Archive | January, 2012

Witness

21 Jan

Tonight I witnessed my first ‘glassing’ incident.

I was at a younger friend’s birthday celebration with my sister. We pulled up to a fancy looking venue which was cleverly designed to be a mostly outdoor space. It was lovely and seemed very posh to us. It’s located out of the CBD so it’s easy to get to and park near. The night started well. We looked around impressed and considered functions we could have there in the future. Our friend had an area to herself and the DJ was playing great music. Dinner was delicious and we were starting to have fun.

It all started to go a awry when we noticed we were having trouble breathing. Apparently the clever outdoor design allows it to be one of the rare venues left where smoking is permitted everywhere. The busier it became the more clogged the air became. Then we noticed how short the girls dresses were. I turned 36 today and I know I’m older than the average patron but really…the dresses were tops to me. It looked like they had forgotten to put pants on. Not all the girls, but many of them. And the guys were so young. My sister kept commenting that she was old enough to be the mother of many of them. We’d certainly wandered into the wrong venue or ten years too late!

My sister and I were having trouble figuring out what to do. We didn’t know too many people at the party we were at, we’d eaten, my sister had a couple of drinks and one game of the pokies. We joked about going to the toilets and taking our pants off in an attempt to fit in (using our tops as dresses) but decided to start dancing instead, pants and all. The DJ who was playing great music had an annoying habit of changing songs after the first chorus. By this stage it was too loud to yell at him to play the entire song or at least most of it so we shrugged it off and kept dancing. That’s when I noticed a smaller guy walking quickly away from a menacing looking man who was in hot pursuit. They weren’t running but their fast path cut across the dance floor and got our attention. We kept on dancing and then we saw a commotion. The menacing man was gaining on the other guy and before my eyes the pursuer threw his glass with force towards the pursuee. Glass shattered everywhere. It was on.

Before I could yell for security several security and staff members came running and grabbed the glasser quickly. But he wasn’t going down without a fight. It took several security personnel and a couple of bar staff to drag him out of the venue. Unfortunately his forced exit was being made just behind where my sister and I stood gapping. I dragged her out of the way and they ejected him and fought to keep him under control until the police arrived a few minutes later. The music had been turned off as soon as the glass was thrown. Obviously there was a zero-tolerance policy to drunken violence. The DJ put on a loud song as soon as he had been dragged out and we started dancing again, half-heartedly, when I noticed the two girls my sister and I had just been dancing with sitting down next to the dance floor. One seemed to be having trouble breathing. I went over to them and the girl having trouble breathing seemed to be having a panic attack. Her friend who had obviously helped her through one before was trying to calm her down. I asked if I should get a drink and her friend asked me to bring some water. I ran and grabbed it from the bar and the girl in distress gulped some of it down. My sister made her laugh by doing some silly dancing and she was able to stand up and walk back to her table.

In the meantime a crowd had formed and was watching the police deal with the drunk-and-disorderly glasser. Lleyton Hewitt was trying to advance in the Australian Open at the time but his struggle was now being ignored, despite the giant screens located all over the venue. Several police marched in and were directed to witnesses by bar staff. They stayed for at least an hour. They had blocked off the street and while we tried to dance and move on with our night staff were on edge and everyone seemed a little shocked.

Lleyton Hewitt ended up winning his marathon match against Milos Raonic but by then we were in my car heading home. I felt unsafe. There were so many glasses everywhere. There were piles and piles of potential projectiles everywhere I turned. They should switch to plastic. They should have a non-smoking area. They should re-think their open plan design. There were some antsy looking patrons whom I suspected were friends of the now arrested glasser. The DJ kept changing the song. I didn’t recognise some of the songs. Someone breathed smoked directly into my face, making me cough. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

This is one venue I won’t be patronising again. I love going out and dancing and having a couple of drinks but it’s hard to find a venue in which I feel safe and comfortable. I use tops and tops, not dresses, I don’t drink (my sister just has a couple) and we just want to be able to dance and breathe at the same time. The only time we ever really have fun is when it’s our own private function or if it is a dinner-dance organised by our children’s school. Everywhere else is just so unsafe, especially venues that still use glassware and masquerade as stylish when they are in fact just havens for smokers. I’m not anti-smoker, I just want an area for non-smokers too.

