They say ‘You learn something new every day’. Most days, unless I’ve spent my morning in front of the Lifestyle channel or flicking through the latest issue of House and Garden, I think this statement is a load of… let’s run with… poo. This holiday season however proved very educational, starting with my Christmas present to myself.

After pining for over a year for a new dark blue (I have a nautical theme going in my house, it had to blend in) Yamaha MCR-040 sound system, I’d grown tired of trying the usual hi-fi shops and department stores. If they’d stocked it at all they had it only in black, black and blacker. Disappointing given it’s made in nearly a dozen colours (that’s right people, I live in Melbourne and I said the word ‘colours’). I was about to give up on getting my cute little three-part toy that plays CDs, MP3, iPods, FM radio, and everything else that sound like it’s from Star Wars and can be loaded onto a USB stick, all while being rather pretty, when I realised that if I could now buy a double packet of TimTams from Amazon.com, maybe it was worth typing my pretty stereo code into the search bar and seeing what happens.  I hit the ENTER button and there it was. I had to take a moment and let the good will of globalisation flood over my consumer driven life. I even got to pick the colour… and it was $100 cheaper than anywhere in Oz. Good thing I already had a glass of champagne in hand or I would have had to crack a bottle. With a click, click, click, my pretty stereo would arrive at my door in less than two weeks. Merry Christmas to me! I would never have to sit and cringe again at Princess Lipgloss’s chocolatey, slightly intoxicated, fingers pawed my blue-ray player and she mumbled, ‘Wher da I put the iPod in, we sheed shome shoons’. And I was getting it in dark blue. More bubbles? Why, yes please.

Just as they said it would be, on Jan 3rd, I came home to find my new stereo waiting at my door. I dragged it inside and put it on the kitchen bench, got out the big scissors and just before I started cutting, took a big deep breath. I was so excited, it was like having my birthday six months early. Over a year of searching and waiting, and here it was. Breathe out, and CUT!

It was perfect, the perfect shade of blue, the perfect size, the perfect solution to my audio needs. All I had to do was hook-up the speakers, simple enough – red wire in the red bit black wire in the black bit, repeat – then plug it in and play… And that’s when my learning curve started, with a great deep THOOP, when I turned the power on.

For all of those that didn’t study electro-physics at school, allow me to explain, what I learnt that day… all the be careful what you wish for, and don’t ever get too excited about a possession rubbish aside… Americans can’t trust their desperate housewives not to take the hair dryer into the bath with them accidentally on purpose and turn themselves into a crispy fry, so household electricity in the States is capped at a measly 125V.  No wonder it takes then an hour to get ready in the morning. Here in the great land on Oz, with a firm belief in the power of natural selection, we carry a whopping 240V point to point. So dear Princesses, when you plug an American stereo into an Australian home, it’s kind of like trying to run a moped on rocket fuel. Luckily for me, my stereo is not only pretty but smart, and has a built-in fuse. After trying half a dozen different shops I finally found a fuse I could use to replace the fried one, oddly at an autoparts store. I then spent that $100 I’d saved on buying a big ugly (at least it’s white and blends into the wall) step-down power converter. So, after spending an entire year wanting it, and an entire day fixing it, I finally had it back together, plugged it in and when I turned the power on this time I gritted my teeth and crossed my fingers. I don’t think I exhaled until ‘Hello’, began scrolling across the little black screen. SUCCESS!

It was only when I went to attach my iPod and crank out a good happy dance to Carrie Underwood that I truly learnt the day’s lesson. You see my iPod had decided that with all the attention the pretty new stereo was getting it would have a hissyfit and now fails hold a charge and only works if it’s plugged into wall-through the same port you need to use to connect it to the very pretty stereo. What did I learn that day? Technology sucks. Luckily CDs don’t need batteries.

When Norway and I were together the subject of children often came up, as you would expect given he has two. As the months went by and things between us intensified I found myself wondering could I be a step mother? Seriously? I loved Norway’s children before I’d ever met them, and through discussion and intense debates (aka, mental foreplay) my influence on him was having a direct influence on them. Eventually I was convinced that not only would I be a good step mother, I would rock it as the coolest third parent those little Nordic babies could ever have! Being step mother of the year would be the easy part, convincing Norway to be a father again (you know, a kid we didn’t have share with his ex-wife) would prove much harder. So difficult in fact, in broke us.
“If I were to have another kid, I would want to do that with you, but I don’t want any more children.” It was liked being stroked and slapped at the same time.

