Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Gotten Better

"I would get an IUD, but your post changed my mind - it sounds awful!"


If you squint at my friend's X-ray, you can see her IUD!

I thought I should update the original post, because things have gotten better.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Have you seen booties? Booties are tiny little shoesies for tiny little feetsies and they're about the sweetest thing ever. It's a shame that you can't just knit them without some reason - your own child, or the guise of charity.

My boyfriend's sister's expecting, and I am tremendously excited. Not about baby snuggles or a new faux-family member (niece-ish? Niece-to-be? Niecefriend?), but about the knitting.

"Booties!" said an acquaintance. "Oh are you - "
"Knitting them for my boyfriend's sister, yes," I said placidly. I barely know her, but she is a perfect foil to accusing fertility questions.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Road Trip

It was Labour Weekend, so Jesse and I went up North.

It was grey as we left.

Grey skies and lamp posts.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Little Robots

The internet can seem like a pretty shitty place sometimes. Especially lately. It's nice to think that there are people making little robots, whose sole purpose in life is to make our days a little brighter.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Abandoned shed, Northland, New Zealand.
Abandoned building, Northland, New Zealand.
Abandoned house in Northland, New Zealand. The weatherboards are falling off the side.
Another view of the same abandoned house in Northland, New Zealand. The roof is rusting off.
Abandoned shed in Northland, New Zealand. One corner of the roof is caving in.
Abandoned home in Northland, New Zealand.
Abandoned red barn in Northland, New Zealand.
Abandoned building on stilts in Northland, New Zealand.
An abandoned home in a paddock. Both doors are gone; you can see right through it.




A house that's been abandoned isn't inherently more interesting than one that's not. Maybe we're fascinated by abandoned houses because they have only one question left: where did the people go? When we see a house that's lived in, there are too many things to wonder. Is the picket fence ironic? Do the jumble of shoes by the door indicate visitors or mess? Is there a couch on the veranda, a barbecue, or neither? These things tell us things about the people who live there, but there are too many questions to ask, then answer, and we've already walked past.

An abandon house bypasses all of those things and simply asks, where are you?

Coming from a city with a chronic housing shortage, it seems absurd that someone might build an entire house, and then not live there.

Was it a crisis? Or a simple forgetting? Did they build that nice house in the next paddock, and mean to rent out the original, and then just never find a taker? Are the houses full of things, or simply empty?

All these images were taken from a moving car. I used a Holga Lens on my Canon camera. Those things together explain the picture quality.

These were taken from State Highways 1 and 16 in Northland New Zealand. I missed many more shots than this. How many more abandoned buildings were there, out of sight?

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Spare us from idiots

I swear, didn't we just do this?

There's an idiot in the paper again today. No links - no page views from me! Complaints can be laid with the Press Council, but before you do so, you "first lodge the complaint in writing with the editor of the publication."

Here's where you can write to the editors of the Herald.

The Press Council says: "If the complainant is not satisfied by the editor’s response or receives no response from the editor within a period of 10 working days from the date on which the editor received the complaint, the complainant may then complain to the Council."

Here's what I said to the Herald:

I am writing to complain about the opinion piece - "Bob Jones: Spare us from road-clogging women" published on 5:30 AM Tuesday Oct 22, 2013.

It was inaccurate, offensive, and condones violence against women. It should be taken down, and a response issued. The New Zealand Herald is meant to be a balanced and fair national publication with excellent standards of journalism, and this "article" falls laughably short of that standard.

Below are some of the inaccuracies:

"Things became and remain chaotic as women drivers caused massive pile-ups at the roundabouts. They misinterpret the simple proposition of giving way to traffic on your right as stopping if someone's approaching 50 metres away." If this was really a problem of the magnitude Jones suggests, surely some data would be available and could be provided.

"Women drivers possibly cost 1 per cent off our GNP, through causing massive delays in city traffic flows." Again, no citation is given: we must assume that Jones made up the "statistic" to insult and put down women. Why was this allowed to be published? Would you have published a similar slur against a racial group?

Jones continues, saying of women in their thirties: "I suspect they're angry because they haven't got a bloke, or angrier still because they have, for which I sympathise." It is offensive to suggest that anger is a natural state for women. If this is an attempt at humour, after the style of Bridget Jones, it falls very flat indeed.

