About kateomateo

23yo journalist Lover of orange juice, the colour black and funny stuff Probably bangin' on about an inside joke from 10 years ago...

The Inconvenient Truth About Shark Attacks

A recent article I wrote for the UTS ‘At the Festival’ publication as part of the 2016 Sydney Writer’s Festival. Check out the website here:

https://atthefestival.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/the-inconvenient-truth-about-shark-attacks/

Dr Christopher Neff

Dr Christopher Neff: “This is an inconvenient truth. The story of the island nation that was able to keep fish away is not a successful story.”

The widespread fear and phobia associated with sharks is nothing new. The deadly potential of these lurking underwater monsters has been a common theme in popular culture, from Jaws to frantic, sensationalistic media reports.

So when Sydney University public policy lecturer Christopher Neff hit the stage at the Sydney Writers’ Festival on Friday to debunk our sweeping fear of sharks, he faced a challenge. How could an academic, seemingly far removed from the pain and tragedy associated with shark attacks, speak on such an emotionally-charged topic, while retaining a sense of compassion?

Dale Carr, shark attack survivor and audience member at the Curiosity Lecture, said he was cynical at first. By the conclusion of Dr Neff’s talk the Port Macquarie tradie, seated in the front row with a microphone in hand, confessed: “I came here with a perceived opinion of you before, and I’ve actually just changed.”

“For better or worse?” Dr Neff queried. “For the better,” he replied.

After being attacked in the waters of Port Macquarie’s Lighthouse Beach late last year, Mr Carr spoke of his ability to rationalise the event which almost claimed his life, while stressing he wanted an end to the fear-mongering surrounding sharks.

It was clear Dr Neff was attuned to shark attack victims. He began his lecture with the disclaimer: humans are not numbers.

“It seems sharks have it in for us … but sharks are not after us,” he said. Dr Neff, who wrote his PhD on the politics of shark attacks, spoke of the media sensationalism and political motives that underpin much of the discourse around shark attacks.

For the past 10 years, his research into shark attack activity in the waters of Australia, South Africa and the United States has attempted to quash the myths that continue to pervade our collective imaginations.  He said his work was about shining a light on the so-called “murky waters of shark attacks.” And he was well aware of the hard sell he faced regarding his research into shark attack phenomena and surrounding policies.

As he addressed the room, his lively, animated and often funny presentation was the antithesis of the dark, fear-ridden rhetoric usually associated with shark attacks.

Dr Neff pointed out the most highly reported shark attack story of 2015, that of champion Australian surfer Mick Fanning, was in reality more of a shark encounter than an attack. “In the biggest story of the year about a shark attack … the shark did not bite anyone,” he said. “This was the biggest shark attack story in the world, and there was no shark attack.”

The media is largely responsible for perpetuating the misconceptions related to human-shark interactions, all in the name of click bait. “When you keep saying it, ‘Shark attack, shark attack, shark attack, shark attack’, it’s an illogical fallacy. You create meaning from an outcome that has no connection between the thing.”

Politicians are equally responsible for hyping up these events, he said. “$62m is spent in Australia on shark bite mitigation. All for a problem that is a political problem, not a public safety problem, with solutions that probably can’t work because they’re addressing a problem that isn’t really a problem. So we’re spending $62m looking at this problem that doesn’t exist, for solutions that can’t work.”

Shark attacks are rare, random events and exist within a unique statistical category, he said, and it is time we altered our relationship with the ocean overall.

“We need to treat the beach like the bush,” he said. “At some point we have to take responsibility for ourselves in the wild. We are land animals and it is the plight of land animals [that] when you enter a domain that is not yours, within which you do not live and which you enter as a luxury, you cannot be guaranteed safety.

“This is an inconvenient truth. The story of the island nation that was able to keep fish away is not a successful story.”

A Night at Psychic School

theveil

“Franca runs classes from home for trainee psychics looking to refine their skills in working with the invisible.”

