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.

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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.

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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

The Boy at the Gym

I went to the gym last night, I know this because I hurt all over and I feel a bit smugger than I did the day before. I take no great pleasure in going to the gym other than telling people “I went to the gym last night” – it sounds good.  I take long breaks between exercises to check if I’ve grown a six pack yet and debate whether Gangster Rap music is really conducive to better exercise.

I saw a lady who was sat looking on adoringly at her son who was exercising. She was wearing a work uniform; it was about 7:30pm and presumably she had left work, picked up her son, taken him to the gym and was just happy to watch him enjoy himself. I felt a wave of parental admiration for her because I suspect she was still some way from doing anything remotely for herself. I had a little word with myself “take note Matthew, that is the face you should be pulling the next time you watch Max at work”.

Her son was Down’s syndrome. I started thinking about it and I don’t think I’ve ever actually had any sort of encounter with anyone with Down’s syndrome. The boy came over and sat next to me where I was exercising, right next to me. I could feel him looking at me, really looking hard. He started mimicking all the exercises I was doing, bad posture and all. I looked at him and he flashed me a smile, a genuinely happy, loving smile.

He probably wouldn’t have realised it but it was one of those moments that actually meant something to me. Two people who have never met making one another happy. We weren’t trying to work one another out, there were no barriers up, we weren’t trying to impress each other and there were no agendas. It was like getting a hug from someone special.

I won’t go into any clichés about feeling fortunate that I have a completely healthy son (I do) or what a great job she was doing (she was) because that wasn’t what I felt, I just felt happy I met him. I hope I bump into him again, he was cool.

May 14, 2014   | 11 Comments

Black Pepper Tofu with Jasmine Rice

Sponsored by Woolworths

My parents were vegetarian and didn’t pander to the demands of a stroppy child, I ate what they ate. I think I felt fairly ripped off at the time when I heard peers discussing the merits of sausages, steaks, bacon, etc. I kept my dirty little secret to myself, back then even as a bashful 6 year old I knew vegetarianism was a bit ‘different’ and being ‘normal’ was important.

Mum’s a good cook and could work wonders with whatever was kicking about. Dad was good too but he became infamous for his signature dish which my siblings and I cruelly dubbed “prison soup”. There wasn’t much of a range in vegetarian food back in the 80’s. You could get packets of Veggie Burger mix which you added water to and fried, they had a spongy texture and didn’t taste of much and I can remember thinking that if this is what burgers are meant to taste like you can keep them.

These days the range of vegetarian products is fairly comprehensive and I’ve converted many a sceptical carnivore to the joys of a good veggie burger or pie, even if they don’t care to admit it. One product that still divides many vegetarians let alone carnivores is tofu. Tofu hasn’t received much of a PR job and has a reputation for having a lack of flavour and disagreeable texture.

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But it’s got many virtues; it’s cheap, healthy and will quite happily linger in your fridge for a few months whilst all around it goes mouldy. In the right hands it’s delicious, those hands are usually the chef at our local Chinese takeaway and after nagging and pleading and several prawn crackers he took me into the kitchen and showed me how to make his favourite Tofu dish – Black Pepper Tofu with Rice and Broccoli in Oyster Sauce. I’ve since made it at home and it’s a total tofu game changer.

Black Pepper Tofu with Jasmine Rice

Serves four.

500g macro hard tofu

Cornflour for coating

Vegetable oil for frying

2 brown onions thinly sliced

2 red chillies thinly sliced (optional)

4 garlic cloves crushed

1 thumb sized piece of chopped ginger

5 tbsp crushed black peppercorns

8 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp sugar

1 bunch of spring onions cut into slithers

Coriander to garnish

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Cut the tofu into 2cm cubes and toss them in cornflour, salt and pepper. Half fill a large pan or wok with oil (or use a deep fat fryer) and heat it to 180C, or until a small piece of bread browns in 15 seconds. Fry the tofu in batches in the oil, once they are golden remove and dry on some kitchen towel.

