The Massage

Sometimes I think Mrs Under uses my birthday as a means of communicating what she in fact wants for her birthday; I’ve had fragrances, underwear and for the last one a spa treatment. If I get a handbag this time I reckon I’ve cracked her code like Cumberbatch in the Imitation Game.With my birthday looming I would like to point out that that was in no way a criticism, I love all presents (that are for me).

The receptionist who gave the impression that she is no longer in love with her job asked me a question I wasn’t prepared for; “do you mind if it’s a male masseuse?” I did a quick mental analysis; either I say yes I do mind and I sound like a terrible human being who is attaching some sort of sexual significance to this innocent bit of pampering, or I say I don’t mind and sound like a confident modern man happy in his own sexuality. The mental analysis wasn’t as quick as I would have liked and there was a long awkward pause before I managed to blurt out “no but of course not”.

IMG_8691 (520x800)

I arrived with a tingling of excitement, or perhaps caffeine, and was given a robe and some slippers – whenever someone hands you a robe and some slippers you know good things are coming. I was less pleased to accept the particularly unflattering disposable boxer shorts that looked like they were cut from hessian coffee sacks. I sat in a room filled with music that almost certainly came from a CD entitled “Pure Relaxation”, drank the obligatory green tea and wondered why people drink green tea, flicked through a book of inspiring quotes and thought they all sounded like excellent ideas that I would probably implement into my life next week and repositioned my robe to ensure that none of my fellow relax’ees got an eyeful of what was hiding amongst the disposable underwear.

I was then beckoned by a man who introduced himself as Dean, not the most exotic name for a masseuse but I kept an open mind. Dean didn’t go for the traditional white masseuse attire that is befitting of his profession and had instead opted for some loud shorts, a singlet and thongs. Still not fully trusting that Dean was a qualified masseuse I followed him to a room, dropped my robe and lay belly down on the massage table with my face squeezed awkwardly into a hole that must have made it resemble a cat’s bottom.

The massage began, something was poured over my back and then Dean got to work on me. There were some uncomfortable squelching noises and I had a vague sense that at some point in the next hour I would need a wee but overall it was quite pleasant. Then Dean who had a perfectly normal voice prior to the massage starting decided that during the massage he would communicate through the medium of seductive whispers; “is that too hard for you?” or “you’re very tight”. I suddenly did feel quite tight, I didn’t like Dean’s new voice, it should have been reserved for the bedroom.

I then discovered that Anna had not treated me to any normal massage and that this was in fact a ‘wet massage’, Dean pulled a shower head from out of nowhere and gave me a damn good hosing. Water and oil dripped through the hole in the massage bed into my eyes and I began to think how deeply unpleasant this is becoming. I’m then flipped over onto my back for another going over from Dean’s slippery fingers and his hose, this time water splashes off my chest into my nose and mouth as Dean pays no attention to Melbourne’s current water crisis and lavishes me with lukewarm H20.

With my bladder nearing its capacity Dean chimed a couple of metal discs to signify the end of my relaxation experience and even seemed to whisper a little Buddhist prayer, still with an untrustworthy seductive tone to it, he’s even flirting with Buddha! “How was that Matthew?” I wanted to tell him that I thought it was a terrible waste of water and that his massage voice is ridiculous but instead I told him it was wonderful and that I felt like a new man. The most pleasant part of the entire treatment was removing the sodden disposable boxer shorts and putting my cotton ones back on.

The ratio of cost to pleasure was so imbalanced that I did something I rarely do and complained to the manager who did what all good spa managers do and offered me a complimentary treatment and some walnut and wattleseed exfoliator. I waited what I thought was a safe amount of time (the week before their generosity expired) before picking up the phone and making another appointment. “All done Matthew, we’ll see you next week…………oh and do you mind if it’s a male masseuse?” I performed the same not particularly quick mental analysis and gave the same reply. I nearly spat my green tea over the lady next to me when Dean shuffles in in his thongs and whispers in his best seductive voice “you enjoyed it so much you came back, follow me Matthew”. And with a sense of impending doom I did.

