A short story about smarts.

New research from three US universities suggests that while men might say that they like intelligent women in theory, in practice they’re not interested in dating women more intelligent than they are. For those who’ve ever wondered whether size really matters, turns out it does – in the brain.

is that my intelligence in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

is that my intelligence in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

When it came to meeting women of greater intelligence, the men in the study ranked the women as less attractive and were less likely to exchange phone numbers or arrange another meeting with them. A game of chess was also presumably out of the question.

For the life of me, I don’t know why guys wouldn’t want to arrange another meeting with women they perceived as being of greater intelligence. Think of everything those women could explain for those blokes: BAS statements. The final moments of the last episode of The Sopranos. Shopkins. Donald Trump’s hair.

Seeking to clarify the results of the research from the University of Buffalo, Californian Lutheran University and the University of Texas (and no doubt redeem his gender) Dr Peter Jonason, senior lecturer of psychology at the University of Western Sydney said that a woman’s greater intelligence didn’t necessarily equal unattractiveness in the eyes of men. Rather, he said the research suggested men prioritise other traits – such as attractiveness – over a woman’s intelligence.

So this isn’t “junk” science, it’s “junk in the trunk” science. Maybe that game of chess would have been a goer if they’d played in the nude?

Of course, the notion of men saying they’re attracted to smarter women in the abstract and then reneging in the real world needs further definition before it’s lambasted completely. What does “smart” or “intelligent” actually mean? Well-read? Tertiary educated? High-scoring on an IQ test? Or are we talking “life-smarts” as opposed to “book-smarts?” For example, I think my bloke’s a genius because unlike me, he knows how to reset the clock on our highfalutin’ microwave after a blackout. He in turn admires my ability to locate the edge of the tightly-wound plastic wrap our newspaper is delivered in in less than three seconds.

The research has certainly had me thinking. In my last year of high school I was awarded an academic prize known as the “Love Of Learning Award” – was this why I spent almost the entire decade following wallflowering at parties and not being wooed by anyone until I was 27?

As a woman, wondering whether a man is attracted to you for your brains or your beauty is an interesting exercise, although I can confidently say I’ve known a few blokes who – judging from the number of times I caught them trying to make an appraisal – must’ve thought my intelligence level was located at or around my breasts.

When I asked my bloke whether he was attracted to me based on looks or intelligence his response was “Yours or mine?” so no enlightenment there. May I, however, heartily recommend throwing this question at your partner, apropos of nothing: “So…which one of us do you think is the most intelligent?” Absolutely worth it for the anxious sweating and seat-shuffling that ensues. My bloke’s eventual – and only – answer of “Is this a trick question?” at least showed I’m smart enough to keep him on his toes.

As originally published by the supremely intelligent folk at http://www.abc.net.au/news/thedrum


A short story about rezzos.

of course, this is how all women make lists. in your frigging dreams.

of course, this is how all women make lists. in your frigging dreams.

How are your New Year’s resolutions going? Or, as one of my sisters calls them, your “rezzos?” (I love her turns of phrase: according to her personal phrasebook, performing a U-turn in traffic is referred to as “fanging a youie” and asking me to admire the results of her bicep curls involves “Check out my pipes – I’m tanking up!”)

I don’t make New Year’s rezzos because I don’t buy the way they began. In 153BC (apparently) a mythical Roman king named Janus was placed at the head of the calendar, hence the month we now know as ‘January.’ (Please don’t fall asleep, I promise this will be worth it.) Janus had two faces, which meant he could simultaneously look back on past events and forward to the future. (Mind you, it also meant he had to spend twice as long brushing his teeth.) This ability to see both the past and the future made him the perfect inspiration for ancient Romans everywhere to start reflecting on their bad habits from the past year then making plans for better habits in the new one. Not bad for a guy whose name rhymes with ‘anus.’ (Booyah! Told you there’d be something in there for all of us.)

