The Pool: Getting older doesn’t necessarily mean getting wiser about body image

The last time I was ID’d when buying alcohol I was 32 years old. This may not sound too bad, except before I’d had the chance to respond, the cashier looked up and said “actually, it’s alright – I just hadn’t seen your face.”

I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it, other than that I didn’t look under 18, which ought to have been fine, since I wasn’t. But of course I went home and scrutinised my obviously-not-underage face. “You ought to be pleased,” said my partner, “it must mean your body looks younger than your head.” I told him this wasn’t helping.

I don’t want to be the kind of person who worries about looking old, not least because that’s the kind of thing old people do. I’ve got enough to worry about, body-image wise – the tops of my thighs, my uneven smile, acne scars and a midriff I can’t even bear to touch. I had always assumed that by the time I was bothered about crow’s feet and a saggy neck, I’d have stopped noticing the rest.

I imagined there being a finite amount of body image worry a person could have. You were allocated it at birth and once it was used up, you were no longer capable of giving a toss. I even fantasised that having suffered from anorexia and bulimia throughout my teens and twenties, I’d have “used up” my worry faster than everyone else. Soon I’d be safely on the side of not caring. Now, at 41, I’m starting to fear this might never happen.

Read the full post at The Pool


Women’s bodies, caught between realness and the internal bra

One of many seemingly trivial things that infuriates me is the sight of the strappy summer top or dress. This is an item of clothing under which most women would want to wear a bra and yet, unless it is the fashion, bra straps are not meant to be on show. Up till now there’s been no real solution to this. Strapless bras slip down, while transparent bra straps have never fooled anyone. However, the bra-free alternative — nipples at your navel — is even worse. So you see these clothes in shop windows and in magazines and after a while you start to think “is it me? Do other women have breasts of helium? Who — apart from the woman who’s buying the smallest size — is meant to wear these things?” It is a mystery and like many fashion-related mysteries, it’s one that will make you feel a failure at womanhood for no reason whatsoever. Continue reading

Clever, yes, but still waiting for Prince Charming

Calling all clever girls! Have you ever worried that the fact you’re so clever will mean that boys don’t fancy you? Do you lie awake at night fretting over the complete works of Nietzsche, string theory AND whether or not your mammoth intellect will lead you to die alone, a barren, lonely spinster with only your trusty cat, Higgs Boson, for company? Do you feel your IQ is in inverse proportion to your Erotic Capital? Then worry no more! Recent news reports show that being a female Einstein — an Einsteinette, one might say — is not incompatible with fulfilling your true destiny as a woman. Rejoice! Now all you have to do is make sure you’re not a total minger (minging does of course remain incompatible with successful womanhood. Sorry, mingers, but that rule ain’t never gonna change).

This evening I read a Telegraph piece on a schoolgirl who is incredibly bright and has the potential to do amazing things. Her IQ is higher even than the IQs of Einstein, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking. I don’t know, precisely, how much to read into IQ tests (my IQ may be too low for that) but I get the impression Lauren Marbe is really special. The most important thing to note, however, isn’t that she’s intelligent but that she’s going to a massive debutante ball in Paris. She might be clever but by god, she is a girl after all!

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Hypersexualisation vs slut-shaming: Should France be banning mini-me beauty contests?

The French parliament is seeking to ban beauty contests for girls under the age of 16. It follows a report from former sports minister Chantal Jouanno, entitled Against Hypersexualisation: A New Fight For Equality. In it, she also recommends outlawing “adult clothing in child sizes, for example padded bras and high-heeled shoes”. While I’m all for fights for equality, this makes me uneasy. Despite not having had a beauty queen past (unless winning a fancy dress contest dressed as Peggy from Hi-de-Hi counts) I know my childhood would have been far drabber without all those glorious afternoons during which I made myself look like a mini Bet Lynch.

I don’t wish to draw huge comparisons between France banning the veil and this move. There are different people and motivations underpinning it. Nonetheless, I think there are some shared cultural currents, not least a desire to protect those deemed “vulnerable”  by regulating what they can wear. The bodies of women and girls become meanings to be managed. When Jouanno expresses concern over “the sexualisation of […] expressions, postures or clothes that are too precocious,” the spotlight falls on little girls themselves and the need of adults to place them within our own deeply flawed categories. To my mind, this simply isn’t fair. Continue reading

Questioning the new beauty lessons for girls

Dear Teenage Girls of Britain

You know those models you look at in magazines? The ones you’d kill to look like? Well, here’s some news: they don’t look that perfect in real life. They’re still ultra-skinny, with amazing bone structure (don’t think for a minute that you could look that good). Even so, in the cold light of day, without all those stylists, makeup artists, hairdressers, airbrushing experts etc., models don’t look quite as model-y. Got that? For some reason, this statement of the obvious is supposed to boost your self-esteem (and if it hasn’t, that means there’s something wrong with you).

In what might be described as the beauty industry equivalent of greenwashing, Vogue magazine has just followed in the footsteps of Dove in making a commitment to “educate” girls about beauty. Because girls really need educating, don’t they? There’s nothing like breaking a person’s self-esteem before selling a substandard version back to them (real beauty just isn’t real beauty without “beautiful underarms”, is it?). Continue reading

On Dove, shampoo and self-esteem

This evening I am the parody of a spoilt middle-class feminist who can’t stop herself from getting in a tizz about relatively minor stuff. Oh yes, I am in a strop about a hair care advert. And yes, I know it’s not [insert your favourite “properly” bad thing to happen to women – MRAs are especially good at this]. But still, every now and then, providing you’re in a position to do so, it’s worth getting annoyed about the small stuff, if only because the small stuff remains really sodding annoying.

I’ve just been watching Dove’s latest advert for shampoo. It’s special shampoo because it repairs damage to your hair follicles, smoothing over all the rubbish bits using only the power of science and one quarter moisturiser (which is, as we all know, one of the key elements in the periodic table). Anyhow, I can’t find a link to it so you’ll have to trust me on this. In all probability the shampoo’s amazing. It wasn’t that that irritated me. It was the fact that because they weren’t advertising something linked to bodies or skin or ageing, Dove couldn’t be bothered to slum it with ‘real’ women in their ad. There wasn’t a single minor flaw that isn’t really a flaw only now you’ll think it is because Dove’s made such a big deal of it in sight. This lack of consistency really pissed me off. Either patronize us one way or another. You can’t do both! Continue reading

Women in short skirts: The “debate” trundles on …

Women, Celia Walden argues in the Telegraph, “have got themselves into a tangle over beauty”. Spending “an inordinate percentage of their time worrying about their looks – and the rest of it actively trying to enhance them”, they then object when men show appreciation (as it were). Bizarre. It’s probably because women are fickle, inconsistent and manipulative. Oh, and feminist. That as well.

Citing one example of typical female behaviour, witnessed on the tube “the last time I was back in Britain”, Walden describes a teenage girl calling out a man for staring at her legs:

I felt for him. The girl had very nice legs. The girl knew she had very nice legs, and had chosen to showcase them in a belt of fabric that would draw admiring glances from every male member of that carriage – and a few females besides. Yet she found it demeaning – or “disgusting”, to quote her friend’s empathetic murmur – to be reduced to an object of beauty. Women, she believed, in her indignant, third-wave feminist little head, are more than the sum total of their gloriously appealing body parts.

Ha! Imagine that! Women being more than the sum of their body parts! What will the feminists think of next? (And there are still people who believe trousers are a feminist conspiracy!) Continue reading

Get a lipstick, get a job? The bare-faced cynicism of the ’empowering’ makeover

Has any woman, in the history of anything, ever thought to herself “if only I could be more empowered“. Empowerment – that ambiguous, Oprah-esque substitute for genuine power – strikes me as pretty low on a woman’s list of priorities. Choice, freedom, respect, yes, empowerment, no. And yet we’re still being told that it’s exactly what we need.

