Friday, 29 January 2010

Step forward Mr Not Bad.

Women should settle for Mr Not Bad. Don't hold out for Mr Right. He doesn't exist, he's a romantic conspiracy cooked up in the suspect minds of Jane Austen and Bridget Jones.

American writer Lori Gottlieb has been in the papers this week for daring to suggest that old women, translated in our youth obsessed culture as any lady over thirty, should give up on the notion of their Prince Charming and instead settle for Mr Right Now. From my reading of all this in The Guardian and The Mail (whose comments section inspired copious unintentional chuckling), I gather Gottlieb has no truck with the hideous idea that a woman might settle for herself over the M&S wearing Mr Average. For while it might appear Gottlieb is striking a blow to the phony heterosexual ideology of 'romantic love', so favoured in Rom-Com's and the pejoratively named 'chic-lit', she has instead played into the hands of the kinds of sexism our Second-Wave sisters (god love them) fought so hard against. Its almost as if The Feminine Mystique never happened.

'Settling' is a concept all too familiar with most women. We settle for less pay, yet we do 70% of the world's work. Many settle for loveless marriages, domestic and emotional abuse for the sake of their children. We all settle in the West for the relentless objectification of our bodies from an all pervasive media of advertising, fashion and pornography that sexualises and in turn dehumanises our gender. In the face of all this inequality, the notion that we should settle for 'Mr Average', is as ludicrous as holding out for 'Mr Right'. The odds are stacked against men, 'Mr Right' doesn't exist. And as far as I know he's not included in the Mr Men series.

But did it ever occur to Gottilieb to ask for Mr Equal, or god forbid, to see herself as a Ms Equal? And I know this is radical, but did she consider that being on her own might not mean spinsterdom, a lonely death and a partial eating at the mercy of Alsatians?

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Apparently ...

The recession is over! But there were no parties or people in the streets waving flags ...

Thursday, 21 January 2010

And the winner is ...

Its not like me, but today is one of those days when I am stuck for anything enlightening, funny or otherwise to say. So these are the things that have been occupying my mind over the past few days.

The Golden Globes - or more particularly and uncharacteristically girly, the ladies' frocks. I was fascinated by the amount of nude on display. Not flesh but nude coloured dresses, something which appears to me at least, to be infinitely classy, demanding a near perfect shape and innate 40's glamour. A particular highlight in this category was Drew Barrymore. Yep I know she took flack for the sparkly one shoulder thing but I personally liked it and loved her hair. Plus she always seems to be happy just to be there. Then there was Maggie Gyllenhall, all statuesque and classy. And injecting a bit of colour and ever the red carpet favourite in my house, we had Cameron Diaz. What a shame it was that it rained on all those poor actors and actresses ...

It was funny to contrast this award ceremony with the NTAs the other night and the dresses wearing the celebs there. The sheer cacophony of tacky, brightly coloured satin on display was breathtaking, and hands down winner for awfulness has to be Katie Price. In an unseasonal floral, silky maxi dress that conveniently matched her blue/black hair extensions, she was ahem, priceless. Yet it struck me, that of course the fashion had to be bright, awful, tacky, individual and shiny because we were in Britain. After all the attendees of the NTA's are only richer versions of the sorts of people (god love them) we see in many of our citys and town centres on a Saturday night.

Unlike the Golden Globes and its old soul Hollywood glamour, here in Blighty we opt for a semblance of social realism. That Sarah Brown posts pictures of herself with Danni Minogue and Cheryl Cole on Twitter is surely testimony enough to the old Ali G adage of us 'keeping it real'. And yes it might take Michelle Heaton's perma tan to remind me of this sometimes, but that we have it at all, is a wonderful thing.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

If this is challenging patriarchy ...

Image courtesy of The Telegraph.

then keep it coming.
According to The Guardian the lone image of Cristiano Ronaldo, in a pose which almost seems to defy gravity - as though he were suspended in space, six-pack glistening in classy black and white, like the perfect life-drawing - is a direct challenge to patriarchy. I thought it was just about selling pants. Well pants and sex. Or just sex if you don't wear pants. Either way its about selling something. And haven't women been doing this for, like forever?

So the tables are momentarily turned, men across the land are sheepishly lifting their shirts to expose flabby, blubber bellies covered in sporadic hair, moles and whatever else they keep hidden under their fleeces, hoddies and parkas. And they are thinking, damn I don't look like Cristiano Ronaldo, I better go on a diet and get my lazy arse down the gym. Like hell they are.

