Melbourne: chockers full of life.

Try to read something on Melbourne, and you’ll see the recurring topics – laneways, trams, heritage buildings, culture, food, secret bars. You’ll also see that every article begins with the disclaimer that it will ooze the same gooey self-love and unabashed pride.

I don’t know the complete history behind the city, and who our founding mothers and fathers were. But I’m sure they were funny. And kind. And self-depreciating. And just plain awesome.

Because heritage and culture aside, I reckon it’s the people who make Melbourne the most liveable city in the world.

The Melbournians.

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Source: Melbourne street art

Like the tram driver who entertained us with his commentary on everything we rode past. He spoke about people, buildings, restaurants, and even suggested skipping work for a day at the beach. Most of us put aside our books and phones, to listen to the man who was trying so hard to make us smile. This mundane morning hero turned every passenger into a happy bug that he set loose into the city.

Or the train driver I’ve had the honour of travelling with a few times. He talked to us about his day, and rhetorically asked us about ours. He then painted a glorious picture of going back home, to warmth, dinner, family and love. If there was a delay, he stood with us in impatience and cynical humour.

More than once, I’ve walked into the ladies’ room to see the janitor getting a hug and thank-you for the splendid job she was doing.

There was the time I shared my tram seat with an elderly woman and her granddaughter. It was her first tram-ride in thirty-odd years. From the moment she took her seat, until I had to tear myself away from her, I regaled in her stories of tram-rides in old Melbourne. Of friendships, loves and teenage escapades in another era.

Another time, my friend and I jumped up to offer our seats to a pair of vivacious older women. “Oh my God, we’re seniors!” one said to the other, between mock disbelief and can’t-fight-the-giggles. Goals.

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Source: Melbourne Street Art

They’re everywhere, these good people.

People at work who genuinely want to get to know you.

People who compliment your shoes, shirt and hair without any hesitation.

Retail assistants and checkout persons, who ask you how your day is and actually listen to your answer.

Every place I’ve been, people want to be somewhere else. Look at me. I’ve always gone somewhere else. But mostly, people want to leave where they are. Melbournians always want to come back. Not in a “it’s home” way, but in a “Fuckme. How lucky am I to be here” way.

Baby Guerilla

Artist: Baby Guerilla, Source: Melbourne Street Art

Everyone has a good word for you, about the weather, weekend or book you’re reading.

A smile and a nod are the norm.

A sense of humour is appreciated.

A “how’s it going?” is all you need to break the ice.

Fintan Magee

Artist: Fintan Magee, Source: Melbourne Street Art

Ah Melbournians, love yer work.

The (un)fairer sex.

HeForShe

 

I am a feminist.

Because I am a feminist.

Recently there was a douchebag espousing some douchbaggery against feminism, homosexuality and fireflies, I think. In general, I’d ignore these living-in-my-mum’s-basement idiots who call themselves kings. But I reckon we need to hear this one out.

Not because everyone has a right to their opinion (which include terms like legal rape, fat girls and anti-gay), but because this thing has followers. Men who feel vindicated and emasculated by “feminazis”.

And women who agree with them. Women who think that we’ve “taken this too far” are mocking every woman who has been verbally and physically abused by men because she’s just a girl. They’re mocking every woman who was beaten and jailed for standing up for our right to vote.

I respect that women shouldn’t pull other women down. But if we can call men out on sexism, then feminism says that we should call everyone out equally.

In these past few months of travelling and living in different parts of the world, I’ve been exposed to a comfortable bias that makes me very uncomfortable.

It started with the stares I got when I asked M to help with taking the baby to the loo, washing his bottles or with the laundry. The stares are mostly puzzled, but a few stares also reek of disdain.

At first, I was enraged with the attitude. As if it’s below the “man” to do such menial tasks. But with time – it’s pretty clear that it isn’t male superiority that’s being honoured. It’s male ineptitude.

It’s the inside joke that men can’t do a good enough job.

If I was at the receiving end of the stares, M was nothing short of a spectacle either. He did, after all, get onto what he needed to do. What I asked him to do

Because what wasn’t obvious to me through my equality-tinted glasses was that men weren’t wired to do certain things. Like care for a baby, or step into the kitchen without making a giant mess for us poor – but efficient – women to clean up, or god-forbid boyishly forget to separate the colours from the whites. We, women, should just do those chores and save ourselves the trouble of explaining it to the men or waste time picking up after them.