Empowerment is liberation turned into victim-blaming. Once you’re “empowered” everything’s in your hands and privilege ceases to exist. Empowerment is part of the reason why no one believes in workplace discrimination any more. Despite all evidence to the contrary, we no longer entertain the idea that employers might still be sexist. These “empowered” women, well, they make their own beds and they can damn well lie in them.
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Mummies! Ever get the feeling we don’t yet have enough “mummy stuff”?

Becoming a mother has brought with it many unexpected perks. I get my own special “mummy” porn. Proctor & Gamble are proud sponsors of me. And now, as an added bonus, TV presenter, classical musician and Hear’say survivor Myleene Klass is designing clothes for me. Honestly, will the treats never end?

Introducing her new clothing range for Littlewoods, Myleene explains that it’s “designed by a mummy for mummies”. Thank heavens for that. I am so sick of forcing my mummy-shaped body into all these “normal” clothes. Finally, someone has listened to the voices of mummies everywhere and catered to our highly specific needs. Continue reading

Kate Moss: Just like you (and every woman, ever)

A 16-year-old girl feels pressured into posing nude for a national publication yet it’s not until she’s in her late thirties, and a very famous model, that she reveals her misgivings. It’s all rather sad, partly for the girl in question, Kate Moss, but mainly for people like Alex Needham, culture editor of the Guardian, a man who risks having his enjoyment of groundbreaking art spoiled by the fact that bare-breasted ingenues have voices as well as tits.

In response to Moss’s own comments regarding a shoot she did for The Face in 1990, Needham has stepped in to reassure her that however bad it made her feel, she “took one for the team”:
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Self-esteem: Yet another thing you’re crap at

If seeing pictures of skinny models in magazines makes you feel fat and ugly, please don’t blame the mags. The person you need to hold responsible is actually your mum. This, at least, is what September’s issue of Glamour would like you to believe. It is of course complete and utter crap, but you may well think it anyhow. After all, these magazines always catch you when you’re at your weakest.

Once you’ve ploughed through page after page telling you that you’re eating the wrong foods, wearing the wrong clothes and buying the wrong beauty products, what are the odds on you challenging the idea that you’re thinking the wrong thoughts, too? Not very high, I’d say. That’s why pieces such as Dawn Porter’s “Self-esteem? It’s kids’ stuff” come along and kick you when you’re down (while simultaneously berating you for not getting right back up again). Yes, Porter’s written yet another of those articles which are all about YOU and why YOU need to feel GOOD about YOURSELF and why aren’t YOU doing it yet? Go on, get on with it. Stop feeling shit about yourself RIGHT THIS MINUTE! Continue reading

Stefano Pessina: The exfoliated face of capitalism

Hey ladies! Time to form an orderly queue. Please allow me to present to you Mr Stefano Pessina:

Phwoar! How’s that for an Italian Stallion? Out of two I’d give him one. Stefano? For me it’s definitely a Stefa-yes etc. etc.

Ahem. Sorry. I really need to watch my language. For instance, just then I wrote “ladies” when I should have written “girls”. It’s important to use the correct Boots-based terminology. After all, we wouldn’t want to upset Mr Pessina, who’s CEO of Alliance Boots.

I don’t know what I expected the CEO of Boots to look like, but to tell the truth, I’m disappointed. It’s not bad for 70, but I was still wanting a little more Johnny Depp, a little less Ikea-smart. After all, this is a man who must have access to all the cosmetics in the cosmi-megaverse. Couldn’t he at least have found one product that would allow him to have his own “ta-dah!” moment? And yes, I know I’m being unfair. After all, you can’t polish a turd. We women have known that all our lives, and still we spend gazillions trying to do so, first with the help of Boots 17, and then No. 7 (presumably at some stage you get to Minus 3). It’s shocking to think of what gets spent on this fruitless quest for “real woman” perfection. No wonder Stefano looks, if not exactly attractive, then at least “untroubled”.

Today I was on my way to buy my sandwiches in Boots, then I changed my mind. This was partly because Café Soho had a special offer, but mainly because I am a stupid and get all het up about companies being run by cunts. Obviously if I took this to any logical extreme, I wouldn’t buy sandwiches anywhere. I wouldn’t even buy bread, or flour, or yeast. But I am too lazy and compromised to do any of that. But anyhow, moving swiftly away from that particular minefield, I didn’t buy sandwiches in Boots. And that’s not just because Pessina sells us the beauty myth while looking like he should be designing work surfaces. It’s also because the likes of Pessina don’t like you or me or anyone really.

Pessina claims that the atmosphere in the UK is “anti-business“. He’s right, you know. I fucking hate business, me. Bloody organisations doing stuff and making money. Can’t stand the fuckers. Of course, however true, it’s a risky thing for Pessina to say. After all, he still wants to do business with us, bless him. Hence he’s since qualified his statement, quoted here in the Telegraph

I am convinced the Government in the UK is trying to do the right things and the fact they are reducing tax is going in the right direction. Unfortunately, the public opinion, the environment is not as favourable to businesses as the government is.

So David Cameron and George Osborne are okay, the rest of us are nasty, business-ist morons. He’s right, you know. Take me, for instance. I’m such a business-phobic bitch I’m considering finally registering that Superdrug loyalty card and never heading Boots-wards ever again.

Just to make matters worse, US Pharmacy giant Walgreen has just taken a 45% stake in Alliance Boots. Being a knee-jerk business basher my first thought is, of course, it’s American and it’s got “Wal” in the title. Gotta be bad. I mean, there are in fact some serious question marks over how Walgreens have dealt with contraception provision in the US. But that’s just a random observation. The real problem I have is with the “Wal”.

Anyhow, what I’m saying is, I won’t be going to Boots any time soon. Except, knowing me, I probably will, as Superdrug are bound to annoy me in the near future. And look how long my Lush boycott lasted –  two weeks, or was it one? I’m always going back to these evil hellholes. You know, sometimes you’d think I didn’t mind people selling stuff, as such. I don’t mind choice, or using money as a means of exchange, or even buying crap which I know won’t work, since that’s my own stupid fault. I just expect the grasping capitalist bastards at the top to be a little less patronising. And, of course, to look a whole lot more like Johnny Depp.

Hate the way you look? Best get over it now

You know that thing you have, when you think you’re fat and ugly and totally unfit to be seen in public? Well, here’s some news: it never, ever ends.

Like me, you might have thought there’d be some vaguely-defined point – getting thin, finding your own style, meeting your Fairy Godmother – when it would get sorted. But no. Sorry. Feel shit now? It’s quite possible that you always will. Why did you ever think it would stop?

You may have counted on the ageing process to put everything in perspective. God knows, this is what I’ve been placing my bets on. I thought that once I actually looked the way I half-think I look anyhow, I’d be forced to accept it at last. Turns out I was wrong. According to Professor Nicola Rumsey, co-director of the University of West England’s Centre for Appearance Research (which is, one imagines, one massive lab lined with mirrors), older people remain as hung up on their appearance as the rest of us. In fact, once you start getting proper wrinkles, as opposed to “first signs of ageing” mini-creases, the way you feel can get worse. You don’t just think “ah, fuck it, battle’s already lost!”, which is certainly what I’d hoped. Quoted in The Observer, Rumsey says the following:

It can cause substantial distress to look in the mirror and see an ageing body, especially if [people] have very visible conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or an obvious skin condition, for example, yet in the UK we can be very dismissive of what is often construed as vanity. GPs are not trained to deal with the psychological impact of these anxieties, which can have a significant influence on overall wellbeing.

Well. How’s that for a total fucker? I’m scared enough of death itself. Now I’ll be torturing myself on my deathbed for wasting not half my life, but my whole life worrying about my appearance. Plus I’ll still be worrying about it then, and about whether the morphine’s making my complexion look even worse.

This is such a contrast to the usual message we hear. Plonked in the midst of a youth-obsessed culture, magazines such as Good Housekeeping and Woman and Home present us with “well-preserved” women in their forties and fifties claiming that they’ve never felt better. They’re now comfortable in their own skins, and don’t put themselves under the same pressures any more. Those “mature skin” serums that are being advertised on the following pages? Well, don’t take them seriously. The magazine editors don’t. They’re just suggesting you part with fifty quid for the sheer hell of it.