Gosh, I sound so old don’t I? We were really freaked out by the violence and everything else just gave me a headache. It was just a little too much.

Now I am back home, safe in front of my computer. I have no desire to go out at night again any time soon. It’s a crazy world out there and one I no longer feel safe in. It just seems like there is so much violence and over what? I keep trying to think of what could have offended this man so much that he resorted to violence. It wasn’t even targetted violence. He managed to get glass on several people in the surrounding area. He actually spilled half his drink down my sister’s back when he pushed past us. Did the man he was chasing look at his girlfriend? Did he blurt out a racial slur? What could have gone wrong so quickly? When did glassing replace giving someone the finger or telling them to bugger off?

It’s a mystery I will leave for others to solve. My contribution will be staying as far away from similar situations as possible and begging my younger friends to stay safe when they go out. You do need to choose your venue carefully, you need to go out with people you trust and you need to leave as soon as you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. It just looked so nice when we arrived. Appearances can be deceiving, or perhaps this is a normal night for a busy venue with one freakishly strong drunk man who was greatly offended by God only knows what. I’ve never been so happy to see flashing blue and red lights. It was probably a typical Saturday night for them too. Not so  much for me.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

Sleep

19 Jan

 

I haven’t ‘slept through’ since the birth of my son almost eight years ago. Sleep for me is what happens when I’m exhausted and can no longer stay upright. I don’t look forward to bedtime and I sometimes don’t put on special sleeping clothes, choosing to fall down in whatever top I was wearing that day.

Since becoming a mother my sleep has been patchy at best. Even when I do go out of my way to prepare for bedtime, the moment my head hits the pillow mummy-mania hits. Are my kids okay? Will we get through the next day in tact and happy? I think of all the things that could go wrong. I jump when I hear noises. I worry about how I’m doing as a mother. I wish I was more successful, calmer, more confident. The pillow to me is like a trigger for all my anxiety and the longer I lie there trying to switch off and get some rest to prepare for the next day, the worse it becomes.

I have developed an extremely bad habit of falling asleep in front of the TV. It’s the only way I can switch off and fall asleep at a reasonable time. By focusing on whatever is on the box I forget to worry and I drift off. My husband usually turns the TV off and tucks me in on his way to work early each morning. When I wake up with the TV off and a blanket over me I feel loved and cared for. I feel like he’s trying to help me, even though he usually makes it all worse and harder. He exaggerates and over-reacts. He loves to look up childhood ache and pains on the internet and read out loud the scariest information he can find. My son’s chest pains could be heart failure (it was constipation). My son’s sore eye could lead to blindness (one sleep later and it was all better). My son’s neck clicked when I lost my grip on him and heard a click. My husband said it could be a broken neck and then carried him to the next room. The ambulance officers I called out to the house said he was fine. Necks sometimes make a cracking noise. So I’m my worst enemy when it comes to anxiety levels and my husband is an enabler or and exacerbater.

How do you achieve calm when you have three little lives in your hands and so many unfulfilled dreams of your own? Where do you turn when everything in the media inflames a parent’s concerns. I have to buy shoes that assist their feet. Don’t go cheap or their feet could become deformed? If I immunise them against deadly and debilitating diseases I have to accept autism? There could be arsenic in apple juice. I am an irresponsible parent for not buying organic food. It’s endless and it’s getting worse as I get older.

Take a holiday and you could die. Send your child to school too early or too late and they are ruined. Eat the wrong foods and you’ll get cancer. Deepak Chopra here I come.

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi

Birthdays are for kids

10 Jan

I feel about my birthday the way I feel about my weight…the less I think about it the better I feel. Turning 36 feels like a milestone because I am now officially on my way to 40. My distress at turning 36 has nothing to do with vanity (well, not much). It has to do with what I thought I would have achieved by this age that I haven’t.

I thought I would have published several books by now. I thought we’d be in a better financial position. I thought I’d have figured out the key to happiness by now. I thought I’d be dressing better, thinking better and coping better. Instead, I still feel like I am making it all up as I go along. I have goals for myself, my husband and my children but I don’t have any aggressive strategy. I just try to nudge us towards the outcome. I’m more passive than I thought I would be. I don’t like how I let some people treat me, I hate how easily I can become upset and I long for a life I’m not sure I’ll ever get to live.

