Archive | February, 2010

The Fashion Pendulum

25 Feb

Harem pants.  I don’t get them. Why wear something that transforms your bottom into looking one foot long, and also makes you look like you’ve had an unfortunate accident in your pants. And yet – they’ve been one of the biggest ‘on trend’ fashion items of the past summer.  Certainly, they look comfortable – but if comfort were the only consideration when it comes to dressing, then my flannel pyjamas with the sagging elastic which give me plumber’s cr**k would be my daily uniform.

When I think harem pants, two names come to mind.  MC Hammer and Barbara Eden.  Two people who, on appearances, have little in common.  One is a black rap artist who perfected the sideways crab dance move in the 19990s smash hit ‘You can’t touch this’.  The other is the star of the 1960s sitcom ‘I dream of Jeannie’ who portrayed a 2000 year old genie, with an astronaut as her master.  So – what could this glasses-wearing rapper with the flat-top haircut have in common with a genie-playing, beehive-wearing actress?  Well – pants, it seems.  They are the two most famous exponents of the harem pant.  Are they fashion icons?  Well – perhaps in a way.  But not in a good way.  Would any self-respecting woman really be proud to declare MC Hammer or Barbara Eden as their fashion inspiration?  I think not. So – how do we explain this current trend?

Well – it’s what I like to call the great fashion pendulum.  One minute skinny jeans are the thing.  Then, the big swing happens, and suddenly it’s the opposite – loose-fit boyfriend jean become the must-have.  Prints, patterns and bright colours have been huge over summer.  Guess what’s big for winter?  Grey – worn all over – layered in different shades.  What really sh*ts me about this is that trends have nothing to do with making women look good.  In fact it’s the opposite. It’s about making women feel insecure.  It’s about making them look at the wardrobes and think ‘Gosh – my skinny jeans are so two years ago.  I’d better get some of those loose-fitting ones’.  Never mind the fact that those new, loose jeans will make your hips and bum look a size bigger than what they are.  The fashion industry doesn’t care.  It just wants you to buy new clothes – every season.  But the harem pant is just taking the p*ss.  Instead of a price tag, they should come with a buyer beware tag which states “In a few years from now, you will look back on these pants and think – why, why, why?”  When MC Hammer sang ‘You can’t touch this’ maybe he was talking about his pants – don’t touch them, don’t go near them, and certainly, don’t buy them. 




Playground Politics

24 Feb

Aaahh – the playground.  What should be a place of fun and laughs can so quickly turn to tears and tantrums.  And I’m not just talking about the kids either.  A friend of mine, Jo*, recently took her one year old son, Luke*, to the local playground.  He was happily playing in the sand pit when another older child came up and threw sand in his face.
  Luke is not a hysterical child.  He didn’t scream.  He spluttered the sand out of his mouth – and resumed playing position.  The older child grabbed another handful.  This time Jo stepped in.  She grabbed the child’s hand and said ‘No’.  From across the playground stormed an angry mother.  “Get your hands off my child”.  Jo was taken aback but nonetheless explained that the woman’s little ‘angel’ had thrown a fistful of sand into Luke’s face.  “Well, he doesn’t look very upset”, came the retort from the clearly defensive mother.  To add insult to injury, she patronisingly told Jo “You’re obviously new to this, aren’t you.”  Wow.   Talk about turning the tables.  Her child was clearly in the wrong, yet this woman made my friend feel the incident was her fault.

This story raises interesting questions about disciplining other people’s children.  In which situations is it OK?  How far can you take it?  Is touching a stranger’s child out of the question? In my view, Jo handled the situation in an acceptable way – she was preventing another child from harming her son.  But, people have different rules about this issue – like – it’s OK to discipline someone else’s children in your own home, but outside of your own home, you should always approach the child’s parent first.  It’s a complex issue – made all the more so because of the current tendancy to treat children with kid gloves. 