My nan is in her nineties. She swears that she got this far by dyeing her hair (it’s deep red and it’s ace). She still cares about how she looks. I’ve always known this, yet I’ve considered it something of an anomaly. I’ve always looked at her and thought “she looks good, but when I’m her age I’ll just be stuffing myself on Werther’s”. Except now it seems entirely plausible that I won’t.

Why can’t being old enable one to put things in perspective? I mean, I could try to put things in perspective now, I suppose. But it’s too hard! I thought you magically got perspective upon hitting 60! And I thought this applied to everything! Love, money, career, all of it – I want to stop giving a shit, albeit without it involving any actual effort on my part! I thought the simple fact of getting older would do it. It’s sooooo not fair! *teenage stomp*

I am so pissed off about this. It’s all such a total swizz, this life business. A total swizz, and then you just cease being. Actually, that sounds quite philosophical, for me. Maybe I will buck the trend after all.

Let them eat lipgloss

Unless you’re David Cameron, life on Earth is but a vale of tears. Famine, war, injustice, sorrow, all culminating in infirmity and death. It’s a total bummer. How do we manage, each one of us, to get through each day? Well, I do so by blogging about the things that matter. Such as the correct naming of the substance applied to lips in order to make them a more appealing hue.

Can I ask if you’re wearing any of this substance right now? Or at least if you were doing so, earlier today, before drinking, eating, snogging etc. rubbed it, and all promises of 12-hour endurance, away? What was it called? What word, precisely, followed the prefix lip-? Was it pencil, gloss, stick, balm, tint, stain, shimmer? Or was it butter? That’s the trendiest one, I reckon. It’s also by far the worst.

Lip butter – it’s ridiculous, isn’t it? What next? Lip margarine? Lip lard? Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me. After all, it’s such a stupid naming strategy. The product is meant to make your lips “baby soft”, which sounds creepy enough in itself. But this doesn’t even take into account what butter is like. It’s not baby soft and shimmery. In fact, it’s rather greasy, in a way that works fine with toast and fried mushrooms, but not with lips. It’s important to recognise this, people; let’s not confuse our lips with toast.

I’m writing this now because this morning I found myself in Boots and nearly fell into a lip butter stand on my way to select a suitably low-calorie lunch.* And of course the irony of this hit me. Here I am, surrounded by lip butter and 2000 Calorie Mascara, and in practice I’m meant to be starving myself. What the hell is going on?

In a culture in which the beauty ideal for women involves being thin, it’s interesting to note how many beauty products are marketed using the desirability of things we’re not meant to eat or be. As well as the 2000 Calorie version, we have Fat Lash Mascara. Clinique sell us Chubby Sticks, while Benefit give us a blusher called Sugarbomb. Lancôme Juicy Tubes offer all the sweet delights you could ask for. And then Bourjois produce Délice de Poudre, a face powder made to look like a chocolate bar. To be honest, all this is starting to get to me. If chocolate’s so bad, why should my make-up need to look like it? And if it’s not so bad, why can’t I just sodding well eat it?

Other than in early 1990s Boddington’s adverts, you never get beauty products that look like cigarettes, booze or savoury food. I don’t know why this is. The Cornish pasty would make an ideal shape for an eyeshadow palette. And what about lip ketchup? Or cheek pesto? I imagine none of these foodstuffs are considered girly enough. Sweet things are what we’re mean to eat for indulgence, even though we’re told not to. We do it because we don’t measure up.

I think, though, even after we’ve stuffed our faces on Galaxy in secret, we’re still hungry, because however much of it you eat, that food remains, psychologically, off-limits. So we fetishise it all the more and buy products that continue to “feed” us (I wonder if following the Atkins diet would make one less likely to purchase lip butter, but more likely to go for Délice de Poudre?).

At the end of it all most of us are fat. Fat, and wearing products labelled “fat”. And thus we shuffle through this miserable life. Still, at least there’s Jarvis Cocker.

* Note the term “found myself”. Being in Boots is never my fault.

Snow White and the Huntsman: Shitting Crikey

‘Shitting crikey’ is not a term I use liberally. First coined, I believe, in 2003, by a friend during the particularly tense Rugby World Cup Finals, it is used to express extreme stress, shock or horror. Such a term should not be used willy-nilly, lest it lose its impact. Hence I’ve never used it on this blog before. However, my partner and I have just been to the cinema to see Snow White and the Huntsman. Our shared response? SHITTING CRIKEY.

Last Friday my parents offered to look after the children so that my partner and I could go out for a meal. The cinema was a last-minute add-on, something which just popped into out heads because hey, you gotta be spontaneous once the kids are out of the way. We chose Snow White and the Huntsman because nothing else was still showing by the time we’d finished eating. That is the best excuse I can offer. I did kind of know the film would be crap. Just not shitting crikey crap.

I imagine the internet is full of appalled feminist reviews of this film. I lay no claim to originality (except, perhaps, in my use of ‘shitting crikey’ in this particular context). But the fact is, I sat through this film. I really suffered. So I deserve my reviewing moment (plus, if you’re considering seeing it, don’t bother. I’ll provide all the details below so you don’t have to go).

To make sure I don’t miss anything, I’ve decided to go through the film step by step. Please enjoy (although I sure as hell didn’t).

1. Beautiful fairytale queen pricks her finger on rose bush. 

The normal pleb response to such an occurrence is to go “ow, my finger!” and give it a good suck to stop the bleeding. If you are a fairytale queen, however, you allow the blood to drip dramatically onto the winter snow before wishing, Victoria Beckham-style, for a daughter with lips as red as blood, hair as black as ebony and skin as white as snow i.e. a daughter who, if she were to have a Colour Me Beautiful style consultation, would be placed in the “clear” category and advised to wear bright clothing in order to avoid appearing clownish. This being a fairy tale, the queen has such a daughter. She christens her Snow White (in the film) and buys her an aqua pashmina to complement her high-contrast colouring (not in the film, but probably true).

2. Beautiful queen dies.

From winter and coughing in a ladylike fashion, it would appear. Everyone is sad. But hey, not to worry. The king soon finds a new bride, a woman who’s posing as the prisoner of a ghostly army he defeats. He marries her within a day of meeting her, on the basis that she looks like Charlize Theron (not that he’s superficial or anything).

3. New queen kills king on their wedding night.

In what Daily Mail reviewer Christopher Tookey describes as “her own, highly individual take on women’s rights”, Queen Ravenna (Theron) tells her new husband that men use women, value them only for their beauty and then dump them for younger models. To be honest, I don’t consider this to be a “highly individual” viewpoint, and imagine you’d be hard pressed to find a feminist who didn’t believe this to be a reality for many women. Particularly for Hollywood actresses. Even more particularly for extraordinarily beautiful Hollywood actresses, who may have won an Oscar for “minging up” a few years back but who now find themselves on the wrong side of 35, faced with the genuine prospect of becoming less attractive and less in demand (not saying any names). I don’t find the idea that men exploit and then discard economically and socially less-advantaged women the minute the wrinkles start to appear an “individual take” on gender relations at all. What I do find “highly individual” is the intimation that any woman who makes such an observation is actually a murderous harpy who’s about to stab her husband in the heart. You don’t get any of this pseudo-wimmin’s lib bollocks in Disney’s Snow White. Quite frankly, I’d prefer some random “I’m evil, mwah hah hah!” outburst to this antifeminist shite.

4. Queen Ravenna imprisons Snow White until she’s old enough, but not too old, to play the female lead in a Hollywood blockbuster.

In the intervening years Ravenna keeps young and beautiful using a combination of Botox, Crème de la mer and sucking the essence from gorgeous young maidens, leaving them wizened old husks. Actually, I made that up. She doesn’t do the first two as they’re a bit far-fetched and don’t really work. She does the last one, though, and it seems pretty effective (you have to get the right maidens, though. Lily Cole, for instance, who’s in the film – she’s the Lancôme Prevage of maidens. Me at 18, well, you’d be thinking more Nivea Q10, at best).

