Dear supporters of my best friend’s rapist…

Your anger blazes out of computer screens, cellphones, car windows, searing and ugly. To you, she’s a liar. The worst kind of liar. The one whose vindictive, petty, revenge-driven lies may lock someone you love behind bars.

Anger is so much easier and less complicated than fear, isn’t it?

You never questioned his version of events. After all, he doesn’t look like a monster, does he? He’s a nice guy. He’s kind (to you). He has a good job, and an active social life, and lots of people around him. He’s popular and smart and a bit of a laugh. He doesn’t skulk in dark alleyways, or slime around seedy bars with roofies-filled pockets. That’s what a rapist looks like, isn’t it? Not your friend. Or brother. Or son.

I know you will always believe in his innocence, even when this awful saga inevitably ends in his imprisonment. The evidence may be impossible to explain away, but to accept it means not only losing your future with him, it means shattering your shared past. It means realising you shared smiles and made memories with a man capable of the callous violation and breaking of another human being. You probably trusted him with your own secrets and vulnerabilities. Such knowledge would break you – so you won’t let it in.

Besides, you wouldn’t just lose your faith in him. You’d lose your sense of safety, and have to accept your own helplessness to keep yourself and those you love from harm. There are no ‘rules’ you can follow that will keep you safe. You can’t pick out a rapist just by looking at them – whether on the street, or in a club, or at a family gathering. Not before it’s too late. Continue reading

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Calling the Shots

How much free will do we really have over our desires?

Working within advertising, I have this tendency to wryly describe what I do to earn a crust as “using my powers for evil”. Almost anything goes in adland. Boobies and bums are used to sell everything from books to burgers, kids who still believe a giant bunny brings them chocolate once a year are slammed with the full seductive force of marketing. If I think about it hard enough, I end up pouring myself a big glass of wine and entertaining wildly erratic thoughts of retraining in a more noble profession.

Unfortunately, that big glass of wine makes me wonder about the extent to which I’ve been brainwashed by marketing more than anything else.

I managed to make a complete and total tit of myself after a few too many drinkies last weekend, which is hardly a new occurrence. In the latest chapter of my ongoing and tempestuous saga with the bottle, I was dismissive and rude to Biker’s brother’s girlfriend, which is hardly going to endear me to his family. And just to make it extra cringeworthy, the very reason I had a few more drinks than usual was so I could be more friendly and talk more easily. I tend to clam up completely when meeting a new boyfriend’s family. I worry so much about saying the wrong thing that I come across as cold and unwelcoming.

But instead of doing the smart thing and trying to chill the fuck out and be myself, I turned to the turps. And therein lies the problem. Drunk Jem is much more outgoing, fun and confident than Sober Jem. She also tends to be erratic, inappropriate, messy and (on occasion) a complete out and out bitch.

Advertising shows us that getting thunderboozed leads only to awesome places. You’ll dance wildly with really attractive people who all think you’re super cool. You’ll be flirted with by sultry-eyed men with perfectly sculpted six-packs, or wasp-waisted girls in bikinis with huge knockers. You’ll have the best of fun times with the best of friends, and all will be merry and bright and sexy.

Of course we realise on a conscious level that these images are fantasy. We all know drink has a dark side. But sometimes I wonder if we’ve been led to believe so strongly for so long in the magic social powers of piss that we subconsciously downplay the bad times and over-emphasise the good.

In alcohol adland, nobody gets punched in the face by boozed-up meatheads looking for a scrap. Nobody drives drunk and writes off their car and injures their mates, or has to go to hospital for a stomach pumping. Nobody ruins a friendship because the alchy melts away their brain-to-mouth speech filter. Nobody ends up chundering their guts out in the middle of wedding speeches, or calls up their ex-partner and cries pathetically. Nobody wakes up the next day with a thumping headache and spends the whole day gacking up stomach acid.

Like all good marketing fibs, the story we’re told about alcohol works so well precisely because it contains a truth at its core. Binge drinking can be fun. It’s spontaneous and exciting, it chucks a spanner in the works of otherwise predictable social gatherings and mixes everything up.

But when I ask myself truly, honestly, if the good I get from binge drinking outweighs the bad, the answer is a stark (if rather sulky) ‘no’ … quickly followed by ‘but I don’t want to be a social outsider’. I suspect there are many many others out there like me. We want so badly to believe in the fantasy we’re sold that we go along with the herd and deny the strength of our own experiences.

Fuck I sound old.

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“You never get over a death. You just learn to live with it.”

See that title up there? It’s my most loathed phrase in the whole world (yes, even above “YOLO”).

Why am I drinking the haterade? Because while this statement contains a (small) nugget of truth, it’s potentially the most soul-crushingly bleak thing someone in the grips of grief can possibly be told.  I’ve seen it in a number of ‘self-help’ articles, and it’s not fucking helpful.

When a person you love dies, you search desperately for hope, for something or someone to tell you that it won’t always hurt this much. You feel like you can’t take another hour, another minute, let alone the rest of your life. How can you go on if it never gets better?

Well if you’re grieving, and you’re reading this, let me tell you something for certain: it does. It will.

Trust me on this one, because I’ve stood where you stand more than once. Sometimes completely out of the blue, sometimes after long harrowing illnesses. Either way, it hurts. Oh man, does it pack a wallop. No words I can write will accurately convey how shitty it is when you’re faced with Death’s ugly mug.

