Sunday, December 26, 2010

December (bah humbug...)

This year, for the first time ever, and after a particularly pleasant Christmas (as in everything jelled - food, gifts, company [apart from a minor incident where hot wax was flung over not one but two of my best tablecloths]), I found myself at the shops on Boxing Day. Now this is something I've always studiously avoided, in fact in bygone days I would have rather had hot wax flung over myself, and then peeled off with the aid of a rusty stanley knife which is then jabbed into my right eye, than go anywhere near a cash register on this particular day. But this year it so happened that my youngest was rostered for a three-hour stint at McDonalds at Knox City and, somewhat buoyed by the success of the previous day (and now in need of new tablecloths), I decided to have a look at just what all the fuss is about.

Oh. My. God.

From the snarly traffic jam in the carpark to the chattering, babbling sea of humanity ebbing and flowing from shop doorway to food court, this was one of the most horrible experiences I have ever experienced. At one stage, pressed against a shop window, I tried to wrap my mind around how we would explain this tradition to a third-world country, or even friendly, tourist-inclined aliens. "Why, yes, I know we've just indulged in an orgy of consumerism in the lead-up to Christmas, and yes I know Christmas was just yesterday, and I know I've barely found places for everything I received. But, see, I really needed this hand-bag, these jeans, this half-price wrapping paper, this piece of mock snakeskin luggage with the shiny gold zips."

And the most horrible thing is that you get caught up in the hype. The bright lights, the sales banners, the bargain-price today only don't miss out subliminal messages of fulfillment and success. The cheerful, purposeful throngs of people, each with lovely smooth plastic bags hanging from their hands. Containing happiness, contentment, pride. I wanted some of that - especially if it was half the marked price. And even as I fought my way towards the exit I was thinking I must buy something while I'm here. As if it was some sort of crime to leave sans purchase. Failure.
It's not that I don't like sales; it's just that the timing of this one seems a little... well, off. The day after Christmas? Why couldn't it be a week after Christmas, like a New Year sale instead? Then we'd have a few days to enjoy our gifts before starting all over again. And I wouldn't get catalogues in my letter-box on Christmas Eve, advertising - at a cheaper price - DVDs that I'm about to hand out the following day. And then retail staff wouldn't have to spend their own Christmases preparing for the busiest day of the year. And, anyway, isn't Boxing Day supposed to be more a family day - for picnics and barbecues and backyard cricket - than a day to hurl yourself - and your family (seriously, do kids enjoy that?) - into a sea of surging humanity in search of a bargain? Especially when that's what we've been doing for the better part of the entire month already!

And, lastly, why don't we see some of that - as in the picnics and barbecues and backyard cricket - on the evening news instead of segment after segment that basically celebrates greed, while providing a free advertisement for the ongoing sales. For god's sake show me some kids running about in the sunshine, parents drinking chardonnay under the trees, the smoke from a barbecue juxtaposed across the wedgewood-blue of our summer sky - instead of the anticipatory gleam of a shopper's eye as he/she/it prepares for the competitive event of the year.

Or am I just becoming a Grumpy Old Woman who doesn't know what fun is?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

December (survey done & dusted!)

A HUGE thanks to everybody who contributed to the survey over the past few months - what started off as a minor adjunct to the main project became a fascinating (if slightly voyeuristic!) glimpse into the your lives. So fascinating, in fact, that I ran it considerably longer than intended (plus I couldn't work out how to close it but that's another matter). And what particularly thrills me is that I now possess [insert suitably evil laugh, something like: mwa-ha-ha-ha] an encapsulation of 188 voices, 188 views, and 188 experiences with midlife - all of which will enrich The Invisible Woman immeasurably. So I've spent the past week transforming much of this into graphs and pie charts, each illustrated by personal narrative, and today I shall trot down to Officeworks and have it spiral bound. Is it sad that I find this all rather exciting?

But being a generous type, I'll also share a smattering of your own words of wisdom. An entree, if you will. So here [insert drum-roll] is the best and worst of middle-age according to you:

  • Men stop checking you out at the supermarket
  • Invisibility/ageism
  • The body doesn't bounce back from injuries - it just bounces
  • Battle of the bulge
  • Hot flushes/menopause/random granny hairs
  • Gravity wins and it all goes south
  • Not being recognised as a valued shopper
  • Wrinkles (but never mind Edna Everage says that crow's feet are the dried up beds of old smiles)
  • Grown-up children still being home
  • Grown-up children now leaving home
  • Can't drink enough
  • Actually being middle-aged (and the cost of trying not to look or feel middle-aged!)
  • Men stop checking you out at the supermarket
  • I'm finding out who I am, not my status - mother, wife, sister, daughter, but me
  • Gaining wisdom. Not living through libido and the need for approval. Clarity about values and priorities
  • Finding out that hairy nipples are more common than I thought
  • Empty nest - time for me!
  • What, besides our bums? Sorry, misread - though it was the biggest thing [about middle-age]
  • You can relax with a book on a Saturday night
  • No more periods!
  • Less inhibitions, more disposable income
  • Knowing now to sweat the small stuff, and what the small stuff is
  • Experience/serenity/insight/choices
  • Not caring as much what others think
  • Am I really middle-aged?