Tag Archives: current affairs

Fifteen Minute Fail

OK, so here’s what happened.

I got a voicemail from the office of our local member of parliament. Now it just so happens that our local MP is friends with my husband. I mean, they’re not BFFs, but they get along well together. In the voicemail, Brad-the-Staffer said that our MP was going to be at a media event tomorrow and wanted to make sure he had enough people there to protest the closing of a police station. My first thought was “Thanks, but no thanks!”. But then I considered the following:

  1. It would be nice to help our local MP out. He was a good egg and this was an issue he really cared about. What’s more, he’d been really helpful in the past at championing issues that we cared about.
  2. It would be on a Friday morning. We’d pretty much done all of our school work for the week already. And this could count as “Political Science” or “Media Studies” or something.
  3. I actually did want to protest the closing of the police station.
  4. The kids would get a real kick out of getting their faces on the evening news.

I had one argument in opposition:

  1. My face was covered in pimples. Literally. I don’t know if it was hormones or blocked pores or a very localised pestilence, but they traversed my face like a bright red constellation. It was not a pretty sight. It was not TV material.

But I could get around that one point. My makeup bag had been missing for a bit, but I’d recently found it at the bottom of the coat rack by the front door. Inside that makeup bag would be a tube of foundation. I didn’t often wear foundation, but I knew a light coating would do wonders to disguise my spots. I was all set.

The next morning (the day of the Media Event), after sorting out all the usual morning things (nappies, breakfast, clothes, nappies, coffee, dishes and nappies). I set to work. I tried to find something to wear that looked both “stylish and sophisticated” and “everyday casual”. Then I fished out my newfound makeup bag from its hiding spot and opened it up to get my foundation.

Except it wasn’t there.

I went on a crazy search rampage all over the house and the floor of the car making frantic strangled noises as I did so. But it was no good and I was out of time. I loaded the children into the car and headed off. I would stand near the back, preferably behind somebody in a large hat. I would help make up numbers. I would avoid all cameras.

We arrived late and out of breath. It looked like I was the only one who brought kids, so it was a good thing I had such an abundant supply. Somebody handed us posters to hold and I did my best to look unobtrusive and nondescript. I was a background artist. The more background the better.

Then the blandly handsome Man from the Network spoke to us. He looked vaguely familiar. As he talked us through the logistics of this media event, a few things became more clear to me:

  1. This was not a spot on the evening news. This was an article for the network’s current affairs program, best known for its advertorials, reality tv star interviews and exposès entitled “Is This Australia’s Shiftiest Tradesman?”
  2. Given that I was pushing a stroller containing two adorable little girls, I was required to stand at the front and towards the centre of our small crowd. Urk.
  3. I could feel the spots on my face growing larger in size. Really, I could.
  4. I worked out where I’d seen the Man from the Network with the game-show-host charm. I’m fairly certain I’d seen him asking accusing questions through the screen door of Australia’s Most Shameless Con Woman.

Once we were arranged into our positions, it was time for us to be filmed. The Man from the Network asked us to chant “WE WON’T COP THIS” and “WHAT A COP OUT” loudly and without cringing. And we stood there and we shouted the words because The Man from the Network had some strange hypnotic charm that we were powerless to resist.

After our impassioned slogan chanting, it was time for The Man from the Network to film individual interviews with concerned residents. To my great relief, plenty of people were willing to go on camera and have their say. While this was happening, I monitored my children as they balanced on the police station’s brick fence and chatted to the Shadow Minister for Police, whom I discovered is an absolutely lovely man, who also has a young family.

It was just as I was thinking “I could probably leave now and nobody would notice” that I turned and saw Guy Smiley and his film crew standing right in front of me. “We would really like to hear from you,” he intoned. I shook my head and apologised and made polite excuses, but then he smiled. And he had SO MANY TEETH. And they were so white. I found myself nodding helplessly and the camera started rolling.

Now, as I was getting ready that morning, my mind did explore what I might say in the event I was interviewed. Let me tell you, the Kate in my mind was so eloquent, so articulate, so intelligent. The Kate in my mind spoke of “knock on effects”, “unintended consequences”, and “furthermore, what compounds this problem…”. Naturally, it follows that once the camera was on me and the Network Man twinkled sympathetically and asked “As a mother, do you feel fearful for your children’s future in a world without police?”, I responded glibly “Errr… duh… police are…goooood…”

And it only got worse from there. A goodly portion of my fifteen minutes of fame will be expended looking like a measles patient and blathering on like a bewildered four-year-old. Oh help.

As I stumbled away in the wake of the interview, I once again met with the Shadow Minister (incidentally, I think somebody should write a series of graphic novels about “Shadow Minister”. Legislator by day – vigilante by night!). I was still feeling a little dazed. “I had some really smart things to say on this issue, but once the camera was rolling, they all flew out of my head and I couldn’t think of what to say!”

The Shadow grinned ruefully, “Welcome to my life!” he said.

