H is for Hair

The next chapter in the Dictionary of Me is a bit of an insight into my vanity… I guess most women are vain in some way… aren’t they?  I mean, has anyone ever done a research project into the % of western women that own a mirror?  I would think that would be pretty close to 99%, right?

I’m pretty sure that I’ve spent more money on my hair over the course of my 30 years than I have on all the make-up I’ve ever bought.  In fact, the investment in my hair would probably equate to somewhere between four times the amount I’ve spent on skincare and maybe a quarter of what I’ve spent on clothes… but probably roughly equal to what I’ve spent on shoes in my life.  Isn’t the currency of women a fabulous thing?

So, my hair.  Where do I start?  I considered making this a photographic post, so you could all laugh as I took you on a trip along the Hair Horror Highway that was my childhood and early teens.  But with divorced parents and a distinct lack of organisation skills when it comes to photo storage, that would’ve required a few trips around Australia to gather the “evidence” and I probably would’ve chickened out when my vanity came face to face with harsh reality.

So instead, you will have to use your imagination, which for some of you, will make this even more enjoyable.

The possibility of me having gorgeous hair in childhood was sabotaged by two things:

1)  I grew up in the 80’s
2)  My mum often had her sister (my aunt) cut my hair… the same sister that used to cut my mother’s hair using a pair of scissors and a bowl when they were both young girls.

For several years I endured a ‘page boy’ cut, which was just a euphemism for bowl cut, which later turned into this bizarre wind-tunnel-inspired look that was probably meant to be based on Farrah‘s famous hair, but simply managed to age a ten year old by 20 years.

But, although I am making this sound like my mother tortured me from birth, she was actually kind enough to introduce me to the wonders of changing one’s hair colour.  At age eleven, I got my first blonde “streaks” and since then, my hair has never spent a day being it’s natural colour.  In fact, if you asked me what my natural colour is, I couldn’t tell you.  My hair has been:

– mousey brown with blonde streaks
– brown and caramel foiled to within an inch of it’s life
– chestnut brown
– mahogony red / auburn
– dark brown with red rinse
– black with purple ‘tufts’
– black with blue ‘tufts’
– black with red ‘tufts’ (ok you get the idea)
– platinum blonde
– yellow, whilest on the way to platinum blonde
– black
– darkest brown

It’s been darkest brown for some time now, so I may have grown out of my compulsion to change my hair as often as I change my socks, but I think this is more out of laziness than maturity.

My hair has also been chemically enhanced every which way – perms, chemically straightened, treatments, proteins, exotically made (and priced) conditioners, ionic equipment, you name it, I’ve tried it.  Once I even went on a hair-detox and didn’t wash it for a whole year.  Seriously.

The cupboard under the bathroom sink is full of hair gels, creams, glosses, mooses, sprays, heat treatments, bobbypins, hair elastics, clasps, hairdryers, hair straighteners, hair curlers, brushes, combs and swizzel-sticks. It’s a wonder I have any hair left on my head!

In summary, the many sides to my hair = the many sides to Justine.

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F is for Friends

In a bid to catch up on the ground I’ve lost recently in the Dictionary of Me project, I’m going to dive straight into the next chapter.

F is for Friends

A lot of people I know have friends they’ve known for most of their lives. They grew up next door to one another, or met in primary school and have been friends ever since. I’m not one of those people. I don’t exactly know why… possibly because I went from Sydney (aged 0 to roughly 4) to Brisbane (aged 4 to 7) where I started school and then back to Sydney again where I was made to repeat a year due to the differences in the NSW and QLD schooling systems.

Then when I left primary school I didn’t go to the local highschool like everyone else, and a few months into my first year of highschool my parents split and I was a bit of a loner for the first year or so.

In my teens, I don’t think I really knew who I was or what I stood for and therefore made some really poor choices in friendships. In fact it wasn’t until my early twenties that I really started to make some friends that I still hold dear to this day.

So let this be an ode to my friends: “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”

To Andrew, my oldest and dearest soul mate. He understands me like no other and knows more about me than the rest of my friends put together. A writer, a poet and a gentleman. A tough exterior for a marshmallow centre. You will be my best friend for life. I’m sorry I am so crap at calling you.

To Elizabeth, the most surprising friendship I’ve ever made, and one for which I am eternally grateful. We are kindred spirits brought together through a mutual love-slash-disdain for reality television and held together through mutual respect and admiration. She is my rock.

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E is for Expectations

The long awaited next chapter in the Dictionary of Me, I’ll be frank and say I found it hard to come up with something for the letter E!

