How Advertising Trained Me For Parenthood*

madmum

Impossible is nothing.

That one line got me into advertising. I didn’t own a single Adidas product until last month (Dem Superstars got me), but that tagline blew my mind (as did the whole speech by Ali).

And advertising is everything it promised to be! The ideas and the mental blocks, the little wins and the epic crashes, the stress and the drinking, the stress drinking, the exhaustion and the exaltation, the imagination, the lies and the promises, the celebrations.

No segue needed.

How Advertising Trained Me For Parenthood* 

Mr. O, the Art Director.

“I can’t wait to start working with you on the awesome puzzle that we’ve both been dying to start all week.”

Open the box. Too much excitement.

“Wow, that’s a great idea! How about this? No, let’s try my way. That doesn’t make sense.

Hate the colours, hate the design, hate the puzzle. Your opinion is shit. It’s all shit anyway.”

Done.

“Wow, I’m a fucking genius.”

Mr. O, the Creative Director.

“Yay! You have a story for me. I cannot wait for you to blow my mind.

Aha aha. Hmm. Ok I see what you’re trying to say. I love it. But maybe a dragon comes and drives an ambulance over the seahorse. I want fire-breathing dragons. And dying seahorses. Unexpected, but believable.”

Mr. O, the Account Manager.

“I love you so much. You’re my favourite person in the whole world. I would trust you with my eyes closed, but my hands are tied. I simply cannot eat this meal you’ve painstakingly prepared for me. I want to. Oh how I believe in it, but I just can’t. My hands. Damn these shackles. Love you, though. The best.”

Mr. O, the Producer.

To mum: “Dude. I’d pick you over him (dad) any day. You’re so much more fun. He just doesn’t get it like you do, ya’ know. Let’s be besties. OMG LET’S DO LOLLIES!”

To dad: “Dude. I’d pick you over her (mum) any day. You’re so much more fun. She just doesn’t get it like you do, ya’ know. Let’s be besties. OMG LET’S DO LOLLIES!”

Mr. O, the HR guy.

Casually strolling down the hallway after bedtime.

My brain: HOLYFUCKINGSHIT WTF IS THIS GUY DOING HERE OUT OF THE BLUE? I should just go clear my desk.

Mr. O, the Supplier.

“Ohhh you wanted to me shower today?? Oohhh see I thought you said next Tuesday. Oh no. I can’t do it today. Trucksninjasbikes. Maybe be more clear next time? I’ll still have that bribe cookie though, thanks.”

Mr. O, the Copywriter.

“Yes, that’s e before i, 2 comes after 1, and B is for butterfly.”

To himself: “Geez. They wouldn’t survive a day without me.”

Impossible is a toddler.

*Nothing trains you for parenthood. Not even parenthood trains you for parenthood. Also, Title Case Because Advertising. 

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The other day.

Just the other day, we were out window shopping when we got-on-a-flight-and-went-to-melbourne-and-returned-a-month-later-and-flew-out-to-muscat-for-the-weekend-and-signed-the-kid-up-for-school-and-found-an-apartment-and-got-into-a-super-intense-interior-decoration-mode-and-HOLYSHIT-I-FORGOT-ABOUT-THE-BLOG.

I’d apologise for my absence, but then I’d have to apologise for my insolence in assuming that my absence was felt. (Except for you lovely ladies; thank you for checking on me. And I’m sorry.)

Since I last wrote, I’ve been back home to Melbourne and back home to Kuwait, I’ve found a house to make our home again, my hair is blue-er and purple-er and turquoise-er, I got another tattoo, I’m finding my way out of the darkness, and I’m not much wiser than I was three months ago.

But I have been scribbling down incoherent sentences in disconnected places. Maybe at some point in the next few months I’ll be able to unpack my life and regroup my thoughts. Until then, these are the things I think of when the lights go off.