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In a clean frying pan heat some oil and add the brown onion, chillies, garlic and ginger and cook over a low-medium heat until soft and sweet. Crush the peppercorns and add to the pan along with the soy sauce and sugar. Warm the tofu in the sauce, add the spring onion and stir through. Serve with steamed Jasmine rice and garnish with coriander.

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It’s been great to see the increased range in vegetarian foods that are available to Australians, even in the six years I’ve been ‘Down Under’ it’s grown massively. The next time you find yourself pushing your trolley down the vegetarian aisle have a closer look at some of the products on offer and see whether you can convert any of the sceptics in your house or perhaps yourself.

The vegetarian macro range, available in Woolworths includes over 30 products and having worked my way through most of them I’m a total convert.

May 7, 2014   | 13 Comments

20% of Australian Men Don’t Know………………

Sponsored by Melbourne IVF

…………..there is a shortage of sperm donors. There’s something primal about the urge to have children. For lots of us we reach a point in life and there’s a child sized gap that ‘needs’ to be filled. That’s what happened to us, one day the idea of children just seemed right. It all happened very quickly, one moment I was enjoying the act of making a baby and the next I was literally being dragged from pram shop to pram shop. Looking back I took it for granted that we would be able to have children, there wasn’t time for doubts to creep in

Being a Dad means everything to me and I couldn’t imagine not being able to have children, could you? I know people who have been in that position and the stress and strain it’s put on them and their relationship is painful to watch. For single women, female couples and couples with male infertility the chance to be parents and have a child of their own often rests on the shoulders of sperm donors.

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There is no shortage of men in Australia and there is no shortage of men with sperm in Australia, what there is is a chronic shortage of men that are aware and willing to donate their sperm. It seems ironic that there should be a shortage of sperm given that it’s a bi-product of one of the favourite male past times, I have no statistics to back up that claim it’s just a hunch.

I think we’ve all encountered men that are full of bravado on the topic of conception and will often favour dinner parties or pubs as a suitable forum to bring up their impregnating prowess. “Let’s just say there wasn’t much need for practice if you know what I mean” or “If you do need any help in that department you know where I am, I’d be happy to help out”. Or perhaps I’ve just befriended some real toerags in my time?

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Would I donate my sperm? Now that I know what it is to be a parent it’s something I’d give a lot of thought to. There are worse things to do with your afternoon than to potentially give someone else the gift of life. I don’t think I’d feel awkward about the act of ‘donating’ or telling others that I do. For me it wouldn’t be a decision to take lightly, anyone conceived through a donor can contact him if they wish to when they turn 18 and that deserves some serious thought. It would also have to be something that my wife is comfortable with.

The aim of this post isn’t to have you (if you have the necessary bits) or your partner  queuing up tomorrow morning ‘to do your/their bit’, it’s about acknowledging that for every 10 people on the waiting list for sperm there is only 1 donor and that only 20% of men are actually aware of the shortage.

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Were you aware there was such a chronic shortage of sperm donors? Would you be happy for you or your partner to donate sperm? Have you or someone you know benefitted or experienced sperm donation?

May 6, 2014   | 19 Comments

Getting Out of the Fast Lane

Life would work better with a remote control; so you can pause for breath occasionally, rewind the good bits and fast forward the bad. Last month I jabbed furiously at the pause button, I felt like I was living life in fast forward. Trying to do too much and not doing anything particularly well, something about men and multi-tasking perhaps?

We went to the zoo yesterday; it was the first time we got to see the lions. We don’t normally get that far because I’m ferrying us round the enclosures at break neck speed and zooming home so I can get The Boy to bed and put my Dad Down Under hat on. I’ve decided to take my foot off the gas, engage cruise control and see more lions.

The last month’s been good; I’ve been reading books instead of tweets, enjoying excessively long baths instead of brisk showers and foregoing takeaway coffee cups in favour of a chair and a chat. If I could make a foodie metaphor, just because I like food and metaphors really, it’s been a lovingly prepared risotto rather than a throw everything in and hope for the best stir fry. We’re all wired differently, some people like life fast and furious I prefer a gentle amble.