E is for Expectations

If I’ve learned one thing in my 30 years on this planet, it’s that very rarely do things play out as you expect them to. And coupled with that, I’ve learned that if I can diminish or limit or control my expectations of matters in which I have little to no control, then it’s a lot easier to remain positive and upbeat with life in general.

Another way of saying this is, life will continue to throw shit at you and how you deal with it defines and shapes the person you become.

I’m not a psychiatrist by any means, nor a trained anthropologist, but this is just one of those “laws of life” that I’ve observed over the years.

My expectations of myself are very high. I don’t have a problem with this though, because I have control of the outcome. I think this trait in me is why I have achieved a lot in my career, why I continually challenge myself to do new things, to grow as a person and to work on my flaws.

I am the first to admit that one of those flaws is that I struggle to limit my expectations of others. I like to be an optimist, and I think I can confuse optimism with high expectations sometimes. I think I can usually see the best in people, or see their potential, which often means I place expectations on them which are often higher than what they expect of themselves, which is always a recipe for disappointment (for me, that is!)

In no other area is this more profound than as a partner to Adam and as a parent to my son.

The word “expectations” is used regularly in my relationship when trying to diagnose the root cause of some of our more recurring issues. Thankfully it’s not one sided unrealistic expectations, so we’ve learned a lot from each other in diminishing this impact on our relationship.

It does freak me out as a parent though, because the last thing in the world I want is to make my son feel inadequate, or that he doesn’t have my approval.  In my view, this is one of the most damaging forms of emotional abuse (harsh words, but necessary to demonstrate the weight I place on this) that a parent can deliver to a child. Promoting a spirit of “wanting to excel and achieve” in a child is very different to setting them unrealistic benchmarks that make them feel like a failure when they don’t meet them. This is by far the biggest motivation I have for learning to modify and limit my expectations of others.

D is for Dad

Jumping back to D now in the Dictionary of Me, and back to a slightly subdued subject that is a bit more personal than my silly tendency for waterworks, or my unhealthy obsession for chocolate

D is for Dad

Growing up, I was always “daddy’s little girl”, and I thought my dad could walk on water.  I honestly thought he was the best thing since sliced bread.

Looking back now, I realise that this was probably because my mum always had to be the task-master and the disciplinarian.  In comparison, my father was away on business a lot and when he was around, he never asked me to clean my room, or punished me for punching my brother for no good reason… so he probably seemed like peaches and cream to a 5 year old!

When I was 12 years old, my parents separated and I chose to live with my father.  My brother chose to live with my mum.  Shortly after the separation, my dad lost his job.  He struggled to find more work, so when a job came up that required an hour and a half commute each way, he decided to take it anyway.

Initially he did the commute each day, but three hours of travel every day started to take it’s toll on him.  At this stage, I was 15 years of age.  Many a parent in the same situation would have looked for alternative work closer to home.  But my dad chose to rent a house closer to his work, with the view to staying every second night there.  Every second night quickly became a case of leaving me on Monday morning and not returning til Friday night.  So at 15 years old, I was basically living on my own.

Interestingly, even at this age, I still thought my dad was pretty fantastic (as most unsupervised teenagers would) and I never really questioned his decisions in these matters.

The fall out between me and my dad can pretty much be isolated to Christmas 1998.  This Christmas was particularly memorable because it was about 15 days before I was due to leave the country with a one-way ticket to London in hand and my bags packed for a travel adventure in Europe for up to two years.

Growing up, Christmas was always a magical time with the 5.30am wake up, jumping on parent’s beds to wake them up, opening of gifts, pancakes for breakfast, eating Christmas lunch together… the usual!  But this Christmas, my father had his new wife and so despite waking at 5.30am as I have done since I was a girl, I lay patiently in bed waiting for them to get up (as fun as it might have been to jump on my step-mother, I resisted the urges). 

I heard some movement in the kitchen and went downstairs to wish them a Merry Christmas and was greeted with a very lack-lustre reception.  They were each fixing their own breakfast, and didn’t offer me anything.  I gave them each their gifts and well thought through cards which thanked them for allowing me to live with them in the three months leading up to my departure (to save money).  They each opened their cards and gifts and without barely looking up, thanked me and turned back to their breakfast.  Seemed that sitting around the tree was not going to happen this year.

I waited patiently most of the morning, wondering when my father might offer me a Christmas card, but instead I watched on as they seemed to be getting showered and dressed to go out…

I asked where we were going, should I be getting ready too?

My father replied, “Oh we are going to B & M’s, but you’re not invited”.

Taking a sharp breath and sucking back tears that felt like they were at boiling temperature and might actually sear my eyes if I didn’t let them stream soon, I casually enquired whether he had a card or a gift for me.