He continues with the inaccuracies: "[Women are] the ones with a 30-metre gap between them and the car in front, thereby compounding the congestion. " I have never once seen a gap this large.

Finally, he condones police violence against women.

"My weaving in and out of the women resulted in complaints to the police, who wrote to me.

"I replied, first pointing out that passing is not illegal and adding that while normally I don't condone police violence, this was an exception and they would be doing God's work by going to the complainants' homes, beating the crap out of them and burning their houses down.

"Amazingly they wrote me a nice reply apologising for bothering me.

"Suggesting that women should be beaten and have their homes burned down is disgusting. It should not be allowed in print. Violence against women is a serious problem in New Zealand. In 2011 there were 7,896 recorded cases of assault of women by a man. Unlike Jones, I can provide a statistic here.  Violence should not be condoned.

Again, I believe this piece should be removed, and an apology issued. I do not believe that Jones should be allowed to write any more pieces for the Herald.

I look forward to your prompt reply.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Finished Project - Clapo-Ktus

I guess the general populace like my scarf because I got cat called twice in 500 metres.

When I was taking these pictures in one of our beautiful inner-city parks, I thought, "I am going to be so embarrassed if I fall over and break a leg."

Look, it was windy, I'm such a good knitter I can control the weather.

This shawl is call the clap-ktus, which in my mind rhymes with "platypus." It was a very simple beginner's shawl. The shaping is on every right-side row, and the details are just dropped stitches. The yarn is called "Paradise." I wore it out for the first time today, and got cat-called twice, so obviously people like my new shawl a lot.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

When I was doing this update

Friday, 11 October 2013

The Cost of It

My friends got me an Implantation Day card.
They teach you that a womb is not an organ, but a malevolence. A threat lying in wait, ready to hurt you. At any moment (so the story goes), it will erupt and snatch away everything good from your life.

Birth control’s not as reliable as you might think. In my circles, I can only think of one person who had a kid on purpose.

I’ve tried six types of the Pill. Each gave me unlivable-with side effects. I wrote them down, to show the doctor.

  • Hair loss
  • No libido 
  • Mood swings 
  • Panic attacks 
  • Suicidal thoughts
It also made my skin look great.

A lot of my friends are childfree: they don’t have kids and it’s going to stay that way, damn it. I consider myself child agnostic. I don’t want to be a single mother. I would be rubbish at it. In the right circumstances, a child could greatly improve my life, I’m sure, but how do you get those circumstances right?

I’d like to say loudly and clearly that mothers are amazing, and I’ve never met one who isn’t doing a fantastic job.

But I only want a wanted child, and I don’t want a child.

There’s a lot of good things in my life right now. I have a fantastic job. I love where I live. I have a rad group of friends. All those things - a kid would change all that. I couldn’t live in this expensive inner city apartment with just one close friend. My job is flexible, but does it pay enough I could afford childcare? But an IUD is so effective. What if an accidental child was my only chance for a child at all?
I though, “What if you had had a kid with any of your exes?” I thought, “What if you got knocked up last week, after those cocktails?”

I was prepared to fight with my doctor, but she looked over my notes, and said, “Well, I certainly wouldn’t recommend hormonal treatment for you.” She had, three times, but I didn’t argue. It costs $54 to visit my doctor.

Condoms break. There’s the morning after pill for that, but it’s a pill too, so it’s not something I enjoy taking. It costs $45, and you have to go to a pharmacy, and pharmacies are only open in work hours, and a lot of them are closed on Sundays.

I tried to be open about getting an IUD. The Prime Minister talks openly about his vasectomy, but there’s a lot of silence, a stigma, around being a grown-up adult lady. Why is it hard to say, “Yeah, I’m actively trying to not be pregnant”?

People sent me messages. One person thanked me for saying anything openly, online. A few people said unhelpful things:

  • Do you know it hurts a lot? 
  • My mum said it hurt more than labour. 
  • Are you sure you’re having sex enough to make it worthwhile? 
  • Do you know, the string hangs out and until it softens up, it can stab your boyfriend in the dick? 
  • The string can also wrap around his dick. That’s a thing that can happen. 
  • Did you hear about the [hormonal] injection? Or the [hormonal] rod? 
  • Just try to relax your vag 
  • My vasectomy didn’t hurt at all 
  • You know it’s easier to have it inserted just after you’ve given birth.
The doctor sighed, “You’re getting an IUD? Well no one told me. Come on, let’s get this done.”

