Keeping It Real

I watched The Bachelor for the very first time this week, despite having spent the last three years writing about it for work. I don’t know how I managed to avoid it all this time – just lucky, I guess.

It’s not like I just woke up and decided The Bachelor was missing from my life. I was doing quite fine without it. But after three years of faking my way through it, and knowing I would have to interview a few of the contestants for work, I figured it couldn’t hurt to actually know what the hell I was talking about. Also, my friend, Paru decided to hold a Bachelor party. I’ll never forgive you for that, Paru! (Jokes – it was fun. I love judging people.)

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This year’s contestants – just don’t ask me to pick them out of a police line up…

Here’s the thing – I’m really not a fan of dating. At best, it’s weird, awkward and unnatural, and I try to avoid it. Problem solved. Also, it’s entirely unauthentic. Let’s just cut to the chase – I’ll stop pretending I don’t lick my fingers clean after devouring half a pizza and you can stop trying to hold in your farts. Deal?

The Bachelor is special though. It somehow manages to take dating and make it even more weird, awkward and unnatural. I never thought it could be done, but apparently it can. For that, I applaud them. I watched most of the first episode with my head in my hands, rocking back and forth, while muttering, “Oh my God! Why is this happening?!”

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I feel you, Richie.

Firstly, I have to talk about the premise of the show. Once I realised this wasn’t an episode of Sister Wives, I learnt 22 women are battling it out over one guy. It’s the sort of show I could imagine Donald Trump dreaming up. (Seriously, did he?) “Think of it like the Miss Universe pageant. But instead of fighting for a crown, they’re fighting for a man…”

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That’s not uncomfortable…

God knows there’s enough bikini scenes… Seriously, is that one of the prerequisites to appearing on the show? “Must be comfortable parading around on camera in a skimpy swimsuit.” Why even bother with the swimsuit? I’d just walk out naked and be like, “Oh, sorry. Is this too much now?” I don’t own a bedazzled bikini, but if I did, I imagine The Bachelor would the place to bust it out.

Every feminist bone in my body was aching (or maybe that was just my bum shoulder). The women often come off as desperate, jealous and bitchy – and that’s just Keira (more on her later). They’re all falling over themselves – and each other – in a desperate bid to impress The Bachelor, Richie. I mean, sure, he’s handsome and he seems sweet, but surely he’s not the only handsome, sweet guy out there? I mean, I’ve heard there’s a shortage of quality men, but has it really come to this, ladies? And if it has, well… shit.

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Is that a rose in your pocket, Richie?

The rose ceremonies are just degrading. During these segments, I started to feel my heart pounding against my chest… The whole thing gave me some serious PTSD flashbacks to being picked last during PE at school. That shit leaves emotional scars.

Also, can someone please explain to me why everyone was dressed up like they were trying to recreate their high school formal glory days when they first met Richie? The point of this show is to find lasting love, right? I would’ve stepped out of that limo in my flannelette pyjamas with my hair in a topknot, glasses on and no makeup. Depending on the day, I would’ve smeared on some zit cream, too. Then I would’ve said, “Drink it in, Richie. This is what I look like 80 percent of the time… This is the whole package.”

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Puh-lease.

Even then, I guarantee I would not have looked like the craziest person on that show…

First there’s the girl who thinks she’s a reincarnated Disney princess. She actually removed a shoe and handed it to Richie before comically limping away. Bitch, you’re not Cinderella! I guarantee that girl has never cleaned a chimney in her life. She has the aura of somebody who’s swallowed a few too many Ambiens. I’m almost certain she rattles when she walks. Richie should’ve just thrown her shoe into that decorative fountain he was standing next to…

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CRAZY EYES!

There’s also the girl who won’t stop singing, even though she has a voice like fingernails down a chalkboard. Let’s just call her “Beyonce with the bad voice”. By this stage, I was ordering Paru to mute the TV… You just know that girl grew up with her parents constantly humouring her. “You have a beautiful voice, sweetheart!” No, you don’t. Shut up! I did feel a bit bad though after witnessing her bizarre behaviour at the 1950’s photo shoot… Maybe she’s special?

