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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Let’s be alone together

Somebody asked me the other day if I was lonely and I nearly fell off my chair.  I have not been lonely since I was a soppy, 14-year-old emo trying to figure out my place in the world, back when the feeling of misunderstanding felt terminal and heavy eye-liner was the only accessible medication. Back to the present day, though, am I alone? Yes.  Am I lonely? Never.  What a pointless waste of time. The absurd accusation that a person would be lonely because they don’t have a partner is about as robust as the assumption that all gay guys are “faaaaaaaabulous” and all pretty girls are dumb. Certainly, there will be instances of each but if you think it’s a blanket rule then you need to get out more.

To the young and carefree loneliness can be a bit like mould: if you’re complacent it can creep in and before you know it you’re sprouting mushrooms out of your shower grout. Much like the hygiene issues in your bathroom, you can’t trust other people to come along and clean up your mess. It’s you’re responsibility now and (I sincerely hope) your mum’s not going to come around save you. Roll up your sleeves, grab the bleach and take care of it like an adult, because – like cleaning the bathroom – the more regularly address it the easier it is to manage.

In a world where we are constantly attached to smart phones it can be easy to dilute friendships down to reciprocal post-liking or regular photo comments. Shout out to my Instagram bffs from around the globe with whom I share a magical double-tapping, girl-crushing, like-for-like commitment. I am here for you babe, and if you’re really struggling with that selfie I promise to like it across all three of my Instagram accounts – until death do us part. That being said it’s common in this day and age to let too many friends drift away from the physical world and get sucked into the digital vortex. Because of this, loneliness can catch you by surprise: while everyone else is driven mad by your loud, bragging message notification tone, you fail to realise the real-life organic relationships you once had are stale or rotting. Sure, I get a kick from pulling in mad stats on my latest highly filtered, artistic, over-exposed masterpiece (‘WOOHOO 100 likes…. Don’t touch me Bitch, I’m famous’) but that doesn’t take away my need for physical contact. I want to see your facial expression, read your body language – even smell your BO if I must. Nothing will ever replace the warmth of a whole-hearted laugh or the tingle of a rib-squishing hug.  Thinking that social media ‘connectedness’ can cure isolation is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound – it’s just not going to stick.

If you’re a capable young adult the difference between being lonely and being alone is choice. I chose to be alone but nobody wakes up in the morning and chooses to be lonely. If I wanted a relationship I’m sure I could find one. There’s a plethora of delightful gents out there who might just be up for the challenge (Wanted: tall, dark and handsome… or tall, blonde and handsome… Or tall and handsome… Ok, ok. Just handsome will do).  I chose to be alone because at this stage there isn’t an offer on the table that would justify rearranging my over-flowing calendar of commitments. With work, study, fitness, friendship, writing and my demanding hair-washing routine I am not willing to compromise my lifestyle for the sake of having someone to constantly harass me via text. So until the male cast of Vampire Diaries comes knocking down my door I’m more than happy to just keep doing my thing.

Loneliness happens when you stop proactively filling up your life with awesome things and waste your time moping that the man or woman of your dreams hasn’t tracked you down and put a ring on it yet. God knows why. Maybe they are too busy out living their own exciting, fulfilling lives to waste time trawling through Tinder profiles, Mutual Friends and Instagram galleries chasing you. The reality is you’re not going to get swept of your feet if you spend the majority of your time alone on the couch. I’m not saying you should sign up for insincere activities in the hopes of meeting someone, because that probably won’t work either. Trust me; a happy person can smell desperation like a shark can smell blood in the water. Only they won’t be creeping up on you like Jaws, they will be running for the hills in case you’re contagious. There is nothing less attractive than a stage-five clinger who has no real life, friends or interests of their own. You don’t want to be that guy and you definitely don’t want to be with that guy so always carry salt.

Finding someone won’t necessarily cure your loneliness anyway.  Personally, I’m more likely to feel alone when I’m in a relationship that’s constantly letting me down than when I am in a committed relationship with myself.  I know what I like, I manage my own expectations, I never have to fight over what movie to watch, I don’t have to shave my legs every day and I’m free to be as ugly as I like without judgement.  If all of that is wrong then I don’t want to be right.

In the words of Jean-Paul Sartre, “if you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.’  If you can accept your flaws and embrace your strengths you can do away with the need for the continual reinforcement sought in a relationship. Put down the i-solation-Phone and make an ongoing commitment to your friendships and making life as full and rewarding as possible. You don’t need to settle for Joe-Blow, or worse, become boring old barnacle joy-riding on someone else’s life. Concentrate on yourself and it won’t matter if you have someone or not because you will be kicking life’s butt regardless.

Bottom line: You never have to be lonely if you can be comfortable being alone.

(Image courtesy of usamedeniz at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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.