A Blonde Obsession

Picture a man in his 20s boarding the bus after work on any given afternoon. Being the young, virile man that he is, he routinely casts a glance across the patrons of the bus. Almost immediately, the man finds himself thinking how plain all the women on the bus look, particularly compared to the idealised (as opposed to normalised) images of women that he has been exposed to throughout his life in movies, video clips and on magazine covers. This thought stays with him until his eyes pan across to a blonde woman who sits on the left hand side of the bus, and whom forces his eyes to fixate on her. A few seconds later, he catches himself, snaps out of it, and begins making his way down the aisle as the other passengers boarding the bus become impatient.

My question is, why is a man drawn to the blonde in such a situation?

Firstly, let’s think about preferences. I know that I like a particular style of music because it sounds good, just like I know I enjoy certain foods because they taste good. I might like the scent of women’s perfume, or freshly cut grass, or the rain after a hot day, because they smell good. And I know that as I fall asleep at night during the cold winter months, I adore my flannelette sheets because they feel so soft. As you can see, all these things are based on sensual experiences.

And then we come to attraction. Why is it that men like blondes? Well, the logical conclusion is that men like blondes because they look good. And yet, what is essentially a sensual experience, is deemed shallow by society. Liking a woman because they are blonde makes males feel guilty – and yet, blondes don’t have a sound, or smell, or taste and thus have no other basis for sensory judgement! So why shouldn’t we be shallow?

For me, the interesting thing that really undermines the male infatuation with blondes is that despite the fact that very few adult women have naturally blonde hair, men continue to buy into it, seeing them as ‘more attractive’.  As Marilyn Monroe herself said:

“There’s only one sort of natural blonde on earth – albinos”

And yet, for some reason, males continue to divert their attention to blondes - the women who takes the hour or two to turn their hair from dark to light.

So why do males do this? Why do men pursue the blonde, and find attraction in them, when we know that indeed any girl could choose to have blonde hair if she wants – in almost a moment’s notice?

While I have neither the means nor the opportunity, I would love to undertake this simple test involving the following steps to examine the impact simple hair colour can have on the male’s perception of them:

  1. First, take an average looking woman with black or brunette hair.
  2. Have her walk past a construction site full of men on their smokeo, observing their reaction to her presence. Five minutes later, have her walk past again.
  3. That night, dye her hair blonde.
  4. The following day, have walk her past the same construction site full of men on their smokeo again, re-observing their reaction to her presence. Five minutes later, have her walk past again.

What do you think the difference between their responses would be? I think you know!

So why can’t males see past this illogical, unreasoned and irrational obsession and focus more on the things that can’t be changed in a moment’s notice? Things like personality, temperament, patience, or, if you really must be ‘shallow’, their body, which at least requires a few months at the gym and a radical change in diet to meet our blurred and sexually objectifying perspective of ‘attractiveness’! You see, I’m not saying that blonde women can’t be (or even aren’t) attractive, nor that these other things don’t influence a male’s perspective of a blonde, just questioning whether the level of obsession and infatuation with the hair is rational.

I think that the reason we can’t see past this illogical and irrational thinking because in most cases we don’t have the opportunity to gain the information required to judge someone on their character, and so we do the next best thing – we use their hair colour. From this, we then make internal assumptions about the woman, based on the iconic blondes of Brittany Spears, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Anna Kournikova, Jessica Simpson and Pamela Anderson. I’m sure I don’t need to go into too much detail, but each of these women have obviously been highly publicised sexual icons, and thus it is easy for men to transport the blonde around them into the ideologies of their mind.

All in all I challenge you: next time you catch yourself idealising something that reflects an ideology developed by the media and society, stop and ask yourself just how different that really is from the normality around you. You might just realise that indeed every girl on the bus could be the blonde.

Nudge Nudge!

A way towards more sustainable water consumption

A ‘nudge unit’ has recently been studying the best way to encourage people to be more water-conscious in their day-to-day lives. Essentially, these ‘nudge units (also known as Behavioural Insight Units), seek to achieve social change, without government regulation, by employing behavioural science techniques, which include using market signals, new media or other novel methods to encourage people to act in their own long-term interests, in what economists call “libertarian paternalism”. In this particular study, the focus was on achieving more sustainable water usage.

