For some people, their birthday is the highlight of their year. For others, it’s one of the shittiest days of the year. I only realised the other day exactly why I have always hated birthdays – it’s not so much because of the birthday itself; it’s the people

When I was in kindergarten, I remember there already being the ‘popular’ girls in my year; Grace and Caitlin. They were the pair who everyone loved and wanted to be. Unfortunately, that also meant that they were colossal bitches, even at 5 years old. 

Around rolled 28 July 1997. I was turning 5 years old. Having trouble finding friends, Mum encouraged me to invite 20 of my ‘close’ friends in Kindy for my McDonalds party (they were all the rage back in the day!). I remember sitting down and pointing to all the people in my grade from our annual school photos of people I wanted to invite. It didn’t include Grace and Caitlin. My only task was to hand out invitations at school. 

Handing them out at recess, I remember Grace and Caitlin both asking me whether they had been invited because ‘they were my best friends’. I hadn’t, but I lied though; I said I left theirs at home. I remember going home and asking Mum to write invitations to invite them too.

What I had done was unintentionally started the annual tradition of hating my birthday. 

My birthday was no longer about me; it was about them. Everyone loved them, and so everyone wanted to play with them on the playground rather than spend time with me inside the party room. Funnily enough, I remember crying, asking Mum why nobody liked me. 

Ever since then, I’ve hated birthdays. 

Frankly, as it’s rolled around again today, I’ve come to the point where I dislike people doing anything for me on my birthday, or even acknowledging it. The more people do, the more I hate it. 

Either way, it’s agonising when you have to pretend to be thankful and happy for your birthday because for me, a birthday simply means another year has gone without killing myself. 

Happy birthday to me. 

Text exchange with one of my students: 

Student: I did my assessment task today. The people who watched said it was intimidating to follow. Which I guess is good but I hope the teachers think the same. 

Me: Glad to hear! That’s how it should be. Keep your hopes high, we will have more to go through before you can conquer the world. 

Student: But the fact is that I will conquer the world.

Me: Even dictators need good mentors. 

Student: Caesar had to learn from somewhere

Me: And look at his legacy!

Student: I shall one day have a great salad named after me. I promise you. 

 

 

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 This is Coco. She is my 1-year old Bull Arab puppy. I adopted her on 17 January 2014 from the Hawkesbury Companion Animals Shelter. The reason why I did was because I was lonely. 

In 2012, the world was inhabited by 7 billion people. It’s perhaps a little sad for me to realise that of that 7 billion people, the one I am closest to is my dog. 

I’ve always had trouble connecting to people. From as early as I can remember, I have had trouble making friends, and I have always been insecure about making friends. 

My earliest memory of friendships was when I was in kindergarten. My best friend at the time was a girl named Rachel. As deep as any kindy relationship can get, our friendship was built entirely upon her love for lions, and my star sign as a Leo. With the Lion King being newly released, we both pretended to be lions and had a great love for them. While I remember her being my best friend, I wasn’t hers. Hers was Belinda. They had known each other through their older brothers, and had been friends since before Kindy. I remember wanting to be her best friend, but I never was. 

It’s not really a sad story though. As soon as I left high school, I had decided to get used to being by myself. I see movies alone. I go to breakfast alone. I’ve learned that a book is better company than a person. It’s strange because being alone is a double-edged sword for me. I am happiest when I am alone, but I am also at my saddest.

I can go days without getting an SMS, and I can go weeks without receiving or making a phone call. Socialisation to me is a mere Facebook comment, and my contact with the world is in a Facebook like. Nobody posts on my wall. Nobody sends me a message. I like it that way because I don’t have to impress anyone, and I don’t have to pretend.

It comes in waves though, the feeling of sadness in loneliness. I’m generally fine not going out. Sometimes I don’t go out for weeks. I’ve long since been invited to birthdays or dinners or outings and now that I am growing up, almost all of my close acquaintences have partners, and thus they no longer need another person around. I see their photos on Facebook and oddly enough, I don’t feel anything despite what research claim I should. No jealousy. No isolation. It’s just more news on my newsfeed. 

Every once in a while though, I feel loneliness weigh on me and I think about where I went wrong. Tonight it was my mum getting angry at me and storming off. I wanted someone to talk to about it, but then there was nobody I could talk to without feeling like I was bothering them. Everybody else has their own lives to lead, why would they be concerned with mine? 