Increasingly it feels like you have to consciously choose to slow down, if you don’t make that choice you get swept up with the rest. People often tell me how lucky I am to be a Stay at Home Dad, how they wish that they could be doing the same thing. For the next couple of years I’m going to make the most of it, my ambitions stretch no further than enjoying being Dad. There’s plenty of time for the fast lane after that.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have a sunny spot under a tree to claim as my own, I’m going to go and stare at clouds for a while.

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Do you ever find yourself wanting to get out of the fast lane?

April 15, 2014   | 25 Comments

The Joys of House Hunting

Something’s not quite right when you start to feel nauseous that it’s nearly the weekend. The past few have been spent in a car with a map, hunting for the elusive dream home. Our net has been cast far and wide, it’s a trawler net, not one of those sustainable ones that lets unsuitable fish fit through, we’re catching everything. Last Saturday we set off at 9am and returned at 8pm; stupid big net.

Rather than search for properties that falls within our location and budget I have an involuntary reflex that automatically enters unsuitable locations and a figure that is substantially beyond our upper limit, just in case the owners have a kind heart and see no real value in financial gain.

Rather than set up a search on that well known real estate website and patiently wait for an email to alert me of a new property, I will visit said site approximately 20 times each day. This also means having to decipher ‘estate agent’ speak and there seems to be some recurring themes. This morning I saw a property that simply had the headline “Provence?” in reference to the beautiful French region and style, what this property had was a photo of an outside table and chair with a bottle of wine and a baguette on it.

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Other favourites include;

This one’s got it all – it has a roof, four walls and a floor

Real quirky character – Whoever decorated this property was clearly on drugs

Neat as a pin – its only redeemable feature is that it’s been cleaned

Room for improvement – you might as well knock it down and start again.

There was actually an Estate Agent in England who gathered notoriety for taking honesty to the extreme and described one house as having; “All the charm and poise of a vicar on crack. Suit midget on a budget.” It would certainly make the process of house hunting more entertaining.

I remember house hunting pre-kids being quite a leisurely process, measuring up rooms and ‘debating’ where I’d put my X-Box. These days I spend the entire viewing trying to restrain Max from jumping on the beds, using the toilet, stealing food and generally making himself at home in someone else’s.

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House hunting is beginning to feel a bit like an exercise in self harm for someone too squeamish to deal with the sight of blood. I suspect this is just the calm before the paperwork, removalist and renovation storm that’s on its way. The hunt goes on.

How is house hunting for you? Are you currently searching?

March 28, 2014   | 8 Comments

It Shits Me That He Swore

We were making our way back from the library weighed down by a bag full of books and a child that is reluctant to acknowledge that his feet are made for walking. His ears pricked up as he heard a passing police siren, few things excite Max like a services siren.

“I think it’s coming to get me Daddy”

“Why would it be coming to get you Max, what have you done?”

“I said fucking”

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Of course it was said just loud enough for the passing Mum who had just collected her son from school to hear. I caught her eye as she looked at me in disbelief, I think was wearing the same expression, and was hit with a large dose of something that felt a bit like shame or guilt or sadness? I couldn’t help but think that that Mum probably looked at us and thought ‘bad parent, bad kid’ – I wanted to catch her up and explain that it wasn’t an everyday occurrence and it hadn’t come from me.

I came down to Max’s level and told him in no uncertain terms that it’s a word he shouldn’t use and that some words are off limits. In truth he had said it with all the confidence of someone that didn’t really know whether the word he was saying had any meaning whatsoever. After a few silent paces he asked me if I was “happy now?” which is what he says when he knows something has riled me. I gave him a big hug and told him I wasn’t angry with him and that he hadn’t done anything wrong.

I hate that he said that word. I suspect most parents struggle with the notion that their toddlers are anything other than perfect and him saying that word doesn’t make him imperfect but it certainly caught me by surprise. Don’t get me wrong I can swear with the best of them (in adult company) but there is something surreal about hearing it from the mouth of a toddler, my toddler.

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It was the first time as a parent that I was forced to acknowledge that no matter how much you want to shelter or protect them from the unseemly bits and pieces of life, you can’t.

March 25, 2014   | 11 Comments