The world's highest paid footballer's pecs are hardly about to upturn centuries of sexism and free stories from the stranglehold of history. All it will do is give some straight ladies and gay men something nice to look at. It will probably shift a few million pairs of Giorgio Armanis. And that's it. Nothing more to see, let's all move along. The banks will continue to be run by money grabbing fat cats (mostly men), countries will continue to be run by crazed despots (almost entirely men) and lad mags and tabloids will continue to proliferate the type of sexist imagery we're all too familiar with in our local newsagents - the pneumatic woman, alongside our pint of milk.

In the face of this Cristanio Ronaldo in his pants seems ancient, a relic from another time - an aesthetic wonder - the Greek beautiful boy sculpture. Its something nice to look at, but there are no tangible messages about what men's bodies should ideally look like to be found here. How do I know this? Well last night I watched Big Brother's Big Mouth. I know what was I thinking? Anyway, there was a segment (commonly known as a VT) involving John MCririck, you know, the incredibly handsome horse racing pundit who starred in Celebrity Big Brother 05. He's mostly remembered for picking his nose and eating it and getting the hump about not having any cola. In the VT McCririck danced in an enormous pair of Y-Fronts, wobbling his belly in an ironically sexually suggestive manner.

If we can have Cristiano Ronaldo in his pants alongside John McCririck in his stained Y-Fronts, then we can safely say men have absolutely nothing to worry about. Sure both images are sport - one's intention is to make us swoon, the other is to make us laugh, but I ask you are there any equivalent, diametrically opposed images of women to be found in fashion and the media?
I can't find any.

Unless that is if you look in the showbiz section of The Daily Mail, were the images of slightly overweight women are used entirely as sport and are scrutinised and poked at. The big difference is there is nothing funny about them. For the mythology of the six pack might momentarily make some men feel bad about themselves, but the tyranny of body facism is still, at least for now, something almost entirely directed at women.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Negociants' Nachos, Negociants, Edinburgh

Flanking Bristo Square, Negociants gently nurses the art students' quarter, and by day the faint hum of the skater boys in the square are its musical accompaniment. By night the tables and chairs outside are surrounded by artsy student revellers swaddled in paisley print scarves as they usher themselves into its basement nightclub Medina, the throb of the sound system under their feet.

Although overshadowed by McEwan Hall's austerity, its faint bohemian quality still sits well with the burgh's darker Calvinistic history. At the weekend Negociants is open into the witching hour, historically the time when Auld Reekie's less savoury grave digging characters got all their best work done. Tonight, although its cold and faintly wet there's not so much as a shovel in sight. But this bar's interesting mix of clientele surely come with their own stories.

Across from our table there is a tall lady huddled over her laptop. She sips from a perspiring glass of white wine. On her knee rests a Chanel handbag curled over like a resting, gentle lap dog. The scene is almost achingly Parisian if we discount the less subtle nods Negociants' decor makes to its more southern European sisters. The wicker chairs and potted plants, the terracotta hues and chalk boards give off a Latin Tapas feel, while the eclectic mix of magazine covers, black and white photographs of models and movie stars pasted to the ceiling give the look of a funky late night New York haunt.

And it's in this mode that Negociants really comes into its own, for it lends itself well to the shabby funkiness of the last place open in town. A place where the clubbers can come down from their highs over curly fries, powdered with cayenne pepper and washed down with coffee. This is where, safe from the metropolis, the late night writers, insomniacs, the people with no where to go and the outsiders can congregate. They can even have fish finger sandwiches if they like.

And if you are a regular you know there's only one thing really worth ordering on the menu. Piled high, greasy and carbohydrate laden, the Nachos fly out the kitchen's hatch to the tune of the bell being tapped to summon the waitress. They are an un-showy creation, but not unlike the establishment they have a charm; the comforting finger food shared between a couple of friends over bottled beer or glasses of totally drinkable, always crisp, white wine.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Ode to John Lewis ...

Ah John Lewis, mecca to the middle classes, gateway to all things sanitised and shiny. John Lewis is a wondrous place mainly because yesterday I went there to get some Dead Sea Shampoo and left with neon pink nail varnish, clip lock storage tubs and a Christian Dior face cream reduced from £23 pounds to a tenner! A tenner!

Normally I eschew sales, not because I can afford to but simply because I can't hack the cut throat rack rummaging. I get pushed aside by those women with the shopper thousand yard stares, their thumbs as agile as a fox rifling the hangers with a mesmeric dexterity, their hawk eyes honing in on their cut price prey.