“Oh we’re going to give you some money for your trip.  You don’t need a card do you?”

Amazingly, I managed to calmly walk outside to sit with my dog until they left the house.  I then promptly burst into tears and rang my mum, who lived 5 hours away and sat helpless on the other end of the phone wondering why it was taking humankind so long to invent the teleport machine.

A gorgeous friend of mine took me in with her family that day.  But my relationship with my father never really recovered from it.  There were many many more incidents that contributed to the dissolution of our relationship from that point onwards, but I won’t go into them.

Almost 10 years on, I’ve reached a level of understanding of him that allows me to just accept him for who he is and what he can offer – which isn’t much.  For too many years I held on to a lot of anger, disappointement and (weirdly) hope that he might ‘wake up’ one day and realise what a terrible and absent father he’d been.  But he is who he is and I have to just accept that he will never be any more than that or I will tear myself apart with the weight of “expectations”.

Now that I am a parent, I have also realised that parents make mistakes.  They are human.  But the lesson I have learned from my own childhood is that parents should also be able to say ‘sorry’ and recognise that the impact of certain actions on their child can often be more long-lasting than they realise.  A simple “I’m sorry” can go such a long way with a child.

Case in point : this poor boy will be scarred for some time…

S is for Sobbing Sook

I know this was originally supposed to be A through to Z, but I’m struggling with D a bit and then has inspiration for S.  So, you’ll just have to deal with this random jump ahead!

A is for Adam
B is for Bitch

C is for Chocolate

S is for Sobbing Sook

When I was a little girl, my mum used to call me “Hard As Nails”. She called me this because it was immensely difficult to move me. Not physically of course (I was always a thin girl!), but emotionally. I never cried in Lassie. I watched ET six times and never cried. Christmas, my mum would blubber for no apparent reason, and I would watch on bemused with no idea where my mother might have left her mind.

But, then I had a child. I have absolutely no idea how pregnancy hormones rewire your brain synapses, but they do. They must. Because why would Miss Hard As Nails suddenly become Miss Cry At The Drop Of A Hat?

While I was pregnant, I expected a lot of unexplained emotions. So I could rationalise the spontaneous crying every time the Kleenex ad with the duckling came on the TV. And for a while there, after my son was born, I thought it was completely normal to cry at the Huggies advertising much like this “Hugs” ad.

But I fear, it is getting out of control. I sob every single time I watch Jerry McGuire. I go to water during the Workcover and TAC advertising on TV (see below).

TAC’s Pictures of You:

Workcover’s Homecoming:

And most recently, only 20 minutes in to the movie, The Bucket List – tears were streaming down my face.

By the end of that film, not that you would know it from the trailer, I was sobbing so much that I was suppressing the little sharp intakes of breath that are a dead giveaway in a quiet cinema that you have lost complete control of your emotions.

Am I the only one that suffers from this affliction? Am I the only sad-sack, sooky-lala, silly-sobbing sociopath?

C is for Chocolate

This is a meme that I will call the Dictionary of Me. It started over at Bella Dia’s blog and I found it on Cherry Blossom Adventures. Although I know I won’t be as disciplined to do one letter per day, I think it’s a great opportunity to open up to anyone reading my blog and also to help me fine tune my writing skills. I often post on here with a spare five or ten minutes, not giving much consideration to the style or composition, and it’s something I want to minimise from now on.

I encourage comments, because I find it hard to open up at the best of times, but it’s even more difficult when I don’t even know that anyone is listening. I encourage you to share back, particularly when you can identify with what I am writing. It’s nice to hear that you’re not alone!

_________________

C is for Chocolate

Chocolate is my vice, my Achilles Heel, my one true love. I have an incredible sweet tooth, so much so that I will generally select a restaurant purely on the strength of its dessert menu. If you want a list of the Top 10 best desserts in Melbourne, I am your woman.

I blame my sweet tooth on my wonderful mother. Although ‘blame’ is probably the wrong word, because I actually thank her for it! In 1977, it was customary to start your baby on solids at the tender age of four months old (which I personally am vehemently opposed to in 2008) and at that time, baby Justine was not terribly interested in stewed pear, or mashed sweet potato. But she was a huge fan of Strawberry Instant Pudding:

instantpudding.jpg

My mother was a little alarmed that this was all that her precious daughter would ingest (besides glorious mother’s milk, of course) and spoke to her GP about it. He told her that if that’s all I would eat, that’s what she should feed me. So that, was that.

And so it goes that the love of all things sweet resides in every fibre of my being.

