Monthly Archives: May 2014

Modern manners

‘Your hair wants cutting,’ said the Hatter. He had been looking at Alice for some time with great curiosity, and this was his first speech.

‘You should learn not to make personal remarks,’ Alice said with some severity; `it’s very rude.’ 

Lewis Carroll

 

I don’t often read celebrity news, but I do like a nice awards ceremony frock. Which is how I stumbled across the story of Sarah Millican’s Bafta experience.

For anyone even less up to speed, Sarah tells the story better than anyone else could, in her magnificent response.

So. Not exactly up to the minute. But this is a blog, not breaking news.  And inwardly composing what I’d write if only I had somewhere to put it was keeping me awake, until I remembered I had a blog.

I was so bloody depressed that such a clever, funny, creative woman, who has worked so hard to achieve something that those of us facing that Sunday evening/Monday morning feeling can only dream of, could be mauled in a feeding frenzy – over a dress.

Sarah has carved out a career doing something she clearly loves, and is extraordinarily good at, through hard work and having the courage to give it a go. She talks about self-esteem, being the quiet kid in class – yet she’s felt the fear and done it anyway.  In a male-dominated profession, too. She says that her Bafta nomination being in a genderless category made it even more satisfying.

Yet her presence on the red carpet apparently reduces her to the status of coat-hanger.

We like to think we’ve moved on (and we have) from the culture that turned a blind eye to the abuse by powerful celebrities of young women and girls, behind barely closed doors. But, there are those among us who think it’s perfectly acceptable to publicly deliver verbal abuse to women like Sarah, who’ve had the temerity to put themselves in the public eye – and be good at what they do.

Now, I am in no way trying to reduce the enormity of the effects of physical and sexual abuse to the same level as a bit of cruel carping about someone’s appearance. Nor am I belittling the debilitating effect that the latter can have.

But I am pointing to a link between one way of objectifying women – things to be ‘had’, trophies, props to an over-blown ego, and another – the reduction of hard-working, clever, witty women to the sum of their looks, objects – either of desire, or not.

It’s a great example to set to the next generation of creative talent, isn’t it? “Yes, yes, she’s talented and she’s worked hard to achieve something amazing, but how dare she wear that frock?”

I’m not saying we should, because as we all know, two wrongs don’t make a right, but I wonder what would happen if we subjected the boys to that treatment. ‘OMG. Satin lapels on a tux? With his figure? Didn’t he look in the mirror…?’

Actually, it just sounds a bit daft.

There’s nothing wrong with dressing up, wanting to look at our gorgeous best on a special occasion, or every day. But when did it become compulsory for anyone in the public eye to look and dress like a supermodel? And acceptable to savage them if they don’t?

It’s tough enough, if you’re not the kind of person who naturally seeks out attention, to put yourself out there doing what you have a talent for, and work hard at. You accept that some people will love your work, some will hate it, and a depressing number won’t care either way. We’re immensely privileged these days to have at our disposal the ability to communicate instantly, world-wide. But risking finding yourself judged for falling short of a goal you never set out to achieve – that’s quite a deterrent.

OK, rant over. I’m not much of a live comedy-goer, but I ended up being quite inspired by Sarah’s response, and I’d love to have been there in Buxton last week when she did her gig instead of going to this year’s Baftas, in THAT dress. So next time she tours, I’ll be there, cheering her on. I’ll be the woman in the ill-fitting tux with the dodgy satin lapels.

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Making space

If you’re anything like me, you have a wardrobe full of clothes (some of which you haven’t seen, let alone worn, for months. OK, years.) And there are utensils lurking in your kitchen cupboards that you’ve never used. It’s not the ‘how’, it’s the ‘why’?  What does it do? What does it make easier/quicker/more professional? Where did it come from?

It took me 12 years to realise the weight of all this paraphernalia. Stuff I thought I couldn’t do without. Mountains of it, filling a sizeable 3-bedroom house. Poor house. It wasn’t the house’s fault that I got so stuck there. The house was supposed to be the beginning – of a marriage, a family and a future. Instead the poor old place became a symbol of a dream cut short. Where life couldn’t be lived, because it would mean finally letting go. That’s an awful lot of ‘stuff’ to keep in a space, no matter how many square feet you’ve got.

Moving out was a wrench. It began with the realisation that the practical, financial burden of the place was keeping me trapped in a job that was making me miserable. Something needed to change.

I say ‘moving out was a wrench’. The funny thing is, though, that it wasn’t. Not really. The realisation hit me one day. That ‘stuff’ had to go, including the house. I had to make room for a life.

So I did. It took the average amount of time to actually do it – about 8 months from decision to move. Clearing out – getting rid of all those things that were weighing me down. It was amazing, even before The Day of The Move, how clearing out stuff from the loft made me feel happier. Lighter and less oppressed. I thought I’d cry when I closed the front door behind me for the last time. But I didn’t.

I’d like to claim that this was because I felt nothing but excitement for my new future. Actually, I knew I’d be back the following day to collect a cat who had decided she didn’t fancy moving today, thank you very much, and scarpered over the fence.

The move was made. The cat was retrieved. There are things I’ve kept, of course. Things of value – sentimental or monetary. Things of use, or of (to me) exceptional beauty. But virtually nothing that is neither. And I live in a space which is about the present and the future, not the past.

Letting go of the burdens of the past has opened up so many possibilities for the future. It has freed me to set out on a new journey – starting my own business doing something I love, and to be more creative in the way that I approach life. And an emptier wardrobe creates space for more shopping. I call that a win.

It would be lovely to hear from anyone else who’s found a way of letting go of the things that have stopped them exploring. Maybe we could send each other occasional postcards from life.

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