April 21, 2015   | 19 Comments

The Plastic Surgery Waiting Room

Following the orders of the impossibly jolly receptionist with a penchant for twirling her hair around her pen I took my place on the faux leather sofa and looked around. There was a lot of faux in this particular waiting room. I sifted through the unstable piles of ‘beauty’ magazines decorated with body imagery that had the desired effect of inadequacy before settling on a copy of GQ that instead made me want to buy stuff…..stylish stuff….expensive stylish stuff.

Three months prior I finally conceded that the ominous looking lump that had decided to take over the back of my neck was in fact not a rogue muscle in an otherwise barren landscape and took myself to see my doctor.  In one of the more serious cases of denial I had spent ten months congratulating myself on acquiring a neck muscle that doesn’t actually exist.  My doctor who is from Kazakhstan has a very unusual approach to modern medicine; he asks questions like “how does your wife sleep?” whilst inspecting my neck, “on her side and for eight hours usually but I fail to see the relevance?”.  After some scans, some biopsy’s, some unnerving tutting noises from various doctors and some sleepless nights I was informed that the lump was a Lipoma, I call it a Lipoma but cruel friends have taken to calling it “Fat Ball” or Fat Sack”.

A few weeks later I was on a trolley watching on as surgeons lined their scalpels up in a row presumably from sharp to really, really sharp, whilst trying to ignore the breeze that was wafting in through my gown and reminding me that I should keep my legs together at all times. On reflection it seems strange that I wasn’t wearing underwear for a neck procedure. At the last moment the chief surgeon, who looked a lot like Woody Allen, decided he quite liked my neck just the way it was and didn’t want to put a filthy great scar across it. That’s how I came to be in a plastic surgeons waiting room preparing for liposuction; and there was me thinking I’d live a life deprived of such pleasures.

IMG_20140308_095145

After reading GQ, actually I didn’t really read it I looked at the pictures in much the same way Max ‘reads’ a book, I realised the real entertainment was in observing the people I was sharing the room with.  Next to me were two girls in their early 20’s, both couldn’t take their eyes away from their phones leaving me to observe/stare without fear of reprisal. One told the other that she hated her nose and that she always had and that she wanted to get her nose ‘done’ for Christmas (Dear Santa, can I have a nose job?). Rather than reassure her friend that her nose was in fact perfectly normal in that it resembled a nose, the other insisted that she wanted a tummy tuck next.

Opposite me I presume was a father with his teenage son; father was dressed in a suit and a scowl that gave him an air of importance and son was in a school blazer and scowl that suggested he was a chip off the old block. For the duration of their stay they didn’t acknowledge one another once, no eye contact, no smiles and definitely no words. There was a strong whiff of mutual distain with a side serve of passive aggression. I hope I can never sit next to Max for that length of time without smiling; even a pretend smile would have warmed the heart a touch.

To the left was a couple who might have fit the wealthy older husband/younger trophy bride brief to a tee but I couldn’t possibly speculate. She had no such sense of inadequacy flicking through the beauty magazines and instead pointed out various parts of the female anatomy to her husband who did his best to look interested. It was a bit like being in a restaurant with her pointing out the ‘bits’ she wanted to a waiter.

All in all it was one of the more depressing human encounters I’ve had. The thing that occurred to me was that all of them in their own way were searching for happiness and yet they all looked so bloody miserable. I think one of the most beautiful (and perhaps hardest to achieve?) qualities anyone can have is to be comfortable in their own skin and happy just the way they are; when you get the opposite extreme that I witnessed in the waiting room it has the ironic outcome of looking just a little bit ugly.

March 24, 2015   | 28 Comments

The Power of Piglet

After several lengthy discussions we agreed that Pooh is a slightly unconventional name for a bear but perhaps we should give him a chance all the same. He marched triumphantly out of the library informing the librarian, and in fact the entire library because he is yet to master the ancient art of whisper, that we would “give Pooh a chance”. She struggled to mask her disapproval but then I reflected that she always looks a bit like that anyhow. That’s how the obsession began; he has since acquired an unquenchable taste for honey and can often be heard muttering “oh bother” this and “oh bother” that. Of course I am secretly delighted that I get to spend my afternoons slumped into a beanbag in a state of book induced nostalgia.

