Monday, 13 April 2015

DAIRY FREE ZONE


We had lunch with a friend this weekend that has a severe food allergy. Not the “I’m allergic to gluten cause I fear carbs and can’t fit into my skirt, but then I inhale a loaf of bread hiding in the closet” type of allergy; but the kind where you actually carry an epi pen to save your freaking life. Hay fever is the extent of my allergies, so I’ve never had to deal with life and death situations when it comes to food (although once a month if I don’t get chocolate, someone will die).

Of course, as I do, I asked him a million questions about what it was like being allergic to dairy of all kinds (I’m sure he never tires of answering if he misses ice cream; we dairy folk are such sadists) and he agreeably took it in stride. By the time I hit the questions about colds and if he produces less snot than the rest of us and if someone kisses him with butter on their lips, would it send him into anaphylactic shock (yes, he had this happen, but the reaction was mild; of course, I had already written a film scene in my head and was giddy with the filmic possibilities), my husband gave me the look of  'OK, you're getting boring now.'

At the time we were eating at a Lebanese restaurant and when it came to ordering he casually looked at the waitress and told her he had an allergy to dairy. (If it were me, I’d carry printed memos in black bold print and a bullhorn, but that's me). On first blush, I swear I detected an eye roll on her part, which from where I sat was a tad worrisome. She then uttered back in a thick accent, ‘oh you mean gluten.’ Um, NO, I mean DAIRY and we’re talking about this man’s life here, so you better down an espresso, get a pen, and snap to attention. 

This was when I thought to myself that dealing with the general fray when you have a life-threatening allergy must be a tedious reminder that you cannot trust anyone, especially the general public that can barely find Afghanistan on a map, let alone spell it – (that’s goat country, lots of dairy there I’m thinkin)… Yes, I’m jaded as h*ll, but I’ve had tellers at the bank that can’t even add, but that certainly doesn’t put my life on the line. 

After we set her straight on the differences between gluten and dairy she started to take him seriously as to what could NOT be in his food. Of course, I kept uttering from my side of the table, ‘he’s serious, he could DIE’ just so she fully understood the repercussions (the kicker, he didn’t even have his epi pen on him, so I sat at the table debating how fast I could run to his flat in sandals if he fell over into his ‘dairy’ free meal).  To her credit, she then committed fully to the cause and even brought him special bread with his hummus that the cook made with oil instead of butter. Tip for you, lady.

I credit this friend of ours for being so calm about his allergy, then again, he’s lived with it his whole life, he’s probably very used to what he can and can’t do and the idiots he encounters in restaurants that think double cream is a vegetable. If it were me, I’d probably never leave the house to eat, would have forced my mom to home school me and would bring my own food to dinner parties (those pesky trust issues again). But again, I tend to go a bit overboard at times in the precaution department.

And of course what did we do after lunch just to emphasize what good friends we were? We dragged him to ice cream of course and ate it in front of him. Such sadists we are.

Friday, 20 March 2015

PARTY IN MY PANTS


A Lithuanian designer named Robert Kalinkin is trying to bring a new type of denim jeans to market with the help of good ol’ Kickstarter (a forum I know that has good intentions, but wow, really, we’re opening up the floodgates to the fray to fund any old idea that pops into one’s head? That can’t be a good idea) – because that’s what we need on this planet, more denim. What sets these jeans apart, or shall I call them their proper given name, ‘play pants,’ (his coining of phrase, NOT mine) is that their pockets have dual functionality. One: to serve as a pocket to hold your things (or your husband’s. seriously, get a man bag already) and two: to grant yourself easy access to your private parts.

Yes, you read that right. Apparently this (ahem) designer, saw a gap in the market and jumped right into the crevice (I couldn’t resist) with these very, necessary trousers (yes that is sarcasm). According to the designer, these jeans are not only made of the finest denim and meant to be literally indestructible (which begs the question, when man is extinct, is the earth going to be littered with pairs of play pants?) but these play pants have a plethora of uses, according to the designer. Say um, you have an itch, and voila, in your pocket you go (and see a doctor while you’re at it); a lonely night at the movies? Yeeehah, it’s now a party in your pants (um, again, you  may want to see a doctor); a…and I quote cause this one is just too good, ‘boring corporate meeting.’ Cause yeah, nothing gets me more jazzed up then a boring meeting at the office. Look out boss man, my hand is taking a groin dive! And his final cherry on the Sunday (yes, I suppose that could be a double entendre), play pants just may be the answer to a boring love life; what's more exciting than a zippy little pair of jeans to spice up things in the boudoir.

Dear god, is this what fashion (and the human mind) has come to? What is even better claims the designer is that these pockets can be unzipped with one hand; because who doesn’t want easy access on that long road trip without having to take both hands off the steering wheel. "I'm sorry I was swerving officer, but these new jeans of mine, well, they just beckon naughty behaviour."  Listen, I don’t have a problem with people thinking outside of the box, and I’m sure my husband would beg me to get a pair when they hit the market just to prove we’re young, wild and well, not boring (we’re not honey, don’t worry). But to be frank, despite their apparent functionality, the play pants are just…well, ugly.

