Hair Today

When I was a child all I wanted was long hair. Unfortunately all my mother wanted was to save on hairdresser bills and cut my hair (and my sisters) herself. The result was the classic 1977 bowl cut. Exhibit A, your honour (pic at right).

After bath time my sister and I used to pretend to have long hair by wrapping a towel around our head and swishing it to and fro as if we had a mane. I would also lust after those synthetic flaxen locks on the heads of our Barbies…and on more then one occasion hacked into their long hair out of spite. I wasn’t yet old enough to realise that Barbie’s skinny waist, tippy toe long legs and pert boobs were also a synthetic I could never achieve.

I lived with bowl cuts until about 1982 when, after a particularly brutal cut, no doubt inspired by the latest nit infestation at school, I refused to let it be cut anymore. Not even the fringe. I was 10 goddamn it and I wanted long hair. When mum finally acquiesced and agreed to let us grow our hair the result was…ummm…hair. I was reluctant to go near a hairdresser in case they chopped it back to the bowl. So it just grew and grew and grew.

My daughter was bald for the first two years of her life and she was adorable. But as soon as she had anything a clip would cling to she wanted hair. Now, at four, I don’t want to cut it because I don’t want her faced with the same croppy chop I had at her age.

Hair Crimes Through the Ages

I was reminded of all this childhood hair angst when I saw a Facebook post from a former colleague whose 11-year-old daughter has been growing her hair for 3.5 years. THREE AND A HALF YEARS?! That’s a long bloody time in kid land. Sophia has been on mission. Not unlike my mission to never see the inside of a hair salon, except that Sophia’s motives are a tad more admirable.

She’s donating her hair to kids who might want it.

Alopecia Areata is a condition where hair is lost from some or all areas of the body. It often results in a few random bald spots and can be temporary or permanent. There is no cure.

When Sophie heard about Alopecia Areata she decided that she wanted to donate her hair to the Australia Alopecia Areata Foundation Inc (AAAF). All hair donated to AAAF is sent wig makers who specialize in making hairpieces for medical purposes. They also run the Wigs For Kids program, which provides financial grants to help families with the costs of wigs. 

Sophia has gorgeous thick, long hair and has been waiting for it to be long enough so she can still do a ballet bun when she cuts the bulk of it off. Smart kid!

Her haircut is booked for 2 days before Christmas and she’s raising funds for the cause. What a little legend.

I loved her mission so much that I wanted to tell you all about it. If you had ‘mum cuts’ back in the day perhaps consider throwing a few dollars in Sophie’s Go Fund Me kitty.

You can do that here:

…and while you’re at it show us your bowl cut. I’ve shown you mine, now you show me yours 😉

The Real Thing

The “Pretty-Much-Annual Cowen date night” – a night where mummy and daddy get to adult for a few hours with cocktails and canapés (my favourite kind of dinner, if I’m honest) comes around infrequently (as the name suggests). Much to my husband’s disappointment I often suggest a stage show…and because I organise it all…we usually go to a stage show. The last stage show we went to was one I’d wanted to see for about five years. And one I secretly hoped would transport me back to the 80s when I was a teenager and life was simpler and there was more rock and roll and no Justin Bieber and no Facebook status.

I’ve always been a tragic nostalgic. I’ve been reminiscing since I was 16, which is clearly decades before I had anything to actually reminisce about. Anyway, I chose to see this show because it promised to take me back to 1984. In a decade where I was going to grow up and marry Simon LeBon. When I was happy, angry, frustrated and liberated all at the same time. Teenage angst anyone?

What I really wanted. What I really, really wanted was to be at a concert with the real deal. Where I knew all the words to all the songs and the man behind the microphone was going to live forever. Except he didn’t. And neither did my teenage years.

If you’re a child of the 70s or 80s there’s a good chance that Queen, David Bowie and various new romantics shaped your music taste (unless of course you were punk, then that’s a whole other Sid and Nancy kind of conversation).

I sat through two and a half hours of the very witty, often funny and terribly cheesy Ben Elton’s We Will Rock You, with a talented cast who, for the most part, had pretty good stage presence as they sang their way through a handful of Queen’s back catalogue.

freddie-mercury_poseSure, it was entertaining and I was comfortably numb with more than a few glasses of Shiraz and post dinner cocktails, but it didn’t satisfy me. Not by a long shot. Honestly, all it did was make me crave the real thing. Which made me sad because I can’t have that anymore. The unique and divine Freddie Mercury is gone. And this stage show, while trying to emulate the music he created with Bryan May, just reminded me of that.