Last year, I had the chance to sit in on a documentary shoot with SBS at a Sydney psychic school. Here is the long overdue finished piece I wrote about my experience. Note: names have been changed for privacy reasons.

As I round the corner into Ramsay Street in Sydney’s Inner West, I can’t help but picture the famous suburban Melbourne cul de sac, bounded by 1970’s style homes from the long-running television soap opera ‘Neighbours.’ Instead, my iPhone’s GPS leads me to a wide street of Californian bungalows, with hip-height hedges and rustic red brick walls marking their boundaries. I pull up in the driveway of one of these houses bounded by mish-mashed Art Deco/Federation era architecture on one side. I walk down the unlit driveway, amused by the ‘haunted house’ vibe created by the steeply pitched roof, ornamental gooseneck tiles and protruding chimney stacks.

Inside this house lives Franca, a 50-something psychic and energy worker. A former marketing and business manager, Franca traded in her corporate lifestyle in the early 1990’s to practice and teach intuitive development. Today, Franca runs classes from home for trainee psychics looking to refine their skills in working with the invisible.

 

When I first meet Franca, she greets me with uncertainty, asking me twice about my day after my unconvincing response the first time round. She leads me through the side door and down a hallway to a living room with an adjoining sunroom at the back of the house. The area offers a warm escape from the brisk Autumn air outside, with the glow of lamp lights bouncing off the mustard-coloured walls.

As I take off my coat Franca hands me a multicoloured mohair blanket. “Make yourself comfortable, but you may be needing a blanket later. It tends to get quite cold when we start doing spirit work.”

Despite this, nothing about Franca is ‘stereotypically’ psychic. There are no purple velvet robes, oversized hoop earrings or crystal balls. Instead, her appearance is more closely aligned with that of a conservative, middle-aged school teacher. Her hair is brownish grey, cropped close to the head, and her bare face is adorned with John Lennon-style tortoise shell frames. She is educated and professional looking, but unintimidating.

For the past 16 years, Franca has taught, demonstrated and spoken on energetic phenomena. While her energy work ranges from telepathy to house clearings, it is psychic mentorship that Franca finds most rewarding. Although self-taught, Franca has supplemented her development with a Graduate Diploma in Adult Education and a Certificate IV in Workplace Training. For Franca, psychic development is far removed from the airy fairy work of late-night TV charlatans: it’s a profession. And helping others is at the heart of what Franca does.

I pull out a printed page from the Australian Bureau of Statistics website that categorises the psychic industry and show it to Franca.

“Oh, goodness!” she remarks, reading down the list. “They’ve got us grouped in with pet groomers, cloak room servers and, what’s that? Shoe shiners? No wonder so many people struggle to take our work seriously.”

“What do you think would be a better category for energy workers?” I ask.

“Well we’re not on the same level as a pet groomer, I can assure you! We’re much more than that. We’re teachers, counsellors and healers. We just want to help people.”

 

I follow Franca into the kitchen and watch as she busies herself cutting lemons. “I’m just making some lemon tea for when the girls arrive. I find the mixture of hot water and lemon allows our auras to open up more for our class.” She pulls an old-style kettle off the stove and places 5 enamel mugs on the bench top. “I tend to avoid electrical goods,” she states as the lemon infuses with the hot water. “I find they emit bad energy. Computers, televisions and mobile phones are especially harmful.”

With the energising aroma of citrus now pervading the back rooms of the house, I wander back to the living room, mug in hand. I struggle to notice any electrical items apart from an old home phone. In lieu of a television sits a bookcase, filled with well-read books on topics ranging from meditation to healing and Hebrew studies. Scattered on the shelves are miniature shells and coloured crystals, with the odd hand-painted picture. Tarot cards, crystal balls and Ouija boards are nowhere to be seen.

 

Shortly before 6.30pm, the ring of a doorbell echoes through the house. When Franca returns from the front door, she introduces me to Sian and Sara, two students in her intermediate level intuitive development class.