Anyway, I found an interesting article which looks at the issue in greater detail – click here to read it.  It’s tricky to have hard and fast rules because the circumstances vary in each situation.  It depends on your relationship to the child – I am quite comfortable with saying ‘no’ to my nieces and nephews, but less so with friend’s children.  I also think that on some occasions it’s appropriate to let children sort out spats between themselves.  I don’t want to turn into a ‘helicopter parent’ – hovering over my child’s every move.  I know that some parents refuse to take their children to playgrounds, simply to avoid potential confrontations.  But really the situtations can crop up anywhere – the shops, preschool, social occasions etc.  Avoiding the playground doesn’t avoid the problem.
*Names changed to protect the innocent

Watching – Gran Torino – Available on DVD

23 Feb

‘Isn’t that the one with Clint Eastwood – and it’s about cars?’  I can hear you saying it – and thinking – ‘Not for me’.  But – just wait – give it chance.  Yes it does star Clint Eastwood and there is a car in it – but that shouldn’t put you off.  It’s great – and I’m certainly no rev-head, nor am I a Dirty Harry fanatic.

Gran Torino
follows Walt Kowalski, a grumpy veteran of the Korean war who lives in a neighbourhood undergoing change.  Traditionally the domain the white middle class, the suburb is now populated by poor Asian migrants and overrun by ethnic gangs.  As an initiation test to enter a gang, Walt’s young neighbour Thao attempts to steal his prized 1972 Gran Torino.  Walt catches Thao in the act and an unlikely relationship develops.

So – what’s to like about this movie?  Well – it is at once funny, sad, hopeful and thought provoking.  What more could one ask of a film?  Eastwood is a standout.  After 40 years of playing the gruff anti-hero, he well and truly has the act nailed.  I’ve never heard someone growl so convincingly – but growl Walt does – at everyone, including his own family.  Walt is an unapologetic bigot.  In this day and age of political correctness, to hear such racially offensive language is shocking and almost comedic.  You’re kind of laughing in the sense of ‘I can’t believe he just said that.’

Ultimately, this is a film about racism.  It exposes the great truth – that for no rational reason, many humans fear or distrust ‘others’ from a different cultural background.  And – it’s not just the domain of anglo saxons.  The film exposes tensions between migrant groups – namely, the asian and latino gangs.  Fortunately, Gran Torino does not go down the path of being a totally redemptive film.  Walt does not transform from being racist to being a peace-loving buddhist in the space of two hours.  He’s still a bigot in the end.  But – it’s the audience who take away the lesson – goodness and decency exists across all cultures.  We just need to reach out and find it.

Tales of the WAGs

16 Feb
In case you don’t know who this is – her name is Haley Bracken and she’s married to an Australian cricketer.  So – in other words, she’s a WAG.  It’s such an unfortunate title (always makes me think of puppy dogs) but now seems the standard way of referring to the wives and girlfriends of sports stars.  Anyway, last night was a big awards ceremony for Australian cricketers – hence the red carpet (which now gets more coverage than the awards).  Haley’s dress caused the biggest interest stir, for obvious reasons.  I was watching the Today show this morning and Haley appeared, talking about the now infamous dress.  She said “It is daring, but everything’s covered”. 

Hmmm… everything?  I can definitely see breasts, and a belly button – so not EVERYTHING is covered (in fact, barely anything is covered).  Haley went on “I went with the trend of the nude look and lace on it. I think that’s the trend at the moment – so I went with it.”  Haley’s right.  Nude is in – but that’s nude as in the colour nude (pinky beige) not actually being naked.  Yes – lace is in too.  But nude lace amounts to basically wearing glad wrap. It probably won’t surprise you to discover that Haley designed the dress herself.  Bingo!  First mistake. Dress designing is an art.  It’s not for the part timers.  It also won’t surprise you to know that Haley is planning to wear the dress again when she enters the Mrs World Australia.  It does look like a pageant dress – and pageant hair – and underneath that dress there are pageant shoes.  I saw them on TV.  They had clear plastic platforms.  Kind of reminded me of jelly sandals.  Haley finished her interview by saying “I wanted to look like the ocean and the rainforest”.  Gosh – that’s a big call.  Usually, when I get dressed I want to look presentable and stylish.  I’ve never thought about aiming to look like an entire element of nature.  What’s next?  Looking like the mountains (boobs essential)?  Or the plains (for the flat chested)?
Now – I know that all of the above sounds incredibly nasty.  I don’t mean it to be.  On the up side – I think Haley has a gorgeous face, and a figure to die for (although the pertness of the boobs make me think plastic is involved).  I just have a problem with the frock.