Later that day, I purchased foundation, BB cream, tinted moisturiser, and two types of concealer. I also discovered the missing foundation in my husband’s car. I’ve been watching the current affairs show every evening. On Monday night, there was a special event that took up most of the episode. One of the survivors of the 2006 Beaconsfield Mine Disaster’s marriage had failed. The current affairs show in question had managed to secure rights to interview this man and his soon-to-be-ex wife. This also gave them the opportunity to get more mileage out of the exclusive interviews of the miners they purchased eleven years ago.

On Tuesday night, there was an exposè, entitled “Butter Price SCANDAL”. “SCANDAL” was in red letters, stamped diagonally across the title. But, still, no “cop out” story.

Wednesday and Thursday were still bereft of slogan chanting locals concerned about law and order, but all was not lost. I did find out that one of the actors from a hospital drama in the 90s is going to jail. Half the article was spent explaining who exactly this man is, which was very helpful.

“Maybe it’s taking so long because they need a lot of time to photoshop the spots off your face,” was Christopher Robin’s helpful suggestion.

I’m nervous. All my friends are going to watch my debut television performance, because even though I meant to keep it a secret, I also can’t resist telling a funny story. I’m going to receive a lot of teasing over this.

But I’ll just have to cop it.

 

PS. It did air. On Friday. I’m barely in it at all! If you squint, you can see me in one of the group shots, but mostly it’s Kate-free. I can only assume they tried to photoshop the pimples away, but as I was more spot than woman, they erased me completely.  You will be relieved to hear, however, that both slogans made the cut. If I were inventing this story, I wouldn’t have written it this way, but the real life version is a bit of an anticlimax!

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Fangirl Fail.

It was 4:30pm when I saw it.

One of my favourite social commentators was visiting Melbourne (for one night only) to deliver a talk at a prestigious girls’ college in Melbourne.  I follow her on Facebook, and this is where I saw the last-minute invitation to come along and see her.  It was at 7pm that night.

I had been following this writer and commentator for a while now.  In a clumsy way, I have always felt strong concerns about our hyper-sexualised culture and the effects this has on young people, especially girls.  I want my daughters to be valued for their brains and their souls and not for how they look.  I want my sons to have healthy attitudes towards women and girls.  I don’t want my children to ever view another person as a means to an end.  I want them to build healthy relationships and have friends without creepy benefits.  I don’t think our culture supports me in the way I want to raise my kids.  So often, I feel like I’m alone in thinking this.  It’s not that I’m prudish, or anti-sex.  Sex is truly one of my favourite rainy-day activities.  But a pornified culture is toxic (and, in my opinion, anti-sex).  I’m just not that good at talking about it.

That’s why it’s a relief to find a social commentator who is good at talking about it.  In my tradition of giving pseudonyms, I will refer to her as Athena, not because it’s any great secret who she is, but because I’m rather prone to exaggeration in my writing (I would much rather be entertaining than accurate) and thought it would be a little unfair to use her real name because of this.  If you’re curious and want a clue, her organisation’s website is here.

So I called up Mr Knightley and breathlessly filled him in.

“I think you should go.”  he said firmly.  His calm, decisive nature is one of the many reasons I’m glad I married him.  “We have nothing else on tonight.  I’ll make sure I’m home on time.  If we have a quick dinner, you can just make it there by seven.”

Thus began my frenzy to get ready.

I hate to admit it, but there was a small but very vocal part of me that felt a bit intimidated at the thought of spending an evening at an exclusive private school with wealthy people (I can hear my mother’s voice scolding me for even thinking this.  If I were to be invited to dine with the Royal Family, my mum would exclaim over how lucky Her Majesty The Queen would be to meet me).  My vanity was working overtime.  What was I going to wear?  What was I going to wear?

The jeans-and-shirt combo I had on didn’t look too bad, but it felt a little worn and shabby. Pippi always complimented me on this particular top, “Charcoal suits you”, she would enthuse. The only problem was, the top used to be black.

I needed something nicer than my usual school-gate gear, but nothing that made me look like I dressed up for the occasion.  It took a lot of time to find something that looked suitably effortless.  Dress.  Tights.  Jewellery.  Make up.  Sensible Shoes (essential for feminist discussions).

As soon as my husband got home, I served up dinner and attempted to speed-feed myself whilst scrutinising a map of South Yarra on my phone screen.  Then I kissed everybody and fled the house.  I was barely going to make it on time.

As I battled a confusion of trams and inner-city traffic in the rain, I imagined how it was going to be.  I would nod and smile and look intelligent throughout the presentation.  When it came time for questions and comments I would astound everybody with my pithy observations.  Athena would approach me afterwards, keen to continue the discussion, and I would be all articulate and witty.  I might even casually mention my blog and Athena would clamour to whip out her notebook and pen to scribble down the address.

“We really should collaborate,” Athena would confide with a warm smile, “we need a brain like yours on our team!”, and she would nod and I would blush and she would braid my hair and I would paint her nails an empowering shade of pink.