“Sorry we cut it a bit fine time-wise, Franca,” says Sian in a broad voice that slightly whistles through her teeth. “I finally bought a motorbike the other week and got a little caught up looking into licences.” Noticing me on the lounge, Sian reaches over with a firm handshake and crooked smile, her dark, smudged eye makeup framing her piercing hazel eyes. The combination of her stretcher earring and pink highlighted hair make her look deceivingly younger than her 44 years.

Following behind Sian is Sara a 30 year-old Barbara Streisand lookalike, with shoulder length blonde locks. With a grey designer coat draped over her shoulders, Sara excitedly greets me with a jittery hug and a kiss on the cheek. “We’re really grateful to have you here for our class. We can get a bit stuck in a rut when we just do readings for each other all the time.”

As Sian and Sara settle in on the lounge, Franca covers their legs with an assortment of woollen blankets and places their mugs of hot lemon tea next to plates of dried apricot, mixed nuts and biscuits. The doorbell is then heard for a second time, with a third student, Leah, making her way into the living room shortly after. Trailing behind Leah is her rescue dog, Autumn, a timid miniature Irish wolfhound. Leah glances over at me with an anxious smile as she hastily places her gangly self down on the lounge next to Sara. She unwraps the bright orange scarf from around her neck and pats down her windswept fringe before tucking herself in under some blankets. Franca brings a plastic Chinese food container filled with water and puts it down next to Autumn, who is now curled between Leah’s feet.

 

Sian, Sara and Leah are now in their sixth month of psychic training. They attend classes with Franca in her home every 3 weeks, practicing readings with close friends and family, free of charge, between classes. Sara and Leah, who met through work, both hold management positions at the NSW Health. Along with business development manager, Sian, the women all approached Franca at the start of the year to learn how to channel the energy forces they have long felt sensitive to. But unlike their university degrees, this isn’t a course they’ll openly talk about with everyone.

“It’s something I’ve always had an interest in. But I’ve kept putting it off. It’s something I want to explore more in my fifties when I have more life experience under my belt. Besides my partner, Stef, I haven’t told many people,” admits Sian.

“Yeah, you don’t want people thinking you’re, well, a freak when you tell them you moonlight as a psychic,” jokes Sara.

When I ask these psychics in training why they decided to take an intuitive development course, their responses are surprisingly similar: it’s not about the money.

“I’ve always been really approachable,” confesses Sara. “My whole life I’ve had random people come up to me on trains and like, tell me really deep, personal things about themselves. It’s kinda bizarre! I think people can sense something in me, and Franca has been able to teach me to use that ‘something’ to help people.”

Fidgeting with her gold ‘wish’ necklace, Leah nods in agreement. “I think…” she stutters, “I think…I’m really receptive to people’s emotions. I’m just…very sensitive, I guess. I pick up on things. I just can deal with it better now.”

Franca, listening in from the corner, interjects the conversation. “I tend to have a lot of emotionally ‘lost’ people come to me for intuitive development. There are cases of people who have struggled with their thoughts and emotions their whole lives, thinking there’s something wrong with them when all they needed was to open their mind to their psychic sensibilities.”

Around the room, there’s an obvious sense of deep respect for Franca. Not only is she their teacher, but a counsellor and a friend.

The class begins as a casual, friendly conversation.  With the students wrapped in woollen blankets, sipping on hot tea, it’s unlike a typical classroom setting. There are no books, no pens, no desks. Their only textbook is the energy surrounding them, which they reverently refer to as the ‘Source’.

“So it’s been about 3 weeks since I’ve seen you all. Tell me, what’s been happening? Is there anything we need to work through this evening?” asks Franca.

Sara and Leah turn to each other, their faces both grimacing.

“Leah and I did a double reading the other day…” reveals Sara, shaking her head in embarrassment.

“And?” questions Franca.

“And…it was terrible! I came away from the reading feeling worse than I did before it. And the client didn’t offer much. I was still feeling the effects of it a few days later.”

