Up with the patriarchy

I know lots of people say they have the best dad in the world. They don’t. That’s because I do. I have cornered that market. Well, I share him with my sister and stepsister, but I am older and marginally taller than both of them, and therefore the market is mine.

Sigh. Ok. I’m already lying, and we are barely 50 words in. Fine. I admit it. They are taller than me. This is something that is logically “the truth”, if you want to be a mathematician about it. But at the same time, it’s also “crap” in the sense that I am the oldest one and have suffered far worse haircuts than either of those girls have even dreamed.

2007

2007

Yes, that happened to me. Yes, it happened deliberately. I went to the hairdresser and I requested that they do that to me. Then, do you know what happened? I went back. I went back and asked for it again. I pointed at the short fluffy strands of brownish hair that had tried desperately to hide my forehead, and requested they be made shorter and fluffier and even less flattering on my then fatter-and-more-moon-like-face.

Look again at that hair. I deserve to be the tallest of my sisters. I am the tallest of my sisters.

So, given my height and age’d authority, I can speak for all three of us when I say we have the best dad in the world.

Last Christmas I went to visit and Dad collected me at the airport on Christmas morning. I talked excitedly and without pausing about my job, my love life, my cold sore, my hat, and all the things I wanted to eat that day. He listened silently before saying thoughtfully, “you know, I’ve really gotten into afternoon drinking”. Sure, he followed it up with useful life advice, but why not start with a non-sequitur about holiday beer? True to his claim, every afternoon over the holiday he’d bring me a Stella Artois, often accompanied by a small bowl of chips, before returning to his gardening.

He’s the sort of guy who will chew on a length of straw while contemplating a sunset. Then he’ll make a “boop boop” noise for the tenth time that day, just because it sounds funny and my stepmother likes to pretend to be annoyed by it.

He also does this pose in almost every picture.

He also does this pose in almost every picture.

When one of my exes turned nasty he offered to fly me down the country that same day. He’s offered me a room in his house should I ever decide to write a novel. Sometimes, if he’s in a really good mood, he’ll even offer you some of his pistachios. Just one or two, mind. Don’t go crazy.

Years ago – but still after that haircut (scroll up if you’ve forgotten, but if you’re anything like me, it will be seared into your memory forever) – we took a road trip together. I had planned out Dad-friendly playlists. Leonard Cohen, Dean Martin, Queen. Half an hour in and he asked if he could have “a turn”. I obliged and he put in an unlabelled CD and turned the volume knob all the way around. Tapping the steering wheel, he started belting “she looks good but her boyfriend says she’s a mess, she’s a mess, she’s a mess, now the girl is stressed”. “WHAT IS THIS?” I yelled, and he replied “IT’S MY LADY GAGA MIX”.

Last Christmas he’d shifted away from Gaga and was into Lana Del Rey. During a family viewing of the Hunger Games he paused it to tell us that Lana spelt her surname with a capital D and a capital R. This wasn’t as out-of-context as you’d think, as he’d paused the movie maybe ten times to share “fun factoids” with us.  Did you know Tom Cruise makes $40m a movie? That Brad Pitt’s earnings, for just one movie, would have paid for the toll road in Northland New Zealand? I didn’t know these things easier, but after a viewing of the Hunger Games, I’d been educated.

Ask about a movie and he’ll give you a one word review – usually “tremendous” or “bullshit”. Once he described Gangs of New York as “not wicky”. On a related note, he’s quick to learn new words that his daughters teach him.

Possibly one of his most endearing traits is his approach to technology. He doesn’t seem to see it as a tool, but as a suspicious threat to be approached with caution. He still types with just his index fingers. His audiobooks folder on his computer is called “other gunk of a verbose nature”. He has a ringbinder next to his computer with handwritten pieces of paper inside, each with instructions on how to perform computer functions. I got him into podcasts a few years ago, configuring his computer to automatically download anything new, and his iPod to automatically sync. This still lead to confusion, so I sat with him on my last visit to go through it. He had prewritten the beginning of the instructions, starting with “Step One: open iTunes”.

One year I asked if his phone could take pxts, and this was the entirety of his response.

One of my fondest childhood memories is sitting at my grandparents dining room table as a little girl. We crowded in for breakfast, my Poppo’s porridge on the stove and homecooked bread cooling on a rack. Dad had returned from a 6am-mid-winter ocean swim, and as the rest of us rubbed sleep from our eyes, he tried to one-up my grandfather with finding rhyming words for “honey”. It culminated in them throwing the jar back and forth, making “runny poo” jokes in dramatic Shakespearean voices, as my grandmother held her head in her hands. My dad is a character, a good kiwi bloke. If I turn out half as great as he is, I’ll have it made.

Dad, you old cobber! I hope your Father’s Day is amazing.

Why I would not recommend the overnight bus

Dear bus,

I suppose it wasn’t really your fault. You are a machine constructed of interlocking metal pieces, stuck with your place in the world, whether you asked for it or not. Maybe you could have been something nicer, like a toaster? I’m not familiar with the differences between toaster metal and bus metal but they can’t be THAT dissimilar. Silver in colour and cool to the touch, that’s the metal motto.

But you aren’t a toaster, are you. You are a bus. A bus that advertised a luxurious sleeping service, like it was some sort of royal treatment. You boasted of hammocks and bunks, of luxury linen. Sat at home in front of my laptop, my credit card in hand, I was excited. It seemed too good to be true, to pay the price of a night’s accommodation but get free travel to boot.

Maybe a bit of this is on me. Six weeks in Europe backpacking and I still haven’t learnt that if something seems too good to be true, it’s because it’s secretly terrible. It is worse than the thing that seems just ok enough to be true. It’s probably about as good as the thing that seems like a bad idea.

This was the view from a too-good-to-be-true hotel room.

This was the view from a too-good-to-be-true hotel room.

Avoiding giving customers allocated sleeping quarters – why not, because that would take someone an extra ten seconds and save a lot of hassle – resulted in fierce bus demand. Instead of schlumping around the coach station, we joined our fellow passengers in two queues to make sure we got a good bed. No, not one queue, but two. Why? Well, why not. It gave us the competitive challenge of aggressively merging together at the ticket collection, girls in ugg boots shoving elderly men out of the way to get to the front.

We boarded, eventually, and were directed to the bed at the end of the bus. Now, I just used the word ‘bed’, but only because you’ve got me on a technicality. It was technically long enough for a human person. It technically had linens (though I’d argue that a fleece blanket on a starched sheet isn’t “luxury”, unless you’re using third-world standards to describe your features). The small shoulder pad placed at the head of the bed was probably intended as a pillow, and it did technically raise my head slightly off the hard pallet. If you held a small focus group, participants would look at the arrangement and label it ‘bed’, but I would imagine most would add “but only technically”.

Due to the fact that my high water consumption has me scrambling up early for the bathroom, I picked the outside with TJ on the inside. I won’t lie, bus. Watching him fold himself into a tiny bottom bunk was a treat. One foot went up, one went down, and his body tried to follow both legs at once. He was mostly on the floor when a fellow passenger pointed out you could pull the barrier down to climb in.

My entrance was no more graceful than his, but at least no one was watching by that point. We lay down and tried to arrange the bags at our feet, with our feet. We were only able to bend our bodies at a very slight obtuse angle before our foreheads came into contact with the bed above, so dexterity of foot was required (as a note, maybe you should mention this in your ad?).

My view. Not quite the scenic experience I'd wagered on.

My view. Not quite the scenic experience I’d wagered on.

The bags shoved against the wall, we turned our attention to the blankets, attempting to wiggle them into the right place. Exhausted and sweaty from the worm-like manoeuvring, we were happy to find the refreshments arrive – a bottle of water labelled “special price 29p!”. The lights were turned off and we settled in to sleep.

