Ladies.. the most important thing in life is to keep your man distracted.

22 01 2014

I think few women genuinely appreciate the importance to any society of keeping its men distracted. Certainly, in the age we live in, it appears that women spend much of their time trying to prise men away from distractions. Things like working on old cars, playing with toy trains in the basement, collecting human body parts in chest freezers and spending too much time on facebook games that involve gorgeous women with impossibly large breasts having equally impossible fascinations with automatic weapons. Now, it is possible that after the last sentence you are either a) a typical male now mesmerised with the mention of boobies b) a slightly disturbed woman thinking that I know your love interest a bit too well or c) Dexter wondering whether he left the chest freezer open last time he was down there.

body parts

You see the problem is that men are, as Douglas Adams was wont to say “mostly harmless” if left to their tedious but otherwise innocuous pursuits. They just get dangerous when they REALLY get an idea in their head. You see whilst men joke about the length of their… urethras (while in comparison, sans UTI women hardly spare a thought!) they don’t actually like comparing them, certainly not with any reliable measuring device handy, because we all know that if you look at another man’s penis you become gay. So, long ago men devised ways that they could outdo other men. One simple game is called ‘Climb the tall thing’. It is rather simple, you just climb the nearest tall thing. Now once your son, your great Uncle Ralph and your mud hut was scaled, groups of men tended to look further afield (and get out of there before you had to deal with Uncle Ralph’s broken back or your wife screaming about the new hole in the grassed roof of your house).

So men would climb trees. Some in Vanuatu would actually JUMP off trees as a rite of passage. It was also a convenient way of getting rid of your enemies, as long as they were poor at estimation skills, by cunningly making the supporting vine to the ankles somewhat longer than the actual fall to the ground. Brilliant those men! Trees get dull, so you try waterfalls, cliffs, large mounds of dirt with grass on them or.. mountains. So men would climb mountains. “Why?” Sir Edmund Hilary was asked after completing the first documented ascent of Everest with his faithful Sherpa, Tenzig Norgay. His answer? Often documented as “because it was there!” but apparently, according to a source I have yet to make up, his original answer was “because my wife is not!!”.

edmund and Tenzig

Yes, climbing a summit makes you a man. Can you climb stairs? Well, son, you can climb a mountain. So men do. Now, what people fail to realise is that a LOT of dishes pile up whilst one is away doing lame-arse things like climbing mountains (when, after all, you just have to go back down again and you’ve seen all that bit before, right?). Apparently Sir Edmund Hilary’s wife had to rent a second home to store the dirty dishes that accumulated during the year and a bit that the first ascent took him.. She did apparently negotiate a dishwashing machine afterwards so the expedition wasn’t completely pointless.

The problem is that once men start climbing things, they tend not to stop. So to avoid too much purchasing of unnecessary crockery, whole societies actually moved further and further up mountains. Yes, in every continent on the planet you will find Indians, Tibetans, Nepalese and, of course, the indigenous people of what is now known as Papua New Guinea.

Now these tribes long satisfied all desires to climb to the top of mountains. It long since became a rite of passage since the majority of babies in such tribes tended to be born right on top of such things. A more difficult rite of passage was not falling down of one of these perilous peaks that tribesmen and women decided to live on. Silly, some might even suggest. Well, perhaps, but each family had only one set of crockery and the dishes were always done, so the women were hardly complaining.

That was until the men stopped getting distracted. This was always going to be trouble. So one day, an alpha male starts lamenting about the taro and pork all the time. “I’m so sick of @#$% Taro and Pork!!! I’m so #$% ^&* hungry I could even eat your mother-in-Law, Buntu!!”. “My mother-in-Law, hey? Hmm.. I’ll tell you what, there is a Taro lager and a kilogram of bacon if you do!”. So it was that the “other, other” white meat was sampled and found to be well, pret-ty darn tasty. As an added bonus, the constant whining around camp was minimised a little as well.

cannibal jokeThe problem is with cannibalism is that you end up eating your labour, really. Yes, in an exciting Master-Chef-Style ingredient challenge, it was a bold flavour and freely available but there comes a point where there is no one much around to do any other food gathering and you just get a bit, well, on edge! So people generally tried to steer away from descending down the culinary road of cannibalism. Of course, because of the difficulty of achieving sound sleep but also the truly awful jokes:

Cannibal daughter to cannibal mother: “Mummy! Mummy! I hate Daddy!”, “Well, leave him, dear and eat the Taro.”