Leah, tightly gripping her mug of hot tea, stares down at the wooden floorboards searching for a response. “Yeah,” she says, fumbling on her words. “I had a man…a man come through as we were doing the reading. He was loud. He was yelling, yelling in my ear. It made it really hard for me to continue.” Distressed, Leah hunches her shoulders and covers her ears with shaking palms.

“Did you manage to use the skills we’ve been working on to get through it, though?” enquires Franca, in an increasingly authoritative tone.

“We eventually…moved him on,” replies Leah.

“Were you scared?” I ask, without thinking.

“No…he wasn’t, scary. Just, unwelcomed. I think he must have been…I don’t know…ignored in life? He just wanted to be heard.”

The debriefing session continues for another 20 minutes, with Franca offering advice to Leah and Sara for future readings. Unsurprisingly, double readings are not exactly recommended. But throughout, Franca remains calm and supportive, each response an offering of reassurance. She never blames or reprimands.

“A psychic is never wrong,” she asserts. “You may not understand everything that comes through in a reading, but never doubt yourself. I had a client once who I envisioned with a young family, but it didn’t make sense to me. From what I knew, she had grown-up children. But when I finally got the words out, it all came together. She was pregnant.”

 

Before the practical aspect of the class commences, Franca instructs the women to begin their ‘tuning in’ process. For every psychic, this stage is different. I observe Sian in the corner as she sits upright in her chair, her legs slightly spread apart. Her body is stiff and rigid with deep concentration, but also loose and relaxed. Her eyes are clamped tightly shut, her lips are pursed. I turn to Sara and Leah beside me. They too, sit deep in thought. Five minutes pass, and the tuning in is complete.

Eerily, there is a sudden drop in temperature in the room. With a shiver, I reach out for my coat and wrap it over my chest. But just as I expect to witness sorcery and magical happenings, the conversation continues as normal.

“We’re not tapping into anything bad or evil,” reassures Franca. “The invisible is nothing to be afraid of. We just want to understand it. Let’s see what we can understand tonight.”

To ‘Like’ or Not to ‘Like’: Facebook’s New Reactions

facebook-reactions

Since the humble beginnings of the ‘like’ button, users had been faced with one overarching dilemma: “To like or not to like”.

It’s been a few weeks since social media juggernaut, Facebook, launched the new ‘reactions’ feature on their site, allowing users a broader scope in which to express their emotions online. The change comes seven years after the introduction of the original ‘like’ button, which has since become a primary tool of interaction on the social media platform. In the face of these recent changes, the original ‘like’ button remains intact, but has merely been expanded to enable for more post-specific engagement.

For years in the lead up to this change, Facebookers had come to realise the limitations of the like button and began petitioning for a ‘dislike’ or ‘thumbs down’ feature to counter the onslaught of users forever ‘liking’ stuff. Quite early on in the piece, even the most like-hungry users discovered that not exactly all posts, comments and photos were actually ‘likeable’. For these social media savants, as with many of the less vocal users, it didn’t take much scrolling down a news feed to discern that a tool as subjective as the like button carried with it, a multitude of issues.

Since the humble beginnings of the original like button, users had been faced with one key dilemma and overarching query: “To like or not to like”. Take, for example, the case of a Facebook post made by a friend regarding the passing of their grandmother, a hospital emergency or other life crisis. In these situations, would it be impolite to ‘like’ the post? And if the user did, it would be hoped that it would be implied to the person on the receiving end of this interaction that they didn’t exactly ‘like’ the fact their Facebook friend lost their dear grandma.

It was in these instances where things had the potential to get messy. At the crux of it, the user simply wanted to express their support, but may have felt uncomfortable doing so in a more ‘personal’ manner. And with Facebook being a largely impersonal medium, one wouldn’t dare send their friend a private message to pass on their condolences, or, god* forbid, write an actual sympathy card (yes, apparently those things still exist). So it would be in these predicaments, that the user would be faced with a bit of a virtual world conundrum.