The doctor told me to put my feet up on the table, and handed a package back to the nurse - “Not that one - the other one. The copper one.” All morning, my hands had been shaking, and my heart racing. I tried to relax my vag.

There are two types of IUD. One contains a hormone (how? I don’t know). It stops your periods too, which some people like. The other one is made of copper, which I think I read years ago is naturally antibacterial.

The hormonal one is $370, unless you’re low in iron, in which case it’s $170. The copper one is funded, so you pay just the insertion fee. I think they undercharged me so mine was $134. I asked my boyfriend to pay half of it. He agreed, unhesitatingly. Fair’s fair. I checked my account, and he’d rounded up, given me more than I said was his share. I think he felt guilty: “Don’t do this for me,” he said.

I couldn’t find the words to explain it’s a selfish thing. Fuck you, biology. Fuck you, the continuation of the human race. Fuck all that, I want Thursday-night cocktails instead.

“First they manually dilate your cervix,” said a friend. I clapped my hands over my ears and lah-lah-lahed. I didn’t read up on the procedure. I don’t like medical things. I can’t even watch blood being drawn on TV.

They don’t sedate you before inserting the IUD. Someone said, I should ask for local anesthetic. Someone else said they thought an injection in the cervix would hurt more than the actual insertion.

It’s recommended you take two paracetamol and two ibuprofen one hour before coming in.

There was a red hot thread of pain.

I was walking along a beach. The waves were crashing and the machinery in the factory was whirring and I was running through white halls and a thousand years later, I was screaming in a room I had never seen before.

“You fainted,” said someone who hadn’t been there before. “You were only out for a second,” they lied. They were holding my hand.

There was beeping everywhere. I had sat bolt upright without knowing how and the person I’d never seen before encouraged me to lie back down.

“This room is soundproofed, so you can scream all you want,” said the doctor.

They said, it’s really common to faint in shock when things are inserted through your cervix. It’s called Cervical Shock. They had silenced the alarms. I was crying.

“You gave us all a fright,” said someone, “But you’re fine - you’re fine. You’ll be fine soon.”

“It’s all done now,” said the doctor, pretending to be soothing. “And it can stay in there for five years! Isn’t that nice?”
“It bloody well better,” I said and they all laughed.

“Let me just clean you up here,” said the doctor, scooting her chair between my legs again. “It’s a good thing you’re wearing black,” she said, but she didn’t say why.

The doctor left, and the new nurse left, and it was just me and the first nurse. “How many children do you have?” she said. I said none, and she asked how old I was. I said 27, and she said oh. She told me about her four children, their names, ages and professions. She said, one was getting married, but didn’t want children, so what was the point of getting married? She said, she herself had her first child at 21. Now, her daughter looks like her sister.

She said, “You should have lots of children, lots and lots, because you’re so beautiful.”

I asked for a drink of water.

No one talks about presumed fertility, and the cost of it. I have never been pregnant, but people look at me and don’t see a person. They see vector for continuing the species, a young woman “with those hips? You’re made for babies.”

When I was researching this, looking into IUDs, I didn’t google it. Stories like this are clinical and scary. I talked to people instead. “It was awful,” said my friends. “I was in pain for three months. I would recommend it in a heartbeat and do it again in a second.” They say, “It’s the best thing I ever did.”

They don’t tell you about the pain, because pain is fleeting. There is paracetamol and ibuprofen. I made a list of things which hurt more:

  • UTIs 
  • An unrequited crush 
  • An ill-fitting bra
Other people chimed in:

  • A broken collarbone 
  • An ingrown toenail 
  • Dental surgery
We talk about those things, even in polite company, even in public. I think we should talk about this too.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Use Your Words

Sexual violence services in New Zealand are chronically underfunded. Wellington Rape Crisis is currently funded by Hell Pizza, who only gave them shut-up money after they rewarded a Facebook user with pizza for sexual assault.

