How (not) to win over your partner’s parents

I visited the small country town where Darcy grew up over Christmas.

To be clear, calling Moonambel a ‘town’ is incredibly generous. There’s only 167 residents (according to the 2016 census) – it’s no wonder not a single colleague or friend could place it on a map when I shared my holiday plans!

Of course, this did not dampen my excitement for this ‘suburban girl goes country’ adventure. Not only would it be the furthest I’d have travelled since the pandemic, this was the perfect opportunity for me to meet and (obviously) win over Darcy’s parents.


What do I mean by “suburban girl” anyway?

Growing up in Auckland, New Zealand, I spent my formative years within a 30 minute walking radius from the suburbia starter kit: gorgeous beach, shopping centre and local public school.

All my basic needs and more were fulfilled in that bubble.

I’ve always assumed most kids lucky enough to live in this part of the world (with a few key caveats) would have had a similar experience. I had no idea how unrelatable my upbringing was to Darcy and vice versa until we began sharing childhood stories with each other.

What do you mean Linda had to gather firewood and heat up water for you to have a hot shower? Are your fond childhood memories really throwing piles of bricks at the wall and sticking your leg into the river as leech bait? Did you and your best friend spend an entire weekend cycling back and forth (thrice) through the mountains because a girl he had a crush on lived in the town on the other side?

How strange, how fun, how exciting!


As soon as I arrived in Moonambel, I begin experiencing the ‘foreignness’ of it all for myself.

First stop was the winery Linda works at.

All is normal as we wait patiently for her to close up shop… except for the delicious smell of turkey wafting through the building on Christmas Eve. Understandably out of place, particularly after everyone else has gone home.

Why could we smell a turkey being roasted in a winery out of hours, you might be wondering?

Well with no oven in her house and having built up excellent rapport with the chef, it made perfect sense to Linda to call on a few favours for our visit.

A few hours later, with delicious turkey in belly and mission top of mind (to make Linda love me more than she loves her son), I offer to do the dishes to show my gratitude for the feast she made.

I could tell Linda was a bit uncomfortable with the idea at first but I insisted and she relented. She ends up hovering over my shoulder the entire time as I scrubbed turkey stuffing off one plate after another. I didn’t think much of it, chalking it up to the almost obligatory polite dance around guests helping out with the clean up or perhaps she was quite particular and she wanted to make sure I was cleaning the plates up to her standard but too nice to say so? I make sure to take extra care to ensure every dish is spotless.

In my mind, I did a decent job. Linda didn’t really say anything to the contrary either except a gentle reminder for me to turn off the running water when I wasn’t actively rinsing a plate, fair enough.

After she goes to bed, Darcy and I debrief and perhaps we were both being paranoid, but just in case we were committing a heinous faux pas without realising through our insistence of doing the dishes, we decide to take a step back and gather some intel the next day.


As we polish off exorbitant amounts of leftovers on the evening of day two, our eyes meet across the table. A subtle nod and our plan is set to motion.

Soon, with drying towel in hand, I am taking mental notes of Linda’s every move as she begins the clean up process.

Immediately, I notice that she opts for an entirely different method of dishwashing than I do.

She fills the sink with warm soapy water like a ‘bath’ for the cutlery and plates. After the items are cleaned, they are removed from the soap-sudded and scrap-filled water and are immediately air or towel dried.

Whilst not exactly a revolutionary way of doing dishes, particularly for my Caucasian friends, I remember discovering this style of cleaning when I was 11 years old.

At the end of our first soft-tech (cooking) class in school, all the teams are cleaning up their workstations. What would have otherwise been an uneventful day is turned on it’s head when I scan the room to compare our progress and freeze in horror at what I was seeing.

“How can they not rinse the soap off the dishes? There’s bits of food in the water they just pulled that out of…why does the teacher not care? This is so gross!” I whisper to my fellow Asian-New Zealander friend.

“I know, I don’t get it either, but just do it like we’re told.” She replies, clearly embarrassed by how uncool I was acting.