I hadn’t quite considered that a bus with sixty passengers would be like being in a dorm room with sixty roommates. We heard every cough, phone beep and whispered chatter. It took ten minutes but I managed to kick the bag of earplugs out of my pack and get them up to my face. Now all I could hear were slightly muffed coughs, phone beeps and whispered chatter.

I lay back and closed my eyes as you wove your way throughout the dark city streets. Corners resulted in my bed moving sideways, causing me to smack into the barrier between TJ and myself. I tried lying flat on my back. This didn’t work either, as the provided sheet was tucked in tightly enough to create a smooth plane. When you went up a hill I slid with you. Luckily my head was there to break the momentum.

At some point I managed to assemble myself like a mangled paper clip in such a fashion that I remained still. And I fell asleep.

A human paper clip, a female figure of eight knot.

A human paper clip, a female figure of eight knot.

I only woke up ten or twelve times, something I’m sure is some sort of bus record (if you have an awards ceremony I would be delighted to attend). One time I woke up as the driver announced that the toilet was broken. Another time I woke up from a particularly bumpy jolt. But the most memorable wake-up was probably the driver announcing that you had broken down, and we were on a motorway, and help would be an hour away. We lay in our beds, on a bus, on the side of the motorway, feeling our teeth rattle everytime a large vehicle went past.

And that’s where our time together came to an end, bus. Your replacement arrived – a traditional chap, with seats and a working toilet. As we staggered towards it, passing a line of men urinating into a clump of trees, I did not look back. It wasn’t that I was mad at you, bus. It wasn’t really your fault. But next time? I’m definitely taking the train. And with the time I’ve got spare, I’ll make myself a lovely breakfast. Of toast.

Yours sincerely,

Kate

This is not a puppy party

Do you know how long it has been since I blogged?

Days and days, months and months. A long time. I could say I was too busy or important, rushing about doing life things. But that’s just not true. Sure, since we last spoke, I’ve starting dating a new fella, fallen for him in a big proper movie way, sold most of my stuff, relocated to the United Kingdom, and backpacked around Europe. I could say all of that is why I haven’t been blogging, waving receipts in your face and showing you photos of everything I ate (yes, I took photos of almost all of it, yes, almost all of it was carbohydrate-based).

Before you tut at me, there is vegetable on that pizza.

Before you tut at me, there is vegetable on that pizza.

Despite my list of activities, to blame them for my lack of posts would be a lie. Because during this time I’ve managed to get to level 147 in Candy Crush Saga. I’ve read multiple books. I’ve watched a pile of movies and seasons upon seasons of television (currently up to season four of Parks and Recreation, no spoilers). I’ve written long diary entries, all of which could be summed up under the heading “carbohydrate reflections”. Seriously, I visited a concentration camp, a real one. My diary for that day complains about American tourists halfheartedly before launching into a discussion about the “giant German treats, the densely packed sweet dough, covered in liquid sugar”.

I’ve managed to have a lot of downtime while travelling. Time on trains attempting German Sudoku (note: it’s the same as English Sudoku, but not understanding the instructions makes you feel a little smug, like you cracked a riddle). Time staring out the window when my phone was out of battery. Time I could have used writing blogs.

But I’ve been shy, you guys. Having snuck away from my lovely blog for a few weeks, then a few months, made me start to feel like I was going to have to do something amazing, something whizz-bang, something wondrous. LOOK, I could shout. I’ve been away but I’ve brought back PUPPIES! Then all of you would say WOW, some PUPPIES, this was worth the wait! We would all have a giant puppy party and it would be lauded across the world as the greatest canine caper EVER.

But even if you DO throw a puppy party, there's no guarantee they will enjoy themselves.

But even if you DO throw a puppy party, there’s no guarantee they will enjoy themselves.

Slowly, however, I’ve come to realise that no one is biting their nails wondering how I will make a comeback. Not in a gloomy way, but in a refreshing way. It’s just a blog, not a … hmm. Drawing a blank on things that make comebacks. Like … sports, um, players? Right. It’s a blog, not a sportsplayer! I can just slip back in with a lack of fanfare, just as I slipped out. Quietly open the door without it creaking and sneak into the back of the room, pretending I’d been there the whole time.

Hello, little blog. I’ve missed you. I’m so glad to see you again.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall

I stood in front of the mirror, talking to myself.

I do this a lot. Well, a lot when I’m drunk. Well, drunk or tipsy. If I’ve had a drink. Or am considering having one. And by ‘drink’, I’m including ‘coke zero vanilla’.

My one-on-one bathroom chats are usually brief but practical. I tell myself to have a glass of water, to remember that I’ve already had dinner and don’t need a bowl of fries and a pizza, and to stop talking about Emma Stone’s voice in such glowing terms, because people are no longer making eye contact with me.

I just want her to read me stories.

I just want her to read me stories.

In these mirror discussions I become my own mother, essentially—but in an exemplary parent/child relationship, one where both parties agree unanimously on every issue.

Yes. It’s weird. I know.

Years ago, I was practicing my over-the-shoulder duckface in my bedroom (in my defence, it was after an America’s Next Top Model marathon, also, I am not a cool or hip person) and one of my male friends walked in. I’m not sure what it was that horrified him – the activity itself or my reaction to being caught, which was so dripping in embarrassment and shame that it planted the action in the same camp as something truly damaging. Like being caught stroking a picture of your own face. While masturbating.

Regardless of what shocked him, he turned purple from the shame of it and started apologising profusely as backed out of the room, eyes cast downward.

I distinctly remember thinking, “well, that’s done. I guess there’s no way we’re ever getting married”. Before this moment I hadn’t even considered marriage with him, a man with whom I shared little in common. But it’s a weird feeling, knowing a door has closed, even if it’s a door you didn’t care to open. I don’t like knowing that someone’s opinion of you has permanently changed. Maybe prior to this he’d considered me a woman of some mild mystery and intrigue, what with my almost-complete-collection of Buffy on VHS and my insider knowledge of local haunts such as Mr Bun and the Readings foodcourt. Maybe he’d just been waiting to make his move.

But after this? No. I was firmly in the friendszone. This left me feeling petulant, and for weeks after I considered that maybe I DID want a relationship with him. Well, sort of. In my fantasies it was a relationship built on vague amiability, with no romantic or sexual elements, where I had thought ahead to our divorce and how lovely it’d be to have space to myself again without him breathing down my neck all the goddamn time.

In this situation, I was definitely the Xander. Or the Willow. Or the Buff... wait, did EVERYONE in that show have an unrequited crush?

In this situation, I was definitely the Xander. Or the Willow. Or the Buff… wait, did EVERYONE in that show have an unrequited crush?

This is why I am delighted that no one has ever caught me in my restroom repartee. Goodness, an innocent posing session led to such embarrassment! Imagine someone witnessing the strange Jekyll/Hyde display of me saying “only two more tequilas, Katiepie, then you probs should stop”, giggling in agreement with myself, then fumbling through an “ooh, you” hand flap.

A few Saturdays back, I stood in front of the mirror, washing my hands and baring my teeth like a wild dog to check if they were clean. I questioned if I should have more to drink. With the question, mumbled aloud, I noticed my facial expressions switch from an imploring beggar to a admonishing schoolteacher. The absurdity struck me as I saw my forehead change, and I realised I was at a crossroads.

Do I put an end to this ridiculous display?

Or do I commit to it?

We could split into two Kates. The disciplinarian would go by Katherine, and she’d speak with perfect elocution while maintaining rigid posture. She would frown upon alcohol and would figure out what a multivitamin is and where to buy one. She would understand how to make pivot tables in Excel. The other Kate would be known as Katie, but would pronounce it ‘Kyay-eh’, as she would develop an arbitrary cockney accent almost immediately. She would be constantly searching for places to lie down for naps and would throw full-body tantrums when things didn’t go her way.