But! "After a lot of hard work and a brave, confronting campaign lead by Green MP Jan Logie, Parliament has finally agreed to hold an inquiry into the funding of sexual violence services." Coley goes on to list why these services are important and I suggest you read the whole post.  

If you're still not convinced, head over to The Lady Garden, for detailed information on making a submission, and (thousands of trigger warnings), a gut-wrenching personal description of sexual assault. (more trigger warnings).

But really all you need to do is click here and make an online submission. One in four New Zealand women and one in ten men will suffer sexual violence in their lifetimes. This issue matters, and it matters to you and your loved ones. Use your words and tell the government why we need to fix this.
1. To cook marmalade in a pressure cooker, first slice your whole, scrubbed citrus finely. I used third-hand grapefruit, which someone from some fecund suburb gave to a Coworker, who gave them to me.

Friday, 20 September 2013

"My Body, My Organic Lube."

Isn't Twitter just the most wonderful thing? Not long after I posted #FemCAH, someone who I've never met asked if they could make one too. (Of course! Everyone can!)

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Feminist Cards Against Humanity

The humourless feminist is a pretty persistent myth. She's a dumb bitch who can't take a joke, always making a fuss when really we have equality now amirite ladies. It's a myth made up to silence women. Can't you take a joke? And it's just that - a myth. I don't know what feminists you're hanging out with, but the feminists I know are some of the funniest people I've ever met.

Still not sure if these Feminist Cards Against Humanity cards have too many in-jokes.

The humourless feminist myth is a part of the culture we live in. The thing about culture is we don't just absorb it - we shape it, either through actions or silence.

Mixing feminist cards against humanity with the original funny CAH.a

I've written about Cards Against Humanity before. (If you've never heard of the game, go read that post.) It's a good example of bro-culture. In the original version of CAH, everyone has a penis and rape jokes are funny.

This is a screenshot from Questionable Content which is a rad webcomic and you should read it. It's not about bros.
via Questionable Content

But the game doesn't have to be played like that. It's released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0 license. "That means you can use and remix the game for free, but you can’t sell it."

I made a sanitised deck, removing all the rape jokes and Americanisms, and about half the boners. (You can download the PDF here.) To replace the cards I removed, I made my own deck, which has a lot of stuff specific to the female experience, like "period clots" and "skorts" to balance the bro-ness inherent in CAH. (You can download that PDF here. Remixes of CAH like this one are also under Creative Commons licensing, so you can correct that typo if you want, but I'm not going to bother.)

Feminist Cards Against Humanity kicks that up a notch. The jokes are about feminism, and being feminist, the struggle and how far we have to go still and damn if you don't laugh you'll cry.

Feminist Cards Agains Humanity uses the word "Mooncup" twice.

"Non-feminists" (by which I mean "people who didn't take any Women's Studies papers" not "raging bigots") will probably won't find this deck funny. That's because it relies on jargon. Every group has jargon. My pals have a joke which about the difference between Python and JavaScript or Pearl and Ruby - or anyway, there's these two programming languages and they're different and just because I don't understand why that's funny it doesn't mean it isn't. It just means I didn't take any CompSci papers. The onus is on me to repair this gaping hole in my knowledge, rather than demand that jokes only be told on my level. It's the same with this deck - if you don't think it's funny, it's probably not the joke's fault and when you're Card Czar you can always make the winning card about boners, every time.

FemCAH will answer all your questions about feminism.

There's not enough feminist Cards Against Humanity cards to make up a full deck, so mix them in with the deck you already have - and when you're playing with people who don't speak feminist, either take each card as a teachable moment, or institute a house rule which allows for the setting aside of confusing cards. I play by the latter as I can barely explain "intersectionalty" sober, and CAH is a party game which is enhanced by a certain level of intoxication.

Some Feminist Cards Against Humanity Cards refer to me personally.
Speaking of sobrioty - if you're going to hashtag, may I suggest #FemCAH rather than #FeministCAH to reduce typos. If you're feeling mischievous, you might also tag #CAH so it shows up in searches for the original game.

Finally, if you've played and enjoyed the game, please leave me a nice comment saying so. If you have a wicked idea for a card, leave that in the comments too.

