Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Institutionalised Sexism Holds Women Back in Sport, Not Their Gender

Watching the youth Olympics at Lillehammer about two weeks ago, I observe the female snowboarders in awe and almost tune out the commentators. Almost. I hear one of them say, "I must say there is more difference in points between the female contestants than the male contestants. The male contestants' scores are closer together and seem to be of a better quality. Now look I'm not saying it’s not a girl's sport but to be good you can't be afraid to fall and hurt yourself. You need to like speed and be able to go fast–”*    

It’s not the first time I've heard this sort of thing. I saw it last year when Graham Cornes shut down female AFL players in the first ever televised female AFL game, criticising their outfits (the same outfits male players wear) and questioning their ability to play because of their breasts, "After all some chest marks can really hurt”. My favourite part is when he says that female AFL players “just didn’t look right! Like women boxers or mixed martial arts combatants there was a discord to the image and the action,” because of course, sports is all about what you look like and pretty girls playing sports ~doesn’t match~. 

I see it when my female friends post pictures of themselves mid-workout, and men rush to comment on problems with their form, or condescendingly tell them a better alternative to work out or let them know things to improve on. Thanks for the unsolicited "advice", didn't realise there were so many professional trainers in our friends lists, we're so happy to have you here to guide us. And don't bother to tell me that its part of "gym culture", "everyone does it to everyone, gender has nothing to do with it" — it's part of "woman does a thing and man unnecessarily invites himself to criticise/~mentor~ said thing" culture and yes, you always look like a wanker when you do it. If you don't see the implications of gender in this, I applaud your ignorance. Is it blissful? 

In these examples we see three ways in which women are continuously kept from equal treatment in the world of sports. The first is a reliance on sexist stereotypes to explain the gap between men and women's sports, in turn reinforcing the idea that women don't have a "natural" thirst for sports or thrill. In the Lillehammer example, the commentator explains that the gap, between male and female snowboarders, is due to women being afraid of speed and of injury. There is a complete ignorance of the fact that there is a cultural encouragement that pushes boys to excel in sport, an encouragement which seldom exists for girls. Girls are simply not given the impression that sports are fair game regardless of gender, and sports continue to be marketed in large, as a "boy thing". This results in higher rates of male participation in sports, but lets be clear, this is not for biological reasons, it is due to a cultural interpretation of gender and what different genders should do. If the same effort, money, time and marketing that is put into men's sport, was put into women's sport, perhaps there wouldn't be such a gap between male and female snowboarders. Perhaps women’s sport is actually a legitimate investment and could garner just as much attention and participation if given the chance, instead of assuming it simply won’t. Maybe this lack of cultural encouragement is a more plausible explanation than the blanket statement that all men are fearless speed demons and women are delicate gentle flowers that glide carefully along the snow. 

Secondly, biology is often used to tell women that sports simply isn't for them. Yes, chest marks could hurt if you're a woman with sensitive or bigger breasts. But a ball in the testicles hurts too, thats why we invented those little white cups remember? To protect your delicate manhood. We also invented pretty nifty sports bras that flatten and secure our sweater puppies so that a ball in the chest doesn't really hurt at all (I can vouch, as I play AFL with said nifty sports bras). Now, lets open a biology textbook. We've got a standard female body, a standard male body. The standard male body tells us a man is more muscular by default, taller, stronger. Does this mean that men are naturally better suited at sport? No. There are many variants of the human body. There are tall men, short men, skinny, fat, toned, little legs, big torsos, long legs, small torsos. Out of all the male bodies in the world that differ so much from each other can we really say that they are naturally better at sports than all the female bodies in the world? Correct me if I'm wrong,  although I really don't think I am, there is such a thing as an athletic body but there is no athletic gender. 