During a recent ramble through a particularly impressive forest I made the mistake of informing him that we were in fact in the 100 Acre Woods and that the trees were in fact the homes of Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Christopher Robin, et al. I compounded that mistake by spending the afternoon giving voices to his newfound friends; Pooh’s was quite deep and jolly, Eeyore’s was miserable bordering on suicidal, Christopher Robin received my best put on middle class English accent and Piglet’s was a high pitched squeak of a voice as it should be. IMG_7533 “Can we take Piglet home with us?” In the absence of a sibling or a puppy I couldn’t possibly deny him an imaginary swine now could I? For the first couple of days it wasn’t too bad, I got used to the demands of the role; I ate a lot of acorns, I squealed in delight quite a lot and I generally agreed with everything he said. It soon became clear that Max preferred me as an imaginary piglet than a real Dad. Every sentence that came from his mouth began “Piglet?” and if I dared to answer in my Dad voice I am vehemently scolded “not you Piglet!” It can be quite awkward when you’re on a busy tram and the small person next to you keeps referring to you as Piglet, even more so when you finally give in a squeal back in reply; I fear I may be referred to as Crazy Piglet Tram Guy in some quarters.

To his credit Piglet has survived a number of subplots involving abattoirs and butchers but I can’t quite bring myself to follow through with these grisly endings because I think he actually loves Piglet more than anyone else on this planet. The power of Piglet is strong and whilst Dad might ask “how was school” and receive little more than a teenage grunt in reply, Piglet gets all the gossip. When he’s upset it’s Piglet that listens and comforts him, he’s also very good at general knowledge, has an impressive repertoire of age appropriate one liners and is far more lenient than his Max’s Dad. As tiring as it is on my vocal chords, as inconvenient as it is to unwittingly use Piglet’s voice when addressing fully grown adults (force of habit) and as demeaning as it sometimes feels to come second to a make believe hog; Piglet will be staying with us for the foreseeable future.

February 24, 2015   | 27 Comments

Boys Will Be Boys

How do you know that pigeons are for chasing?

Or that important documents are there for defacing?

Why not just tell me when you want to wee?

It’s easier than grabbing it and hoping I’ll see.

Please take your finger out of your nose!

I watch you all day and know where else it goes.

Would it really hurt to occasionally sit still?

Look at the girls they know the drill.

If you do that again you can’t watch a Thomas!

I know I said it before but this time I promise.

Why must you always speak your mind?

Commenting on bottoms is particularly unkind!

What is the appeal of the other boy’s toys?

You have one in each hand and yours make a noise!

Why is it that stones always end up in your gob?

But meals go untroubled in the pan on the hob?

When did sticks suddenly become such a score?

They’ve been there forever and were easy to ignore.

Why must I always negotiate a cuddle?

You’re always so willing after jumping in a puddle.

When can we stop watching garbage trucks?

I’m 34 and I think it sucks!

You’re a belligerent boss and offer no wage.

And if I’m not mistaken you’ve caused me to age!

Please tell me I didn’t just see you yawning?

I was up at 3, 4 and 5 o’clock this morning!

Just before bedtime can I have “one more book?”

They’ve been there all day with barely a look!

All the things above won’t make me sway

I am your Dad and I quite like it that way.

image

Linking up with the essential Essentially Jess

September 16, 2014   | 31 Comments

Interview With a Sperm Donor

Sponsored by Melbourne IVF

It’s funny where life takes you, I never envisaged being asked to write on the topic of sperm donation. I must admit that on hearing the word “sperm” there’s a danger that I may revert back to my adolescent self which means giggles and blushing. I had no shortage of double entendre, rhyming slang and juvenile jokes stored up for just such an occasion but in the event none of that actually happened. Instead in the build up to writing my first post it became a topic that took over and I now consider myself somewhat of a sperm expert.

I began to appreciate the weight of the subject and how much it means to others. It was discussed over dinner, pondered with mates at the pub, debated with Mums at the park (it’s an excellent icebreaker) and mulled over in my own mind. It seems like a topic that everyone has an opinion on, no matter how informed or otherwise, everyone offered a view often based on gut instinct.

