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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Don’t Let The Assholes Get You Down

Assholes. We all know they are bad for us, but just like methamphetamine, one hit and you’re hooked. They corrode away your identity, leaving you a painful, weeping burden on the friends who told you to dump that d-bag six months ago.  The ice epidemic is certainly real, but the relatively unexplored addiction to assholes has been plaguing hopeless romantic for decades. Why are we so attracted to people that treat us badly? Why do the good girls pick the worst guys and why do the nice guys fall for ball-breaking dictators? It’s a sick, sad world, folks.

An asshole can be any guy or girl whose general behaviour, manner or emotional instability causes constant unhappiness, insecurity and hysteria for the opposite sex. There are many ways to be an asshole and it’s not dictated by age or gender. Yes, girls are definitely assholes as well (but generally try to be more subtle about it). Girls will torture a guy in a friendzone grey-area for years when he has no real chance. Just by giving him enough hope to get his attention, but never enough to imply a commitment, maybe a drunken pash every two years when she’s feeling lonely and needs cheering up. “Oh, Dan? Nooooooo, he doesn’t like me, we’re just really great friends. Don’t be silly” *Denial face*  – Yeah, sure you are. All of my friends have a bubble gum sculpture of me in their closet and a book full of emo poems about how majestic I am too.

The tragic thing about assholes is that people think that they can save them, releasing them from their shackles of douche-baggery. Kids, this is not Free Willy, and who said they even wanted to change? Most assholes are blissfully happy in their current condition. So, getting upset because an asshole hasn’t been miraculously cured after two months of dating is like yelling at your cat for not fetching the newspaper: futile. If you wanted a golden retriever you should’ve bought one, if you wanted a nice guy/girl then you should have chosen one. You can open the gates but you can’t set free a performing sea mammal if they are happy with their easy pickings at the water park.

Unrealistic expectations are the cause of much of the heartbreak in good guy/bad guy relationships. Sadly, the burden of blame is with you, Mr. Nice Guy. You’re hurting both parties when you blame the other person for not changing. The real failure here was your expectations. Treat a jerk like a national park and you will both come away a lot happier: enjoy the experience if you can, leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but pictures. They were an asshole when you found them and they’ll be an asshole when you leave, and with careful conservation they will go on to be an asshole for decades to come. Don’t mess with the ecosystem.

You can drive yourself insane trying to get to the root of their problems. But what makes an asshole as asshole is not really the question you should be asking yourself. Perhaps a more valuable question is this: what draws you to this kind of person? Is it some combination of low self-worth and boredom? When the nice guys are boring you to tears, the temptation creeps in, saying, “Come here, you beautiful Bastard. I haven’t made any really bad decisions in a while.”  If it’s not boredom or a Mother Teresa complex, then your self-worth may need to be re-calibrated. This quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower just about sums it up: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Assholes think they deserve the best and that’s why they often end up with incredibly kind and generous people. On the flip side, the best of us tend to be the most humble, meaning they are willing to accept more than their fair share of bullsh*t.

Dating an A-grade A-hole is a valuable experience, the key here being that it should be a chapter of the story, but not your shot at a happy ending. Dating an asshole is an important lesson in figuring out what you need in order to flourish – and what you don’t. Like puberty it’s an uncomfortable embarrassing time, but you should come out a more developed adult. Dating an asshole will also help you to realise if an asshole as well, or contrarily, that you’re an absolute door mat. Ditch the saviour complex and check your self-worth: I can change him, I’ll make her happy, blah blah blah bla-ullllllllllsh*t. They won’t change and you’ve really got no right to ask them to. You can’t tear down half of someone’s existing personality and install a new one just to suit yourself. The solution to your problems lies not in the ability to fix jerks, but to stop selecting them in the first place.

Serial dick-dater I urge you to please take a moment to reconsider your selection criteria. You’ve been down this road before so you know that when you jump on the jerk-wagon you leave your good friends (and your dignity) behind. There’s only so many times your friends will support a relapsing jerk-a-holic. So, it’s time to learn that lesson: if you want a long lasting love then stop shopping for diamonds in the bargain bin. No matter how crafty you are no one can turn a sequined cowboy hat into a crown. Save you pennies for someone who is really worth it, because it’s time to drop the door mat act and start asking for the love you deserve. After all, you chose the jerk-life, it didn’t choose you.

Self-Esteem Saboteurs: The Spineless Art of Seduction

If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, is the way to a woman’s heart through her insecurities? It’s an old fashioned sexist recipe for fat men and unhappy women. Courtship is like language, there are no universal rules: “’I’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’, except in fifteen circumstances that are impossible to predict”. The word “banter”, used to describe flirty repartee, has become a widely accepted measure of compatibility. I’m sure I heard the phrase first used on Geordie Shore, which is always a worry, but I can’t deny it’s on the radar. The ability to have a cheeky conversation and take the mickey out of one another is definitely a desirable trait. But where do you draw the line between banter and verbal battery? Why do I keep hearing put downs instead of pick-up lines?