But that’s why Coco is so special to me. In a very lame way, Coco is my everything. I’m a boring person. I’m an introvert who becomes extraverted when I need to be. I’m weird. I’ve got quirks. I’ve got the inability to be like everyone else. But Coco doesn’t care. If I’m somewhere, she’s right by my side. Not because she wants food, but because she loves me. She is sad to see me leave for work each day, and she’s over the moon when I get back home. When I stretch my arm out for a hug, she’s right there in my embrace. When I cry, she licks my face and smiles and seems to just understand that her being there makes all the difference to me. 

I know my parents love Coco too, but they’re forever bitter about her. She is my dog, and I bought her on spur without their informed consent. It’s often the only reason why my mother gets angry. But ultimately, I know that Coco has been the key reason as to why my bipolar hasn’t gotten any worse. My bipolar has a lot to do with loneliness, and she has been my buffer and my company and the reason why I’m still alive. 

But it is sad that I should feel this way. But I guess it’s a girl and her best friend. We are inseparable, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Radio show shock-jocks, Kyle and Jackie O, have never been a favourite of mine on the air. Whilst I have nothing against Jackie O, Kyle Sandilands should have been long dismissed for his vulgar and arrogant dickwaddery. He, together with Mike E from the Mike E and Emma Show, are not my favourite people, and despite the good music both KIIS 106.5 and The Edge 96.1 play, I am off-put even by the sound of their voice. 

The topic on KIIS 106.5 was about a staff member of the company wanting to remove her subdermal birth-control rod and ‘accidentally’ fall pregnant to her boyfriend, who does not live locally nor knows that she has removed the rod. Today, it was about discussion. 

I’m a supporter of freewill. However, freewill is only effective when there is an element of personal responsibility. Thus, I am also a supporter of personal responsibility. My religion (Theravada Buddhism) suggests that I am not to kill or take a life and thus, I am effectively restricted from having an abortion. This, however, does not impact my opinion that women, should they choose to have an abortion, should be entitled to do so. It is their body, they can do what they want in the same way that I would choose not to have an abortion in the event that I can choose to have one. 

Working in social welfare, I have seen issues to do with broken families and the ramifications of it. Often, parents choose to make unhealthy decisions for themselves, and the ones who have to pay for it are their children. For example, a friend of mine has a father who left her mother for a younger Javanese woman. He has not visited the family for the past 4 years, despite having 3 children under 10, and two under 20 and another at 22. With a large and young family, my friend is left to carry the burden of providing for her siblings as the parents are ‘financially separated’, and thus he has no obligations to pay child support nor provide for his children. The two oldest ones have been working for the last 4 years to support the neglected family, whilst he enjoys his time worry-free in Java. 

I maintain the thorough belief that having children is not a decision to be taken lightly. Like a puppy, it’s not just a matter of having one, then dumping it when you’re over it. Children are a lifelong obligation, and for a productive society, we need a community which loves and nurtures children rather than deals with the consequences of bad decisions. 

I have no predisposition towards marriage, and whilst most people calling were saying ‘Get hitch before you get preggers’, I don’t believe this is relevant as marriage does not necessarily indicate the strength of a relationship. However, it is a key indicator that her move is fundamentally selfish, ‘I want to have a baby‘. A baby is not yours. It is the baby of both the the father and the mother unless one went to a sperm bank in the absence of a father. Should she wish to have a child with this man, she is putting an extreme obligation and responsibility upon him to support a child. 

A comment which struck me was her statement of ‘If I get accidentally pregnant, what’s the difference between that and a couple planning to have a child?’ I dunno, maybe honesty and preparation?? Judging by the inability of the woman to communicate her desire for a child to her partner, I have the distinct belief that their relationship is probably not as perfect as she claims it to be. What he tells her may differ from fact. He may feel emotionally unprepared, or be financially unstable. God forbid, but if they can’t communicate properly, he may well want to break up with her and not gotten around to it. 