Thursday, 22 August 2013


When your personal and professional goals line up - how nice is that? For work, I went to a Scream Park, and chatted to my professional equivalent, wrote a blog post, and took some photos for our Facebook page. Write more. Take more photos. Who doesn't have those goals?

(Part of the point of the exercise was to give good google to the place where I took the photos, so I won't name it, then say confusing things about nightmares and ghosts in the same breath. I am aware of, and bitterly mourn, the SEO I'm sacrificing.)

I was nervous about visiting the haunted house. I get scared. I don't seem to have the shell some people do, to withstand being spooked. "I've been to the Scream Park, and didn't find it scary at all," said my Flatmate, "All the actors were crowding around me and I was just like, 'what? Are you meant to be terrifying? Because you're not.'"

There's a theory that we use horror to deal with the trauma in our lives in an allegorical manner. That's why Japan is famous for kaiju, monster movies - they're used to process trauma, current, past and future.

Japanese movie poster for the 1956 film Rodan.

Kaiju represent earthquakes, tsunamis. Vampires are allegory for sex and sexuality. Movies about zombies are really about viruses: swine flu, SARS. I wonder if gothic stories are New Zealand's brand of kaiju. If it's a way of dealing with the deep vein of depression that runs through this country, the loneliness that comes from living on an island, the quiet, persistent feeling that nothing is really as it seems, that maybe everyone is crazy, or else I am. Or if it's a literary convenience, and, like the good keen man, never really existed. 

I have nightmares, sometimes. They're infrequent, but very unpleasant. About once a year I scream in my sleep loud enough to wake myself. (Pause for a moment and imagine what that is like.) 

After I had a screamed myself awake from a dream about a ghost-witch riding a giant spider, it occurred to me that my subconscious has a complete list of everything that terrifies me, and pull up images at random. Ghost-witch on a giant spider isn't an image from kaiju. It's just a dream I had.

My life is extraordanarily blessed in many ways. I don't want to suggest I've survived some awful trauma, because I really haven't. As I write this, I am warm, my rent is paid, and I know myself to be loved. But when I think of when the nightmares started - they started in adulthood - I think, well there was that, and yeah, maybe

My Equivalent told me ghost stories. There's a grey nurse, who walks. (He's never seen her, but others have.) Doors lock themselves. Once, some children visiting the Scream Park saw an inexplicable mist. (They screamed. A staff member told the mist to go away, and it did.) 

They have to get the building blessed periodically, otherwise the disturbances build up, as the ghosts get restless. 

I don't believe in ghosts. They're a comfort for the narrow-minded and the spiritual. If you believe in ghosts, you believe in an afterlife. Is it comforting to think this all goes on, and you can rattle your chains down the centuries, or would you rather leave it all behind with your mortal flesh?

I have one nightmare more than others. It leaks over into my waking life, a little bit, sometimes overtaking me and making familiar corners and doors breifly terrifying. It's nothing I've seen or experienced - nothing I can recall ever seeing anywhere outside my imagination. It was represented at the Scream Park, my nightmare made flesh. Or, I should say it was made puppet, because of course it was only a ratty old mannequin pretending to be scary. I didn't take a photo. 

I don't know how I'll sleep tonight. I wonder if seeing it, made real, will help deal with the nightmare or bring it back to me. 

Not believing in ghosts doesn't stop me from being afraid of them.

At one point during the tour, I lost my Equivalent, and had to hallo out for him. There was a dim room behind me, filled with a looped recording of laughter and a baby's cradle. Ahead there was darkness. It was a thick, velvety dark. More then that: it was a darkness that was nothing, like the darkness between the stars on a clear night. The floor had disappeared beneath me, and if I took one step I would fall. Then my Equivalent called back directions, and suddenly I was on solid ground again. 

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Salad Days

Trigger warning: this post contains diet talk (concepts, no numbers). I suggest you skip it.

I'd been struggling for a while - I think a lot of us struggle, this push and pull between the bodily necessity, the knowledge ingrained at a cellular level that we need food to be alive, and the hatred of our bodies, that says you are wrong.

I couldn't talk comfortably about dessert. I found myself crying over cheese. The way I was dealing with, interacting with food was - with the best of intentions, piles of fresh spinach and literature on intuitive eating - seriously broken.

