Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85. -Mary Schmich



The regular walked in and for the first time she was wearing a happy-coloured head scarf.  Coffee’s on me today, I told her. Decaf right?


I only ever fancied men with dark, dark hair, but Legolas and Spike once caught my eye. However, they’re not human are they?… So does that really count?


She was bigger than Miley in China, a pint-sized-fair-superstar. The locals all wanted to pose with her for photos, but none ever, ever touched what they prized the most, her long, spirally, spaghetti-coloured hair.


Granny always was a red-head. Frizzy, curly and cropped short. An orangey-halo. The day she stopped dying her hair I stood frozen on the linoleum floor looking up at her. She was completely grey. And she suddenly looked old…like a… granny.


Shite the hairdresser sighed holding my hair in one hand. At least I wont need to thin it out anymore, he said, oh…don’t worry…I doubt anyone else would notice. I looked down at the effen-awesome-heels I was rockin’.


What are you doing? I asked eyeing the box in the bathroom. It’s just getting too grey he said. But I thought quietly to myself… that’s the way I like it.


Dad was completely silver by twenty-five. Look at my back though, he would say…not a silver one there. Go fucking figure.


Our friend the ginger-ninja once admitted that she couldn’t find a scrunchie so she used a g-string to tie her hair up with. My daughter wanted to know where the ginger-ninja got a violin string from? I wanted to know who the bloody-hell still wears scrunchies?


Nonno’s head looks like a bowling ball! They laughed. Hey! I said, that’s not a nice thing to say. What? Why? We love bowling!


My hair is curly and I straighten it every day. I curse at it, and at how effen long it takes to make look nice. And then I remember the regular.

And… I curse at it a little less.




Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out. –Mary Schmich



For the past couple of years my son has begged during the Christmas hols to work at my café so that he can earn a little extra pocket money.

Only problem is he was nine when he first started asking…and well… although my capitalist heart beats to the sound of cheap labour even I knew that would be breaking some terribly important child protection laws…

But he was devo when I said no, so one day I allowed him to tag along with me and armed with a green-cloth set him about cleaning vacated tables and flat-packing cardboard boxes for recycling… all under my eagle eye.

Last year he even asked for a work uniform. He’s a tall lad, in fact at ten he was taller than some of the fully grown staff I’ve hired and he looked so terribly eager that I thought…well what was the harm?

The manager bossed him around good and proper, told him he wasn’t allowed anywhere near the kitchen and sent him off to empty bins and clear tables. Surprisingly he was actually quite good at having a chat to the customers as he cleared away their little messes, and as his parent I was right pleased at how well he conducted himself for someone so young.

An elderly lady took the time to tell him he was doing a very good job, then her husband asked,

“How old are you sonny?”

“I’m ten” he answered.

“And do you work here?” the old man said.

I suddenly had a nooooooooooooooo-in-slow-motion-moment as I heard him answer proudly…

“Yes, yes I do.”

I could have swore that the old man dropped a wrinkly little F-bomb as they turned and walked away mumbling something along the lines of ‘damn cheek the owner has’… and I remained on high-alert for a letter from child services for the next three months.


Luckily none arrived.


At home that afternoon my son was busy telling a relative about his “new job”, and this relative, being the stirrer that he is, got my son all fired up…

“So how much do you get paid?” the stirrer said.

“Mum gives me five dollars an hour.” my boy proudly answered.

“What? Only five dollars?” the stirrer said with a mock-astonished tone to his voice, “Mate, you’re getting ripped off!”

“I am?” my son answered, puzzled “What do you think I should be getting?”

“Geez well your mum owns that café, let’s see, she should at least pay you ten bucks an hour.”


I sat waiting for a call from the Shop-assistants union… and sure enough it came a little later that night…


“Mum,” my son said with an exceptionally brave look on his face, “can we talk?”

“Of course.” I said…knowing exactly what was coming.

“Well I’ve been thinking about work […you know I’m trying very hard to stifle a giggle and keep a straight face at this point…] and I think I probably should get at least ten dollars an hour.”

“Hmm,” I answered casually, “you know, you’re probably right. Sounds only fair.”

