August 3, 2015

CAFE DEATH STARE

I love eating out in cafes. I love the coffee, the food, the atmosphere, and the delight the wait staff take in attending to my every need.

Today, however, my lunch time experience was disappointing, to say the least. And, as I am not in the mood to say the least, I will say the most, which was that it was unpleasant, uncomfortable, and, frankly, a little terrifying.

I arrived at the cafe before my friend, Lana, who had asked me to pre-order her a coffee. Sadly, by the time she arrived the waiter had not taken my coffee order, so she joked goodnaturedly with him about the fact that I had let her down.

The waiter didn't get her humour at all, and wandered off in a state of confusion, which I cannot condemn, because Lana's humour can be hard to understand.

I snapped this pic of our waitress mid-stare

But then he took our order, which included a baguette (for me) and poched eggs for Lana. Yes, the menu said 'poched' eggs. Which is fine, really, because I can forgive a typo. A poched egg is an egg by any other name. Except that when Lana ordered her poached eggs, and I muttered 'poched' under my breath, the waiter looked monumentally unimpressed. Perhaps he simply believed the scrambled eggs were a better choice, but either way, it was a loveless moment.

Still, the worst was yet to come. Because when my baguette arrived it was the size of a newborn - like, a proper newborn human, not one of those minuscule newborn kangaroos that look like jelly beans for the first weeks of their lives. Lana's eggs, however, were teeny tiny. I mean, the eggs were regular size - not, like, newborn kangaroo size - but they were perched on one piece on toast, and it was a pretty fucking small piece of toast at that. Seriously. That toast could not have fit a newborn human's handprint, let alone filled an adult sized human's stomach.

So, having a horror for unfairness and adversity, I beckoned to the waiter.

"Can she have another piece of toast?" I asked. "That one is teeny tiny."

Well, he looked shocked. Truly. I might as well have asked him for newborn kangaroo on a plate of mashed yeast. There were some disapproving looks, some rustling in the kitchen, and then a waitress who we had never seen before flounced out, dropped the toast on the table, and issued Lana with a death stare capable of freezing full sized mammals of all description in their tracks and shattering them to pieces. It was like looking into the eyes of a psycho killer. There was just blackness there. Dark pools of anger and revenge.

Lana did not finish her toast. She was too frightened. I finished my baguette, because no mere confrontation with a murderous waitress can dampen my appetite. And, to be honest, it was a delicious baguette. Much, much better than the poched eggs.

All in all, it was an unsettling experience, and I am still recovering. As for Lana, well, the food poisoning hasn't kicked in yet, but we are monitoring her progress by the hour.

Have you ever had a bad restaurant experience? And would you eat poched kanga on rye?

July 31, 2015

Things I Should Have Sorted by 40, But Haven't

I am 46. That is closer to 50 than 40. (And yes, you probably worked that out yourself, but I'm still coming to terms with it.) By now I should probably have worked out this Adulting gig. I've been doing it for a long, long long time.

But there are still things I haven't figured out, despite my advanced age: things I should have sorted by 40, but haven't.

  1. I am still searching for the ideal hair and skin care products. I have not yet accepted the reality that it's not the products that are imperfect, it is my hair and skin.
  2. I still let paperwork pile up in huge mounds around my house. I have tried 758,000 filing systems over the past three decades, and not one of them has eliminated the mounds.
  3. I still sometimes eat my feelings.
  4. I am still a sucker for clothing bargains and am forever purchasing non-returnable items on sale that I hate the minute I bring them home.
  5. I am still incredibly trusting, and get fooled by liars time and time again.
  6. I still bite my nails. Even my acrylic nails.
  7. I still run out of bread and milk all the time.
  8. I still confuse sex with love.
  9. I still don't have a formal exercise regime. Or even a casual exercise regime.
  10. I still lose my temper with the kids and regret it afterwards.
  11. I still don't know the capital cities of many countries in the world, despite really, truly trying to memorise them.
  12. I still don't have a signature dish. I don't even have a signature drink.
  13. I still fret if I don't get enough sleep.
  14. I still assume people are dead or angry with me if they don't text me back straight away.
  15. I still need therapy.
What about you?