Third and last, to women who manage to surmount all of this bullshit and continue in their sporting glory, there's the men who automatically think that their gender gives them the qualification to be a mentor to women who clearly need their amateur help. My favourite example of this is probably when a qualified female personal trainer was talking to this girl about potentially training her and an unqualified amateur gym-enthusiast interjected and proposed to train the girl instead. Were the qualified trainer a man, he would've surely been respected and his ability to train would've been believed. After all I do still find it amazing that when a girl says, "I play ___”, people respond with, "oh are you any good?" or meet the statement with disbelief, whilst the same can't really be said for men. I can just imagine one of those young professional snowboarders telling someone they snowboard in the Olympic fucking games and still have someone ask them if they’re any good. 

This isn't an effort to give women more help and more advantages in sports, it's not an effort to turn the tables on men. It's not about saying women are victims and we should go easy on them. It's about recognising that women can have just as much to offer to the world of sports. It's about equality, it's a demand to cut the sexist bullshit and give women a fair go. It's a demand to stop ending sentences with "...for a girl”

Call out commentators, journalists, even your mates or your parents on their sexist and outdated views. Don't let things slide, don't ignore the privilege men receive in sports and start changing the way you see women in sport.  

*This is a rough, but unembellished translation from French commentators 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

2016 + A Few Life Lessons

Now I'm in no place to give advice.

(The other day I was hungover and googled how to make homemade McMuffins because I missed the breakfast menu at McDonald's and yesterday I literally drove without pants on because they were too constricting)

Nevertheless, throughout 2015 I have learnt valuable lessons/made important realisations and I feel like it would be really selfish not to share my newfound wisdom — if you can call it that.

I was reading my last new year's post before and it really got me thinking. I don't know about anyone else, but I feel like every new year I look back and I think, "Gee whiz that was a full on year, I cried a lot for no reason and ate way too many burritos, and I sucked at my new year's resolutions. Oh well let's hope this year is kinder to me." or "Well that was more drama than I was expecting for a mere 365 days, but at least I got a cool job and maybe next year I'll try not to get involved in so many depressing Facebook arguments about feminism and abortion."

I think we look back a lot of the time on our year and we see mostly the negative stuff jump out at us, and we forget about all the cool things we did, and the new people we met, the groovy times we shared. That being said it's also important to acknowledge the heaping mound of crap we've all dealt with in a year, not in an effort to be pessimistic, but to look at it like an obstacle we've overcome and as something to take pride in. Because whilst shovelling poo for 52 weeks might suck, at least you have a nice big pile at the end to look and smile at, and say, "Hey. I did that. I achieved that. That mound is a product of my efforts."

In all seriousness, I don't want to look back at the year I've had and see it as a "bad year". I want to see it as a year that made me grow a lot as a person, that taught me valuable lessons that I can put to the test the following year.  I used to look at a new year like a blank slate, but I think it's better to look at it for what it is: an extension of the years you've lived, an extension you can build on and improve. So let's not hate on 2015, maybe it was a great year for some, maybe it was bad news for others, but I think we can all agree we'll be better, wiser, people for it in 2016.

And so, after all of that, here are 7 handy tips, tricks and lessons I've learnt in 2015, and will continue to practice in 2016.

1. Elaborate on your corny resolutions, and make more specific ones instead (they're better value, I promise)
e.g, "Be a better person" is sort of vague and abstract, so be more specific like, "Be a better listener"

2. Actually do regular exercise, because you feel fab afterwards and it actually helps maintain good mental health, physical health and general sexiness
e.g, Join a gym, become part of a sportsteam, go to a bootcamp with some pals, run along the beach, take up mermaid dancing

3. Have a morning routine — makes you feel like you're proactive even when you're just lazing around the house.
e.g, Wake up with an alarm, make your bed, wash your face, have a coffee and then start your day

4. Read. Go to a bookstore, buy yourself a book you'd want to read the crap out of and then actually read it. Maybe do it every night before bed, or every morning after breakfast. But definitely read. It helps relax you and actually forces you to stop thinking about everything else in your life and just focus on the words on the page.