The study involved the following three steps of testing:

1) First, a selected household’s water consumption was measured over a period of time.

2) Second, a number of ‘signs’ communicating a particular message were placed above the doorways of the selected household (particularly above bathrooms, kitchens, and outside near garden houses). These signs read a variety of things that encouraged the more suistainable use of water, and included signs that read:

  • ‘Saving water saves the Amazon’
  • ‘Saving water will ensure a brighter future for your children’
  • ‘Save water – the world is in your hands’
  • ‘Be water conscious: because your neighbours are’
  • ‘Every drop counts’

Notably, each household had only one of these types of messages (eg either about their children, the planet, or their neighbours, etc) communicated in their homes, with each sign saying the same thing, in different forms

3) Finally, the household’s water consumption was remeasured over the same period of time used in phase 1, to determine what impact (if any) the signs had on the household’s water consumption.

What is interesting is that before the water monitoring was conducted, the households were asked which ‘sign’ or message they thought would influence their water consumption the most. Which sign do you think would influence your behaviour the most? Well, the result from the initial survey of the households was that the sign communicating the message ‘Saving water will ensure a brighter future for your children’ was overwhelming selected as what people thought would be the most influential, with the sign about the neighbour’s water consumption coming in last – after all, we are all independent individuals who don’t care about what the neighbours think or are doing, but simply remain concerned with our own lives, right?

When it came to the crunch, however, it turned out that these selections were completely flawed. In fact, the households with the sign about the neighbour’s water consumption above their doorway displayed the most drastic change in people’s behaviour!

Essentially, this is an example of using peer influence to increase energy efficiency. While putting signs above everyone’s doorways is ultimately unrealistic (while the longevity of the signs effectiveness is also questionable), it does open up the possibility of using peer influence in other forms. One thing that could work, for example, is the inclusion of a graph on our water and power bills comparing our usage with the rest of the people in our neighbourhood, accompanied by commentary that might read something like: “compared with the rest of your neighbourhood, you consumed 31 per cent more water in the March quarter”, and so forth.

Overall, it is research such as this that shows that even in this, the 21st century, when we consider ourselves to be more “informed” and “rational” individuals than ever before, a great level of disparity remains between what we consciously think influences our behaviour, and what actually does.

It appears that we still have much to learn about ourselves, and what really makes us tick.

Monovember

Winter has passed, and the fragrance of Spring is now here, bringing with it blooming lilies and the foreboding of summer. But with Spring also comes November, and with November comes Movember: an excuse for all men, and the bearded lady from Cirque du Soleil, to showcase just how masculine they are by sprouting a moustache for a good cause. That is, to raise awareness and funds for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and mental health.

I got involved last year along with 854,287 other people around the world, but it’s fair to say I failed, mainly because I eke only of femininity. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t determined! Indeed, I found myself injecting 200 CCs of testosterone into my body thrice daily in the quest for a long Mo. And yet after 4 weeks of this, you still had to get a 500 megawatt spotlight and a telescope – yes, a telescope, as no microscope would do – just to come across a bit of peach fuzz above my lip. It was sort of like a barcode – thin strips of hair. My mates actually took me down to Coles and scanned me to see how much I was worth, and the word “Girl” appeared on the screen before the machine screamed ‘down down, Lakey is down’ and showed a drastically reduced price of 89 cents.

Compare this with my colleague Dillon, who was recently arrested for deforestation when he tried to shave in the morning. Indeed, less than an hour after this guy shaves he already has the makings of a full grown caveman beard. Most participants get to enjoy the process of grooming, trimming, waxing, braiding and upbraiding their way into the annals of fine moustachery. Most, but not yet me.

The reality is I am genetically flawed, so this year, I’m not doing Movember. That’s right, I am not even going to bother avoiding the razor in October in the hope of getting a head start and ending up with some noticeable fuzz in 2012. Instead, I’m starting my own cause, and I’m calling all of you who are similarly dispossessed to join me. My cause is Monovember; because I never seem to have troubling growing hair between my eyebrows. That’s right; every morning, lunch break and evening I have to pluck, wax and shave to stop myself from ending up like our former liberal prime minister, John Howard, or even Bert from Sesame Street

But should this quest fail too, I will remain determined to throw more than token support for the cause of Movember. While I myself may be incapable of joining in the mission, I will pledge to donate the money I would have spent on razors, shaving cream, aftershave and mirrors if I had even an ounce of manliness in me. And I ask that this simply inspires you to go to whatever lengths required to get active and support this cause as best you can. Whether it be through a luscious moustache, an open wallet or the makings of your very own monobrow.

http://au.movember.com/

Household Adventures

How I’ve navigated through the unfamiliar realms of domesticity.