July 22, 2015

Why Looks Matter, Though I Wish They Didn't

In a recent post I referenced a woman who had shamed a man who didn't find her attractive because she was fat. Very contentious stuff. And I've been thinking about it a lot since.

Attraction is important. We are not just brains - we are brains walking around in bodies with faces attached. Our bodies and faces are as much a part of who were are as our minds. And our brains have a tremendous influence on our bodies and faces. Think about it. What do you eat? How much do you exercise? How much makeup do you wear? What clothes do you choose? How do you do your hair? Do you have tattoos/piercings/weird feather type things sticking out from odd places? 

All of these decisions come from your brain, and will change your appearance accordingly.

But it works the other way, too. We are all born with a particular body - a body that can be altered to an extent, but not entirely. How tall or short we are, how conventionally attractive our features, our genetic predisposition to being thin or fat, any disabilities or illnesses, will all dramatically affect our personalities.

My last boyfriend.

We are a combination of mind and body. And when we meet other people, we are attracted to their particular combination of mind and body, or we are not. 

I don't really understand the science of attraction. I know that I can find classically good looking men remarkably uninteresting, and can be devastatingly attracted to men who would be more suited to the cover of Horse and Hound magazine than Men's Health. But I also know that I can have a visceral repulsion towards a man who may be perfectly pleasant in personality, but whose appearance triggers something negative in me. It may have nothing whatsover to do with traditional notions of beauty, but rather his appearance doesn't resonate with me for reasons I can't articulate.

Of course, attraction is fluid. We can find someone unattractive on first meeting, get to know them, and decide they're not so bad after all. I remember thinking a friend's husband was the least attractive man in the universe until I became friends with him, and realised he was nice looking after all. As I said, brains and body are inextricably connected.

But what to do when you're dating? And is judging people on their looks something we should feel bad about? Lana and I discussed these issues the other day. Would love to hear your thoughts.


July 9, 2015

Keep Personal Correspondence Out Of The Public Arena - A Very Unpopular Argument

Yesterday I got into a discussion/debate with a number of commenters about a recent post in which a woman shared correspondence between her and a man she met on Tinder. The man wrote her a detailed email explaining that whilst he very much liked her, he wasn't attracted to her body because it was fat. The woman responded to him in her blog in an angry message explaining why he could kiss her arse.

I think (believe, know) the woman had every right to respond with whichever words she chose to the man in question. What alarms me is that she chose to do it publicly.

The woman is not alone. Recently Em Rusciano, a columnist I greatly admire and like personally, published a column about an awful man on Tinder who body shamed a potential date. Again, the correspondence was shared.

And Em is also not alone. This is a huge trend in social media at the moment. When people receive private correspondence that they do not like, or find hurtful or abusive, they share it online. And I'm not stupid. I understand the reasoning. There is an intense desire to shame the person involved, to expose them for the nasty piece of work they are. And there is an empowerment in shaming someone who has hurt you. It feels good to get it out in the open, and receive approbation and affirmation from countless strangers.

But that doesn't make it right. I don't believe it is okay to share personal correspondence online.

For one thing, we all make mistakes. We all hurt people. No, we are not all arseholes, but even arseholes are not arseholes all the time. If you feel it is okay to shame someone else, then you have to be prepared to be shamed yourself. And how would you feel if your own personal correspondence was shared? If you were nasty to a lover, or friend, in an unwise, unguarded moment, and they shared your text or email with the entire world?

And if you answer "I wouldn't care, because I wouldn't do that, and if I did I would deserve it," then ask yourself carefully: have you really never written anything of which you have been ashamed? Have you really never made fun of someone behind their back, or shot off an angry text, or been cruel? Have you really never done anything to which someone else could take offence?