Cannibal daughter to cannibal mother: “Mummy! Mummy! This clown tastes funny.”

You see what I mean. So cannibalism is a pretty serious slippery slope for society to head down.

Modern societies, of course, substituted mountains for skyscrapers but this was hardly a challenge, as long as the lifts were actually working. Even when they weren’t, it became a fashionable competition, from New York to Addis Ababa (purely an assumption, but, why not?) to have stair climbing races to the tops of skyscrapers. The thing is that feminism had LONG been invented by then and we were roundly chastised that “Women can do anything!”. As it turns out they pretty much can… well except for scratch their balls, play good lead guitar, achieve mainstream success with stand up comedy or beat your average man at putting together a MALM bookcase, An EXPEDIT unit or, the piece de resistance, an entire FAKTUM kitchen. So the stair thing died a sorry death.

Yep, men raised on a solid diet of Lego to distract them from connecting power socket to fork to baby sister spent many hours deciphering the 3D hieroglyphics in the verbal desert that is a Lego instruction manual to make pirate ships, Millenium Falcons or properly operating flush toilets (didn’t your house have a Lego toilet??). Now, blind Freddy could see.. no, well, perhaps he was one who clearly couldn’t, but almost everyone else would see the clear similarity with Ikea instructions. Men also knew how to hold those notoriously tricky allen keys supplied!

So modern men can pretty much take or leave mountains (unless they perhaps had a Legoless childhood). Or perhaps if they happened to have a Legolas childhood and got a fanging for some of ‘dem New Zealand peaks!! However, I digress. Yep, modern urban man can build IKEA and this is a blessing.

Sure our houses might have enough storage, OK maybe it is 7.6 times easier to get into a POANG chair than out of one (according to a study I conducted in my home last Tuesday morning) and perhaps it is a pain in the neck trying to remember which box in the EXPEDIT shelving that you left the cat because it was, well, an annoying cat. Ladies, a cautionary tale, however, is on this ver blog. Please go to work. Please let him buy that PAX wardrobe. Leave him alone on the floor with those 19 pieces at the end that were worryingly left over and the Crownie in his hand… At least he is not thinking about how !@#$%^& bland your @#$%^&*(  Tofu salad and whole grain croissant tastes. If he does, you might find yourself waking up catching a glance at a dirty glass door once every three seconds or finding out that your Gaggenau oven really DOES keep an even temperature all over. It is imperative to stop men rediscovering Cannibalism. The more you push your men to avoid skin cancer (or the outdoors entirely), the more you make him love that lamentable metrosexual on the YOUI commercial, the more you sermonise about your food that tastes like Rainforest Puke, you are driving him closer and closer to exotic carnivorism at an apartment near you. VERY near you.

Faktum Kitchen

Actually,  evangelism is in order. It is probably time to get such pasty-faced almost men out and doing a bit of exercise and I wholeheartedly recommend introducing the joys of IKEA furniture construction to the isolated tribes of the Sepik river in New Guinea. Imagine the relief in the faces of those who face horrific lives there if they knew that a) they could finally sleep knowing that their men are maniacally distracted by hexagonal metal and whiteboard and b) that if the women didn’t like their kitchens, they’d have 90 days to haul them back down the mountain to Port Moresby for a ‘no questions, money back guarantee’! Of course, we’d run out of Cannibal jokes and some have suggested that Muslim jokes are on the rise.

I’m not so sure that is a good thing, really.


The ‘Beauty Myth’ Myth..