In a bonus misogynist twist, it’s suggested that Ravenna’s belief that beauty is power is all a personal delusion. The director has added in special camera views so that, while Ravenna’s talking to the ridiculous CGI mirror, you see it from a different angle and it looks like she’s talking to herself, meaning this “being the fairest of them all” crap is all in her head. So she’s a delusional moron as well as a murderous bitch! This is very odd, though, when you consider the actual plot of the film. Ravenna can only be killed “by fairest blood”, i.e. Snow White. Snow White’s authority clearly doesn’t come from being beautiful on the inside, whatever that might mean. It comes from appearing before people, or dwarves, or trolls, and possibly saying fuck all, but happening to look like Kristen Stewart. How to make sense of it all?

These, I think, are the essential conclusions to draw:

  1. For women, beauty is power
  2. For women, acknowledging that beauty is power means you’re mad
  3. For women, attempting to do something to preserve your own power within this paradigm means you’re evil
  4. For women, life is a total fucker

Meanwhile, Kristen Stewart’s locked in the tower, getting prettier and prettier, despite the mud and squalour. She probably has BO, though, given the lack of facilities. That’s what crossed my bitchy wrong-side-of-35 mind when seeing her in her cell.

5. Snow White escapes from the castle and into a perfume advert.

Ravenna decides that permanent youth and beauty can be hers if she consumes Snow White’s heart. Which is a bit extreme. After all, the scientists at Proctor & Gamble are working day and night to “smooth the way to younger-looking skin”. Hold off with the heart-eating, queenie! What’s that? You’ve got a kingdom to subjugate and just don’t have the time to wait for the clinical trials? I suppose that’s a fair excuse.

Snow White doesn’t want her heart to be eaten, though. So she breaks out of the palace, with a sponge and rusty spanner (oh, okay, a rusty nail, and no sponge, but a bonus Smiths reference would have raised the film slightly in my estimation). Breaking out of the palace by the sea is hard, though, and involves jumping into wild, crashing waves when there’s nowhere left to run. It’s unclear how Snow White survives this. Presumably even the waves recognise her superior beauty, especially since once she’s been made wet and non-muddy, she looks extra gorgeous and not at all in need of one of those special shampoos that gets salt water out of your hair.

Once she’s out of the ocean, she spots a pure white horse sitting on the sands. So she rides off on him, using the equestrian skills she picked up while incarcerated in a tiny cell for the past decade, while the narrator intones “Fairest blood. The new fragrance from Lacoste”. Except he doesn’t. But he should.

6. Ravenna goes completely mental and briefly turns into the baddie from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Faced with a young man from the village, Ravenna does that thing where you make your hand into a claw shape and hold it over your opponent’s heart, making it beat faster and faster until finally it stops. This worked okay in Indiana Jones but looks a bit incongruous here. Plus it adds extra confusion because the man she kills looks quite a lot like Snow White’s childhood sweetheart William. In fact, both my partner and I, quite independently, decided it was him. So then when William did appear later in the film we both thought he had risen from the dead and was hence a baddie in disguise. But he wasn’t! He was just William! (although not just William from the Just William books – don’t want to add that in as an extra layer). But as if that wasn’t bad enough, just to mess things up all over again, Ravenna disguises herself as William to give Snow White the poison apple, so then he is a baddie in disguise. Only he isn’t, because that’s not really William, it’s Ravenna, and there’s still a William who isn’t a baddie in disguise. Do you follow all this? Cause we didn’t. They should have got an actor who looked more different. Or just not bothered with the Indiana Jones scene at all.

7. Snow White ends up in the Dark Forest, where she meets the Huntsman.

In Disney’s Snow White, made in 1937, the dark forest scene is amazing. It’s just a person’s drawing of some trees, albeit with the branches made to look like fingers reaching out, and the bark distorted to look like faces. But it’s absolutely terrifying. It’s done with such verve and such passion, and with such a focus on the cartoon Snow White’s own fears and perspective. It’s not just someone sitting around thinking “hmm, are there any special effects I can borrow from the Harry Potter movies?”, which is what you get here.

So the dark forest is not that scary. It’s just a bit yuck, with insects and smoke machines and general ickiness. But it’s where Snow White meets the Huntsman, who’s been sent by the queen to find her. If you can remember the Robin of Sherwood TV series produced by Richard Carpenter in the early 80s, the Huntsman is basically Will Scarlett off that. A medieval man of action who’s got anger issues, but also a sensitive side because he’s lost his beloved wife. It’s particularly weird because Ray Winstone, who played Will Scarlett, also appears in this film, only as a dwarf. How the mighty have fallen. Or, in this case, shrunk.

The Huntsman is also a bit of an alcoholic, which is quite an achievement given that he’s in a kingdom where the crops have all failed. Furthermore, his hipflask never appears to run dry. If I were Snow White, I’d have asked for a swig, but she’s quite judgmental about the whole thing, curiously so, since what would she know about booze? (Perhaps a fellow prisoner gave her PSHE and horseriding lessons through the wall of an adjoining cell.)

One other thing to note: As soon as she meets the Huntsman, Snow White becomes crap at fighting and stuff, having originally been really plucky during her castle escape. Now she’s pants at everything other than being beautiful. He gives her a knife and tells her how to use it and she’s all “ooh, I couldn’t”. Then he rips her skirt to help her negotiate the boggy ground and when she looks freaked out by this, he says “don’t flatter yourself” (ha ha! Because worrying that a complete stranger who’s just ripped your skirt might be about to rape you is really fucking arrogant!). Snow White is better than the Huntsman at defeating a massive Harry Potter troll, though. She does this by looking deep into the troll’s eyes and awakening his sensitive, compassionate side. Although to be fair, given that’s the case, he’s not much of a sodding troll to begin with, is he?

8. Snow White and the Huntsman reach the hippy commune of mingy women.

No, I don’t remember this from any of the books, either. Snow White and the Huntsman leave the forest, having killed Ravenna’s weirdo brother (with whom you suspect there’d have been some kind of incest subplot – cf. Gladiator – had the film-makers had sufficient time and arsedness). They are rescued by some hippy-ish women who’ve all got scarred faces, having deliberately made themselves ming in order to escape Ravenna’s wrath (Samantha Brick, are you reading this? It’s an idea, isn’t it?). The self-made mingers all live together on the shores of a lake. They’re not lesbians, though – their menfolk are all away “fighting” or something. You get the impression this is the kind of place Oprah Winfrey would like. You also get the impression that this shit community of ugly birds constitutes the film’s first half-hearted nod to feminism. See, we don’t hate women! Look how empowered the scar-faced women are! They probably do Race for Life and everything! Only the women are useless when the village is attacked and the Huntsman (who is at this point stomping off in dugeon – can’t quite remember why) has to return and single-handedly save the day, as only a lone drunkard can in the face of some serious medieval warfare. Then he and Snow White run off, as the latter’s non-minginess is a risk to the mingy women’s way of life (why Snow White doesn’t consider self-mutilation is not made clear. Perhaps then Ravenna would feel less threatened and everything would be okay. Except Kristen Stewart would ming, marginally, and that would be a bit shit. And the film would have to end there, and it’d be like saying in order not to make trouble, all women should make themselves ming, at least a bit. And anyhow, if you’re going to advise women to deliberately defy common beauty standards, self-scarring seems a painful way to do it. Me, I’d rather just get ravaged and ugly by drinking from one of those never-ending hipflasks).

9. Finally we get to meet the seven (or is it eight?) dwarfs.

Did you think Celtic fetishisation bollocks sank to a watery grave with Titanic in 1997? Well, you were wrong. The dwarfs don’t all have hammy Oirish accents, but they might as well have. They are cute little leprechauns living in a sunny glen, the same one, perhaps, that features on the B*witched video for C’est la vie. To pass the time they play on the fiddle, dance and reminisce about the old days, long before the evil English, sorry, Ravenna destroyed their mining industry.