1888616_464085270386738_585067928_n

Most of the people I spoke to were surprised that 40% of fertility problems are experienced by us men, there seems to be an assumption that the vast majority of fertility problems are down to the fairer sex. Nobody I spoke with was aware that there is a national shortage of sperm donors with only 1 donor for every 10 people on the waiting list.

Whilst we aren’t exactly famed for our ability to open up and discuss potential misgivings we might experience “downstairs” the men I spoke to, albeit with a healthy measure of male bravado and beer, sang like canaries. Some said they’d be open to becoming a donor but questioned whether their partners would be quite as enthusiastic; convenient perhaps? The majority of women I spoke to weren’t comfortable with the concept of their partners ‘fathering’ another child and how it might impact on their future together.

10540287_1477925365786416_340310048_n

In a bid to bring some clarity on proceedings I interviewed a man who, amongst other things, is a sperm donor. He’s a happily married father of two and was extremely open and honest about story and I quite enjoyed playing Parky for the day.

Why did you donate your sperm?My sister is a single mum that received donor sperm from an unknown donor – she wanted a child and saw little chance of having one with someone else, so took the initiative herself. I see how happy she now is with her 3 year old son; it has given her life a richness and focus for the future. I’ve seen close friends try to have a child for the past 5 years. Through the IVF cycles I have watched their dreams rise and fall. Luckily, both have been successful, and I see the effort that it requires and sometimes I know that it can be fruitless. If I am able to give someone the chance to conceive and have children then I feel helping them achieve a dream is terrific.

How long have you been a donor? Just over a year.

How did you feel after making your first donation? A little strange, mildly embarrassed although there isn’t a direct connection to the final recipient. I wonder a little about what will happen, but ultimately I am just happy helping others with their own family.

Do you ever think about whether your sperm has been used in successful pregnancies? Are you actually notified? You do get notified of a successful birth, although this hasn’t happened yet. It will be good to know I have helped another couple achieve a family. I will be interested to meet donor offspring of mine, although I am very comfortable that they will have their own parents and family. I would be an accepting but small part of their lives.

Do you have any say in whether children conceived using your sperm can contact you down the track? Yes, there is a register for donor conceived children, they can contact the donor through the register when they turn 18 years of age and then if the donor wishes they can contact them in return.

What do friends and family think about your decision to donate? Only my wife knows about the donations, I may have to inform my children later in life I guess, so one doesn’t end up going out with her half brother!!

What would you say to another man considering donating their sperm? I think it’s a relatively easy process for a man in a stable relationship with their own family. The process includes counselling which provides an opportunity to consider the issues and implications associated with involvement in a donor program. It’s a personal decision to donate sperm and has more to it than you might imagine.

Why do you think there is such a shortage of sperm donors in Australia? It’s probably not considered the manliest thing a bloke could do, remember the school ground? From my experience, those that are connected to someone else having conception problems will be the most likely to donate. Mainly, I think people don’t talk about IVF, Donations, Adoption, etc to even their families let alone a friend or others, so no one is compelled to donate.

To those of you who are trying I wish you all the best.

675cf61aa8c511e3a1591275394f8209_8

The thing that really came across is just how selfless it is to be a donor. It’s about giving the ultimate gift to someone in need, the definitive random act of kindness. The aim of this post isn’t to have you or your partner queuing up tomorrow morning to do your/their bit, it’s about starting a dialogue and in doing so raising awareness of a problem that affects many Australian couples.

You can find out more about Sperm Donation on Melbourne IVF’s website

What would you have asked the donor if you could? Why do you believe there is a shortage of sperm donors in Australia? Would you/your partner ever look into becoming a sperm donor?

September 2, 2014   | 4 Comments

Perfect Parenting

It doesn’t happen often but every once in a while all of the family stars align to create the perfect day. You wake up to glorious sunshine streaming in through the windows as opposed to an inglorious bastard (a term of endearment between father and son) screaming at you through the walls. You unknowingly dress in matching outfits, please note that this is only perfect because it was unplanned, if you knowingly do this you need to take a long, hard look at yourself. Breakfast is a leisurely affair enjoyed together, food is traded willingly and all makes its way from bowl to mouth without a single unwanted detour, matching outfits remain pristine. Nappy changes are smooth and seemless, pooh is of a good consistency and barely requires a wipe giving off pleasing hints of oak and lavender on the nose.

