You can tell a lot about a woman …

.. from her handbag. That was the advertising slogan of the very popular Australian brand Glomesh in the 1970s, when they brought on board a swag of popular women of the era such as Jackie Weaver, Renee Geyer and Jenny Kee. Each iconic woman’s advertisement featured a photo of her Glomesh bag, freshly tipped open with its contents artfully spilled to reveal aspects of the owner’s personality. The ads certainly reached me, an impressionable teen in the midst of feminine/feminist awakenings, with the full-page ads in women’s magazines like Cleo and Women’s Weekly.

And I soon became an employed young woman, and could afford a handbag. And I bought a Glomesh (in addition to the one given as a 21st birthday present, as you did in those days), but I soon also discovered Oroton, another Australian brand that, coincidentally, had included mesh bags as part of its staple. And lovely Oroton bags have been my guilty pleasure since, even though I suffered a 30-year ownership gap between the 1980s and 2010s, when purchases were overlooked for practicalities of survival and raising children.

IMG_1355But recently I seriously re-entered the handbag stakes, and have enjoyed owning my second Oroton tote, which can hold a serious load.

And this has brought on the oft-repeated question asked by many men, including Mr JB, to many women:

“What the hell have you got in there??”

Well, in the spirit of solving an entirely unnecessary mystery regarding the practicality or otherwise of women’s personal possessions, here are the contents of my Oroton so you too can tell a lot about me – and probably every other woman, ever. This is yesterday as it came out of the car after a three-day road trip to regional WA for my mother’s wedding (yay!):


Of course, it needs an inventory because I suspect there are some translations of a cultural, age and gender-specific nature required. Here we go, roughly left to right:

  • Self-help book helpfully offered by friend, as yet unread, but I’m sure will be helpful in due course.
  • Work iPad.
  • Top returned by mother’s friend at last minute in shopping bag, after I left it at her house, and I couldn’t get into suitcase already in the car.
  • Lovely notebook, a gift from former colleague, titled ‘Bloggers I met and liked’ (of course it was empty when given; boom boom), used for jotting ideas and other things that need to be remembered.
  • Aids to Gynaecological Nursing: A complete textbook for the nurse (1949), an impulse buy from the secondhand shop visited while exiting the regional town.
  • How to make money on ebay (2010) – see above (and specifically for Brownie).
  • Pair of leggings, in case I found time to slip into something more comfortable sometime during the journey home.
  • Wallet, contents of which remained thankfully enclosed for this exercise.
  • Cheap clutch, brought as a hopeful antidote to a fuller handbag for the wedding (not realised), and whose job was to contain mainly jewellery, perfume, tissues and ear plugs.
  • Clear nail polish, for those days I give a shit about my nails looking noice.
  • iPad charge cord; should be in the car, and will be tomorrow.
  • iPhone earphones.
  • Blondie and Brownie’s bowties from the wedding of the year.
  • Assorted jewellery from clutch (above) including world necklace, subject of much admiration and deservedly so.
  • Tag from sock three-pack, accidentally shop-lifted in my enviro bag from Target last week, so I can take it back and own up to my illegal activity.
  • iPhone in Otter case – what would I do without the glass protective case and rubber casing!? Well, I’d be replacing my phone glass for one. Repeatedly.
  • Medicinal zip-lock bag which, apart from antihistamine tablets, consists entirely of various combinations of ibuprofen, paracetamol and codeine as back-up to combat headaches and/or neck/back pain. Handy.
  • Extra glasses cleaning cloth, rescued from clapped out key ring pouch.
  • A few assorted sanitary products because old habits die hard, even though I am an empty vessel, surgically speaking.
  • Hotel ’emergency kit’ comprising nail emery board and cotton wipe.
  • Sunglasses case (containing actual sunglasses).
  • Work magnetic name tag, because I never know when I might need it.
  • Second and third glasses cases, containing actual glasses. I think.
  • Pawpaw ointment, which is basically just petroleum jelly. I checked once. About 10mg per small 25g tube, pretty ineffectual. But it feels nice.
  • Two perfumes, because – well, just because. Scents suit feelings and places and occasions and you just never know.
  • Ear plugs aplenty, and a random spare button in mini zip-lock bag.
  • Nail file. Indispensable must-have.
  • Assorted Band-aids
  • Fast food scented wet wipes. Hoard with gusto.
  • Sachet of sugar – probably an accident waiting to happen, so will remove to the kitchen cupboard.
  • Bigger zip-lock bag of goodies containing assorted paper clips, safety pins, bobby pins, spare mini-emery board, AAA battery for those moments you need one (like a laser pointer for presentations).
  • Car keys. Simple. Including video shop tag, and grocery shop points tag (really).
  • Pink lady apple, still waiting to be eaten after four days and holding up well.
  • Spare fast food serviettes. Hoard with gusto.
  • Missing chubby lipstick from make-up bag – hooray!
  • Spare pens. Indispensable must-haves. Writing happens everywhere.
  • Trusty USB, the only one that hasn’t resulted in a ‘This disk is write-protected’ message in five years. I love this USB.
  • Work promotional item torch – shines Open Day 2015 when you press the button a-la the Batman sign in the sky of Gotham City at night. In a crisis of darkness, I will also be able to advertise my workplace; excellent.
  • Dental floss; no explanation required. Nonetheless, as my friend Kellygirl the dental hygienist used to say, “Only floss the teeth you want to keep.” Wise words.
  • Another ’emergency kit,’ this time silver threads and golden needles, or something vaguely similar.
  • ‘Quick drying pre-moistened wipes’ lens cleaner. I have three pairs of glasses, don’t you know.
  • Another cloth lens cleaner, courtesy my GP’s practice. Three pairs of glasses get smudgy. A lot.
  • ‘Well-used’ (aka filthy) make-up bag, originally a promotional item from my preferred make-up brand. Be thankful I’ve spared the individual contents of this as well, most of which haven’t been used since 2011, with the exception of the lip liner, occasional lipstick, concealer for a particularly aggressive blemish, mascara annually (just exhausted 2016’s allocation), and of course the hitherto mentioned absent chubby stick.
  • Comb; teeth not too close, not too wide – just perfect for curly hair.
  • Not one but two tubes of indispensable moisturising cream. $2.95 per tube, all I’ve used for 35 years, give or take. Don’t know how the extra one snuck in, probably from the bathroom bag. I’ve got them lying around everywhere.
  • Little tissue packs. I never seem to be organised enough to have just one packet open and on the go, there’s always two, or three, in various stages of emptying. But just as well, because TISSUES ARE ESSENTIAL, if not for me, for Mr JB or Blondie who never have any on their person when they gets a hayfever attack. Ever. Grr.
  • Spare unused tissues, man-size, from Mr JB’s car. You never know. See above. They’re clean, really.
  • Two hair cloths – red and white. But the colours aren’t important. Getting the bloody hair off my sweaty neck when it matters is what’s important.
  • Video shop rental special docket, now expired, because TOMORROW ONLY! was a week ago.
  • Heel shields, although the jury is out on whether they’re worth the effort. I just feel I should have some as back-up.
  • Unwashed plastic fork from last week’s lunch, wrapped in serviette (that’s why you hoard them) and forgot to stick in the dishwasher to reuse next week.

What’s missing? A water bottle, another indispensable item for Straya. And of course it fits. Everything fits. Stuff ALWAYS fits. That’s what makes a great handbag. And a great brand. And a slightly hoarder-oriented woman.

Where the fault lies, from the top down

This whole Princess Kate topless photo kerfuffle has got the better of me. I actively searched last night on Google and easily found an eyeful. I didn’t feel a better person for having done so. But it wasn’t about titillation, even though I have now actively participated in a vicarious act of voyeurism on a female body, or just about being swept up in postmodern tabloid culture. I wanted to see how easy it was. It was easy.

So it’s obvious that today’s news about a French court blocking further publication of the topless photos is too late. The cat’s out of the bag, the puppies are out of the bikini top, and the online horse has bolted.