A child is not yours. A child is an individual who should be entitled to a loving, wholesome family. She may fall pregnant, and he may find out the true circumstances, and be forever bitter that she couldn’t be honest to him. I would feel that way. I would feel exploited and untrustworthy. The child may well have been a ‘mistake’, but it was a child created in deceit. Whilst I would still love and cherish them, my bitterness would exist to the one who exploited my ignorance – the mother. (I speak as a woman, but I’m thinking as though I were the man)

As I drove down the Pacific Highway this morning, I found myself distinctly disappointed that it is even a topic on the radio. For all I know, it could be another stupid stunt to generate interest by KIIS 106.5 (and that wouldn’t go above me because they’ve done some stupid ones before). I do however have faith in humanity. There was an overwhelming number of people who confronted her, telling her how irresponsible and selfish she was being in her actions and the ramifications of what she was doing. Many spoke from experience of the emotional wellbeing of the child for the decisions they’ve made, whilst men voiced their feelings about trust and communication. 

Her responsibility is not only to herself in knowing how she can support the child, but to him, and to most importantly, to the child, none of which she truly considered. 

So alas, I switched back my radio to Fitzy and Wippa, and though those boys aren’t the brightest, their humour is not only funny but also mostly harmless. There are no sexist jibes and their fun is usually based on themselves. 

I feel for the child, if it ever comes down to it. 

There are a few words which have been beaten to an inch of what it once meant. ‘Resilience’ is one. ‘Pride’ is another. 

Pride is both a negative and a positive word. When used negatively, pride is an inflated sense of one’s ego or status. Positively, it is a sense of satisfaction and elation attached to one’s actions or values. To be proud is a heavy word, ladened with emotion. It is a deeply spiritual introspection into one’s self. Aristotle once believed it to be the height of one’s virtue. He states:

Pride, then, seems to be a sort of crown of the virtues; for it makes them more powerful, and it is not found without them. Therefore it is hard to be truly proud; for it is impossible without nobility and goodness of character.

I have come to believe this. Pride is difficult to feel as for me as it requires a heavy sense of duty and action to provide grounds for justification. To be suicidal and come out mostly unscathed the next day isn’t pride to me; I feel relieved. To be establishing a charity to connect young people to mental health services isn’t pride; that’s duty. It’s not something that I feel without having justified my actions to deliver pride. 

However nowadays, the word is thrown around so superfluously. I am not a parent so correct me here, but new parents are the worst offenders when using the word ‘proud’. I’m at that age where my friends are starting to get all hot and bothered and nine months later, a Player 3 joins the match. It didn’t use to bother me, but it really has now. 

Here are the offending posts:

“So proud of my little Matthieu! He lost his first tooth!”

 

“My little James has grown 5cms in a month, I’m so proud of my little boy!”

 

“Ben got spaghetti all down his top this morning but ate it all himself. So proud of Ben Ben!!”

That’s what I understand. Losing a tooth and growing 5 centimetres is hardly something to be proud of – it’s something every human supposedly does. Getting spaghetti down your top and eating it? I’m sure the kid is a barbarian at best. 

The thing is… I’m not sure what there is to be proud of there. I’m sure there’s a sense of happiness when looking at one’s child, and seeing the silly things they do, but to say one is proud of these things… it seems like they have simply dismissed all value of the word. 

But it seems not to just be the parents. Psychologically, pride is valuable in the ability to positively regard the potential for achievement. In self-reflection, pride is the positive reinforcement of one’s ability, and subsequently, has been shown to enhance the performance of an individual. This is why schools have merit awards for the most average reasons. I remember when I was at school, you could get a bronze, silver or gold award at each week’s assembly. Two students from each class would get a silly little award with a name and some mediocre reason on it like ‘being polite in class’. The way that it used to be done was so that by the end of the year, all students would receive at least one award – no-one was left out. The manufacturing of a reason was so obvious because most of the time, an award shouldn’t be given; their performance was expected. 

I refer to a text conversation I had with a friend a few months ago. He texted me telling me, I did a good deed today. I gave up my seat on the train for an old lady. So proud of myself.

Proud, I said, That’s not a good deed. That’s an expectation. 

He retaliated, I didn’t have to but I did. It’s a good deed. I’m proud because I did. 

Don’t kid yourself. It’s not. It’s polite to give up your seat. It’s also an expectation to give it up when you see an elderly person too. There is no ‘good deed’ in giving up your seat. If you didn’t, you’re inconsiderate and self-centred. If you do, you’re polite and not selfish. I wouldn’t say selfless, because that’s another word that’s been bastardised. Perhaps it’s because I do this all the time, but I find giving up my seat on public transport nothing to be proud about. 

My point is, pride no longer stands for the lion of a word it once was. It languishes in mediocrity and has been forced to wallow in everyday acts. There is no achievement in pride, and there is no duty in it either.

I pity the fools who mistake pride for mediocrity. 