15 01 2013

If an earworm is a song that you can’t get out of your head, then I guess a mindworm would be an idea you can’t get out of your head… This is one of them. Much has been said in the popular media about the enduring issue of female body image and following the seminal work by Naomi Wolf in 1991: The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women. This work essential birthed a US movement, which has now spread worldwide, purportedly to expose the ‘beauty myth’. So what, exactly IS this myth? According to Wolf, the myth is that ideal or archetypal female beauty ought to be the standard for women to aspire to when it is, quite patently unattainable for the vast majority of women to ever achieve. Moreover, she states that the beauty myth leads to assault in five areas of  female experience: work, sex, religion, violence and hunger.

Now this article is not so much concerned with Wolf’s postulates here, in fact they had (and still have) considerable merit in exposing and asking questions about what we value about women. Instead, I am going to examine the irrational car wreck that occurred when the self esteem industry, the personal hygiene mega-corporations and overpaid advertisers met Wolf’s ideas. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you exhibit A: A ‘Dove’ ad, analysed by Gruen Planet last year. The irony of this is that the ‘Dove’ brand is one of hundreds owned by Unilever, that provides hundreds of products in the cosmetics, beauty and hygiene products sector of the market and is worth billions, essentially through its extraordinary success in persuading women that ‘natural’ is not good enough. What is mind-boggling is that a company this large can basically question the whole idea of attainable female beauty whilst making a profit by selling hundreds of products that promise just that. The campaign is now a ‘textbook standard case study’ in undergraduate marketing courses.

So why is beauty SO important to women (predominantly) in the developed or developing world? The reasons and complex and myriad but, at their core, it is because we can afford to obsess about beauty. If you live on a part of the planet where Maslow’s hierarchy of needs forms your daily ‘to do’ list, which usually gets stuck somewhere around the “food” and “shelter” issues, then exfoliation is a LONG way down that list.

So surely the female obsession with unattainable beauty can be firmly laid at the feet of men, can it not? By far the easiest target of the angry feminist, the more ‘utlitarian’ gender appears not to be guilty. Groups of women frequently ‘do themselves up’ at functions where men aren’t even present. If the goal of presenting an image closer to the ‘ideal’ was to attract men, it is rather intriguing then to see so many apparently happily married women dressing and being made up to this standard, even for work, where their husbands are not even present. Is it possible that the mimicking behaviour of pre-adolescent girls stems not from the influence of fathers and brothers but mothers, sisters and female friends? Do women trade on that most basic and primal commodity to establish social power amongst each other? A wall of psychological research would proclaim a resounding ‘yes’.

Sure women do ‘enhance’ beauty to a mythical standard to attract men, it works. However, the more important benefit appears to be higher standing amongst women. Couple that with well-developed social and emotional skills and you won’t find it hard to pick out your ‘Alpha female’ from any bevvy of women out for an event. So how does this relate to the beauty myth. Easily. Men are far more in agreement with what constitutes an attractive woman, whilst women are notoriously difficult to pin down key attributes of a physically attractive male. So here is a test: 1. Would you consider this woman generally attractive:


2. Ok, how about THIS guy?

Gerard Dep

Well people around my age may remember both Andie MacDowall (top) and Gerard Depardieu (bottom) as both acting in the classic feature “Greencard”. At the time, Andie was in the top ten regularly of polls of beautiful women in the US and Gerard of beautiful men predominantly in (his country of origin) France.

But wait, we know you want MORE, right? Well, such ideas go further in a way that seems, at first glance, to be a noble and admirable goal but one which leaves women in an even poorer state. Let me explain. The ubiquitous message we hear in the 21st century about women is that “All women are beautiful”, that all women should be proud of their bodies and realise that they are beautiful. Now this seems to include genetically responsible conditions such as deformities, large visible birth marks, skin abnormalities and so forth, but also those predominantly related to health and lifestyle including obesity.

This is where the message gets weird and dangerous for women. We are now (often) telling women that ‘you are all beautiful just the way you are’. We say it to the morbidly obese, we say it to the anorexics struggling to hang on to life in hospital and we say it to tragic burns victims that can’t face looking in the mirror. Why do we do it? To make them feel better? The absurd thing about this is that psychologically it can’t work and fundamentally, rather than devaluing the concept of beauty, it simply elevates it above all else… because everyone MUST be beautiful, right? No, everyone is not required to be beautiful and, I am going to say it; everyone is not ‘beautiful’.

