Tag Archives: beauty

The Mean Girls Morality

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Hello, you.  How’s it going?  Did you remember to eat a balanced breakfast?

When I started attending primary school at the tender age of four and a bit, I felt pretty overwhelmed.  Not by the lessons (organised colouring in and obligatory dressing up sessions?  I’m all over that), or the social aspect (I have four siblings.  Social stuff is a doddle), or even the school dinners (packed lunches for the win).  I was overwhelmed by the older children.  I remember walking into my first ever school assembly and being awestruck by the Year 6 kids.  Who were these impossibly grown up people?

The Year 6 kids got to sit on benches.  They had a different colour tie from the rest of us.  They would soon be leaving to go to – whisper it – big school.  For some reason, they seemed older and wiser to us than the teachers or our parents.  No matter that as an adult I am now friends with people who are the same age – and in some cases, older than – those Year 6 children would be now.  Stephen Fry said something similar in his novel The Liar; the older children from our early lives will live in our memories as the most mature and intimidating people we’ll ever know.  No matter how long I live or how many people I meet, no one will ever be as impressive or as impossibly cool as those bored eleven year-olds who sat at the back of the school hall.

It would be nice to think that, twenty-something years on, I have outgrown the tendency to feel intimidated by ‘cool kids’, but I haven’t.  None of us really have.  This is for two reasons: firstly, I am friends (or friends of friends) with a lot of incredibly talented people, who are nearly famous if not already so.  They deserve to be.  Like I said, they are awesome people.  The second reason is that we live in a society which encourages us to feel small in the wake of giants, whether they be intellectual ones, culturally influential ones or just unnaturally beautiful ones.  Don’t you just hate the beautiful ones?

The problem with the ‘cool kids’ syndrome is that, unless it’s based on actual merit, we are perpetrating a ludicrous fantasy (à la Mean Girls).  Believing that supermodels are worthy of special treatment is how teenagers start to think that anorexia is a solution for their low self-esteem.  Allowing reality television celebrities to dominate our screens is making us all forget that real talent is a thing that exists.  Thinking that hipster values are cool is how we end up with parts of London being no-go-for-normals territory: for example, I wouldn’t go to Shoreditch if Noel Fielding himself invited me.  And London is a big, beautiful city with a lot to offer – why are we letting ‘cool kids’ shotgun certain parts of it?

Believing other people are cooler than you are automatically undermines your self-image.  Of course it’s good to look up to people who are worthy of our respect, but we should look up to them because they can teach us something, or because they already have.  Feeling intimidated by people who are more famous, more attractive or just more arrogant than you are is silly, and as I keep telling you, you should be far too busy being your lovely self to give a monkey’s what the ‘cool kids’ think of you.

With that in mind, go and finish your Christmas shopping.  It’s getting a bit close for comfort.

You Are Not Sandra Dee (Thank Goodness)

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Good morning and welcome to a brand new week!  How the devil are you?

First and foremost, I would like to apologise for the gaps inbetween my blog posts recently.  My work schedule has prevented me from writing every day, for which I can only apologise and offer you a compensatory biscuit.  That being said, I have decided that from now on I will only be posting on weekdays, mainly so that you can go about your weekend unpestered by my ramblings.  Sound good?  Marvellous.

Today’s blog post is about the sneaking suspicion most girls have about themselves, which is (brace yourselves, ladies) that we don’t actually want to be the heroine of a story.  Oh, sure, we want the romance and the struggle and the ultimate happy ending, but we want to be allowed to get there on our terms.  We want to know that we can succeed without the necessary caveat of being beautiful, or the genetic good luck to have incredibly long, climbable hair.  The women we most admire and aspire to are the funny best friends and the sarcastic sidekicks – the characters who get the best lines and the best results.

Female characters who have an amusing foible or a deplorable flaw are, in film, literature and television, much more empathetic to modern women than their swooning, seductive counterparts.  The heroines of stories are willed by the reader or viewer to get the prescribed happy ending, because that’s what we are programmed to expect: give us a pretty girl in a pickle and we are desperate for her to find her bliss.  But show us a character who is less impeachably perfect and more honestly human, and that’s who we want to be.  We want to be the girl on the sideline who manages to win just by being herself.

