Often, when promoting a product linked to health and well-being, advertisers will use a skinny, half-starved model plus the phrase “look good, feel great”. As anyone with half a brain will notice, this is a contradiction in terms. Such a model may well “look good”, at least by today’s standards, but she’s probably feeling like death. There she is, grinning like hell as she clutches a smoothie she’ll never drink while she dreams of the Diet Coke she’ll savour later while huddled against a radiator. Clearly, “looking good” is one thing; “feeling great” is something entirely different. And as for being healthy, “looking good” seriously doesn’t come into it these days.
But what about “feeling great”, you might ask. Is that linked to health and well-being? Well, yes. If you’re running and get an endorphin high, for instance, you probably ming to high heaven, but hey, you’re feeling tops! Same goes for having a good, energetic shag. But both of these involve quite a lot of effort. Perhaps we should discard the “health” criteria and aim for “feeling great” alone.
There are lots of things that make us feel great which are not remotely healthy. Vodka, for instance, and Jedward. And then there’s chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate. It was in the spirit of this (one presumes) that the recent “health and well-being day” at my office included, nestled in amongst the personal trainers and organic veg boxes, a stall representing a luxury chocolate firm.
This was a proper, high-end company. It made Thornton’s look like Candy King. Each piece of chocolate was a work of art. There were chocolate flowers, chocolate raindrops, chocolate animals, everything. Just the thing to drive some imaginary conservative French town insane (in a Joanne Harris novel that I’ve never read). But most amazing of all were the chocolate shoes. These were truly mind-blowing.
You may be thinking, hang on a mo. I’ve seen chocolate shoes before. They’re not that bloody special. Well, yes, I have also seen chocolate shoes before. In Sainsbury’s around Christmas time, on a shelf alongside chocolate spanners and hacksaws for the man in your life. But mildly offensive as those were, the Sainsbury’s versions were all miniature novelties, mere amuse-bouches of the sexist chocolate world. These other chocolate shoes were genuine, life-sized, Louboutin-style high heels. I could actually have worn one, had I so wished, or at least I could have on the following conditions:
- I’d found a way not to put any weight onto the massive chocolate heel
- I’d acquired some circulatory disease that kept my feet freezing cold in order to prevent the chocolate from melting
Alas, the truth is, as footwear goes, they weren’t all that practical.
And here is the point: the chocolate stiletto is even more useless than the proverbial chocolate teapot. At least with the latter, you’re starting out with something practical and making it impractical, for comic effect. With stilettos, you’ve got something impractical to begin with, and all you’re doing is upping the uselessness ante. And added to this, has anyone even made a chocolate teapot, ever? And yet they’re making life-sized chocolate shoes. What the fuck is going on?
It’s laziness, that’s what. What do women like? … Shoes! …. And chocolate! …. Hey, let’s combine the two! Let’s be honest, if your friends bought you a chocolate shoe, you might think “mm, yummy!”. You would not think “wow! What a thoughtful gift! They know me so well!”. At best you’d think, “hmm. After ten years they’ve noticed that, in broad terms, I conform to gender stereotypes that support the idea that I might be a woman”.
When I was little, at least sexist confectionery was functional. I used to buy push-up candy lipstick from Mr Moore’s corner shop and guess what? It worked! It did make my lips go pink! And all sherbety! Fast-forward thirty years and you’d think I’d be getting fruit salads and blackjacks that made my face turn make-up coloured just by sucking on them. We must have the technology by now. But what are women getting? Fucking useless chocolate shoes (oh, okay, not useless. You can eat them. But you could’ve eaten them before they were shoe-shaped, so that doesn’t count).
I think the chocolate stiletto is a metaphor for the modern feminine mystique: in-your-face, hard-edged, dramatic but ultimately decorative and more useless than you’d ever have thought possible. It’s worse than the glass slipper, which at least enabled you to snare a wealthy man. Plus, pound for pound, it’s a darned expensive way to get your chocolate fix. So I decided to boycott it on principle. I bought a chocolate handbag instead. You haven’t seen my keys or mobile phone, have you?