5. Develop them hobbies/do fun activities. Can be on your own or with someone else.
e.g, I'm talking writing, painting, gardening, baking/cooking, ~mixology~, building stuff with your bare hands like a stool or a table, go all Pinterest and revamp some old furniture, sketch things, play instruments, fold up a tonne of origami, COLOURING IN BOOKS — hobbies and leisurely activities are seriously underrated by us crazy youth. But they're therapeutic and they're fun and they're something that falls outside the "Eat, Work, Sleep, Repeat" scenario, that a lot of us fall into in the middle of the year when summer is over and uni or work is in full chaos.

6. Say yes to social invites, but know when to say no. 2015 was a big year for me in terms of meeting a whole new bunch of people — through work, through sports, through uni. I was so excited to have access to all these new groups of people, but it also came at a time when my self confidence wasn't all too high. This sort of resulted in me avoiding social gatherings with people I didn't know super super well and that were slightly out of my comfort zone. I wasn't confident enough in myself to put myself out there or try something new or do something new. Even if I knew a handful of people attending an event I'd be scared to go in case I was left alone and I'd look like ~a lonely fool~. In reality, it probably would've been fine and a whole lot of fun. I was like that for the better part of 2015, but towards the end I decided to just push myself to go to something. And I did. And it wasn't bad at all, in fact, it was really fun and just what I needed. That gave me a little boost of confidence, and it made me feel like I could do it again, and again, and again, and everything would be fine. So if there's any advice I can give from living through that weird socially anxious period, it would be to say yes to things or evaluate the reasons why you aren't saying yes. If you're not saying yes because you're sick, or you're tired after a hectic week and/or you need to have some alone time, then go for it. Have your Netflix and pizza in bed. Do you. If you're not saying yes because you "can't be bothered" or "I'll just go next time" or you're worried you won't know anyone, SAY YES AND GO. You'll probably be pleasantly surprised. If you say no, you'll fall into a rut and you'll get used to just not going to things, for reasons that aren't that clear/don't even make that much sense. So know when to say no and when to say yes. Social interaction is important, but self-reflection and alone time is too, so keep that balanced.

7. Lastly, and this somewhat ties in with my above advice, I gift you the golden midnight rule: If you're out somewhere and your night isn't getting good vibes by midnight... Go home and go to bed. Midnight is the great decider for me. If the night is going good, then definitely stay after midnight, but if the night is going poorly, don't wait too long after midnight. It's probably not going to get any better. Same goes with changing venues. Do it before midnight or don't do it at all. You know when your night is a 10/10 and everyone is loving life, and as it gets super late and the night feels like it's drawing to a close, someone pipes up and says, "Hey guys let's kick on!!! We should go to ___ !!!", don't do it. End the night on a  high note. A new venue means figuring out how to get there, getting there, getting used to a whole new atmosphere and trying to get back to the pumped up feelings you had earlier, but lost in the scramble to change venues. So midnight rule.

That pretty much wraps it up. I myself am by no means an expert on any of the above advice, and I am still trying to get better at taking my own advice, but I did do these things and they did work/help/were good things. So give them a go, they worked for me, and maybe they'll be good for you too.

I did also want to give a quick honourable mention to Sydney's great coffee for getting me through the year, but also, since this post is all about advice, if you're taking your coffee to go, maybe plan ahead for toilet options. And don't drive for 45 minutes after consuming your long black either. It's going to be a shit time.

// Margot Ana

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Breaking News: Supermarket Claims Another Victim

I was only meant to get enough ingredients to make my noodle stir-fry, and yet my quick trip to Woolworths resulted in a bill of $67.39. This isn’t the first time that I’ve made a trip for a handful of fresh ingredients and returned with a bevy of unnecessary items that I couldn’t resist. I can justify myself all I want but the reality is, I’m just an irrational consumer.  