lights-go-out

  1. Meeting old friends is an emotional rocket in your pocket. Must do often.
  2. As Mufasa* wisely taught Simba: “It moves us all through despair and hope, through faith and love, till we find our place in the path unwinding. In the circle of life.” We go from school cliques to relationships to jobs. Before you know it, you’re attending weddings and helping friends move into new homes. And divorces. Then cribs and sleep training, and right back to school cliques. Whether you’re ahead or behind, you’re always in the circle.
  3. Moving homes/ jobs/ across the globe is a massive change. But as long as you’re doing the same old things in a new place, you haven’t moved at all.
  4. Forever is a cop out. Don’t promise to love forever. Promise to love every day.
  5. Anxiety is very real. Very lonely. Very scary. Very get-over-it-ed.
  6. Screw promises. Just get shit done.
  7. Life is hard work. Literally. It’s actual work. When you’re under-appreciated, under-valued and ill-treated, some mentally check out, some quit. Best bet is yourself. Be your own boss. When you figure that out, partner with people who make you happy and help you grow by helping themselves.
  8. Sometimes you need to go back around the world to see where you need to be. Other times, you need to go back around the world to see that there was always a happy place, and there always will be.
  9. You aren’t a bad person for wanting both – a safe home for every child, and a vintage chic yellow settee to go in your new living room.
  10. Me-time is not necessarily for self-discovery. It’s for mentally checking-out and checking other people out. Self-discovery mostly happens at peak stress levels, and perhaps on either side of me-time?
  11. Resentment truly is the poison they all say it is. But it isn’t as easy to let go off as they all ask you to do. Leeching is the way to go. Stick a proverbial worm on your self, let it drain out the bad blood, and don’t try to pull it out too soon. It is slow, painful and puts you off resenting anything for a while.
  12. The cliché, cheesy self-motivational quotes that you stashed away in your teens – DIG THEM OUT. Put them on your wall, mirror, desktop, phone screen. Read them every day.

Less ramblings and more coherent-ish thoughts from the next post on. I promise.

No, wait. I take it back. No promise. No deal. Next week is moving week and pre-kindy for the little guy. There will be no coherence of any sort.

 

*Disclaimer: I’m one of the 3 people in the world who never watched this movie. Luckily, Google.

Un-settling down.

As kids, right when we were in the thick of running wild and having the time of our lives, an adult would walk in and ask us to settle down.

Settle down, or you’ll hurt yourself.

Settle down, and stop making a mess.

Settle down, it’s getting too loud in here.

Just. Settle. Down.

Settle BB

When we left our home in Melbourne almost a year ago, we were very excited to start a new adventure. It took a record-breaking 3 days for the question to burst out of tightly clenched lips: When do you plan to settle down?

We had no plans whatsoever. We just wanted to enjoy being free. But as responsible adults, we simply must not feel free for too long. We must settle down.

For someone who doesn’t have commitment issues, I have major settling-down issues. There’s something very permanent and dreary about that word.

Yes, I’ll set up our home, get our lives into some semblance of a routine, and maybe even plan ahead for our next meal (I’m not making any promises). We all need to do that. It’s called being an adult. But settling down simply cannot be the only way to adult.

Nope. Turns out, it isn’t.

My Facebook feed is rife with stories about “This Couple Travelled The World With Their Toddler” and “Follow This Amazing Family As They Drive From Your Neighbourhood To Where You Don’t Have The Guts To Go.”

They’re farking heroes, these people. Why can’t I be part of The Couple That Visited 20 Countries In 6 Months With Their Babies?

Not gutsy enough? Perhaps.

Not my cup of Carpe Diem? That’s more like it.

I’d love to see the world, but I’m not an impassioned traveller with a wanderlust tattoo on my ankle and a world map as my screen saver. I’m fascinated with the world, and I hope to live in different places and visit many more. In my own sweet time.

On one end, it’s been drilled into us that we need to find a comfortable spot and stay. So we work hard every day to get to that glorious finish line; some days, we question the finish line, but persevere none the less. Because for many, success equates with happiness.

On the other end, it’s is being drilled into us to drop everything we’re doing and go live our life! Because for many others, experience equates with happiness.

But who’s to say what my life should be? I’m not settling for someone else’s dream. And you shouldn’t have to either.

Stay where you are. Pack up and leave. Buy that house. Take a one-way ticket to the other end of the world. Make a baby. Throw a rooftop party.

Just. Don’t. Settle. Down.

Settle JL

So my answer is: No. Even if we find our dream jobs, perfect home and stay for 20 years, I hope we don’t settle down. I hope we’re still restless and looking forward to our next big adventure.

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.

Faces.png

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.

Boys.png

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.

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.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 2.39.15 AM

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.

The numbers are in! 

 

(Do not check above calculations. They’re pretty accurate.)

 
This year, we’ve taken 14 flights between 9 airports. Slept on 11 different beds in 5 time zones. We’ve been through 2 summers, 2 winters, 1 autumn and a very Indian monsoon. We’ve had more fights than I care to remember and even more love that I’ll never forget. We’ve had several massive Indian celebrations; I lost count after the 27th dance routine and 13th shot. We’ve been robbed and we’ve been blessed. We’ve made new friends and reconnected with old. We’ve fallen in love with our families all over again, and we’re falling in love with ourselves, too. 

That’ll do, 2015. That’ll do. 

You’re up now, 2016. We’re coming for you!