As dramatic as it sounds, it felt like a key tenet of my upbringing, identity and world view was being challenged in that moment and I have never backed away from an opportunity to explain the ‘superior’ dishwashing method since to anyone I happened to share a sink with.

At this point, I should probably explain how I do the dishes. You may read my description and think “duh”, much like what I expected of my classmates and teacher on that fateful day 12 years ago. In the time since, I’ve learnt many life lessons including to never assume anything about anyone – not their experiences and definitely not the way they go about doing their chores.


Maggy’s guide to dishwashing

  1. Fill a bowl with warm soapy water, this is your “main bowl”
  2. Take dish sponge, and clean all your plates/pots/cultery, dipping into the main bowl for more soapy water as needed
  3. Run everything under running water to wash off soap and air dry
Continue reading “How (not) to win over your partner’s parents”

everyone has a 2020 poem

and this is mine.

nostalgia. nothingness. noise and repeat

it seems like
the less I do, the more
tired I am and either way
I am not getting any younger
as I sit and wait for life to matter
as much as it did back when
I scribbled my name on the
front cover of my very
last calculus exam.

the cynical 17 year old was right.
the only maths I ever do now is
subtracting days by the hour,
reviewing memories to the
power of x. is it possible to solve
this lethargy by working backwards?
I am guesstimating the root of all my
problems sprouted some time in the
2010s but I don’t have any of this
worked out on paper as proof of concept.

I wish someone could tell me if I
am passing or not as I copy everyone else
by doing more, documenting more to replace
actually being more – rounding up all these
constructed moments (doesn’t matter of what
or what even for) can’t you see that I am so close
to tipping, tapping, turning point?

living life to the fullest exposure and washing
out all doubts of self, believe me, things are
really looking up from this low angle shot, as I
lie, knowing only the blinking caret is here to stay,
dancing to the tick of every minute, it hungers
like an ill-fed guillotine for a slice of life, authentic style.

Instead I offer up my whole head, dust, rust and all.
meditation is too much work, take it off cleanly
at the nape. let it roll like tumbleweed through this
empty field of nostalgia, nothingness, noise and repeat.

Maggy’s New Years Resolutions 2021

One of my new years resolutions for 2021 is to start writing again and posting on my blog at least once a week.

At the end of week one, I have already run into trouble.

I don’t have any writing ready to share!

So, to kick off the year, I thought I’d put my hot-off-the-press resolutions out to the world.

I hope this is somewhat interesting to some folks. I personally love having a bit of a nosy into other people’s lives.

Rules:
#1. I am allowed to refine/edit my goals during the month of January
#2. I will share my progress quarterly for accountability


Relationships

  1. Surprise my partner six times
  2. Surprise my parents and grandparents twice each
  3. Build a habit of thinking of what my parents/grandparents might need when I go shopping
  4. Surprise my friends 12 times (10 left)
  5. Host four board games and/or dinners in our apartment

Fitness

  1. Hit weight goal
  2. Do six pull ups consecutively
  3. New running personal best
    • 5km in 30 mins
    • 10km non-stop
  4. New rock climbing personal best (aim for 15/16V)
  5. Try personal training in February
  6. Group fitness of some type every week

Career

  1. Find a meaningful volunteer role, preferably with elements of leadership development
  2. Connect with a mentor, have at least six purposeful meetings
  3. Weekly, monthly, quarterly reviews of work and life

Better me

  1. 12 new hikes this year, four overnight hikes/camps
  2. Mindful consumption of:
    • 24 Books/Audiobooks
    • 24 Films/Theatre/Musicals/Shows
    • 24 Webinars/Public Lectures
    • 24 Art Galleries/Exhibitions
  3. Try/Re-try something new six times
    • (e.g. Improv class, Medical trial, MeetUps, Bumble BFF, Fundraising writing)

Creative

  1. One post on blog per week
  2. 24 pitches submitted
  3. Make six crafts
    • (e.g. build DIY glass house, watercolour, pottery, clay sculpture)
  4. Print two rolls of film

Miscellaneous

  1. Investigate DELE exams for Spanish
  2. Investigate English teaching course
  3. Investigate tour guiding

Coincidentally, 24 goals for the year I turn 24.