Apart from being a bit suss on a mythical king whose name might as well have been ‘Pooper’ (hands up who wishes they’d been born in Poopuary?) there’s another fine reason why I’ve never made New Year’s rezzos. Quite simply, I have so many habits worthy of reform that I just wouldn’t know where to start. Take my current top three. Should I:

•Stop yelling at the telly? Every night at 6.30 I flick between Today Tonight and A Current Affair and every night I yell at the telly. On the one hand I think I should stop because I doubt the people taking their evening stroll past my house need to hear me bellowing things like “This is not a news story, you morons – this is a glorified $%#@ ad!” or “How the hell can dodgy tradies who rort worker’s comp be making our kids fat?” On the other hand, if I stop yelling at the telly I’ll lose my favourite form of stress-busting and end up having to do yoga instead. And nobody needs to see my ‘downward dog.’ At least, not unless they’re going to name a mythical Roman king after it.

•Stop singing everything to my kid? In a bid to keep life at home with a three-year-old perky, I’ve been providing The Sprout with a running commentary of everything we do together. And in a bid to keep that running commentary entertaining for her I’ve been providing some of it in songs sung to the tune of nursery rhymes. Trouble is, completing lines is often a bit of a stretch. Just this morning while baking a cake I took my cue from ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ and sang “Blend ingredients til they’re mixed, dogs don’t breed when they’ve been fixed.” Some might call that desperate rhyming, I call it educational.

•Stop using the word ‘booyah?’ I think people who say ‘booyah’ are tools, yet I have started saying ‘booyah.’ I either need to stop saying ‘booyah’ or hammer down the nail sticking up from one of the floorboards in our hallway using only my own head.

Like I told you: no idea where to start.

As originally published by the Melbourne City Weekly

A short story about a dunny study

A University of London study published in the British Journal of Criminology recently has revealed that apparently, a trip to the loo can be a “stressful” experience for men as they try to adhere to unwritten toilet etiquette and avoid fights.

as if any woman would give this much of a shit.

as if any woman would give this much of a shit.

Firstly, the fact that this study was published in a Journal of Criminology intrigues me. Since when has it been a crime for blokes to use the dunny? It’s a crime to leave the seat up, sure, but last time I checked, tinkling in the toilet wasn’t worth a tip-off to the cops.

Anyhoo, in order to carry out the required research,  a bunch of University of London academics played “mystery customer” at urinals  in pubs, clubs, railway stations, shopping centres and museums. Now surely that’s the crime: hanging around a public toilet to observe rather than participate. I can’t speak for any blokes out there but let me tell you: if I went into a public toilet and saw someone standing there ready to take notes, I’d be reporting them faster than you can say “And you mean to tell me someone’s actually paying the fees for you to study this?”

The term “mystery customer” is also a doozie – I guess it’s the equivalent of the “mystery shopper” I was taught to always be on the lookout for when I worked for in retail customer service for a major department store many years ago.* However, in this case I feel the term “mystery customer” is somewhat innacurate. Who goes to a public toilet and calls themselves a customer, apart from George Michael?  The academics shouldn’t have been mystery customers – they were quite clearly mystery flushers.

The upshot of the study was that it highlighted the three rules most male public toilet-goers adhere to (my study notes are in brackets):

  1. Never catch someone else’s eye (especially, I presume, if it’s a brown one.)
  2. Never draw attention to yourself (George Michael flunked out here when he burst into the chorus of Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.)
  3. Never squeeze in next to another man unless it is the only space available (I’ve broken this rule heaps of times. Especially in bed with my husband.)

Rather than have any more money wasted on carrying out an equivalent study in female public toilets (I’d much rather the English spend that cash on bribing  One Direction not to release any more music) I thought I’d take out the middle-man and highlight, from my own experience, the rules most female public toilet-goers adhere to:

  1. Never let anyone hear you actually do what you went in there to do. This can be achieved by synching your ‘functions’ with the rapid and noisy unfurling of loo paper from the dispenser or, alternately, the loud playing from your phone of a song from One Direction. (Note: this is not the only thing One Direction is good for in a toileting situation)
  2. Never request toilet paper from the woman in the cubicle next to you. We all know what happened to Elaine in that episode of Seinfeld.
  3. Never exit your cubicle while there’s anyone else still at the sink. You want to avoid having to exchange one of those awkward, how-good-does-a-good-go-feel smiles.
  4. Never open the lid of any sanitary disposal unit. I don’t care how many pastel-coloured flowers are on the logo, I would rather mail what I need to dispose of back to myself than lift the lid and release even the most demure whiff of the contents therein.
  5. Never call out “Marco!” In all my years of public toilet-going, not once has a fellow whizzer been inclined to indulge me with a response of “Polo!”