I try to combat this as much as possible, in fact there are some aspects of my consumption habits that point me out to be actually quite rational. I’ll make a list, I’ll check the pantry and fridge, so that I get what I need and only what I need. I’ll include quantities and measurements on my list, such as, ‘250 g of sugar’ as opposed to merely writing, ‘sugar’. These are all habits that I’ve formed in order to become a more savvy shopper. 

The marketing strategies of Woolworths, however, seem to take advantage of my irrational ‘shopaholic’ side. Despite seeing myself falling into typical consumerist traps, I find it hard to resist. I can’t help but notice that aisles that include more ‘needs’ — such as milk, shampoo, bread, fruit and vegetables — are interwoven with aisles that feature more ‘wants’ — sweets, soft drinks, magazines, tupperware containers — and as a result, one would need to traverse all these tempting aisles in the supermarket, just to get to the items one had really come to Woolworths for. This is how I found myself in the beauty section, looking at different facial cleansers and moisturisers that I’m not sure I really needed at all. 

Each product’s packaging was begging me to buy it — yet another irrational consumer trap. The cleanser I had now picked up boasted, ‘BPA free, No Parabens’. I wasn’t exactly sure what they were but now I was persuaded I definitely did not want them. And this brought out a different side of me: the ‘Green Consumer’. I became persuaded that I needed ‘all natural ingredients’, or any product emblazoned with ‘Organic’. The price no longer mattered, I was just looking at the packaging now. The product that made the greenest, most ethical promise would win but equally, the one with the nicest aesthetic. I decided on a cleanser with cucumber slices on its packaging, that made all the promises I wanted to hear. But as I justified the purchase by telling myself that the quality, the environment and the product’s ‘natural properties’ were worth the price, I had to ask myself if I was really paying for that or paying for its aesthetic. After all, Green Consumerism is still consumerism; I can’t fool myself that I’m saving the world by buying an organic cleanser. 

Whilst accepting responsibility for my irrational consumerist side, such a common consumer trope is also knowingly exploited by the advertising world. It is the packaging and marketing of ‘green’ items that persuade a consumer that ‘going green’ is fashionable, and creates an aesthetic they cannot resist. Although I'd call myself one part rational, one part green and two parts irrational as a consumer, advertising and marketing strategies seem to almost wholly dictate my consumption habits, irrespective of the identity I assume. 

After all, I did buy a 'Vegan Leather' jacket last week, knowing full well it was just pleather with a creative marketing team. I'm not even vegan.  

// Margot Ana

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Are We Going Backwards or Forwards?

I sat in my Consumer Cultures lecture, taking notes and checking my phone every so often — hey, nobody's perfect okay. As I had my head down and writing, something my lecturer said caught my attention. My head snapped up and I listened intently to what she was disclosing. She talked about research on social/income equality and how it showed that this equality had actually been going in reverse since the 1990s. Furthermore she stated that the most equal decade in Australia's history was actually the 1970s. You can read more about that here. Whilst this is mostly focused on the financial sector of things, it got me thinking about inequality in general. 

Scrolling through my newsfeed this morning,  I stumbled on a cute (and pretty funny) post about one of my favourite childhood shows, Kim Possible. Naturally this lead me to further procrastinate by nostalgically YouTubing old intros and title sequences of the Disney shows I used to watch. I watched this video that had all the old Disney shows and their intros compiled into one. As I watched them I noticed how much more and better* represented minorities were back in the 90s and 00s. 

(*Better in Disney standards of course, some of these representations were problematic, but I'll get to that.)

Without even realising it as a child, I'd been subjected to quite a diverse representation of characters. If anything, it only further ingrained in me the importance of celebrating differences, and made me aware that *shock* white, heterosexual people weren't the only ones inhabiting the planet. But don't just take my word for it, let me show you. 

Lilo & Stitch - 2003

"What do you mean tanned blondes aren't the only inhabitants of Hawaii?" 
Nani, Lilo's older sister and legal guardian, is presented as just your average, everyday woman. Her look is very natural and relaxed and she has a strong yet curvy physique. She's also not over-sexualised, as many Indigenous characters tend to be in popular film and animation. The show is also very gender neutral and isn't marketed as a 'boy's show' or a 'girl's show' — as far as I know, it was popular and successful amongst most kids, regardless of gender. 

