Tuesday 28 October 2014

Groom or doom

Surveys keep telling us most women dislike their bodies and would like to change them. Well of course they dislike their bodies. Is that surprising when everyone around them says they're not attractive until they've been through a string of laborious grooming procedures? The obvious conclusion - their natural self without all the recommended beautifying and prettifying must be a hideous sight nobody wants to look at.

The message blares out endlessly from the mass media, from movies, from parents, even from friends - if you've missed out on make-up, skincare, body-hair removal, weekly hairdos, nail polish, push-up bras or shapewear, then you're simply not feminine or glamorous enough and nobody will give you a second glance.

The message for men is totally different, in fact almost the opposite. If they pay any undue attention to their appearance, they're just narcissistic - or maybe gay. Real men simply sling on a few nondescript clothes, comb their hair and that's that. Nobody cares two hoots about the condition of their skin, or when they last had a haircut, or all the hair carpeting their chest. Nobody suggests their natural self is something to be worked on obsessively to make it passably attractive.

In fact some men seem to revel so shamelessly in their wild and woolly appearance that I sometimes think a little pressure to beautify themselves female-style wouldn't come amiss.

Of course there's nothing wrong with prettifying yourself as such. It must be a lot of fun dolling yourself up occasionally. I'd quite like to doll myself up now and again but gender forbids. No, the problem is the implication that if women don't doll themselves up, they're ugly ducklings who'll never get to the ball.

Well, ducklings look pretty good to me, even without make-up....

Saturday 25 October 2014

Prima donnas

I've worked with plenty of prima donnas in my time. Or should I say I did my best to work with them, as they're impossible to please however hard you try.

The tell-tale signs of a prima donna being:
  • Changing their opinion every ten minutes
  • Never being satisfied with anything
  • Wanting everything their own way
  • Puffed-up with self-importance
Trying to pin them down on anything at all is like nailing down a lump of blancmange. Trying to meet their ever-shifting demands is like wrestling with an octopus. They're endlessly evasive and enigmatic.

I could name someone I work with right now as a classic prima donna. But since another key feature is sensitivity to criticism, I think I'd better wait till I've moved on to pastures new.

The obvious prima donnas are of course those showbiz stars who insist on all sorts of special treatment to go with their elevated status - obscure dietary requests, new toilet seats, air purifiers, specific room temperatures, everything in their favourite colour, special toilet paper, you name it.

But prima donnas pop up in every walk of life - families, political campaigns, dinner parties. There's always one, driving everyone else nuts. They never notice how annoying their impulsive and erratic behaviour is to those around them.

There was a bookshop manager I once worked with who was never happy with my work. Whatever I did, he always wanted it done differently, and every day his diktats would change. However I defended my time-tested methods, he always thought his methods were better.

I've never been a prima donna. I'm good at working with other people. I may be neurotic, insecure, anxious and timid, but I'm at least consistent and pin-downable. No guessing games required.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Rush to judgment

Ursula suggested I write a more frivolous post. Well, given there's something utterly frivolous on my mind right now, what the hell, no sooner said than done....

I can't believe the fuss everyone's making about Renee Zellweger's changed appearance. Do they have too much time on their hands? Are they paid-up members of the Image Police? Do they never change their own appearance? Why this rabid Renee-trashing?

Personally I'm the old-fashioned type who believes a person's appearance is their own affair and nothing to do with me. I wouldn't be happy if everyone was zooming in on my own appearance and saying they didn't like the change, they preferred the old me, had I had plastic surgery etc etc. I'm amazed she's taking it so calmly and hasn't fled to some secret hideaway.

I couldn't care less if Renee Zellweger had piled on 10 stone, cut all her hair off and went everywhere in bright pink pajamas. It's none of my business. And the fact that she suddenly appeared in public after a long absence doesn't entitle every Tess, Debbie and Harriet to weigh in with their opinions (and yes, it does seem to be mainly women slagging off one of their own).

What does strike me though is that she now bears an uncanny resemblance to J K Rowling - the same face, the same expression, the same hairstyle. Has she turned into J K Rowling? Has J K Rowling turned into Renee Zellweger? Is this a weird double-case of identity theft? Is Renee now a phenomenally successful author while J K is now a Hollywood icon?

All I can say is, I love the name Zellweger. I could roll it around my tongue all day. Zellweger, Zellweger. A name to conjure with. A name to savour. Apparently zellweg means "path to a small monastery." If the current hysterical opinionising goes on much longer, a monastery would probably suit her nicely.

Pics: J K and Renee. Or possibly Renee and J K.

Monday 20 October 2014

Unbearable loss

These three children - Evie, Mo and Otis Maslin - were all killed, together with their grandfather Nick, when Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over the Ukraine.

The three children were flown back to Perth in Australia on Thursday to be returned to their parents.

I can't begin to imagine the bottomless grief their parents must be suffering as a result of this utterly stupid attack on a commercial plane whose passengers had nothing whatever to do with the conflict.

Anthony Maslin and Marite Norris say they are living in a hell beyond hell, that their pain is intense and relentless. "No one deserves what we are going through, not even the people who shot our whole family out of the sky."

The loss of one child is bad enough, but the loss of all three must be an unbearable agony. How can they ever recover from it? How can they have anything like a normal life ever again?

Do the fanatics who shot down the plane have even a flicker of guilt or remorse over what they did? Do they grasp in any way the massive suffering they've caused? Probably not. Probably they see the dead plane passengers as simply unfortunate casualties of war, not to be dwelt on.