One of the dwarfs is blind but he can “see” better than the others. He “knows” that Snow White is the one who can save them all. Which is nice. The rest of the dwarfs just fancy her cause she’s fit. One of them even dances with her. In the Disney film, the dwarfs stand one on top of another to dance, so that they end up being the same height as Snow White. In this film, this one dwarf just takes advantage of the height difference and buries his head in Snow White’s tits. It’s all a bit uncomfortable. Snow White doesn’t appear to fancy the dwarf. Would it be a form of discrimination to tell him to stop being such a perv? Or is letting a complete stranger bury his head in your tits just the kind of generous act anyone in possession of “fairest blood” should undertake, given the number of sad lonely men there are out there? Come on, girls! Get yer tits out for the lonely leprechauns of the C’est la vie glen!

Unfortunately, the dwarf who dances with Snow White is killed by one of Ravenna’s men. Snow White comforts him in his dying moments (although not, thankfully, with her tits). I’m not sure whether there were seven dwarfs before this one dies (meaning we’re left with an unsatisfactory six), or whether there were eight and dwarf slaughter has left us with the requisite seven. To be honest, I never took the time to count. I spent most of the dwarf glen scene with my head in my hands, although that’s not as bad as my partner, who was actually asleep (it is tragic. We get one night off from childcare, one night in which to be a couple again, and we spend it in front of the Oirish Dwarf Glen of Misogynist Hell, me with my head in my hands, him snoring. Just fucking great).

10. Ravenna starts bingeing.

Not on food – on beautiful young maidens, the ones from whom she sucks all the good stuff until they become as rubbish as all post-menopausal women most certainly are. You get to see her standing the centre of a room, looking gorgeous but with a pile of now-ravaged girls at her feet. My partner had half woken up at this point and leaned over to murmur “should’ve at least tried Protect and Perfect”.

In terms of how the film treats Charlize Theron, there is, one can’t help feeling, a real sadism. The director is constantly cutting to close-ups of her face for evil “ageing” scenes, then cutting away to show Kristen Stewart looking young and perfect. Theron is still very beautiful but the power shift is obvious, both in the film and on the red carpet. In an interview with In Style magazine, she says of her role “there’s something really nice about the freedom of excusing behaviour that you would never, ever do yourself. I mean, the way I yelled at people in this movie – I would never do that in real life!” Which I’m sure she wouldn’t – she’d be out of a job. But if I were her, I’d desperately want to be yelling all the same. She is very good as Ravenna, but to be honest, you have to wonder how much of it, the anger in particular, really is acting.

11. Non-evil William appears on the scene.

So we’ve established that he’s not that other bloke who dies earlier, brought back from the dead. But he’s still absolutely bloody pointless (in fact, perhaps back-from-the-dead bloke would have been more interesting). William is Snow White’s childhood sweetheart who’s come out to rescue her, but the trouble is, she’s already got the Huntsman now. Cue minor amounts of unspoken jealousy and that’s about it. It’s a love triangle in which nothing at all happens. It’s worse than the Johnny Depp/ Orlando Bloom/ Keira Knightley triangle in Pirates of the Caribbean. Although it’s obvious that William is the Orlando Bloom in all this.

In what may be the film’s second misguided nod to feminism amidst all the blatant misogyny, it’s worth noting that Snow White does not end up marrying either man. The film ends with her being crowned queen (by a clerical authority which for some reason did not disintegrate during all the years of Ravenna’s crazy rule). Personally I think it’s a waste. While a woman’s whole worth shouldn’t be based on her looks, let’s face it, Snow White is fit, William is fit, the Huntsman is fit. At least two if not all three of them should be getting a good seeing-to out of this.

12. Snow White eats the apple.

Actually, this scene’s okay. Ravenna poses as William and gives Snow White a bright red apple. The latter takes a bite but then the apple rots in her hand and she falls, poisoned, to the ground. At this point William changes into Ravenna and for a brief moment (if you’re me or my partner) you think “so hang on, was William in fact Ravenna all along??” But then real William appears and you think “damn, so that boring sod’s actually a proper character after all”.

William tries snogging Snow White but it doesn’t revive her, although this is to be expected. After all, he’s no Johnny Depp/ Huntsman.

13. Snow White comes back to life and has another perfume advert moment.

Snow White might be dead but she gets an ace white nightie. Where she gets it from I don’t know. Probably the same place that supplies the never-ending booze flasks. Anyhow, she’s brought to the nearby town and people come to pay their respects. You know she’s not properly dead, though. That wouldn’t be right, what with her being young and pretty and stuff. And they’re not going to change the story that much, even though William’s proven to be a bit of a non-starter Prince Charming-wise.

Obviously it’s the Huntsman who awakens Snow White. However, it’s suggested that the “true love” which brings her back to life is not love for her but his love for his dead wife. Which to me seems a bit of a swizz. Get over it, matey!

Upon awakening from her death-like sleep, Snow White goes to stand in the square before all the townspeople. It is dark but she is like a beacon of light and hope in her pristine nightie. At this point the narrator says “Love’s first kiss. The new fragrance from Lacoste”. Except he doesn’t. But he should. Instead we get Snow White inspiring everyone to rebel against the queen so that they can be ruled over by someone who’s not as close to the menopause (in her “older” scenes Ravenna does actually remind me of Mother Nature from the Tampax Pearl adverts, just out to spoil Snow White’s attempts not to stop when her period starts. In fact, when you think about it – older woman, younger girl, lips as red as menstrual blood, skin as white as Tampax – there is a new advertising campaign right in there, just dying to get out).

14. Snow White, William, Huntsman, dwarfs and townspeople storm Ravenna’s castle.

At this point my partner had woken up properly. He’s a medieval historian and felt aggrieved at the poor representation of medieval warfare in this scene, and in particular the failure to take into account the speed with which archers can impede the progress of anyone attempting a direct assault on a solid defence structure. He also felt aggrieved that when the Huntsman makes a pervy comment regarding Snow White looking good in armour, she doesn’t respond with anything similarly saucy. Again, a completely wasted opportunity, rudery-wise.

Snow White kills Ravenna because the latter can only be killed “by fairest blood”. This moment was kind of spoilt for me (and other cinema-goers) by my partner going “fairies’ blood? What have fairies got to do with it? Do they even have blood?” Mind you, the whole film was sort of spoiled on account of it being rubbish and misogynist and hateful, so I’m not going to hold it against my cloth-eared man.

15. Snow White is crowned queen.

Everyone lives happily ever after. Until Kristen Stewart starts minging. Still, there’s always more where that came from, eh, Hollywood?


In terms of vicious, paranoid, sadistic misogyny, this film rivals the Nicholas Cage remake of The Wicker Man. This really worries me, since I haven’t even seen that many films in recent years. What if they’re all like that? What will we do then? I mean, what if, for instance, this isn’t even the only Snow White out there? What if they’ve made another one, one with, I don’t know, Julia Roberts in the role of the evil queen? What if they’ve done that?

*goes to consult cinema listings*


Great article in this month’s Glamour…

Not a joke title, btw. There is, quite seriously, a very good piece in the June edition of Glamour, and by that I don’t mean one of those ‘serious’ articles about depression or domestic violence ( i.e. the ones which still manage to be shit but which you don’t really want to criticise for fear of looking like a knob). This is a Glamour article on Glamour issues and it genuinely is great. This is perhaps because it’s written by Zoe Williams, who is quite far from being your usual Glamour writer.

In the piece, Williams tries to live like a celebrity for a week. So far, so potentially annoying. She does all the “celebrity” stuff like having a personal trainer, getting acupuncture, eating “special” food etc. At this point it really doesn’t sound good. It all sounds like an excuse for a journalist to piss about, really. Or for one of them to get all ‘Louis Theroux’ and take ‘a sideways look’ at the crazy world of celebrity rituals. Yet Williams doesn’t do either of these things. She has fun, a bit, but overall seems to find it all a bit sad and pointless, and she makes it obvious to the reader why that might be so (far more eloquently than Britney Spears did with that terrible ‘Lucky’ song, where the superstar ‘cries in her lonely world’ and pisses off everyone in the entire Cosmimegaverse).