Though my confidence invariably fluctuates, I do have a fierce ambition to accept myself, warts and all. But the journey to self-acceptance is a tumultuous game of Snakes and Ladders. One week will have you at the top of the board and the next week you’ll slither back down square one at the mercy of a cold blooded reptile.  Some days, mustering enough courage to leave the house without flinching at your own reflection in shop windows is an achievement (note: the serious stare of a window shopping female is usually 30% shopping and 70% checking oneself out in shiny full length surfaces). It’s crushing enough to hear an overweight middle aged woman comment on my cellulite through an open car window and the constant bitch of unhappy females: “I don’t even know why he likes her, she’s not even that pretty” (both true stories… ouch). Not only this, but if you’re a lonely heart looking for love you’ve now also put your self-esteem in the hands the opposite sex who are waiting to hiss at your most noble attempts to feel adequate.

Made popular by some greasy-haired sleaze-ball pick-up artist in the 90s, “negging” is a sickening interaction tool men are encouraged to use to garner success with the opposite sex. Delivering a back-handed compliment is supposed to induce some strong desire for the woman to seek the rude man’s approval. Another example from my personal repository of dickhead encounters: “Why would a pretty girl like you dye her hair that colour?” Such a remark is supposed to render me senseless and desperate for approval. To his dismay I bit back by asking why an old guy felt the need to go to night clubs and insult young girls. It’s disturbing but many argue it works and I’m certain I’ve fallen for it before.

I’ve certainly tried to brush it off and put it down to bad taste in company or poor choice of venue, but recently this relentless bullying has even followed me across state lines and international borders. I could be a magnet for douche bags (I’ve definitely entertained that hypothesis before) however I feel it’s an uncomfortable symptom of a larger gaping global wound in the fabric of romantic interactions. I love to laugh at myself and everyone else, but verbal abuse from romantically inclined strangers is taking it a little too far. On a recent “relaxing” beach holiday I found myself close to full berserker status after meeting seven different males in close succession who after a polite introduction proceeded to insult me with unapologetic candour, waving a matador’s red cape at me in the hope that I come charging straight for them.  Why, how charmed I am to hear that “I’m nice for an Australian” or “funny for a woman”. Indeed, you’re lovely yourself for a spineless, talking reptile from the bottom of a scum filled swamp. As a refugee from poor male etiquette in Australia I was terrible abashed by the false asylum. Are insults the new “come hither?”

I have been made to feel so frustrated by this unrelenting negativity that I’ve taken it upon myself to push back at the subtle insulters and the outright creeps and dish out some offensiveness of my own. Sick of short and defensive conversations with men trying to offend me in order to compliment me, like a 3rd grade boy pulling my hair in a love-induced spasm, I have developed a semi-automatic defensive mechanism. TBH, as much as I love men and their cleverness and charm, as much as I want to stroke their beautiful hair, make them reach things I can’t reach and lift things I can’t lift, I will not play this unholy game.

My instructions are fairly straight forward: if you don’t like a girl don’t talk to them, if you do like a girl try to act like an adult human instead of a horny monkey throwing faeces. I truly feel bad for kind and gentle guys who handle the backlash of fierce and defensive women. These guys are bearing the brunt of the anger when they’ve done nothing wrong and it’s because we’ve already had our daily fill of insults and don’t want to risk anymore. Sorry to the unwitting romantic who tried to compliment me at the next bar: “Wow you so are beautiful!” Yes, beautiful, but just like a poisonous amphibian, if you touch me I’ll probably kill you.

Frankly I’m sick of bang-out-of-line assholes insulting my nationality, occupation, appearance, gender or telling me I’m too cocky, confident, proud or whatever. Excuse me buddy, I cop enough criticism from myself, I do not need your two cents’ worth. If you’re not going to make polite conversation then best to back the f*ck up before you get smacked the f*ck up. I didn’t dislocate my shoulder applying the most optimum and sumptuous layer of fake tan on my back for you to tear me down with your BS comments. “Wow that’s a lovely top you’ve got on honey, but I think you forgot your pants.” Go bury yourself in manure you worm. It’s sad to think that you will probably one day procreate.

I wonder when people deleted the memory of their grandma teaching them “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” You will always catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar, remember that. Women shouldn’t be treated like a country that needs to be destroyed in order to be conquered, we prefer to be treated like human beings. We have enough on our plates dealing with internal battles raging without dealing with after dark guerrilla tactics. Try engaging us as you would in full daylight and sobriety rather than howling like a scare-wolf sending usrunning frantically in the opposite direction.

Negging someone into submission is like stunning a deer with headlights and smashing into it with your car: you can’t claim you’re a hunter. There’s no glory in making a horrible mess of your target by brutalising them into submission. There’s quite a difference between banter and brutality. Why not try good old fashioned humour or intelligence to woo the lady, and in the words of the great and wise Ellen DeGeneres, “Be kind to one another.”