Kim Possible - 2002

This show defied traditional gender roles and we didn't even blink! Good luck trying to find another show that has a strong heroine and a dopey male sidekick (but seriously, if you do find one, it would be much appreciated). Also, let's not forget that Disney subtly snuck in a very flamboyant, gay villain — not that he was ever explicitly labeled as gay, but we all know deep down. 

American Dragon: Jake Long - 2005

Haven't seen such a badass Asian American in pop culture since MC Jin. 

The Proud Family - 2001

People of Colour make up approximately 30% of the US population, so why wouldn't there be a show based entirely around a Black family? 

That's So Raven - 2003

Who didn't like this show?! This show was the best. And Raven! She was a hilarious, curvy, beautiful, multi-dimensional character. Praise to That's So Raven, so much praise. 

Lizzie McGuire - 2001

Not exactly the poster girl for the marginalised, but Lizzie McGuire as a show did promote a lot of good values and messages to its audience in a way that kids could easily comprehend. It tackled typical growing up/puberty issues, (getting your first bra, going through numerous phases, jealousy in friendships), the importance of being a good, supportive friend and even more serious issues such as eating disorders. All of this was done in a way that was very 'kid friendly' and age appropriate. Good job Disney. 


Of course some of these shows do play on a lot of stereotypes, and their representations of minorities aren't exactly perfect. There's a fine line between promoting culture and promoting cultural stereotypes. However, it could be a good place to start. I would much rather see diverse representation (even if it were in some aspects problematic), than none at all. At least from this starting point improvements could be made based on audience and critic feedback.

Now let's now turn to just a few shows that are popular in today's version of the Disney Channel:

These shows have either all-white or predominantly white casts. Maybe if we're lucky there'll be a token minority cast in a small supporting role. Yay! Furthermore, the shows all appear to be heavily gendered female, and I'm guessing young boys probably wouldn't want to be caught watching this 'girly stuff'. There's no diversity, no fair and equal representation. The only progressive instance in any of these shows I can think of is when they featured lesbian parents in Good Luck Charlie. The only reason I know this is because it was plastered all over social media and in online newspapers. And even still, it was a white, femme couple. They represented the epitome of the Normal Gay, a trope that audiences could more easily digest. 

Have we been going backwards instead of forwards? If the key to a more progressive society starts by educating the younger population, shouldn't we be providing them with richer content and a more diverse representation of groups and cultures? Maybe we should go back to when Lego came in only blue, yellow, red and green, and didn't need to have separate male and female collections. Maybe we should go back to when kids shows actual had a moral to their story, and weren't just kiddie copycat versions of young adult programs. Let's go back to when kids didn't even think about 'shipping' Sonny and Chad together, and worried instead about how Matt was going to find Lanny in Lizzie McGuire. 

If anyone deserves better content and diverse representation surely it must be Generation Z, who've been called "the most progressive, conscientious and connected generation to date".  Why spoil our newest hope for change in society?

// Margot Ana 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Here's the thing with confidence...


When most of us think "confidence" we think of a quite a one-dimensional view of it. For a lot of people confidence means wearing what you want, or not caring if the person you're lusting after rejects you or not; or getting up on stage and singing that song at the open mic night. When we think of confident people we associate them with these incredible beings who aren't afraid to be themselves and speak their mind, who don't let other people's negativity affect them. But this is all a very superficial view of confidence, and it sort of makes it out to be that confidence is an "all or nothing" type of situation: you either have it or you don't. 

