I enjoyed my Epidural

“I Enjoyed my Epidural!” I want a tee shirt with this on it.

One of my ex-corporate girlfriends said this after giving birth. It was her response to the tut-tutting from the legions of corporate-girl-gone-feral workmates who were determined to get through their home water births with nothing more than some aura patting from their partners and a cup of weak peppermint tea.

Irritated by the ‘Birth Reich’ who are usually either from that happy model of woman who can spit a baby out while hanging out the washing and then ride a horse to the neighbours with a newly made fruitcake, or who are as yet childless and therefore clueless as to the vagaries of birth, she made a point of telling everyone of the benefits of modern drugs. The more the merrier! OK – so asking for fashion mags and champagne before the child was actually born may have shown a certain lack of engagement with the birth process but I admired her courage of conviction.

There has become a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ way to ‘give light to a child’ as the Spanish put it, and we’re surprisingly quick to judge each other based on this very small part of life.

There seems little middle ground between the bath in the bush hanging onto a rope attached to your partner’s testes crowd and the ‘lets book the caesarean between the manicure and closing the takeover bid’ girls.

The corporate chicks quietly snigger at what a natural birth is going to do to all your girly bits and hence your love life and the home birth crowd point the finger and question the ability of a woman to mother adequately if she can’t find the time to wait for the baby to be born on its own terms.

Another tee-shirt I am unlikely to see anytime soon is ‘I had a home birth. And died!” This of course is the normal course of events in many developing countries but in the luxury of the West the words ‘medical’ and ‘intervention’ have become a synonym for the misogynist malice of evil medical practitioners in some circles. Personally I’m a big fan.

Medical intervention… newsflash! … was invented to stop people dying.

I have burned in my memory a conversation in Argentina with a friend about not making it to a charity fundraiser the night before, not knowing at that stage she was living in a shanty town. In my stupidity I hinted that she’d ditched her date with me for some bloke. She’d spent the night it transpired, caring for a friend with a local midwife at home, things went wrong – fast, and her friend, an illegal Bolivian immigrant who hadn’t wanted to be taken to the hospital for fear of losing her job and getting sent back to even worse poverty than she was already enduring, died. “That’s life.” she said shrugging.

Later, with colleagues the general consensus was that the departed was uneducated and hadn’t had the foresight to get medical insurance. In short she was judged, as were her ‘choices’ for being poor.

There was no judgement on the father who had helped to create the circumstances of her death nor on the conveniently ignored system of encouraging illegal immigrants into a country to do menial tasks for next to nothing and then turning their backs on them when they needed help. Each woman in that room could stay at their well-paid job thanks to the work of the barely paid Bolivian maids they had at home.

In all honesty I can’t see much difference between the nameless Bolivian immigrant and Rachida Dati the French Minister of Justice who has gone back to work just 5 days after giving birth. Although she could afford the best medical intervention on the planet and the Corporate French world are hailing her decision, French mothers are hating her because of the unrealistic example she’s holding up.

Again, no one has made a judgement on the father or questioned why he is not at home holding the baby or questioned the pressure that is on women in top jobs to pretend they don’t have families. I think she’s an educated single Mum and was just scared stiff she’d lose her job if she missed one beat.

It may look great on the productivity charts but where is the real choice in that?

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Foreskins Forever

Kyle Chapman; white supremacist extraordinaire and former Mayoral candidate for Christchurch has been a busy boy.

He started his career burning down schools and then, for his sins became a social worker before moving on to found the NZ branch of the Hammerskins, a skinhead group bent on furthering the cause of the blighted white race. Their slogan; ‘Hammerskins Forever, Forever Hammerskins’ is catchy and one wonders if they had a brainstorming session to come up with really cool names and then practised chanting to see which one sounded scariest. Rumour has it that the name ‘The Foreskins’ (The Dickheads had apparently been taken) was suggested but that people laughed when they began chanting ‘Foreskins Forever!’ down the streets of Fendalton.

Now the leader of the National Democrats the latest mutation of the National Front, Kyle is intent on setting up a gated community of ‘racial integrity’ on the outskirts of Rangiora.

They’ll have to change the name. Obviously. Aryan Abode sounds nice.