Then there’s bacon girl. She has a bacon tattoo, and she loves bacon so much, she handed Richie a bouquet of bacon when they met… I bet she smells like bacon, too. Every time you see bacon girl, I want you to think of Babe, the little orphaned pig. Murderer.

Which brings me to Keira – the resident mean girl, who in episode two, literally stood behind some bushes, heckling one of the other contestants during a photo shoot. Oh, Keira. Green does not look good on you.

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What are you doing, Keira?!

There’s also the Russian girls. (I’m just going to assume they’re all Russian.) I’m pretty sure Richie is only keeping them around because of their ties to the Russian mafia and because they’re all excellent gymnasts. The poor man fears for his life and the lives of his family… One of these girls even ate her rose! If that’s not supposed to be taken as a threat, I don’t know what is. #SAVERICHIE (For the record, I’m not saying all Russians have ties to the mafia, just those girls. Probably. They are all exceptional gymnasts though.)

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No! We do NOT eat our rose.

I can’t wait for next week’s episodes!

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Hollywood Home Truths

Something magical happened last week. No, not Melania Trump’s audible fart of a speech. (Okay, two things magical happened last week.) More importantly, Kim Kardashian epically brought down Taylor Swift. I never thought I’d live to see the day! In a single, beautiful moment Kim Kardashian officially rose to hero status in my eyes. And I never even liked Kim Kardashian – now I think she may save us all. I’ll let you take a moment to process that…

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Up until now, no one had dared take on Taylor with the same force Kim did… I could never understand why, but given the fact my computer broke right when I was in the middle of writing this blog post late last week, I think I understand. It’s taken me close to a week to get things back on track, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Taylor holds powers we can’t even begin to understand…

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Just sayin’…

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then I’m sure you already know exactly how I feel about Taylor Swift. She’s talented and she writes catchy songs, sure, but overall there’s just something about her existence I find offensive. I’ve been telling people for years how fake and carefully manufactured her good girl/perpetual victim image is. Bottom line – I don’t think Taylor is as sweet and innocent as she makes out. If anything, she actually seems like a bit of a mean girl. And don’t even get me started on that cult she’s running – you can call it a “girl squad”, I know what’s really going on… Still, nobody believed me.

It was kind of like when I interviewed Justin Bieber early on in his career, and then told everyone he was a brat. Nobody would believe me, and for five years I had to listen to a relentless chorus of, “But he’s so cute!” Well, look where we are now, people! You’d better Belieb it.

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Hollywood is a game, and Kim just exposed one of its biggest players – Taylor Swift. Nicely done, Kim! (You can applaud if you want to – I did.) If this were a game of Clue, I’d pin it on Kim Kardashian, in the recording studio, with the video camera.

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Years of working in celebrity media has fine-tuned my bullshit detector, and when it comes to Taylor Swift, she sets off every alarm. The reality is, when it comes to Hollywood, you should never take things at face value. Be better than that, people! And by people, I mean my mum, who asks me if every tabloid story is true…

1. Celebrities often work with the paparazzi…

Most paparazzi photos are taken because celebrities want them to be taken. Stars regularly tip off the paps. What’s in it for them? Let’s see… Publicity, attention, they get to control the narrative… How many times have you heard of cheating rumours, only to then see photos of the star at the centre of the scandal putting on a happy, united front with their significant other? I guarantee those photos are staged.

There’s also money to be made. Lots of money. Photo agencies regularly pay stars for exclusive photos. Reality stars have to earn a living too, you know!

Do you really think the paparazzi was just scouting an isolated beach in Rhode Island when Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston happened to show up in perfectly coordinated outfits recently? LOL, no.

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I get really annoyed when celebrities complain about the paparazzi. If you don’t want to be papped, stop calling them! Also, stop hanging out at paparazzi traps. You know photographers are going to be camped there! Why not try the quiet bar down the road instead? It is entirely possible to live a private life even when you work in the public eye. How many times does Meryl Streep get papped? I rest my case.

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2. There’s no such thing as a “leaked” sex tape…

I’m not going to bore you with legal speak, except I kind of am… Under Californian law, all parties who appear in a video must sign a release form before that video can be released. That means all of those Hollywood sex tapes that “accidentally leak” are actually approved by the star(s) before coming out. Any company/media outlet that releases a sex tape without having the signed release forms would face huge legal implications. In other words, they just wouldn’t go there.

