A ‘Punching Above Your Weight’ competition is an ugly thing indeed

What a sad indictment of our appearance obsessed culture

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The Independent Online

Every so often, a news story comes along that’s so utterly ludicrous you’re not sure whether to laugh, emigrate to a land without Wi-Fi or take some hallucinogenic substances in the vain hope the whole thing might make more sense. Today is one such occasion. However, since I’m bereft of any magic mushrooms and can’t be bothered to hunt for my passport, I’ve chosen instead to tell Indy Voices about it so you can join me in a mutual state of bewilderment.

It transpires that there exists in Britain, in 2014, a “Punching Above Your Weight” competition. The victors, Kate Cathcart, 24, and Darren Donaghey, 29, from Newcastle have been awarded a two-week holiday in Greece as a result of being, according to judges at Metro Radio, fundamentally unsuitable for one another. So unsuitable are they, they’re deemed deserving of free travel (presumably because the act of staying together day after day is such a bothersome and consistently perplexing chore, they need a holiday to take the edge off).

And how is their degree of mismatched-ness assessed, I hear you cry? Is she a mild mannered librarian in her fifties who enjoys reading Penguin Classics by the hearth in beige knitwear and he an extreme-sport loving, lurid loungewear-sporting student jock who drinks beer by the keg through a curly straw? Or is she the purveyor of a chain of slaughterhouses and he a militant animal rights activist and fruitarian?

The answer is (c) – none of the above – for it transpires that the reason Kate and Darren are considered newsworthy is…drum roll please… she is quite attractive by conventional standards and he isn’t.

The couple report being given “funny looks” everywhere from their local food emporium (Asda) to the pub, where Kate is regularly approached by other men who, apparently, assume her and Darren cannot possibly be a couple.

I’d like to ‘wear my Earnest hat’ for a second and reflect on what a sad indictment of our visually obsessed culture this whole sorry saga is. It’s sad that the competition exists in the first place. It’s sad that in national news coverage Kate has been unquestioningly deemed ‘out of Darren’s league’, despite the possibility that he could be brimming with talent, intelligence, kindness and generosity and she could be an unbearable idiot, for all we know. Most of all it’s sad that the couple are obviously so hyper-aware of the way they are perceived that they heard an advert for the competition on the radio and immediately thought ‘that’s us’. Kate even said: 'We can always edit the wedding photos.'

Personally, I'd prefer to see Metro Radio give the holiday to a couple who, in a society where 42 per cent of marriages end in divorce, have managed to stay together for twenty years or more. Or a couple who do something truly extraordinary, like look after a child with a disability or foster children in need of a loving home. It might only be a mind-bogglingly silly portion of real-life-current-affairs fluff, but it’s still an indicator of a country where we’re intent on judging and rewarding using aesthetic measures - and that is the ugliest thing of all.