My son looked jubilant.

“But,” I continued “if I give you a pay rise then we need to consider the cost of the things you eat and drink when you’re supposed to be working… so let’s see, you had an iced chocolate and cinnamon scroll at the start of your ‘shift’ today… then you had a sausage roll… oh and a bottle of water… and when you left you took a banana muffin…so let’s see that adds up to…hmmm… oh imagine that…you actually owe me six dollars and forty-five cents.”

I hold out my hand.

“Oh,” my son said “on second thoughts I think I’m pretty happy with the five dollars an hour… ”

Thought so! I think to myself as I watch him sheepishly backing out of the room…

dominos and card games

Respect your elders. -Mary Schmich



She sat very quiet. Some might say as quiet as a mouse, although really she was more of a chameleon. Merging with the beige couch, her little knees together, back straight, eyes looking, but absolutely no speaking. 

When it was time for dinner she was beckoned to join the adults at the table. In front of her the grandmother placed a fine bone-china bowl brimming with hot soup. It was thin with golden coloured slicks of fat and a twig of limp dill floating on top. She was afraid to eat the dill because she didn’t like the look of it. So she took her spoon and carefully maneuvered her way around the bowl, pushing the herb to one side and doing her best to avoid the lump of soft carrot that lay on the bottom. She would have liked to have a piece of the hard rye bread that sat in the silver bread basket, winking darkly at her from between a crisply folded cloth napkin. But not one person offered it and she would never reach for it, nor ask. So thoughts of sopping soup up with chunks of brown bread remained just that, mere thoughts in this child’s mind. 

After dinner she returned to the couch, knees together, back straight, eyes looking, but absolutely no speaking. The grandmother placed in front of her a rectangular box that she knew was filled with neat rows of black domino tiles. The grandfather smiled briefly and then returned to his adult conversation assured that his granddaughter was now well entertained. But dominos were not much fun to play with by your self. She touched the top of the box and slid the lid back and forth on the tiny wooden grooves. Then she wondered to herself if the dominos ever felt as though they were living in a coffin.



She sat very quiet. Some might say as quiet as a mouse, although really she was more of a chameleon. Merging behind the beige couch, suppressing the giggle that bubbled up into her throat as she spied on her grandfather, walking backwards and forwards, ever so near and yet still ruminating loudly on where-oh-where could she possibly be? Finally, bursting with impatience, she leapt- arms wide open to surprise the old man who never failed to clutch at his heart as though the shock would be the very end of them all. 

He took her by the hand to the table where the grandmother had placed a hot bowl of penne to cool ready for her, white and floating in butter, just the way she liked it. The grandfather got her a soft bread roll and the grandmother gave her a glass of cool lemonade before they sat to their own meal of pasta drenched in red sauce and smothered in hard flakes of stinky cheese. 

After dinner they sat together for hours, slurping on orange segments and spitting lupini skins. They taught her the old village card game of cups and clubs, smiling at the grandfather’s obvious attempts of cheating by storing aces in his top pocket, purposely visible so that his granddaughter would be delighted at catching him out every single time. At the end of the game he played a trick that she adored, pulling a shiny gold coin from her ear. She smiled and laughed out aloud with the joy of it all- throwing  herself into his arms for a long hug which ended with two little kisses on his bristly cheek. Then he popped the shiny gold coin in her hand and kissed the top of her head in a quiet blessing of praise for the precious gift he had been given.







the truth is down there

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders. –Mary Schmich

You probably all think the only truth that can be counted on is death. Right?


We know very little about death.

All that shite about walking into white lights, heaven and hell, being reincarnated as the gnat on a donkeys ass and ghostys woooooo! 

Wooo indeed. 

Really who the fek knows? 

So death, sure we can count on it… but if we barely know anything about it- can it truly be considered a truth?


There is one truth we can definitely count on. 

It’s something which surrounds you right now. 

It grips you and you are totally compliant under its power…and you never, ever, ever, even think about it. 