Furthermore, celebrities usually earn big bucks from the release of such a tape. Kim Kardashian’s mum/manager Kris Jenner actually negotiated the pay from Kim’s sex tape, which, in the poetic words of Kanye West: “[Made] my girl a superstar all from a home movie”.

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Word to the wise: Do not type the words “Kim Kardashian sex tape” into Google Image.

3. Speaking of Kris Jenner, she’s easily one of Hollywood’s best players…

When those paparazzi photos came out of Kendall Jenner and Harry Styles on a yacht somewhere in the middle of the ocean back in January, my friend and former colleague, Marta, joked, “Kris Jenner is probably swimming in the water with a GoPro strapped to her forehead, giving them directions.” She was probably right, too.

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Nobody plays the game as well as Kris Jenner. Except for maybe Taylor Swift and Beyonce. Remember how cool, calm and composed Beyonce was stepping out of that elevator at the Met Gala a couple of years back, just seconds after her sister, Solange had beat the shit out of Bey’s husband, Jay Z? That tells you everything you need to know about Beyonce. Which brings me to my next point…

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Only moments after Jay Z had had the shit beaten out of him…

4. Smoke and mirrors…

Nothing in Hollywood is as it seems. It’s called “show business” for a reason! Celebrities only show you what they want you to see. Remember, these are people who get paid to pretend! They’ve literally made careers out of it.

5. Fact: Most stars do drugs…

Drugs! In Hollywood! Shocking, I know. Honestly though, drug use is rampant in Hollywood. I remember being really shocked by just how widespread and common it is when I first got into this industry, but now I’m more shocked when I hear about a celebrity who doesn’t take drugs. And let me tell you, it’s rare. Even the squeaky clean stars are not so clean…

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Oops, Cara, you dropped your bag of white powder… Never mind.

6. WTF is “exhaustion”…

Whenever a star is “hospitalised for exhaustion”, it’s basically just publicist speak for “they’ve taken a lot of drugs and are now going to rehab”.

I feel exhausted almost every day – you don’t see me running off to hospital.

7. A lot of stars are basically just overgrown children…

Most of the stars I’ve encountered have been really sweet and friendly, but occasionally you do come across one who is affected (cough, Justin Bieber).

You can kind of understand why though. They’re in an industry where they’re given access to anything they want – drugs, an abundance of money, starry-eyed fans – and they are often surrounded by “yes” men and women. When everyone around you is constantly telling you your shit doesn’t stink, eventually you’ll start to believe it.

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That time Justin Bieber ordered his entourage to carry him up the Great Wall of China…

I cannot begin to stress the importance of having good, honest people around you, who are genuinely looking out for your best interests when you’re a celebrity. This is especially important for kids – for every Jodie Foster there’s a dozen Lindsay Lohans.

Every helium balloon needs a weight, otherwise they’ll just float away and pop.

8. A lot of Hollywood men fall into two categories – gay or womaniser…

Not all of them, but a lot of them. Without naming names, I’ll tell you a few stories about some male stars who fall into both camps and let you fill in the gaps…

In camp one, we have….

A hunky Hollywood film actor, who has done both dramas and comedies, but is most famous for his role in a popular comedy franchise. He’s been nominated for an Oscar in the last couple of years, and frequently collaborates with a young Hollywood actress. He’s gay, despite currently having a model girlfriend.

An equally hot, younger Hollywood actor, who has developed a bit of a reputation for getting his shirt off. He started his career as a teen heartthrob before recently moving into raunchy comedies. Despite having had a couple of long-term relationships with women – one which only ended this year – he’s also gay.

In camp two, we have…

A sexy actor, who met his now wife when they starred in a movie together 10 years ago. They have a child together and are regularly described as “#relationshipgoals”. Despite this, he’s been known to cheat on her.

Another famous film actor who split from his wife last year amid rumours he’d been cheating. This wasn’t a one-off. Years ago, he had an affair with a famous blonde actress he was working with. When his wife found out about it, she gave him a black eye. The blonde actress is now married to another famous actor and is currently pregnant.