And even if you answer no, think about this. Do we want a world where people jump online every time they are disgruntled? Where we no longer deal with personal issues between ourselves, but take them into the public arena for the world to referee? We try to teach our children to work through their differences without running to their parents or teachers, and yet what are we teaching them by racing to the internet every time when we have a dispute with another person?

If a person offends you, deal with them. Tell them how you feel. And if they continue to upset you, block them. Delete their messages. When you block someone they don't exist anymore. They are gone. It is a very powerful tool.

And obviously if they are threatening or harassing you, go to the police. Take out a restraining order. Threaten them with legal action. If a person is dangerous, you're certainly not going to protect yourself by shaming them publicly.

There are undoubtedly some situations in which disclosure is in the best interests of the public, for example when they involve authority figures or criminal activities or threats to public safety. But to have 'running to social media' as the default position for issues between two individuals creates all sorts of problems. We will become a society in which the morality is held externally, in the Greek chorus of the online world. And we will lose our personal resilience, to be able to deal with interpersonal difficulties without the assistance and intervention of a thousand strangers.

I know most people will disagree with me. But you can also rest assured that any personal correspondence sent to me will remain private. And I bet that even those who disagree with me will find that
reassuring.

July 6, 2015

THE TROLL EDITION

If there is one thing I don't want to be it's a hypocrite. I mean, there are lots of things I don't want to be. I don't want to be a leper, or a communist, or a parking officer, or a contestant on a reality show. But I also don't want to be a hypocrite. Not being a hypocrite is one of my Core Values.

And so, in giving with my Not Being A Hypocrit-ism, I must be prepared to be criticised. I make my living, in part, by writing opinion pieces, and if I am allowed to have my own opinions then other people must be allowed to have their opinions of me.

And here's the thing: not everyone will like what I write. Sometimes I write pieces that get floods of positive feedback, messages and emails and tweets and balloonagrams from the sky. (Okay, not balloonagrams, but we do like balloons here, so if you feel moved to send one, please contact me for my address.) But no matter how well received a piece is, there will always be someone who doesn't agree. No matter how much people love my writing, there will always be someone who thinks I'm shit. And no matter how many people love my work, there will always be someone who cannot stand the very sight of my name. (I must say, I'm included in that last one - I've always thought 'Kerri' was a pretty poor moniker.)

So if someone wants to express their dislike for my work, they should feel free to do so. Not that they need my permission, of course. But I'm giving it anyway (which will probably piss them right off). I genuinely, truly do not care if someone says I am a terrible writer, or that my opinions suck, or that my hair looks really bad now that it's been cut. (Oh GOD, I lie, I do care if you don't like my hair. Do you like my hair? Please tell me you like my hair!)

Obviously if someone is threatening, or brings up my family, or reveals intimate details of my life (it is MY decision when I tell you about my secret marriage to Simon Baker, NOT YOURS) I will come out fighting. But criticism, no matter how rudely expressed or laughably phrased, is absolutely fine.

So when Lana told me about some nasty comments about me on GOMI ("Get Off My Internets") recently, I was amused. We talk about it at length (well, five minutes is a length) in this video below. I also address those rumours about my divorce and my sex life with a female online personality. Exciting stuff indeed. Keep it going, GOMI!!!!!!

June 16, 2015

Dreams of the Dead

Shortly after my sister died I had a dream. It was unlike any dream I’d had before, or have had since. It was crystal clear and in full colour, with none of the sepia fuzz or blurred edges of regular dreams. It was absolutely indistinguishable from real life.

I was in a corridor at a party, surrounded by people, with music blaring. I looked up and I saw my sister dancing toward me. Tanya had been ill for years before she died, but in the dream she was healthy, beautiful, and radiantly happy.

She smiled at me, and we had a brief conversation, too intimate to be repeated here. But I said what I needed to say to her, and her reply was just what I needed to hear.