Gaining territory is more important than broken hearts.

And in a related news item, an Australian company has developed a water-based alternative to cremation that avoids the 200 kilogrammes of greenhouse gas emissions from a traditional cremation. It simply speeds up the natural decomposition process, taking about four hours in all. Stew instead of roast, as one of my Facebook friends put it. Brilliant.

Friday 17 October 2014

Squalid impulses

I'm not a hateful person. If there's something about someone that rubs me up the wrong way, I don't hate them for it. I adjust to it, I work around it, I try to understand it. I don't hate them any more than I would hate a rock for being jagged or a snake for being poisonous.

I don't understand people who seem to be a never-ending torrent of hatred. Everything sets them off - a noisy neighbour, a demanding boss, a rude sales assistant, a smarmy politician. Any excuse and they let rip, tearing everyone to shreds. Where does all this bile and venom come from?

I've only hated two people in my life, people who treated me so badly all positive feelings were crushed and loathing took over. I just wanted to be free of them so I could repair my battered self-respect.

Of course you're probably already thinking I'm too good to be true, too magnanimous by half. I'm obviously denying my real feelings, bottling things up, keeping a stiff upper lip. I'm an emotional snob pretending to be better than everyone else and immune to squalid human impulses.

Well, I can assure you there's nowt bottled up. The fact is that hatred just doesn't come naturally to me. Which is surprising since all my immediate family are (or were) more than capable of intense hatred. I could list a dozen things that set them off like Pavlov's dogs.

It's often said that people hate what they don't understand, or what they secretly envy. I think there's a lot of truth in that. But if you don't understand something, why not try to unravel it? If you envy something, why not join in? Why the need for such bitter hostility?

"Let no man pull you so low as to hate him" - Martin Luther King.

Saturday 11 October 2014

Crossed fingers

A lot of people are adamant they achieve things through their own efforts. Luck has nothing to do with it, they say. It's all hard work, determination and shrewdness.

I think they're kidding themselves. Yes, a bit of hard graft is needed. But so many things are down to luck. Being in the right place at the right time. Knowing the right people. Being first in the queue. Hearing something on the grapevine. There are plenty of people who work their asses off with nothing much to show for it.

I know how much luck I've had in my own life. So many things that could have gone horribly pear-shaped worked out surprisingly well. I benefited from the years of prosperity that were followed by recession and shrinking opportunities. Quite by chance I picked up skills that have come in useful ever since.

Other people have even greater luck. They inherit huge sums of money. They win the lottery. They're born to well-connected and multi-talented parents, or turn out to be prodigiously talented themselves. They happen to invent something that becomes a universal must-have.

Knowing as I do how much of my life has depended on good luck, I'm always a bit nervous about the future. Will this astonishing run of luck continue or will it abruptly hit the buffers? Will I suddenly find myself in dire straits, the rug pulled from underneath me? All I can do is cross my fingers, hope for the best and keep on truckin'.

So what will the future bring? Windfalls or pitfalls? Thrills or bills? Trick or treat?

Wednesday 8 October 2014

BĂȘtes noires

Ten things I'd like to see the back of:

1) Ties. I don't care how many people think I look good in a tie. They're pointless anachronisms.
2) Religious imperialism. Trying to foist your religion onto the uninterested, the uncomprehending and the undressed and just going to bed.
3) Instant coffee. It's not coffee by any stretch of the imagination. It's sludge.
4) Lying and hypocritical politicians. That's around 99 per cent of them then.
5) Finger food that falls to pieces, leaves you all greasy and tastes of nothing.
6) Powerpoint presentations. If you have to swamp us with statistics, just put them in an easily disposable handout.
7) People who think they're fascinating but are actually so boring you want to shoot yourself.
8) Absurd excuses for rape. There are NO excuses for rape.
9) Poverty. It ruins people's lives. It's demeaning, depressing and utterly dehumanising.
10) Unbudging know-it-alls who view any alternative opinions as the jabberings of an idiot.

Oh and did I mention ties?

Thursday 2 October 2014

Spying fever

It seems that a lot of people are now so mistrustful of their partners that they're secretly spying on them to check on what they're doing and where they are. They're so suspicious of what their partners are telling them - or not telling them - that they're obsessively monitoring their activities.

They're looking at emails, texts, computer files, photos, GPS locations, bank accounts, call logs, calendars, website histories, Facebook accounts, you name it. There are now apps that can quietly track just about every aspect of your partner's life and give you any information you want at the touch of a button.

And apparently lots of people are doing just that. According to one technical surveillance firm, business is booming, especially among women trapped in abusive marriages who need to discredit their husbands in order to get a divorce.

Increasingly, people are no longer accepting what their partner tells them, or shrugging off the odd dubious explanation, but are bothered enough to find out just how truthful and trustworthy he or she actually is.

It must be dreadful when you lose trust in your partner and are sure they're hiding things they don't want you to know. But can you really justify such exhaustive snooping on everything they're doing? Is it necessary self-preservation or is it totally obnoxious?

Personally I've always trusted Jenny and I've never felt the need to spy on her every move. I often have no idea at all where she is but why should that make me suspicious? Why should I imagine she's secretly seducing someone or topping up a concealed bank account?

But the fact that such detailed surveillance is now so widespread and easy to use would make me think twice about bedding the next-door neighbour. If I knew that my supposedly private phone calls and texts could be instantly relayed to someone else, I think I'd keep my libidinous longings to myself.