Now, a pair of jeans that makes my ass three sizes smaller, sit up to attention and tells passer by's to bugger off when they're gawking and my new and improved backside, now you’re talking. Get on that, will you design industry.


Tuesday, 10 March 2015

GREEN WITH ENVY


There is a moment before the King falls asleep that I experience true envy. After books, etc, it usually takes him about three minutes to settle in, get comfortable, utter something about what he wants to do the next day or who is taking him to school and then I hear his breathing change, and his quiet little snore kick in. It is at this moment I think to myself, my god I wish I were four. Obviously, aside from what snack food to have, or what activity is on deck, one’s four year old brain is not that complicated (then again, it is at times erratic as hell, but that’s another story) or full of what weights the average adult brain down. It’s not like the King is thinking about house prices or looming taxes. Hence, I would fully hope he would fall asleep in four minutes flat. But there is such a pure surreal quality to it, especially to an insomniac, that I literally lie next to him, praying that some of it rubs off on me.

By nature, I’m not an envious person. Maybe the odd flicker here or there when I see a tall person (yes, I will fully admit I have tall envy) or the eternal possibilities possessed by the youth (that is often wasted, damn them!) but overall, I don’t spend too much time looking over on someone else’s side of the fence wishing I had what they did. But when it comes to watching someone who possesses so much unbridled energy as a four year old does, it’s hard not to want to bottle some of it. The other day, the King ran down to the public pool (he’s now decided he wants to run everywhere while his father times him), swam for 40 minutes, then road his bike two miles to the west end, then walked part of the way home, then ran off to the park with his friend later that afternoon. At that point, I was in need of a pillow, but with a few dips here or there (usually solved by copious amounts of food), the King was ready to kick ass and take names by dinnertime. How this is possible is beyond me. I often just follow him around asking him, 'aren't you tired yet?' I'm sure he thinks I'm a total drag trying to rain on his energy parade.

The other thing that is hard not to envy (aside from their skin of course, god I wish I had that much collagen) is their view of the world. There is humour in pretty much anything; half the time I’m trying to figure out what is so funny (esp about poo-poo. Really? why?!) Simplistic pleasures are plentiful and tantamount (I mean, give a child chocolate and it’s as if you have bought them a new car). They do not get hung up on colour, race (funny enough, the King truly believes he and his father are three shades darker than they are, no clue why he thinks this as we have never uttered a word about it, but it could be due to my deep seated love of Idris Elba) religion or politics. Can you imagine if they did? 'Well, I think David Cameron is just a poo-poo head.' Profound words, King. Their emotions are pure and unrestrained, and in their mind, the world is not only black and white/bad or good (the King is obsessed with telling me how bad the food is in jail), but it’s pretty much their world. In their minds anyway. 

So you see, a confident little person that spends their time laughing, loving and talking about jail and poo-poo, with cheeks full of collagen, that falls asleep in three seconds flat. 

What’s not to envy, really?

Friday, 27 February 2015

SHAKE YOUR BIG THANG


A friend of mine, who has a child in the King’s class, just called to tell me that she was just kicked out of a music class with her other son. She wasn’t dragged by her hair or anything (although I wouldn’t put it pass these particular people who run this class) but she was told that the leaders of this music class have decided that her 2-year-old son is not 'Blank’ material. I shall withhold shaming them (for now).

The King and I used to go to this same music group when he was the same age. From the start I was not a fan, as you have to become a member (for a fee of course, for a sodding music class) and then pay on top of that for the class itself. Fine, I can live with that; they’re running a business. But from the get go, as they have been in operation for many years, they give you this diatribe as if joining this group, you are being inducted into the Rock ’n Roll Hall of fame and you should count yourself lucky. Um, you’re singing to my kid dressed up in costumes, this is not the West End people.

Now don’t get me wrong, the women leading the group had fine voices and they were quite creative in terms of costumes and what they’d sing. And some of the songs, and we’ll get back to the word some, the kids ‘were allowed’ to join in the dancing and take part. The King of course used to think this was pretty damn amusing, as most children would. The problem was (and IS, as my friend just got kicked out), that if it wasn’t a song they deemed participatory, your child had to sit on your lap like a stone and not move an inch as they performed for you. If your child did get up and move, they would lead him back to you by the hand with a stink eye that would fill you with mother shame. I hate mother shaming, in any form. They would then after class remind you that in their class, children must be kept under control. (Clearly none of these witches had boys).

Now keep in mind, most of these kids that take this class are under two. Can you tell an under 2 year old to sit still? Cause I sure as hell can’t. In fact, Benadryl couldn’t make the King sit still back then, even if I poured the whole bottle down his throat (don’t panic, I didn’t try this). Not only would the King hear the music and want to get up and dance, stroll, bend, skip...what have you, he would also want to play with their props and interactively participate (this was sometimes hysterical as they’d be mid song and he’d just walk up, pick something up and take off with it). I'd of course cheer him on from the sidelines, 'run boy, run!!!'