But back to Chocolate. My love of chocolate is indiscriminate. As I work in marketing, in the marketplace home to Cadbury and MARS, I am well aware of the theories and thinking behind product development, advertising and demographic targeting in this category of small goods. And in saying that, I can confirm that I debunk every chocolate marketer’s theory on who they think wants, needs, consumes and loves their products.

Snickers is supposedly only consumed by blue-collar males, between the hours of 3pm and 5pm as a tie over between meals. Whatever, I had one for morning tea yesterday.

Cadbury will tell you that their 250g blocks of chocolate are for ‘family sharing’ and are pulled out during ‘family moments’. What a crock, I hide my blocks of Cadbury from my partner and child and scoff 250g in one sitting when they leave the house to walk the dog!

Freddo Frogs are apparently for children (pffft), Boost is for young men (what the?), boxed chocolates are supposedly for gifts… I don’t think a box of chocolate would be safe long enough in my house to even get wrapped let alone actually given away.

Chocolate is about as essential to me as air. There is not a day that goes by when I don’t either take a trip to the vending machine at work, sneak a Tim Tam from my secret stash at the back of the fridge, steal chocolate from a friend or sit with a tub of double chocolate icecream in front of the TV.

I don’t need cigarettes. I don’t need drugs. I actually would happily give up alcohol if I could be promised a lifetime supply of chocolate in its place.

That’s me : Chocoholic and proud.

***

A is for Adam
B is for Bitch

B is for Bitch

This is a meme that I will call the Dictionary of Me. It started over at Bella Dia’s blog and I found it on Cherry Blossom Adventures. Although I know I won’t be as disciplined to do one letter per day, I think it’s a great opportunity to open up to anyone reading my blog and also to help me fine tune my writing skills. I often post on here with a spare five or ten minutes, not giving much consideration to the style or composition, and it’s something I want to minimise from now on.

I encourage comments, because I find it hard to open up at the best of times, but it’s even more difficult when I don’t even know that anyone is listening. I encourage you to share back, particularly when you can identify with what I am writing. It’s nice to hear that you’re not alone!

_________________

B is for Bitch

Sounds pretty self-deprecating, I know. But it’s true, I am a B.I.T.C.H.

I could blame my star sign (Leos are very black and white, grey doesn’t exist for us!), or I could blame the global ratio of fools to intelligent life forms, but in reality, it’s my own affliction and I am ok with owning that.

My therapist will tell you that I suffer from Low Frustration Tolerance (or LFT).  My first boss will tell you that “Justine doesn’t suffer fools lightly”.  I might be know to say “you should know better!”.  But whichever way you look at it, I have a tendency to place high expectations on those around me and vilify them if they struggle to meet said expectations.

To me, and most of the world, that makes me a bitch. 

However, it’s something I’ve been trying to work on for years.  I believe I’ve made the most progress since last year when my Cognitive Behaviour Therapist explained LFT to me.  Just by making me aware of the irrational thinking patterns that lead to LFT made me realise how much I identified with it.  In fact, it’s safe to say that the whole notion of ‘how things should be’ has been a major limiting factor in most of my relationships and experiences to date.

Here is a recipe from the “Book of Stewing.”  The meat for the recipe is, “I must be accepted and appreciated by everyone for everything I do.”  Mix it with the batter of, “You must always support me and put me above everyone and everything else.  Spoil me without expecting anything from me in return.”  Sprinkle it with a seasoning of, “All circumstances must be exactly the way I want them and if they are not, my life is terrible, you’re terrible, and this place is terrible.”  These three ingredients, when mixed, will automatically turn on the “pressure cooker.”  Stew and seethe it all day long.  Note that stewing and seething will be often accompanied by “internal fire-works” that will heat the produce to a “raging” temperature :  A kitchen where this recipe is cooked drives everyone away except the Chef.  Later, the heat gets unbearable even for the Chef.    

I have, in the past, blamed my tendency to over-analyse situations or people for the anger and annoyance I feel for them (and the ensuing bitchy reaction).  But last year I realised that analysis of a situation or a person is only unproductive when the thinking behind that analysis is based on the premise of how things “should” be, or how things “must” be.

It’s interesting that I’ve only really come to realise how damaging all this can be when I’ve been involved with a partner who is also of LFT persuasion.  It’s the reason we have such raging arguements!

In 2008, I want to rid myself of LFT.  I don’t think it’s possible for me to get to the other end of the scale to HFT – that will take a while longer.  But one of my biggest goals of the year is for my partner and I to find ways to combat our LFT together.

Maybe then, I can change this entry to B is for Benevolence.

***

A is for Adam
C is for Chocolate