Don Vincent

Yesterday I went to Glebe to visit my sister and met her at my nephew’s daycare centre so we could take him home with us. As we left, he held my hand and told me that he’d like some “warm bread”. Not sure what this was exactly, I let him lead the way and he ran ahead and into their local Indian restaurant where he was greeted with great affection by the owners, who enquired immediately if he was after some warm bread and went to the kitchen to make it.

While he waited, he said ‘I’d like a drink!’ and went to the fridge. I expected to have to talk him out of having Coke or something similar, but instead he reached for a lassi. Turns out the kid loves warm naan and a cool lassi and often stops in after daycare to get them and the owners love him.

Turns out a lot of the shop keepers on the street know and love him (mostly food vendors, suspiciously) and the staff at the local Thai place also came out to wave at him as we passed by.

I love this little guy, he is so affectionate and funny and he thinks jacarandas are called “drakarandas!” and he has a family who love the stuffing out of him.

Radiohead & My Summer of Metal

On Monday I went to see Radiohead. I can’t write about music, I lack the talent in a big way and I’m also slightly terrified that if I discuss Radiohead on the Internet, Shaun Prescott with attack me like a clown while I sleep, so all I am going to say is that I did not use social media at all during the gig (if you know me, this is a huge indicator of the level of my enjoyment) and the stage and lighting design was without question the best I have ever seen. I should have prefaced this by saying that I am very old and don’t go out much and rather than seeing live music and studying the stage and lighting design, most nights I am to be found in bed, mouth-breathing while I “F5” my Twitter feed so I am by no means an expert.

I will say this: they closed with ‘Idioteque’ and when I realised, I screamed and grabbed the knee of the person to my right because ‘Idioteque’ is my favourite Radiohead song.

Since turning 30 a month or so ago, I have slowly started to crumble physically. My knee gave out and then when bending over in the shower (!!!) I put my back out. I am also halfway to deciding what to do with my hair, so it’s part purple, part green where the purple is fading and white, where all my white hair is coming through. In other words: I am stunning, all the boys love me.

I am going away on my first ever hens weekend this weekend, after which I am going to embark on a Very Serious Exercise Regime not for the usual reasons of increased health and weight loss, but because my February 2013 is looking like this:

13th: Swans – Manning Bar, Sydney

15th: Old Man Gloom – Billboard, Melbourne

16th & 17th: All Tomorrow’s Parties – Melbourne

26th: Puscifer – Enmore Theatre, Sydney

Unless I change something drastically, I will spend all of March crying and rubbing Deep Heat into my ailing limbs, thinking fondly of the days when I had enough endurance to stand in sweltering heat while a stranger urinated on the back of my legs, all for the pleasure of watching up close as PJ Harvey play a 45 minute set at the Big Day Out. Or the days when I almost got crushed watching Celebrity Skin era Hole and realised Courtney Love was no longer my idol as I sailed over the barrier and into the arms of a security guard as she exposed her breasts in some kind of self-proclaimed feminist protest against Korn. Or the days when I fainted the first time I saw ISIS and remained standing due to the crush of the crowd and the fact that my feet were glued to the beer-soaked carpet of the Annandale.

These things all took energy, energy I no longer have!

When I am jogging at the gym and eating black bean wraps for the 76th night in a row, I will motivate myself by remembering it will all be worth it when I’m packed in with a bunch of strangers, drinking warm beer in the evening while Michael Gira wails about what it’s like to be heaven’s darkest god.

A response to my own open letter to Neil Gaiman on weight-shaming.

In the interest of being fair I think it’s worth following up on my post about Neil Gaiman’s tweets. Several people did something I didn’t, and that was tweet to Neil and ask him what the g-o was with using the word ‘enormous’. He responded, to Kath of Fat Heffalump who also left a comment on my previous post, and said:

I would feel bad if I didn’t acknowledge that Neil took the time to publicly say that he his choice of words was poor. So thank you for doing that, Neil.

It doesn’t make it less problematic, a whole bunch of people read the tweets and based on how we’ve experienced fat-shaming ourselves, or have seen it happen to other people, saw the word ‘enormous’ used in that context and immediately assumed Neil mean ‘overweight’. That doesn’t say great things about the social conditioning any of us are getting.