I don’t want to ‘celebrate’ my birthday this year. I didn’t want to celebrate it last year either but my mum insisted on Sunday lunch. The double standard is clear to me because I am usually the one coordinating the birthday gatherings. When I tell my family I don’t really want to do anything I think they think I am testing them but I really don’t want to. I prefer to mark it privately. I’d like some time alone to reflect. I’d like to leave my children at home with my husband and take a solitary walk along the beach and just consider my life, my choices and my goals. I’d like to eat a leisurely breakfast at a cafe while watching the ocean. In short, for my birthday, I want some guilt-free time to myself to enjoy the bliss of doing nothing (thanks Eat Pray Love). I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.

When you have children you can’t ignore your birthday. For them, birthdays are joyous. Birthdays are about cake, balloons and fun. Birthdays are a blast when you are a kid. But they are a blast because I do a  lot of work in the lead up to ensure the fantasy birthday is fulfilled. So is it so shocking that for my birthday I’d like to sit and do nothing?

My friend is turning 30 on my birthday and has planned a huge celebration. I plan to share in her joy, eat her cake, give her an amazing gift and when she blows out her candles I will make som secret birthday wishes for myself. I wish to be better at everything. I wish for my family and friends to be happy and safe. And I wish for that four-slice red toaster my brother is planning to buy me. I didn’t say no gifts!

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

 

Is it Deborah Hutton’s fault I feel fat?

4 Jan

I buy Women’s Weekly religiously. I am so excited when I see the latest edition on the shelf and I sometimes buy three…one for me, one for my sister and one for my mum. As a woman I appreciate that it gives me the perfect blend of food, clothes, body and news issues to keep me happy. I often clear my afternoon so I can read it from front to back at least once and then I dip in and out over the following weeks until the next edition arrives.

When I saw Deborah Hutton on the cover I was so excited to go home and read the article. As a woman of reasonable intelligence I am aware of the fact that most magazine pictures are retouched in some way, some more than others. I am also aware of makeup, lighting, hairspray and spray tans. I also knew that there was no way Deborah Hutton would ever let anyone re-touch her too much because she has always struck me as a down-to-earth Aussie woman who is not only beautiful but is aware of the many issues surrounding woman and their self-worth. Because she is a woman and no matter how beautiful or accomplished, every woman has their issues.

So why all the drama? Deborah Hutton is beautiful, but why does that make women feel badly about themselves. Even more disturbing is the notion that Deborah Hutton has to look bad or flawed for women to feel good about themselves, as though rejoicing in Deborah’s imperfections will help them to embrace their imperfections. So to feel good about themselves, they have to feed off what they see as wrong and ugly about others. This is such an uncomfortable reflection on women. Why can’t we celebrate each other’s beauty, health and achievements? Why do we feel better when we read about failure and flaws? Is it because they makes us feel normal or is it because our own self-worth is measured against others and not just celebrities?

This certainly explains why many magazines sell so well. Kim’s marriage failed…I feel better that mine is a disaster, Christina is fat…I feel better about my weight, Nicole Kidman’s latest movie didn’t go very well…my career failures are more acceptable to me too. And it doesn’t end there. As women we are constantly sizing each other up. Is she a better mother than me? Is she thinner than me? Is she younger than me? Is she more successful than me?

Not all women are like this but many are. Those of us who are not don’t measure our self-worth against others but instead try to base it on our own internal reflections about ourselves. I am the best mother I can be, I look as good as I can manage, my weight is the best I can get it and I may never look like Deborah Hutton but boy am I going to enjoy reading all about her while I relax with coffee for thirty minutes this afternoon while my children nap.

As women, I find that we also often feel like are alone with our issues and struggles. We see someone enjoying their children and assume they never get cross or have a bad mummy day. We see a pretty girl and assume that she feels as pretty as she looks. We work with a confident colleague and assume that she never doubts herself. This is simply not the case. We all have moments, days and weeks when we feel just as badly as the next person. Take comfort in the fact that everyone struggles from time-to-time meaning we are surrounded by groups of women who understand how hard it can be to be a woman.

We are all doing our best and if not, we can always do better tomorrow. Deborah Hutton is a beautiful, successful Australian woman with a great career, no kids and fab hair. I accept her for who she is and who she is doesn’t influence how I feel about myself.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

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