Fortunately one of my friends has a lack of hand/eye coordination while holding beverages, so I have some experience with tantrums.

Fortunately one of my friends has a lack of hand/eye coordination while holding beverages, so I have some experience with tantrums.

The idea seemed appealing. For a moment I considered it, eyes wide with the possibilities. I would never be lonely or bored again. Plants vs Zombies would no longer be necessary to keep myself entertained, as now I’d have a guaranteed friend for always. This would mean I might as well sell my iPhone—and just think of the money I’d save on international calls! (Sometimes after a few beers I call my sister in Brisbane and sing her the New Zealand national anthem, because I enjoy her bewildered reaction to this practice. It is not a cheap hobby.)

After some consideration of this plan, I realised that my brain was attempting to find ways to assure its own destruction, justifying it under the devilish guises of “friendship” and “cost-effectiveness”. Surely, despite the positive side effects, brain-self-destruction is a bad thing? Surely I should stop this ridiculous mirror madness? Surely I should move on, be a grown up?

Luckily, Katherine stopped Kyay-eh throwing a tantrum about it, and as we left the bathroom together, myselves agreed – one more drink? Yeah, it’d probably be fine.

Traditionyule

When I was little, we lived in a pretty nice area of Tauranga, New Zealand (shut up, yes, there is such a thing). Our area was comprised of subdivisions full of snobby middle-class people, all sure to stress the second half of the suburb. “Yes, I am from Cambridge HEIGHTS. HEIGHTS. Oh, we have a decent acre of land, a double garage, a microwave, but it’s really no big deal. Please, please, there is no need to avert your gaze.”

The letterboxes in our street were either white or wooden, adorned with the fancy numbers. You know the sort, the gold or brass ones, the ones you need to screw in, definitely not the stick-on kind. Folks may have had personalities inside their homes, but on the outside? No. The outsides were kept uniform. Tidy. Orderly. Vaguely, um, Germanic, if you catch my drift.

Same same, only, not different.

Same same, only, not different.

After a few years, a new family moved in down the street, in a house that was set back from the road. Obviously missing the pattern laid down by their double-denim-clad neighbours, they installed a sickly-yellow-green letterbox. Against the white and wooden parade this was garish and ugly, a horrifying pimple on our street’s perfect face. To express our discomfort with the bile-toned box, my family would make vomit noises every time we drove past, punctuating our retching with emphatic hand gestures to show the path that our upchuck would take. Splash on the back of the seat. Slosh out the window. Oops, ha ha, there’s some on Mum’s head.

This was my first taste of tradition, and I loved it.

For years I tried to force traditions to catch on, a practice that makes everyone feel slightly affronted and thus uncooperative. I found that my parents were more agreeable around the holidays, as they were filled with an overwhelming sense of fatigue.

I managed to get a Christmas Eve reading of The Night Before Christmas to stick, my poor mother shuffling up the stairs to my room to sleepily read aloud every year, even though I don’t think anyone actually enjoyed it. I mean, it starts off great, everyone’s pumped for that first verse. I didn’t know what a sugarplum WAS, but it definitely piqued my interest, as did the slumbering mice. But after that it’s all downhill, petering off into an absurd fantasy. I don’t think it helped that Mum’s delivery was tinged with the weariness of knowing she’s going to have to get up at 4am to put stockings out and then let some fictional bearded bastard take all the credit.

When I was a teenager I saw It’s a Wonderful Life, deciding before it had even begun that it would be a perfect Christmas tradition. I felt a strong sense of nostalgia for phrases like “hot dog!”, wind-up telephones and small towns – a strange emotion, given that these were things I’d never really experienced. Looking back, I am almost positive that the nostalgia was actually just a mutation of a strangely intense sexual crush on Jimmy Stewart, an emotion my mother and stepfather did not share, as they would consistently manage to find excuses to avoid the TV. Sitting alone in the lounge weeping at the Baileys singing Auld Lang Syne – it was a tradition, sure, but probably not one I should take pride in.

I am not lying when I say that just looking at this picture makes me misty eyed.

I am not lying when I say that just looking at this picture makes me misty eyed.

A few years ago I packed three Christmas movies in my luggage to watch with my Dad & stepmother, figuring that one would catch on. They politely sat through – and promptly fell asleep in – It’s a Wonderful Life, leading me to finally retire it from family viewing. The next night I made what some might consider a slight error in judgement… given that my father’s favourite tradition is to hold hands when giving thanks to Our Lord before dinner, I probably should have reconsidered the recommendation of Bad Santa. Then again, sitting between my parents, watching Billy Bob Thornton have sex with Lorelai Gilmore in a car while she screams “fuck me Santa” – these are memories you can’t pay for.

The next night I redeemed myself with Love Actually, and now every year I get thanked for introducing them to it. If you’ve ever watched this movie with your family your traditions are probably the same as mine – chortle at Hugh Grant dancing, titter at Colin Firth attempting to speak Portuguese, and sit rigidly and unblinking during all of the simulated sex scenes. Seriously, so many nipple shots in that movie. Maybe I’m overthinking (certain people in my life will not be surprised to hear this) but watching Love Actually with your family is to acknowledge that oral sex exists, and this is not something I need on Christmas.

Those who read my Fiji blogs will be unsurprised to hear there is one Christmas tradition I never had to force, and one that stuck immediately. Every year it changes slightly, but it always centres around the same two things. One, sort of media consumption. Two, a competitive eating contest: where the competitors are “myself” and “my pride”. I vividly remember the first year I did this, lying on my bed with a new Babysitter’s Club book and a box of Roses chocolates (first digging out the strawberry ones, ending with a deep stomach-expanding breath and the classic fudge). Later years had me sitting on an inflatable chair, watching the South Park musical and groaning through bowls of salted cashews.

What could be more festive than this?

What could be more festive than this?

Before Christmas this year I had been focused on two food items: declaring the two-punch combo of ham and scorched almonds to be my Christmas “goal”, to anyone who would listen. I was thrilled when Annie bought me a box of those little chocolate-enveloped-nuts, despite our multiple agreements that we wouldn’t “do” presents this year. I was then delirious with delight when my stepmother needed both hands to lift the ham from the back fridge, as the thick slices of pork had been dancing in my mind since, well… about July.

Sadly, I am not the best at quote unquote self-discipline, and I accidentally ended up overdosing on yellow-bag Doritos and bubbles while watching The Sound of Music. I woke up at 5pm, face stuck to the leather couch, Captain von Trapp’s heart now as full as my distended belly. An hour later dinner was served. I was definitely still full, but managed to fit in two more glasses of bubbles and a plate of turkey and ham and potatoes and mayo-soaked salad.

Sure, I had to arch my back to fit it all in. But I was hardly going to say no to Christmas dinner.

It’s tradition!

Refined Tastes

6.30am

My phone buzzes, ripping me from sleep. It’s a text message from Annie, that simply reads “being awake is so not legit.”

It’s a Sunday. It’s 6.30am. Normally my Sunday routine is to rise around 11am, making whimpering noises until I have a cup of coffee. I then spend the next half hour slumped in a café booth, alternating between checking twitter, pretending to read the paper, and wincing at loud noises.

Annie’s right. 6.30am is so not legit.

7am

I prepare a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee. Annie pops the lid open on her second beer of the day.

Today we have tickets to Toast Martinborough, a wine/food/music festival held amongst the wineries of the Wairarapa. It’s my third year attending, which means it’s the second time I’ve ignored my own advice from the year prior to never, ever, ever return. Each year I’ve arrived home with no money left, sunburnt skin, and mascara-stained cheeks after the inevitable fight with a close friend.

Unfortunately, I’m not very good at saying no. So once again, I have agreed to part ways with my money and sense.