Secondly, I also happen to be above of average height in a family of people who make me look short(er). When you’re female, over six-foot and only the third tallest person in your immediate family, we’re talking about a tall bunch. We are these so-called “giants” on planes. I would argue that commenting on someone’s height is not even remotely in the same realm as commenting on someone’s weight for the simple fact that there’s not the same stigma attached to tall people.

However, would I be upset if I realised the person next to me was tweeting about my height and overall body shape associated with said height (yes we have huge feet, we have to or we’d overbalance and fall, yes I am wearing men’s gold Reebok Pumps, thanks for noticing)? Yes I would, but not quite in the same way as if the person was commenting on my weight. I’d be more likely to confront them directly, because I don’t feel ashamed of my height. I’m sick of people asking exactly how tall I am (I don’t know), especially strangers. I don’t like how aggressive my height or my older sister’s height can make particular men. There is a distinct lack of respect of personal space when they ask about height and not in an ‘Oh hey, I’m a tall fetishist!’ kind of way, it’s more like they equate height with masculinity and the aggression has a oddly physically nature to it (that’s thankfully never gone anywhere): these are the kind of men who can’t help but try and start a fight with the tallest man in a pub, just because they have an urge to say they could and did.

I’ve come to expect that when we travel anywhere as a family, people stare, comment, point, yell things. I’ve gotten better at ignoring it, but for a long time I couldn’t help but going over to introduce myself and give them a hearty ‘fuck you’ or if they were at a distance, as many middle fingers as I could muster. I remember being an at AC/DC gig that was held outdoors in a field in Canberra and I was with my dad and younger sister when a man behind us started mouthing off about not being able to see through my dad. Dad turned around and motioned in front of him to a large patch of empty grass, asking if the man and his friends wanted to stand in front of us instead. No, it wasn’t so much that the guy cared about not being able to see, it was that he wanted to fight a tall man of generous shoulder proportions in front of that man’s daughters, just to say he did.

Ever since then, I stand up the back at gigs (except metal gigs, where typically I get to bounce around gleefully as one of the shorter people in attendance. Someone should do a thesis on why we creatures of height are so drawn to metal) to avoid inconveniencing people, even the people who’ve shown up later than me, even the people who haven’t sat staring at their bedroom wall for 15 hours straight, transfixed by the band’s latest album, even the people who just don’t feel like the singer is speaking directly to them, man. I do it to avoid the snarky comments I get behind my back.

The last time I flew with my dad, I got to witness firsthand what it’s like to fly as a gloriously proportioned man, and let me tell you, it sucked. Not only can he not help taking up other people’s seat space with his shoulders, he was in a huge amount of physical pain because his legs really, really do not fit. Admittedly he also had a then undiagnosed broken knee, suffered when a bull kicked him, but never mind that. He just doesn’t fit on planes. The man took 30 years of martial nagging before he could be convinced to board a flight from Sydney to London because of the sheer discomfort he feels.

He wasn’t the man next to Neil, and he would have never read the tweet because he’s more of a Bureau of Meteorology and labradoodle breeder websites kind of guy, but had he been, and had he been moved there because of the nature of his physical shape, I can tell you, he’d be self conscious and the only thing on his mind would be getting the flight over and done with, not just because of the attention he’d drawn, but the physical discomfort he would be in regardless of where he sat.

I don’t want to focus too much on the semantics of the issue, I don’t think ‘enormous’ or ‘giant’ are words I’d choose to use, the issue is more that I’d think twice about commenting on the appearance of anyone sitting next to me, if not just because that is who they happen to be and there is no changing that, but because there’s every chance they might be offended, even indirectly, by my opinions on their proportions.

On that note, thank you for your time and we will now resume our regular schedule of posts about cat poop and insomnia.

A List of Little Things #2

+ Sportsgirl ‘Pout About It’ matte lipstick. I’m going to make a big call and say I like it more than M.A.C matte lipsticks and it’s about a third of the price.

+ philosophy vanilla birthday cake lip shine. It’s sticky as all get go, but it smells delicious and feels great.

+ Solange Knowles. single ‘Losing You’ and I’m so totally in love with it, both as a song and video. It’s shot so well, it feels exactly like dusk when you don’t have anything to do for days.