*Note: in seven years of service I never saw a single mystery shopper, quite possibly because I spent most of my Saturday morning shifts face-down in a pile of perfectly-folded towels to dull the pounding legacy of the late-night drinking I’d usually indulged in the night before.

As originally published on iVillage.com.au

a short story about norgs

A Woman’s Day article featuring a 50-year-old woman who breastfeeds her four-year-old daughter four times a day is getting the Boob Brigade all hot under the collar. You know the Boob Brigade: those people who may or may not be breast-owners themselves who love nothing more than telling other people what they should/shouldn’t do with their norgs.

this is all your fault, dolly.

The Boob Brigade is firmly divided over Byron Bay mum Maha al Musa and her mammary-based ways. Reader comments in an online version of the story range from “disgusting” “weird” and “attention-seeking” to “beautiful,” “natural” and “dedicated.” The “Byron Bay – says it all, really!” line gets an airing, as does the old “You can pick the bottle-fed people in the comments” chestnut. My opinion is pretty sophisticated and consists of three words: Seriously, who cares?Who cares if the child is four years old? Who cares if the woman’s 50? A 70-year old being breastfed by another elderly resident in the nursing home – now there’s a story (Do they take their dentures out? Is the time for a feed before or after the time for a sherry?) Similarly noteworthy is this story about a woman who breastfeeds her dog (and yes, you’re welcome.) But a mother breastfeeding her child? I repeat: who gives a shit?

It never ceases to amaze me how worked up people get about women using their breasts for their intended purpose. How easily advertising, music clips, movies, and Dolly Parton have made some of us forget that a lady’s fun-bags are, in fact, functional. That’s right: THEY’RE THERE TO FEED THEIR KIDS. We forget what bazoongas are actually for and then when we finally remember, we add all these complicated layers of how/when/where we can actually use them. Here’s a thought: why don’t we let the owner/driver of each individual rack decide what they’re going to do with them and then just SHUT THE HELL UP ABOUT IT?

In a perfect example of the Boob Brigade sense of entitlement, one comment I read about Al Musa’s story went along the lines of “Why do we need to see this? Out of sight, thanks!” Really? I feel the same way when I see pretty much everyone featured in ‘Stars Without Makeup’ but you don’t see me writing angry letters to the editor about it despite the fact that Barbra Streisand still gives me nightmares.

What do I think about Al Musa posing with her daughter for the magazine? Personally, I wouldn’t showcase my kid to the point where I compromised her right to privacy: I might be proud of breastfeeding her but she might not appreciate everyone else seeing photos of her being breastfed. As for whether or not I’d breastfeed a four-year-old: well, first and foremost I guess it would depend on whether or not they were mine. I breastfed my daughter until she was around 16 months and seeing how much of a chatterbox she is now at age three, I’m kind of glad I’m no longer feeding her. In the checkout queue at the supermarket recently she announced in front of many people I’ll be eternally grateful never to see again: “I like your boobies, Mummy. They’re very low.” Imagine the running commentary while feeding that kid.

I’m due to give my daughter a little brother in March, and as for the questions of whether or not I breastfeed him and where and for how long, I can only answer: probably, wherever and however long I think is appropriate. Or alternatively: seriously, who cares?

As originally published on iVillage.com.au

I can’t stop …

I can’t stop crying. I am grieving the violent death of a woman I have never met and will never know. Her happy, smiling face is familiar to me only because of the number of times I have seen it on news programs, in the papers and on social media. Since her disappearance nearly a week ago she has been almost constantly in my thoughts – in amongst everything that has kept me busy this week, bouncing around somewhere in my head has been the name Jill. I have left radios and news channels on in the background where they ordinarily wouldn’t be and have checked online updates and feeds more often than usual in the hope that I would hear or see that name, and that good news would follow.