To prove I’m not a nark, I also want to say how gorgeous I thought Lee Furlong and Lara Bingle looked.  Sure, they are genetically blessed but I thought Lee Furlong stood out for the elegant simplicity of the dress. It does border a little bit on Morticia Adams – and you could argue that black velvet (I think that’s what it is) is a bit heavy for summer in Australia.  But the back drags it from gothic disaster to sexy-but-elegant.  Just shows that you don’t have to show a lot of skin to be sexy.  I love the messy updo and the make-up just makes her look radiant.

Lara Bingle might be from the Shire – but the girl’s got style (or a good stylist).  Lara seems to love a plunging front – but when you have the natural assets – why not? Again, I love the simplicity of the gown.  It’s white – but not bridal.  The draping makes around the decolletage makes it current.  I would have loved to see how it looked with the train extended on the ground but I can understand – white gown dragging on floor is a recipe for stains.  I’m not sure the photo does her justice.  She just looked luminous on the television footage.  I have to admit – I also love the fake Chanel tattoos on her neck.  Sure, they’re a little gimmicky.  But it’s something new and cool.  I also love the idea of Chanel doing fake tattoos – tradtionally the domain of 5 year olds.  I don’t think I’ll be wearing them to the shops anytime soon – but the red carpet is the place to try something different, but not too different.  Haley Bracken take note.

The price of beauty

14 Feb

I don’t consider myself’a vain person.  But in the last two years, I’ve spent more than $20,000 on physical ‘enhancements’ – medical procedures to make myself look better.  What have I spent the money on?  Laser eye surgery, and dental braces.  My family keep asking me ‘What’s next?  A boob job?”.  To which I sniff ‘Of course not’.  In my view – people who undergo boob jobs, nose jobs, facelifts and botox are in an entirely different category.  Until now, I have judged those people badly.  I have judged them as being vain.  Am I a hypocrite?  After all, have I not suffered physical pain and paid inordinate amounts of money in search of physical attractiveness?  Perhaps it is a double standard.  I am still unsure.

My procedures were entirely voluntary.  Strictly speaking, there were no medical reasons to undertake them.  Purely and simply, I got my teeth straightened because they had become so crooked they were making me self-conscious.  You could argue that straighter teeth are easier to clean and therefore less susceptible to gum disease – but – who am I kidding?  That’s not why I got them.  I go them because my teeth were getting to the point where I felt I had to cover my mouth when I smiled.  And I smile, a lot.  As for getting my eyes lasered, there are many more reasons – my dislike of the ‘look’ of glasses was certainly one them.  But it was also about the hassle of glasses – having my baby grab them off my face, not being able to lay my head on my husband’s chest without having the frames dig into my head, red marks on my nose, seeing the world through a ‘frame’.  I could go on.  Even though I wore them every day for 16 years, I never considered myself ‘the girl with glasses’.  I took them off in every photo.  I’m sure in the future my children probably won’t believe I wore glasses – the photo evidence won’t be there to prove it.  So the chance to rid myself of the ‘four eyes’ tag – and start really living as I saw myself – was ultimately very attractive. In my view I did these things to boost my self confidence.  There certainly was pain involved.  The braces cut my tongue and gums – and the soreness of the teeth being pulled in new directions was bad at times.  The laser eye surgery also caused short term, but quite intense discomfort.