8am

We walk to the bus stop in dresses and jandals. A car passes. Without explanation, Annie screams, “stop judging me, dicks! My life choices are legit!”

Two breakfast beers on an empty stomach have obviously left their mark.

8.30am

The queue at the train station coffee cart is lengthy, which justifies my decision to buy two cups.

In Canada, I believe they call this "double fisting". Those Canucks are so innocent.

In Canada, I believe they call this “double fisting”. Those Canucks are so innocent.

Meanwhile, Annie buys two huge cans of beer from the supermarket. It comes to a grand total of $5.98, and it’s clear from her first sneaky taste that the beer’s cost-effectiveness is definitely its only selling point.

She doesn’t want to get caught drinking in public, so her surreptitious sips are accompanied with suspicious stares around the station. I gulp down the rest of my coffee, handing her the cup so she can refill it with her cheap ale, which she does under the table.

She peers inside the cup, frowning.

The foam at the top is half beer, half coffee-froth, and it quickly separates from the rest of the beverage into a single floating mass. She hooks her finger and scoops the pond scum onto a napkin. The spume starts evaporating, wobbly gas pockets popping open with little lactose farts.

She continues to drink from the coffee cup, her eyes wary.

“I should have brought a goon sack” she laments, sighing about her poor planning.

9am

We meet our friend Michelle on the train. As it leaves the station, Annie fills her coffee cup with beer for the third time. Meanwhile, Michelle paints her fingernails, a bottle of candy-floss pink squeezed between her knees.

9.25am

The rest of the carriage is filled with husbands and wives, passing sections of newspapers back and forth wordlessly. Annie leans in and nods her appreciation. “I like when like, old people come to these things. And wear like, pants. With a shirt. It’s legit.”

This guy is "legit". You heard it here first.

This guy is “legit”. You heard it here first.

9.30am

Annie stops mid-conversation to say, “oh, hold on, I need to take my anti-babies”.

As she rummages in her bag for her contraception, she announces she texted Becky.

“Who’s Becky?” I ask.
“Oh, that girl we met that one time at Public, remember? She showed us that penis picture on her phone?”
“What did you say to her?”
“I said, remember that one time we met at Public? And you showed us that penis picture on your phone?”

9.35am

“Ooh ooh, she replied!” Annie shouts.

I try to shield my eyes from Annie’s phone as she waves it in my face. Unfortunately, Annie does not give up easy, and so I once again find myself looking at an image of a man’s genitals photographed next to a bottle of Tui (for scale). I’m impressed with his ingenuity but the image still leaves me feeling dismayed. He couldn’t have picked a classier beverage?

10.15am

There are mandatory bag checks in place at the train station, to stop people sneaking in their own alcohol or food. Annie & I are waiting outside the tent when Michelle storms up. “Well, I’ve already had my first fight. Shall we go?”

“So he found my croissants, and said I had to throw them away. And I said well, excuse me sir, but is this encouraging responsible behaviour, with the binge drinking culture we have in this country?” Michelle furiously spits out.

You may be able to tell that it is not Michelle’s first fight. She even made a guy cry once. To be fair, he started it, by introducing himself as “Hey ladies, do you know where Helen Clark lives? I want to give her a piece of my mind”.

10.40am

We huddle under a marquee tent, rain pouring outside. I hop from foot to foot and complain that I’m cold and that straightening my hair was a waste of time. Annie scoffs at the people smart enough to bring rainwear, muttering “golf umbrellas? Fuckers. Who do they think they are?”

A group of girls scuttle past, clad in floral mini-dresses and wearing candy coloured heels. Annie derides them too, saying “Heels? Idiots. Why would you wear heels?”

She then launches into a story about how she met a woman in a pub and told her to wear jandals. In the time it takes her to tell the story, I’ve finished a glass of wine and caught up on the last three hours of my twitter feed. This is because the drunker Annie is, the more context she includes in a story. Given by how far she rewinds in this one—starting with “I was having lunch, and”—the train beer has obviously left a mark.

11am

We sip our second glasses of Riesling and agree that, whatever happens, at the end of the day we will definitely split up and leave every man for himself. Annie suggests a motto of, “we are friends, with no responsibility”.

I make a note of it, as I am dedicated to blog accuracy.

I make a note of it, as I am dedicated to blog accuracy.

11.15am

The sun comes out and everyone in the area cheers, throwing hats and ponchos onto piles of handbags and flocking out of the marquee.

11.17am

The rain comes back. We all awkwardly crowd back back in, embarrassed of the fuss we’d made moments earlier. This process repeats itself three or four times.

Noon

We arrive at another winery. I’ve eaten an entire bag of macaroons before we’ve even sat down, washing them down with a glass of sparkling rose. The combination leaving me feeling like my teeth are coated with moss. I quietly hope that Mum forgets to ask how quitting sugar is going.

12.15am

Annie waves the camera around, hissing at me to pretend to smile so she can zoom past my face to take surreptitious photos of some guy in a white shirt.

12.30pm

I listen to the band, who seem to be working their way through the Pretty Woman soundtrack. The nineties numbers are broken up with the singer’s attempt at audience banter. “Who, is, um, from Wellington?” he booms. “Who, um, took the train?” His questions are met with polite “woos” from a few people who take pity on him, but mostly the audience is indifferent.

1pm

Annie gets too excited telling a story and flings her arm in the air, spilling wine all over her dress. We head towards the bathroom: a caravan atop a flight of stairs, which wobbles with each door slam. The toilets inside are filled with blue water and the floor is dotted with clods of grass, making it feel like a mix between a barn and a hospital. On wheels.

As I wait outside for Annie, a woman sidles up next to me. She stands close enough that for a second I assume we must know each other, but she’s unfamiliar. “Yo”, she says, as she reaches up under her skirt, digging for a moment, before snapping her knickers back into place. As fast as she arrived, she’s gone. I feel used.

An approaching girl is weeping, wiping her tears away from under her glasses. As she gets closer, I catch snippets of her conversation. “She got cash out (hiccup hiccup) and I was like, but this is (hiccup hiccup) NOT what we agreed on”.

Annie emerges from the toilet caravan, her dress still splattered with the wine stain. We find Michelle and decide to move on.

En route to the bus, Annie declares “by the way, this is NOT jizz on my dress, Michelle”, answering a question that no one was asking.

1.15pm

As we exit the bus, Michelle throws a “thanks, driver” over her shoulder. He replies, and she stops abruptly, turning and screeching, “did you just say thanks WOMAN?”

Bewildered and shocked, the driver replies, “no, I said you’re welcome?”

“Oh”, Michelle says, pausing for a moment to consider if she should still be offended. She shrugs off the potential squabble and skips across the road to the winery.

2pm

I make peace with the fact that I’m not going to be able to decide between the pulled pork ficelle and the lemon cake, so I get both.

No regrets.

No regrets.

Meanwhile, Annie’s telling Michelle about two of our friends that ended up in bed together recently. Michelle doesn’t approve, and I try to ignore her gagging noises while I eat. “If I go out, and I need to vom but can’t, even after I touch that little dangly bit, I am going to think about her and that guy” Michelle announces.

2.15pm

Michelle flops back in her chair, her nose scrunched into her face. “Is it still an abortion if you find out you’re pregnant and then you kill yourself? Or is it just suicide?”

An elderly couple shuffle up to our table and gesture to the two empty seats.

“Do you mind if we sit down? You can continue your young people’s conversation!” the man says.

2.30pm

“Well, back in the ‘50s, if a woman didn’t get married, she was an outcast! What a load of crap!” he says. His wife nods in agreement. “You don’t want to marry a crapper, you’d get stuck with him for the rest of your days”.

Emboldened by their use of language and their progressive message, Michelle jumps at the chance to tell them about her divorce.