While Zuckerberg and Co. took their time, they finally did come to the party and grant the wishes of the petitioners, albeit partially, by introducing the new emoji-based features. The new buttons have broadened the horizon, but what remains to be seen is whether they’ll actually resolve the problems inherent in communicating online.

After seven long years of being confined to the lonesome ‘like’ feature, it seems users came to use the tool more intuitively, imposing their own meanings onto the tool based on the context in which the like is handed out or received. It can be argued that the whole nature of ‘liking’ something developed to symbolise, more generally, one’s support of the user behind the post or the sentiment expressed within it. In most cases, users would just ‘know’ that no offence was intended in liking a post about anything ranging from a personal crisis to an international tragedy.

So, with all this in mind, are the new reactions already redundant? With all the flaws in communication manifested most strongly in the digital world, it appears that even the most incompetent users have acquired a means to ‘adequately’ express their emotions through the like feature alone. While some of these outspoken petitioners demanded for a tool to expand upon the like feature, amongst all the shouting, it was possibly forgotten that the entire definition of ‘liking’ something had already been revolutionised thanks to Facebook.

Just as Facebook had reinvented the definition of ‘friend’ to include something as vague as an unknown, middle aged man from Estonia who happens to send a friend request, the meaning of ‘like’ had also been altered. Now, we live in a social media world where our Facebook friends are not necessarily ‘friends’, at least in the traditional sense of the word, and where ‘liking’ no longer involves actually possessing a fondness for something.

In the meantime, it seems, regardless of whether Zuckerberg has succeeded in appeasing the Facebook masses with the new tool, the reactions feature will remain in place. But what is unclear is whether the tools will ever really go far in improving the online interaction some users mistakenly believed had been ‘damaged’ by the revolutionary like button.

Why Corporate Jargon is Inefficient, Common-Sense Depriving Nonsense of Limited Empirical Value. Or, in Common Speak: Total BS.

Corporate jargon

The job interview: Just like the resume, but in 3D…

If there’s one form of writing I despise with absolute passion, it would be resume writing.

The most deceiving of all official documents, forcing you to cram all those life ‘achievements’, ‘skills’ and ‘talents’ into the space of a few egocentric pages. A document which often translates relatively straightforward and basic information into one big, pretentious farce.

Throughout my teenage years, my hatred of resume writing led me to put off actually compiling one of my own until I was almost 19 years of age and no longer sheltered by the job-free joys of high school life. It was not until I had finished my HSC and had reached a point of desperation in terms of financial independence (i.e. started feeling guilty about sponging off the wondrous financial institution that is the Bank of Mum and Dad) that I finally gave in to the new-world, corporate based, individualistic nonsense that is the resume.

Unfortunately, I was never genetically graced with my dad’s mastery of this ridiculous job market jargon. But thankfully, I didn’t need to go at this dreaded task alone, with this unusually adept resume writer at my disposal offering to help get this 19-year undertaking over and done with.

The whole newspeak of the business world has just never sat well with me. More recently, it’s this type of language that has been exploited and churned out by big business, PR agents and the old crowd favourite- politicians -time and time again. While it’s with some relief that those on the receiving end of this corporate spin have wised up to this subtle yet overpowering manipulation, this language continues to live on through the resume. At the end of the day, isn’t it the subtle manipulation of others to view us in a positive light that we aim to achieve through our professional portfolios, right?

They’re the phrases and buzzwords I now cringe at whenever I hear them uttered- “moving forward”, “thinking outside the box”, “raising the bar”, “spring boarding”… I am struggling to think of any other set of phrases that send deep, tingling chills down my spine quite like these. What a wonderful world it would be if these corporate clichés could be completely obliterated from the English language! But it’s these very words that form the foundation of the prime entry point into corporate communication. Of course, it’s the (not-so-humble) resume.