So while I was wandering down Morose Avenue I realized that what I seek these days is authenticity. I don’t want no tribute bands. I don’t want no copycats. I want the real thing. Like those Coca-Cola ads of the 70s, where choirs of happy people toast to the real thing – Coke – as opposed to any other market imitation of their fizzy pop.

When I was holidaying in Phuket last month my cravings for the ‘real thing’ intensified. I’d booked a fabulous all-expenses-and-minimal-effort paid trip with a bunch of sensational women. All of whom had the same desire as me to escape their humdrum and recharge the mummy batteries. (You can read about it here, here and here.) It was a great trip and I was lucky to be able to take it (alone) but if I’m honest (and why not, this is my blog, so fuck it!)…it just wasn’t the real deal. I came to the sudden realisation that me and hotels are uncomfortable bedfellows. I’d spent the better part of a day travelling 7,000 kilometres on a quest for peace and tranquility and, on my first morning, realised I’d walked right into the cacophony that is hotel resort life.

On my first morning I opened my balcony doors hoping for a peaceful birdsong and was greeted with lightweight covers of David Bowie, Macy Gray and other recognisable songs covered by unrecognisable session musicians for the purpose of torturing fans of the real thing. The music was coming from the hotel restaurant which my room happened to overlook (lucky me) as they were setting up for service. So that music was ably backed by a choir of clanging plates and clinking glasses…and the local call to prayer (which I kinda like). Now, I don’t mind covers and I know that someone has to have the room near the restaurant and that the restaurant has to set up so we can indulge in the all-you-can-eat-buffet …but at 5am on my first day in ‘paradise’ I was in no fit state to cope or reason with the holiday cards that I was dealt.

So I closed my balcony door and went to boil the kettle and make a cup of tea…and that’s when I fell apart. There was no milk. Just powdered creamer. I quite literally started to weep over non-existent spilt milk. It was all too much. I was travel weary, craving peace and quiet and a brew of my own making with no interruptions that I’d get to drink while it was still hot and…I just couldn’t have it. Sure I could have called room service but honestly I just didn’t want to deal with anyone or anything while I had my wee meltdown over imitations.

So the moral of my story is that the simple things in life are often the most authentic …and so very easily found close to home.  I don’t want a soundtrack of imitations. Or creamer for my tea. I want the real thing. I want a quiet cup of tea. At home. When everyone else is on holiday!

(oh and I want Freddie Mercury and George Michael back amongst us…ok? thanks. bye)

Does it Come in Black?

Part 3 of the Mama’s Escape with Woog diary. Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here.

The best thing about being on holidays with a bunch of mothers is being on holiday with a bunch of mothers. Like a seasoned gambler they know when to hold them, they know when to fold them and they know when to walk away.

Over cocktails, mocktails and wine we’ve discussed health, boobs, family, boys, toys, jobs and most importantly left each other alone when it mattered. Having outgrown the Contiki tour decades ago (which was actually never my thing, truth-be-told) solo time was primo on this holiday. Each and every one of the women I’ve shared this week with have had their own holiday in their own way and yet, have rallied and supported each other when the need arose.

In my case, that was the soft knock at my door yesterday morning with a handful of the cold and flu drugs I’d neglected to pack for myself. Then after lunch I was offered more of the same, but from a different source…being the over-the-counter drug junkie that I am I gleefully accepted anything that my dealers proffered…it would seem rude not to. Alas not even the deepest, hardest hit of pseudoephedrine would stop the strep throat that woke me at 4am this morning. So much for the (also available over the counter) Valium knocking me out for 12 hours.

My type of souvenir …alas

I’ve had strep throat before. Anyone who has had it knows it’s hideous. Swallowing razor blades that have first been heated in the hell of hades is the only way I can describe it. So I knew it wasn’t going to get better without serious intervention. Rather than wait out the next two nights and risk losing my mind in pain during the overnight flight ahead I did what every mother does. I asked Dr Google.