This week, I’m at J3’s house in the country. I was meant to be here for three days (am currently on day eight) but sprained my ankle and cannot get to toilet without crutches – more on this later. Normally when I go to stay at J3’s he goes to work all day, and I hit the road (The Great Ocean Road) and rack up a little shutter time, just me and my Cannon 7D. This trip though something is different. This time I have a puppy that is all of 11 weeks old, is fed three times a day, and has never met a dog that didn’t give birth to her. Thus I decided in all my maternal wisdom, that it would be best to stay in, read a little and watch over the kids. Heck, it would be a nice relaxing mini break in the country, and I’d get laid. Great plan, right?

Being stuck in the country, alone all day, for days, without broadband, without the use of one leg, with Bailey (his dog) and Annie (my baby) has bought home a few truths for me this week, and confirmed (like a siren confirms the giant red fire truck in the rear vision mirror) some ideas I already thought possible. Firstly, I would lose my mind if I ever stopped working! I must, I need (I cry and become massively hyper-sensitive if I don’t get) to work. Secondly, my children will the ones pushing their mother away all the time yelling, “Mum, stop hugging me, it’s embarrassing,” because isolation drives me to over compensate. And (note: I will deny this to him until the day I die) Norway may not have been as big of a jerk as I thought. I may have rocked it as the coolest step mum ever (CSME), but balancing that with being a mum, is where it gets a bit dicey.

When J3 and I started ‘dating’ again (BA-Before Annie), I began to feel sorry for most single dads. At my house it was just us, the house was clean and curling up on the couch involved two bodies, three cushions and a TV. At his place I not only had to share attention, I also shared the couch and the bed, and quite often the bathroom, with a 25kg snoring cannon ball. But in time he grew on me. (Especially after I broke him of the need to lick every inch of clothing and face he could access no matter how annoyed the lickee got.) He keeps the bed warm after J3 goes to work in the morning, and the snoring (just like his dad), along with magpie songs and the odd rooster crow, has become part of the soundscape to a cozzy afternoon in the country. When I would go home to the big house in the big city, I missed big Bailey. I loved the lug more than I loved the lad. So, when I got a puppy all of my own (aka Annie) it was vital Bailey loved the baby.

For the most part I got my wish. Bailey and Annie had been great together all week. We have our smaller issues, who is getting more cuddles, piss off I’m tired, and tug- of-war over Teddy until there was no bear in there. In general it’s fun, games and the odd nip on the butt when you’re not getting enough of their attention. A lot like J3 and me. I was rocking it. CSME! Until today. Today, despite knowing better, despite us working on it all week, despite been given a biscuit when Annie gets her meals (she gets fed three times a day, Bailey just once) so there’s no jealousy. Bailey bullied Annie away from her bowl, and hoovered down her lunch. Not for the first time. Bailey wasn’t even allowed in that room anymore, because Annie would spend more time looking over her shoulder than eating her dinner. This time though, I couldn’t just throw him out and top up her bowl. That was it. The last of the puppy food until J3 got home from work. The last of the food she can eat without getting sick. My baby’s lunch. I’d already chased him away from her breakfast. Suddenly, not the CSME, suddenly am pissed off mum out of patience with bad Bailey. I grabbed him by the collar, dragged him across the living room. I hobbled along with a sprained ankle barely off crutches while puppy food bits fell from Bailey’s mouth. We got to the door and with my other hand on his backside, I threw him out into the yard and slammed the door. Bailey barked, I flicked the lock. He ran to the front door and started scratching, ran to the window and started howling, went back to the back door and scratched, barked and howled. Annie got scared, I gave her leftover chicken. It made me wonder, if Norway’s kids had bullied our babies would I have thrown them out and locked the door too? Hardly CMSE.

Annie is now obsessed with chicken.

Note: Norway’s response to this is that his daughters are perfect, kind-hearted, beautiful angels that would never bully anyone, therefore would never get thrown into the backyard. Yes, dear.

Ever felt like you’ve stepped back in time, not in a Morlocks and Eeloy kind of way, say about five years?  Five years ago I had a job, had a dog, a car and was involved in ‘something’ (same city same bed) with J3. When it ended it wasn’t pretty, which is odd because we’d both felt that it should end. We just had very different ideas on how we should communicate that to each other.  I thought talk. He thought take another girl to bed when I was in the house. J3 wanted it over because he was worried I thought I was his girlfriend. I wanted it over because I didn’t want to be his girlfriend. We didn’t speak for five years. It was all highly dramatic at the time.

Fast forward to the present day and I have the maternal unit’s car, I got a new puppy, and somehow J3 and I have reconnected. Bizarre to be sure, and given the amount of effort I put in to put an end to my old life, it’s slightly confusing. I’ve even been applying for ‘jobs’ (cringe) to give a little more consistency to my income. The globe’s finances may be in crisis, but freelance journalism in Australia is in the ICU.

