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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Handling Dating Fluctuations: Feast or Famine

Romance is a tropical island, subject to unpredictable weather and extreme conditions. The rainy season may be overwhelming at first, but what follows is plentiful feasting. As a single twenty-something I’ve observed two states of polarity in our romantic lives: lonely as a bottom dwelling hermaphrodite from a deep-sea abyss or popular as Harry Styles at a tween-ager convention. There is rarely a middle ground, so eat while the goings good. A feast can quickly become a famine.

One day out of the blue, it really does start raining men. God bless Mother Nature! It’s thrilling when out of the blue every Tom, Dick and Harry starts trying to hit you up; suspiciously you wonder if somebody has written your contact details on a bathroom stall: “Call for a good time.” But regardless of the cause, the sudden influx of boys blowing up your phone gives you a Ke$ha-like feeling of celebrity. “Yassssss, I am queeeeen,” you hiss as you skip merrily along, tossing your hair and giggling with delight while a pied-piper trail of men follow along behind you. The drought has passed – hallelujah, you’re saved! Line up in single file Bachelors, you get a rose, you get a rose, get a rose, you all get a rose.

Once you get a grip of your intoxicating ego trip you start to realise the logistical nightmare ahead of you. How should you prioritise your options? Do you pick the guy with the nice hair, or the one with the dog? What about the PT, or maybe the businessman? What on earth have they put in the water to send all these men shooting out of the ground where there was once only barren soil and optimistic exes? Now you’re wading through oceans of devotion and tossing up whether to dip a toe in the water or dive in head first, but the question is, at what stage does interviewing multiple candidates become unethical? Because if this was a reality TV show it would be okay to start dating all twenty as long as I slowly whittle down the numbers week by week. Maybe play it safe and start with five. That seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

Wining, dining, flirting, banter; everything is going so well, you can’t even remember what it was like to be trapped in the barren desolate wasteland of the drought days. It’s all fun and games for a few weeks then, suddenly, your show has been axed. You were basking on the beach of love until you saw your top three guys have mutual friends and they’ve all just checked in at the same event: game over. You thought in this modern age it was okay for girls to play the field? Well, apparently not. Due to your silver-tongued antics your popularity has significantly dropped and suddenly you’re alone and confused like an ousted Australian Prime Minister. Yesterday you were on top, now your swarm of suitors have disappeared, leaving you to wonder if it was ever really real or just a mirage.

You start to really regret throwing away your favourite volleyball, Wilson. Sure, he wasn’t great at conversation but he was good listener and they are getting hard to come by. It’s an all-too-familiar feeling when the sky stops raining men and all the dateable/mate-with-able guys seem to disappear from the planet. Now there’s only tumble weeds rolling across a grim social media feed. Your ovaries shudder in terror and your browser history is filled with cat memes and baby sloth videos. You’re back on that tropical island all alone, catching fish with your bare hands and washing your hair once a week – at the very most. You wonder if it was a bad idea to go on a  spree of saying “yes” and kissing babies like a sleazy politician when there was no way you were ever going to follow through.

You surrender back into your life on Single Island. This is where you live now. It seems this may be the end. Your dating show has been axed and this is the final curtain, the end of all love. Climb into your adult-sized onesie and nurse a bottle of moscato; make yourself comfortable as you settle in for a full Bridget Jones montage of sad, single moping. ‘Allllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll by myself’ humming in the back of your head as you relentlessly check your phone for the buzz of a direct message or cheeky “like,” but there’s nothing except your friends tagging you in Instagram memes about insane single girls and binge drinking.

Moving further into single hysteria, you start uploading falsely glamourous Instagram selfies (#TBT to when I wasn’t a hot mess) and Snapchat stories (I’m cute, remember!?) to test the waters. But alas, the only bites come from three creepy guys who’ve messaged you sporadically over the past six years telling you (and probably 15 others), again, how beautiful you are. *Ugh* Thank you, Creepy Greg, but puh-lease, that selfie was not meant for you. Why not try again in another six weeks when my self-worth has plummeted just a little further?

“Pull yourself together woman,” a voice inside your head says. “You can stay here rehashing history and living in your pyjamas, leading a sad half-life consisting mainly of Grey’s Anatomy repeats, desperately scavenging social media affirmations of your worth, or you can fashion a raft out of drift wood and save your sorry self. You can’t sit around your whole life praying for rain because the only thing you can rely on is this: it won’t happen when you want it to. Remind yourself that being single is a situation, not a character flaw and get on with being a girl boss!”

You’re most attractive to the opposite sex when they are the last thing on your priority list. Whether you’ve devoted yourself to travel, your career, being a better friend/ relative/ human, or you’ve completely given up on Homo Sapiens and finally bought that puppy.  The only time you find what you once wanted is when you stop looking for it, and the less you want it, the more likely you are to find it. Like a dripping naked toddler that’s escaped from the bath that refuses to be clothed, the faster you run away the harder they will try to catch you. “Let me be free,” I scream, whilst they try to wrangle me into restrictive dating patterns. That’s when you realise that, actually, things were so much easier when it was just you and Wilson.

 

It’s good to be back in Arcadia, thanks for stopping by! Jump up to the menu box in the top right hand corner of the page to subscribe by email so you never miss a post!  Jules x

Man vs Woman: Who Wins the Grooming Contest?

As we stand knee-deep in manure in the paddock of life, we often can’t help but ask ourselves if the grass is really greener on the other side. Sauntering through the meadows wondering “what if I had been a born a bull and not a cow? How would life be different?”  No doubt the pastures are probably much the same shade on both sides of the fence but there’s always room for speculation. I don’t want to argue on which gender wins at life because that’s not as black and white as Daisy the cow. Undoubtedly guys have many struggles that we can’t relate to, but  I’d like to share with you what grooming  looks like from the female paddock. While we are primping, curling, blending, soaking, painting, plucking, rinsing and repeating you lads seem to roll on by, not a care in the world, looking effortlessly handsome after about five whole minutes of grooming.  Lucky bastards.

