Writing

19 May On Penguins, Buttons and That Parallel Universe We Dream Of

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 23.5.22

 

There is a job going that caught my eye – they’re looking for staff to run the “Penguin Post Office” in Antarctica and if you’ve seen a more evocative “Situations Vacant” I’d like to hear about it.

I’ve been picturing smartly dinner-suited penguins waddling about under crisp blue skies, some of them (and I know this is not what really happens) wearing leather satchels slung across their little bodies, full of mail to be delivered. I’ve even allowed myself to imagine them wearing deliveryman caps.

Really, the Penguin Post Office in Port Lockroy is run by humans – they need three – and it involves less cute cartoon glamour than the sign over the door suggests. Shared sleeping quarters for the trio, no running water and the average temperature is minus 5 degrees. There is also no internet access or cellphone coverage (so a couple of pluses there, depending on your mood) but it gets a lot of visitors each season of both human and penguin variety.

I mention it because, with autumn reaching its last mellow days, we can find ourselves melancholic and possibly imagining other lives. I’m not wanting to speak for you, but I find it’s A Thing – possibly even more so now. Two years of living with Covid has made us tired, scratchy, bewildered, frustrated, impatient, sad and cross – sometimes by turn, sometimes all of that at once.

We have not only been imagining new lives and jobs, we’ve actually gone and done it – in sufficient numbers for it to be known as, “The Great Resignation”. Having pondered what really matters, and grasped that life is both uncertain and short, we’ve been chucking in jobs we quietly hated and looking for something meaningful.

One of my favourite family dinners was years ago when one of us, no idea who, asked what we might have been if we’d had a parallel life. My mother’s choice – a lexicologist, devoted to studying the meaning and uses of words – was not exactly a surprise, but that the answer came so quickly and was described with such clarity was… interesting. It is always good to be reminded that the people in your life have whole other lives inside them.

Back then, I fancied living my parallel life as a criminal psychologist – a romantic notion based on watching too much TV. But now – pandemic weary – my dream has changed.

I would like to own a button shop. There’d be a bell on the door, and shelves stocked with glass jars of colourful, intricate, surprising, delicate, shiny buttons. All the types – shank, flat, toggle – and all with charm.

There are reasons for my button love. Mountains of shiny buttons at my parents’ clothing factory entranced me as a kid, but there is also a very early, very vivid memory of a set of light blue shank buttons with painted white swans on some childhood ensemble that had me mesmerised. A pretty picture on a button, and look! There were three!

Add to that a lifetime of knowing you can make any garment better by giving it better buttons and why wouldn’t you want to make it your business to help people find something matching, contrasting, subtle, elegant, or playful? To make a tiny change that makes something beautiful.

Which might sound crazy until you think that, right now, there are people actually applying to work at the Penguin Post Office in Antarctica. Dream big, I say.

 

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19 May Wordle Is A Six Letter Word, But Razor Fits

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 16.5.22

 

A thousand years ago, when I lived in Wellington and worked out at Avalon studios, I could get up in the morning, dress, catch a bus to the railway station and take the train out to the Hutt Valley before I was entirely awake. I seem to remember the goal was to wake up properly around Naenae. If you left it till the Taita station, it was a long walk back.

Sleepwalking your commute is quite a skill, and I was impressed with myself at the time. This ability to throw myself headfirst into the day and get things done before I was fully conscious was like simultaneously getting up early and sleeping in. Doubt that I could do it now, and honestly don’t want to since I discovered the joy of slow mornings.

Easing into the day is a new favourite thing since the opportunity presented itself. I had to wait, of course, for my early-rising child to become a sleeping-in teen and then fly the nest to try it.

It means I enjoy mornings more than a night owl like me might expect. Even when I need to be somewhere at dawn now, I will set the alarm extra early so I have time to move slowly and give my mind a moment to fully return to my body after a busy night of dreaming.

Everything flows better when you have a ritual. Mine involves grinding beans and letting coffee brew while I read something inspirational, delete unnecessary emails, and slide into the day’s Wordle.

I was late to the word game – my contrarian nature means I resist the thing everyone is bubbling about until it has gone off the boil. (I have yet to see a single episode of Game of Thrones but could start it any day.) I also have an addictive personality and lost some of the 1980s to video games but, with only one Wordle released each day, this felt low risk. (Yes, I’ve found the archives but my will remains strong.)