Would you want to be the butt of that inside joke?

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When organisations promote the hiring of women, I see how desperately we need this, but I wonder if it is working against equality? Yes, we need to see it in writing because the norm has become to look at a woman as a flight-risk, and a mother as a liability. But no, we’re not getting promotions because we wear skirts. We sometimes wear pants, too.

Women before me have spent years trying to crack that glass ceiling for the rest of us, yet, unfortunately, we still get asked: “how do you think you can do this job, given you have a 2 year old and all?”

Better. The answer is: She can do the job better (than you).

Her patience is reserved for the said toddler, so don’t push it. Her skill levels just went up 1000 points the minute she learnt how to negotiate meal times and bedtimes (even if it worked just that one time). She won’t crack under pressure; she’s seen her soft-headed baby roll off the bed, she’s calmly cleaned dinner off the floor that only took her all afternoon to make, and she’s brought down 40 degree fevers with her own bare hands.

So yes, I think she can do your silly little job.

Men don’t get asked this question at interviews. Don’t dads want to run home on time to feed their kids? Or stay home when the little person is ill? Aren’t they just as distracted when they know their baby is in someone else’s care? Between my dad, M and friends who are dads, I know they would cringe at the thought of being the inconsequential parent.

Sexism discriminates. And it doesn’t give a flying fuck as to what gender you are.

If you’re still struggling to see the need for feminism, then look at this way: The minute women and men are considered equal, it’ll be a world where “will he be able to watch the kids?” is just as absurd as “will she be able to get the job done?”

A world where boys are free to feel and girls feel free to be. Where asking for help isn’t “girly” and being immature isn’t “boyish”. Where both boys and girls feel safe to walk home alone at night. Where both men and women know they’re getting paid for their hard work and not their gender.

Where you can choose if you want to be a girl or a boy or both or neither. Or if you want to be with a boy or a girl or both or neither. Because not one of them is less than the other. Because we’re all unique, and we’re all equal.

I am a feminist. Because I am a feminist.

Growing out the pixie from hell.

My search history has but one story to tell: How to grow out a pixie cut while holding on to my sanity and dignity.

search history

I’ve grown my hair out a handful of times. Mostly because I hadn’t met the hairdresser with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my days. When I did find her, she lulled me into a false sense of security before leaving me high and hairy just two years later. As if fuelled by that heart-break, I left Melbourne 4 months after I found my second soul-hairmate. So much for commitment (almost said commit-mane-t, but I tucked that one away behind my ear).

When I was younger, I didn’t know of the mullet phase, so it never really bothered me. Later in life, there were bandanas. Interesting phase, that one. Since then, the whole experience of growing my hair out has only gotten worse.

Now, my hair is green fading into yellow. Black roots with grey strays. Dry as hay from all the bleach (totes worth it). And I have trust issues with new hairdressers.

There’s no bandana in the world that can help me.

I’d like to add to the overflowing pile of articles on how to grow out a pixie, but I can’t seem to look at my reflection long enough to try out different styles, let alone document them. So here’s my doomsday note.

Growing out a multi-coloured pixie cut will destroy you. By Payal Nair.

  1. Shape Shifting

At first, you’re still in the “At least it’s green” phase to notice the sudden lack of shape and control. It’s like Marge and Sideshow Bob spawned, and the newborn creature passed out drunk on your head. Every few hours it wakes up and trashes around in a wild rage and then slumps back down.

But at least it’s green.

  1. The Mullet

Everyone will warn you about this. The biggest no-no while growing out a pixie. Shave it off, trim it or just set it on fire, but never let it show.

  1. Oh Pixie ❤

Every day is a battle. Every day is a peace talk. Every day you miss your pixie. Every day you question your intentions. Every. Day.

When all the layers are finally long enough to hide any potential mullet. Just when I’m secure enough to style the mane, comes the worst thing I’ve ever seen. This, my friends, is my contribution to the hellish-world of pain that is growing out a pixie.

  1. THE TRUMP

On a beautiful day when your hair is soft and feels like it’s ready to cooperate, and you’re giddy with excitement about it, and just want to – STOP. The Trump is out to mock you and break you down. Do NOT trust the Trump. Even if your hair is a glorious green or blue or lilac, the Trump will hurt you. The Trump will promise to make you great again, but will only humiliate you. You’ll think, oh let me do that thing that all the have-it-together girls do. This.

pixie dream

The hairstyle seemed so…innocent. So…very…innocent.