If I was to compare the resume to a person, he would fall into the category of that irritating, friend of a friend who you can’t seem to get away from at social gatherings. He’ll be the one to boast shamelessly about his absolute magnificence at dinner parties: the academic, jock, prefect, musician and all-round ‘cool guy’. But while he may seem like the complete package on the surface, he’ll rarely deliver on these self-declared ‘skills’ and ‘talents’. In reality, he’ll be a walking Comic Sans, disguised as Times New Roman.

When compiling my resume, I attempted with unrivalled determination to eliminate as much corporate jargon from the document as possible. But somehow, as I typed my final full stop, what lay before me were those creeping elements of corporate pretence. Somehow, during the process, things as simple as “What I’ve done with my life” became “Demonstrated skills and capacities”. “Working in an office filling out an excel spreadsheet” became “Professional administration assistant with a proficient knowledge of the workings of Microsoft Office applications.” A former cash-in-hand tutoring job for a family friend suddenly transformed me into a “Self-employed, educational entrepreneur”. And basic entry-level office administration positions gave me the titles such as “Coordinator” or “Officer”.

So there is was. In the short space of 500~ words, I had become the most darn efficient, time managing, problem solving, team playing, goal oriented person I had ever encountered. And there was no going back. The person I had created was so passionate about customer service, even the least gullible employer would be led to believe I actually enjoy selling mass-produced, unethical, imported goods to the basest human beings ever to walk the earth.

In this process, I never once set out to dishonestly bolster my professional standing through being manipulative or expanding upon the truth. As far as I was concerned, all the educational and work experience I had listed was entirely legitimate. But somewhere in the midst of compiling my own resume, the grip of corporate jargon had taken hold, and the document I had produced was further evidence of its cold, unrelenting grasp.

“I Don’t Know What I’m Doing”: The Realities of Never Being Too Sure of Yourself

Bean

“I felt my everyday experience was the living out of a Mr. Bean episode”

One of the most memorable compliments I have ever received from a friend didn’t have anything to do with my appearance. It had nothing to do with my personality or sense of humour. It wasn’t a compliment on my outfit or my latest (hilarious) Instagram caption.

At the time, I don’t think my friend even realised it could be taken as a compliment. It was something she said almost ‘in passing’ as we lined up to buy our bus tickets on the way home from uni. Even reading this now, I don’t think she would even recall the seemingly unextraordinary moment.

As I went about my usual business, rummaging through my bag looking for my student card and spare change, I noticed her from the corner of my eye, observing me with a degree of curiosity. I still have no idea what it is exactly that I ‘did’, but based on her reaction, I must’ve been pretty smooth in that moment.

When we took our seats on the bus, she turned to me, almost in that epic pausy/slow-mo style and said: “Wow. You know what you’re doing.”

That was it.

I knew what I was doing.

I knew what I was doing!

It probably doesn’t sound like much of a compliment. It was vague. It’s something that probably wouldn’t mean much to a lot of people. And my friend didn’t even know quite how to explain it herself. But I can tell you, it’s the most vivid compliment I’ve ever received in my 22 years.

It’s funny because, all these years, I’ve never once felt like I knew that I was doing. I’ve always felt like I missed out on the ‘life instruction manual’ handed out as soon as you exit the womb. I mostly traced it back to my lack of siblings and binge watching of Mr. Bean’s awkwardness during my formative years. I felt my everyday experience was the living out of a Mr. Bean episode. Like Bean, it was as though I too had been dumped onto this planet by a blinding beam on light and expected to know what to do- an alien on my very own planet.

In my mind, the essential ‘learning the ways of the world’ had been bypassed. And I always felt like I would pay the price for it for the rest of my life.

It’s those subtle, untaught things we always take for granted. Knowing how to ‘hold’ yourself. How to interact. Trusting your own judgement. Some may call it self-assurance or confidence. But there’s more to it than that.

It’s learning the rules of how to stay composed in public. Knowing how to be yourself and when. It’s like being able to walk through the unpredictable door of life on ‘Thank God You’re Here’, landing in any situation, and keeping your cool. You just know exactly what to do. A type of intuition, almost.