But you know that already. What you don’t know is how you’ll feel a month, six months, a year from now. And that’s scary. Continue reading

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Adventures in Bralessness

I couldn’t believe my eyes as I read the paper the other day. A French scientist who’s spent 16 years studying women’s boobs (can I just say he must have been absolutely fucking gold at party small talk) has come to the unexpected conclusion that bras are worse than useless. Said scientist is now encouraging women to go braless in order to improve breast ‘perkiness’ and self-support.

Ladies, were we not taught that without our bras, all our bits would end up round our knees? That we’d develop permanent stretch marks and sagginess faster than you could say ‘areola’? That the four horsemen of the Apocalypse would arrive, bearing fiery curses of unfuckableness?

Could ‘freeboobing’ really be the way of the future?

To examine this issue further, dear reader, I decided* to venture into never-neverland, into the jungle of the weird and wonderful unknown. I spent my entire working day yesterday braless.

It went a little like this…

8:30am: Driving to work. This actually feels weirdly liberating. Like skinny dipping or going commando in a dress (without the terror of rogue wind gusts). I could get used to this.

8:45am: Walking from the car to the office. I have what appears to be two small traffic cones sticking out of my chest. It’s fast heading towards winter, and the climate is (dare I say it) a tad nippy. I slow my walking pace, just in case I trip over and impale someone, and say a silent prayer of thanks for the lace detailing on my top. Thankfully, my needle nungas are completely invisible to anybody looking at me front-on. Now I just have to worry about the people taller than me. Oh wait. That’s everyone. Continue reading

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A beautiful sickness

Imagine, for a moment, you’re flicking through a magazine and come across a photo spread full of beautiful, glamorous young women. Shot in a beautiful, softly lit dark fantasy setting of plush velvet and baroque picture frames.

The women are resplendent and graceful in gorgeous evening dresses and eye-catching jewellery. Ivory skin, dramatic eyes, full seductive lips … and ragged bloody gashes criss-crossing along their arms, slicing through dozens of spidery white scars all the way up.

A dozen different levels of hell would break loose if something like this was actually published. Most people would find it morally irresponsible and dangerous to glamorise the physical symptoms of mental illness, and the images themselves would inspire widespread horror and disgust. The magazine in question would be condemned from all sides, the mental stability of the creative team placed under scrutiny.

In reality, we see similar images each and every day of our lives – and most of us don’t even raise an eyebrow. Continue reading

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I’d have a gay old time … if I could.

Tonight, the nation of my birth is expected to become the 13th country in the world to legalise same sex marriage. Any two consenting adults, regardless of their junk and what they enjoy doing with it, will finally be able to make a formally recognised commitment equal to us coupled-up heteros.

Thank the flying spaghetti monster it’s nearly over. Because the rude, bigoted, hateful and misinformed comments that have infected our news websites and blogs over the past year were making me lose faith in us as a species. All of them go more or less along the same lines…

The Bible says its wrong. Cool, well, even if you do accept the authority of a bunch of long-dead desert dwelling misogynists … they also frowned upon shaving, eating shellfish and wearing blended fibre clothing. Put down the mussels and the Mach 3 and burn those demon-infested business socks – nobody likes a hypocrite.

It’s deviant behaviour. Oh man … I bet you’d really lose your shit if you knew what some of your nice hetero friends get up to behind closed doors. Whether or not somebody should be considered a worthy human being really isn’t relevant to what they put in their butt. And if gay sex is against nature … I guess the sheep, penguins and numerous other species that’ll happily bum each other didn’t get the memo.

But marriage is a sacred commitment, between a man and a woman! No, marriage is whatever the two people within it decide to make it. Which also means yours will not be affected by the two gay dudes up the street getting a piece of paper and a party, so chill.

Gay people are gross! No, you are. And if you say that again I’m telling on you!

And last but not least, my favourite:

It’s a lifestyle choice. Why should we have to switch everything around when they could just choose to be straight instead?

Ladies and gentleman, to counteract this stubbornly persisting argument, I would like to unveil Exhibit A: Myself.

Continue reading

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Calling all ‘Feminist Dads’

99% of the time, my old man and I get on like a house on fire. We’re the only two outdoorsy types in the family, and spend lots of time out on the water boating and diving. He understands me pretty well (no small feat), supports my often-mad endeavors, and gives really insightful life advice when I’m in crisis mode or down in the dumps.

The problem? While he’s great with me, he’s incredibly sexist and judgemental about any woman who doesn’t share his family tree. Basically, he’s a ‘Feminist Dad’ (a title coined by the always brilliant News with Nipples). Dad proudly states he’d never hire a married woman in my age bracket (they all run off and have babies, donchaknow, and why should HE have to pay for their loin fruit) but he’d be mad as a bag of snakes if I ever got turned down for a job because of that reasoning. He thinks women shouldn’t be allowed to play rugby (it’s unfeminine and crass) but helping me train for soccer was always top priority. The DPB should be abolished, according to him, because it’s not the government’s responsibility to take care of solo mums (well, except for his sister, whose husband ran out on her and the littlies)…

The list goes on. And to put it politely, these exchanges vex me terribly (or, to put it impolitely, fuck me off no end). Continue reading

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