People go missing everywhere, every day. I know this. Why my interest in this person? Would my concern be so great if she were older? Younger? More or less attractive? If she was from another town, state, or country? If she was single? A mother? Another nationality? A bloke? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. Many times this week I found myself thinking: That could easily have been me. Shit, that could so easily have been me.

I also found myself thinking that it could have been one of my sisters or friends. I have despaired even more thinking that my daughter, who has just turned three, will grow up to be a woman who will no doubt someday totter home from Friday night drinks believing she is safe. She will have no way of knowing what, if any, danger is nearby. Just as Jill had no way of knowing.

This chills me. I want to stop despairing and feeling afraid but at the moment I don’t know how. The victim-blaming I have read and heard this week (some of it outright and vicious and some of it patronisingly implied) disgusts me yet I’m also bewildered by those who have asserted that no woman should have to change her behaviour in the wake of Jill’s story. How can we not fear for our safety in the face of such darkness? Such ugliness?

There are people among us who wait for the right time, place and circumstances in which to harm. That is their intent and that is why I fear. I have wondered many times “Who failed her?” but I don’t know if anyone – excepting the person who attacked Jill – failed her. Yet I don’t feel any less afraid for myself or anyone else because someone has been charged by police in relation to Jill’s death. So many attackers – and victims for that matter – are never found and I am helpless to do anything more than think about it. It makes me sad and afraid and angry and it makes me want to try and keep everyone, everywhere safe even though I know I can’t do that.

And so right now, when I should be asleep in bed, I sit in my lounge room and weep for someone I’ve never met. Then I cry for her family and friends. Then for my family and friends. Then for me. Then for you.

Tomorrow morning will see me take my daughter to another three-year-old girl’s birthday party. The kids will run amok, turning the place upside down while the mothers drink coffee. We’ll talk about toilet-training, fussy eaters, how do you get these kids to brush their bloody teeth? It’ll all be light and airy but eventually someone will say “My god, isn’t it so sad…” And in hushed voices we’ll share our thoughts, fears and anger while watching our giggling, exuberant daughters. Just keeping an eye on them. Willing them to stay safe.

A short story about Olympic daughters and dads.

If you’re an elite athlete, I say “well done” (as I bite into my raspberry and white chocolate muffin…hey, eating is a sport – haven’t you ever seen those guys downing hotdogs on ESPN?) If you’re an elite athlete who’s competing in the London Olympic Games, I say “well done” more emphatically. And if you’re an elite athlete who’s competing in the London Olympic Games with your dad, I say “well done” emphatically while doffing my muffin. And furthermore, here’s to not being you.

I’m talking to you, 20-year-old Hayley Chapman. You’re in London to compete in the 25m women’s pistol with your dad, 47-year-old David Chapman, who’ll be there to compete in the 25m rapid pistol. I know nothing about shooting so I don’t know why your pistol isn’t rapid like your dad’s. Aren’t all pistols rapid? Doesn’t the bullet come out fairly quickly after the “bang”? Like I said, I know nothing about shooting. But I know a fair whack about daughters and dads.

Sure, being part of the first father-daughter combination to compete at the same Olympics in any sport is a big deal, Hayley, but will it be worth it? The Olympic athletes’ village is always a hotbed of – to put it politely – romance, how are you going to get in on that action when your dad’s sleeping on the top bunk? When all the other athletes are out partying long and hard once their events are over and you want to do the same, how will you feel when your dad’s there telling you to “be home by nine, young lady.” You don’t want to go past his curfew, Hayley. Forget being grounded – your dad’s got a gun.

You described the prospect of going to the Olympics with your dad as “the best.” Are you sure about that, Hayley? Because dads can be embarrassing at the best of times – they’re even more embarrassing in tracksuits. Especially Australian Olympic team tracksuits. Those tracksuits make even the fittest, most attractive athletes look like they could just as easily be smacked-out on platform 6 at Flinders Street, waiting for the 4.58 to Cranbourne.

let us never, ever forget this.