Annie’s not here. I’m not sure what it is about the older couple that frightened her off, but my theory is that it was the dawdling pace at which the woman ate her salmon pie. Each mouthful was tiny yet she chewed it like a cow might – deliberately, using her whole jaw, and frustratingly slowly.

3.30pm

“Just with her vadge?” Michelle hisses across the table at Annie. “Or with her mouth?”

She gets no response, so increases her volume.

“ANNIE. VADGE. VADGE. HER VADGE?”

Annie is not paying attention, as she is texting a boy. It’s easy to spot. She only smirks at her phone if a boy is involved.

Michelle loses patience trying to get her attention and turns to me.

“KATE” she barks. “Do you know? With her vadge? Or mouth?”

I glance over at the four strangers who graciously allowed us to sit at their table. All four are in wide-brimmed hats with shirts buttoned up to their necks. They haven’t spoken since we sat down, and are currently staring straight ahead, actively ignoring this exchange.

“I don’t know” I hiss back, to Michelle’s question about what part of our friend touched our other friend’s genitals. “Stop talking about it. It’s gross”.

3.45pm

Michelle heads to the dance floor to aggressively shrug her shoulders, and Annie jumps up to join her. I’m full of pork and bread and cake and macaroons and poutine – not to mention the wine and the diet cokes and breakfast. Shaking my overstuffed and distended belly seems like a downright dangerous activity.

I choose an activity that’s risky in other ways, and head off to join the long queue for the portaloos.

I passed this couple on the way. Clearly a bigger day for some than others.

I passed this couple on the way. Clearly a bigger day for some than others.

3.47pm

Two girls approach and stop suddenly. “No fucking way am I standing in that line” the blonde says, and the brunette concurs. They stumble over to the urinal, pulling up the back of their skirts and backing in slowly. The 50-somethings in front of me are horrified. “Are those girls going to use the… the urinal?” one asks, her eyes wide behind her bifocals.

The girls emerge frowning and traipse off into the vineyard, their attempt obviously unsuccessful. I’m still in the queue when they lurch back, untucking their skirts from their tights.

4pm

“Katie! They swirled me! They touched me! They are in the army! What should I say to them? I’m thinking about saying, touch me again!” Michelle says, giggling, and pointing to two men dressed in sexed up fatigues, clearly not in the army.

She hops up and grabs my hand, leading me to the dance floor. We try to get into a waltz position but run into problems as we both try to lead. “Who is dom and who is sub?” Michelle asks, having learnt a thing or two from Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s revealed that she’s more of a Christian than an Ana, when she forcefully pulls me into her arms then spanks me.

After a lot of twirling, Annie cuts in, and I leave them to it.

4.30pm

At last year’s festival, we brought a houseplant with us, insisting that people pose for photos with it.

With great success, I might add.

With great success, I might add.

While she’d speculated that this year she’d try to collect snaps of “penis or female nip”, this year Annie’s been taking pictures of us in the reflection of other people’s sunglasses. It has produced some great shots – super-close ups of the nostril hairs of strangers, with our faces blue and fuzzy in the corner.

It was hard to explain the process to tipsy girls at noon, so it feels like a losing battle when Annie grabs the arm of a stumbling drunk and asks him to help. “What… whaddo I get outta it?” he slurs, talking to her cleavage.

“Nothing, just shut up and stand still” she barks with irritation.

“Can you buy me a drink?” he asks.

“Yes, yes, fine fine” she replies, waving her hand impatiently .

“Here, try-themmon” he says, dangling them from a finger. She looks through them and snorts.

“Bullshit!” she says, shoving them back onto his nose.

Annie then tries to employ logic to get him to stand still.

It does not work.

5pm

It’s definitely past the time we need to leave, but trying to round up Michelle & Annie is not an easy task. Annie wants to “smash another sav”, and Michelle keeps telling me to chill out, waving her arm around, saying my eyebrows look too angry.

I realise I’ve made a mistake in staying almost-sober, but it’s too late now, and so I resign myself to the role of mother hen.

“Nope, we’re leaving now. Too bad. Chop chop” I say, ushering the girls to the roadside. The buses going past are already overstuffed, with people crowding the aisles and tired-looking girls squished in, buttocks pressed against the glass.

5.15pm

I’m getting worried; gnawing on fingernails out of stress.

A ute approaches with two men in the front, honking their horn and woohooing out of the window.

“HEY BOYS GIVE US A LIFT?” Annie shouts, and they ask what she’ll do for them.

“Bit of nip?” she replies, reaching into her dress, untucking her right breast and waggling it at them.

“She just did that” a girl says, behind me, dumbfounded. “I just saw her nipple”.

5.50pm

By some miracle we’re at the train station. A school group is manning a BBQ, and I buy us all sausages wrapped in bread, no onions, lots of sauce please. Annie takes hers and then stumbles off towards the portaloos, and Michelle just looks at it, confused.

“Where did this come from?” she asks.

“I bought it for you?” I reply.

“Oh, Katie, you’re the bestest person the whole world” she says, leaning in to nap on my shoulder.

6pm

A group of girls stands near us, going over the events of the day with frantic intensity. One is so into her story that she doesn’t notice that she’s tipped her glass of wine upside down, and with each arm gesture she spills more down the front of her apricot dress. One of her friends touches her arm and tells her. She looks down at her saturated frock, shrugs, and goes back to her story.

6.15pm

Exhausted, I made the decision to fall asleep as soon as we got onto the train. Unfortunately, Annie’s volume made actual sleep impossible, so I’m faking it by leaning against the window with my eyes closed.

Annie rummages in her bag, pulling out two cans of tuna. She opens one and bends the lid into a shovel, scooping meat into her mouth before passing it to Michelle. They eat both cans this way, never stopping their discussion about the smell of spew on the train.

They also amuse themselves by taking pictures of me.

They also amuse themselves by taking pictures of me.

6.30pm

“I fucking hate tunnels!” Annie declares, for the fifth time.

“FUCK FUCK FUCK!”, she yells, her voice reverberating throughout the carriage.

I’m not sure if she’s always had claustrophobia or if it’s a recent development, but it seems to be at a level of intensity that would usually necessitate some sort of medication.

6.45pm

Annie’s claustrophobia has the welcome side-effect of shutting up the rest of the train, as forty drunk people all pretend to go to sleep to avoid having to ask if she’s ok.

8pm

We’re on the couch. My grey trackpants have a racing stripe, whereas Annie’s are black and flecked with paint. I shovel fries into my mouth after swiping them over the sides of my McChicken, tidying up surplus mayo. Annie smashes another beer.

I’ve spent all my money, have sunburnt my back, and have probably picked up a variety of diseases from the portaloos. Am definitely never ever going back.

Well, probably not.

Zen and the art of unrequited romance

Back in July, one of my friends got me a voucher to get a massage, a half-hour shoulder rub to ease the stresses of a busy life. It took me until November to redeem it, which I can only assume means I pass the test of being busy enough to deserve it.

I was seven minutes early to the day spa, which is definitely not my style. I prefer to rush into appointments a minute after they are supposed to start, my life a tangled mess of earphones and sunglasses and bags and effusive apologies. So it was with some confusion that I said “Um, I’m Kate? I’m here for an appointment… soon?”

The receptionist took my name then gestured towards a chair with an exaggerated swoop, a motion that used her entire wrist, and that could have passed for an OSH exercise.

My favourites are the ones that could double as dance moves.

My favourites are the ones that could double as dance moves.

After a moment a petite woman came to get me, introducing herself as Priya. She led me through a maze of corridors to a little room that smelled like a rose garden bathed in oil. The blinds were down and soft music was being piped in from somewhere. It was immediately relaxing on every level, and I let out a full-body sigh. I’ve seen drug-addicts in the movies who relax in a similar way, their shoulders dropping all the way down as a grin spreads across their face, and I am now of the firm belief that the right kind of lighting and aroma is the equivalent of a… snort of… meth. Or whatever it is you’re supposed to do with it.