To my utter delight I discovered that, like Valium, antibiotics were readily available over the counter here. Hallelujah. May the Lord Open. Imagine that, being responsible for your own medical treatment with no expensive middle man just validating what you already know because, you know…you’re an adult and you’ve been around this block a few times, but sure, go ahead and give me permission to treat my own body!…Sorry, where was I. Oh yes…pharmacy. So off I trotted for my third visit to the pharmacy over the road. I guess some people shop for rip off Gucci in Thailand I shop for pharmaceuticals!

I was determined to get those antibiotics into my system ASAP so as not to delay my increasing discomfort. Which is the exact opposite to how I approached selecting the bathers we were each generously gifted by Sequins and Sands in preparation for this escape.

Shopping for bathers is almost as painful as this damn strep throat. Almost. It sucks the life right out of me. So even though the offer meant shopping online only (with personal advice and assistance should we need it) I still delayed. And delayed. And delayed.

When I finally put some time aside to decide on my purchase I started scanning through the colourful, flowing options thinking I’ll make the most of this gift and will not buy black. I always buy black. It’s the law in Melbourne. I can buy black anytime. The Sequins and Sands website is full of colour and women wearing colour and looking like the magnificent creatures they are (you should totes check it out!). I marked up a few options and then life got in the way (and by “life” I mean child and requests for food). So I book marked it all to come back to. Two days later I knew I had to order my bathers or I’d miss out on my gift – and that would be ungrateful. And I knew that everyone else would be sporting new togs and I wanted in on that club!

I returned to my list and in my haste my resolve to be fearless went out the window as I chose what I always choose. A black. One piece. Just couldn’t bring myself to buy two colourful pieces. Even when it was free I still chose something predictable. Why? Bloody habit. And fear. What if I didn’t like it? What if I couldn’t wear it when the holiday came around and then I’d have to explain to everyone why and that would seem ungrateful – particularly since it was a gift.

Not me…OBVIOUSLY…but it coulda been

So my black one piece arrived and it IS fabulous and it IS comfortable and it IS supportive in the right places but you know what? I don’t like it that much. It’s just too much fabric sucking me in and covering me up when I actually want to be wearing less in this heat. I knew I’d want less but still I chose more because I wanted to hide. I’m a bit disappointed with myself; I should have taken a risk and selected a bikini. Not even a tankini. No. A fucking BI-KI-NI. Obviously I’d need some scaffolding for the girls because I’m no Bond Girl but still…two pieces. This was the perfect holiday to take that risk. And I blew it.

My husband has been telling me to buy a bikini for years! Bless him. He says I look better less covered up (he would, right?). But at forty fucking five I’m still coming to terms with full exposure. So while I’m sucking back my antibiotics and swearing like a sailor at the bad holiday ju-ju that’s come my way I’ll be reflecting on what’s holding me back. I think it’s time this mama learned how to play the cards she’s been dealt and drop the fucking poker face.

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

Samuel Johnson has a big heart. This is something that anyone who has had anything to do with him learns pretty quickly. He’s a man who listens with his arms wide open. He talks like every man but with the style and passionate words of a poet. He’s an eloquent hippie and I like to think that he’s one of the crazy ones that Steve Jobs talked of. He’s here to make a difference. He’s here to bring change. A job his big heart propels him to do now more than ever since his sister Connie died of cancer in September.

Sam’s hand next to mine. Told you..BIG HANDS

He also has very big hands. Which is a good thing because as the self appointed ‘head of vanquishment’ for cancer he’s got a big job ahead. He’s going to need all the BIG to get that job done.

I’m thrilled that his passion has been recognised by being awarded the Victorian of the Year, last night. (Although I do have a big girl crush on Magda, so a dual award would have been totes approps in my eyes!)

Reading the news of his recognition has reminded me of the first time I met Samuel and the impression he made on me.

A long time ago I was helping out on a student film. Someone, somewhere had passed my name around at the VCA (The Victorian College of the Arts) as a producer who could help. A producer who was working in the real world which meant I had experience and knew a thing or two about something or other. Truth-be-told I was just someone who knew someone that was asking around if anyone could help out some kids with no money on a film shoot. I could. And I did. It was also true that I was working for myself at the time producing corporate videos and making a living with my words. Well, not my words…but my ability to make the words of others not suck so much.

