rituals

Age old question

I’ve been trying to figure out what this aging thing is. I can see visible signs of age, the strands of hair becoming tinsilated, the smile lines etching deeper as do the frown lines although I’m hoping to have less of those. But I’m perplexed by the idea of being my age-gender and I’m wondering about the relationship as well as some intriguing possibilities this offers my penchant for messing with embodiment in general.

It came to me as I looked through photographs of me as a kid, class photos where I might have blended in as one of the boys. And then looking at people in their 70’s and above and also struggling at times to see the bodily clues that define male and female. It occurs to me that past a certain age men’s bodies become pulled toward female and female toward male. I know biology and physiology has a lot to do with this but here is a thought – why fight it? Here is my radical revision of aging-gender.

I’m not sure how this would work but imagine if you get to 60 and your body is changing shape with lumps and bumps moving, again it could be that illnesses such as cancer take hold of particular parts that have significance for identifying the common bodily sexual features (I realise this is a sensitive issue – I am not suggesting mastectomy’s and cancer treatment aren’t traumatic or any other form of body part removal, testicle, ovary) there might be an option to ‘go with the flow’. Doctors could offer hormone treatment to help keep that flow going rather than trying to turn back the clock. Society could create a new form of ceremony or ritual celebration (optional of course) where preferred names and pronouns are used openly.

What is interesting is there is little question about youth enhancing their cis-gendered bodies along normative gender lines. There are plenty of industries willing to increase sizes of particular parts. But when nature gives you the base ingredients to transition, why not make it easier. All I hope for is that I can still ride a bike, surf, skate, and that my pants maintain a waistline that is closer to my hips than my neck.

 

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Sweet – up in smoke

I’m not sure my nervous system, endocrine system, excretion and intelligence system can take much more. After a rugby world cup final that sent my adrenal glands into overdrive while my kidneys processed excessive diuretics, followed by manic dressing up and serious sugar overload there were a few days to recover before the next round of loud explosions at the moment of just getting to sleep.

So I’m gonna simplify the picture and come up with some ingenious answers coz it’s Friday night and I’m wearing odd socks:

We waved flags, all sorts of flags, and won a cup, playing a game the rest of the world has never heard of. In a country that doesn’t exist on many world maps, we worry people can’t tell our flag from Australia’s. Fine – let’s just make it official and put a kiwi on a flag laying an egg shaped object. What is the point of having a flag if we aren’t even on a map? It’s like the world took a bad selfie and cut us off.

Now to deal with this Halloween thing at the wrong time of the year and our insistence on celebrating a failed terrorist plot in another country over 400 years ago by playing with explosives. So if we are going to hang on, borrow and butcher other rituals why not go the whole hog and just completely cluster f*#k it. I propose exploding sugar fire-works. Just shoot lollies and stuff into the sky and kids can run all over the neighbourhood finding it. Much more skill involved having to read the wind and calculate the range of a pineapple lump or jaffa vrs a marshmello. Could be future All-Black training fending off the competition, speed, reaction time.

Time to get a referendum going. Don’t worry about the price, it shouldn’t sky rocket.

Hard to swallow

I often wonder if I met someone from another world or a parallel universe what I would find difficult explaining to them. It’s a nice yardstick for checking myself in relation to life. Competitive eating would rank pretty highly on my list. It might just be the weird head space I’m in currently but after a good night sleep I doubt my feelings will change much. I can only watch for a couple of seconds before I truly just want to scream ‘slow down you’re eating too fast’. Not only is the speed at which these ‘athletes’ eat outrageous the kind of food that is downed isn’t exactly nutritious. It might have a history of some kind heck most weird things can be traced to something if you find the right social anthropologist to share a pie with (or 40), but does that make it worthy of becoming a sport? Maybe the word eating needs to be dropped because it isn’t really consuming food for the purpose of fueling the body. Even the word ‘food’ could be dropped given most of the contents of a hot dog are not grown in any way shape or form.

What would I say if I had to explain it? Maybe I could just shrug my shoulders and say it is simply part of the strange and bizarre relationships human beings have with their bodies and the rituals we have invented to make our lives meaningful. Then I might politely guide my visitor to a local bar for their next lesson. I really need some sleep – now a competitive sleeper might be something I’d sign up for right now.

There’s some food for thought…just give it some time to digest.