The Palace, I’m sure, knows this, but had to take some visible action. What’s caught my attention is the fall-out from the fall-out, which seems to be a lot about apportioning blame for this ‘incident.’ So who’s at fault? Let’s start at the top:

  • Princess Kate! What was she doing! A woman in her position! No matter where she was, she should have known better. Tsk tsk.
  • The alleged photographer, Ms Suau!* What a betrayal of the sisterhood! And what a demonstration of the callousness of the paparazzi who still haven’t learned how to be decent following the death of Princess Diana. And being her daughter-in-law and all. Shame on her/them.
  • The editor! Sorry, editors, because there’s three now: French Closer and Italian Chi magazines (owned by the Berlusconi media empire, which apparently explains everything), and the Irish Daily Star. How could they? These people have no conscience.
  • The media! Just leave it alone. Move along, nothing to see here (well, not a lot). You’re giving it legs as well. C’mon, there’s more important stuff in the world, no matter how ‘respectfully’ you’re dealing with it.
  • The public! Us. You. Me. Consumers of tabloid, popular culture, against our better judgement. Don’t buy into it, and don’t buy it!

* Interestingly, in earlier reports, reference to Ms Suau was accompanied with “rhymes with sewer.” I can’t find any references to those comments now.

So what a sorry mess this is. How can there be one person, agent or thing at fault?

And throughout it all, in public at least, under the knowing and known gaze of the lens, Kate has smiled and dutifully fulfilled her role accompanying William on their nine-day Asia-Pacific tour. Which is why, to end it all, I love the delicious irony of the photos accompanying her arrival at the Solomon Islands, where she was greeted by topless women.

In perhaps a depressingly-backfired attempt to give support to the Princess, some of the headlines for this picture were, “‘How are you baring up, your highness?’ Topless tribeswomen give Kate attack of the giggles:”

(Courtesy Herald Sun)

Problem is, she wasn’t giggling.  If you look at the opening second or two of the Reuters video from the arrival (as I’ve done a few times now, not just because I’m a pop culture consumer but I also want to make sure I’m right on this), you can see she’s actually lifting her hands to check her hair’s okay after having had the necklace draped over her. And is in complete control of her laughing gear. This is an opportunistic snap, used inappropriately, however with a sympathetic context its accuracy is overlooked.

Terrible, isn’t it.

Almost as bad as the last category of people to blame for all this: those pesky bloggers who can’t help themselves from wading into the stream of information that flows past us all, some of it murkier than the rest.

A curly one: Frieda, Our Nicole, Rebekah and me

When I was a young girl I was an avid reader of the wonderful comic strip Peanuts, and I remember the arrival of Frieda and her tendency to remind anyone who’d listen that she had “naturally curly hair.” At that time my hair was dead straight – or, to use my Oma’s expression, I had ‘nail curls’ – and it seemed to my girlish understanding of femininity that having naturally curly hair must be pretty special, even if it made you a bit annoying.

Then the hormones kicked in during puberty, and on that eventful day in 1978 when I went to the hairdresser and asked for a perm, she laughed and layered my hair instead. And I didn’t want it layered, dammit, I wanted a perm like the models in Cleo magazine. But layered it’s been ever since (apart from a few short-short years), releasing my inner bounce so much that even by the end of high school a friend was calling me ‘ovine’.

Fast forward 30 years or so and I have fully embraced my Frieda-ness and I know that my hair helps define me – more so, I suspect, than how the straight hair of a lot of my friends defines them. I can’t explain why this is, other than it is just so much more out there and in everyone’s face (if they’re up close) and certainly in mine. If I had a dollar – literally – for every time friends and perfect strangers have told me (and continue to tell me) “you’re so lucky to have those curls / you have such beautiful hair / your curls are just right, not like my waves/boring/straight/kinks/[insert horrid hair adjective here]” I would indeed be rich in hair products.

But not everyone wants curly hair in their face, or anyone else’s, which brings us to the hair-straightening trend of white western popular culture over the past decade or so (alongside the long-present hair straightening within African-American culture), which shows no signs of abating.

And just in case you think, at this stage, that I’m getting a bit too carried away with the whole curly subject, let’s take a look at Our Very Own Nicole Kidman, and remember what she used to put on show. The ‘nail-curled’ Ms Kidman was recently (re)interviewed on 60 Minutes by Karl Stefanovic and it’s Australian pop cultural cringe at its finest, including this exchange:

KARL STEFANOVIC: We’ve got some vision of you – the first interview you did with 60 Minutes when you were 21.

NICOLE KIDMAN: Oh, no. Really?

KARL STEFANOVIC: It’s very cool. It was like, “Wow! This hair!”