It’s like the hypnotist who can make you cluck-like-a-chook at the click of his fingers… 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen…





Gravity the single most compelling force of our universe and it is there for every stage of our living existence…


When we are young… and we jumped up consumed by a childish tanty-rage it was gravity that pulled us back to earth just in time for a swat to the tushy by our frazzled mothers. 


And gravity is there again for us as teenagers, planting our feet firmly to the ground when our heads fill like expandable helium balloons swelling with our own self importance (cast your mind back…remember how clever you thought you were at fifteen?? Effen idiots weren’t we?) 


And for sure- if gravity is quite simply the effect that pulls two particles together, the explanation for the force of attraction between all masses of this wondrous universe, then it stands to reason that gravity is the catalyst for the romance in our lives… 

What do you mean you don’t believe me? 

Well… what if I told you gravity is horny. 

Need further convincing?

Okay follow me…


In space when enough matter collects- the force of gravity is strong enough to propel the teeny tiny hydrogen atoms into the teeny tiny helium atoms and this fusion releases enough energy to turn on a star. 


Only gravity is sexy enough to actually turn on a star… 


And let’s face it…what’s more romantic than a stroll together under a starry night? All those stars baby and all thanks to gravity! 


So far, so good? Okay. 

Well, this my friends, is where my love affair with gravity takes a steep and nasty turn down Fugly Street.


Let’s face it gravity is not so much of a friend as you get older. 

It’s the reason for that little sag you spy. The little part of you that used to be perky and is now…well, perhaps best described as creeping a little closer to the use-by date.

Not expired as such, just a little wilted, like a lettuce leaf left in the sun perhaps a half-hour too long. 

It’s okay at first, barely noticeable even… but as the years progress gravity will become the most bitter lolly you suck on.


Laugh all you want at the thought of men’s balls sagging down into their white sports socks…  it’s the image of my hubby reaching down under the table for a boob-grope that terrifies me…


Gravity. Ugh.


By that stage in our lives it will be no freakin’ bloody wonder the other meaning for gravity is “a manner that is most serious and solemn.”



Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.        -Mary Schmich




Smile and wave, thumbs up, camera click, wipe the sweat from your brow, no stand this way, closer, closer and camera click again, smile into the lens… perfect!

Look at us on the Great Wall, see how far it goes through the countryside! Wow!

They say you can see this from the moon, or maybe that’s a myth, we’ll google it when we get home.

Yes that’s right, built to keep out the Mongols…or the rabbits ha-oh-ha.

Can you believe that we are here? Let’s buy a t-shirt on the way back down, yes what a great souvenir! What do you think? The one that says “I’ve climbed the great wall!”

Don’t forget, they say never pay the price that they ask, oh no sir, haggle with them to a tenth of the price… that’s what it’s worth after all.

Do you think Grandpa would like one? Of course, let’s buy three.



The climb up was hard, but we had modern convenience on our side. Imagine it is three thousand years ago. Where do you think these rocks were quarried from? Not nearby I’m sure. It’s a marvel, a feat, this structure of protection.

But there is the echo of a throb here, a throb of living-beats that were silenced by this grey and cold blooded snake.

Now we are at the top, feel that under your feet? We are fortunate to be in a place that many dream of visiting, and yes, you and I, we are here.

Place your hand there. Yes, there on this rough hewn rock. It’s not as cold as you expected? Perhaps because it holds an eon of misery. Pain rising and sighing through its stony face and jagged miscoloured mortar. It’s been said that every foot of this wall represents one human life. Can you see how far the wall stretches? Yes, you are right, it stretches beyond sight.

In the earliest dynasty the tyrannical Qin Emporer would send scholars here to work on the wall, as a lonesome, soul-breaking punishment. Yes, it’s hard to imagine how many people would have perished.

And see these spaces in the wall, pretty, steeple shaped spaces, like little windows in a child’s doll house. Well that is where they would have laid their bows, arrows poised. Weapons of death to the marauding nomads. And this space? Yes, you learn quickly, no, not from a dolls house. This space was for pouring burning-missives to assail the enemy.

Why do you think they call this section the wall of the bones? It’s simple really and gruesome too, for if you died up here they simply threw your body over the edge.

And maybe, they hoped, your lifeless, worthless existence would knock an enemy asunder on its perilous way down.