You bump into parents you don’t like very much at the park and Max makes their children look like simpletons with a display of superior babyship, including the big four, talking, laughing, sharing and moonwalking. On your return home he goes to his room and points at the bed, he leans in for a cuddle and whispers “your the best Dad in the world”, I’m suitably impressed because up until that point his only sentence has been “bubble car”, a sentence flawed by its total lack of meaning. As soon as his perfect little head hits the pillow he is in a dreamworld of cars and bubbles. He sleeps for a solid four hours allowing you all the time you could possibly desire to fritter away with status updates, 4 press ups and a bit of Ellen. The afternoon is spent as it should be watching reruns of Peppa Pig on the bed, only this time you finally appreciate the postmodern sociological metaphors that are rampant in episodes such as Peppa Goes to the Park and Grandad Pig Has Lost His Glasses. Mum returns home from a day of bread winning to a house that does not resemble a gruesome crime scene, Max greets her with cries of “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy” and you have to pinch yourself to make sure all this is really happening.

Bath time is a riotous comedy sketch as the boy blows bubbles (yes from his bottom) and points at them shouting “bubble!” Hugs, kisses and high fives are exchanged before he is back in the land of nod and mum and dad can get down to the serious business of collapsing in an exhausted heap on the sofa, not before sharing a knowing look that says “look what we did, we made him!” There you have a perfect dad day, these are the days you go to bed and boldly raise the subject of a 2nd, 3rd, in fact what the hell we’re so good at this lets just make it 5 and be done with it!

Next thing you know it’s 4 am and you wake up to blood curdling baby screams, you bleerily step out of bed onto a toy car and let out a scream of your own, Anna then turns and screams at you to be quiet. You go to the nursery just to make sure that nobody is torturing your child and are hit with a rancid decaying nappy smell, the boy now has a fever and you wish you had have pretended to be asleep a little bit longer, I’m sure Anna was about to crack, damn her strong will! The next morning the sun has been replaced by rain, breakfast is thrown at you in disgust,  you are both dressed like orphans, his pooh has a consistency akin to mushy peas and smells like something dead. The same parents he shamed yesterday look on in pity as he picks up leaves and eats them, you dose him up with Panadol and he screams in your ear something that sounds like “what sort of a Dad are you!’ and you receive a measly 20 minutes of “me time” as he thrashes around angrily in bed. You realise Peppa Pig is actually beneath you and every one of the eight episodes you are forced to endure is painful, Mum returns home to said gruesome crime scene and a baby that looks genuinely releived to see her, bath time is brought to an abrupt and poohy end as he tries a little too hard to make bubbles. Punches, kicks and bites (and thats just Mum and Dad, boom boom) are exchanged before you collapse on the sofa and look at eachother as if to say “adoption?” And there you have a bad day – most days are somwhere in the middle.

August 29, 2014   | 10 Comments

The Male Underwear Model Who Came To Stay

I have a vague notion of what Anna does for a job, I know she works in advertising and I know she sounds very professional and a little bit scary when she puts on her ‘work voice’ but I couldn’t really give you specifics.

I’ve heard talk of retouching images, essentially photo-shopping models to make them look even more perfect. It’s a bit like when you rent a car from a hire company and they walk around with a clipboard marking scratches and dents, she finds the scratches and dents on the models and fixes them up, a comparison which Anna isn’t entirely happy with.

Recently works been quite hectic for Anna and she’s been bringing bits and pieces home with her. That’s when he first turned up, this other man. Not just any man but a man who looks like he’s been painstakingly chiselled from granite, parades around in nothing but a pair of briefs, a smug grin and has been blessed with a disproportionately large endowment. He’s always around, always demanding her attention and getting in the way. Hate’s a strong word but I hate him passionately.