Credit to Matthew Dicks for having a great NYR system that I have heavily borrowed from with some adaptions.

(Side note: the podcast him and his wife Elysha produce on how to become a better storyteller called Speak Up is a fantastic listen.)

If you have read some of my other writing before and have clicked into this post out of curiosity, thank you.

My writing will be a little different this year though I do hope to still get some poetry in here and there. The source material (read: me) is much of the same. I hope you will choose to stay.

Q: What are some of your end of year reflections or new years resolutions?

A coin and a clock

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Image courtesy of: JR Korpa

It’s opposite day,
and I hate those piercing eyes –
all sharpened storm clouds
soaking up soft lighting rods
as if rules did not matter here,
only you and I. Roofed under
rewinding time, spooling moments
tangle but do not tame our desire to
pull a little more breath out of each
other, we, are the disobedient children
of the night. Forgetting what was yours
and what will be mine, listen, as water
breaks outside. We are safe here,
I assure you, before I look to the skies,
send my silent prayer for this phantom
pain in chest to subside.

Continue reading “A coin and a clock”

Wanderland

AIW
Image credit: fnafmangl

HELP.

I have fallen down
the rabbit hole.
Lost who I am in
INFP alphabet soup, wish
upon Gemini that I’ll find
my way to Ravenclaw.
But as furry foot of luck
hops up and down of reach,
I am left wondering who
the cleaver was for.

In this food chain I have
four decades to climb, first I learn
the sizzle of rock bottom as
branded prey. Sit and riddle
for 8 hours of the day, pray
that when I led soul to slaughter
block,  I did not become both
butcher and brittle breaking
bitterness.

Bit by bit I remember being the most
myself in a town with no history
or future to my name. No bigger smile
than when the rest of me blended into
the Cheshire light. Feast my eyes
on dazzling new sights, at night
I cocoon myself in glittering lucid lines
or in a mad hatter moment, find a new
best friend for the night.

Continue reading “Wanderland”

Dish 22 – $29.50

She is broken promises
piled up like plastic takeaway
containers. The bins stink
like hypocrisy and a million
dead fish screaming silently.

Excuses stain apologetic teeth in
shades of lost crimson, I suppose
sometimes the daysblendintonight
followed by another #094183 sunrise.

As green-eyed monster sinks deeper
into orange-pink sulci, she ferments
gram after gram of misdirected
resentment in saliva before swallowing
self whole. Become this dark,
bottomless hole – name it stomach
rather than mind or soul, convince herself
she can quantify abstract problems on
scale and in mirror, feed herself lie on top of lie until it hurts to swallow.

Forget how to hunger, watch young skin stretch
from feigned indifference to
burdensome vanity as weighed
heart learns to falter faster
than it flutters. At least that is
the sous-chef’s choice of the day.

On the cusp of 22, serve up
seasoned afflictions, boiled-down
contradictions, superiority
spiked with low self-esteem,
no guarantee who tomorrow will be.
…………………………………………………    $29.50/piece

 

yes.

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Image courtesy of: Frida Aguilar Estrada

don’t remember the taste
of stars so we fill ourselves
on vodka and rum. dilute
the night with bright, fizzling
expectations so we can
shoot down disappointment
in familiar tumbler glass.

watch the hours drip-tick by
as all these soft sticky souls
search for more than sallow
shadows of self in fellow
stranger’s gaze. alas, it is in
the peripheries that I remain.
how can one win without
being told how to play the game,
nothing to blame beyond birth
and poor choices after
that have led to what I became.

as drinks tip and lips slip,
I find myself floating amongst
the sea of people, sway in
humid-breathed wind and breathe
the sweatied salt-spray. hold onto the
rainbows reflected in buoyant
disco balls to remind myself that the
spectrum of colours in my veins
spills an infinite greater than the
circumference of circumstance,

Continue reading “yes.”

“The world is a scary place.”

mother says, worry etched into
the crevices of every syllable.
She tucks a soft prayer
behind my ear before I leave
home with an 11kg backpack
stuffed to the brim with rigid
fears and unwieldy trepidations
that dig into (but do not break)
obstinate back bone.

