A Recipe For Relationship Success

We all want to have our cake and eat it too and, as the old adage goes, if you’re going to bake a cake then you’re going to need to break some eggs.  You may be happy with a Coles-brand sponge or maybe you’re the kind of person that dreams of a multi-layered rainbow cake romance. Perhaps you’re a new-age paleo/vegan/ gluten-free  romantic and you need some kind of flourless carrot cake love. Whatever your hungry heart desires, like cake, a good relationship requires some methodical mixing of ingredients and a good pinch of patience.

We’ve all sat back and wondered why such a promising love was such a flop. You started out with a picture of a Women’s Weekly birthday cake and before you know it you’re elbows deep in a singe-crusted, oozy topping, food dyed disaster. You’re weeping on the floor of the kitchen, covered of course, in the main ingredient: flour. No relationship, no love, no cake. Just a big bloody mess and a torn up photo of a multi-layered, dinosaur cake with green butter icing and peppermint leaf spikes.  The white dust settled on every surface quietly transforms into gelatinous papier mache glue as it mingles with your cascading tears.

Such life events show us that it’s not a matter of following a simple recipe. Being human – all too human – we rush into things. We miss crucial steps, skip ahead, think we know best, ignore the oven timer and become completely distracted watching Family Feud, delivering a half-baked, lackluster love, droopy and distinctly lacking some key ingredient. So what are the essentials?

Obviously there’s got to be flour, you are trying to bake a cake after all.  I’ll call the flour (or almond meal if you’re that way inclined) love. . All you need is love, right? Love is all you need. That’s what I was told. Wrong. Whatever it is your heart desires from love, you’re going to need more than just flour. You’re also going to need a raising agent, a spark, a chemical reaction, something to turn a bowl of beige stodge into a fluffly delight. Without baking powder, you’ll end up making friendship crepes. Now, if you have flour and baking powder then you can have a crack at damper – you might even magic up some play-dough or a scone – but you’re still only half way to a relationship.

Holding the cake together is the eggs, the milk, the butter or the mashed bananas for my vegan friends. Key binders in a love cake might seem critically obvious, but they are often the most neglected component. Your eggless cake is the relationship your peers turn their nose up at. The foray that causes you to fall out with old friends. It’s trust, respect, communication, equality, understanding, acceptance, openness. Without a minimum of three of these components the partnerships skews towards ownership. Old eggs in your love meringue ruin your chances at that soft, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth goodness, delivering instead a disappointing dish that really should go straight in the bin.

A cake should be sweet and it needs measures of kindness, caring, thoughtfulness; all that vom-worthy couple stuff. But there’s no level of garnish that can can uncook a catastrophy. No extravagant couple holiday, kissing selfie profile pic, overtly affectionate post or tacky couple tatt that can overcome a blundered base. There is no measure of silver cashews that can convincingly bedazzle a bland bundt cake. Some of us think we want a hot partner, nice dinners, holidays, presents. While a thick layer of icing can mask a dry cake, remember that the best chocolate brownie needs no extra decoration.

In truth, you can’t make a cake without flour. You also cannot call a bag of flour a cake. It’s not enough to fight for a relationship because you’re in love. If you are missing trust, respect, dignity, honesty and communication, it’s going to be a shitshow,  not a souffle . Too many times I hear vile, unhealthy and downright repulsive behaviour condoned and defended by love. So babe, what you’re telling me Neanderthal Neil can be excused for crushing you confidence, destroying your friendships and ruining your life? “…but, but you don’t understand, we’re in love.”

Mmm. Cool story. Neil is not a masterpiece, he’s got less personality of a bag of sugar and is not a healthy or balanced addition to your diet. You may as well throw fistfuls of flour at each other to show your love, it’s roughly the same result as your dysfunctional relationship. He makes everyone around you sick, most of all you, whilst you trip-out on some kind of delusional sugar high. “Ohhhh doctor I know I have type two diabetes…. But, but you don’t understand, Neil and I are in love. Neil doesn’t mean to destroy my health. I couldn’t possibly end it with Neil, Neil, love, Sugar, love blah blah blah”

*Self-destructs in a puff of sprinkles*

In the past we’ve all hoped for a bombe alaska and instead landed a cream pie to the face. In hindsight it’s generally safe to say the measurements were a bit off. Next time if you’re thinking of baking a cake with someone check your shopping basket first before you hit the check out.