Having a Ball

It’s that time of year again. The school uniforms are ditched for suits and frocks. Forget no nail polish and jewellery it’s a chance to flaunt every rule schools have on hair, make up and shoes. So I still feel a bit like the school ball is a bit of an archaic ritual. I wrote about my feelings last year therefore I want to change tact, because last night I did the 10-12 shift at the ball and recognised the importance of these events as a kind of social rupture.

The opportunity to express an alternative identity for a night is like time travel or a dimension shift. Young people can decide how to present themselves and might even choose to express cultural or gender challenges that signal to others a sense of unique identity in contrast to the sameness school uniforms imply. I enjoyed the game of ‘who was that who just said Hi Miss Grant’? As I tried to do my own cumbersome version of facial recognition software. Sometimes it came down to voice before a name would drop in. The fact that the oldest song I heard was from the late 90’s helped me to acknowledge that I am finally awkwardly aware of my age.

Who knows what happened after the ball, and actually – it is none of my business. That is the door that needs to be shut once and for all. School staff and to some degree parents of 18 year olds might do well to remember we were once that age, and we need to play our part in the ritual ‘ignorance’ of the other ‘right of passage’ (post ball shenanigans) that might be a little less formal and perhaps a lot more messy.

Of course no-one wants anyone to get seriously hurt, but some will take more risks that others and expect it as part of the package deal. Cinderella lost her glass slipper and I saw a few young women learned from that – exiting the building one arm linked with her date, the other on her shoes, and on her feet a pair of jandals.

Oh the simplicity of a layer of rubber and the wonder of double entendre.

Hot Cross Profits

Scatterings of silver paper litter the floor. Spikes of insulin and piercing squeals signal another cluster of rituals combined with religious significance to put many parents on notice. When the questions start – you’d better be ready with some answers that make sense…and quite frankly…I’m a bit stumped with Easter.

I try my best to respect all points of view and positions of belief, because I don’t think I know or understand enough to take any clear position. So I’d rather see belief in the context of belonging, that I can get. But how on earth do you explain to a 7 year old the crucifixion of Jesus combined with a bunny, eggs and chocolate especially when you are living a life pretty much free of any organised religion?

There is a part of me quietly hoping others will help the next generation unravel the tightly wrapped mythology and modern consumption insanity to expose the sticky complex mess of hysterical and slightly horrifying truths. It is a battle of ‘the profits’ where on the one hand cocoa and sugar industries, exploit third world countries in a form of modern slave labour and cash in on greed. But what to do with that other Profit? It’s a pretty unsavoury story but it has kept the Christianity going for a decent amount of time, I’d say that’s good business management. I could get all hot and cross about it but you won’t get a rise out of me.

Today I realised that trying to talk about it to a child after they’ve eaten a dozen chocolate eggs is just asking for trouble. So when in Rome – rip the foil off some chocolate and don’t let anyone tell you it’s a sin. Next time around I will simply enjoy the marvellous mess of Easter. Kid’s do ask questions and whether fact or fiction or something else entirely, I will do more homework and hope not to get caught with egg on my face.

No I will not be foiled.

Christmas – Pole-arity is just a little queer

A couple of hundred years ago the world was ‘flat’ – we pretty much sorted that one, but we no longer have a sphere we have in fact a hemisphere or half a sphere; or more specifically, the Northern hemisphere. The world as it is described in all manner of ways is rapidly becoming ‘top heavy’ and those of us in the booty part of the world (I refuse to say ass end…woops I did anyway) are having our identity colonised by all things related to that which is above the waist line – aka the equator.

Christmas is definitely on that list, and there is no need to check it twice. I’m going to use an analogy that some might find a little shocking but I’d rather say it because staying in the closet at this time of the year is rather stuffy and hot. So here goes…dear rest of the world…I need to tell you something about Christmas in New Zealand – it’s summer here. There ‘we have been outed’ Aotearoa and there is no going back in the closet. If you have grown up here and encounter someone from the hemisphere-normative north the conversation about Christmas can be a little like someone coming out to their parents or friends as being gay. People stare wide eyed, and ask the same kinds of awkward curious questions about ‘how do you do it then?’ and ‘do you still sing carols?’ or even better ‘are you sure – it’s not just a phase?’ Actually it does irk me somewhat that we are still trying to ‘fit in’ and be like Europe or North America.