When going about life, I’m overly self-conscious and socially awkward at best. I’m a pretty harsh critic and probably overthink things just a little, but it always appeared like everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, knew how to ‘do’ life. And here I am, struggling to put the IKEA flatpack of life together without an Allen key.

They’re the everyday moments and situations you find yourself in. Like overpassing someone on a footpath and thinking: “Ok. So how am I going to judge this? Should I speed up now? Should I overtake on the left, or…Oh wait, she’s veering over that side, maybe I should go to the right side. Ok here goes. Don’t trip. Don’t stumble. Whatever you do, don’t slam into the side of her with your handbag and give her a concussion.”

And then, you proceed to misjudge your fellow pedestrian’s movement, overtake on the wrong side, collide and knock the poor innocent victim of your ‘life incompetence’ to the ground. Meanwhile you notice about a dozen or more people observing your social misfortune from across the street.

With this scenario, all I can say is: Welcome to my life!

I have these thought processes about pretty much every daily situation. Older and supposedly wiser folk tell me I’ll grow out of it. When I reach about 45 or so, I’ll stop giving a stuff about everything and instead give life one big flip of the bird. Finally, after decades of stress, I’ll be able to live life in complacent bliss. It will be like taking an ‘I don’t give a crap’ pill everyday. How I wish those things actually existed. Although, I’m told they do exist in various, usually illicit forms already…#420.

In reality though, these tortuous happenings rarely eventuate. They are mostly just figments of my overactive, self conscious imagination.

So when my friend told me out of the blue on that occasion that I just seemed to know what I was doing, I was able to breathe a little. I was able to do a little nod of the head and say: “Yeah, I ain’t so bad.”

It made me realise that even though I may feel like I have no clue what I’m doing in any given situation, it may not seem so to others. Just like I thought everyone around me knew how to do ‘life stuff’, perhaps they’re just winging it too. Maybe we’re all winging it, fooling others into thinking we know what we’re doing. Tricking employers into hiring us, convincing crushes into falling madly in love with us (as an aside, if anyone actually does have this down pat, feel free to flick me an instruction booklet on it, please). Some are just more confident about it than others, and some just have a little more practice in this life trickery.

But I think what I realised most from receiving this compliment, is that it’s actually OK to not know what you’re doing. It’s often easier to tear down those walls of ultra self-consciousness and be open about not having a single clue about anything. For instance, I had absolutely no idea how to use a dishwasher until my intern days made dishwashing inevitable. I didn’t even realise that dishwashing powder had to be used until after a week or so of hijacking the office dishwasher (apologies to all the staff at Mamamia. As the saying goes, what you don’t know won’t hurt you, hey?).

But for the first time, I kind of just brushed it off. I accepted the fact that I didn’t know what I was doing. And for the first time, I was ok with that. After all, it’s these kinds of situations that make for the best “There was this one time when…” stories. Maybe I can retell one of these stories when I find myself in a future awkward situation and it won’t be all that bad.

I mean, according to the wisdom of my elders, it will be another 20 years or more until I stop caring so much. So why not make light of it in the meantime?

Over time, I’ll gradually get more practice at this ‘life’ thing and hopefully one day, I’ll be able to trick people into thinking I actually have a clue about a thing or two. Or, I’ll just continue going through life not having a clue but not even caring about it in the process.

Total. Complacent. Bliss.

It’s Time the ‘Glory Box’ got an Update

I sure do hope I can fit all my hopes and dreams in this small, wooden box...

I sure do hope I can fit all my hopes and dreams in this small, wooden box…

Times are surely a-changin’.

In the current day, it’s common knowledge that young Australian women are delaying marriage and motherhood, and simultaneously staying at home longer. Soaring house prices, economic pressures to obtain a tertiary qualification and wider social acceptance of de-facto relationships have all played a part in shaping these news trends.

As the norms surrounding marriage have shifted, so too have some of the traditions associated with them. The amassing of the good old ‘glory box’ (or ‘hope chest’ as it’s known in the U.S.) is one outdated custom.