“Please take your clothes off and get under the sheet”, Priya said. “You can leave your underwear on”.

She was barely through her sentence before I was wriggling my shirt over my head, putting this five-foot-tall woman at the eye-level of my turquoise bra. “Um, I will be back in a minute?!” she said, and I realised that I was probably supposed to wait until she left, not enthusiastically disrobe for an audience.

She stepped outside and I took off the rest of my clothes and scooched under the sheet covering the table, laying face down. I smashed my toe into the table in my attempt to rearrange my legs, but aside from that, I was in heaven. The attention to detail was amazing – not only was the hole in the table cushioned with a little towel-donut, they had put frangipani flowers on the floor underneath the table. Just in case my eyeballs got bored, I guess.

She came back in and asked if I was ready. “Yush” I mumbled into the face towel donut and she began.

I think it was probably only two minutes in when I had the surprising realisation that I was definitely in love with Priya. But why? Was it her fingertips deftly prodding my spine? Her dainty hands cupping my love handles? I mean, they must be called that for a reason, right?

My thoughts were interrupted. “Is the pressure ok?” she whispered, breathily. I guess it was part of the whole schtick of making this room a quiet sanctuary, but it felt like Priya was definitely flirting. “Mmmm” I murmured, and it accidentally came out a little too groany. I guess I was a bit dopey already from the smells and the sensations, but I honestly didn’t intend to be quite so… guttural. Priya can now count herself amongst the handful (or two, but who’s counting?) of people who have heard that noise while my top’s off.

Our relationship was obviously progressing quickly, and so I started making plans.

Priya could spend her days massaging out the stresses of my difficult life, and I could, well, I dunno. Bear her children? Maybe? I guess her brother could get involved for donation purposes, is that how it works nowadays?

We could probably go back to her home country, if she would like. I’m not sure where it is, but I can only assume the food there is great. I will get really fat because I will insist on only eating whatever national dish has the most amount of butter in it. Don’t worry though, because the extra padding will be good for the baby.

At this point I'll take any excuse, really.

At this point I’ll take any excuse, really.

Privya started on my lower back, shifting the towel down to get better access. Much better access. She shuffled my knickers down too, giving her a view that only a handful (or two, but who’s counting?) have experienced.

We’d call it a “plumber’s crack”, but I remember saying that once in high school and being reprimanded by a classmate. She was a blonde American, sweet an innocent as apple pie (the food kind, not the euphemism kind), and her big blue eyes widened when she heard me say it. “Naw, Katie!” she said. “Women don’t have plumber’s cracks. Call it a ladies split!”

Priya was now squirting oil on me, dangerously close to the aforementioned ladies split. I suddenly wondered if I needed to fart, and if I did, what would happen? My new potential romance was now the furthest thing from my mind. Imagine farting, basically into someone’s hand, as they rubbed frangipani oil into your tramp-stamp-spot. Oh god. I blushed from the idea of it alone. There’d be no way Priya would marry me then. Unless it was one of those situations where the awkwardness would bring us closer together? Like in Sex and the City, when Charlotte and Harry vomited together all night?

Priya abandoned my back and started squeezing her fingers down my arm, reaching my hand. I tried to think about something else, because it didn’t seem appropriate to think about farts while my future wife stroked my fingers.

I relaxed my hand but I wasn’t sure if that was the right response. Should I keep each finger stiff, to show that I am strong? That I will take care of her? That I will weather the difficulties of the world and will remain steadfast in adversity? Well, maybe. But the music sounded like happy whales sighing happily about how great the ocean is, and there’s no way I can ask my muscles to do anything other than ‘slump’.

We get to swim all day! Plankton tastes amazing! I have a tail!

We get to swim all day! Plankton tastes amazing! I have a tail!

After Priya tended to my limp digits she asked me to flip over. “Mrhhhm” I managed to gurgle, doped up in a haze of aroma and blissful orca chatter. With concern she asked “are you ok?”, perhaps worried that she’d accidentally massaged my spinal cord into the wrong place.

“Oh, yes. Just very, um, happy” I said, immediately regretting my choice of words. Ugh. “Very happy?” You couldn’t have picked more impressive words, Kate? Dazzled her with some vocabularic trickery?

She held the sheet up and turned her face away, and I wriggled myself over on the table. I imagine the effect was not dissimilar to flipping an upside-down car back onto its wheels. After my awkward flop from belly to back, she placed a perfumed wheat bag over my eyes and started massaging my head, her fingers kneading oil into my scalp.

“Massage all done” she announced, after what was probably half an hour, but what had felt like five minutes.

“Oh, oh… ok” I said forlornly, as she took the wheat bag off and my eyes adjusted to the light in the room.

I looked over at Priya and was alarmed to discover she was a real person. With a crash I was back to reality. We’d never work. What was I thinking? The height difference was considerable, the language barrier was problematic, I was straight, and—most traumatic of all—our names weren’t easily meshable to form a catchy portmanteau. Kiya? Priy…ate? The options were grim.

“I leave now, ok?” she said, and I just nodded mutely, feeling myself blush. I wanted to thank her, but I felt like If I started talking I’d end up confessing that while only half an hour ago I was in love with her, I had since fallen back out of it. And while I’ve never experienced it, I get the feeling that being removed by security from a day spa is probably not the best way to get closure after a turbulent love affair.

Kate’s Guide to Makeup: Part Two

Welcome to Part Two of Kate’s Guide to Makeup!

Hopefully by now you’ve tried the daytime look we covered yesterday, and you’re busy fending off phone calls from persistent gentlemen (I’m free next Tuesday?) or eager ladies, if that’s your thing (one at a time, gals!).

This tutorial will show you how to upgrade your daytime look to a flashier one. Do you have a ball to attend? A wedding to go to? An awkward family dinner with that one aunt who always talks you about her really specific and gross medical problems? No problem!

As we are going to build on the daytime look, you will need to follow the steps from yesterday’s tutorial. Have you done it yet? No? Ok, we’ll wait.

… not sure how long to give you. It doesn’t take that long, but that’s if you have everything ready. If you’re rushing around trying to find a clean sponge, it could take a while, I mean, I don’t know the layout of your kitchen.

All done? Great!

STEP FIVE: BLUSHER

Blusher is important because it makes you look like you have killer cheekbones. It all goes back to this contouring lark. You just want to make your face look like a series of ominous shadows.

… woah, is that a sci-fi series yet? If not, you can have it. Please just name a character after me.

Normally blusher is applied with a brush, but if you don’t have one, just use the other side of your sponge (environmentally-minded folks will be pleased to note that this is also good for the planet). To apply blusher, smear some on your sponge, then suck in your face and schwoop it up. Sorted. Now for the other side.

Suck in and schwoo … oops.

Ok, sometimes these things happen. Sometimes the dog runs away, or the apples fall out of the basket, or you try to put blusher on and somehow make it go across your cheekbone instead of along it. Nevermind. You can catch the dog, pick the apples back up, and re-draw the line.

Even if it takes you three goes to work out how it’s supposed to feel if you’re doing it properly.

STEP SIX: LIPS

Lipliner is important for making sure that your lipstick stays on. I think. To be honest, I’m not really sure what lipliner is used for. All I know is that when I was 13 and I would wear brown lipliner with a layer of Vaseline on top, people would make fun of me.

As a result, I haven’t owned any since then. Which is why I needed to improvise for this blog.

Coloured pencil seemed like a good idea, given that it’s a colour and it’s a pencil, just like lip liner.

Unfortunately, coloured pencils don’t really stick to skin, especially when it’s covered in a thick layer of contour and foundation that is already starting to flake.

