Monday, 22 March 2010

Everything sparkles when there's glitter in your eyes

This is a question for people with a passion - do you ever wish you were normal? If you haven't, you're probably not as passionate as you think. Either that or you are the kind of person who has wallpapered their house with magazine cut-outs of Richard Branson's ear and do not realise this is not typical behaviour.

Sometimes I think my life would be a lot simpler without my various musical obsessions. Whether fairly or not I blame Nicky Wire for my endless romantic failures (actually, I blame Nicky Wire for everything). It's hard to get a first date, let alone a second one when the conversation turning to hobbies inevitably leads to you having to explain that yes, you do spend a great deal of time either sitting on pavements to get the best position at gigs (on the barrier, stage left if it's the Manics, between centre and stage right for anyone else. Going for dead centre is a rookie mistake, you'll get crushed and most bands gravitate towards the sides of the stage where there's more room to move about) or on trains on the way to a new and exotic pavement on which to sit and that no, you are not weird. My phone is littered with the numbers of men who took me on one date, quickly started looking either bored or frightened and never called again. It doesn't help that rambling about Manics/Morrissey/current new obsession is my default setting when I'm nervous, so the more I like the person, the worse it is (see a few posts down for an example of the kind of effect this has on a fledgling relationship). It probably also doesn't help that I *do* blame Nicky Wire for everything, and that I once invented a religion where Morrissey was God and James Dean Bradfield cast as spiritual tea.

Music can also alter your standards and make you judgemental. A man who I - fruitlessly - really like in *that* way once told me he hadn't heard of Morrissey and thought the Manics were shit. My soul wept, although my enthusiasm for wallowing in this latest unrequited attraction remains undimmed.

Even my own friends think I'm weird because of how strongly I feel about the music I love. I was even deleted by a couple of people on Facebook (though more acquaintances than real friends) who were baffled by my reaction to The Rakes splitting up out of the blue last year. If you don't really love the bands you love (if you see what I mean) you won't understand, but it was like being bereaved. The night I heard I was sat on the train home, trying hard not to cry in public and hoping it would turn out to be some big misunderstanding. I was angry and really upset when Alan announced less than a month - a month! - later that he had formed a new band. It was like when you're a kid and your parents split up and you secretly hope and pray that they'll get back together and then your dad remarries some trampy bottle blonde from his office and it happens so quickly that you think he MUST have been cheating with her when he was still with your mum.* I went through a fair few of the stages of grief but I don't think I've reached acceptance yet - I still can't listen to their songs but things keep reminding me of a beat or a lyric and then I can't get it out of my head and I have to listen to Radio One until they play something irritating (this does not usually take long) which will replace it.

I'm slightly suspicious that my arrested development on the career front is caused by a mix of procrastination (not Nicky Wire's fault) and a subconcious fear that if I settle down and get a "proper" job I wont be able to take endless days off a short notice to go wandering off to see bands play (defintely Nicky Wire's fault).

Of course, passions have their positives too. I was thinking the other day about the last time I went out dancing, and There Is A Light That Will Never Go Out came on and my friend Hanna and I simultaeneously screamed, leapt into one anothers arms and cleared a small swathe of the dancefloor jumping madly up and down and singing along at the top of our lungs, and I realised that no drug could ever have enhanced or emulated that experience. I'm so excitable when it comes to songs that I'm my own high.

So life would be so much simpler without roller-coaster intensity that comes with a life-long obsession. Music has ruined my life and saved it too. Do I wish I was normal? God no.

*I'm surmising, by the way. My parents are still married, but I ready as much Judy Blume as the next girl growing up.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

All Ages?

I am so, so infuriated by the Guardian Weekend magazine's "All Ages" fashion feature. On the face of it, it's a noble idea: fashion for all ages on models of all ages, rather than just the completely inappropriate teenagers (how many 14-year-olds do you know who regularly wear Dior evening gowns? Really?). Except, no. They still use a clearly teenage model every time, so they're still normalising the practice of using children to model adult women's clothes, and worse than that, it automatically pushes the model in her 20s into the role of "older". Oh, that's helpful, really.

I assumed, at first because it was five models, the all ages were teens, twenties, thirties, fourties fifties. But, every week, the first two models, without fail, look really, really young. So one of two things is going on here. Possibly the "twenties" model is consistently literally 20, perhaps 21. That instantly renders the "all ages" concept a complete lie, because the difference between 20/21 and 17/18 for the "teen" model is negligble and actually puts them both in the same age group, which is pretty bloody young. I could only imagine they're doing this because really it's in their best interests to continue re-inforcing the industry stereotype that models should be very young; by having two of basically the same age, they present them as the norm and the others as curiosities, the models who shouldn't be working because of their hideously advanced age, but have been rescued by the brave Guardian in the name of liberalism and equality.

The second option is that, since they never actually specify the models ages, they are not supposed to be rigidly divided by decade. This makes sense because often, particularly this, week, the one who should by rights be "thirties" only looks in their mid-late twenties. This is even worse than the previous scenario. An article like this should be a golden opportunity to point out that a model - and by extension, a woman - is not in fact "past it" at 25. That 25, 26, 27, 28 etc is young, and a completely normal, appropriate age to be modelling (hello, Agyness Deyn, Lara Stone, Miranda Kerr, Gisele - it's not like it's unheard of), but by placing a model who this week specifically I would judge to be around 28 as the *third* oldest they are again marking her out as old, as abnormal in the context of a fashion feature. That's a really fucked approach to what could have been an interesting, egalitarian and realistic representation of age and beauty.

It affects me, personally, on two levels. First of all it raises my feminist hackles, by re-enforcing the fetishisation of extreme youth in women, which has led to us to this situation where teenagers are routinely hyper-sexualised and presented as the female ideal while the press start making sniping comments about women in the public eye "getting on a bit" when they hit their mid twenties. Where Bridget Jones is soon enough going to be a believable character because we have it drilled into us every day that if you're not married before you're 30 you never will be, because who's going to want you now, you wizened old hag? You're nearly 29 for heaven's sake, YUCK. Now go buy yourself a few dozen cats and be done with it. I'd say I long for the day when men are subjected to the same treatment but truth is I don't, because it's horrible, and if we wilfully turned men into the kind of neurotic wrecks that the media seeks to make women, it would probably end in some kind of global suicide pact. Roll on, irreversible climate change, it's probably for the best in the long run.

Secondly, this kind of feature leaves me wondering where I fit in, professionally. I'm not 20 and I'm not 30 yet either. Too "old" to fit in with the widely accepted norm, too young to return triumphant as the face of the "older" woman in fashion. Do I give up entirely, or sit it out for a few years until my age will be better appreciated (much like a model who can no longer work the regular scene because she's grown to a size 12 but cant do plus-size modelling until she's gone up another two dress sizes. Or cheese.)? Or do I continue as is, immersing myself in an industry whose values I despise, railing against the prevailing culture because I believe Gandhi was right when he said "we must be the change we wish to see in the world" and I want to make it a better place, if not for me than at least for, well, someone elses children, as I don't plan on having any of my own?

Either way, well done Gruaniad. It was a nice idea, but with friends like you, who needs enemies?