For a long time I used to think I was the most confident person ever, mostly because I had a loud, goofy personality (still do, sorry about it) and didn't really care that much what most people thought. And this was correct, in some respects, but then I moved to Sweden for an exchange for a few months and all of a sudden I was in a new country, new school, with new people and a new language. I was in a class with students who were older than me, and didn't know anyone. And in that time I changed the way I was, I became a bit more quiet and withdrawn. I was afraid to put myself out there in case someone shut me down, or ignored me, or didn't understand what I was trying to do. I felt awkward, so for the most part I just sat quietly and observed and listened. It's worth noting that eventually, I did make friends and made an effort to put myself out there, and I ended up having one of the most incredible experiences of my life – but it was a very hard thing for me to do. When I came home, I was back in my familiar environment, and back to my normal, confident self. But looking back on events like that made me wonder: is it really confidence if you only have it in familiar, comfortable settings? 

So, I started to doubt myself. I'd always been a confident person, and it felt weird to admit that maybe I wasn't always that confident. The thing was, I had plenty of self-confidence when it came to my looks, or the things I was good at, or speaking my mind. It was more that sometimes in totally novel situations, with new people, I found myself becoming more introverted. It was more of a social-confidence issue than anything else. From realising this, I just felt so completely lost. Who was I without my confidence? It had always been this very defining part of me. And then, I began to think about this idea of confidence itself. Can you be a confident person if you're not always confident 100% of the time?

If you open up any random women's magazine, like Cosmopolitan for example, you're bound to find an article along the lines of "Confidence is SEXY, Work it!". It's this idea that we need to strive for complete confidence in everything we do, that we can never allow ourselves to feel insecure, and always do everything with purpose. But this just isn't human; I've never met someone who's always confident every second of every day. I know this might sound like a stupid thing to point out, but things like those articles do really lead us to believe this and whether we realise it or not, it affects us. This version of confidence can work against us, it can bring us down the second we feel vulnerable and insecure, it shames us for feeling this way because we should always be strong and confident. Recognising that overall, you can still be a confident person, even if there are things that really make you feel small and voiceless, is surely a more empowering concept. Instead of focusing on the things I was confident in, and trusting in those, I focused on my insecurities and how much they contradicted my presumed ultra-confident status. Maybe if we believed more that we are confident people, we would actually become more confident as a result. Sort of a fake-it-till-you-make-it type of situation.

There's so much stigma that surrounds being insecure. No one wants to date an insecure person, nobody wants to be friends with an insecure person etc. And again, these are treated like an "all or nothing" situation, you're either confident or you're insecure. Because of my belief in these ideas, I was making myself feel bad about something I couldn't help. We all have insecurities and we all have things we are confident about. Confidence isn't something you can just learn from a magazine article, or magically switch on. It builds itself with time. It's okay to feel a little insecure sometimes, it doesn't mean you can't be confident in other aspects too. We can't always be constantly at the top of our game, and we shouldn't feel like we have to be. Maybe this is an overly-simplistic look at the situation, but I just feel like it's a lot of pressure.

Moral of this messy rambling: Confidence is hard, try anyway, don't beat yourself up if you can't always get there.

Lighthearted, "Margot tries to be funny", posts coming soon, stay tuned.

// Margot Ana

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Excerpt from My Novella

As I mentioned a little while back, I'm currently writing a novella (definitely not patient enough for a novel you know), and I thought it could be good to share a little excerpt from it. The passage is roughly from the middle of the story, but I thought it was a good one because it doesn't give too much away from the main plot. I threw in a visual stimulus because why not. "YOLO" as the youth of today say. Lend me your thoughts, don't be too brutal (please, I'm sensitive), it is a work in progress and a draft of a draft of a draft. 