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9. Showmances are a thing…

A lot of Hollywood romances are fake (commonly referred to as “showmances” or “fauxmances”). They’re usually set up in a publicist’s office to help generate publicity for a project, boost an up-and-coming star’s career or to cover up a celebrity’s sexuality.

It was a fairly open secret in industry circles that Robert Pattinson’s relationship with Kristen Stewart was designed to help promote the Twilight franchise. When the films were over, so was their relationship.

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Also, Taylor Swift has had more than a few gay boyfriends… In Hollywood, she’s known as a “power beard” – a Hollywood power player who helps closeted men hide their sexuality by dating them. In return, she gets publicity and – let’s face it – a new album.

Taylor’s not the only beard in Hollywood, but she’s possibly the most famous one.

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10. Awards time means stars are on their best behaviour…

I love it when the Oscars roll around – and not just because of the glitz and glamour. Nothing amuses me more than watching the who’s who of Hollywood suddenly turn on the charm in a desperate bid to snag a little gold man.

Even though Oscars are handed out for things like Best Actor and Actress, the reality is that politics plays a big part in it – celebrities know the Academy is going to vote for whoever is the most likeable. It suddenly becomes a popularity contest, with everybody doing their best to out-nice each other.

For example – Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo is notorious for his immature behaviour and dating his way through the Victoria’s Secret catalogue, but after years of narrowly missing out on an Oscar, he decided 2016 was going to be his year. He toned down the bad behaviour, met with the Pope (I’m not even kidding), rebranded himself as an environmental crusader, and what do you know, he won the Oscar.

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Of course, on Oscars night, he threw himself a big party with lots of scantily clad models, but it had been months – he had a lot of catching up to do.

It’s Mac Time

Before I devoted my life to the big, bad world of the media, I used to work at McDonald’s.

It started as a part-time after-school job when I was just 14, and eventually I worked my way up to manager. I worked with some of the best people, and we had a lot of fun times.

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Despite this, if you ever asked me to go work there again, I would say, “Hell to the no!” And not just because I don’t think you can recreate the magic we had. There’s only so many times you can go home smelling like pickle juice…

I resigned when I was 20, after five-and-a-half years, and I remember the realisation that I’d spent a good quarter of my life scraping back grills at McDonald’s depressed me no end.

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The good ol’ days…

I can honestly say I have never worked harder in my life (sorry, journalism). Aside from it being exhausting, fast-paced and high stress at times (yes, really), it was also physically demanding. I even had the dislocated shoulder to prove it. There were many, many injuries – burns and cuts, and for the most part, you’d just have to push through the pain to keep up with the lunch rush.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a morning person – never have been, never will be. I used to flick through the new rosters with a sense of dread, realised when I saw my name next to the open shift, which started at 5am. Possibly the only thing I hate more than early mornings is the cold. My idea of hell was standing in the freezer at 5am in an oversized puffer jacket, counting meat patties. One day the lightbulb blew while I was in there. That was a special moment…

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On the job.

One of the best parts about working at McDonald’s though was working with my best friend, Cathie. We’d grown up together and had been inseparable ever since she stole my Yummy Drummy (kind of like a big chicken nugget) in kindergarten. Not that we got to work together often. Funnily enough, we were rarely rostered on together… I can’t imagine why. It might be worth pointing out here that our parents had decided to separate us years earlier, when in second grade, Cathie’s parents made her change schools because we’d proven to be too “disruptive” together. At McDonald’s they used to use this as leverage when filling shifts. I can remember many phone conversations that went something like this…

Manager: “Hi, Demeter. Can you work tonight?”

Me: “No, sorry. I’m supposed to be going out…”

Manager: “Cathie’s working…”

Me: “Fine. What time do I start?”

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With Cathie before Gala Night.

On one rare occasion where we were working together, Cath and I were the managers on duty when we noticed a horrific smell filtering through the restaurant. I cannot begin to describe how bad that smell was!

“Oh my God! Was it that?!” I yelled out from the back of the kitchen.

“Maybe a possum crawled into the roof and died,” offered a crew member.