Let me use two analogies that relate to men. Firstly, physical strength. This is an archetypal ideal for some men.. the ‘condom full of walnuts’ look and able to lift a truck up with your bare hands. Are ALL men strong? No. Some incredible men, like the actor that played Superman, the late Christopher Reeve, a quadriplegic from a tragic horse-riding accident until his death in 2004 could not even lift a spoon. Is it important that all men are strong? No. Is it OK to say that some are not strong? Yes, of course.

Now what about smart men? Another archetype for men in establishing a socially stable hierarchy is intelligence. Notoriously hard to measure but we seem to know it when we see it. Now, is EVERY man a smart man? You’d have to be off your rocker to support that notion (or at least go for a drive!). Is it important that ALL men are smart. No. Not at all.

So why doesn’t telling women that they are beautiful work long term to improve their health, self-esteem and social opportunities? For the same reason that mothers telling woeful singers on Australian/American/UK Idol that they are awesome singers. It is a blatant lie because making them feel good is now far more important than being  good. When it comes to beauty, however, it doesn’t stick. We know this because survey after survey (even of beautiful models) show that women do not like the way they look. they don’t feel  beautiful. It is not fair but it is reality that beautiful women tend to have social capital in groups of adults, both mixed and single gender.

Despite flaws in intelligence, empathy, integrity or other attributes, beautiful women tend to get more attention in class, in interviews, in selections for promotion and other areas of societal competition. If a woman is told she is beautiful but not does experience the ‘benefits of the beautiful’ then she will know that what is being peddled about her ‘beauty’ is a lie. Worse, it now shows her just how far down this (unfair) hierarchy she really is, because beauty is the most important commodity.

This gets one step more bizarre when we encourage women whose health issues impinge on their beauty to ’embrace who they are’. Now for this controversial point, I expect some brickbats in the comments, but, PLEASE, read this section carefully. It is as damaging and absurd to tell an overweight woman that she is beautiful just the way she is and to not change a thing as it is to tell a smoker with lung cancer that his x-rayed lungs with grapefruit sized tumours are ‘a thing of beauty’ so keep on smoking.

Overweight or not, requiring someone to obtain some unattainable ideal of beauty is unfair, shallow and places value on something that for most of us might be very hard to change. Encouraging someone, whether they be anorexic or obese, or choose to use damaging solaria to get a tan with UV rays is simply irresponsible.

Ok, are you still with me? So what can we say to women about their bodies that can help them with health and their psychological well-being? What about that they are worthwhile human beings and that we ALL can benefit from being as healthy as we can be, particularly if we are globally rich and overindulged. Secondly, that, just like God, we can broaden the value we see in people; some are funny, some are empathic, some are very smart, some have awesome work ethics and tenacity, some are reliable and so forth. Let’s be genuinely complimentary about the people around us and the real beauty we see. Not flattery (which is an untrue compliment to make people feel good). Just let people separate themselves from the importance of being physically beautiful.

If you think there is heresy in this article. Stop, ladies and consider how we treat overweight men, funny-looking men or strange-looking men. It is a LOT more socially acceptable to pay out on an Australian man for being any of these things than a woman. Why? Because neither men nor women generally value physical beauty of men in the way that women do. Men have the same needs for self-esteem too, but physical beauty, in most research, is a lower priority for men. Watch out though if you insult his intelligence or his physical strength (or sexual prowess, an area where men are often woefully inadequate and very sensitive to criticism!).

So where does this leave us? With some sensible but promising work to do. What if we devalued physical beauty to a more reasonable level, whilst acknowledging the benefits to the ‘lucky ones’ in much the same way we do for those of gifted intelligence? What if we divorced health issues from self-esteem issues and decided that being healthy is more important than feeling beautiful. Health is a far more objective measure and it is quite possible that if you are proud of your ability to get yourself healthy (lower/higher fat percentage, healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, healthy liver and kidneys etc) you will be more confident regardless of how you look against the impossible standard and can realise your real worth as a caring and interdependent part of society.