Head held high, my tongue weaves
fake bravado into truth-coated lies,
squeezes big talk past smiling
teeth as they chatter but do not chit
chat, keep wandering eyes on well-lit
road and itchy feet on beaten track,
never walk beyond the safety of the light.
After all, aren’t all little girls taught
they must fear the night?

Continue reading ““The world is a scary place.””

Buried Terracotta Dreams

Image courtesy of: HEandRO

I lost my heart in Xi’an,
slipped it into the suitcase
of a boy I’d met three days ago
before kissing him goodbye.

Strange, how stray words tangle
and lives shaken off trajectory,
suddenly align.

My youth was spent by simple
seaside. Every day, watching the
gentle rise and fall of predictable
tides. Whilst he grew up on the
other side of a different shore line.

I wonder if the same waves would
remind him of when he saw crimson
flow, breathed in the stench of fragile
bodies broken by the warm earth
they were buried under, all the
nameless numbers surrounded by
plaques of rubble and dust while
the sun rose behind him as if
it was just any other day.

Continue reading “Buried Terracotta Dreams”

Autobiographical Alphabet: Part 1

Hi friends,

For those of you who have been following me on Instagram for the last little while, you may know that I’ve recently released a series of micro-poems there.

If not, the collection is called Autobiographical Alphabet: Life After Nineteen.

The poems were written in 2017, after I turned twenty. In New Zealand & Australia where I’m from, 18 and 21 are considered ceremonious years. Personally, I feel like the transition between 19 to 20 is, linguistically at least, just as important because it marks one’s departure from the ‘-teen’ years (13-19).

With the set structure of the alphabet and the challenge of keeping to only a sentence or two per poem, I wanted to use this series to explore more broadly who I am and what I observe & feel in this awkward phase when I am no longer a child but don’t quite feel like a proper adult.

I’ll be delving into some of the circumstances and intentions surrounding the pieces below. In all honesty, I think that to a large degree, an author’s intent is irrelevant to a reading and it’s important for you to take away what you will from the standalone poems. With that being said, I selfishly wanted to explain them a bit more so I can pour over these memories & experiences yet again. I’m sure there are some people who are curious about it too, so this is for me & you :—)


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I wrote this poem for a friend who I’ve known since intermediate (middle school). She is an absolute angel – beautiful, kind, perfect. I don’t think I’ve met more than a handful of other people who are genuinely as soft and pure.

Though sometimes in private I’d wonder if she was a bit too perfect. Maybe it makes me a bad person (I’d never argue to the contrary) but I kept waiting for the day when the image would crack and something mean or unreasonable will spill out…but it never did. When a boy broke her heart, she mourned so gently and with so much poise that it left me unsettled.

I didn’t put my finger on it until recently. Perhaps it’s just me overthinking but it was almost like she couldn’t allow herself to hold onto an ounce of bitterness, even when she had every right to, in case it stained her with something that was too dark and too real. Ugly.

This poem is for her and women in general who were taught that they had to hide their pain. For women who are expected to shirk their own needs forever and always so they can be so good and generous to everyone else with their seemingly endless love and comfort.

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What are your thoughts on nature vs nurture? Either way, I was a shy and introverted child. Mum always pushed me to speak to strangers and make new friends. A word she always wanted me to strive for was “bubbly”.

Bright, light, fun, harmless, palpable. Her friend’s child was like this, why couldn’t I be? Over a decade later, I would say that I feel like a carefully pruned bonsai tree who has gotten closer and closer to her ideal. I would say “bubbly” is one of the top 5 words most of my friends would use to describe me.

I still don’t like that word. I think it’s because it feels like an act, even now. It’s so tiring to be friendly and happy, it doesn’t really leave room for much of a personality. I don’t know if it’s who I am or who I’ve been taught I should be and being around strangers acting “bubbly” leaves me so flat and empty. Scariest of all though is that the formative years are over, the shape is set, I truly don’t know how else I can present to and exist in this world.

Continue reading “Autobiographical Alphabet: Part 1”