“Maybe a horse crawled into the roof and died!” I shot back.

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Flipping burgers…

I went over to Cathie, who was managing the front of the restaurant, and sure enough the smell was just as bad out there. Customers were even starting to complain about it… We went outside – it was even worse. I decided it was time to evacuate Playland.

“Everyone inside!” I shouted. “It stinks!”

Cathie and I retreated to the office, where we tried to devise a plan of attack.

“What do you think it is?” I asked her.

“Something’s dead!” she replied.

“What do we do?” I asked. “If a dead body falls out of the ceiling I’m calling it a day.”

We spent the rest of the afternoon poking around the bushes outside with sticks, while simultaneously using our neckties to cover our noses, half expecting a dead animal to fall out onto us. This was not what I’d signed up for.

“I can’t believe this is our life,” I told Cath as we continued to poke. “We do not get paid enough for this shit!”

It turns out the smell was coming from one of our bins. Someone had eaten a bag of prawns at home and then decided to dispose of them in one of the bins at McDonald’s, which had been festering in the hot sun. I still consider this to be an act of terrorism. If you’d smelt it, you’d understand why.

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Honk if you want fries with that.

I wish I could say incidents like this were a one-off, but sadly they weren’t. There was also the time a kid had peed themselves while sliding down the tube slippery dip. It had to be the enclosed tube slippery dip! After the kid’s mother came to inform me of what had happened, I headed out to Playland with a roll of paper towel and a disgusted look on my face. I then proceeded to climb up into the play equipment, while a parade of curious kids trailed behind me. I’d made it all the way to the top and was hunched over in a tiny enclosed space when one of them farted.

“That’s it!” I shouted. “Everybody get out!”

I then proceeded to slide down the tube slippery dip on a stack of paper towels, over and over again until all of the pee had been mopped up. That was a fun day.

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Make it rain!

This wasn’t even the most disgusting thing that had happened to me during my time at McDonald’s. There was also the time a kid had puked all over the floor in four huge piles. One in front of the straw and napkin dispensers, two on the way to the bathroom, and one in front of the bathroom door. He almost made it… I have never seen so much vomit in my life! If it wasn’t so disgusting, it would have been quite impressive given the size of the kid responsible… Also, people are idiots. Before I’d even had a chance to clean it, so many people had obliviously walked through it – one person barefoot. I thought I was going to be sick, too.

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Clean up, aisle six.

Thankfully, these puking, peeing kids got their karma whenever Ronald McDonald came to visit. Clowns are scary at the best of times, and Ronald was especially terrifying. He was well over six-foot tall with a big, booming voice and an inability to pronounce my name (but that’s another story)… After making his way through the dining room, Ronald used to climb the stairs up to the party rooms “to say hi to the kids”, where he would undoubtedly ruin little Timmy’s birthday party. Five seconds after Ronald disappeared upstairs, you would hear blood-curdling screams and tiny footsteps desperately scampering to escape. It never got old…

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Hi, kids!

It wasn’t all horrible though (honestly!). We had a lot of fun too, especially at the annual Gala Night, where we’d hear fabled tales of Hamburger University, and at the manager Christmas parties, where we’d all have a chance to let down our hair. (Literally – uniform policy meant your hair had to be tied back into a ponytail or bun at work.) There was also the time Kurt, one of the crew members, bravely came to a staff meeting wearing a T-shirt reading “McDeath”, and after being lectured on its inappropriateness, was ordered to put it on inside out.

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At Gala Night with some of the OG.

McDonald’s was a big part of my life, and even though I don’t miss it much, I’ll remember my time there forever. Or at least until I get dementia.

Kids Today…

I’ve recently noticed something about kids today – they’re incredibly savvy and wise to the world. It’s like they skip childhood on the Monopoly board and go straight to adulthood. They go from The Wiggles to Kylie Jenner.

At the risk of sounding like my 87-year-old grandmother, things were different in my day… It seemed like a much more innocent time. We weren’t sending naked photos to each other on Snapchat, and we definitely weren’t running off to become amateur porn stars the second we turned 18. (I was watching a documentary the other night that said something like 100,000 girls in the US get into porn when they turn 18 – horrifying. To each their own and all that, but seriously?! That’s someone’s little girl!) If I remember correctly, I was playing with Barbie dolls until well into Year Seven. And I’d do it all again!