 

I recently ended a pretty lengthy relationship on some rather interesting grounds. My relationships before then have made me somewhat phobic of the idea of relationships being a good thing but whilst, I could say that all men are douchebags, I don’t. The reason is that I have an older brother. 

While my brother and I live a whole 50 minutes away from each other, we mainly communicate via Whatsapp. While he’s taken my mother’s lack of height and her fiesty temper and buzzing personality, and I’ve taken my dad’s height and hatred for going out and almost autistic methods of connecting with animals, we find ourselves in this really weird equilibrium with one another that only siblinghood can really explain. Though two spawns of the same parents couldn’t be more different, we have always grown to respect and love each other in the way siblings are supposed to. I acknowledge, I was the trouble child – growing up, and emotionally – but we always managed to have fun with each other. Whilst he used to make me get his clothes when he wanted to watch Pokemon in the morning by counting to ten (and I got his clothes because I irrationally feared something would happen when he reached the number ten!), he never used to pull my hair or pull the heads off my Barbies. Though he and his best friend in school apparently dislocated my shoulder playing tug-of-war (which I don’t remember), he has never once hurt me, except for retaliation slaps when I used to slap him first. 

My brother’s always been a pillar in my life. When I remember him always thrashing me in Super Smash Brothers or Mario Tennis on the Nintendo 64, I also remember when he used to suddenly suck, just so that I could win. In addition, I sucked so badly at mathematics that I was being forced to quit it in for my HSC, it was him that took the pressure of giving it up more than harshly than my parents. 

While our relationship has changed, we still go out of the way to do things for each other. Though it would be cheaper, and less burdensome for me to just send him to the local train station from what he calls, ‘our countryside estate’ (it’s not, it’s a house in the suburbs… next to the bush), I enjoy our long chats and bickering in my car back to his city apartment. Though he lives with his girlfriend (who I absolutely love!), he asks me when the next time I want to crash is. Concerned that I dislike going out or don’t have many friends, he invites me to outings with his mates, who are absolutely hilarious good fun. 

The only thing we really fight over is ice cream. I do it to piss him off. He does it because he’s territorial about his ice cream, because nobody touches his ice cream. Not even his girlfriend. 

While this world is filled with penis-headed twats, I’m reminded that not all men are horrible. His fierce protection and loyalty to me is exactly how he is to his girlfriend, and though there may be elements of tough love, it’s his way of showing that he cares. Whilst he thinks that I have a fake boyfriend as the two had never met and that I don’t have him on my Facebook (I think it sours a relationship), I know it’s because he wants to meet the boyfriend to make his judgement and make his stamp of approval. 

Though I do call him lame and I get cranky at his incessant nagging, he is a brilliant son and an incredible brother. When he comes home, he still mows our lawn and takes my Mum and Dad out to eat their favourites. For me, he’s always checking in to see how I am and whether I’m well, and how I’m dealing with life. He looms like a bad smell, but it’s because he cares. He still holds the belief that his little sister shouldn’t be drinking alcohol (we were brought up believing alcohol is bad), though he has an impressive wine collection himself. He still finds it mildly embarrassing that I bought my first car at 19 and he still needs to borrow Dad’s car, but I admire how his apartment is the most stunning home for two that I’ve ever seen. 

In his eyes, I’m still his little sister, to be guarded and protected and taught to be prepared for life in the way that he believes a young woman should be. He gives me a lot of hope for males, and a lot of the time, I wish people could be more like him. 

When the Dove ‘Real Beauty’ campaign came out, I remember it being shared left, right, and centre over Facebook. All of my girlfriends believed that the campaign was incredible, and that it inspired women to develop positive relationships with their appearance and with beauty. I remember my stance on it; I hated it.

We live in an age where more so than every, companies and corporations are passively influencing the way we feel about everything from an incredibly young age. No one gender is more afflicted than the other in how we are supposed to look and feel. It is just as difficult to be Ken as it is Barbie, and not as many people realise that this is our reality. Just as much as young girls, boys are still purposed with fitting into the mould of ‘be[ing] a man’. Whilst it is more acceptable for a girl to be a ‘tomboy’, it is totally unacceptable for a boy to be a ‘sissy’ (there is no comparative gender-appropriate word for ‘tomboy’ for males). As we grow, we conform to the masses, use what brands we are supposed to use, see the world as we are supposed to see.