Long story short, J3 and I are closer than we’ve ever been and he communicates more than the 7.30 Report – it’s almost a turn off. He pays his bills on time and genuinely seems to give a dam about more than just himself. He’s showing all the signs of being a good man. It would seem he’s changed, grown, but have I? When picking between my passport and my partner is my idea of Sophie’s choice?

 

My non-relationship with J3 in the past few months has been more successful than my actual relationship with Norway had been in years. Nights when we aren’t together we’re on the phone until bed time. And nights we are together it just works. Apart from the snoring. After three years of living with a selfish high-maintenance woman, who took his time and every dime, nice and courteous goes a long way with J3 – and only the odd complaint about the snoring. Why aren’t we a couple you ask? Our friends keep blaming J3 for us not being an official item, the problem is, I think it’s more because of me. He’s dissolving his life with his common-law wife, and isn’t ready to make any new commitments. Fair enough. For me it comes down to one question: how much can a person change? I don’t mean him, I mean me. Now as much as ever, I want more.

J3 loves his little blue house in the country. I love a boarding pass in my LV travel wallet. He lives a half hour to the general store, his dog sleeps on the bed, and he sells Asian teas to local tourists. I live a half hour to the International terminal. My dog sleeps on my designer shoes, and I’m working on a project where tea is grown up the road. He’s a good guy, when he cleans the bathroom, but the quiet life wasn’t right for me five years ago, would round two be any different? Or are we just too different? (like that I buy clothes that fit and think coffee is a beverage not a meal supplement) Until I know the answer to that, J3 is my NBF – Non-boyfriend. Definition: A monogamous relationship in which both parties are aware they may be left, with little warning, for someone better suited to the relationship requirements of the other. Or as I like to say, if you can’t be with the one you love, treat the one you’re with with love.

late night walk with Princess Morticia

It is grand, to be sure to be sure, to be in a city that lowers the grills and bolts the doors just because it’s Sunday. After a week in the big apple, the city that doesn’t sleep (probably because there’s always someone setting fire to something and the engines roll out every five minutes-good luck sleeping through that) I’ve managed to add 3kgs to my bags, significantly decrease the sole of my boots, and significantly increase the debt on my credit card. Having decided we’d done enough for the American economy (more than enough said my visa) Princess Morticia and I have headed to Ireland to help fund their’s, well I have anyway. Poor old M had to make a detour to Killadelphia to get a flight. I’ve gone from sipping San Pal on the Upper East Side, carting shopping bags through Soho, and somewhat irritating M with my constant ‘Gossip Girl’ references (she doesn’t watch it… I know right! Bazaaro!) I’m now squarely parked at a cafe in the Temple Bar district of Dublin, trying to get used to new money, old music and more green than the Emerald City. After meeting Hugh, I want one, Jackman in Manhattan I have highly deluded hopes of encountering Liam Neeson somewhere on our loop around Ireland… He is Michael Collins after all. 
Having been here all of a Sunday morning, I have this to say for Dublin; stuff is open on a Sunday, but only after a respectable sleep-in to eleven o’clock; it does look like it did in the U2 music videos; the news radio guy sounds exactly like the one in ‘the Devil’s Own’ but I am still waiting to see a Brad Pitt looking political extremist; and it sucks not to be able to drink milk in Ireland-five cafes to find one with soy milk (Crow Street, the cappuccino bar opposite Urban Outfitter if anyone is interested) Oh and Gaelic isn’t a dead language after all, who knew? Fingers crossed will find some fun photo ops this afternoon  as I’m heading out to hunt giants (Liam) and leprechauns… Hopefully he’ll grant my wish for a magical hotel room key that allows the bearer to check in and shower prior to meeting anyone describable as cute, hot, Hugh, or Liam.

Note: Actually found a leprechaun. Though he was less lucky charms and more angry dwarf with severely bowed legs carting about a bundle of something that I’m guessing was more likely his clothes than a pot of gold. He also talked to himself a lot and cursed at taxi’s that wouldn’t pick him up… All of whom I’m sure went on the have very bad traffic accidents. Don’t look at me like that, you would have thought it too. The man had a red beard, green vest, and a staff… In Dublin… And only spoke in Gaelic!

Way back when, before I was a big enough to even reach the button for forty-fifth floor, I sat cross-legged on the carpet with all the other little people and listened to my Kindergarten teacher explain what we had to do to help pack up for the day. The glue paste had to go back to the craft cupboard, the coloured paper went back to the paper draw, scraps of food and shreds of paper went into the rubbish bin, and any toys that we’d taken out to play with or just have sit at the table in silent companion had to got back to the Friend Basket. After all, that’s where we keep our friends. These days I have two friend baskets, a big yellow cane one in which lives Big Ted, Pilot Bear, Frenchy, and my boxing gloves. The other is in my back right corner of my brain. It’s where I keep Sam Wise, the flying whale, the beast, The Hungarian Prince and all the other men I adore and pray I will never see naked. The friendship basket is a great place to be. It’s far less likely to get thrown into the Recycling than the Lover bag, and way less work than the boyfriend box, which for obvious reasons is only big enough to hold one toy at a time. A problem arises only when you don’t know what basket you’ve been put in.