Santa really doesn’t fit our brief for Christmas. We would do better to adopt the Christian nativity here as our cultural symbol, not for religious reasons but the faming agricultural theme – barns, sheep, goats, hay… kiwi as. Just for the record as well – we don’t see the north star either, so there go your astronomical references. We should also be cautious about rampant tree felling. Yes one of our primary industries is logging but we don’t have such a great history with respecting Tane Mahuta. I always feel a little grief stricken seeing hundreds of baby trees cut down before maturity for decoration purposes. So here is a quick flick through some of the ‘obvious’ contrasts:

• The days a long here – children are not easily convinced to go to bed in the broad daylight
• It’s hot, sticky, humid – fires are reserved for bar-b-ques
• Sand – features strongly rather than snow – just don’t throw it at people, they tend to get a bit tetchy
• Sledding and skiing exist – just on water
• Boxing day test – is not a quiz but a game of cricket – those outside of the British Commonwealth think ‘sport but over 4-5 days, possibly with no result…with more jargon than the legal system and the medical profession put together’

WHAT IS THE SAME
• Santa still wears a big red suit – we just roll with it
• Being with family – whatever that looks like
• Eating and drinking too much
• Panic gift buying
• Decorations – excessive use of lights and tinsel … (yup it is just a little bit gay)
• The birth of Jesus is in there somewhere – but like the rest of the capitalist, consumption driven countries – you need to go searching beyond the guy hogging the limelight in red-white.

Do we still need Christmas? I don’t know – I’m aware of how swept along we all seem to be with fulfilling this need to exchange gifts and pleasantries. The strange and convoluted meaning of this time of year is probably well overdue for a make-over. Getting the big guy out of that suit would be a start and perhaps some honesty about some of the origins of what is considered ‘tradition’ would cheer me.

I’d like to think we have moved beyond a ‘flat earth’ society but are we well rounded? It’s a sphere enough question.

Grater Expectations

Cooking at Christmas comes with its own set of challenges. If you are away from home dealing with a foreign kitchen and finding where things are kept inevitably leads to traffic jams and scenes to rival Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen kind of ironic at this time of year. But there are a couple of unique and possibly peculiarly kiwi conundrums (possibly not…just guessing). Christmas dinner comes in all forms from the casual bar-b-que to the full on traditional roast with all the trimmings perhaps minus the knitted jerseys – depending on how far south you are I suppose. The kitchen is a hive of activity and secret frustrations that I would now like to expose.

It’s common for people to have a couple of drinks with proceedings and in my family this can start reasonably early. Not to minimise the carnage caused by drink driving, there are some hazards to be noted when under the influence and attempting to steer your way through preparing food. There are the obvious ‘don’t drink and fry’ – using sharp implements also probably a bit risky, as is blenders and food processors. I’d hazard a guess that burns might top the A & E around this time of year. There are some little known injuries that will never make the ACC stats, or even warrant a mention in the paper but I think they can be more irritating than a recipe written before the metric system…c’mon what century are we in?

At the top of my list is the grater graze. Typically the knuckles or tips of fingers are sheered off in a valiant effort to ensure the entire carrot is used. This injury is definitely exacerbated by the fact that it will get you no sympathy and you will be expected to keep calm and carrot on. Second on my list is peeling kumara, not the golden ones, the ‘real ones’ purple skins. Yes those skins…do not respond to blunt peelers! What is worse is there are usually heaps to peel and only one peeler, so if someone wants to help they need to use a knife, which actually works better. Kumara are also really knobbly, so completing this task with an implement that wouldn’t cut through butter is nothing short of exasperating. Go for the knife people, anyone who has prepared for a hangi will know this to be true. Third on the list is whipped cream, I don’t know why, but in my family it is the hand beater from about 1950something that is still in the drawer – not upgraded like every other appliance. The handle swivels so every time you crank the thing it twists, so you lose the spinning motion. Also on top of a few drinks, the effort required and co-ordination not to slop stuff everywhere is insanely difficult. Fourth is the lemon juice in the eye – possibly added to the grater cut as well. Say no more. Fifth is a combination – the can-opener caper. Beetroot tins need to be upgraded to tab-pulls like the reduced cream, because quite honestly opening a can of beetroot without spilling it, is a nightmare. But if your opener is like the munted peeler, there is likely to be mutiny. The number of times I have struggled for 10 minutes to get half-way around then given up and tried to pry the lid open, only to either slice my hand or send the contents spilling their glorious crimson juices everywhere does not need stipulating. Other honourable mentions are kebab skewer splinters, onion chopping eyes and garlic crushing wrist sprains, all of which I have suffered at some point.

When it all comes together though and everyone is tucking into their kai – it’s good to know that along with love, it is laced with the odd bit of blood, sweat and tears.