So in short, after being scolded and stared at one too many times by these ‘Take That’ singing, wig wearing militants, the King and I decided that we needed a more free form sing and dance class, where he (like his nutty mother) could shake his groove thing with reckless abandon and not be hemmed in by rules. (Don’t they know there are no rules in dancing?!)

So, according to my friend who was just asked to leave the class, apparently their stringent manifesto is still in place. Her son, similarly to the King, is another boy (ahem, toddler!!) who finds sitting still challenging at the best of times. And fine, in principle I get it, from an early age you want to tell your children that there will be times when they will have to sit still and obey the rules (zzzzzzzzzz, sorry, was I saying something?), but from where I stand, dancing and rules have no place at the same party!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

DO YOU SEE ME NOW?


Like many people, I have a love-hate relationship with social media. Or a ‘Seriously, is this what it has come to?!’ relationship shall we say. As much as I know that technology is a freight train that is near impossible to slow down, sometimes I contemplate jumping off this speeding train of voyeuristic narcissism, into a nice boring field of luddites reading books and drinking chamomile tea without anyone having to know about it (happily I still read and drink tea, so all is not lost).

But in today’s voyeuristic culture, as we all have surmised from one glance at Facebook, for some reason people want and need to show everything. In some ways it’s a good thing. One can connect like never before, it’s a community of sorts in an age where communities are short supply (although I’m thinking we need more tangible ‘in the flesh’ communities as opposed to those in the cyber world, but alas), movements can be started, politics debated, friends reunited, and it’s a brilliant PR tool depending how you use the various platforms. 

Conversely, as we all know, it can also be a bad thing (for the above reasons!) as some are compelled to share every last solitary detail of their lives and do not feel like they exist unless they are doing so. I know this is a human compulsion that was not born with the Internet – our need to be seen, to matter, to exist, but now that we have the platforms to show the world we indeed exist, it’s safe to say that things have run amuck. People post what they had for breakfast; what their breakfast had for breakfast; how long their husband’s nose hairs are and so on. And as most of us have surmised by now, like ourselves, people choose to put their best foot forward. It’s not often you see someone posting a photo of themselves without make up, in front of the mirror in a bikini with their gut hanging over, whilst in a fight with their husband, with their child in the background screaming on the floor because there is no more cereal. BUT no, that would be far too real for social media. (And that would also be too much information, but it’s certainly never stopped anyone before).

There is also an in built pressure that goes along with things like Twitter, Facebook and the like, in regards to the 'friending' process. I’ve hated this whole side of things from the beginning and hence why I basically use certain platforms purely for work related matters (i.e. writing) and other social media avenues are kept much more private. But I’ve always been amazed by those that are actually shocked if one actually chooses to exercise some power over one's social media accounts. “You’re not friending me? Gasp, how could you? But I knew you 20 years ago, don’t you remember?!!” And you know that sometimes you feel the peer pressure to give in, don’t you? Go on, admit it, how many times have you been sent a friend request that you felt obliged to accept? (If you never have experienced this, you must not have been raised Catholic. My guilt is always rearing its head despite my having left the flock). You literally have that moment where you feel badly for not ‘friending’ someone despite knowing them for ten minutes when you passed them in the hallway in the 2nd grade. So note to all those that keep friending despite getting rejected or ignored the first time round. It’s not personal, honest, it’s a choice on behalf of the individual you keep trying to friend, for whatever reason that has nothing to do with you, that you should respect and well, move on.

I suppose from time to time, our society may want to ask themselves what drives our obsession with social media; then again, if you're not self reflective, perhaps you simply don't give a toss about why you cling to your devices like your life depends on it. [For me, it's solely to see how many creepy and hysterical John Travolta photos can go viral in a given year]. Is it to truly show the world how great we are, that we're cuter, better, thinner and more accomplished than the next guy with above average children/pets/relatives who can succeed at anything and travel to the coolest places, whilst eating the best food? (And of course most of these boastful posts are crude exaggerations or mere glimpses of reality that make life a lot more serene and utopian than it really is). Or is to purely scream to the universe I'm here and I'm leaving a big fat footprint so that when I die, someone will know I existed (or of course, it could be, and most likely is the third option: advertising and marketing at its finest and most pervasive, disguised as harmless connection).

Sadly from where I sit, social media and all its offshoots are as much of addiction as any other. Have you ever tried not to look at email, tweet, Facebook or Instagram for an entire week? Not easy is it? I usually try to do this once a year around Christmas as we head off to the sticks with no Internet in sight. It's not easy at first and often my hand for the first few days keeps reaching for my phone like an awful tick, but after a day or two it's frighteningly liberating and I realise that barring a few work emails that can certainly wait until after Christmas, every thing else can wait, or simply, isn't that sodding important. And of course I find that I'm more present with every task, and more importantly, the world didn't stop spinning; the King still grew and accomplished things (or didn't). My relationship with my husband still carried on in all it's bumps and glory, breakfast was eaten, words were written, and yet, gloriously, the world didn't have to know about it.