Cruel you say? Yes, cruel it is true, but it was the way of the world back then and now that you sense the immense history you can also marvel at the feat of structure and engineering and planning and endurance. 

And the enormous power that the Emperors wielded, in human life, with the stroke of a calligraphed signature and the stamp of a Royal seal… in the name of defence.


fan mail

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young. – Mary Schmich

Before this month of frenetic writing I don’t think I’ve ever written a piece of proper fan mail in my life.

Even when I was a kid and mad for Abba, or the guy from Duran Duran (who I think was gay anyway?) I always had a sense of “what the feck would they want to hear from me for??…”, and… add to that a diehard aversion of groupies…and…well… you can see why I was never a fan mail writer.

But this month of writing (ahem…well yes the jury on *writing* is still debating bulk of work …) has prompted two pieces of fan mail.

Here is the first:


Dear @Quadelle,

It’s quite amazing when you meet someone in the murky-ethers-of-the-internet whom you connect with. Thank you for dragging me along in this nutso-month of writing and for providing the inspiration for the daily trudge.

Although some days have been like an ice-pick to the brain you were always there with a supportive message or a kick to the pants when it was needed!

So thank you,

I wrote the below piece of fan mail with you in mind.

Here it is… hope you like it… gotta say receiving the reply gave me a girlish thrill!

PS- yes… in it you are of course…the *friend*


And here is the second:


From: carla delvex [mailto:carladelvex@gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, November 13, 2009 6:31 PM
To: Schmich, Mary
Subject: Thankyou

Dear Mary,
my friend on twitter cleverly suggested that we use your speech, “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young.”  as inspiration for our November month of blog writing.
Although we are not even half way through, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know myself by leaping-off bravely from chunks of your speech.
And I’ve had the opportunity to meet new people along the way, people who have dropped in from cyber-lands both near and far, to comment on the ride.
As I’ve just passed your paragraph on “compliments” I thought it was only fitting that I send you one too.
So thank you,
This speech still inspires people all over the world.
Yours most sincerely,
Carla Delvex


fromSchmich, Mary <MSchmich@tribune.com>
tocarla delvex <

 dateTue, Nov 17, 2009 at 6:18 AM
subjectRE: Thankyou

What a nice note, Carla. Thank you.
Mary Schmich





walk away

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. – Mary Schmich


21st November 2009,
Dear Dad,
Well it’s been ages since we spoke.
More than ages really … ages can be mere days when you are newly in love, or for most ages is weeks, or possibly even a month or two. But this ages has been over two years. And, yes I agree the time has just flown.
We’ve had our moments of silence before. Often in fact. But this time seems quite final. It seems to be over.
It’s not you who has changed. This time. It is me.
With age comes wisdom…well, that is something you always taught me, but I’m not sure if you ever realised that it might not work to your advantage. One day. 
For before when we’ve disagreed, which is polite talk for arguments of contempt and misunderstanding, I’ve been disconsolate and heartbroken and longed for you to remember the little girl who sought your attention.
And wanted your praise. And wanted your acceptance.
But this last time was an insult. You handed me a long draught of bitter pride.
Yes, for sure, it was just the same old arguments, tired rehashes of miscommunication.
But there was a difference apparent.
I am now a grown woman, with children of my own and a life of my own and failures of my own and successes of my own.
And a mind of my own.
And there is the difference.

It’s not you who has changed. This time. It is me.
So I look at you and see the man who was my father. Who provided me with a decent childhood. And all the comforts one could afford.
And I see the little boy who was raised motherless. Orphaned by his own father for convenience.
And I see a person of infinite pride. Stubborn and consumed.
So I am finished with the tears and the tantrums and the rage. I’m far too old for it all.
You were always good at teaching me, but I know now that you never accepted the lessons for yourself.
Yes, you were right, with age comes wisdom.

But it’s not always the wisdom of knowing when to keep one’s mouth shut.

And it’s not always the wisdom of forgive and forget.
Sometimes it’s the wisdom of simply knowing,
when someone is never going to change.
Of when enough is enough.
of when to just walk away.
Your daughter,