There's daylight between our priorities

If males menstruated, vending machines, as if t-shirt bazookas at ball games, would be pumping out free tampons with brand names like Blizzard! Picture: Shutterstock

If males menstruated, vending machines, as if t-shirt bazookas at ball games, would be pumping out free tampons with brand names like Blizzard! Picture: Shutterstock

When JC bounded out of bed this very morning some 2000 years ago, it's a fair bet he was feeling more upbeat than when he bumped into JI Thursday night.

I share the redeemer's enthusiasm as I anticipate my own resurrection.

Daylight saving is finally over.

Thank G.

In October, when we're robbed of that first hour of sleep, it doesn't seem so bad; a victimless crime akin to running a red light 4am Tuesday.

But come early April, with more than 100 precious hours gone forever (that going-to-bed-early diligence lasts exactly one night), it's apparent your impatience at that lonely intersection actually tore a hole in the fabric of time, the consequences including weeks of gathering fatigue, chronic irritability and an ineffable suspicion you've been circadianally short-changed, yet again.

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me 46 times, shame on me.

If it weren't antithetical to reducing my sleep deficit - which, for the past five months has been accumulating like so much gritty rheum in the corner of my eyes - I would've stayed up until 2.59 to ring in this holiest of days on the parental calendar.

When you're an undisturbed-10-hours-a-night eight-year-old, it's all well and good to suck up to Santa with milk and bickies but by the time you're a six-if-you're-lucky middle-aged super-commuter, it's a far more strategically sensible act of networking to leave a bottle of Scotch and some $5 scratchies out for the Sandman.

It's not that I don't appreciate the long afternoons of summer. So much can be achieved when the January lambert lingers until 9pm and childhood memories just wouldn't be the same unless viewed through the sun-drenched filter of a Swedish coming-of-age film. But, simply, as we get older, our priorities change to the point an extra 40 minutes under the doona before the draining day gets underway easily eclipses any wholesome endeavour pursued as that same day draws languidly to a close.

And it's as we grow, so does the chasm between what we used to think was important and that which is important right now.

Robin Williams' tragic hobo Parry in Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King summed up this shifting shopping list of existential staples beautifully, when he said: "There are three things in this world you need: respect for all kinds of life, a nice bowel movement on a regular basis, and a navy blazer".

Indeed, and talking of bowel movements, there was a stark example of newfound priorities coming from the car radio Monday when some bloke explained, quite seriously, how he was collating a list of public toilets for the betterment of (ageing-bladdered) humanity. Putting aside for the moment Larry David has already explored this noble vocation through his Seinfeld avatar, George Constanza, the idea drew immediate approval from my family as we drove at 5am (more lost sleep) to the airport, the children champing at the bit to finally visit their grandmother in country Victoria after so many Covid-dictated false dawns.

"The toilets at the library," my wife said, referring to what she considered to be our town's best rest rooms.

"They're always clean."

After a quick stocktake of local latrines before efficient set-down and clipped hugs at the wakening terminal, everyone agreed the library's pristine privies deserved their No. 1 status and it was interesting the three females of the ute were far more versed in the subject than its two ignorant males, my wife also revealing the premier water closet had been included recently in a roll-out of vending machines which dispensed free feminine hygiene products.

Pardon? Recently?

Given males don't use tampons and can blunder through much of the day without strictly needing (or really wanting) an enclosed space in which to relieve themselves, it wasn't really surprising my son and I weren't as clued in as the girls when it came to our community's scattered collection of cubicles, but I was shocked to learn sanitary items, given their necessity, haven't been wholly taxpayer-funded and available everywhere ever since tithes were prised from the calloused hands of that first, downtrodden subclass (other than women, that is).

In NSW - which is following suit from other jurisdictions - a trial is also underway right now to make such products available in state schools. Again, what's with the centuries-long lag? And how can it be we live in a first-world country where 'period poverty' is a familiar example of alliteration?

If males menstruated, vending machines, as if t-shirt bazookas at ball games, would be pumping out free tampons with brand names like Blizzard! and Stallion! from every street corner from Broome to Bronte. And if menarche signalled the arrival of manhood, proud fathers would be slinging their sons their first camo comfort pad while out camping with all the other ovulating dads and lads, drunk and howling under the masculine moon.

Instead, as we settle in to the enlightened 21st century, we're apparently only just now feeling sufficiently socially sophisticated to stick an unlocked cabinet full of absorbent cotton and rayon in the toot and, even then, we have to dilute the assault on established sensibilities with almost apologetic, guerrilla-esque campaign launches of a device festooned with patronising (albeit well-intentioned) pink livery assuring its target demographic the whole enterprise is an exercise in 'dignity'.

In reality, there's no dignity in one half of the population being made to wait so long for its biological imperatives to be acknowledged in such a reductive way and if the pandemic (we are a planet awash in free hand-sanitiser and vaccines developed at the speed of light) has taught us anything, as a species, we're nothing if not supple to the demands of protean priorities.

As the culture wars morph into the gender wars, it's either a case of extremely good, or extremely bad, timing these tampon machines are beginning to pop up now, because there really couldn't be a more obvious symbol of how ridiculous life under the patriarchy must be.

Along these lines, I wonder whether any woman who stumbles upon a droid in the dunny which makes a gratuity out of a necessity views it as something to be thankful for? Or, does she roll her eyes and shake her head, dumbfounded such a resource took so long to be installed in the first place?

Maybe, while retouching her lippy, she even ponders where mankind would be if evolution hadn't just taken a slightly different route out of that primordial soup?

If only she could turn back the clock.

  • B. R. Doherty is a regular columnist.
This story There's daylight between our priorities first appeared on The Canberra Times.


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