The best games teach us something about ourselves. Wordle is teaching me – reminding me, really – to embrace the Principle of Parsimony. You know the one – the Occam’s Razor theory which says if there are a range of explanations, go with the simplest one first.

I love words, and I know heaps of them, so if you ask me to think of one, I will go for the prettiest and rarest. Wordle, however, reminds us daily that if there is an animal clopping around in the backyard, it is wiser to assume the 5-letter word you are looking for is ‘horse’, not ‘zebra’.

This is the advice I gave my daughter when I introduced her to the game last week. That it is a game of probabilities and strategy, rather than a test of how many cool words you know. Though every now and then they’ll chuck in a zebra just to keep you on your hooves.

It gave us a chance to talk about how she and I have a tendency to presume things are more complicated than they are, and to worry about worst case scenarios when, more often than not, everything turns out for the best – especially if you can stay relaxed enough to be open to right answer.

Relaxed, or maybe try Wordle while sleepwalking your commute? Assuming you’re on public transport, of course.

Now that we’ve nailed Occam’s Razor, I’m looking forward to watching a movie with her and discussing Chekhov’s Gun.

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09 May “Future You” Thinks You Look Hot

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 9.5.22

 

There are some glorious things about this business of getting older. Obviously, there is the satisfaction of Not Being Dead Yet which, looking back on some of the risks and choices you may have made at various points, can come with equal parts surprise and relief.

There is also the letting-go of our youthful anxieties. At some point, we stop worrying about things that really don’t matter and relax into being “who we are”.

Like many women who aren’t Elle Macpherson, I might have had issues once about not being Elle Macpherson. But once you’ve had a baby, collected various surgical scars and read about what’s happening in the Ukraine, being five-foot-two and shaped more like a cello than a flute seems small potatoes. And I like potatoes.

I’m never sure if this eventual self-acceptance is about being a grown-up and achieving genuine satisfaction or whether, after enough years raising kids and making a living, women my age get comfortable with ourselves because we’re just too tired to give a crap anymore. Whichever it is, it’s nice to be here.

Which is not to say I don’t sometimes wake up to a Bad Face Day. This is like a Bad Hair Day except the lack of springiness and volume is to do with stuff like jowls and eye bags, and cannot be easily resolved with a poof of dry shampoo and a hat. Honestly, I don’t know why I’m explaining it – you’ve either woken up to a Bad Face Day or you haven’t, and if it’s the latter I’m sorry to be the one to alert you to the phenomenon. May it never happen to you and I wish you all the best.

Meanwhile, for the rest of us, I have a Bad Face Day hack. It occurred to me while looking at old photos from back when I thought I looked haggard and lumpy, but now realise I was, in fact, pretty bloody gorgeous.

There is this remarkable thing we do in the present which is to focus on the things we don’t like about ourselves – early on it might have been pimples, a bad haircut, naff clothes, or not being as fit as we were trying to be. Simultaneously, we forget to be aware of the glorious things we have going for us. We can see this when we look back at old photos and all we can see is the youth and joy, the courage to wear that crazy thing, and the friends and adventures we were having.

In my 40s, I looked at photos taken in my twenties and wondered what on earth Previous Me had been so neurotic about – she looked fabulous! (I mean, with exceptions – there was a metallic bubble skirt we will not speak of.) My 40-something-self wished nostalgically for a little of her smooth skin and verve.

Now I look at the photos from my forties and again wonder what on earth she was worried about. I am surprised at how fit she looks – she often didn’t feel it – but there she is being adventurous and occasionally even a little bit glamorous, and I wonder why I didn’t always feel as good as that looks.

And so this is what I am attempting – to appreciate Current Me the way Future Me will when she looks back at this moment. The eye-twinkle, the wry grin, the great frock I love wearing, and the other people in the frame.

 

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07 May For Mother’s Day (and those dreams you have after they’re gone)

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 2.5.22

 

Sometimes I have an overwhelming urge to invite my mother to dinner. It’s a thought that arrives and quite gets away on me – I am planning the menu and making lists of stories I want to tell and questions I want to ask before I remember she’s not with us anymore and hasn’t been for three years.

I say this not to be maudlin, or for sympathy or any of that nonsense. As we reach a certain age (I have reached a certain age) not having your mother still alive is, as my mother often said, the natural way of things. Grieving your mother is part of our own ageing process.

Certainly, no one wants it to be round the other way, to outlive your children – my mother was very firm about that and I find I am equally firm on this point, too.  My preference is for us all to die when it is our turn, in a tidy consecutive order. I appreciate we don’t get to choose but, if we could, let it be known this is how I’d like it arranged.