Oh, Hayley, I’m worried about your dad and that tracksuit. What if you meet “the one” in London, bring him back to your father-daughter Olympic flat to meet your dad, and find him sitting there in front of the telly in his daggy team tracksuit, using a car key to clean inside his ear? Dads do that stuff, Hayley. Or worse, maybe your dad lets you out late to party but only on the condition that he picks you up at the end of the night. Now picture your dad turning up in his team tracksuit with his flannelette pyjamas on underneath, the collar of his pyjama top turned out over the neck of his trackie top. Dads do that stuff, too, Hayley. (I know because my dad did both – although his wasn’t an Olympic team tracksuit, his was just poo-brown.)God, Hayley, that tracksuit. You do know that long after you’ve come home and packed yours away for posterity, your dad will still be wearing his everywhere he can: mowing the lawn. Doing the speech at your 21st. Walking you down the aisle.

Get out while you still can, Hayley. You’re young – you can wait another four years to fulfil your Olympic dream. Your dad will still be there but maybe he’ll just be cheering you on from the stands. He’ll be easy to spot. Just look for that tracksuit.

As originally published by the sportingly-attired folk at the Melbourne City Weekly.

A short story about farting at the neighbours.

We’ve been in our new house for just under a month but we’ve yet to meet a single neighbour (as in ‘we haven’t spoken to anybody,’ not ‘everybody here is married.’) I find this strange because my last address was one of those streets where everybody knew everybody. People waved when they saw each other, pleasantries were exchanged over fences and we all banded together to keep an eye out for the The Great Letterbox Bomber of 2008 (true story.)

Our new home is at the end of a cul-de-sac (which sounds like what you’d call the organised slaughter of a pair of testicles) so we no longer have neighbours on all sides like we used to. The one next door neighbour we do have has their driveway and front door on the side furthest from ours, meaning there’s no chance for hellos when we come and go. And the residents of the house across the way park their cars in their ground-level garage, shut the automatic garage door behind them and enter their home via internal access, so no how’s-this-weather-we’ve-been-having there.

It’s all a bit distant but I guess it could be worse: at least we’re not so close that we can all hear each other breaking wind, which can be dangerous. The proof: a US man stands accused of threatening his neighbour with a gun for allegedly letting one rip outside his apartment.

“is that a gun in your pocket or have you been on the beans?”

(In case you’re wondering, yes it is time for my yearly column about cutting the cheese – this year it’s gorgonzola.)The accused gun-toter is 72-year-old Daniel Collins, Jnr., who allegedly pointed a revolver at his neighbour while telling him “I’m going to put a hole in your head” (obviously, he’d already been made aware of the opening at the other end.)

Frankly, I don’t know why old Daniel is in so much trouble. If you ask me, a 72-year-old with a gun is a beautiful thing. Seriously: if there’s any age group I want walking around with firearms, it’s the elderly because I believe they’re the safest. When angry, young people with guns know exactly what they’re going to do with them. Old people are more likely to get angry, pick up a gun, walk into a room and think “Now, what the hell did I come in here for?” forget, put the gun down and walk off in another direction. Old Daniel may well have said he was going to put in a hole in his neighbour’s head but in another couple of minutes it all would have blown over. So to speak.

Apparently the reason old Daniel was angry was because he supposedly heard the neighbour pass wind outside his front door and the two had been having an ongoing dispute about noise. What I like about this story is that the noise of the flatulence was the source of concern here, not the fragrance. Apparently old Daniel wouldn’t have cared a jot if his neighbour had walked past three times a day dropping silent-but-deadlies.

The problem with the noise of the wind-breaking being the issue is of course that many things sound like farts, for example squeaky shoes and the ratings for Being Lara Bingle. What if old Daniel’s neighbour had walked past and legitimately stepped on a duck?

Anyway, I think old Daniel’s neighbour is lucky. I’ve been eating baked beans all week but so far none of my neighbours have so much as cast a disgusted look at me.

As originally published by the flatulence-free folk at the Melbourne City Weekly.

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