I woke up with an absolutely overpowering sense of having just had a conversation with my sister. Her voice rang in my ear, as real as the sounds you can hear now. It was odd and unsettling, but incredibly comforting to me.


I am not a spiritual person. I have never believed in the spirit world, or in life after death. I never for a moment imagined that I could communicate with my sister, and I’m still not sure that I did. But the dream felt like I had communicated with her, and it gave me the closure that I so desperately needed. It gave me a final conversation with my sister that I did not get a chance to have in real life.

Tanya has appeared in my dreams many times since, but never again in that same way. My dreams of her are often distressing; she is there, but I know that she shouldn’t be there because she is dead, and my dream self is confused trying to work it all out.

I asked friends if they ever dreamed of their lost loved ones and, overwhelmingly, they do. Some like D, whose husband died suddenly last year, have profoundly upsetting dreams in which their loved one is lost over and over again.  

“I'm always chasing him, begging him to come back, to stay with me and our three sons. He never answers my questions, never looks at me in these dreams. He just walks away and ignores my pleading. I hope to one day have a comforting dream with him in it.”

Others find their dreams to be uplifting, offering another glimpse of that deeply missed person.
“I recently renovated and moved into my late parents’ home,” says M, “and they visited me in a dream – they were so happy to be at my housewarming. I believe they were just letting me know they approve.”
And C, who dreamed of her late father when she was pregnant. “He came and sat next to me in his favourite tennis shorts, put his hand on my belly and told me we're having a girl and she will be fine. Two weeks later we found out we were having a girl and she is now almost seven. I believe dreaming of our departed is them coming to say hello.”

And yet many others, like me, feel bereft when they wake, as their conscious mind remembers what their dream state did not.

“It is comforting during the dream,” said S, who lost a parent, “but achingly sad when I wake and have to process the loss again.”

Of course it is sad. There is always going to be sadness in death. And I wouldn’t wish my dreams of Tanya away, not even the ones that cause me pain. It is okay for me to feel pain when I remember my sister, or when I conjure her in my dreaming. She was in my life for 37 years, and she will always be part of the fabric of who I am, whether or not she is still alive.

I’ve long since stopped wondering whether my initial, hyper realistic dream was anything more significant than just my brain grieving a loss. I know now that it really doesn’t matter. Whether it was my sister visiting me from beyond, or my subconscious being super kind to my conscious, is irrelevant. It helped me more than any grief counselling or sympathy. At the time it was just what I needed.


My sister is gone, but she lives on in my dreams. And I cherish that. It means she is still with me, that she is not forgotten. I hope that I dream of her for the rest of my life.

This column first appeared in Sunday Life magazine

June 12, 2015

Ask Me About Dating!

So... a couple of weeks ago I was approached by eHarmony to participate in a series of videos about dating and relationships. At first I assumed I was chosen because I am such an expert in matters of love and sex - after all, I have written extensively on the subject and been on about 17,000 dates with 16,999 different men.

As discussions continued, however, it became clear that the videos would feature a REAL expert in love and sex, and that I would be there as an example of someone who needs help.

Which is fine. Really. I'm totally cool with that. As is my cat, who will probably eat my body after I die alone....



Anyway. I like eHarmony. I've actually met a couple of really nice men through eHarmony (and one dude who turned out to be a complete and utter nob, but that really wasn't the fault of the website). And I'm excited to be meeting Melanie Schilling, the Proper Relationship Expert. I have all sorts of questions for her, like:

1. How long should you chat to someone before you actually meet them?
2. Do you need to give someone a reason why you don't wish to see them again?
3. Why was that dude such an utter nob?

Even more excitingly, as the video won't be shot for another couple of weeks, I can ask any questions that you have for Melanie. You can write them as a comment here on the blog, in Facebook or on Twitter, or email me directly if you want to remain anonymous, at k.sack@live.com and we will address them in the video.

For those of you who do not require dating advice, after you finish celebrating your paired-up status, feel free to ask me about my own dating experiences. I have some super interesting stories to tell.

Begin!

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