This thing, though, of continuing for years to forget someone is dead is not something we talk about that much. It is understood and accepted, I think, at the beginning of the grief process. The mind takes ages to adjust. We wake up in the morning and there are a few precious seconds before you remember someone is gone, and you don’t know if you treasure those glorious moments of forgetting more than you hate the next shock of remembering. Helluva trade off.

But I’m not sure anyone warned me I would keep forgetting forever. That I will see something she would love and almost buy it, and pick up the phone because I have a story I know she would love. Though I can still hear her voice (I can hear it in the way I’ve shaped many of these sentences) even if she can no longer hear mine.

I often dream that she is still alive – that both of them are, my mum and my dad – and some of the dreams are like a French farce because in the dream we don’t know we’re dreaming and we’re all a bit shocked they’re suddenly alive again, and there’s a bit of, “Don’t tell your father, he’ll want me to cook,” and we’re embarrassed that we’ve put everyone to the trouble of funerals, and my mother and I dread having to explain.

My favourite dreams are the ones where we all know – me and them, too – that they’re dead, and they’re just visiting my imagination. My father is usually young in these dreams and slower to cotton on but, when he remembers he’s dead, he cheerfully dives deep into a pond and swims off to another world. My mother and I watch him go and smile at each and other and say, “Bless”.

When I get the urge to tell my mother a story, send a photo, or check in to see how she is, I’ve learned to sit with that pang of sadness, and then I turn around and tell the story to my daughter.

Of course, not everyone has a daughter, or a mother to celebrate this Mother’s Day. But we all come after someone, and there is always someone coming next. I hope this Mother’s Day you find yourself happily in the middle with a story you want to tell.

 

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20 Apr Taking Risks

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 25.4.22

 

A wild thought hits me as I walk into the airport – this feels like the riskiest thing I’ve done this year.

Not the flying part. While I couldn’t explain the physics that keep craft in the air to a curious child, I’m happy to trust that someone else knows how it works – and what needs to be done to keep it working – and there are people in the cockpit who are all over this like a rash.

No, the bit that felt risky was suddenly being in close proximity to so many people. I’ve barely left the house since Omicron arrived – occasional brisk romps around the supermarket, a couple of jobs in a room with a handful of people who have just tested negative, and masked indoor gatherings with people I know. Also, long walks on the beach and plenty of chats with friends, thanks for asking. It’s just being with strangers that has become novel.

I mentioned on social media recently that, with vaccine passes gone, I felt even less keen to spend time in bars and restaurants. While many people shared the sentiment, a handful were furious with me for failing to go out and bolster our hospitality sector. One went as far as saying that I represented “everything that is wrong with this country” – a big call given child poverty and global warming are at the top of that list, and all I planned to do was stay home and make a sustaining (and sustainable) sandwich.

I’m applying an abundance of caution to my life choices during this pandemic because I’m not as young as I used to be and, while parts of me are excellent, other bits don’t work quite as well as they did. I know a bunch of people in the same boat – my close circle includes friends, young and old, with all sorts of challenges – dodgy tickers, dicky lungs, screwy immune systems, diabetes, MS, and cancer.

What struck me about the angry people was their assumption of bulletproof-ness – that because they are able-bodied, fit and well, then everyone else is, too. There is a failure to imagine other ways of being.

I can see how this happens. When we talk about pandemic public health measures, the people interviewed tend to be disappointed restaurateurs rather than the terrified parents of kids with brain tumours. We’re encouraged to think business owners are the people who represent us, and that people with disabilities are rare.

Yet being “abled” is a temporary status and you never know when that will change.

We make a mistake when we assume everyone is having the same kind of day as we are, or that they enjoy the same privilege of good health as we do. Many of us assess the level of risk we’re prepared to take right now on a daily basis.

Catching this plane felt like a fair trade-off for being able to work and to hug some people I haven’t seen for a long time. Just like, pre-pandemic, I assessed other risks – leaping off mountains and bridges, trekking in Papua New Guinea, visiting war zones, telling jokes for a living, walking alone at night, and getting married three times…

The flight, by the way, was delightfully uneventful – nothing like that time an engine blew on that plane out of Brisbane and we had to make an emergency landing. This trip should work out fine.

 

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20 Apr Tiny Party Food

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 18.4.22 – Easter Monday

 

Generally I am late to the party on whatever the cool kids are into so, for once, I’d like to get ahead of the curve and launch a new fad myself. Allow me to introduce you all to what I am calling the “Tiny Party Food” movement.