I was twenty minutes (TWENTY MINUTES!) late when I tentatively pushed open the door to the conference room.  This was after I accidentally pulled in to the wrong campus of the school, then executed a wonky parallel park on the street and traipsed through a dark and bewildering labyrinth of buildings to reach the secret seminar room.  I was too scared to ask directions.  I didn’t want anyone to know I didn’t belong there.

There were no obvious seats for me to slink into un-noticed.  Everybody seemed to be sitting next to the door and the only way for me to reach a vacant seat was by climbing over a whole row of people.  Thankfully, the kindly man near me who was operating the slide-show pulled a chair from beneath his laptop table and beckoned me over.  Burning red, I shot him a grateful look and stumbled into my seat.

Athena spoke well, but even so, the talk was hard to listen to.  It was very hard-hitting and by the end of it I was reeling a little and feeling a bit depressed by the state of the world and the state of our advertising industry.

I really wanted to talk to Athena afterwards, but so, it seemed, did everyone.  So I did that thing where you hover expectantly.  I stood there with an eager look on my face that said I’m waiting to talk to Athena.  Unfortunately, I didn’t perform this ritual within Athena’s line of sight, so after the man who butted in ahead of me had finished talking, Athena swept away without noticing me.  I was left standing by myself in the middle of a room, the pleasantly expectant expression slowly fading from my face whilst Athena busied herself in a suitcase of equipment behind a screen.

What was I going to do?  What was the correct etiquette here?  Athena had placed herself in a confined space.  I didn’t really want to go in there and climb on top of her and gush everywhere when I quietly suspected she had positioned herself strategically to get away from people.  Meanwhile, I was starting to feel more and more awkward.  When Athena had been visible in the room, I could stand by myself without looking strange because I was obviously waiting to talk to her.  Now that Athena had disappeared from sight, I was just some lost person in the middle of the room.  Would she never emerge?

I tried to hover by the book stand and feign interest despite the fact that I already owned half the books for sale there already and had no interest in purchasing the other half.  Unfortunately, there is a limit to the amount of time you can hover at a book stand without actually making a purchase, and, once you do, there’s no longer a reason to hover.  What on earth was she doing back there?

I suppose I could have wandered over to the food table (they served wine), but I felt I’d already done enough freeloading by turning up to another school’s information night without nicking their food as well.  I was becoming increasingly aware of my interloper status.  Why would she not come out?

So I struck up a conversation with the nice man who had been operating the laptop.  He was taking photos as well.  I figured he must be part of Athena’s entourage and. like a naïve groupie, I thought that conversation with him might lead to conversation with my elusive idol.  I was pretty sure by now she was avoiding me on purpose.

It was with horror that I realised that this man was not with Athena but with the school.  I shamefacedly confessed that I was a gatecrasher to this event and he gallantly exclaimed “Good!  You are most welcome!”.  We chatted about Athena’s talk for a bit until Athena herself finally emerged and I launched myself upon her.

But my tongue had swollen to twice its size in my mouth.  It would seem I used up all my clever conversation on the kindly camera man.  I realised I wasn’t going to astound Athena with my intellect, which must have gone down for a nanna-nap, so I decided instead to try for a gold-star-for-effort.

“I’m so happy to be here!  I force-fed my family fish fingers and rushed right over!”  Oh cringe.  Why did I have to go for the alliterative and – you know – honest description of events?  I could have said I fed them ethically-sourced, free-range quinoa in an organic kale jus – how would she have known the difference?

Athena distractedly handed me a brochure for her organisation.  I handed it back and breathlessly assured her that I was already a member.  I am one of your people, I wanted to shriek,  I am your disciple.

I could smell my own nervous sweat.

As I jabbered on, and Athena nodded politely (I heard myself exclaiming “I homeschool my daughter!”  and “I boycott Spotlight because of you!”), a small thought cloud appeared above her head.  Inside it, I could see a cup of tea and a soft, warm bed.  Athena tried hard not to look longingly at her thought cloud, but I could tell it was a heroic struggle.  Instead, she smiled and thanked me and went to talk to the lady selling the books.  It was over.

It was only after I had left the building and was driving home that my brain decided to wake up and helpfully started providing me with suggestions of what I should have said.  I told my brain that it was too late now, but it would seem that once it had started, it couldn’t stop, so I continued to be regaled by these suggestions the whole way home.

Cartoon - "Kate's Big Chance"

Here is a picture to commemorate this event.  Note the tights and the three-dimensional bed.  That’s as impressive as my drawing skills get.

When I logged onto Facebook yesterday, there was an update from Athena.  She was sharing a video from an American speaker whom she greatly admired.  Athena commented that she’d had the privilege of hearing this woman speak when she (the speaker) visited Australia a few years ago and that she (Athena) “was like one of those pathetic groupie girls who makes fools of themselves”.

My heart gave a little dance in my chest.  Even Athena had fangirl moments.  It’s true: I was awkward and eager and gushing.  But at least I was in good company.