The prize for work’s Biggest Looser Competition was a fair bit of money. I could buy a new ukulele. And could it be any worse than what I was doing to myself already? I really wanted a new ukulele.  

"You'll find it easy!" said someone, trying to be comforting, "Just cut out treats like ice cream, and the weight will fall off." I tried to say that I only ate ice cream as a social food, an activity out with friends, the same way thin people think of ice skating or rock climbing, but I stumbled over the words and I saw the disbelief in their eyes.

"I'm just going to eat like I did that time I had an eating disorder - easy," I said, funny, a joke. They laughed, "No, seriously," I said. "You're so funny," they said, and turned firmly back to their computer screen.

It was easy, like sliding back into bed. I told my friends, "I'm not eating at the moment." No one questioned the phrasing, or offered me food. With structures around meal times and food divided into firm Yes! and No! categories, it was much easier to deal with.

Things feel into place in the rest of my life. Work seemed less stressful, all of a sudden. I started (kinda, sorta) seeing a new guy. I went to the gym and ran until I had an asthma attack, more than once. I felt lightheaded, in a good way. Everything was great.

The old habits came back, the arithmetic of nights out. I could eat or drink, but not too much of either. My feminist group meets at the bar. My craft group meets at the bar. My ukulele group meets at the bar. "Just one drink for me - I couldn't possibly have another - I'm driving."

I stopped adding milk to my tea or my breakfast oats. The ends of cheese in my fridge (tasty cheddar, camembert, a sharp cumin gouda) dried up and I threw them out. 

The New Guy took me out for tapas and we ate cheese and drank wine. Nothing bad happened. We went out for ice cream, twice. The arithmetic of evenings out got harder to figure. I had eggs at brunch, but not bacon or hash browns or cake. I had milk in my tea, just once.

I was moving house, clearing the fridge. The cheese was gone, there was no milk. I threw out three potatoes that were sprouting eyes. I ate tinned tomatoes, rice, chickpeas; I was too broke to go to the supermarket for lettuce, fresh tomatoes, chicken.  Moving costs.

I teased the organiser of the competition for eating chocolate from the vending machine and hated myself for it. The competition was extended. Three more weeks.

Food has many roles. It keeps us alive, sure, but that's not the only reason why we eat it. If it was, we wouldn't bother with slicing, casseroling, baking, sitting down at a table together, cloth napkins, hot sauce, butter on your peas, the good china, ham for Christmas lunch, barbeques, pass the salt, the perfect poached egg, dinner parties, cheese platters, fish of the day, where do you want to eat tonight? Instead, we would eat carefully and scientifically balanced meals, packaged with precision and marketed even more carefully.  You could weigh out the powder according to your weight, sex and age, mix it with tap water and volia. A meal.

In theory, we could do this already. Why don't we?

An old flame took me out for lunch. I ate exactly half the bread on my sandwich. "You look great," he said.

Before weigh ins, I skipped my morning cup of tea (green, so I wouldn't miss the milk), and saved my morning ration of oats (two tablespoons with boiling water - nothing else) to eat later. The rest of the time, I drank water compulsively. "You sure do like water, haha," said a Coworker whose desk is by the water cooler. "Haha, I sure do," I replied.

I taught New Guy how to poach an egg, making a whirlpool of the water and adding a capful of vinegar. He had fancy flavoured salt, and I resolved to get some for myself. It’s funny, the things we learn from lovers. Music, movies, salt.  

Out with one of my groups, I ordered dinner at the bar because my other two meals that day had been pathetic. Oats, dried lentils, rice. They fed, but didn't nourish.  

I think a lot of people get hangry - hungry angry. I get it pretty bad, and can't, physically can't, skip meals. The last time I tried, I ended up face down on the bed, literally catatonic with sadness, thinking how nice it would be to simply not exist anymore. Old Flame, who knows me well,  ordered a curry, and forced me to eat some. I felt better at once.

I was in second place in the competition, three hundred grams behind, but just as everything had slotted into place before, it began to fall apart again.

I worried incessantly about work. New Guy didn't want to see me any more, for no reason he could articulate. I was tired in the afternoons, and my knees hurt when I tried to run, brought be to a gasping, pain-filled stop.

The competition was extended for a third time. I was bored of waiting. At brunch, I ordered bacon and covered it with hot sauce.

