Handmaids Tale, Stepford Wives & Snoring

I live in Sydney’s North Shore , an area I now call ‘The Snore Shore’. It puts many noses out of joint when I label their beloved area of status, privilege and standing as the most boring part of Sydney. Worse than boring in my over 30 years of being well acquainted with the area, attending a private girls school and now living in the area, I have come to realise there is an insidious patriarchal racist conservatism at play in these parts.

Let me explain. When I attended high school there wasn’t much diversity. I was one of five girls who one would label ‘ethnic’. School was full of covert racism and bias.  The celebrity girls (daughters of well known politicians, tennis coaches etc) were automatically put on a pedestal, ended up with high university entrance scores due to doing a large number of ‘subjective’ subjects like English, History and the like and getting special treatment for a sudden onset of anorexia during the High School Certificate Exams. I would be invited home to these precious parcels’ abodes and parents would raise their eye brow and no doubt questions of my identity asked once I left. Needless to say there were no more ‘play dates’ after that.  I was the poor ethnic migrant. I should be taking a seat at the back of the bus. I had no right to be with these people. Think Pia Miranda in ‘Looking for Alibrandi’. I had to be smart to outwit the ones placed on the confidence pedestal , easy with a quip knowing full well their wit and whiteness would land them easily in professions like law if not by their own merit,  than by ‘daddy’s work connections.’

Worse for me was the apparent stupidity and complicity of these blond haired blue eyed wonders. They were to become wives for their private school boy counterparts. They were to become the Stepford Wives and Handmade’s Tale of male domination, where a man is seen as a ‘financial plan’  and the woman’s currency was her thinness and blondness that made for attractiveness that suited an ambitious male’s ‘lifestyle’ and would provide him with children and domestic servitude. He was in control at all times as the financial drip could be pulled at any time. The counter to this however was that a prime female, the ‘catch’, had her minimum requirements as well. Domestic abuse is tolerated as women in these parts don’t spread their legs for less than $500K. Here’s a related article on wives in guilded cages. Yes honestly, I’m not making things up! …https://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/the-super-wealthy-wives-trapped-in-a-gilded-cage-20181107-p50eg3.html

If you don’t comply in this role the judgements and double standards come flying. The Stay At Home Mums and Working Mums war begins. The Whiteness vs Ethnicity bias quicks in.  As an ethnic, you suspend your authenticity in order to become one of the White Mum cliques. The ones with the ‘I don’t spread for less than $500K’ mantra look down on those poor heathens who don’t quite fit the patriarchal list of attractiveness and god forbid might actually have a brain and a career/profession. It’s a really judgy world one enters into and you may hasten to say that this post wreaks with judgment; well I’ve had many years of being at the receiving end of it.

Perhaps it’s the history of the area that has perpetuated this conservatism and patriarchal penchant. Historically, this was a place where legal, finance and banking people brought their families to and today there is a large number of people in the area employed in banking, finance and corporate.  The finance industry is traditionally conservative, very white male and attracts the hyper-capitalist. Money is their God and Christianity helps hide its vulgarities and offers Charity to ‘others or them’ relieving guilt. I wonder too how many of these men belong to secret men’s clubs like the Freemasons and the like? The man is the breadwinner and the woman attends to domestic duties. So hyper-capitalist stockbrokers and finance people see the leafy area with good train access and schools as an ‘investment’. Part of the portfolio, part of their ‘lifestyle’ and the Blond Stepford Wife, completes the feeling of status, wealth and privilege. Both genders playing their part in the hyper-capitalist lifestyle, both commodities to be traded with each other and children help to keep her trapped until she finally realises her prison, if that ever happens.

So why am I still here? At the end of the day the area is safe and I have children to educate and keep well until they are old enough to enter the world themselves. I’ll put up being the outsider and the snore boring conservatism of the place until my children are done with it. I will ‘use’ this area and trade on its benefits for my own family and partake in the capitalist ‘ What’s in it for me’ attitude. I will become one of them on the outside but forever sniggering at the entertainment it affords me.  A puppet show of pretense and fake corporate civility. Popcorn anyone?

I Wonder About The Demise Of The Aussie Backyard

Ok I’m showing my age here- no apologies to gen Y and younger. In a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald a few weeks ago, a woman wrote about the demise of the Aussie backyard. She lamented that in her youth her backyard was used a lot more by her siblings and the neighbourhood kids than she has ever seen today.

She spoke about friendships, fights, imagination- all those experiences that build one’s character. The article resonated with me on a number of levels. Firstly when I first moved into Sydney’s lower North Shore I noticed how extraordinary quiet my street was. I put it down to the number of retirees on my street until I experienced my first Halloween when hordes of neighbourhood kids came by. And no they weren’t from other areas. On closer observation, I counted at least ten houses near me with primary school age kids but you wouldn’t know it unless you stalked the local bus stop in the early morning.

Why aren’t these kids playing in their gardens and out on the street with other kids? They are all approximately the same age. As a kid I spent most of my time on my bike riding with the neighbours kids, inviting ourselves to each other’s places for lunch and generally passing the long day light saving summer days pretending to be pirates, running away from giants, playing house or Drs etc. I don’t hear any of that now.

I attempted to make friends with a couple of families on the street but that went pear shaped until a realised: we’re too competitive, ugly and unfriendly to extend the generosity of true friendship and kindness to fellow humans and other people’s children. Society has changed and I seem to be experiencing the ugly side of highlighted greed, self interest and in short a corporate style transactional relationship devoid of integrity.

I personally think parents are scheduling their children to do all sorts of after school and weekend activities to keep up with the other kids. Despite the above million dollar price tags for gardens that should be used more often, Lachie and Bella are too busy with extra curricular activities and technology to go outside and romp around with all and sundry. And god help us if they are kids of colour! And yes, I get the irony of a having a dig at social media/technology but in my defence I’ve had plenty of days in the sun socialising with kids- of all hues, backgrounds and beliefs. I think this is what makes me extraordinary respectful, empathetic and flexible with ‘differences’- you learn this from a young age.

I fear children are growing up to be soft, insular, protected and maybe lacking the social niceties of yesteryear. My kids make a lot of noise in their garden playing (not uncontrollable screaming for no reason) and I won’t apologise for it. They don’t have a pool or lots of backyard toys, just their minds and personalities. And they will grow up not knowing the kids on their street or having the experiences that will open their minds to differences. I no doubt will need to schedule that in for them.