Williams discovers that her entire time as a ‘celebrity’ is devoted to how she looks:

In other words, just getting into the kind of condition to do a job that requires you to look like this is, in itself, a full-time job. Then I suppose you’d spend a few months doing your actual job, by which time you’d be back to square one.

Put that way, I’d prefer some half-hearted, ineffectual faffing around with my new Bad Gal mascara (free with the magazine!) before getting on with my day. Because yes, celebrities look better than I do (generally), but they probably don’t feel any better:

But in the end, it’s not the effort or the time so much as the sheer anxiety about your appearance that I think would get you down. There’s no escaping it; you cannot look rubbish, not even for a minute […] There is so much pampering and attention, that in the end you’d either have to give in to it and believe you were that important, or you’d have to reject it, and not believe anything anyone said. It’s a bit of a stark choice.

To sum up, Williams simply says “I don’t think it’s much fun”. Which is sad given that the rest of this month’s Glamour is devoted to the magazine’s Women of the Year, women such Amanda Holden, Kylie Minogue, Fearne Cotton, Holly Willoughby, Lea Michele and Eva Longoria, ie women who are no doubt having precisely the utterly not-fun time that Williams describes so well (Caitlin Moran is also a Woman of the Year, but she’s the exception that proves the rule. God, I hate it when people use that expression).

I’ve often suspected that being a female celebrity feels rubbish due to the focus on appearance, but the thing I’ve always dwelt on is the hunger. Being celebrity-thin has to involve thinking about food pretty much all the time. I wonder how celebrities maintain relationships since being so skinny must kill a person’s sex drive (perhaps that’s the real reason for so many divorces). To be honest, I wonder how celebrities do anything. And up till now I hadn’t even considered all the other ‘appearance’ bollocks.

Obviously there are still times when I imagine myself being famous. But I would, quite clearly, have to be a) talented, and b) a celebrity minger, as it’s the only way I’d be able to cope. But then being a minger would have to be a central part of my celebrity. It would make me “down to earth” and into someone who “doesn’t care” about what her detractors say. I’d have to be a sodding role model, but then I’d also get lumped together with people as diverse as Ann Widdecombe and Beth Ditto as someone who “dares to challenge the beauty status quo”. Because just looking the way I look, right now, would be a political act if I was doing anything at all of note. And when you look at it like that, being ugly and famous is probably just as much effort as being beautiful and famous, only in a different way.

Hence this, and not being talented, is why I’m not being famous. I’m just going to stay here, sitting on the sofa with my netbook, while my three-year-old feeds me ice-cream (it’s important I eat it; I’m the first customer at his ‘shop’). Unfortunately I think that, just a moment ago, he also fed me a bit of snot. I bet that never happens to Amanda Holden. So yeah, famous or not famous; I guess it’s just swings and roundabouts.

Oi, Courtney Cox! Wanna go halves on a pashmina?

Hey everyone! Did you know that I look like Courtney Cox? I didn’t, at least not until today. This perhaps because I’ve been suffering from low self-esteem. Alas, others have yet to see the ressemblance, presumably because they’re all suffering from low me-esteem. But they will work it out, eventually. Once I stop wearing crap clothes and looking like a clown.

This morning I received a free Colour Me Beautiful image consultation as part of an employment “health and wellbeing” day (the alternative option I could have taken was a free BMI, cholesterol and blood pressure check. Er, bo-ring!). I arrived at the stand, my consultant sat me down and promptly opened a book to reveal a massive picture of Ms Cox, while exclaiming “that’s you!”. For the record, it isn’t actually me. I’ve not been in Friends or Scream or some ongoing series about how I now need to shag younger men cos I’m in my forties and it’s liberating or something. That’s not me. I think what the consultant meant is “you look like her!”. But not in the sense of “you’re really pretty”. More, in the sense of “you and her share the same colour type” (perhaps I will tweet Courtney later and see if she fancies swapping clothes).

There are six colour “types”. Me and Courtney are both “clear”. This means we can wear full-on, in-yer-face shades without looking like total clowns, or rather, to be more specific, we need to wear full-on, in-yer-face shades to avoid looking like clowns (our own colouring is so “high contrast”, y’see). Indeed, the “clown effect” was mentioned several times. I found it very illuminating. I used to think people didn’t take me seriously because of what I said and did, but no; it’s because I’ve been wearing pastels.

The consultation lasted half an hour (perhaps it lasts longer if it’s not free). Much of it involved sitting in front of a mirror and having various cloth samples held against me so that I could see how the different shades affected my complexion. To be honest, I pretended to notice the difference more than I actually did. It would have been rude to say  “sorry, I wasn’t concentrating on which bit of cloth you were holding when. I got distracted by how old I look and was wondering whether the lighting here is particularly harsh”. Still, now and then, I could actually see the consultant’s point. Yes! I can wear red! (As long as it’s ruby and hence completely different from all of the reds I actually own.)

Obviously all of this is scientific fact and in no way meant to get you to buy more clothes, especially not the Colour Me Beautiful pashmina in the appropriate shade for your colour type, £24.99 (perhaps Courtney will go halves). It has made me want to buy more clothes because all of the ones I have right now are wrong and make me look like Krusty in the Simpsons when I could be looking like Monica relaxing with Chandler and Rachel in Central Perk. But the really funny thing is, overall this has made me feel quite good, regardless of whether I get new stuff or not. It has given me a boost, if only because I’ve realised that finally, I don’t give a toss about not looking like someone off TV. When she said “that’s you!” I just wanted to laugh, but in a good way. At long last, I think this feminism thing is finally starting to work (but Courtney, I mean it about the clothes share. I bet you don’t have any Primark. I’d see you right).

PS Isn’t Colour Me Beautiful an awful, awful name? Nothing should be called Colour Me anything after Colour Me Badd topped the charts with the dire “I wanna sex you up” in 1990. Since then, any phrase starting with Colour Me… is just plain wrong.

Beauty editors: What are you on? And can I have some?

Two weeks ago my moisturiser ran out and I’ve yet to buy a replacement. Thus over the past fortnight I’ve noticed the following things: an increase in the “appearance of visible fine lines”; a decrease in “radiance”; the terrifying onslaught of the “seven signs of ageing”. Actually, none of that’s true. All I’ve noticed is that I have fewer spots, presumably because I’m no longer clogging my pores to treat a moisture deficiency that doesn’t exist. Perhaps I’ll never buy moisturiser again.

Now, obviously, you may be thinking “that sounds a bit rash. What about the long-term signs of ageing – the ones she can’t see yet? Shouldn’t she be protecting her skin so that the damage that is inevitable doesn’t become even worse than it will inevitably be, or at least we assume it will inevitably be, not that there’s any way of proving this unless she has an identical twin to use as a test control, and even then we’d have to make sure they were both smoking, drinking, exercising, breathing in exactly the same way, all the time…” Hey! Just chill! I’m on the case. My foundation still has SPF. And besides, the weather’s shit so the sun’s never out anyhow.

Of course, there’s another reason I’m feeling a bit more relaxed about tackling the onslaught of time. I’ve just finished reading Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman. Her chapter on ageing – called “Interventions” – is fucking ace. You read it and think “hey! I want to be a wise wrinkly sage, not some insecure girl-woman! Saggy jowls? Bring ’em on! It’s a sign of having finally made it!”. Alas, for me at least, this effect hasn’t lasted. I look at pictures of Caitlin Moran and think “yeah, it’s okay for you. You have great hair and superior eyeliner skills. When you are old you WILL look like a wise woman not to be messed with. Me, I’ll just look like some old biddy to whom no one listens. And I won’t even be able to complain because no one will be listening”. So that’s not the reason I’m more relaxed, not directly. The thing is, though, in the absence of How to be a Woman, I’ve started flicking through that June issue of Marie Claire in bed (i.e. the one I go on about so much on this blog they’ll probably start demanding some copyright fee [lawyers, that’s a joke]). And perhaps it’s reading it in a different context (in bed, that is, rather than in the bath or on the loo, which is the normal place for magazine-reading), but for some reason, it’s like a lightbulb has gone on. Yes, women’s magazines are offensive. Yes, the beauty advice is unrealistic, bullying and inconsistent. The one thing I never realised quite so much until today, though, is that it’s also absolutely fucking insane!