After two years of laughing, chatting, and drinking far too much at random wine tastings when I only meant to drop by quickly on my drive home, Bottleshop Guy gave me his number. I spent three days (which is huge given I usually have the impulse control of a chimp) weighing up what was more valuable: keeping the flirty cute guy that knows my taste in wines, and more importantly why I like them, or finding out what flirty cute wine guy tastes like, and more importantly what he looks like naked. I figure worst case scenario he kisses like one of the aliens from the Simpsons and I learn to drink less. At least that’s what my libido told my brain as we drank a very nice wine Bottleshop Guy had suggested. Brain may have been at an alcohol cloud disadvantage. Sip… He is cute…sip…he does know his wines… Sip…. You haven’t been dating for a while now… Gulp… You don’t even know if he likes you that way… Sip… It’s just a text ya big  girl… Send.

In the past few weeks we’ve had lunch twice, we text message nearly every day, and I did my best to see him after final assessments and before I flew out on my latest adventure. Turns out wine isn’t his first love, photography is (we obviously have nothing in common) and a month after I get home he’s moving to the land of moose and snow to try to make as a landscape photographer (I know right, of course he’s leaving the country, it’s like I can smell the unavailable ones). Oh yeh, and he has me in the friend basket. Well, at least I think he does given that he’s never touched me. Forget holding hands, we don’t even shake hands. Kissing in public isn’t a problem, when even getting a kiss on the cheek is. In Bottleshop Guy’s mind I’m happily planted next to GI Joe (not a horrible idea) and Scuba Steve.
“I don’t get it,” said Princess Morticia, sipping away at my latest purchase. “Is he gay?” Aside from M’s complementary assumption that any man not interested in sleeping with me must be a homosexual, the answer to me seems quite straight forward… 
“He’s not gay, he just has me in the friend basket.” 
M thought about this for a moment… “mmnh, nah I’m going with gay.”
It’s nice to have friends, especially ones that don’t want to sleep with you but think everyone else should. 

One has decided, as one does in a very Bridget Jones sort of way, that one does not need a boyfriend, one simply needs to be responsible for the development of three houses and therefore acquire what I affectionately refer to as ‘The Boys’. The Boys, comprises of two builders, three developers, a waiter and a lighter (def: an old flame you can flick on and off like a zippo) occasionally seasoned with a travel agent.

I know this all sounds like the punch line to the joke, ‘how many men does it take to make a woman happy?’ I assure you; I’m completely serious and feel myself suddenly far wiser than before. All my life I have searched for A MAN that could fill the void and not whine when I want to watch Grey’s Anatomy, but I’ve found what actually works is The Boys. Hear me out. . . In any given week The Boys will see me in my PJs at least twice (I bought another set just to spice things up… they notice these things); they know my school schedule, my work schedule, and any dramas with either; they know if they call before 8.30 I’ll be cranky; they know when insomnia is visiting and I’m PMSing (I yell and usually threaten to start lawsuits, slight give-away); they know when my mum is in town; how I take my coffee, my favourite food and booze, and what I’m allergic to; they know pink is for post-its, that I hate sloppy workmanship, and what sort of vegetables I grow in my garden; they help me plan my holidays and change light bulbs; I get at least one email and one text message a day from them; they’re responsible for fixing stuff when it breaks in my house – to which they have a key in case I’m not home; they never fail to make promises that they have no intention of keeping; they’ve learnt how to handle me when I’m getting irritated. . . “Why don’t you go grab yourself a coffee, you’ll feel better” . . . “I think you need cake” . . . “I don’t know, but leave it with me and I’ll take care of it”; and occasionally (thanks to the zippo) I get to have sex. Could the reason that so many busy women are so unhappy with their male relationships be because we’re all looking for men, when what we really need is The Boys?

Soon (it’d better be soon) my time with most of The Boys will draw to a close. Our relationship will have run its course and I may (still debating) have to start once again searching for that elusive MAN… who won’t complain about fitting in around my work/study/family, who fixes things instead of just making things harder, will call me in the morning to tell me how he’ll make my life that little bit better today, forgives me when I yell, and when he finds me in the car with the stereo cranked-up thrashing around therapeutically to Avril Lavigne, will wait until the song finishes before quietly asking if I need a hand with the shopping (yes that actually happened).  One would think one would have an easier time simply subbing in the wine guy, the arbourist, and a carpenter to list of people that know far-too-much about my personal life.

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