Take my cousin, Peta, for example. (No, she’s not sending naked Snapchats or working in porn. I don’t think.) Last month, she turned 20, and to celebrate, she’s currently traipsing around Europe with a couple of friends. (BTW, “traipsing” is such a great word. It doesn’t get used enough in my opinion.)

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With Peta on her 18th birthday.

My mum spoke to Peta a few days before she flew out, and was then filling me in on their conversation. All I heard was: “They’re going to Mykonos and Croatia, and then Peta’s flying to Copenhagen to meet up with her boyfriend…”

Okay, hit the brakes there, Lewis Hamilton… “She’s what?!” came my reply. “She’s just a little girl! Oh my God… I’m going to have a heart attack!”

Firstly, I’m almost certain no one goes to Mykonos and Croatia because they’re fascinated by the history and the landscape (unless that landscape happens to be strobe lighting in a seedy nightclub). Secondly, boyfriend?! I’ve only met this kid once, and now they’re honeymooning in Copenhagen together?! Absolutely not. No way. She’s just turned 20!

“I’m going to have to sit this guy down and read him the riot act!” I informed Mum, matter-of-factly. “Maybe while I sharpen some knives…”

“You need to loosen up!” Mum told me.

“YOU MADE ME THIS WAY!” I fired back.

And it’s true – Mum knows it and I know it. Not only am I the eldest in my immediate family, I’m also the eldest on BOTH sides of my extended family. I feel like I have 20 younger siblings I have to protect.

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As a kid, with my sister, Patrice.

I tick every firstborn personality trait box… High achieving? Yep. Perfectionist? Definitely. Uptight? Perhaps. Responsible? Always. Organised? I try to be. Trouble admitting when I’m wrong? Well, I’m never wrong, so…

Add to this, my parents were extremely strict when I was growing up. (My mum was anyway, my dad couldn’t really care…) For the most part, this was fine, because I never really wanted to rebel anyway. It was never in my nature. I could almost always understand why there were rules in place and I was happy to abide by them. Seriously, I was like a 40-year-old in a child’s body…

Basically, nothing’s really changed – my age just started to catch up to my personality. So given my somewhat innocent and sheltered upbringing, you can maybe understand why I have a hard time accepting that my not-so-little-anymore sister and cousins are grown/growing up.

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With Patrice and our cousins Foto, Gina and Dimi.

I was 13 years old when Peta was born, and I can distinctly remember when she was just a little baby…

I remember my aunt and uncle wanting to call her “Petal”, my grandparents freaking out about it, and them then deciding to name her Peta instead. (No “l”.)

I remember helping my uncle install the baby seat into his car at the hospital, before they took her home.

I remember nodding in agreement when he told me she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen (despite her slightly misshapen head, which evened out eventually…).

I remember laying her little body flat against my forearm, patting her back, and swinging back and forth for what seemed like hours when she was colicky.

I remember being in the car with her and my aunt when Peta would spot a McDonald’s sign in the distance and announce she wanted “boogers and chips”.

I remember the way she used to pronounce my name “Detata”.

I remember how she used to make me watch The Wiggles with her, over and over again. How she used to call them “Giggles”, and how she’d hilariously sing along and act out the lyrics to “Rock-A-Bye Your Bear”.

I also remember telling my mum that I would put myself in harm’s way before I let anything bad happen to her.

And I remember how shortly after that, I was holding her tiny hand at the shops, when her hand slipped out of mine, unnoticed. The way my heart dropped down into my stomach when I realised she was gone, how I ran around panicked, screaming her name, and the relief I felt when I found her quietly playing at the back of a store.

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With Patrice, Sini and Peta, way back when…

Now she’s navigating Europe by herself… I sent Peta a cautionary text message before her trip. “Have fun, stay safe and make good life choices,” I wrote. Her reply? “Haha!” This was not a joke. “I’m serious!” I fired back.

