Book Review: Mia Culpa—Confessions from the Watercooler of Life by Mia Freedman.

Mia Freedman really is a brand unto herself. We all know she revolutionised the magazine world at age 25 as editor of Cosmopolitan. Her blog, MamaMia, really came into its own during last year’s federal election, offering a different take on politics for modern women. And she’s now a three-time published author with her own television show on SkyNews!

Of course she credits her husband, Jason, her kids, friends, family and MamaMia team with supporting her and helping run her media juggernaut, all of whom she writes about—sometimes anonymously, but oftentimes not—in her latest memoir-cum-“long, wonderful dinner-party conversation”, Mia Culpa: Confessions from the Watercooler of Life.

A lot of the material that makes up Mia Culpa I’ve read before, I will admit, in Freedman’s Sunday Life column, her blog, and various other publications she makes appearances in. But I’ve been known to revisit favourite blog posts and articles before, so it was very enjoyable to read Freedman’s musings on everything from sex to SNAGS (p. 64–67) to showering (p. 290) to breastfeeding (p. 175–179) to interior design (p. 129) to social stamina (read: non-existent when you have a young family, p. 131–136) to Christmas (p. 148–152) to how many children you want/have (p. 71–75) to the hypocrisy of being a certain-meat eater (“I’ve never eaten things like duck or rabbit or deer because I relate to those animals in a way I don’t relate to chickens—perhaps because many of them were storybook characters. Bambi, anyone?” [p. 145]. Guilty as charged) to Disney princesses (p. 180) to The Secret (p. 301).

Some of my favourite parts existed in the first chapter and were a nice way to begin the book. In it, Freedman writes about grooming standards in long-term relationships (p. 4–12), choosing between your ass or your face as you grow older (p. 13–16), skinny-shaming VS. fat-shaming (p. 16–23) and the pre-requisite rant on unrealistic portrayal of women VS. men in the media (p. 23–32). But when she puts it like this, it’s hard not to see Freedman’s point:

“Pretend the world was full of pictures of naked men. On billboards and the sides of buses, in magazines and ads for beer, cars and deodorant. Imagine there were penises everywhere you turned and you couldn’t escape seeing them every day.

“And all the images of nude men were fake. Every male model and celebrity had had penile enlargement surgery, and afterwards, his penis had been extensively photoshopped to make it look even bigger. So now, all the penises you saw in the media every day were knee-length and as thick as an arm.

“One day, next to a magazine article about a celebrity with a foot-long penis, you read the headline: ‘This is what a 43-year-old penis looks like’. The caption underneath read: ‘Asked for the secret to his long schlong, former male model Markus Schenkenberg insists he was just born that way. “I wear cotton boxer shorts and I exfoliate in the shower,” he shrugs. “That’s all I do.”’

“After reading a hundred stories like that and being bombarded by 10,000 images of men with surgically altered and digitally enhanced penises, do you think you might look down at your natural, un-photoshopped trouser snake and feel a little… deflated? Inadequate? Insecure? Angry?”

There’s also some of Freedman’s fascinating thoughts on being a “try-sexual” as per Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” (p. 241–244), which has been written about extensively on sites like MamaMia and Rachel Hills, and tattoos (more on that to come later today).

You don’t have to be a Freedman fan-girl to enjoy this book; I would recommend it to anyone who happens to be of the female gender, and even those who don’t happen to be but are just looking for some enlightenment on the species.

[MamaMia] MamaMia Gets a TV Show.

[MamaMia] Cindy Crawford is Naked in Allure Magazine. And 43.

[MamaMia] I Kissed a Girl. Because I Had Something to Sell.

[MamaMia] Kissing a Woman Does Not a Lesbian Make.

[Rachel Hills] The Rise of the Guy-On-Guy Kiss.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] MamaMia: A Memoir of Mistakes, Magazines & Motherhood by Mia Freedman Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] UPDATED: Skinny-Shaming VS. Fat-Shaming.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] “Who the Bloody Hell Are We?”: The Sentimental Bloke at the Wheeler Centre.

Image via Australian Women Online.

Newspaper Clipping of the Week: Man Up.

“Manning up” seems to be a common theme on The Early Bird Catches the Worm this past week.

I don’t agree with the term, as it implies that simply being a man is equivalent to being courageous. Not to toot my own horn (okay, I am!), but I feel like I “man up” a whole hell of a lot more than most of my male friends. But it is a good descriptive phrase, along with “grow some balls” and “don’t be a pussy”, to which the same above critique applies.

Last weekend’s Sunday Life ran a story entitled “You’ve Got Males”, about the conundrum of raising males, which could be a good article if it wasn’t so sexist and traditional-man bashing.

Some such examples are:

“… Mum went through a feminist phase where the various pitfalls of male behaviour were outlined to me early and often, boot-camp style: think The Biggest Loser if they were trying to create metrosexuals instead of skinny people”—most feminists will tell you that it isn’t a phase; children should be allowed to grow in their own ways, whilst being gently guided by their caregivers.

“Such a boy thing to do” —what, exactly? Playing with trucks and being destructive? I have observed plenty of male children being more mellow, whilst girls go ahead and trash their cubbies after they’ve been lovingly tidied by moi (true story). It comes down to being an individual, not a stereotype. And at aged three, should we really be pushing stereotypes on our children?!

“Our first-born liked babychinos and was more artsy than fartsy. But our second boy was a full-blown bloke (‘Finally, a male in the family,’ said my wife)” —liking babychinos means your parents are pretentious, not that you’re going to grow up to be a SNAG. And what’s so wrong with that anyway?

The article also discusses the pack mentality of “groups of men behav[ing] in a more blokey fashion”, which was briefly touched on at the Wheeler Centre’s “The Sentimental Bloke” discussion, in the form of a solitary wine vs. group beers, and how to “deprogram” this.

Personally, I’m not a fan of “blokey behaviour” in the stereotypical sense, but nor to I agree with the parenting style—or typical Australian attitudes—this article attempts to push: that it’s one (bloke) or the other (SNAG), with no regard for the myriad of options in between, or what’s best for the individual child.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Unfinished Business at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] “Who the Bloody Hell Are We?”: The Sentimental Bloke at the Wheeler Centre.