This is not to be confused with the “Tiny Food” movement from a few years ago which had people serving doll-sized food on dollhouse furniture. That was more about art than eating. This current food mood of mine is, I feel, a sustainable approach to daily sustenance.

Over here at my place I have discovered that, if left to my own devices, my preference is to live on hors d’oeuvres. Not as a snack before dinner. As dinner. Also lunch. Crackers, bread rounds and pastries with fun toppings other people serve to “tide you over” till the main event have become, for me, the main event.

I say “become” but the truth is I’ve always been inclined to turn up to a dinner and pre-emptively hoover up the corn chips and guacamole in such a heroic fashion that by the time everyone sits down to the proper meal, I am quite full, thank you. A decision I usually find myself at peace with because nothing much beats a good guacamole. She’s a tough dish to follow, so I don’t.

At the supermarket now I’m not even visiting the pasta aisle or glancing at the chops. I’m buying soft blue cheese, pears for slicing and honey for smearing on lightly toasted bread. Also avocado (which I’m allowed because I’m not saving up for a house) and chopped tomato with basil leaves for flavour and also because it makes it look like a party.

Party food is, I see now, my comfort food. Sure, it can also be macaroni cheese or laksa or chicken nibbles – a big bowl of easy-to-cook steaming goodness that is the dining equivalent of snuggling under a duvet.

But tiny party food provides a different kind of comfort, one infused with childhood nostalgia.

Back in the 1970s my mother was the queen of the cocktail canapé. Vol au vents, smoked oysters, stuffed mushrooms… Ridiculously fiddly food that took a whole Friday to prepare before a Saturday party, and was then plated up on trays and handed round to guests by me.

Don’t imagine a scene that is too elaborate – this was a small town filled with salt-of-the-earth good folk, not a scene from Downton Abbey – but everyone would be in their glad rags and smelling good, and my parents were always at their charming best when they were hosting a bit of a do.

There was a thing my mother made with a metal mould that hooked onto a handle. Shaped like a butterfly, she would dip the shape in batter and cook it in a pot of hot oil, then the next day she’d fill it with creamy mushrooms.

This, I now realise, is when I started scoffing snacks in sufficient quantities to constitute a meal. Leftovers from my rounds with the tray and therefore broken-hearted if there weren’t any. I remember being taken aside and warned not to look so sad-eyed when one of the grown-ups took the last of the mushroom butterflies off the dish I was holding. My Hungry Orphan vibe was not contributing to the evening’s conviviality.

And so here I am now with a tin of smoked oysters which I am sticking to crackers with a dab of cream cheese. I highly recommend it. Tiny party on.

 

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10 Apr Money Talk – The Last Taboo (and how much might a thing like that go for?)

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 11.4.22

 

When women get together, we talk about pretty intimate stuff. We’re not necessarily banging on about sex, periods and menopause all the time but if someone wants to chat hot flushes or borrow a tampon, we’re open to it.

And though we talk about men a lot less than they think we do, we might squeeze them onto the agenda somewhere after our professional wins and losses, what we’re reading, and our hopes and dreams for the future.

Tell you what we rarely talk about, though – money. I know a lot about my friends – their allergies, favourite holiday destinations, whether they like their martinis made of vodka or gin – but I have no idea how much money they earn or what is in their KiwiSaver.

Which seems, on the face of it, quite right and proper. I was raised to think talking about money was rude. “Vulgar” is the word I can hear being said in my mother’s best voice. Asking – or being told – how much money someone had was the depths of poor taste.

Which didn’t mean we didn’t know who was rich and who was poor in our town – mostly you could tell by the house or the car or the job – it just wasn’t a topic of conversation. And you picked up pretty quickly that you weren’t supposed to ask how much something cost, though a grown-up might make an occasional, desperately curious inquiry which would start, “If you don’t mind me asking… what does a thing like that go for?”

The only conversations we had about currency were to do with pocket money and also those Post Office savings books with the squirrel on the cover at primary school. For younger readers (anyone under 55 – hello!) this was in The Olden Days when my pocket money, for example, was 20 cents a week. Five cents of this was for the collection plate at church, five cents for the savings squirrel, and 10 cents was left to spend however I liked. Generally, I liked aniseed wheels, glow hearts and milk toffees.