Let’s start with the most obvious one: makeup. Granted, this one is both a blessing and a curse for females. The arbitrary grind of makeup application is draining and I dream about the amount of extra sleep and money I would have if it was out of the equation. Don’t even try and tell me that girls choose to wear make-up and that we look just as good without it because we don’t. You are misinformed. I can bet that half the girls you think you’ve seen without make-up were wearing foundation and mascara at a minimum; more than likely they woke up 15 minutes before you to smash on some face paint and brush their hair before you woke up.  Trust me on this one; I have tried not wearing makeup before only to be accosted by concerned friends and family: “No Dad, I am not sick. I am just ugly. Thanks for noticing.”

Every girl has a different routine when it comes to makeup but what it boils down to is a combination of skill, investment and expertise developed over a lifetime of trial and error (special thanks to my high-school friend who very politely told me to buy a bronzer without glitter for the day time and to my mum for throwing out my purple hair mascara). My makeup bag is now worth more than what’s in my wallet, not to mention the ten years it took learning to apply nail polish, the three years it took to perfect the art of fake tan and the 437 bottles of foundation I bought before I found the perfect match (and thank you to whoever installed florescent lighting in department stores for that).  And what are we trying to achieve with our groaning make-up bags full of glosses, creams and powders? The “natural” look of course (#iwokeuplikethis #icallbullshit)! Anyone who has seen me without make up and lived to tell the tale will know that in fact I look like the poster girl for a government anti-crystal meth campaign. I definitely wasn’t born with it, thank God there’s Maybelline. There’s good and bad to makeup and actually maybe this is a win for us girls because with all the smoke and mirrors of make-up we can razzle-dazzle you into thinking we’re more Scar-jo than Monster but for boys if you’re ugly… you’re ugly. Soz.

Onto the bathroom – oh, to be a man in the shower. All you have to do is stand there, be naked and enjoy the blissful cascade of temperate water. A lot of guys don’t even use shampoo these days, and really they don’t need to. As we try to steal back some time in the mornings the shower is a bit more like an automated car wash that systematically deploy washes, scrubs and rinses. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, exfoliator, brush teeth, shave legs, rinse conditioner get out moisturise, body face and hands (each with different products) then the arduous task of drying your hair. If you don’t have 6-8 hours to spare then you probably own a $250 turbo powered, ionic, ceramic, and more-powerful-than-my-economical-city-car hairdryer like me.  Guys won’t understand the need for such a powerful piece of machinery… but they also won’t understand the feeling of having a dead otter hanging off your head and the risk-factor for hypothermia if you sit around waiting for your hair to dry naturally. For a girl spending 45 minutes in the bathroom is a given – for a guy it’s a bit suspicious. That’s all I’ll say.

Peeing standing up. That’s a win, but let’s not go any further on that topic because I don’t want to risk get into the whole Freudian envy conversation. Similarly, guys are winning the bathroom game because they are free from the demands of the monthly moon-cycle and the hormonal rollercoaster that comes with it. Some argue that Man-struation actually does happen but I’ve been too busy sobbing hysterically over Grey’s Anatomy and feeding my face with chocolate to have investigated that any further.

And finally, hair removal. I’m all for the man-scaping and there’s definitely increasing pressure on men to get around grooming. I see the barber shops, moustache wax and all that gaff. Still, the pressure is mild for you in comparison. For a lady you’re going to be treated like some kind of lost tribeswoman if you decide not to shave your legs or manage your eyebrows. I don’t need to explain the pain and cost associated with waxing, threading and electrolysis – if the procedure itself doesn’t hurt you the maintenance bill is sure to sting. With the rise of the new lumberjack fad the onus on men to shave is at an all-time low as they try strike the perfect balance between wood cutter and woodland creature, yet still we ladies try to live up to unreasonable standards of hair removal battling shaving rash, in-growns and blunt razors as we fight a futile battle against nature. I absolutely draw the line at arm-shaving; I’m not even going to entertain the idea. I’d rather have the forearms of the Yo-Go gorilla than suffer from cactus-like arm regrowth. End of conversation.

All I know is that I certainly envy the simplicity with which guys can maintain their appearance. The rise of the man-tenance (is that a thing?!) is sure to increase the pressure on men to take a more regimented beautification routine. God knows that there are hordes of you already secretly bleaching your teeth, tanning and waxing when you think no one is looking. Just be aware that  girls can spot a plucked eyebrow, an unseasonal tan and your Hollywood choppers from a mile away so there there’s no point denying, just own it. Guys, however, are still in a lucky position where they can pick and choose their level of grooming. If I was to throw out my razor and grow a healthy crop of armpit hair I would lose all social credibility and be bundled in with hemp-toking hippies. If I didn’t wear makeup I’d probably be quarantined for fear of Ebola and if I threw out my hair routine I’d be Hermione in the first Harry Potter movie.

The apparent downside for guys is that they have fewer avenues for beautification. Sadly, if you’re an ugly guy then you’re in a spot of trouble. But still, I can’t help but think about the cumulative amount of hours I’ve spent buying, applying and removing makeup and all the rest. If I had that time back I probably could’ve walked the Kokoda, learned Spanish and won a bronze in rhythmic gymnastics. But would anyone really care if I was a yellow tooth, uni-browed, hairy little acrobat? No, I think not. Unfortunately for us, Susan Boyle is an exception not a rule, and if you don’t adhere to the minimal social standards for preening you are not likely to get any positive press.