Wouldn’t you rather be a Rizzo than a Sandy?  Nessa wins over Stacey, outright.  And deep down, don’t you think it would be fun to be more of a Karen than a Grace?  Why do you think movie writers keep inventing ‘kooky friend’ characters, anyway?  Because they know that those are the women we actually relate to.

These female characters are not perfect, but they are perfectly believable, which is definitely more important.  They might be bitchy, crazy or even prone to singing at high school for no reason, but there are worse things they could do.  (Geddit?)  These women are actually doing us all a favour by reminding us that you don’t have to be blonde, adorable or star-crossed in order to get what you want – you can (and should) just be yourself.

And why wouldn’t you be yourself, while we’re at it?  You’re brilliant!

Have a miraculous Monday.

I’m Going to Weigh in Here…

Hello, you fabulous creature.  I hope your week is progressing as smoothly as a well-made batch of Angel Delight.

As pretty much everyone who has Facebook will already know, there’s a huge trend at the moment where women across the UK and North America (and presumably beyond, by now) take pictures of themselves without make-up on, and post them online to raise awareness of cancer.  Some people love this idea, some people hate it, and some people think all selfies are stupid.  Want to hear what I think?  Of course you do, you legend.  That’s why you’re here.

Right, let’s dive in: first of all, where did this craze come from?  Kim Novak’s appearance at the Academy Awards created a bit of a stir, with people criticising her for having had extensive plastic surgery.  According to the Guardian, Novak “has also made headlines in the press for diagnoses of breast cancer (2010) and bipolar disorder (2012).”  Not sure that dragging up the other two worst periods of Novak’s life is fair when she’s already having a crap time, but whatever.

I personally don’t agree with plastic surgery in most circumstances, but I would never presume to judge another person for their views on it, which obviously includes people who have actually had surgery.  It’s their body, so it’s their business.  So let’s just make one thing clear before we crack on: the people who judged Novak for her apparent surgery are absolute scum.  Judging someone based on their appearance perpetuates body dysmorphia, adolescent misery and unrealistic beauty standards across the Western hemisphere.  Her critics are a bunch of malicious asshats, and they should be ashamed of themselves.

Next up: the initial reaction.  The author Laura Lippman was mortified by how people were treating Novak, so she posted a picture of herself without make-up to show solidarity with Novak, and the natural beauty of women in general.  Fair enough.  First of all, I get what Lippman was trying to do, but has anyone pointed out to her that not wearing make-up and feeling the need to have plastic surgery are not the same thing (and are, in fact, sort of opposites)?  Just a thought.  I really do appreciate Lippman’s intentions, but I think she made a slightly odd choice there.  I digress.

Ok, so now: the craze.  Lippman challenged other women to follow her actions, and many of them have.  This is where I start to get confused: why is cancer awareness the motivation?  I thought it was about women’s natural beauty…but never mind.  Anything that promotes cancer awareness is a very, very good thing and should be praised, but the transition from one key message to another can only serve to dilute them both, which is a shame.  It gives nasty people like Novak’s critics the opportunity to criticise us for not knowing what we’re trying to achieve.

Also – and this is a big thing – awareness is all very well and good, but what will beat cancer is money, not publicity.  I wish that that weren’t the case, but it really is.  The research to find cures, training doctors and nurses, drugs and treatments, paying hospital and hospice staff’s salaries: all of these things require money, and lots of it from as many of us as possible.  Awareness leads to more people being inclined to donate, which is great and should absolutely keep being promoted.  The thing is that if you create awareness without donating, you may as well have just watched a Macmillan advert on television and told someone else that it was sad.  What’s the point in promoting awareness if you’re not aware enough to know what’s actually needed to cure cancer?

So, in the spirit of solidarity, feeling gutted for Novak and wanting to prove a point, here is my no make-up selfie:

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I’ve also just gone on the Macmillan website to donate.  In the long run, I think people will be ever so slightly more grateful for the money than for my face.

This is all just my opinion and I applaud everyone who wants to make a difference.  People are beautiful and cancer is shitty, and we should absolutely keep saying those things.  We should also be doing something about them.

I hope you have the kind of Thursday that makes Friday nervous in case it can’t live up to your expectations.