So I upgraded to a pen. Now, I used an Artline 220 Super Fine 0.2, but this is a highly personal thing, and you should select the pen that feels right. Ink is subjective, and I won’t be the one to bark orders from on high about which stationery you should employ.

Now, I can’t see the point in lip liner if you’re not going to make it work for you, so I made sure to go over my actual lip line, by just a smidge. This smidge might make the difference between getting that marriage proposal or being passed over for that girl who works at Subway who doesn’t charge for double cheese. Don’t leave your future to chance, ladies!

With your lip liner you’ve created a boundary to be filled, and now all you have to do is colour it in with lipstick, staying between the lines. Maybe this is why people use lip liner? So you don’t accidentally just keep applying lipstick until it covers the bottom of your entire head? Something to think about.

Make sure to get your lipstick all the way to the edges. If you’ve gone over the lines a bit in some places because your hand-eye coordination isn’t that great, make sure to colour these little anomalies in too.

Now is probably a good time to practice your industry-party laugh. You’re going to need it.

STEP SEVEN: EYELINER

Ok, so maybe I’m a bit smug I have a real eyeliner. From a real brand. Of course, if you aren’t as blessed as I am in this area, then you can probably use a felt-tip pen or a Sharpie (depending on how thick you want the line to be).

Now, remember back to the lip liner, when we drew a line around our lips? We’ll do the same thing with the eyeliner, except this time we’re drawing a line around our eyeballs. Keep it as close as possible without putting the stick into the white part of your eye. Pro-tip: if it hurts, or if you go blind, you are drawing too close.

If your line looks a bit like one of those seismic activity charts, don’t worry too much. Just colour in the little shaky bits with more eyeliner. Consider your eyeliner a frame for your peepers, and maybe it can be one of those pretentious fancy picture frames where there’s a tiny picture with like six metres of wood around it.

Practice some answers for when you’re interviewed by Vogue. Maybe you want to start your own range of cat… bling? Maybe your beauty secret is that you drink six litres of water every day and test the pH levels of your urine? You’re going to want these answers at the ready. Nothing’s more embarrassing than umming and ahhing your way through an interview with a Wintour underling.

STEP EIGHT: FACE HAIRS

Part of being a lady is picking out your favourite face hairs, and making them darker and stiffer. This usually means eyebrows and eyelashes, but I’m not one to judge – the following steps would also work well with sideburns or moustaches.

Applying mascara is easy, if you keep a few simple things in mind.

Firstly, you want to get that brush all the way to the base of your lashes, which means opening your eyes wide.

Secondly, you are also going to want to open your mouth really wide. Don’t argue with me on this. It’s like how you can’t sneeze with your eyes open. I heard that a girl at my high school tried to put mascara on with her mouth closed and the next day she woke up dead. It happened. Just ask anyone.

If your mascara is clumpy, or feels tricky to put on, it’s probably because your mouth isn’t open wide enough. Don’t be afraid. Crank that jaw, ladies.

Excellent.

Now that that’s done, we’ll have to do something about those eyebrows.

Some people have fancy eyebrow pencils, but this product is largely a scam on the part of the makeup industry. Just use your mascara to define your brows.

I mean, think about it, your eyelashes and eyebrows are all the same face hair, right? Why should one be treated any differently to the other?

Once your eyebrows are filled in, we’re done!

RESULT!

You have made a frame for your face – from the lipstick chinstrap to the black mascara you’ve combed into your brow hairs. You’ve drawn lines around some of the most useful features (eyes are the window to the soul, and lips make kisses). Pop a breath mint and you’re ready to hit the town!

And who knows? Maybe by following my advice you’ll end up going places you never even dreamed of…

Until next time,

Kate x

Kate’s Guide to Makeup: Part One

“So, um, what do you do?” asks the stranger in front of me as she sips her beer. We’ve been introduced by a friend who knows us both, and as it’s about 8pm on a Wednesday, she’s not really that drunk yet, and our conversation puzzle is not going to fall together easily. Eventually we’ll either (a) have too much to drink and arbitrarily declare ourselves best friends, or (b) will find something in common – maybe she agrees there’s nothing funnier than that one bit in Wanderlust where Paul Rudd talks to himself in the mirror – and it’ll be fine.

But we haven’t worked that out yet. So, for now? It’s awkward.

“Oh, you know, I faff with Word documents, whatever. But more importantly? I have a BLOG,” I say, desperate to talk about it, but not really talk about it, because actually I’m quite shy about these things in real life.

“Oh, what’s it about?” she asks, and I’m immediately stuck.

“I just sort of like, talk. About stuff?” I reply, and she nods her head slowly, desperately searching for another topic.

“So, um, how do you know Christine?”

**

This isn’t a once-off. This scenario has played out maybe five times. Having a blog where I just write about nothing is fun, but it also makes it hard to define in bars.

I was thinking about this on the way home yesterday, wondering if I should pick a topic to concentrate on.

Then it hit me.

I’ve spent some time in the fascinating world of YouTube makeup tutorials recently, all-the-while feeling that these guides would benefit from a more static medium. And honestly? It can’t be that hard. I wear mascara every day (I know, I know, I shouldn’t brag) and have a webcam.

So without further ado, may I present, Kate’s Guide to Makeup: Part One.

Kate's Guide to Makeup

STEP ONE: PREPARE YOUR CANVAS

Ok, so, full disclosure, maybe I have left it a bit long between fringe trims.

I can wear it two ways: Visually Impaired Cousin Itt…

…or I’m Sorry Suzanne, I Promise I Will Book an Appointment Soon.

Regardless of the level of infringement of hair upon one’s forehead (see what I did there?) it’s important to work with a blank canvas when applying makeup.

Pull your hair up into one of those butterfly clips. Hope that even though you have just piles of hair, it will somehow all stay up and will not fall out.

Try not to take it too personally when you are thwarted by your villainous mop.

Add a headband for good measure, then get distracted checking Twitter for a really long time.

All done? Great, now you’re ready to go!

STEP TWO: CONCEALER

From what I gather from the back of the bottle, it is important to cover up any blemishes, pimples, scars, moles, potmarks, pores, hairs … divots … just sort of anything that isn’t a little patch of skin. Though you can feel free to cover that up too, I mean, when in Rome.

Layer it nice and thick, because you wouldn’t want people seeing your blemishes.

I’m sure it was Shakespeare who said something like, “to blemish is to perish”, and we wouldn’t want that, would we?

STEP THREE: CONTOURING

Contouring is something that’s a bit new and special, I think. I picked up a book in Whitcoulls with a whole section on it, and it looked very interesting but also very complicated, so I put the book down and went to see if they had the new NW so I could decide Who Wore It Best. Spoiler: it’s usually the one that doesn’t go too crazy with the accessories. Come on, Hollywood. When will you learn?

What I gathered about contouring, from the brief time I spent with the book, was that you can basically redefine the shape of your face with makeup. Got a weak chin? No problem, just draw on a new one. An uneven hairline? No worries, just paint over it.

Start by contouring your nose, because this logically seems like the bit that should be contoured, as it sticks out more than the rest of your face does. Note that in this context, “contouring” means “put some concealer on it because it is the lightest makeup you have”.

Now comes the fun bit, where we add the… anti-contour. Do this with… what’s the opposite of concealer? Not sure.

What else comes in stick form? Lipstick?

Ok, that’ll do.

Colour in the side of your nose to make the top bit stand out more.

Be mildly alarmed at how good this looks already, and we haven’t even gotten to the jawline!

Colour in the jawline in a similar way, scribbling under your chin too, because nothing is worse than makeup that isn’t blended in, and also, this will make your face look slimmer. I’ve read Cosmo‘s advice to put dark colours on wide hips. I know how these things work.

Stare at your new face in quiet amazement. “Have you lost weight?”, “have you had work done?” they’ll ask, and you will just smile to yourself, knowing the secrets of a good contour should not be shared with workmates who constantly steal the last biscuit.