Be an Arcadian on every platform, check out the menu icon in the top right hand corner to subscribe to email notifications &     follow the journey on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Everyone is welcome in Arcadia. Jules x

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.

The Curse of the Distracted Man

As I sit down to write the fourth introduction to this post, I am painfully aware of how highly distractible I have become. Today I’m running off about four hours of sleep and three lattes but that’s pretty much my usual state. I currently have four-zillion-and-fifty-one things running through my head or buzzing through my phone, hurtling into my consciousness and bumping me off track like some obnoxious fat kid in a dodgem car. Boom. I’m halted. Productivity at a standstill once again as over-weight Bobby cackles maniacally and rears up for the next assault. Right, where was I? Oh yes, blog post: I was going to write about  being distracted or something like that but I can’t seem to sit still long enough to get anything out on the page.

With push notifications and unlimited Wi-Fi connections it’s bloody hard to focus our attention long enough to cook a piece of toast without losing interest, calling three friends and organising brunch instead. We are so overloaded with commitments and responsibilities that we can’t sit still for more than a minute without with churning through more unique thoughts than a nun on LSD. I like to call it the Curse of the Distracted Man (or Woman) and it’s a modern day epidemic that has us constantly disconnecting from the people around us. Example: I find it hard to take phone call in my own home without switching to speaker phone so I can trawl my Instagram feed, catch up on my emails and start a beginner’s course in Mandarin. Is it because I’m not interested in what my family/ BFF/Bae has to say? Not at all, I’m just so pressed for time and overcommitted than any unused opportunity to multitask seems like a careless waste. Sorry, Mum.

So, Sexy Singles, maybe Mum will put up with your constant distraction and your repetitious “uh, what, sorry… pardon?” but what about Mr. Distract-a-babe or Little Miss Disinterested? How can you capture someone else’s attention when you can’t even manage your own? Now that is a challenge. No matter how happy you are being single, you still want to know that all that hard work and glamour isn’t going unnoticed. Thank God for the constant buzz of our smartphones reminding us that we are still hot and still relevant. Naturally it makes sense that the majority of dates no are organised online nowadays. It’s easy, accessible and not to mention it softens the blow of rejection and allows for calculated flirty banter. Just one problem, when we finally make it down to dating town sometimes we can’t remember how to communicate without the aid of emoji’s.

For us, the distraction-afflicted phone addicts, how do our over-loaded minds affect our dating prospects? It feels like everyday life is a juggling act with 100 applications running and it gets harder and harder to prioritise them as we take on more and more responsibilities, let alone write back to text messages. I saw a great quote the other day, it read: “my brain has too many tabs open.” It was like a one-line description of this whole generation. As a group we often do a bloody terrible job at dating because we can’t follow a single train of thought for more than about 30 seconds. In theory, dating is pretty straight forward concept, just like going to the supermarket. Unfortunately, when I try and go to the supermarket I set off looking for some wholesome skinless chicken fillets and come home with 2 Curly-Whirlies, a tub of yogurt and a trashy mag (then wonder why my cupboards are bare and my stomach is growling).

Has anyone else struggled to get through even the simplest coffee date without an attack of the Gen Y phone-checking interlude? A few years ago it was downright rude to text or call in the company of someone else but now it’s become common place. Trying not to look at your phone on a date is the new generation blinking contest, both parties dying to moisten their eyeballs in the sweet pool of notifications that have gathered during the time it took to cover-off small and place your order. What is the meaning of those five loud vibrations my phone has emitted throughout dinner… maybe I should excuse myself for a “bathroom/selfie/Snapchat/Instragram/e-mail/Whatsapp break”. Maybe I can get away with sneakily checking my messages whilst photographing my dinner (thank god that’s also widely accepted these days… Phewww).

I don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to telling my date to put his phone away. If anything, I jump at the opportunity to whip out mine for a quick sweep. We are so over stimulated it’s hard to sit still and have a regular conversation with someone without compulsively checking for messages or sharing inane memes from our endless collection of screenshots.  The cat doing yoga and pictures of my past brunches may have shown how worldly and hilarious I am, but more likely they pointed out that I’m just as distracted and self-involved as everyone else. And so the curse claims another victim. But wait, no it’s okay, he didn’t even notice my self-indulgent rampage because he was too busy sending urgent emails. Alas, it’s no fun playing hard to get when the other party has resigned themselves to a liking-spree on Instagram during dessert, before I’ve even had a chance to flash my catch-me-if-you-can smile.  *winky face, blowing a kiss emoji*

The guys that can leave their phone in the car while they’re at dinner and the girls who can mute their notifications for two hours without collapsing from FOMO are becoming a rare breed. So – if you’re trying to work out how to keep a date’s attention while you’re out eating (short of finding someone different to eat with) all I can suggest is that you try texting them.