Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Patronising Claptrap

I'm sorry. I should have posted ages ago but sometimes I'm a lazy cow and so I, er, haven't.

Last time I posted on this blog was to bore you all to death with tales of my birthday. Still on that subject - you can tell not a lot happens to me - I received lots of lovely presents, and one not so lovely. Shane Watson's book.

The irony of this is that I had written about her book before and I wasn't too complimentary about it either. There is just so much about this book that I dislike. The title, for one thing. How To Meet a Man After Forty. The multitude of assumptions in this title infuriates me and I can only assume I was given the book by a well-meaning (married) girlfriend because I, as far as she is concerned, fall into the the correct demographic.

I looked over what I had written earlier this year and I haven't changed my opinion at all, so here is an only slightly modified version of my original review.

What you first need to know is that the author, Ms Watson, is actually a Mrs, having finally hooked her own bloke three years ago. (I'm sorry to say, the poor sod is referred to as The One. No pressure then.) Now happily validated by society, she is free to fret in a particularly smug manner at the plight of her single, aged sisters. Yes, this book is for those of us for whom the bloom of youth is now but a distant memory, or would be if only the ageing process hadn't robbed us of so many brain cells.

I'm sure Ms Watson means well - or at least, means to make a lot of money, which may be the same thing - but this sort of patronising claptrap really gets my goat. The assumption underlining every word of this magnum opus is that a woman is incomplete without a man. A man who is married. To you.

For those of us who have dithered about, unsure as to what characteristics constitute "The One", Ms Watson has helpfully compiled a "list". This list has on it seven, absolutely immoveable, non-negotiable conditions:

- Must be kind. If you have heard him be vile about anyone, seen him be cruel to animals, children or boring hostesses, then this man is not kind.

- Must like women. You think this goes without saying. Of course every man you've ever been out with has loved women. But are you absolutely sure? Did they like it if you contradicted them in public? Were there many women they found attractive who were a) over 50, b) large, or c) noisy? Thought not.

- Must adore you.

- Must be smarter than you, or at least as smart. Smarter, probably, or you will keep looking for that Achilles heel.

- Must have bigger feet than you. Obviously. And must be hairier.

- Must be able to make you laugh in all situations, including when you get to the airport and discover he has no passport.

- You must fancy him unconditionally.

What I find particularly offensive about this list is the requirement that "The One" must be cleverer than you are. Or, to put it another way, you must be a silly little woman if you are to bag your bloke.

It is, therefore, not enough that we must be pea-brained fools with size two feet who laugh like a drain. If we are to nail our hairy, clown-footed Oxford don with a great line in knock-knock jokes, personal grooming must be attended to. Every hair below eyebrow level must be napalmed into submission and the resultant hairless limbs must be spray-tanned. All of this is fairly pedestrian advice and rather assumes that a single woman hasn't got time for a spray tan as she's too busy teaching her cats to sing and knitting her pubic hair into a sporran.

There are more sage words to come, however. "If you want sex, then you need to dress with sex in mind." And our super-successful sex kitten authoress has very firm, if unexpected, views about what turns men on. If we wish to get our man, then we must choose from "a bias-cut floral dress and kitten-heel slingbacks, wrap dresses worn with cashmere cardigans, and pastel ballerina tops over slinky skirts". One can only sit, slack-jawed in amazement, at her ability to see into the minds of men. Why, at this very moment, chaps up and down the country are simply begging their wives: "Please, PLEASE take off that black satin babydoll negligee and matching crotchless knickers darling. Can't you slip into that gorgeous bias-cut floral dress, just for me? Aaaaaaaaaaaah. Not the kitten-heel slingbacks. I cannot resist........"

And yet, and yet. As we hairless, perma-tanned creatures, all wearing pastel ballerina tops the better to disguise our dowager humps, prepare to launch ourselves on the multitude of available, hirsute, quantum physicists out there, we are unable to dispell the nagging feeling that there is something missing from our ensemble. What can it be?

Fear not. Ms Watson has already thought of this, and on our behalf turned to international fashion icon Isabella Blow. "Once, a long time ago, the brilliant Isabella Blow told me I must wear a hat if I wanted to find The One. You have to stand out in a crowd. You have to let them see you," she said. "And men love a hat. They see the hat and they want to meet the girl."

Alas, Ms Blow does not reveal what kind of hat will clinch the deal. Perhaps it does not matter, and any one that comes to hand will do. I have an old riding hat somewhere in the house. I shall wear it, safe in the knowledge that it will definitely make me stand out in a crowd, particularly at a drinks party.

A plague on this asinine book. Nobody can really be this shallow. Or desperate.