Here’s the thing – I trust Peta. I know she’s a good kid. She’s smart, mature, kind and beautiful. I’m just not quite ready for her to be a grown up yet. If I’m being honest, I don’t think I’ll EVER be ready. Someone who can’t even remember Hanson should not be classified as an adult. Ever.

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A more recent photo of the four of us.

And I feel just as protective of Peta’s younger sister, Sini. Last week, I was in the car with Sini when she started telling me about a party she’d gone to recently where some private school boys (it’s always the private school boys…) had pulled out cocaine and started doing lines. She’s 16. It’s a good thing we were stopped at a set of traffic lights, because I probably would’ve run the car off the road.

“Sini,” I said slowly for dramatic effect. “If I ever hear of you doing that, I’ll kill you.”

I then launched into a 15-minute speech about how “drugs ruin lives”.

“Go out. Have fun,” I told her. “But make sure it’s good, clean fun!”

It was probably a speech I didn’t have to give, because the truth is, Sini is one of the smartest, most confident and independent people I’ve ever met. She’s also incredibly tough, honest and savvy. Seriously, this kid can make even me quake with fear! She’s entirely unapologetic and will call absolutely anyone out on their bullshit. Including our grandmother (I’ve seen it). She’s so cool – she even drinks coffee!

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Taking in some culture with Sini.

Last year, I had to stay over at my aunt and uncle’s house with Sini while they were away for one of Peta’s soccer games. I know I was there to look after her, but I felt like she was looking after me. I’d gotten caught up at work, and by the time I’d gotten to Sini’s, she’d already cleaned the house and had dinner on the table. Meanwhile, I still struggle to turn on the oven. (Seriously, why are there so many fan options?!)

So what I’m trying to say – in my drawn out, convoluted way – is that even though I have a hard time accepting that they’re growing up, I’m incredibly proud of the adult people my sister and cousins have become. Also, can I just add that none of them ever had an awkward phase, whereas mine lasted for around 20 years? Bitches. If I’m hard on them, it’s only because I love them and want them to be the best versions of themselves I know they can be. All of them are so kind, smart, mature and beautiful – both inside and out. They are genuinely good people. Of course, being the eldest, I take full credit for all of this. They learnt from the best.

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With my cousins, Nicola and Louisa.

Big Girls Don’t Cry

As a child, I was fat. I guess you could call it “chubby”, but let’s just cut to the chase. This caused me a lot of grief, especially when I compared myself to my slender friends and scrawny younger sister. Which I did. A lot.

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I looked like a giant baby marshmallow.

My size wasn’t through any real fault of my own – I was just made that way. I was never an athletic kid, but I was active. In primary school, I danced (badly, but still…) and I was in a swimming squad in high school. My spare time was spent riding my bike around my street with my friend, Amie. It’s not like I binged on food either – I ate just like everybody else. But all throughout primary school, I was always bigger than the other kids – both taller and wider.

This really got to me. I was different and I knew it, and when you’re different, you become an easy target – especially at school. No kid should be worried about their size, but the sad truth is, I’ve had body hang ups for as long as I can remember!

I remember my grandmother once reprimanding me when she saw me sucking on a lollipop, and I felt so ashamed and bad about myself, that for years afterwards, I made a point of never eating lollies and chocolate in front of other people. It was like a dirty little secret I kept to myself…

At home, I used to sob uncontrollably about my size, while my heartbroken parents would try to reassure me that it was just puppy fat and I’d lose it as I got older. Eventually, I did (most of it, anyway – thanks, puberty), but I could never understand why I couldn’t just lose it now! I wanted nothing more than to be skinny like everybody else.

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On a family holiday.

I don’t think I realised just how much of an impact all this had had on me until an old friend from primary school, Heather, last week sent me a photo of the two of us from way back when. The photo looked innocent enough at first, but then she pointed out that she was wearing an oversized jumper and holding a sign that read, “Too many snacks.”

“I feel kind of bad…” she wrote in her message.

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The photo from Heather…

Although she didn’t say what she felt bad about, she didn’t have to. Instinctively, I knew, even if I hadn’t realised it at the time. All of a sudden, it hit me. I felt like I was nine years old all over again and all of those old insecurities came flooding back. All of those scars I’d tried so hard to conceal just burst right open again, fresh and raw.