But it turned against me with such venom, as I have never seen before.

pixie nightmareThis is my public service announcement: When growing out a pixie, be brave, especially when the Trump creeps in.

I got Trumped, so you don’t have to.

 

Not that kind of friend

As kids, we had to move countries thanks to the child-friendly pastime called war. I lost a few friends while the adults who lead the world squabbled like adults who lead the world. Many other friendships were lost in translation, literally; it wasn’t easy to learn 3 new languages to keep up with the other 7 year olds in India.

While teen years are the most confusing to most people, I was at my cockiest best. I was making friends while walking from the water cooler to the library. Back then, conversation came as easily and frequently as awkward silences do these days. I could write a whole post on my school friends! Oh wait, I did.

If the number of ‘Miss Friendly” sashes I had earned by the end of my school years was anything to go by, life was going to be a breeze.

And as promised by my tone, it was not a breeze.

The rules of adulting were chucked at my face in quick, migraine-inducing succession.

Once you cross 18, tomboys are called butch. There’s no such thing as just texting. There’s feminine and there’s masculine, and you need to choose – now. You’re either politely submissive or an ice queen bitch; you need to choose – now. Pick a clique. You will be judged, adored and despised for reasons beyond your control. Just don’t be a bitch about it.

Fark me, these are the rules against which all of us get measured. Lucky for me, I stopped giving a shit.

Needless to say, I haven’t been winning any “Miss Friendly” sashes in the last decade.

Grown-up-ness also marks the switch from multiple best friends to multiple friend circles. Work friends, family friends, husband’s friends, old friends, mama friends and miscellaneous.

Even within these circles, I sometimes find myself trying to find my self. My fellow former refugees and move-ers may correlate. We don’t have much in common with a large group, our interests are as flaky as our thoughts, and we intermittently drift far, far away. When the friends are great, the place isn’t. When the place is good, you miss the friends. It’s not that we’re dissatisfied, we just want everything. Is that too much to ask for? We honestly want to belong, but seem to have misplaced the ability, somewhere in transit.

Fitting in was never easy for me. Perhaps I wasn’t trying hard enough – or trying at all. It’s not that I didn’t want to; there were several times in my life where fitting in would’ve made life much easier. Instead I invariably, and inevitably, turn into a bumbling, awkward and confused mess with incomplete sentences dribbling out of my gaping mouth.

Luckily, I always find a fabulous bunch of misfits. Our rough edges, broken corners and missing parts make us a noisy bag of spares.

I don’t meet them regularly, don’t share my deepest darkest secrets and don’t know their families like my own. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy their company like a dehydrated person enjoys an ice-cold Slurpee on a wildly hot day. (Yes, it needed all those adjectives.)

Our complete lack of rules and structures of traditional friendships means that no one feels let down or left out. We discuss to great depths our current joys and trials. We celebrate each other’s lives without reflecting on what it means for the future or past. We laugh, cry and over-share. We drink, dance, and then return to our best friends and soul mates and childhood friends.

Every day I miss these ridiculously kind and funny people I call my friends. The very thought of them makes me feel pure happiness of having known them.

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Then, there are people you can’t call friends, because as heart-warming as the word is, it isn’t big enough to carry your love for them.

No matter how distant I feel in a room full of friends, I know I’ll never be lonely because I have 2 of these people. My soul people. I’m the best version of me, when I’m with these beautiful humans.

I must confess something at this point. While this post is an xoxo to the fantastic friends I’ve made over the years, I do have an ulterior motive. This post is also an ad for new friends, of the face-to-face variety. (I have a head-start with my school friends; but we bonded as 17 year olds, and are too busy reminiscing. Leave us alone.)

So here I stand. 32 years old, and starting all over again. I’m calling all misfits and crazies. Old friends and new. I’m open to coffee, frozen yoghurt or all-you-can-eat buffets. I’ll talk, listen, laugh and cry – not necessarily at the appropriate times, but I’ll work on that. I won’t break any promises if you don’t make any. It’ll be a breeze, I promise!

I want my “Miss Friendly” sash back, goddamnit.