How to deal with a well-meaning naysayer

The well-meaning naysayer is here to help. They are here to ensure you don’t put off having a baby (‘If you leave it too late they’ll come out deformed or not at all!’), or a wedding (‘I know he’s not perfect, but you don’t want to be left on the shelf, do you?’), and don’t even think about upgrading or switching careers (‘be realistic, competition will be tough, there’s no security!’). “I’m just saying it because I care,” is their motto and heaping fear is their method.

What your doctor is really thinking

As a writer (and human) I’ve always been fascinated by the private thoughts of those I make myself vulnerable to.

(And have even confessed my own now not-so-private thoughts as a yoga teacher.) What’s really going on in my doctor’s mind when I peel down my pants? How do they really feel about people with addiction, obesity, things up their butts and other so called “self-made” health issues?

My favourite interviews always yield something surprising. After speaking with ER doctor Peter (not his real name) I was struck by how very real he was, struggling with workplace bullying (as many of us do) and trying to find the balance between professional detachment and the very human response many of us would have when confronted with certain cases. Who knew doctors—the demi-Gods of our society—were just as fallible, vulnerable, and struggling to do their best within their limitations, as the rest of us?

Here it is, in Peter’s words:

Inside sex addiction treatment

As a writer, you don’t always finish a piece and think ‘Jeez, I’m glad I did that one’. But was fascinating and humbling to talk to these three lovely people about their experience, and I hope some readers get something out of it:

WHAT comes to mind when you think of sex addicts in recovery?

Sleazy men in trench coats trying to have sex with nymphomaniac Girls Gone Wild? Platoons of strippers who love their jobs more than is healthy? Or perhaps it’s the image of yet another celebrity caught in a cheating scandal, vowing to “get help”?

Why ‘good manners’ disadvantage women

If the foundations of good manners are caring for others’ comfort, listening more than you speak, and glossing over the poor manners of others, “good manners” actually grossly disadvantage women.

Two days after I moved into my house, our new handyman Pete came to fix the windows. After showing him the problem, I made a polite retreat to my home office. Pete called out a regular commentary on all things window, and when he was done making them worse (“I’ll need to come back and take the whole frame apart!”) I got up to politely see him out.

‘White flight’ in schools: it’s not about racism

I wrote this in a fury after a report in Melbourne’s Age newspaper claimed that parents who didn’t send their children to local disadvantaged schools were racist. It was published in the the Opinion section and was the site’s most read (and commented on) of the day. I was heartened that amidst the predictable – and somewhat illogical – personal attacks (‘ur white! & denying racism! So u must b racist!’) the piece did trigger a wider discussion on education and resources. 

What are they playing at, these smug, middle-class families deserting their local state school just because it’s next to commission housing? (White flight: race segregation in Melbourne state schools) How dare those “Greens-voting, socially liberal” white families drain these “sink schools” of their affluence and high-achieving Charlottes, Matildas, Ollies and Finns?

Must motherhood kill your creative career?

I found out I was pregnant the same day a literary agent agreed to represent the manuscript I’d sent her.

Friends and family were ecstatic – about the baby. I interpreted this as ‘having a baby is more important than that writing-hobby-thing you do’. Having a baby is undoubtedly more life-changing, yet I felt a much greater sense of achievement about the book. Finishing it required huge sacrifices and – regardless of the outcome – altered me as a person. Getting pregnant required functional ovaries and a calendar.

5 Japanese life hacks for health and happiness

Every nation has something they do exceptionally well. The Swiss have their chocolate, the Dutch their legalised marijuana, and Germany their amazing cars and wonderful sense of humour (ok maybe not the last). And Zen-loving Japan? Stress free simplicity.

When you consider that Japan squeezes five times our population into a country one twentieth of our size, there is not an extra inch of space for junk. No surprise that their hottest export right now is de-cluttering expert Marie Kondo, who can fold a t-shirt like nobody’s business.

Clean, polite & trusting: surviving Japanese culture shock

The first thing I notice when I got to Japan was how nice everyone on the peak hour Tokyo subway smelled. Like the delicate fragrance of clean hair and freshly washed linen. The second thing I noticed was that the carriage was so quiet I was afraid to blow my nose, and a third of the passengers wore face masks.

“It’s not because they’re afraid of catching your germs, it’s because they’re sick and don’t want anyone else to catch theirs,” my partner explained.

To an Australian used to riding with the great unwashed, negotiating junkies, violent ticket inspectors and clouds of teenage girls’ Impulse, the Japanese are unnervingly respectful of other people’s personal space. Stand still and look confused, and within 30 seconds someone will have either offered you help, or else queued politely behind you (queueing is a phenomenon in Japan) for no apparent reason.

As much as I loved the consideration and the neatness of Japan, the manners and orderliness were so surreal I felt like I was living in some kind of Japanese-themed Disney snow globe the entire time I was there. Here’s what to prepare for:

‘My sex work isn’t just a phase’

Ever a sticky-beak, I was dying to interview one of my students after she told me she was a sex worker. Pretty much all my assumptions were blown out of the water. Here’s her story:

Growing up, my only understanding of sex work came from movies. While I always thought “I could do that if I really had to”, I never seriously considered it. Soon after turning 18, my friend and I were walking down a Melbourne laneway when she pointed to an ad for an Australian porn company. She was joking, but I was curious. I’d always been the more sexual one among my friends, and after much research I started doing erotic modelling.