The proof is in the pudding.

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Navigating Murky Waters: The First Date Dilemma, Dinner or Drinks?

Like setting sail on the high seas, casting off for a first date can be a tumultuous journey into the great unknown. Unfortunately Facebook stalking, your drunken judgement or riotous text message banter are about as reliable as a Melbourne weather forecast for predicting date success. One minute it’s sunny, the next you’re running for cover in the ladies room, sheltering from a cataclysmic storm of clashing morals, offensive narrow-mindedness or not-so-good-looking-in-the-daylight disasters.  Our inner Napoleon wants to believe that we will return the victorious conqueror of unchartered territories but sadly, mid-sail motion sickness often forces us abandon ship as we desperately try to keep our eyes on the horizon.

Alas, the waters are treacherous in a dating pool and filled with pirates, sharks and pollution. It’s no wonder that both men and women deconstruct and analyse first date semantics in order to decode the best first-date scenario. Do you go casual or formal? Who chooses the venue? Do you split the bill? Do you kiss goodbye? How do you escape if he’s a surprise vegan life-coach?

The first date is an honoured tradition and there are certain protocols and traditions that both help and hinder our romances. Typically, dinner or drinks is the standard first offer. This leaves many stressed out at the idea of a full-blown dinner or the possible sleaze associated with catching up for drinks. Whether or not you’re eating, I find that symbolically smashing a bottle of champagne between you may bestow good luck upon your voyage (or at least launch you into smooth sailing small talk).

Where I grew up, meeting someone for a drink was usually code for “I’ll meet you at the bar at 10pm when you’ve already gotten yourself white-girl drunk, buy you two vodka raspberries and try and get in your pants” so forgive my reluctant cringe when you invite me for drinks. Call it a scar from the past (first glimpse of baggage and it’s not even the first date… Check.), but I am not going to respond with “Oh why certainly, I’d love nothing more than to ditch my girlfriends and meet you in a dark bar, half-wasted, knock back a few stiff drinks before you suggest we go somewhere quieter ‘so we can talk’.” If talking was his priority, then his level of effort was as poor as his knowledge of bar-side acoustics. Enchanté, Sailor, but I must bid you adieu as I run off into the night via the nearest 24-hour bakery.

But now that I’m older and living in a bigger city, I find myself invited out for drinks more frequently. It seems to be the convention, but I still struggle to understand the meaning of it. We probably met at a bar so the assumption that I drink is fair, but meeting for a drink on a weeknight is problematic in many ways. Firstly I am a grown woman and I have a job and somewhere to be in the morning, secondly because I expect to drive to the meeting place. The two are compounded by the fact that I’m a small woman who has only had avocado and Kruskits for dinner (since I had to buy my own) and I can’t realistically have more than about 1.5 drinks without abandoning my car and taxiing home, which judging by my budget-friendly dinner is not likely. What a kerfuffle, and all because you don’t want to get stuck at a dinner date with a relationship blogger who will probably tear you to pieces in her next post.

In theory, going out for a drink with someone is a great, low pressure situation where you can have a few drinks, loosen up and get to know someone in an informal setting. I totally understand the functionality of it; it’s just like a coffee date but at night, with alcohol and the chances of getting some action are about 4000% higher. Maybe it reflects how disinterested I am in dating at the moment, but the appeal of risking a D.U.I on a first date, on a Wednesday night (when The Bachelor is on) with a guy that wasn’t confident enough in me to invite me for food isn’t a very strong draw card. Looks like Bachie Woods will be the only one keeping me warm this winter.
I can’t help but feeling that drinks are the runner up prize. It leaves uncertainty as to his intentions:  were you not worth the outlay for actual dinner date? Does he think you’re a two-rum strumpet?  Is he Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love (pre-Emma Stone entrance) with more dates this year than a calendar? Drinks tend to be deployed as a bit of a “cool guy” calling card, showing that they are easy going and confident but it doesn’t do much to reassure the chronically insecure female that whispers bitter cynicisms in the back of our mind.

