Claudia Winkleman: Take It From Me

'As every woman knows, a 40-watt light bulb can make even the Wicked Witch of the East look like Yasmin Le Bon'

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Nicole Kidman has come to London with her new husband, Keith. But rather than demanding a bowl of fruit and extra mini-shampoos, she requested that the staff at the Dorchester change the light bulbs. The standard-issue 60-watters would not do, 40 watts instead, came the call. A right old hoo-ha has ensued, with most newspapers exclaiming, "What a diva!".

I couldn't agree less. What exactly is the point of being the world's highest-paid actress and a proper superstar if you can't change the odd light bulb (or get 20 people in uniform to do it for you)? The Dorchester, meanwhile, released a statement declaring that Kidman was "charming" and not tricky at all.

They'd know. Eminem requests a games room with an "arcade-type ambience" whenever he leaves home. He's also very keen on creamy peanut butter, a ping-pong table, and a masseur on call. A few new light bulbs doesn't seem like such an enormous demand, now does it?

The Dorchester must be thanking its lucky stars that Aguilera isn't in the house. Christina's rider is longer than her hair extensions. She wants water (room-temperature) that isn't Evian; she likes a box of chocolate Nesquik powder; and at the top of her list, there's Flintstones vitamins with extra vitamin C. She also requires that every hotel supply Carnation Instant Breakfast original malt-flavour drink. Come back, Nicole - we've been to B&Q and the ladder's in place.

Barry Manilow needs any room that he stays in to have been maintained at precisely 65F for at least four hours prior to his arrival; while Janet Jackson shares Nicole's lighting issues. She wants a room carpeted and lit for a relaxed atmosphere (fluorescent strips are forbidden - table lamps with dimmers, please).

And then there's Jennifer Lopez. She has the rider to end all riders. Obviously terrified of any colour whatsoever, she insists that rooms be freshly painted in white, all tablecloths be bright white, and the bed linen needs to be, yes, white. Only white flowers are accepted. And if a Diptyque candle is lit that isn't either Tubéreuse or Figuier, there's hell to pay.

Compared with these and other demands (don't get me started on Mariah), Nicole's request seems insignificant to the point of being perfectly reasonable. After all, as every woman knows, a 40-watt bulb hides all creases and makes even the scraggiest of faces appear glowing and taut. The Wicked Witch of the East would look like Yasmin Le Bon bathed in this light. But give her a 60, and every one of those hairy moles will have a life of its own. So perhaps this isn't so much about, "I won an Oscar, what's the linen thread- count?", as, "I've just got married, so he still needs to think I'm pretty".

When a woman or a man is in the first stage of matrimony, they'll go to any lengths to keep the romance alive. For some, it might mean low lighting; for others, a Brazilian wax.

For six months after I became married, I always got out of bed while my husband was still sleeping, downed a litre of Listerine, and applied full Saturday-night make-up before creeping back under the duvet. He thought that he'd managed to find a girl who was born with constant eyeliner and minty breath. And a friend of mine spent her entire three-week honeymoon wearing a corset, lest her new husband work out that her ample chest wasn't always up by her ears. Another only admitted that she wasn't actually born without leg hair on her first wedding anniversary. Boys are the same. One friend did secret press-ups while his wife was brushing her teeth so that she'd come to bed and think, "My, what muscles!". While another doused himself in cucumber tonic on the way home from work so that his good lady would continue to think that he was fresh and delicious.

But here's the rub. After a while - it could take a year, or even two - it all seems like just too much effort. You convince yourself that your partner is with you for you. For what's inside.

This is a terrible mistake to make. Soon, you start forgetting to shave your legs, and no longer wash your greasy mop if you're "only staying in with him". The girlfriend with the corset can't even be arsed to wear a bra anymore, and the boy who did press-ups has put on three stone. The only things he now wants in bed are Sky Sports and an M&S treacle tart.

Nowadays, if I get up while my husband's sleeping, it's to get a sandwich, and I do it noisily. He has realised that I wasn't born with a glowing tan, and that far from being straight, my hair has an unsightly wave. I rarely bother to put in my contact lenses, and I can be seen wearing pyjamas, ancient Ugg boots (I know, terrible) and a baby- sick-stained T-shirt at five in the afternoon. However much he likes what's inside, he was very keen on the shell, and there's no doubt that he misses it. But it happens to us all.

One day, Nicole will surely find herself stopping off with her man to buy a bag of Monster Munch (OK, a piece of sugar-free gum, at any rate) from an all-night garage. The lights will be 240-watt halogen monsters, and she'll have forgotten to slather herself in foundation. Keith will be staring at a stranger - a ginger, pimply woman in desperate need of a mint.

c.winkleman@independent.co.uk

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