I remembered all the cutting comments kids had made to me on the playground – “fatso” and every other uninspired name they could think of, and how much it had hurt. How desperately I’d tried to mask my pain, so they wouldn’t know they’d found my weak spot, and how I’d later go home from school, shut my bedroom door and cry about it.

I remembered how I always compared myself to my skinny, carefree, cheeky younger sister. A constant reminder of everything I wasn’t. How I could never understand how we could share the same genes, and yet she was always so much smaller than I was – and not just because she was younger. It didn’t seem fair.

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With my sister, Patrice.

And I remembered how even as a little girl – a time when I was supposed to be free of any self-consciousness and self-loathing – my weight was always a constant source of unhappiness for me. I felt trapped in my own body, and looked at myself in the mirror with disgust. I was in so much pain. I wish I could go back and hug that little girl…

While I’ve definitely learnt to accept – and even appreciate – my body over the years, I still struggle with insecurities about my weight. I don’t think I’ll ever really get over that, no matter how thin I get. I have never worn a bikini, and as I get older, I doubt I ever will. Whenever I go to the beach, I generally drop my towel and sprint into the water before anyone has a chance to have a proper look at me. It’s less Baywatch and more running whale. (See? It’s like a reflex – I even poke fun at myself now.)

During a holiday in Hawaii in January, someone offered to take a photo of my mum and I on the beach in our swimsuits. Mum agreed, but I was mortified!

“This is going to be great…” I sarcastically told my mum through gritted teeth, while smiling for the camera and frantically trying to work out what my best angle was and if I even had a best angle.

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In Hawaii with Mum… Terrifying.

My recent exchange with Heather made me realise that all the same old insecurities were still there, just buried a little bit deeper. Scars never really heal.

I was such a sensitive soul as a kid, and I remember feeling worthless because of my weight. I was never the pretty girl. I knew I had talents, but I always felt like my weight was what defined me. Being skinny was more important than anything! (Or so it seemed back then.)

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I’m almost certain the pony died after this.

It made me think a lot about the adult I’ve become, and how much of it has been shaped by my experiences from when I was younger. As I got older, I simply learnt to shut myself off. I don’t know exactly how old I was, but when I became a teenager, I started building walls around myself so no one could ever hurt me again. Scratch that, it may have been after I was cast as Augustus Gloop – a fat, German boy – in our school’s production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I became cautious and never really let anybody in, knowing full well how easily other people could hurt me. I became tough, hardened myself to the world, and learnt to let things roll off my back. This doesn’t mean I never get hurt anymore – I’m still human – but I grew a thicker skin and learnt to bury my emotions. Years of being hurt, sometimes by the people I was closest to – a sly comment meant to cut during an argument from someone I loved and trusted – made me close myself off from everybody.

Growing up, there was this kids’ TV show called Fat Cat and Friends. I remember my Dad once joked, “What’s the difference between Fat Cat and Demeter? Fat Cat has friends.” I love my dad, and I’m not trying to paint him as an asshole, because (bad jokes aside) he’s really not. But to this day, that is one of the cruelest things anyone has ever said to me. When Dad realised just how much he’d upset me, he admitted he didn’t know why he’d said it – I guess he just thought he was being funny.

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With my best friend, Cathie and her dad. See, Dad? I had friends…

This is probably one of the hardest blog posts I’ve ever written… I don’t talk about my insecurities – it makes me feel very vulnerable and exposed – and I have no idea why I’m doing it now. I guess I just want people – especially kids – who are going through a similar thing to know they’re not alone. But more than that, I want people on the other side of the fence to know exactly what it feels like, so they can be more mindful.

Everyone has their insecurities, whether it’s their weight or something else – they don’t need them pointed out to them. The most devastating part about people making fun of you and calling you names is that they’re generally telling you things you’ve already told yourself. Things you tell yourself every single day. They’re basically validating and reinforcing what you already believe to be true.

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Building sandcastles with Patrice.

I’ve come a long way in accepting myself, but it’s a work in progress. My experiences from when I was younger have had a lasting effect on me, and probably will for the rest of my life. Maya Angelou once said: “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” Your words and actions hold more power than you know.