I bought my own damn ukulele on a whim one morning, on my way home from Old Flame’s house. I didn’t need to wait until some arbitrary goal was reached. New Guy reached out to me and I laughed him away.

I came third in the competition. I won $20. I took my best friend out at lunch time, and I spent all that money on cake.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Gather's an unconference - the participants run it. What you get out of the day is what your fellow attendees show up with, not what Keynote Speaker Number Three brings to the table.

The organisers know I play uke though, and I was asked to run a session on it.

I haven't even been playing for a year. I'm not particularly good. But how do you refuse something like that? The tension between no-I-couldn't-possibly and the impossibility of refusing a polite request briefly paralysed me until I heard Carol was going to run it too and then it was all okay. 

I think I've written before about how ukulele is very life-afirming. A session leaves you thinking more, yes please, another forty of fifty years of this, I could do this forever, as opposed to say, cleaning the bathroom, which makes the quietus of the grave seem evermore attractive. 

Standing up, addressing a room full of people, and singing in front of them was a great experience. You are very brave, someone messaged me, but it didn't feel brave. It felt strong, especially considering all the periods in my life where even considering doing such a thing would leave me in a puddle on the floor. Standing and singing and talking about how rad it is to make simple music just felt right. 

Sunday, 19 May 2013


One of the benefits my gym touts are regular review sessions with a trainer. They're quite insistent about it; I finally scheduled one when the owner cornered me and asked me to make an appointment.

"So," said the trainer. "Let's talk about your goals." She read from my file: "'Increase strength, flexibility. Control exercise induced asthma better.' Are these still your goals?"
I nodded. It was 9am on Sunday, and I was a bit hungover.
"It says here you don't want to be weighed or measured... you're still not interested in keeping track of that?"
She didn't explain how my weight or measurements were related to my asthma, so I declined.
"I know you’re concerned about ‘fitness,’ but have you noticed any changes in your body? Clothes fitting better?"
"I guess?" I said.
"How have you made changes to your diet to support your exersise?"
"I haven't."
"Oh... What about your other goals? Strength, flexibility, controlling asthma?"
Those were all my goals.
"I go on the treadmill, and I still can't run for very far without having an asthma attack, and I'm not sure what to do about that."
"But would you say it's improved?"
"Yeah, a bit, but I still can't go very far without my puffer."
"That's good," she said, circling improved on the sheet. She turned it over. "So... if you don't want to be weighed - are you sure you don't want to be weighed? - we're done here. Yay! It's always good to check in, but remember you can ask us anything any time."

Out on the cross trainer, I got madder and madder. It's a women's only gym, which may go some way to explaining to obsession with numbers and tracking. I tweeted that it was "a good reminder that my value as a human being is in direct, inverse proportion to the number on the scale," but in harsh words like that, it just made me sad.

The real issue was that the trainer was reading off a sheet asking about weight - there’s nothing for strength or asthma control or anything else - weight is the only focus, that any other reasons for going to a gym are invisible.

I like my gym. I like that it's right over the road from my work. I like that it's women only. I like that it's not too fancy, and there are no celebrities, unlike my last gym. I like that it's quiet on Sundays, and that the rowing machine has a fish video game you play by rowing, and there's a stair machine, which is literally a Victorian torture device.

The tricep pulldown machine faces the gym's inspiration board. If I squint, I can read some of the notes people have left.

The notes stuck to the pinboard say GET INSPIRED and WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?

Please add your goal to the board.

About half of the notes are about beaches and bikini bodies. It would be disingenuous to pretend that there's not a good reason for those goals. Leaving aside vanity, which is a good a reason to do anything as anything else (as someone with a personal blog, I know a thing or two about vanity), there can be real social and career consequences to being the 'wrong' size or shape, and for any individual, it's certainly easier to strive to attain thin privilege than to try and break down the system which perpetuates it. 

The other half of the notes are badass, which makes the review's focus on weight still more bizarre:

To run the New Plymouth marathon.To feel good about myself and now I'm happy as :)

Get more flexibility and tone (me too!!).I want to enter a triathlon so need to get fitter.

 To tip the balance, I decided to add my own:

To be strong enough to open jars.To control my asthma better. Breathe.

To love myself the way I am.