STEP FOUR: FOUNDATION

Now that we have our contouring done, we need to apply foundation. This will give even coverage over the rest of your uncontoured face.

Start by applying some foundation to a sponge. If you don’t have a sponge, feel to improvise with the corner of a kitchen one. A sponge is a sponge, right? I mean, as long as it’s clean. I got this one new, just for the record. Because whatever is going on with the one we have on the bench at the moment, I don’t even want to begin to think about. I think it’s basically a mini petri dish. Soon it may become sentient. I will awake one morning to see its once-blue-now-greyish form flopping over my face, leaving an oily sheen in its wake.

Moving on. It’s important to dab the foundation on instead of wiping it, so you don’t wipe all your contouring work away. When the sponge starts to feel dry, just add some more foundation. There’s no such thing as too much.

I really wanted to quote from the Spice Girls’ hit number Too Much here, but it turns out they make the opposite point.

Keep going until you’re all covered. Get the lips done too for good measure. Really, just do everything. Otherwise you may have to pick a point where eyes or lips begin or end, and who are you to decide that?

All done? Congratulations!

You’ve laid the base now, creating a natural look that can work for all sorts of daytime activities.

Picnic invite? No problem!

Day at the beach? Don’t mind if I do!

Of course, sometimes a lady wants to look extra special… so make sure to come back for the next instalment, where we will cover how to transform your daytime appearance into an evening look that’ll make those fellas clamour for more!

Grooming for the modern woman

It wasn’t until after lunch on Wednesday that I realised I’d pushed my “meh, I’ll just wash my hair tomorrow” mantra a step too far. My hair had formed two distinct and unique factions, and they were at war atop my head. My fringe was greasy and had formed thick strands, looking like I’d dumped a tablespoon of gel into the roots then had taken to it with a wide-toothed comb. If only I were good at smirking, I would have seamlessly fit into a 90s boy band.

Style inspiration.

Style inspiration.

While my fringe strands were binding together to form cohesive units, the rest of my hair had not received the memo about teamwork. It was a fluffy birds nest of disorder and mayhem. Each strand seemed to repel every other strand. One would curl, another would wave, and their third neighbour would rebel against the status quo and stubbornly lie flat.

The worst hair days always pick their timing well. I had dinner plans, and I didn’t realise the horror of my hairdo until about 4pm. After looking at myself in the mirror I was thrown into panic, and emailed my sister. She’s pretty, and her clothes always look nice, and she buys beauty products from places other than New World. I knew I could count on her.

“Just use dry shampoo” she suggested. “Or if you don’t have any of that, some talcum powder”.

I like the world she lives in, where she thinks (a) I would know that dry shampoo existed or (b) I might casually just have some talcum powder in my desk drawer at work.

I went back to the mirror and managed to get my fringe to sit together as just one fat clump instead of several thinner clumps. I wasn’t sure if this was better or worse.

I went back to my sister, this time taking a picture to try and emphasise the gravity of the situation. Worried that my phone might slightly pixelate the image—maybe smoothing some of the more offensive lines—I made sure to make my face match the hair.

This also doubles as my pirate impression.

This also doubles as my pirate impression.

“Looks great!” she sent back.

Obviously I was going to have to rely on my own ingenuity.

I stood in the work bathroom and attempted to fix it. I didn’t have a hairbrush, nor any products, so “fixing it” just meant “rearranging it with my fingers, probably introducing more grease to the situation, sighing heavily about the futility of it all”.

I clomped back to my desk and emailed her again.

“Is it crazy to cancel dinner plans because of bad hair?” I asked.

“Yes.” she replied.

Ok, fine. I guess I’ll just rely on my … personality? No. Ok. Back to the bathroom.

I appraised my hair from all angles, deciding that the birds nest was salvageable, it was the fringe that was causing me the most consternation. Reaching a breaking point, I turned the taps on full and dunked my head under, before I had time to decide if this was really a good idea or not.

Now I had a fluffy halo, wet hair in my eyes, and no hairdryer. I attempted to blot it with paper towels, but with ten minutes to go before I had to leave, this was not going to cut it.

I looked at the hand dryer, wondering what would happen if my hair got sucked up into the mechanism and caught on fire. I decided the risk was worth it. I squatted underneath the hand-dryer, waving my left hand around on top of my head to keep the airflow going, fluffing my fringe with my right, hoping that no one would walk in. I’m not sure of the legality behind judging a workmate for their bathroom behaviours, but I feel that in this case, the damage to my reputation would be justified.

Five minutes later and it was dry. Aside from the bits at the side—which were now jauntily flicking outwards like two little ski jumps framing my face—it looked exactly the same. The grease had stayed put, even through its water bath. Part of me was a little proud of its resilience.

Returning to my office, I rummaged in the work drawer for some perfume or lipstick or something, anything, to make me feel like I could approximate a woman who had her life sorted. Nothing. Well, not nothing. An broken eyeliner pencil and a bottle of Mariah Carey’s Honey Lollipop Bling.

Now, to Mariah’s credit, this fragrance does smell a bit like honey. Sadly, it’s a step removed. It’s more like honey-flavoured cough lozenges, dipped in sugar.

I am definitely too old to own this product.

I am definitely too old to own this product.

Deciding that smelling like a teenager’s medicine cabinet wouldn’t help, I set off to the city, planning to dash through Farmers on the way to dinner to steal a spritz of something fancy that I wouldn’t be able to afford to actually buy. Perhaps if I smelled like Gucci’s idea of a flower, my dinner companions might be tricked into thinking my hair was intentional. Some sort of avant-garde, retro-throwback, half-and-half-juxtaposition ‘do, something they were doing in France, that just wasn’t here yet.

I made it to Farmers and immediately realised their shop layout was going to work against me. Perfumes were displayed in towers, little testers all begging to improve my life … and all behind a counter.

“Um, hi” I said to the woman behind the counter. “Can I smell the um, the new, um, Kenzo?”, picking the first brand I’d heard of.

“Which one, dear?” she asked, immediately calling into question my trend knowledge.

“Oh, I’m not sure. I just, um, travelled internationally, recently, and I smelled something at the airport that I liked” I said, making sure that she knew that I could afford a plane ticket, thank you very much.

Maybe it was wishful thinking, but I swear she stood a little straighter.

“What was it like?” she asked.

“Um, sort of, fresh? Ish?” I said.

She tapped her finger on her chin, thoughtfully, perhaps wondering where on the financial spectrum I sat between “shove her towards the deodorant aisle” and “talk her into Givenchy’s latest aroma”. When she said, “well, Madonna has put out a fragrance?” I won’t lie, I took it personally, and cursed my fringe again.

She sprayed bits of cardboard, I smelled them. She asked me what I thought and I made “mmm?” noises. She talked about base notes and I nodded gravely, staring into the middle distance, trying to look like someone who understood what she was talking about. After declaring I didn’t like lemon, but that I did like cupcakes, we seemed to be narrowing towards a decision, and I felt pressure mounting to pick one.

“This one, the green one? This is good?” I said. “Ooh, Versace” she said. “Lovely choice. Would you like me to package it up?”

“Oh, I might just wear some for the day, I think, then decide tomorrow?” I said, hoping she’d leave me alone to apply it in privacy. My plan was thwarted when she gestured for me to roll up my sleeves and I realised in horror she wasn’t going to leave, and that I was going to get a shop-assistant-applied, barely-there spritz, instead of the full-body douse I’d been planning on.

I was tempted again to just cancel. Then I remembered the Body Shop.

Ten minutes later I sat at dinner, sporting a 90s fringe with 60s side-flicks, wild birds nest hair, and a vague hint of Versace under a liberal application of something called ‘Love Etc’.

I was exhausted. Thank goodness I wouldn’t have to rely on personality.