The sheer messiness of sales sends me into a bamboozled state - I'm like Rachel in that Friends episode where she's hidden between the racks of wedding dresses mindlessly puffing on a whistle. Sales are simply too much like hard work for a girl who if it were an Olympic sport would limp in last, or simply not qualify like the Scottish football team. This is all of course self evident when I buy neon pink nail varnish.

So thank the lord for John Lewis where at its worst there is only ever organised chaos and at the most the only injuries you are likely to sustain are from middle aged lady elbows - they're sharp, but I'll take them over the acrylic nail claw of a Primark shopper any day.

In these recession addled times there's nothing quite like the one up manship of the unemployed young woman clocking a reflective shiny box of expensive face cream under strip lights in a greying bargain bin. Amongst the bone yard of neglected, unwanted and unloved self-tanners and hair nets I found Christian Dior. In your face Gordon Brown!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

In praise of butter dishes ...

Its odd how not only do sometimes the simplest of things bring pleasure, but that they merit a mention at all. To that end I give you the humble butter dish. Ah the butter dish, when they went out of fashion, indeed when they were in fashion we cannot say, but like old fashioned ice-cream scoops there is something altogether 1950's housewife about them (in a good way). They are cosy, farmhouse relics from a world that never was, before fridges, the ghastly invention of margarine and possibly even worse, spreadable butter.

Just before Christmas my flatmate and I went to see Julie and Julia, the film about the New York blogger who sets herself the challenge to cook her way through America's first TV chef, Julia Child's encyclopedic cook book. Meryl Streep was wonderful (has she ever been anything else?) and though the film we really nothing more than a beautiful love letter to food and Paris, it was blogger Julie's belief that just about any food that tastes good, tastes good because its laden with butter that stayed with me. My sentiments exactly! You can shove your size zero, you can keep your washboard stomach, because there is absolutely nothing that tastes better than butter ... in your face Kate Moss!

I've just had toast with butter from the butter dish I mentioned in my last post. One word - sublime. Once you've had proper butter, left out of the fridge, from a butter dish, you realise just how vegetable oil infused the spreadable substitutes are, and you know you'll never go back.

Image courtesy of John Lewis.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Happy New Year ... Cheryl Bloody Cole ....

I will try harder to update the blog once I've fully gotten over the faux excitement of Christmas when the world seems to stand still and all worries about the women go out the window in favour of scented candles and champagne. Argh, I've turned into one of those people who thinks there nothing better than spending a Saturday afternoon in John Lewis. I'm off there later for a butter dish. That's right a butter dish. I've skated past the mid-twenties, when as women we're supposed to be in our physical peak (tell that to my hair that's turning a weird pigment sapping blond) into middle age-dom.

Anyway back to the reason why I've blown the dust off this blog. I'm no Cheryl basher -I've praised her once before on here - awe she's so shiny and you could brush her hair with one of those big pink Barbie combs - it would be so much fun blah, blah, blah. But the other day something truly horrifying happened.

I was sitting in a hospital waiting room (bad enough), surveying the crumpled literature of mangled gossip magazines laying limp on the table like dusty relics to a by-gone era of celebrity - 2009 to be exact - and deciding to plump for The Shining instead, when a wee girl skipped in with her mother. They plonked themselves down on a couple of chairs, the little Ugg-booted girl (probably no more than 3) proceeded to thumb through one of the said celeb magazines. This was shocking enough, but not as shocking as the classic straight out of the mouths of babes moment that followed. Scanning the page with the hawk eye of any 3 year old well-read in celebrity, her finger hovered over the image of a lady with bounteous hair. 'Cheryl Cole!' the little girl exclaimed with obvious glee.

'Aye it is' her mother replied lacklustrely (evidently not everyone loves la Cheryl) 'she get's bloody everywhere ...'

All this would have been mildly amusing if the rosy cheeked cherub hadn't then turned the page and hovered her eye over another lady. 'Lady Gaga!' she squeaked ...

I could lament over this tableaux in a mournful air similar to the little girl's mother. I could wax lyrical about how awful it is for the next generation having to grow up in a celebrity obsessed, hyper sexualised culture where looks (Cheryl Cole) eschews talent and sex sells absolutely bloody everything (Lady Gaga's cynical derivative music). But instead I'll just leave you with the image of a small child pointing at a picture of a woman wearing a leotard and nothing much else and instantly being able to recognise her. It was George Orwell who said if you want an image for the future imagine a boot stamping on your face ... forever. Perhaps this should be rephrased - if you want an image for the future imagine a celebrity gossip magazine being rapped around your head ... forever.

Happy new year ...