Finally, what would society be like if we stopped being obsessed with the way our bodies looked and burdening our communication with others about our own physical and emotional inadequacies and focussed instead on the lives of others and the less fortunate whose lives we mentioned earlier. Now THAT, to me at least, sounds beautiful. Women who live like that, regardless of how they look are VERY attractive.. don’t you think? 😉

Baby Handles and Ziplock Caesarians..

4 04 2009

The line between organic and industrial is getting blurrier by the year. Our bodies now may include funky features like ceramic crowns, straight out of space technology, Titanium body parts, cool longlife artificial pacemakers, polymeric heart valves and (yes, eat your heart out, Lindsay Wagner!) bionic ears!

Well, I think it’s high time we really ramped up this functionality. One of the most nerve-wracking things for a new parent is juggling little newborn babies. They have approximately the same head control as a 95 year old has over his bladder and are notoriously slippery creatures (mostly due to the unique combination of smelly liquids that can spray from around half a dozen loaded orifices). A simple solution? A handy-dandy Titanium handle mounted straight into the vertebrate of our little bundles of joy!

Imagine the confidence that a young parent would have negotiating that new MacLaren stroller into the boot after shopping, whilst juggling two bags of Aldi groceries and the darling little Jettt-Buzz Jones firmly held aloft with aeronautic grade Titanium single-handedly! Want to let little Jettt-Buzz experience the joy of flying foxes with his siblings a full three years earlier than they did? No problem, click your caribena onto his handle and listen to those howls of delight! Even Michael Jackson holding young Paris aloft in Berlin might have been a non-event if he simply had access to a Titanium back-handle on his wee-bairn!

Now my next suggestion has been met almost universally (yeah, ok, COMPLETELY) with derision from any woman who has had a child but I still think it merits an airing. After all, the first bloke who suggested that women in Labour bend over and score a chunky sharp between the vertebrae with a 1:100 chance of permanent paralysis was probably not met with hugs and kisses, yet women get epidurals every day now (well, only if they are in Labour, NOT Earth-mother types and pretty close to scratching their pathetic partner’s eyes out in pain). The idea? Simply suggesting that women having Caesarian sections and planning more children elect for a ziplock seal!

It would look far more attractive than a sealed Michelle-clip scar and that next bub is a two minute job with no fuss. The hardest thing would be remembering that the bright blue and yellow stripes needed to be green to be sealed well. Any doctor without colour-blindess should manage that one! It would also be handy if you found yourself with retractors left inside as they seem to be, all to commonly, these days! Don’t sue, just unzip, reach in and grab that offending instrument and hand it back to its rightful owner. It’s the 21st century, for goodness sake, we just need to be cool about these things.

Now, I now this next application will be as controversial as it is gross, but indulge me. It also gives a wonderful opportunity for women to discover the joy of pockets. Men don’t actually need a lot of pockets under normal circumstances. They are predominantly for men with communication problems in relationships with women (that is, pretty much, all men in such relationships).

Levi Strauss recognised this way back in 1886 when we sewed no fewer than 5 pockets into men’s 501 jeans. Women always ask men to carry their stuff. This is supported by statistics (that I just made up) that gay men have some 43% fewer pockets than straight men.

“Darling could you just mind my keys/lipstick/compact/fold-up treadmill? That’s a love!”. Most men, when confronted with this confident request delivered in a sultry tones with hints of chocolate and Joop! are scarcely able to mumble the less-than articulate reply: “MMmmph? Yeahalright.”.

Dr Livingstone was well able to traverse the larger part of central Africa by enlisting the help of poorly paid servants to carry his extravagant supplies of extra pith helmets. In the same way, women are able to glide into an evening on the town with 3.5 grams of silk draped over a gorgeous body on 54 g of stilettos, knowing full well that their partners are endowed with enough pockets to be able to carry their 45.6 kilograms of “essentials” required for a three hour dinner and dance.