There Kyle hopes his people ‘will find safety in numbers’. He says we must act to build a unified mini-state that we could build up in future to be a base for other like-minded Europeans to come from ‘other dying countries’. That would be other dying countries like… The States? Maybe Kyle’s right. The Canterbury Plains could benefit greatly from a sudden invasion of lots of old southern white guys fleeing from the horror of a President who doesn’t feel the need to sacrifice national ideals like freedom of speech and the upholding of international law in order to achieve national security. It must be truly terrifying to have a president with a brain in charge and they can therefore take comfort and refuge under the leadership of Kyle. This brave new community will have a bar where they can socialise with like-minded skinheads and this will help raise money for worthy projects like countering the evils of cultural diversity. They will find peace, play paintball in the forest in camouflage gear and grow veggies. Not bok choy though. Just potatoes and the odd cauliflower. They will also engage in the revival of anglo culture and traditions. I wondered what these might be. Poetry perhaps – or maypole dancing. That’s part of old Anglo culture. But I suspect it won’t be your garden variety maypole dancing. It will be heavy metal maypole dancing. In jack-boots. Cool.

On Kyle’s website, which kindly offered me a free playstation if I accepted Christ, I browsed the links and began to wonder what could possibly be the attraction for a woman joining this kind of group. Every sensible Kiwi girl will find the idea of her partner in life running round the bush playing paintball all day or at the pub making evil plans slightly less than appealing because they just know who will end up growing the veggies while the blokes are so otherwise engaged. Which is how I ended up at White Aryan Womans Forum, which painfully states; “I must secure an existence for my people and a future for white children…that the beauty of the white Aryan woman should not perish from this earth.” I saw her photo… I hate to break it to her but her exit from the human gene pool would certainly not endanger its aesthetic appeal. Here I found; poetry! Yeah. White supremacist poetry. ‘Cause you’re my woman, and I’m your man – Ain’t nothing neath heaven created so grand. Like when this honkeys holdin your hand’. Nice.You can see why a girl would fall for this. Judging by the deranged and downright disturbing views linked to the National Front’s website where the average IQ of the contributors would be lucky to rival that of a lentil, the problem seems to be not so much a surplus of cultural diversity but more a lack of a genetic one. But hey when you’re hell bent on keeping it racially pure and you run out of first cousins to marry – you’ve still got your siblings.

And that’s why I love gated communities – the real nutters lock themselves up and save us all the bother.

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Being Pakeha

With another Waitangi Day just around the corner I found myself trying to explain the ‘meaning’ of this day to a new immigrant. Even worse – she had to ask me what it ‘meant’ to be kiwi. My answer was about as clear and insightful as when I tried to explain Easter to my girl last year and we somehow ended up with death, bunnies, chocolate and Jesus. (When she asked if we ate all the chocolate bunnies would they come alive again – I just answered yes. It seemed easier that way.)

I couldn’t tell this newcomer to our not so unified and quite often unhappy family of Aotearoa that traditionally, Waitangi is an ambiguous commemoration where Pakeha pretend it’s the national celebration of the barbeque and hum loudly and drink a lot, and Maori get all pissed off like the treaty was Nana’s will that eventually got found in her undie drawer and all the wrong people have already got all the good stuff. This would be embarrassing so I quickly moved on to that national pastime – pin the identity on the pakeha.

We, apparently, like to ‘give things a go’. Except I don’t. I don’t feel the need to ever go on a Japanese game show nor will I learn to change a tyre… because; I don’t want to. There. That makes me much closer to Latin American female (although I would probably have to throw in flirting and crying to get someone else to fix it and frankly I never really learned to do that either).

So what then, makes us Kiwi?

In the Hispanic new immigrant community a common joke when someone is about to go for their citizenship is; ‘got your trailer yet?’ This is met with roars of laughter and is usually rejoined with ‘No but the gas barbeque gets delivered next week.’

Being a pakeha kiwi bloke to these guys means owning a trailer and driving around with it permanently attached to your car – and I hate to say it but a gas barbeque to Argentines is…well, what tinned spaghetti sandwiches are to your average cafĂ© dwelling Ponsonbyite. Yup. They are not laughing with us.