NICOLE KIDMAN: Yeah, I now blow-dry my hair and I’ve actually had the Brazilian Blowout. Have you heard of that, Karl?

KARL STEFANOVIC: Do I need to know about it?

NICOLE KIDMAN: It’s not… You mention Brazilian and guys are like, “What?” No, it’s the hair blowout thing. So I had that once but my whole life has been trying to get rid of curly hair.


NICOLE KIDMAN: Yeah, any curly-haired girl will tell you that and now I’m like, “Oh, I wish the curls would come back.” But they don’t come back in the same ringletty way. So, anyway, hair’s a whole other conversation.

Well, it’s this conversation because if you go to the Brazilian Blowout web site, there’s a page dedicated to Befores and Afters and the message appears to be “we can fix this problem [curly hair] and make you better [with straight hair].”

Which brings us to Rebekah Brooks. Now she has clearly not invested in a Brazilian Blowout – quite the opposite, I’d suggest. A recent Jezebel article (‘Everybody Watch Out For Rebekah Brooks’s Hair!‘) looked at the way that Brooks’s hair has been reported, and commented on the stereotypes of curly hair and the dangers of endowing a hair style with too much meaning.

But c’mon! This is where I’m going to draw a long bow as a curly-haired sister and say that hair is as deliberate and overt a statement of personality as you can get. And what clinches it is that she doesn’t emphasise her make-up or fashion choices (that I can see from my thorough research via Google images) so in fact it’s all about the hair. You don’t keep that amount of hard work on your head without wanting it that way.

And if by now you really think I’m off the rails, I dare you to read the Peanuts strips above again, and this time change the name Charlie Brown to Rupert Murdoch. Fun, huh. I liked this one too:

[Thanks to United Features Syndicate via the lovely Snoopy And the Gang! site]

Intersestingly, in the comments section below the Jezebel article, there is a discussion between UK and US contributors on the perceived professionalism of straight hair over curly hair, with some US women saying they’d been pressured professionally to straighten their hair.

So it’s tricky. There are issues of self-esteem, genetics, cost, pop culture, careers (for heaven’s sake) and anti-frizz at play. However, none of these things will, in the end, protect or excuse Rebekah Brooks from her actions.

And I have a confession to make. In recent years I’ve made a habit of getting my hair blow-dried straight when I leave the hair salon after *ahem* colour assistance. The first time I did this when Brownie was old enough to notice (about 3), I came home just as he was nodding off to sleep, and he took one look at this woman who used to be his mother and burst into tears. That demonstrated to me the power of straight v curly.

Finally, how do you know if you can proudly announce, Frieda-style, that you have real naturally curly hair? Well, you go to of course, and classify your curls. For the record, on a good day I reckon I’m a mix of both 3a and 3b. I’ll never have the choice of whether 2b or not 2b (okay, that was more than a bit annoying, sorry).

The Bingle Bungle Jingle … with apologies to Dr Seuss

When two names are not the same
but share the game that we call fame,
it’s time to play the bungle game
and look from whence this jungle came.

If Women’s Day had thought to say,
when the photo came their way,
in a call to B Fevola
on his solar Motorola,

“You ridiculously stupid, callous and disrespectful prick, what on earth were you thinking! You should be ashamed of yourself. Even Sam Newman wouldn’t do that, and that’s saying something!

– no way will we pay,”

we’d be back to cricket as the ticket
and just a model with a waddle.

But in comes Max who has some yaks
with those hacks whose work is lax,
and before they cack their dacks
he gets to work behind their backs.

Meanwhile Clarke is yelling fark
with an Aston Martin back to park,
and to plumbers the poor man hollers,
“It’s $200,000 dollars
that’s gone down my Bondi dunny!”
But it’s not about the money,
and it really isn’t funny …

Cause he’s thinking runs and creases,
sinking tons and breaking leases,
if he could only get away
from the barking media fray.

Let’s hope for him it’s not too loud
in the land of the wrong white crowd
for him to do what he does best
and pin the poo on all the rest.

And now Ms Bingle’s single
With Dr Dingle she can mingle
(though no matter what you do
his dog still eats much better than you).

We’re near the end now of this jingle
but I’ll lend just one more tingle:

so now it’s over, tell me Lara,
Um, where the bloody hell are ya?

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