+ Tori Amos covers. Some of my favourites come from The Original Bootlegs, recorded during the Original Sinsuality and Summer of Sin tours. I bought them as a set in 2005 and listened to them the entire summer as I walked kilometres and kilometres to and from a job I had on the outskirts of the city I lived in and as a result, they always remind me of being alone and warm weather:

+ Letting sleeping dogs lie.

+ Summer reading lists. I have ten days booked in New Zealand for Amy and Nic’s wedding and a few of us are staying in a cottage in an orchid on the North Island. I don’t want to do anything but sit in the orchid with wine and books. I think I’m going to take Joseph Anton, Salman Rushdie’s memoir and Alan Clark: A Life in His Own Words, the edited diaries of a member of the British Conservative Party.

+ Donny Benét. OMG. I didn’t know who Donny was until he played at a gig my bro-in-law put on for his 30th which was such an awesome night made even more awesome by Donny. Donny is keyboard sexuality!

November Reading List

Foal’s Bread was given to my by my aunt, Jo, who gives me books every Christmas and it wasn’t very high in my pile of my books to read, but after last month I was feeling friendlier to fiction.

Joe Cinque’s Consolation I’ve read many, many times and is one of the most shocking, touching and heartbreaking true crime novels I’ve ever read. It’s also the book my book club is discussing on Friday night.

Norwegian Wood has been sitting on my bookshelf for a few years now and since I’ve been plotting my reading for 2013, which is mostly going to be non-fiction, I thought I should see out the year by reading all the fiction I own and haven’t had a chance to read yet.

White Teeth and Telegraph Avenue stick with the fiction theme, the former I’ve wanted to read for years, the latter I want to read because I really, really enjoyed The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

#photoadayNovember: Batch 1

Yet again I’m going to try and complete the monthly photo-a-day photo project run by Fat Mum Slim.

Day 1: Something beginning with ‘c’

Work provides us with fruit and biscuits, as well as an Xbox, really handsy massage chairs and a ping-pong table. Of these, the biscuits are probably the most popular because they don’t assault you like the chairs or drive you to madness like the sound of excited adults playing ping-pong.

Day 2: Colour

I’m a sucker for lipstick and nail polish and I have far too many of both, so I organise them in clear plastic tubs in a drawer. These two are my current favourites. The nail polish is Dutch Tuplips by OPI, who are probably my preferred choice for nail polish in general because it doesn’t chip easily. The lipstick is Bombshell, and it’s a Sportsgirl lipstick which I’ve been really happy with. It’s matte, cheap as chips and has more sticking power than any lipstick I’ve worn so far.

Day 3: Breakfast

On Saturday I went to the zoo with my sister and one brother-in-law and my nephew and I woke up late and realised that I hadn’t filled a prescription I really needed about a week ago, so before my ride arrived I had to run to Marrickville Metro and my choice was missing breakfast altogether or eating hash browns. This whole paragraph is just for my mum who is reading this right now, probably over the top of a pair of glasses and she’s got this familiar feeling of disappointment washing over her and she’s thinking, ‘Why can’t this middle child of mine make her own bircher muesli like I do every single night?’. Because mainstream media tells me women can’t have it all, Mum, that’s why.

Day 4: TV

I bought the first season of Sopranos in 2003 and was immediately hooked. I think it was the first TV show I was really, really fanatic about, even after watching the entire first season without realising it was a really, really dark comedy at times. Once I’ve finished my current run with Friday Night Lights I think I am going to revisit the “family”.

Day 5: 5pm

This is where I am at 5pm every Monday – Friday, my little pod.

An open letter to Neil Gaiman on weight-shaming.

This morning I woke up and did what I do every weekday: wondered where I was, what time it was and reminded myself to change my alarm tone to something other than Fiona Apple because her music is pretty soothing and I’ve slept through it more than once, only to be woken later when a hungry cat sneezes in my face.

Then I checked Twitter and my good mood evaporated when I saw the following exchange:

Neil Gaiman is a very well-known author, with 1.7 million followers on Twitter. As of 8am this morning, this particular tweet had 27 retweets, which comforts me to a degree, as he usually gets more.