My awareness is stipulated by the fact that Dove is a subsidiary brand of Unilever, which owns a multitude of other brands, including Lynx/Axe and Slim Fast, two brands with advertisement campaigns which contradict Dove’s campaigns twenty thousand times over.

For those of you who are not familiar, Dove has poured millions into it’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaigns which utilises ‘real women’ to take a journey of self-discovery and acceptance for their appearance, cellulite and all. Being a size AU12 with pimples that occasionally lose their way to my face, I find myself trivial of such women. For starters, I’m at least happy they didn’t call it the ‘Real Women’ campaign, as models – yes, size 0 models – are real women. Secondly, ladies who are size 0 are sometimes naturally that size. Not often, but they exist. I know a few friends who are absolutely tiny though they eat three times as much as I do with no exercise to compliment. The irony of the campaign for Dove however, is to continue to use their products; their anti-aging cellulite moisturiser, their shampoo and conditioner, their deodorant. If a woman were to truly love and accept themselves with full confidence, all these products would be rendered absolutely unnecessary. Image

But I dare you, look at how incredible all these women look. Smooth, airbrushed skin, absence of pimples – many professionals have added their two cents in backing up the claim that it had to be lightly airbrushed to make the campaign. Very unlike the Dermablend Camo Confessions campaign, Dove does not admit that it is a product that aids women in feeling better about themselves; it simply uses their ‘Real Beauty’ Campaigns to mask the reality of its purpose – to sell things that’d make them be even ‘more beautiful’ about themselves due to getting rid of their flaws and insecurities (typically cellulite or oily skin etc).

The Dove ‘Real Beauty’ is intrinsically about what a woman is (ie. beautiful with cellulite and all) whilst Dermablend’s is fundamentally about who a woman is – her personality, her character, her strengths, her passion. Dermablend doesn’t lie; Dermablend is a cosmetics line which makes you look better. What these ladies use Dermablend for is fundamentally for other people; it is society that cannot accept what their appearance is, so they use the product to correct these flaws so that others can see who they truly are for their person, not their appearance.

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I’m not advocating for Dermablend, but they are true to their purpose and their brand. Their ‘Look Good Feel Better’ campaign advocates very much for the negative impact one’s appearance can have upon one’s self-esteem, and it aims to use cosmetics to enhance a person’s natural appearance when they’re going through appearance-based side-effects of cancer (ie. depression due to loss of hair).

So what about Lynx?

 

I remember in high school, all the boys at the neighbouring boys’ school (I went to an all-girls school) would use Lynx/Axe. My brother did too. When I smell it now, I feel like I need to puke as it used to be used over-excessively by pubescent boys in replacement for a shower. Contradicting the Dove ‘Real Beauty’ Campaign is the Lynx campaign, which emphasizes that should you smell good for the ladies, ladies will do the frick-frack with you. These ladies, more often than not, are hypersexualised…

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Believe it or not, this is an advertisement from the same company.

Don’t get me wrong, if I ever wanted to look great for my man, there’s nothing better than a matching set of lingerie to help me feel sexier to put the evening roast into the oven. I completely advocate for a woman to look, feel and wear, so long as they are happy and accepting of themselves. The Lynx Campaigns, which portray women as being nothing but sexualised objects with the only purpose as being to satisfy the needs of men. When you look at the women of the Lynx Campaigns, you don’t see a single of the sort of woman from the Dove Campaign anywhere; no voluptuous, natural-looking women. All you see is hot models with bangin’ bodies and eyes of desire.

I would have no issues with the perennial maneater of the Lynx Campaign if Lynx were to stand alone from Dove. The problem is that Lynx and Dove are clear products of very contradictory marketing campaigns which have both existed for the past ten years. Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ Campaigns have been award-winning for the sentimental-tear-in-the-eye factor but what most awarders don’t realise is that giving Dove the award without consideration to Unliever’s super-sexualised Lynx is as contradictory as awarding Osama bin Laden a peace-prize for Sunni Muslim empowerment without considering his atrocities towards others.

Nowadays I find myself using neither brands. I have found that placed together, it’s an off-putting combination of having my insecurities shoved down my throat and used against me in a mock-psychoanalysis. I’m sick of being told what I should and shouldn’t look like through use of my own insecurities. I know what they are and I know why they exist. Nobody falls for these things any more. We know that companies like Unilever exploit our insecurities for profit.

Unilever really needs to decide which message to send people…

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