He’s an underwear model, that’s right my wife spends hours and hours staring at male underwear models and “retouching” them. I don’t like the expression “retouching” it sounds too much like touching, virtual or otherwise. I’ve also noticed she has a certain twinkle in her eye when she’s with him, I’ve seen that twinkle before, it’s the same one she had when she watched Patrick from Offspring.  I even did some sit ups and bought the same undies in a bid to divert her attention, but it was no use, she just asked why I was breathing in?

Last night she came home looking like she needed a stiff drink. “What’s wrong hun?” She explained that the company had lost a client, one of the clients that she had been working on, the underwear client. “Oh no that’s terrible news. I know how much you were enjoying the work”. Those are the words that came out of my disingenuous mouth, what I was really thinking was does that mean I won’t be forced to count his abdominal muscles and wonder whether he has stuffed his sparkling undies with socks each night?

I like it better when it’s just us two.

1_611

 

July 23, 2014   | 8 Comments

When Scams Go Wrong

After enjoying the bounty of treats that goes hand in hand with holidaying with his grandparents, Max is finding it hard to adjust to ‘normal life’. The Walt Disney movies aren’t quite as regular, the late nights have been cut short and new toys are no longer on tap. His real weakness turned out to be ice-cream; he must have sucked, slurped and licked his way through the entire range from Twisters to Cornettos to Feasts and everything in-between. He was generally sporting an ice-cream moustache and a jittery disposition for the entire six weeks.

I was fully aware that I would be picking up the pieces of ‘The Grandparent Routine’ and gently ween him off his plethora of naughty vices. I’m happy to say that Max has now been clean for two weeks…………so I took him out for ice-cream to celebrate. Or at least that’s what he thought he was getting, it was actually one of those self serve frozen yoghurt places that seem to be breeding like friendly bacteria throughout Melbourne. In my head I convinced myself that some sort of victory was taking place due to the fact that he’s being fooled into eating yoghurt but in reality by the time he piles up mounds of chocolate sprinkles and cookie crumbs I suspect he will have the last (slightly frenzied as a result of all the sugar) laugh.

IMG_7978

This was to be our second visit to said establishment. The first time we went I got all caught up in the excitement of self serve yoghurt and by the time the tub hit the scales it had been adorned with all manner of ‘extras’ and there wasn’t much change to be had from a $10 note.  As a proud tight arsed father this really hurt, I kept having nightmares about paying $10 for yoghurt and had regular flashbacks of the smug cashier taking my $10 and replacing it with a couple of silver coins.

Not this time. This time I had a plan. I came prepared; I took my own sprinkles from home. I tried wedging them into my jeans pocket but it left me with an unfortunate bulge that would be hard to explain to the innocent teenage girls that work there. “Right Max here’s what we’re going to do. You need to hide these sprinkles in your hood and not take them out until I say so, okay?” He looked delighted to be allowed in on the scam, not to mention shocked at being trusted with an entire tub of sprinkles. He made a strange sprinkling noise as he walked, like a human maraca, into the shop but not enough to provoke any suspicious looks.

I chose a table at the back of the room, away from any onlooking do-gooders or have-a-go-heroes. “You stay here Max while Daddy goes to fill one of those tubs with ice-cream goodness. Don’t talk to strangers and don’t touch the sprinkles”. I politely refuse the ridiculous offer to try the “new green tea flavoured yoghurt” and head straight for the chocolate. I gave the lever a good hard yank and without thinking about it start executing a perfect spiral shape. I turn around to make sure Max is keeping to his side of the bargain and have a horrible sinking feeling as I see Max in full dialogue with one of the smiley customer service team, he’s holding up the jar of sprinkles and gesturing towards me.

“Your adorable little boy was just showing me the sprinkles that you asked him to smuggle in”. I never used the word smuggle, that’s slander! “Ah yes, erm, he’s quite fussy about his sprinkles” She then explains to Max that they have lots of different types and perhaps he should come and point to his favourites. Bitch. Needless to say the bowl was promptly filled to the brim and by the time it made the scales it was another (possibly our last) eye wateringly expensive yoghurt outing.  I walked home with my wallet and pride slightly dented, trying to ignore the annoying sprinkling noise coming from my jean pocket.

July 21, 2014   | 22 Comments