Saturday, 7 April 2012

The Blight of Beauty


Earlier this week a 40-something blonde journalist called Samantha Brick wrote an article for the Daily Mail about why the world resents her beauty. I have watched the fall-out from her candour with appalled fascination. Hate campaigns have rippled through Twitter. 5,000 mocking comments were left on the Daily Mail’s website. Columnists in rival newspapers have lined up to condemn her delusions.
I am a lone sympathiser. For I too am a 40-something blonde journalist and I too know how it is to be condemned for your looks. This is my story.

Fifteen years ago, as I hurried for the morning train to work, a voice hailed me urgently. I turned and saw a handsome young man in hot pursuit. As he drew close he held out a flaccid parcel. It was the egg mayonnaise sandwich that I’d packed for my lunch and which I’d dropped on the pavement in my haste. I knew, though, as his eyes met mine, that the favour was a pretext and the alacrity with which he moved off after handing it over confirmed it. Overpowered by my appearance he had beat a hasty retreat before his feelings betrayed him.

I am used to this. My singular looks have brought me tributes and invitations all my life. In my first week at university, my pigeon hole was crammed daily with fluorescent invites from the Christian Union begging me to enjoy Jesus with them. Throughout my three years there, they refused take no for an answer.

I am called on an almost weekly basis by a gentleman from the Indian sub-continent pretending an urgent reminder about my payment protection policy. He knows as well as I do that I have never possessed such a thing. And when the Archdeacon came to dinner at the vicarage recently he handed me a bottle of Pinot Grigio. I was embarrassed, but not surprised. This mute affirmation happens to me all the time – so much so that the Vicar finished the bottle without rancour while I washed up.



I am no Claudia Schiffer, but I am slim and blonde and my post-natal Mr Whippy whorls are pleasingly subdued by my up-and-over spandex. And yet I bet if you are woman reading this you do not deem me desirable. Throughout my life, my looks have formed a social barrier between me and the sisterhood because of resentment and fear – resentment that I do not look as they do and fear that one swish of my corduroy hem will unnerve their husbands.

At school I stand apart because my contours are so strikingly tweed-clad amid the throng of Juicy Couture tracksuits. The other mothers are cunning at disguising their envy but I can see it simmering as they pretend to discuss Embarrassing Bodies.

I am not smug about my appearance – I rejoice in my looks as a God-given bounty and I truly sympathise with those not blessed with my physical attributes. But it is not easy looking like this.

Over the years, my success has been stymied by countless people I regarded as friends.  As a Brownie I was the only one not asked to do a reading during the church parade services. When my mother complained, Brown Owl blamed excessive shyness, but I knew better. 

In the decades that followed insecure bosses have barred me from promotion at work. Given my 14 years on The Guardian I should, by right, be editing the paper by now, but Alan Rusbridger’s spectacles were regarded as less as a threat than my blonde tresses and so, instead of taking my place among the movers and shakers of Fleet St, I am writing back-end features on health and safety in the workplace.

But it’s not just jealous bosses who have blanked me because of my appearance. Only last week, as I was posting Holy Week service sheets through parish letter boxes, I waved at the blind woman who lives down the road. She blatantly ignored me, even though I’d helped her out with the coleslaw at last autumn’s barn dance buffet.

Someone I thought of as my closest friend held a dinner party the other week. I wasn’t invited. She claimed that she’d thought I wouldn’t want to face the eight-hour drive to Edinburgh for sausage casserole, but I knew the real reason was her fear that my presence in her kitchen would be a siren call to the husbands present.

So, now I’m 43 and I must be one of the few women who is longing for my similarly ageing friends to embrace tweed and cardigans like I do so that I can blend into the background. Perhaps then people will stop marvelling at how I look and judge me instead on the beauty of my character.  

45 comments:

  1. Nice one, I did a few lols here.

    Your red fingernails make you look jolly dashing.

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    1. Those are left over from my Daily Mail rock-chick makeover last week. Can't get them off cos don't have any remover.

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  2. Ha ha ha.

    But seriously, what are you trying to do? Turn yourself into a pariah of blogland as well. I should remove that photo if I were you before they find some pretext to disallow you from the BiBs and the MADs.

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    1. I hope they do. It will just prove my point that there's nothing more reviled than a beautiful woman.

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  3. I can only aspire to have your problems but feel that two of us in the parish would be far too much for the 'youngish' vicar to cope with!