Now, back when aniseed wheels were 3 cents a pop, there were a lot of things we didn’t talk about. Men didn’t talk about their feelings, women didn’t talk about exploring their sexual needs, and kids didn’t talk about gender as something that might be fluid. We’ve become open about many things now, but we’re still not chatting about money.

Perhaps we’re worried that we will look like we’re showing off, or we’re embarrassed to reveal we have so little. Tricky in a society where we equate wealth with “good” people making “good” choices, and poverty with – if not “bad” people – “bad” choices. Not wanting to be judged by our income or bank balance, we keep the numbers to ourselves.

But not talking about money has unintended consequences which, ironically, keep us from having more of it. It means we can be squeamish about negotiating a starting salary or asking for a pay rise and, when it comes to putting a value on our work, we’re flying blind.

So maybe after a couple of martinis (vodka, dirty) we might finally open up about KiwiSaver and share our mortgage repayment tips. Feel free to bring it up at book club by quoting Katherine Mansfield who declared, “I must say I hate money, but it’s the lack of it I hate most.”

 

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02 Apr Reflections on FY22 – and doing the maths on Covid

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 4.4.22

 

Of all the events we’ve created to mark the end of one thing and the beginning of another – Hogmany, Lunar New Year, Matariki, Diwali – it’s fair to say Tax Time is the one with the least sparkle.

And yet as we reach the end of this financial year – bye bye FY22! – I’m finding joy in trawling through bank statements and boxes of receipts, and piecing together a picture of the kind of year I’ve had.

Financial entrails like these consist mostly of figures – dates, income, expenditure, two kinds of tax – arranged in columns that each produce just one correct number. It’s why I love maths – all other answers in life are preceded by “It depends.”

And yet despite the numbers being irrefutable, I’ve been looking at the picture they draw of FY22 and I can tell you two quite different stories.

In one story: the big number on the spreadsheet shows my income has halved. Also, and related, almost no travel receipts. Pre-Covid, I moved around every week for work and loved it, and did that for pleasure, too.

Few receipts for fun family times – not just the 107 days of lockdown, but even more weeks and months of not seeing my kid and her kids. We were all deprived of being in the same room as each other, and I was kept away from the people I love the most. There have been some dark times at our place, for sure.

But I can look at the same data and see something else. In the space vacated by work and travel I did some things I’d been meaning to do but “could never find the time”. Self-development and study. I created a whole new community of friends who meet in the real world (lunch receipts!) or online, and strengthened the bond with old friends (Zoom pro subscription!) in the same way.

I learned to grab golden moments in between waves of this virus. That window this summer between Delta and Omicron was put to good use and we got halfway through a comedy tour before it got too risky.

Everyone’s story will look different. I started this pandemic with a savings account so the road has been easier than it will have been for others. And let’s not pretend this is all a jolly lark because it isn’t, and none of us are living the kind of life we’d like right now. For a lot of us, “not living the life we want” is a new experience. For others, not so much. But we are, mostly, living. We have one of the lowest death rates in the OECD.

We were always going to end up divided during this pandemic – if not by vaccines, then by health status. From the start, you could see people doing the maths – will I survive this virus or not? It depends.

If you are young, fit, some level of bulletproof, the restrictions and sacrifices seemed only just worth it, and patience waned. You can say “let it rip” if you think it won’t rip through you.

But if you do the maths and calculate you or someone you love might fare badly? Then the restrictions have seemed a small price, the least-worst option. Collective responsibility over personal freedom.

Same data, different story depending on where you think you might fit on the spreadsheet. We’re lucky so many of us are still alive to argue about it.

 

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28 Mar Calm Down & Cheer Up

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 28.3.2

 

While I very much believe in science, I still have questions about the speed of human evolution. Maybe I’m impatient (I am impatient) but there are behaviours we persist with even though they are relentlessly unsuccessful.

Take the wolf-whistle specifically, or the more general “shouting at women from a distance”. I once wrote a whole book about how people meet and fall in love and in none of my research did I meet a couple whose passion was ignited by “phwoar, nice tits”. You’d think at some point there’d be a conversation along the lines of, “Trust me, son, we tried it in the 70s – no dice. You and your mates will have to think of something else.”

Asking around, other things people prefer not to hear out loud are the sort you might put on a bumper sticker – collections of words that sound like helping but feel more like someone rang your doorbell and ran away. None of us really know what to say when someone dies, for example, but it’s not, “They’re in a better place now” (only helpful if you have the address) or “Everything happens for a reason” (unless you can provide specifics of the upside and this will always be too soon).