It’s not that you can’t afford these over-priced serums and moisturisers. It’s not that even if you can, and use them religiously, you’ll never look like these models. It’s that, at its most basic level, what you are being told doesn’t make sense! It’s practically another language! Once you start looking at it with fresh eyes, it really is quite remarkable how far they’ll push complete and utter bollocks. Here, for instance, are just a few of the Rules of Insanity that all beauty editors must learn (all taken from June’s Marie Claire – see, lawyers, I’m acknowledging my sources):

1. Throw in some real science to try to mask the completely made-up science

… the tuning forks are activated at different pressure points to stimulate the waters that make up 80 percent of our bodies. This is called Sonopuncture and I’m told it will be as relaxing as an hour’s meditation.

Extreme Beauty, p. 246

Our bodies are 80 percent water? Don’t they cover that at Key Stage 3? And also on the Lucozade adverts? Well, I’ve always believed that to be true. Must mean that the rest is. Even though it’s obviously total crap.

2. Don’t answer basic questions – just say something completely unrelated

Q. I have only two weeks to lose 7lbs. Do you think that’s possible?

Susie, 36, on p. 232

To which they answer is “yes, Susie. Get your head amputated, that should do the trick”. Or, perhaps better, “yes, Susie. But it is a ridiculous idea. Unless this is a legal requirement and you’re facing the death penalty, please don’t do it”. The answer most definitely is not “The antioxidant-rich Radiance Cleanse Juice Diet – £395 for a five-day plan – packs vitamins and minerals into a tasty five-a-day menu. The Pure Package is a bespoke menu and delivery service designed to address personal goals such as weight loss and detox, while the Beach Goddess Programme  – £399.50 for ten days – is a vitamin-rich diet to give you a holiday glow” (and no this, wasn’t taken from an acknowledged “promotional feature”. This is a genuine “Ask the beauty editors” response. To which this is a genuine “me” response: what the fucking fuck? You didn’t even mention the 7lb!).

3. For every social problem, remember there’s a beauty product to be recommended

Or several, in fact. On pp. 249-250, you are asked which type of boozer you are – “Whinge Drinker, Oversharer, Dancing Queen” – and given advice on how to deal with this. This clearly disregards the fact that if you’re pissed, you don’t have the self-awareness to note and later reflect on what drinking “type” you’ve just represented. The only reasonable advice to give is either drink less or stop giving a fuck (the latter is always easiest when you’re off your face). Rather creatively, Marie Claire have found five different ways to say this, each suited to a particular drinking persona. Even more creatively, they’ve added in an “erase it” feature which tells you which beauty products to purchase in order to lessen the effects of a heavy night. Even more creatively than that, they’ve matched them to the different personas, although without any particular logic. If you tend to overshare when drunk, for instance, you need Dermalogica’s new Overnight Repair Serum, £56, whereas if you get all whingey when drunk you need Nanoblur, £19.99 from Boots (obviously from now on I’ll aspire to be a whingey drunk – it’s much cheaper). I’m wondering what’ll be in July’s issue. Which drug addict type are you? With a special on the best concealers for track marks.

4. Bear in mind that it’s okay to be offensive on several levels if you’re talking “skin science”

There are times we’d all like to take our skin to one side, and, in the words of Michael Winner, tell it to just ‘calm down, dear’. But, stop for a moment and consider that your ‘schizo’ skin might actually be trying to tell you that trying to juggle a work presentation/dinner party for 12 is just way too stressful for your complexion.

Face Savers, p. 242

To be honest, while my skin irritates me at times, I have never wanted to subject it to sexist or ablist abuse. I just haven’t. It’s not just because it’s part of me. It’s because it is wrong.

5. Never challenge celebrities over their complete failure to understand basic words such as ‘lazy’

I’m pretty lazy when it comes to skincare. I’ll start with Aromatherapy Associates Renewing Rose Cleanser (I’ve got one of those Clarisonic things but I think I was going a bit overboard with it) and I love Skin Ceuticals stuff. But my favourite serum is one by Linda Meredith, which I add to my moisturiser. I also take Suqqu’s Lip Essence Cream everywhere I go.

Sienna Miller, p. 239

Quite honestly, I’m appalled at Sienna Miller’s skincare laziness. She should be washing her face in fresh mountain dew collected by elves. And I’m not interested in just the “favourite” serum; I want the full top ten. And as for carrying one lip treatment everywhere she goes; I’m never without at least six lip glosses. Always mistaking them for pens, though, of which I’m always short. Juicy Tubes are rubbish when it comes to taking minutes.


It is rare that I will quote Peter Andre to sum up my view on an issue (perhaps I should do it more often). Anyhow, I’m doing it now: THIS IS INSANIA! :

Take a look around, at what technology is found

Is it what we need or are we killing the scene?

Dictated by the screen, no more following your dreams

The world has become a difficult place to be

Where are we going, does anyone care?

Hold on to real love, there’s so much to share

Thank you, Peter. Never a truer word was composed in a fake jungle and later released as a single. I open Marie Claire and I think “this is insania!”. Especially when there’s so much love to share. And so much money to spend on working out what my drinker type is, now that I’m no longer throwing it down the drain on moisturiser.

Glossy magazines: Not dead yet

Last night my partner and I were in the bathroom, watching our children in the bath but also managing to flick through this June’s copy of Glamour. This was done in a manner that was in no way neglectful or dangerous. We’d even got to the feature on “best dressed celebrities” when the following insightful conversation arose:

ME If you squint and don’t read the actual words, it looks like a “most thin people” countdown. Excluding Kim Kardashian, who is a bit less thin and therefore “curvy”.

PARTNER What does Kim Kardashian do?

ME Dunno. Let’s make a pact never to find out. It’ll be like never watching The Matrix. There are some cultural phenomena about which we’ll comment without ever knowing the truth.

HIM Yeah, let’s. It’s weird, though. Kim Kardashian’s in the best and worst dressed lists.

ME So are Kristen Stewart and Emma Watson. Although if you compare the two lists, Watson and Stewart are dressed more badly than people whom they’re also better dressed than. How does that work?

HIM Dunno. It’s like –

[sudden interruption from furious, Matey-covered four-year old]

ELDEST SON Mummy and Daddy! Will you stop talking such SILLINESS!

As you might have gathered, Mummy and Daddy “talking silliness” is a common feature in our household. Nevertheless, never before has it been challenged with so much passion. From the mouth of babes, eh? (Or possibly not. I have a terrible suspicion that “from the mouth of babes” has been tainted forever as a phrase due to its use in some lads’ mag for a “women say the funniest things” feature.)

Eldest is clearly in keeping with the public “mood”. The knives are out for glossy mags. Okay, maybe not the knives, but the cocktail sticks at least. In yesterday’s Observer, Eva Wiseman wrote about how time stands still in women’s magazines. It’s a good article. Mind you, the magazine she mentions, and even the first quote she uses, are things I already identified as crap in a post last week (so, yeah, Eva, quit copying!). Although for some reason Eva doesn’t actually name names (either it’s unprofessional or, what’s obviously more likely, she doesn’t want people to trace her piece back to my extremely famous post). So anyhow, I will reveal the true identities for you: the magazine’s Marie Claire and the Carrie Bradshaw wannabe tosspot is called Lindsey Kelk. So now you know.