Up until the mid-20th century, the collection of items for a glory box formed a rite of passage for young, ready-to-be-married women. The terms ‘glory’ or hope’, which are used to describe the box, evoke an image of a Jane Austen character, waiting in great anticipation for her future husband. While in the meantime, until such man arrives, she’ll remain content accumulating various household items for use during married life. In this context, marriage is the pinnacle of the woman’s life, with the glory box a symbol of this aspiration. But while marriage and motherhood remain significant life goals for many modern women, economic and non-family related desires have become increasingly important.

Today, the word ‘glory box’ is so far removed from the vocabularies of young women, that when I uttered the word ironically to my Dad the other day, he responded in shock that his young, self-declared feminist of a daughter would even know what the word meant. To him, and many others, the word is a remnant of a bygone era.

As a young, unmarried woman (and ardent feminist), I’ve found myself rejecting the old definition of the glory box and instead opted for a modern-day definition. In line with these new social trends, the 21st Century glory box should not be seen as a symbol of submission to one’s future husband and married life (as it can be seen) but as a expression of freedom and independence.

While I’ve currently been using the term ‘glory box’ as a scapegoat for my tendency to hoard and stockpile home decor items, it’s intended use is for a time when I hope to have my own house and career. My ‘freedom’ box will be filled with things I hope to fill my own future house with, purchased with my own income from my own career. With this box, one’s hoped-for relationship status is irrelevant. The aspirational nature of the box remains unchanged, but the hopes slightly updated. Not only is the box a female undertaking, but something for both young men and women can use to express their desire to live their own lives on their own means.

But one thing I hope, is that my dreams and aspirations will require something a little bigger than a wooden box to fit in.

Destination Divorce: The New Kind of ‘Getaway’ Taking the Tourism Industry by Storm

A recent article I had published on ‘Debrief Daily’. Check out the website here:

http://www.debriefdaily.com/relationships/what-is-a-divorce-hotel/ 

Divorce Hotels: A different kind of 'getaway'

Divorce Hotels: A different kind of ‘getaway’

Weddings, honeymoons and anniversaries have long been the stuff of big-spending dreams for the tourism and hospitality industries.

Now Dutch company Divorce Hotel has turned its attention to the other end of the relationship spectrum. Under its concept, couples check-in married – and check-out divorced. The concept is rapidly gaining global traction.

Divorce Hotels offer couples all-inclusive divorce packages that help them end their marriage in the most stress-free way possible. Mediators, accountants and brokers are on hand throughout the weekend ‘getaway’ to ensure a successful split.

The stay is anonymous. Divorcing couples enjoy hotel facilities alongside regular hotel guests to distract from the somewhat bleak experience.

It might sound grim, but the Divorce Hotels website offers a surprisingly upbeat vision, positioning divorce “not only as the end of your marriage…but as the beginning of a new phase in your life”. The company’s founder, Jim Halfens, says the concept of Divorce Hotel is about make a split as positive as possible for those involved.

By providing neutral territory for the divorce, the hotel aims to provide a “professional, fast and affordable service” for the separation, void of interference from “unprofessional family members or friends”.

Most guests reach settlement within 48 hours.

The US based Divorce Hotel, which operates out of the Gideon Putnam Resort and Spa in New York, began offering divorce packages to guests late last year. It was previously known as a premier wedding destination in the picturesque holiday region of Saratoga Springs.

(Note: a place called Lake Desolation, which is a short 20-minute drive away, could provide guests with an additional place to reflect on the weekend’s proceedings.)

The process will set clients back about $5000, and the divorce packages come with a welcome basket brimming with Divorce Hotel branded pens, mousepads and beach bags.

With a TV series already developed for Dutch television, Divorce Hotel has set its sights on American TV. Operators are also looking to move beyond weekend ‘quickie’ divorces to mid-week offerings and multi-couple mediation sessions.

At least when the honeymoon period really is over, couples will have another excuse for a vacation…