    You could, of course make an appointment at Big Willies Tattoo shack and just try to blend in a little more.

    My heart goes out to you as I can imagine your daily struggle.

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    1. I'm glad someone has the imagination to understand.

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  4. You poor thing. Perhaps you should lie low for a bit, and definitely not go on any major daytime chat shows. Or that would perpetuate the jealous hate-filled media frenzy against you.

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    1. I welcome the jealous hate-filled media. It's the inevitable tribute to my looks.

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  5. Fabulous post and I feel for you.

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  6. Where did you get your fabulous tights?

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    1. M&S, of course. Where else does a beautiful woman shop?

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  7. Briliant!! I see your dilemma. Life's tough huh. Def worth a RT. :)

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  8. I am laughing at the blind woman deliberately choosing not to see you.

    Seriously, though, you are very lovely looking. Not least because your wit and humanity are there in every sentence you write. Though as my husband also likes your blog, I think I might have to stop speaking to you.

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    1. Look, there's no point you living in Yorkshire. You've got to get yourself down to London and be my next-door-neighbour!

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  9. This needed saying :-D Fabulous....You are clearly an unstoppable man-magnet.

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    1. I am! And noone fully appreciates how exhausting it is.

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  10. Ha ha - excellent! I was wondering where the post was going when you started talking about a handsome young man's 'flaccid parcel'. In made me want to shout out "Ooooh, ageing matron!" in my best Kenneth Williams voice.

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  11. Can you stop being so bloody funny? My husband thinks I'm having an online affair as he keeps hearing me laughing from the other room. Of course I can't let him see my computer when I'm reading your blog. He'd leave me and be banging down your door in a heartbeat. Brilliant post, as usual! x

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    1. You're in danger of turning my head, you lovely young lady. yes, I'm afraid your husband would be hot on my heels if he glimpsed me in m new Boden bobble-knit. I have that effect on all husbands..!!

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  12. Hi! You are a favourite of mine! I have given you a Liebster Award on my blog! hugs. Carol
    http://everyonesgran.blogspot.com.au/

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    1. So are you! Tried to find an email for you and can't - so I will say it here - I just realised that your surname is Tims..........my (very) ex is a Tims - how amazing! Keep on keeping on! xxx :)

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  13. I never knew tweed could be so alluringly dangerous. We are moving this year .... I hope it is nowhere near your vicarage, if it is, I shall have to make Younger Dad wear a paper bag on his head. Ps you are very attractive!

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    1. Oh dear, the point of the picture is to show that I'm not particularly attractive - otherwise people might think that post is for real! But thanks for the kind flattery and I hope you do move near to us. I'll do my best to rebuff your husband!

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    2. Erm, twaddle, you are quite beautiful Mrs! xxx

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  14. Gosh the vicar is very understanding, although by now he must be used to the situation. I'm just surprised at the Archdeacon, thought it wasn't on to covet your neighbour's ass and whatnot.

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    1. It's worse than that. I met the Archbishop a few years ago and he shook my hand. Accustomed as I am to male fervour, it took me by surprise that a primate should lunge at my flesh so publicly.

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  15. I notice that in your picture you have deliberately flicked up the hem of your sensible tweed skirt to reveal evocative folds of sheeny, flesh-coloured lining. The tension between the two is almost too much to bear. x

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    1. Typical female jealousy to suggest that I'm unbearable!!

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  16. I only received one badge during my years in Brownies - country dancing - but I now know why I was overlooked.

    This made me laugh lots: I saw this post mentioned in the BritMums Good Reads today and came over for a chuckle.

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    1. I think we both have a legal case against the girl guiding lot. Aesthetic discrimination is a serious, hidden evil!

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  17. I didn't read the original DM piece, but loving your homage to it! Superb. Mich x

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    1. Thank you. The original is worth reading. It will make you see all those slights and smiles you've received in a different light!

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  18. Seems we are alike again. I swear that I had not read this when I wrote my response to the Brick article. Yours is wonderful of course.

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    1. Just tried to find your response on your blog but can't. You can see now why I can't pose for your blogger's calendar. Everyone else would pillory me for stealing the show!!

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  19. Just be careful if you ever meet the Pope - you are a Vatican scandal in waiting (:

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  20. V funny! Perhaps you should join me as another Brick on the allotment!

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  21. In this house "bricking it" now has a new meaning! Love your article. In fact a response to SB has appeared in The Daily Mail today but yours in funnier and better written.

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