And honestly, no-one likes, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do”. It puts the onus on the person who is already stressed or heartbroken to produce a list of things that need doing and match it inside their fuzzy head to another list they have to make of your talents and skills. Dream up helpful things yourself. Drop off a casserole or mow their lawn (depending on your personal skill set) in the firm knowledge that everyone always needs food and shorter grass.

Let’s also evolve past, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” because there are in fact lots of things you might not die from that leave you weaker, like cancer, heart attacks, lung disease and Long Covid. Daft phrase really and I don’t know how it caught on.

I have never had my mood improved by someone telling me to “cheer up”.  I mean, I’d love it – I think we all would – if that was all it took to banish worry about the future or sadness for the past. But being instructed – often out of the blue and in a shouty voice – to change your mood to something you are clearly not feeling or they wouldn’t have mentioned it is about as uplifting as being slapped in the face with a three-day-old fish. I love fish, but not like that.

Similarly, I doubt anyone has ever achieved a state of inner peace as the result of someone telling them to, “calm down, love.” I don’t know why anyone still says this. It’s not like we have endless examples of people being angry or upset and then being told – most likely by the person they are angry or upset with – to be a different thing and voila, instant Zen. Generally the opposite. It’s one of the reasons we have gun laws.

“Cheer up” and “calm down” are great examples of advice that effectively achieves the opposite of what it says on the box. See also, “You should smile more”, “Don’t be so sensitive” and “You’re overthinking it” – unsolicited advice which really means, “It would be better for me if you behaved in a way that’s different from the way you feel.” Maybe we should try saying that? See how that goes. If it’s a disaster, you’ll get over it.

 

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21 Mar You Are More Fun Than Bubble Wrap

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 21.3.22

 

Couple of years ago, I was about to perform at a fancy lunchtime gig in a huge venue filled with hundreds of fancy people seated at long fancy tables. They were enjoying many courses and also many cocktails, and I knew it could go either way.

Being on stage isn’t scary, it’s in the waiting to go on that the fear lives.

As I’m about to walk on stage, a woman I sort of know who is famously a take-no-prisoners kind of gal grabs my arm and says, “You’re very brave to wear that dress – I wouldn’t have the courage”.

She knew what she was doing. This, dear reader, is one of those ‘complinots’ I talked about the other week – structured like a compliment but possibly containing traces of insult. See also, “You’re looking good for your age,” and “You could look really pretty if you wore makeup”.

But – and I cannot stress this enough – this is not what we usually do to each other. What women often do is offer random compliments to complete strangers, as though we all know at an instinctive level that it is our job to hold each other up and add a bit of sparkle to our day.

I asked friends and acquaintances for their favourites and this is what they told me. “A lady in the supermarket said what a beautiful smile I had. I walked out on Cloud 9.” Someone at a pedestrian crossing told Lorna she was wearing a great hat and she fairly bounced across the road. A couple of women with curly hair say they always compliment other women with curly hair because they know how unruly it can be. Jessie says sometimes she keeps wearing a thing because some stranger told her once it looked great. And oodles of people said how good it feels to tell another woman she looks like a million bucks.

And not just looks. A woman with a kid walked passed Barb in the supermarket carpark and said, “I get such a good vibe from you,” and Barb’s never forgotten it. A stranger told Alessandra she has a great laugh. Someone at the gym walked by Holly and said, “Far out, you put the Hulk to shame when you’re smashing those weights, girlfriend.” Boom.

You don’t have to be a stranger to make a compliment shine. A colleague told Esther that they love how her brain works. Someone was told they were admired because they were “unafraid”. Another woman in a leadership role told someone when she was leaving, “I learned a lot from you. You always made me want to be better”. Yes!

Three women were told that people love seeing them walk into a room because it makes that room better. I’d like to get that trio together for a party.

It’s seems like we are born knowing how to do this because the masters of compliments are kids. From the simple-but-effective, “You smell delicious, Nan” by Shona’s grandchild, to the more complex, “You look like fashion!” which came from a 4-year-old kid Liz was babysitting back when Liz was a self-loathing teen. The 9-year-old brother helpfully translated, “She means you look like a model.”

Kids also do killer comparatives. Lyndelle was told, “You are more fun than anyone or anything I know, including bubble wrap.” Meanwhile, Tina’s daughter told her she was “better than Maccers fries dipped in soft serve” and Tina can’t think of a loftier compliment.

You, by the way, look fabulous reading this. You light up my day.

 

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