screens, long-distance travel, advanced medicine, ample food and indoor plumbing.
Of course, it’s great having grandparents around to help out, take the kids for a weekends, collect from the school etc. but for me, I think the real benefit is in the captured history of their minds. Being the product of a single-parent family, I and my brothers, spent an awful lot of time hanging with our grandparents. I loved it. Without doubt, we were overfed and spoiled, while being perpetually scolded for being “stupid boys”. We had massive free reign, as I think they did in their pre-war youth, and that afforded us plenty of time to get into mischief. When we weren’t busy being little buggers, I loved to hear about their childhoods, their war experiences and the best bit? Getting the dirt on my mum and uncles when they were kids. Turns out Mum was a not so goody two-shoes – home-brewed alcoholic ginger beer anyone?
When I reflect on my shared moments with my grandparents, I realise that they instilled in me an inquisitiveness about the world, respect for other people’s perspectives and a huge appreciation for those who have gone before me (oh and sport, my grandad loved sport). I often get the impression that children just see their seniors as old people who have little relevance to them and the world that they live in. That thinking could not be further from the truth, by understanding your own family roots and the life that your grandparents led is the only way to appreciate what you have now and to truly understand who you are.
Something I’ve not really touched on too much before is my experience of being a stay-at-home dad, house-spouse or as I recently read somewhere, and very much my favourite, ‘Domestic Engineer’. This job is a generational phenomenon, one which our parents and grandparents would have not understood or approved of as little as 25 years ago.
I can’t say it was a burning ambition when I was growing up, I think it chronologically went more along these lines: spaceman (6), fireman (8), policeman (10), spy (12), football player (14), rock star (16), and then millionaire (18). So, I was a bit out of my depth and shocked when in April 2004 I found myself being, to use the technical term, the primary carer. The reason for my successful application for this job was: I had provided the sperm, I had no career to speak of, my wife had quite a serious career to speak of and I had nothing better to do with my time.
And with that, the adventure began. I took the job very seriously. At that time in place I was very much in the minority and I didn’t want to give anyone ammunition that Dad’s weren’t up to the job. We lived in a progressive seaside city on the south coast of England but that didn’t stop the mother coven from looking at me with suspicion and perhaps, a little bit of hate. Here was this guy, encroaching into a world very much carved out by Mums for mums. Now I’m a bit of an introvert (that’s a bloody understatement my wife screams in my head), so making small talk and sidling my way into mother’s groups was never going to be easy. Still, a mantra I kept repeating to myself then (as I do now), was ‘it’s not about you, it’s about your son(s)’ and with that I would load us up with all the baby essentials required for the day ( a shit load as it turns out) and head off to gymberoo, swimming and sing and sign classes. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all unpleasant, my son and I did some serious bonding, travelled to every building site in the city to look at diggers (we had a big Bob the Builder thing going then) and I met some really nice people, but I still felt very much the outsider, wheedling my way into a secret society. Also, I didn’t do a lot for my self-esteem and that created problems with life-style choices and mental-health.
Coming to Australia, was very much a re-start, a re-fresh, a new beginning. I instantly felt that my role in life was more accepted. Now, whether this is because of the more relaxed approach to life we enjoy here or that people just judged you on who you are not what you do. I can’t honestly say. The other option, it could have also been that by now, after doing the job for a few years and with another son on the way that I really didn’t give a shit anymore what people thought. This was what I did: cared for my boys and supported my wife with her own endeavours. I had a purpose, I could be proud of the work I was doing. I do definitely think that having two sporty boys helped. I’ve got no idea how girls work. Being around after school to take the lads to assorted sporting practices, getting involved in the clubs and trying not to shout too much on the sideline at weekend fixtures was and is one of my great pleasures.
When I look around the school playground now, I can see at least four other chaps doing the house-spouse thing. It’s not a lot when you crunch the numbers, but it’s a start. The same can be said when I go to the boy’s matches. The amount of beers I could have bought if I tallied up how many working men have said to me that they are either jealous, wish they could go part-time or even go the whole hog and be a full-time dad, would have afforded me my own pub. Come on Dads, man-up, they don’t bite you know – well my don’t anyway.
Of course, it’s not easy. It can be boring and very very tiring. Being a not very patient person, I can reach for the last resort sometimes instead of thinking about why they are doing that and what’s the best way to deal with the situation. Shouting never helps (but can feel bloody good). This is all outweighed by laughing at farts – yes, they are funny, enjoying their successes, burping the alphabet and watching as your child develops into the person you hope they may become. It also helps if you have a righteous mother in your corner to sort out all the crap you’ve created.
I have now held this position for 12 years (yet to be promoted) and for all its frustrations, I wouldn’t have it any other way. My wife and I enjoy a work/life balance which is the envy of many. We are a happy and close family who have been through a lot but have always had each other to get us through. My kids fill me with pride and I can’t wait to see what surprises the little shits have got in store over the forthcoming years.
Well, it’s been quite the week. One of the fears of writing personal pieces is that sensation of everyone knowing your business. However, this was vastly outweighed by the need to unburden myself and to help others (particularly men) in finding ways to deal with mental health issues. I am slightly annoyed with myself though. I had been umming and ahhing about whether to put this stuff out there. The catalyst was my amazing wife, who cheekily shared my Mr Perfect post on Facebook. My initial emotions of fear and annoyance were quickly switched to the thought – ‘I wish I’d done that earlier’.
Pleasingly, throughout the last week, I have received an avalanche of support from all over the joint. Perhaps, more importantly, I have had several men reach out to me to share their own personal battles. Result!! If a few words from myself can help and support a friend or even a friend of a friend then we are making progress. When I look at my children, one big hope is that by the time they reach adulthood, society will see mental health as just any other medical issue. I know it’s possible. Within my own generation divorce, abortion and equality rights for the LGBT community are now accepted parts of society (we just need the Australian Government to finish the job and give the LGBT community the right to marry).
I don’t plan to become a specialist writer on men’s mental health. Of course, it is a subject close to my heart, but there are lots of other things I am interested in and cross about. I will try and be a bit more prolific, a bit more light-hearted (where possible) and even more cantankerous.
Thanks again for all your support and kind words.
PS: Any men out there looking to make that first step, Mr Perfect has a great list of resources, whatever your poison.