Wiseman asserts that reading a glossy magazine “is like entering a time machine. You look down at a page and lose a decade”. I’d go much further than that. I don’t think they’ve changed since at least the late 1980s, which is when I first became aware of them. Oh, alright then, two things have changed:

  1. advice on sun tanning (now it’s all about getting a St Tropez spray tan, whereas it used to be Week 1 in Malaga on Factor 4, Week 2 on Factor 2 and final day on chip fat for that ultimate holiday glow)
  2. advice on tackling cellulite (cellulite was invented in an editorial meeting in 1988 and it’s taken the beauty industry a while to catch up)

Other than that, it’s all the same. Isn’t that depressing?

Well, not for Wiseman. She thinks the situation’s getting better because women are losing interest:

Along with many publications (yeah, hi), their sales continue to drop, but I wonder if this is in part because they ignore the growing awareness not only that women are choosing to opt out of the life they draw for us, with the weddings, the diets and the sexual attraction to shoes, but that lots of us have found alternative places to chatter about it. On Twitter. On blogs like The Vagenda, which hits such nerves that the writer of their post about body hair was invited to show off her armpits on This Morning.

Hmm. I have to admit, I’m not so sure about all this. Surely part of the reason why sales are dropping is not because we’re all turning to The Vagenda (which, let’s face it, is just having a moment because some woman who doesn’t shave her armits is considered a national freak show), but because there are lots of places on the internet where we can find the same old shit the glossies used to give us.* With blogging, for instance, surely one of the most pernicious trends of recent years is the rise of the style blogger, the woman who claims she’s encouraging us to be “individual” but is actually telling us that every day – every sodding day – you’re on a fucking catwalk? And there’s no escape.

So what’s the way forward? Well, look. My son is four. HE can see it’s all nothing but “silliness”. Shouldn’t we be catching the kids while they know, innately, that it’s just ALL WRONG? Let’s harness this feeling of “it’s shit” and run with it. Ladies and gentlemen, when it comes to glossy magazines, we need some education!

To get us started, here is a summary of our leading glossies, what they are and what they do. Pay attention. There will be a short quiz to follow:

Marie Claire “Think smart, look amazing.” That is what they tell us. No, Marie Claire. “Think critically, wear clean pants.” That is the way forward.

Glamour The essence of Glamour is best captured by the regular “Hey, it’s okay..” feature near the start, in which readers are “humorously” given permission to do things which they always assumed were okay but now of course don’t. Often it’s “okay” to do things that Glamour tells you aren’t “okay” a few pages later (eating’s often one of these). Glamour is your evil, manipulative “best friend” who “only wants what’s best for you”. She can fuck right off.

Cosmo Older than Glamour, yet has somehow ended up being Glamour’s trashy younger sister. Intermittently does vaguely feminist things, like supporting pro-choice campaigns and being cross about domestic violence. Intermittently allows Irma Kurz to tell rape victims they were probably asking for it due to their suggestive behaviour. Very confused. It’s probably the hormones.

Company One long advertisement for River Island.

In Style Like Company, but for older women, therefore with more expensive brands. Works on the curious assumption that when you hit your thirties (i.e. when you have kids and your career stalls and all the men are whizzing off to the boardroom) you suddenly have money to spend on designer labels. Are you going to tell them, or shall I?

Grazia “Britain’s best-selling weekly glossy”, because no one else can be arsed to produce a weekly glossy. Once ran a TV advert in which a posh woman reading Grazia floated down a shoe production line, much to the puzzlement of some old, scummy, poor woman working the line. It was confusing, and also reminiscent of that Two Ronnies/John Cleese class sketch, but without the irony.

Good Housekeeping/Woman and Home You’re older, the kids are about to fly the coop, now’s the time to sit down and reflect on how you’re still a fat minger who hasn’t found her “own style”. And acquire some additional worries, such as not yet owning an Aga.

Those, I believe, are our main culprits (I’ll be running a catch-up course on Red and Elle later). I haven’t yet written the quiz I promised. I’m sorry. I’m too depressed (and fat and my clothes are shit. I can’t possibly do thinking when I’m like this!). Perhaps I’ll hand the running of this course over to my son. Please allow him to stand before you, covered in bubble bath, proudly proclaiming “STOP TALKING SILLINESS. NOW!”

* Since writing this post (and on the advice of someone I had a go at in another post) I have now started following Vagenda Magazine. It is good. I underestimated it (but lest we forget: Marie Claire still exists).

Wear makeup! Don’t wear makeup! Either way you’re screwed

Every morning in our household it’s a rush to get ready (yes, I realise this sounds like the start of a Nutella advert, but bear with me). My sons, being little, are just so needy. Always wanting food, clothing, that sort of shit. And, like, I’m just too busy! Can’t they see I’ve got to smear beige emulsion on my face in order to make it more beige, and to curl my eyelashes so that the blackest black crust in which I’m about to encase them ends up looking dead seductive? What’s with them and all this wanting stuff? And then of course, next thing I know and they’re in my makeup drawer (see blog header – that’s it, folks). And they’re pulling out this and that, asking what it is, and I can’t possibly answer because I’m patting in my Benefit Lip Plump in order to ensure my lips are sufficiently “primed” for the next five minutes, at least until the black coffee washes it all away again. So then my partner, providing he hasn’t buggered off to his training already, tends to step in:

These are things Mummy uses to make herself even more beautiful.

What a charmer, eh? Wouldn’t you like a partner who said that? Well, the thing is, it might sound nice the first time, but honestly, this is starting to really piss me off.

I don’t know what he’s thinking when he says this. Probably something nice and reasonable along these lines:

Don’t want her to feel I’m accusing her of wasting time, but also want her to know I don’t expect her to wear makeup, either, and she looks fine without it.

That’s probably what he thinks. But this is what I hear:

Women, eh? Always faffing about with makeup, even though we men don’t give a shit and it doesn’t make much difference either. Tch! I ask you! etc etc.

All this is going through my head, so I end up feeling really grumpy, get lipstain on my teeth and have to start all over again.

This could of course be used as an example of how sodding unreasonable women are, and how men just can’t do anything to please them. Face it, blokes, you just can’t win! Women, they’re a total mystery etc. etc. But thing is, I don’t think this would be strictly fair. First because it’s me I’m talking about and I’m obviously not unreasonable or mysterious. Second because even if my partner’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, then unfortunately so am I and indeed the rest of womankind. I’m damned because I need to wear makeup and I’m damned because I need not to.

Makeup makes me frivolous and idiotic. It makes me into a woman Boots can ridicule in countless adverts while ordering me to buy their lipgloss. It makes me into a woman who believes pseudo-scientific nonsense, or worse still, doesn’t believe it but buys new products anyhow. It makes me laughable to anyone who isn’t under the same social pressure to wear it ie men.

Not wearing makeup is even worse. It makes me into someone who “doesn’t make an effort”. Someone who fails to “make the best of herself”. Someone who doesn’t understand that “the natural look” has bugger all to do with looking natural. It makes me into someone who just hasn’t learned the rules.

When I was in my teens I wasn’t that interested in makeup. If we were going anywhere as a family, my father would have to tell me to “put on some slap”, or I’d be letting the side down. Later on, when I was more into makeup, he’d ridicule the amount of time I spent on it. “You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear”, he’d joke. No, quite clearly, you can’t. And you can’t ever win.

In addition to TV make-over programmes, we now have shows like Snog, Marry, Avoid, the “make-under” programme. Where is this all leading? Can we just take a shortcut and tell women “look, you’re ugly and you’re stupid. From now on, rather than getting you to actively purchase makeup, we’ll just take a percentage of your monthly pay packet and give it to L’Oréal. Let’s just cut out the middlewoman, as she’s starting to get on our nerves“?

Well, halfway through writing this I re-applied some L’Occitane hand cream and some Korres pomegranate tinted lip balm. So I’m still sitting grumpily on the fence, with nowhere to go. Except for one thing. I read a piece by Amanda Platell in the Mail today. That woman is such a bitch. Read it (or ideally, don’t), but then let’s all make a pact never to shave our armpits again.