I can imagine the reasons that people have plastic surgery might be very similar.  They, like I, would claim it’s not about impressing other peoplem, it’s about feeling better about yourself.  But I think that’s a convenient explanation.  It denies the truth.  And the truth is this.  Beauty lies only in the eye of the beholder.  So, if you’re trying to make yourself look more pretty, it can only for the benefit of other people – after all, you spend more time with people, than you do in front of the mirror (I hope!).  Funnily enough, since having my ‘procedures’, very few people have actually noticed my teeth or my eyes.  Is that disappointing?  No.  I do feel better about myself.  I do feel that I have changed the way people see me – albeit in a subtle way.  It’s also changed the way I see people who go under the knife.  It’s certainly not for me.  I still think injecting foreign substances into your body or taking to it with a scalpel is more extreme than what I’ve done.  But I can see the similarities between myself, and the plastic surgery camp – have we not both paid a price to improve our looks? 


What to expect from others.. when you’re expecting

11 Feb

When I fell pregnant, I found it quite hard to tell people the news. It’s not really something that comes up naturally in conversation. It’s also very personal. It’s proof that you’ve been ‘doing it’. So – do you just blurt it out at the start of a chat? Do you wait till an awkward silence in the converation and use it as a gap filler? Do you try and subtly steer the chat towards children – and then drop it in casually? After a while I began to dread it for another reason – the avalanche of unsolicited advice it would provoke.
Even people without children were telling me what to expect. Announcing a pregnancy generally follows a pattern. You say you’re pregnant. Your friend responds with congratulations, and without pausing for breath, starts spewing out advice and stories. Mainly horror stories. About excruciating births, sleepless nights, never having any ‘me’ time. People seem to revel in trying to scare you about the downsides of parenting. Which is funny. Because I’m yet to hear anyone say they’ve regretted having a child. Anyway, one of my favourite, most useless bits of advice was ‘Well, you’d better get lots of sleep now, because you won’t get any when the baby comes!’ Brilliant. I will sleep for the next six months straight. And then, I won’t have to sleep at all for the first six months of my baby’s life! The other common one was. ‘Well, you’re life is really going to change.’ Really? You mean the baby won’t want to come nightclubbing? In the end, I found the easiest way to tell people was to show them an image of our baby taken from the first ultrasound. Our tiny, precious, 2.5cm little being. It kind of said it all. As for the advice – I smiled and swallowed it. I knew it was well meant. And among the inanities were some genuine gems of wisdom. Like the comment that it would be ‘the best thing you ever do.’ They were right.

Watching… ‘In Treatment’ on Foxtel Showcase

10 Feb

Lord knows why televsion stations choose to bury some of their best programs. But – they do. Often. And they’ve done it again with ‘In Treatment’. I’ve never seen a therapist. But this TV series provides an insight into what it might be like.
Challenging. Confronting. Emotional. And no guarantees of happy endings. The performances are fantastic – the characters are credible, authentic and certainly not always likeable. Irish actor, Gabriel Byrne, plays 53 year old therapist ‘Paul’. Each half hour episode takes us into a therapy session with his patients. We get to know five of Paul’s patients, who we see on a repeat basis as they return for a weekly session. There’s the couple whose marriage is falling apart, an outstanding young gymnast in a sexual relationship with her coach, a promiscuous young Doctor who’s in love with Paul, and a soldier dealing with the atrocities he inflicted during the Iraq war. We also get to see Paul’s sessions with his own therapist, Gina. These episodes are perhaps the most interesting. As a therapist, Paul is empathetic, calm, controlled, rational and probing. As a patient, he is the opposite – emotional, challenging and aggressive. At times, it’s hard to watch this capable man falling apart. Now – this is an American series. But it has the kind of subtletly that’s rarely found in some US dramas. That’s probably because it’s based faithfully on a terribly successful Israeli series ‘Be Tipul’. It might also be explained by the presence of two Australian actors in starring roles – Melissa George (Angel from ‘Home and Away’) and Mia Wasikowska (a rising super star). The other factors that set this series apart is the fact that each episode takes place in one room, and it features 2 -3 actors per episode. It’s kind of like watching theatre. Anyway, while ‘In Treatment’ seems to be screened at very odd hours, it’s worth tracking down. Put it in your IQ if you’ve got it. It’s a winner.