So, there I was, making 5-kilos of green chicken curry one night (as you do!) in readiness to feed a small film crew the next day.

The thing about VCA student films is that they encourage students to work in many of the roles that are required to make a film. So even if you want to be the camera guy (DOP) you probably have to help out your student buddy by being their sound guy on their film. So everyone has a first hand experience of each job on the set. Which is great in theory but even the best teams still need a leader, or a wrangler of sorts. Not the one calling the shots necessarily but a person who anyone can run to for a band aid or a debrief when stuff gets hard (and it always does when there’s no money and emotions run high). Somehow, in 2007, I got a reputation as being that person and ended up working on half a dozen films just because I wanted to help. I’m good with hosting, organising and helping. It’s what I like best. I’m also good with the band aid stuff.

Anyway, I turned up to this particular set early one day with my 5 kilos of chicken curry and set up a space in the tiny kitchen for everyone to use as their base (Unit). About an hour later the actor that the student director has convinced to star in his film arrives. Right on time (actually, early if memory serves). I go down to meet him in the street and he jumps out of the car with a small child, who’s about four or five and quickly asks, “He’s busting! Do you mind if we quickly use the toilet?” Naturally I say “Sure!” and usher them both upstairs not at all convinced that the toilet is accessible amid the film gear in this tiny apartment film set.

Once we’ve dealt with the small person toilet emergency and he’s been safely returned to his mother who’s been waiting in the idling car, our director goes about introducing our main man to the rest of the crew who are all pretty ensconced in whatever task they’ve been allocated for the day.

It’s then that I realize how tall this guy is and that he quickly fills any space he’s in and not just because we’re working in a tiny apartment in St Kilda. There’s something about this guy that fills a room more than his physical stature. It’s just him. He’s Atlas-esque. He could carry the world on his shoulders. The more I work with him (and learn about him in the years ahead) I realize that he has in fact carried a great weight and remained dignified and wonderfully flawed in his public life.

So we roll tape and the film day goes on. I run between the kitchen and the lounge room making sure everyone has what they need to do their job. During a break in filming I sit down next to our actor and we get chatting. Our conversation swings from his recent purchase of sex toys for his girlfriend to the suicide of on ex-girlfriend (a story he illustrates by flashing the tattoo of her name over his heart to me) and the fact that we share a love of Australian film-royalty Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell (who told him never say No to anything, which is why he was working on this student film) and Melbourne maestro David Bridie, who is scoring the play he is currently in rehearsal for. He also tells me some out of school tales about his time on the last big TV show.

We go into great detail about some of these things when I have to shake my head to break the spell of our conversation. There’s work to be done and we’re yacking as if we’re in the local pub, beer in hand. “I’ve just opened right up to you haven’t I?” he laughs. Yeah, I think…knowing that I have a knack for that type of chat but also thinking this guy just has a way with people. He’s genuinely interested which makes people want to connect with him. He’s also incredibly flawed which makes him instantly relatable.

A few months after the shoot a CD of the soundtrack to the stage play “Weary” arrives in my letterbox. The original David Bridie score, with a huge note from Samuel scrawled in black texta telling me that he knew I’d love it and was sorry that it had taken him so long to get it to me. I had completely forgotten that during our chat on the couch in that tiny St Kilda apartment that he promised to send it to me. He signed it with a smiley face and reminded me about his mobile number.

Samuel Johnson is a solid human whose life path has, so far, been a rich and intricate tapestry of generosity, love and tears. He’s weathered a lot as we’ve come to learn with documentaries about his life and that of his sister, Connie. The Johnson family have let us all in to that tapestry in their quest to raise funds for cancer research; the disease which took Connie’s life on September 8…and my mother’s, my husband’s mother and a million other mothers, sisters, daughters et al around the globe every year.

Connie’s death had a big impact on me. I never met her. But I was in awe of how she died so publicly and how she shone a light in a dark place.

When she died I grieved for my mother all over again. As anyone who has lost their mother too soon will tell you, it’s a grief that is never far from the surface. And Connie’s death scratched mine. So when a friend of a friend called to ask if I could help out at Connie’s memorial  I didn’t hesitate. I’m was glad to be a small part of the village that those big hands have helped to build.

Congratulations Samuel, you eloquent hippie. You deserve the recognition. Here’s to the crazy ones. May your crazy change the world. x