Dinner seems more comforting because the likelihood they are dining out with a different girl in a different port every night is unlikely. Obviously he’s not a serial dater because taking every girl out for Teppanyaki is just not economically viable. On the other side of the coin, however, when a guy takes us out for a too-fancy-for-a-first-date dinner it can be just as concerning.  The good thing about dinner is that it shows effort, planning and that he trusts his own judgement.  Alternatively it might mean he’s desperate to impress, he has no friends of his own to dine with or he simply wants some nice eye candy to entertain him while he sets sail on a food safari across the city.

So by my calculations you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. No matter how you approach it, first dates are always going to feel like walking the plank into shark infested waters.  Slightly safer options include coffee dates, brunches or delightful strolls in the park but they occupy prime hours of daylight in the weekend. The chances of drunk driving or sleazy pick-ups are much lower, but  you are going to end up in the water either way, so you can choose whether to jump in the deep end or wade through shallower waters. Some days, dating feels like throwing yourself in an ocean of awkwardness and confusion, and wondering how can you opt out (Text “STOP” to 13 13 11, throw your phone in the ocean, quit your job and go be a pirate).

Yes m’hearties, this is what goes through our heads. Happy sailing.

Is food the enemy or am I?

As many (or all) women will understand, I have been obsessed with food since a young age. In our early years we will accept anything that comes flying toward our mouths masquerading as an aeroplane; but as we grow older we become wise to the superior tastes of trans-fats, sugar and salt. For many of us the obsession with food can be traced back to our pubescent metamorphoses, when we developed unexpected womanly curves and began to panic and freak out. Overcome by the changes in our bodies, many of us have been on a rollercoaster ever since, trying to sculpt and squeeze ourselves into some unobtainable figure. Enter yo-yo diets, idiotic detoxes, low-carb, no-carb, vegan, sugar free and low fat revolutions, all inevitably ending in hunger and frustration.  #cleaneating #thighgap #doesmybuttlookbiginthis? #howthinistoothin? #fitspo #greenjuice #fuckitigiveup #wherestheicream

This brings to mind a very relatable meme I’ve encountered on social media… It goes something like this:

 “Every girl’s dream is to find Prince charming…FALSE

Every girl’s dream is to eat whatever they want without getting fat.”

I thought it was pretty hilarious, mainly because it was a brutally accurate summation of my relationship with food. As you may have noticed the message around food and body image is very conflicted these days. There is a strong social obligation to consume copious amounts of indulgent food at every occasion, which is at odds with society’s not so subtle emphasis on the ideal female form. This sees many of us scoffing party pies at the work morning tea and then crying into our salads about it by lunch time. These pressures have us all darting chaotically from hedonic indulgences to supreme guilt and self-loathing. Torn between the compulsion to consume the wondrous smorgasbord of lard and carbs on offer, and our aching desire to become a Victoria’s Secret model (because that’s realistic).

So where does this leave us? Crying into our Ben and Jerry’s, or obsessively searching for the most nutritionally effective juicer on eBay? Mainly we are left dazed, confused and overwhelmed by the barrage of ‘guilty’ and ‘guilt-free’ options out there. We have taken to bartering with ourselves like we are children: “Yes Jules, if you go to the gym five times this week you can drink that whole bottle of champagne on the weekend (as long as you ONLY have a salad for dinner beforehand)”… What I don’t account for is the actions of ‘Drunk Jules’, my intoxicated alter-ego, who finds it liberating to eat copious amounts of McDonlads in order to equalise my hard earned calorie deficit. Thus, leaving me fretting for weeks about the outcome of that 3 a.m. large McChicken meal plus nuggets (well at least she ordered a Diet Coke, right?). Well played Drunk Jules, well played.

So evidently this deprivation game is enough to drive me crazy, into a state of depraved drunken shenanigans. So what should I do? If I put on my sensible hat for a minute and recall past experiences I realise, that the less I deprive myself and the more focus I give towards eating nutritionally dense meals the happier I am. So maybe, rather than adopting my default setting of “Eating as much as I can without getting fat” I need to be a little more consistent in “Eating great foods that make me feel great”. Strangely enough the junk cravings tend to subside (…Froyo is healthy right?) and ‘Drunk Jules’ is a lot better behaved. So what I’m trying to say is that maybe if we spent a little less time beating ourselves up and practiced a little more self-love maybe we could moderate the food obsession.  And perhaps with a bit of practice we could beat off those dreaded love-handles and still enjoy a cheeky cheeseburger every once in a while without suffering post-burger depression.