Consider the liberation that might be achieved for our longsuffering menfolk if women could simply store such essentials in their lower abdomen? Of course, there is the fear that men may find their current, burdensome layers of clothing largely superfluous in such circumstances and opt for a nice pair of undertrunks (with an  appropriate “pocket” for storing a single credit card and car key,  complementing such trunks with perhaps a Bonds vest (if it was particularly cold in winter) when going out. I also suspect the divorce rate might climb somewhat…

Well, maybe we’d better just keep the pockets and leave the ziplocks well-enough alone, for the sake of preserving society. Maybe I’ll also skip the planned discussion on using hollowed prosthetic limbs as extra storage on motorcycles…

Au Revoir!

On new forms of poetry..

30 03 2009



I was taking a cover lesson of a year 10 English class for a colleague the other day and the students were doing a poetry exam. As I mentioned that they would be studying a novel next term, there was a noticeable “Whooop” from most of the boys in the class.

Having spent the last 16 years as a teacher on a solid diet of skepticism about most adolescent boys’ latent desire for fictional literature (without pictures), I did not for a second believe that they were overjoyed at the prospect of ripping into a new tome over Easter! (Notice how my writing style has emulated an English teacher over the last paragraph?).

Anyway, I digress. It dawned on me a second later that these boys, nay, young men, had just been subjected to poetry! For a term!! Where is the humanity?

I empathised with these young Australian men, whose ordeal would best be mirrored by subjecting your average facebook-obsessed, Australian-Idol addicted lass to a full term of Top Gear and highlights from the last decade of State of Origin Rugby League as a principal source of textual discourse.

Then, my hypocrisy alert went into meltdown as I remembered that era in my own life. Actually, I read and wrote quite a bit of poetry in my late teen years. Enough to fill a copy of the Weekend Australian at least. I reflected on why this was.

Chicks, mostly. They accounted for about half the content and perhaps 80% of the motivation. Young ladies dig guys who are comfortable enough with their manhood to indulge in a little poetry. Well, so my adolescent mind told me anyway. As it turned out, this, like so many of my adolescent theories was 1% inspiration and 99% sheer bollocks. These young ladies (my wife included!) still, by and large, went for the footy guys, those on the verge of expulsion and those most likely to carry an extra Y chromosome. It turned out that philosophical nerds and female interest in try-hard sensitive-new-age-guys peaked more at 22 years of age than 15 years of age . The fact that this generally coincided with the popular thugs of the cohort variously ending up in fatherhood, unemployment or prison was probably less than coincidental.

Writing good poetry is, and most likely  should be, difficult, in my less-than-humble opinion. If it’s not, well, for a bloke, what is the point? Now Dimitri Martin, a famous US comedian, wrote a 224 word PALINDROMIC poem. Now THAT is poetry! Not just mindless stream-of-consciousness prose, overly laden with obscure adjectives and pseudo-existential babble. Yep, a real poem either has to woo chicks or be cool. There is really no other justification for delving into this minefield of masculine vulnerability.

So how did I rate my own work? Mostly dross, I am sad to say. Some interesting (and hard to write) rhyming patterns and amateur philosophy. Although I did pen one weird one called “paradox lost” in which the “story” runs backwards and each adjective is selected on the basis that it is tautological to its subject. Still, it is a silly little piece and is best buried in whichever box it is buried in currently in my wardrobe. The rest is adolescent twaddle and has about as much existential angst as a toddler who really needs to go to the toilet. Actually that gives me an idea for a poem.

I have even, with the help of an experienced colleague at work, created a new version of poetry, modelled on the classic Japanese “haiku” but more hip than an orthopedic surgeon’s dumpster. It is called a “lowku” and instead of the standard 3-5-3 pattern with its mere three lines of syllabification, a lowku requires, nay demands, a postively svelte 1-3-1. Such verse are harder than they look and can be cool, or good for pulling chicks or both as the examples below clearly show:






what’s it good

Ok, lowku c) is not a good example of one which can be used for both, unless you happen to be targetting a pacifist in your local “Resistance” meeting but, hey, can’t hurt, right?

So what did I tell these fine young men about poetry? “Hey guys, take it from me, chicks LOVE poetry, study it, write it, read it!”. So did I knowingly perpetuate this myth? Absolutely, but I have daughters and I am happy for this myth to live in perpetuity at least until my daughters are well and truly married well. Keeps those lusty little toads off my front lawn doesn’t it?