Being pakeha female to these guys is also not knowing how to walk – I am constantly told that I walk as if I’m a military dictator on the brink of a coup – I’d better get where I’m going before I get shot. Whereas we stomp stride and march, Latin women wiggle, sashay and proll – which is a mix of rolling and prancing that means you need a double jointed spine so that both tits and butt get thrust out to full advantage. I once got A grade coaching from an entire staffroom in Buenos Aires. After 2 hours they gave up. Going for a walk with these guys is excruciating. It took me months to realise that… there actually is, no destination. Ever. The words dawdling, mooching and idling come to mind. The word tramp – does not. It’s all in the journey. Unless of course, you actually want to get somewhere. Hell for me would be a moonlit night through an enchanted fire-fly lit forest – with Germans in tight neck scarves, or escaping an invading army with Argentines, both endeavours would end in tears.

I remind these guys as they mimic my Presbyterian striding that if they’d come from a proud maternal lineage that waded in half a haberdashery shop’s worth of crinoline through knee deep mud so that they could give birth before doing the lambing beat they’d have evolved to walk like this too. They marvel at how anyone could get close to being pregnant, walking like I do. I don’t find this funny and think about voting for the Neo Nazis and a slammed shut door on immigration then realise this would be bad because it would affect the father of my child and then who would change my tyres? Oh yeah.

We have a sense of humour and we’re tolerant of other nationalities too, except that is when new immigrants don’t immediately embrace pavlova and endless English lessons about dolphins and the fabulous ‘Kiwi Way of Life’ . Or they laugh at us.

Being Kiwi is sacred business – even if we’re still (yawn!) not sure what that might mean.

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Killer Stingrays

Who would have thought that it would be the stingrays fighting back?

They seem to be the very images of peace and tranquillity but ever since they killed that world famous wildlife molester (I know he was loved but you weren’t the crocodile he mugged) their elegant gliding has become distinctly… militaristic. There have even been several sightings of stingrays wearing Che Guevara tee shirts on the Coromandel this summer, and one large bearded one off the Whangarei Heads was reported to have been seen smoking a large cigar.

After the two recent attacks, I’ve been wondering if stingrays report back to base after each raid saying ‘That was one small flip for a stingray and one giant flap for mother Nature.

The tide is turning humans. Now it’s our turn.”

I doubt stingrays do demonic laughter very well and they are hardly the poster fish for world domination but there’s no doubt there’s something up with these revolutionary rays. And they have been patient – it’s only been about 200 years of industrial waste and human poo being poured into their backyard – not to mention the seabed looking like the land equivalent of a nuclear bomb site from dredging, mussel farming and all the rest of it. We haven’t even started on the whole global warming thing – if a slightly warmer temperature means only female baby turtles hatch and can mutate the genetic make-up of fruit flies what is it actually doing to everything else? (And us – but we haven’t been too worried about that up till now because we’re so sure we know so much we’ll just ‘fix’ it technologically when the time comes… like you do on a tamagochi I suppose.)

Are stingrays particularly macho and did they wake up one morning and find all their sons wearing pink seaweed tutus and finally decide enough was enough? I guess the animal kingdom couldn’t choose the crocs to fight back – they’re extinct in many places now except Queensland and then when a croc takes one little nibble at some kid a whole bunch of rabid graziers son’s with ‘roo lamps on their vehicles go and shoot the bejesus out of an entire population. It’d never last. The sharks are pitifully small in numbers now and have a problem with their image and what’s a turtle going to do to fight back? Beach itself on a sandbank and go on a hunger strike? They probably decided we just wouldn’t notice. Nope. Stingrays learnt a lot from Vietnam. One off king hits and run – terrify the enemy into staying away from your territory. And we thought they were just dumb animals. Choosing the sting ray to make the first set of attacks is like choosing sparrows or dolphins – we can’t quite believe they’d do that – to us… you can almost hear it in the newsreaders voices telling us that the last time a stingray killed someone was in 1938 and that one has been in anger management classes ever since.

The thing is, I feel secretly happy that they’re fighting back in the same kind of scary way I felt happy when that French guy got eaten by a Komodo dragon after straying from the path to take a better shot. They found his shoe and his camera without the strap. I wondered if the guide just sighed wearily and said ‘I told you so’ to the other terrified tourists. But most of all I wondered at the beauty of a world where the possibility of being eaten by a dragon still existed. It meant there may be giant squid and unicorns (well, narwhals, at least) and seahorses forever – that whatever we’d done so far to mess the planet up – we still weren’t entirely in control and therefore – there was still hope. Because I actually don’t think we do know enough to ‘fix’ very much at all, which also makes me want to believe that Mother Nature is still powerful and sophisticated enough to do it on her own if we just leave her alone for a minute.

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