She’d woken up a few times that morning. It was a sort of ethereal outer-body experience. She’d dreamt she’d gotten up, pulled on her sweatshirt, slid her spectacles carefully onto the bridge of her nose and walked into her little kitchen to make herself a cup of coffee. She dreamt this a few times, almost as if it were on a loop, and every time she felt as if it were actually happening. It felt so real, too mundane and typical to be a dream. She’d had trouble falling asleep recently, and her mornings became harder to deal with. These dreams had become a sort of staple to her morning routine. When she finally shifted from the dream, her eyes opened slowly. The morning light pried itself into her eyelids. Meg’s eyes opened up to a blurry view of her room, lit with a warm and hazy hue. She picked up her sweatshirt off the floor, and pulled it over her body. Grabbing her thick-framed glasses off the nightstand, she slid them on, adjusting her eyes to her newfound vision. As she walked into her kitchen, she saw her fridge door wide open. An unknown man was arched over and peering into it. 
  “Uh, hi,” she stood there awkwardly, her hand stuck in the air, mid-wave. 
  “Oh hey, sorry, I’m Freddie, you must be Meg. I’m Petra’s...well, we went on a date, before. Last night, I mean. Hi. Sorry. I’m Fred.” 
  He looked at her, perplexed as to what to say, still holding the fridge door open. Meg tried to ignore the fact that he was only wearing tight boxer briefs and remained calm as the fridge door alarm started to go off. She’d talk to Petra about this later.
  “It’s fine, we can save the formalities. I just got up to make myself some coffee.”
  “Oh great, thanks, I’ll have a cup. Let me ask Pettie if she wants one,”
  Blatantly ignoring Meg’s irritated and dumbfounded expression plastered on her face, he quickly disappeared down the hallway into Petra’s room. Meg, in a mild form of shock that only ever occurs after witnessing a complete lack of etiquette, reflected on what had just happened. What the fuck? Who is this guy? Pettie? 
  Meg stood disgruntled in her kitchen, begrudgingly preparing more coffee than she’d initially intended to make, and wondered how acceptable it was to nickname a girl you’d known for no more than 12 hours. Meg had been Petra’s roommate for almost two years now, and it had never crossed her mind to nickname her ‘Pettie’. What a fucking awful nickname. Have some imagination Fred.
      His earnest desire to desperately be more than Petra’s one-night-stand was showing through a little too vividly. Sure, Meg sometimes enjoyed observing all the ways that men could be smitten over Petra, it was cute and sometimes even funny to witness. But Fred wasn’t being cute. Meg wasn’t sure if it was her lack of sleep or caffeine influencing her take on the situation, but she felt he needed to understand his temporary place in Petra’s life. Or at the very least that he was in Beta mode and still being assessed. 
  She heard giggling coming from Petra’s room as her door opened and Fred emerged once again. As they both waited for the coffee to brew, Fred attempted small talk to fill the silence. He mentioned how much he liked the apartment, and inquired about the water pressure in the shower, going off on a tangent about how he had once tried to learn plumbery. By the young age of 25, Meg had already mastered the skill of replying with non-committal sounds to give the illusion of conversation.
  “Oh, er...” She pretended to look busy, checking out the different angles of the French press, as if it were complex machinery, “um, yeah, sorry–” she stretched over Fred and took out three mugs from the cupboard above and started pouring the coffee. 
  Having barely finished pouring the second cup, Fred reached over, taking the two mugs in his hands.
  “Thanks for doing that babe,” he said as he disappeared once more into Petra’s room. 
  Meg looked blankly in front of her, as Petra’s door shut. Ew. Babe? Where did Petra meet this self-important idiot? 
  She took out her phone, already drafting a message to send to her apparently delusional roommate. Ever since Petra and her boyfriend had split, she’d paraded an endless collection of suitors throughout the apartment, almost every weekend. Whilst their cantankerous neighbour Geraldine – a 74-year-old woman and proud miniature pig owner – certainly disapproved of being awoken in the early hours of the morning by Petra and her Friday-night dates, Meg was mostly fine with it. Every self-help book she ever read would have told her it was, after all, Petra’s life, and she had every right to deal with the break-up in whatever way she chose. But, unlike the others who had considerately remained anonymous in all their morning-after glory, Fred had been the only one to make his incredibly grating presence known.  

// Margot Ana