For most of my life, I’ve been used to having my clothes washed, dried and ironed the second they came off my body. In fact, often I still return home on the weekend with my dirty clothes, place them in the hamper, and proceed to tell my mother that ‘the dirty clothes basket is full’ – all before the cordial greet and kiss on the check is forthcoming from me, the prodigal son.

But since making a stand and moving out into the big wide world,  I have discovered that domestic duties are not my forte – a charge in which ironing leads the way. Lacking the helpful assistance of an ironing board in Canberra, I have taken to ironing my clothes on the only other soft flat surface of my rented apartment – the carpet. After all, there isn’t too much difference between it and an ironing board, right?

WRONG!

You see, when you leave the iron down too long on the ironing board, as you drift off into a reverie reminiscing on the days back home, the damage is wholly restricted to the board itself. However, as testified by the three triangle shapes burnt into my carpet and my recently failed tenancy inspection report, the consequences of inadequate ironing skills are much more severe when using the floor as your ironing board. Indeed, I have had to invest $450 in a big rug to cover them up and, hopefully, save myself from the judgemental eviction from my apartment at the end of next quarter. Surely they won’t look under my soft, pink, flowery patterned Egyptian rug?

Now, while most people walk around cursing the Canberra cold under their foggy breath, I have actually become extremely thankful for the onset of the winter months. You see, with winter comes the need for more clothing, and I have discovered that sweaters are crucial to upholding my wavering domestic sanity. Not only do sweaters reduce the need to iron ones shirts (huzzah!), but – and this is the more crucial part – sweaters also cover all the burn marks that have been stamped across my shirt in the past 6 months of failed ironing attempts. And thus, while I do not particularly enjoy the winter months of frozen extremities, I must say I am undeniably fearful of the coming summer.

But all this chatter and concern comes on the back of one rather enormous assumption – that I can actually wash my clothes successfully in the first place. While I am yet to cause a catastrophic flood in my laundry (surely a commendable feat), one thing I haven’t quite mastered is emptying my pockets before putting my clothes in the cycley thing. This is ok when you find a forgotten $20 amongst the wet clothes (woo hoo!), but it is utterly disastrous when you open the hatch to discover that you have left three tissues in your pockets. Blast my socks!

As a result of the unfortunate regularity of this occurrence, I am today announcing that the new fashion standards for Canberra require all clothing to be covered in almost irremovable and minutely divided pieces of moist tissue. For those who do not adhere, the most contemptuous and envious look from myself will greet you upon our next meeting.

Peter Lake is seeking household assistance or a substitute Canberran mother.

Where the Wild Things Are

A Tribute to Maurice Sendak

Through his most notable work, ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, first published in 1963, Maurice Sendak touched the hearts of children and adult readers alike, as he sought to give justice to the untamed imagination of youth.

In the story, the protagonist Max escapes from the world around him, after a fight with his mother resigns him to the realms of his upstairs bedroom.  Quickly, the walls, floor and ceiling seemingly fall away, as Max enters the expanses of his creativity, howling expressively with the ‘wild things’ during a ‘wild rumpus’ that is shown through the books iconic grotesque illustrations.  Through this, Sendak not only acknowledges a child’s need for a free sense of imagination and expression, but also builds an intriguing balance of fear, solitude and comfort within Max’s creation.

This book is distinctive in its tough and honest recognition of the fact that, even as kids, we often feel on our own – separated from the older and more mature people around us (as Max does in this tale). Indeed, Sendak refuses to sugar-coat his story, portraying childhood not as a territory of innocence (as so many other children’s books do), but of tension, as we grow up into the world of responsibility and consequence.