Twitter is a difficult medium and I’m not normally one for picking apart people’s individual tweets, because the very nature of the beast is that it’s a fast and short method of communication. Anyone who uses Twitter has made a faux pas at some point and tweeted something without thinking, or hasn’t been able to get the context quite right because of the 140 character limit. Or has made so many penis jokes that they live in daily fear that their mother is one day going to find their Twitter account and not be angry, Julia, just very disappointed.

However, this is Neil Gaiman who has faced criticism of his tweets before, who I have seen discuss gender and sexuality issues with the great care and consideration they deserve and who seems to realise that with great power comes great responsibility. He is Neil Gaiman of the 1.7 million, quite often rabid followers. When he doesn’t think before he tweets, a greater number of people see it than when I do, and they interact with it, they retweet it, they reply to him and to other Neil Gaiman fans. They look at his tweets and the opinions held within and they assume, correctly in most cases, that the opinions are the author’s own.

I want to be fair to Neil, and so I will say this: leaving aside the actual focus of the tweet, I can see what he was kinda going for there, there’s a certain kind of wordplay he’s attempting: this happened at point a and now it’s happening at point b and point b happens to be his lap. I love a good lap joke as much as the next person. Laps!

The problem is, it’s not funny, it’s unintentionally (I hope) nasty. Here’s what I would have thought at the very least if I were Neil Gaiman and that had happened to me and my first instinct was to tweet it: I am Neil Gaiman. I have 1.7 million Twitter followers. This gentleman might be one of them, or maybe someone who loves this gentleman follows me. This gentleman might read my tweet and that would probably make him feel bad and really self-conscious.

You don’t even have to be a person who actively tries not to weight-shame to be able to grasp that a tweet like this might hurt someone’s feelings.

I was heartened to read @gajjex’s response, not only because he had every right to be offended and angry, yet was succinct and cool about pointing out an important point that seemed to have slipped Neil’s mind: at least some of Neil’s 1.7 million followers are probably overweight, and that a situation like this is probably horrible. Frankly I’m surprised Neil needed that pointed out. If Neil was aware why the gentleman had been asked to move, then the likelihood of a whole bunch of other people on the plane knowing as well was probably pretty high and the gentleman in question was probably aware of this and feeling incredibly self-conscious.

Here’s how I know: I was really overweight until this year. I’m still overweight, just less so. I didn’t become overweight because I was greedy or lazy, but as a side effect of some medication I was taking, for depression as it happens, and then when I stopped taking the medication because it made me overweight very, very quickly, I was still depressed and then I ate to make myself feel better and yes I ate all the things and here’s what it’s like to be an overweight person in public, when weight-shaming seems to be one of the last non-taboos of personal appearances among the otherwise PC: it’s intensely horrible. I hated eating in public because I assumed people were thinking, “Someone needs to tell that disgusting girl she doesn’t need that burger.”. I hated clothes shopping because I thought people were looking at me as though I’d somehow ended up in the wrong shop and that I was somehow unaware that I was so heavy that I would never look good in any kind of clothing except for a sack. I hated, Neil, sitting next to people on public transport because some people visibly shift away from overweight fellow passengers. Sometimes they sigh in frustration. Sometimes they look at you with disgust. Sometimes they comment on your weight. I thought about how much I disliked myself almost every second I was in public. And I lived like that for years.

People are fucking cruel, Neil. Your buddy Kevin Smith has discussed it at length. Perhaps you’d do well to listen to the SModcast he did with a fellow airline passenger after the weight of both of them came to the attention of flight staff a few years ago. Because that SModcast is heartbreaking.

When you weight-shame in public, you’re going to get responses like the one from Angelina above and it was that response that really made my blood boil this morning. Angelina had “one of those” sit next to her on the plane. One of those what? Fellow humans? One of those. Angelina, you basically confirmed for me that I was right to be paranoid all those years, there really are people out there who seem personally offended by another person’s weight. Here’s a little fact especially for you: I’ve never met an overweight person who is that way because of gluttony. I know many, many people who are overweight because of mental health issues or genetic issues though, who struggle with it daily, who desperately wish their bodies looked different. So how dare you?

I think @gajjex, who handled this with total class deserves the last word on the matter:

Edit: now I get to have the last word, because events unfolded and the story changed and I feel that it’s only fair to give an update that includes Neil’s response, so I wrote another post over here.