While for younger readers (or listeners) these themes may not be immediately comprehended, for older readers, the subtlety of Sendak is a clear highlight. In fact, the deeper themes of creativity, expression and escapism that can be read between the ten beautiful lines of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ were enough to give substance to a well received feature film (where Sendak worked alongside Tom Hanks as a Producer) that was shot in the charcoaled ash of northern Victoria, following the devastating 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

We can only hope that the imaginative honesty of Sendak, who passed away on the 8th of May 2012, may remain with us and future generations as he himself enters a new realm of wild things.

‘And he sailed off through night and day, and in and out of weeks and almost a year, to where the wild things are’

Maurice Sendak

1928 – 2012

Culinary Adventures

How I’ve managed to avoid starvation….for now!

This year, I moved to Canberra fresh out of mama’s house, used to having a steaming hot gourmet dinner on my plate by six o’clock sharp. Three months out of home and that tradition has dissipated, with my alter ego “Hungry Peter” now weeping uncontrollably as he rakes out the crumbs from the depths of a KFC grease bucket on a Monday night.

But after a few days of malnourishment, I was overcome by the burden of facing the prospect of open heart surgery every time I opted for a grease burger. So, I reverted to the classic ham sandwich – a sandwich that I have since eaten every, single, day…..for the last four months. And through time, this has caused another threat to my life – the alluring desire to hang myself as a consequence of its culinary staleness and subsequent pretentious jibes of the simmer sauce master-chefs on my floor at work.

It wasn’t until the humiliation became too much that I branched out in my endeavours in the kitchen. I laced up my gloves, studied various cookbooks with diligence and prepared myself to progress from a ‘mere’ ham sandwich to a ham, CHEESE and TOMATO sandwich – toasted, might I add. A whole new realm of possibilities was brought before my eyes, and, after all, it had to be better than a daily purchase of McDonalds (no, the apple slices and water don’t make it acceptable). The new sandwich was a success, and instilled me with confidence I didn’t know I had. Now I can dream of one day plucking up the courage to try some fancier bread – rather than the bottom priced Coles loaves I currently use – although saving up for some Helga’s might take some time.

The Monday after this experiment I found myself drunk on confidence in the kitchen, trying to cook something new for dinner – a quiche, no less. Half way through the process of making my very own shortcrust pastry, with flour everywhere– including, believe it or not, the ceiling above – I was suddenly sent into a frantic mayhem when my brother texted me to say he would be around soon with a friend.

Upon their arrival, my brother did what brother’s do best and humiliated me in front of a stranger. Then, he gave me a wedgie, noogie and wet willy for my clear lack of common sense – you see, apparently even Jamie Oliver himself buys short crust pastry frozen from the supermarket. So I closed the flour, grabbed my coat and walked through the frost to where ‘common sense’ should have originally already taken me – back to KFC.

Welcome to lakepeter2.0 !

Welcome to my new blog – lakepeter2.0 !

As many of you will know, I am not new to this whole blogging thing; most of you have probably read some of my musings over on my former blog, ‘Heavier Things’. However, a new time has come, with lakepeter2.0 eventuating due to the fact that Heavier Things now feels somewhat redundant in its purpose. Heavier Things has acted as a place where things could be said: where I could express, when I felt there was no one I could express to. I have grown a lot in the past 18 months, and although Heavier Things fascilitated a lot of this growth, I now feel that  the tones and features of Heavier Things are no longer things I identify as closely with.

In recent months, I haven’t been blogging much at all, instead  exploring different avenues of expression. Instead of writing blogs, I’ve started writing fiction, and plan to finish a few lines in the next few years that I will surely share with you. I have also tried my hand at stand-up comedy, but I have quickly realised (affirmed) that I articulate things better through writing words on a page than through my mouth. I have also stopped using sport as a place of release, and have begun playing more guitar. And all this has been thoroughly refreshing, with my new sense of clarity starting to form, resulting in new thoughts and ideas that I am keen to share with you.

As such, I welcome you to lakepeter2.0 – a new blog, where my focus will shift from the deeply nostalgic, personal and emotive reflection seen at Heavier Things, to rather explore and comment on my own experiences as I participate in society, and observe the nature of humanity. lakepeter2.0 will have a more formalised ‘feature article’ feel to (in fact, I am hoping that lakepeter2.0 may build the framework for some prospective freelance writing in the future), although that’s not to say there won’t be other snippets posted around the place too.

Thank you for your readership, and for joining me on the next phase of my blogging endeavours.

Peter