Claudia Winkleman: Take It From Me

'We've all lied to look cool. I constantly pretend I'm wearing vintage - when the thought of it makes me feel quite sick'
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The Independent Online

Balham Basement Flat, 11 October 1995, 1.12am

(I am sitting cross-legged on the floor next to the BEST-LOOKING boy on earth. I have fancied him for years and I sense that this is "the night". He has just split up with his girlfriend, I have a brand new skirt on and my mum thinks I'm staying at Lucy's, so I don't have to go home.)

Stuart: "Hey, I hear that you love Leftfield..."

Me: "Um, yeah. Cool. Can't get enough of them." (I put my finger in my mouth and try to twirl my tongue around it)

Stuart: "Which track is your favourite?"

Me: "All, really. Yeah. Just everything he does." (I cock my head to one side and lick my right incisor.)

Stuart: "He?"

Me: "Sure, and the girls. Yep. I mean, just all of them. Those Leftfielders." (I play with the hem of my skirt with my left hand and snap my bra strap with my right.)

Stuart: "I'm, uh, going to get another drink. Take care."

(Stuart makes his way across the room and starts talking to Bev. He never comes back to me.)

Looking back on that moment (and I do, a lot), what I should have said was: "Never mind Leftfield, let's talk about Nik Kershaw's oeuvre. Then Stuart and I could have had an amusing, flirty chat about "hilarious" Eighties acts.

I could have told him all about the Go West gigs I went to (on three separate occasions. Oh, yes), and he could tease me about my signed copy of Jason and Kylie's "Especially for You". He'd show off about liking John Lennon and I'd throw my head back and tell him about the time I queued up for three hours outside HMV so I could try and touch the guitarist from Culture Club.

Then we'd have gone home, kissed, made out to Kajagoogoo's "Too Shy" and he would have proposed. Our first dance at our wedding could have been Madonna's "Crazy for You" and all his arty friends would stand up and talk about how Stuart was never supposed to end up with a girl like me. Our kids would have been called Whitney and Lionel and he'd have let me host "We Love Take That" parties. Instead, he's probably settled down with Bev and if he ever thinks about me, he just thinks I'm an IDIOT.

Lying to be cool. Many of us have done it. I constantly pretend that I'm wearing vintage when the very thought makes me feel quite sick - "vintage" just means expensive second-hand stuff, right? I often tell people what Kenya is like (I've never been there) and I sometimes pretend I've sat in British Airways seat 1A when it was actually 56F.

A friend used to tell us all about her hot steamy dates with Nathan from Brother Beyond. Then he came out of the closet and stated that he hadn't had sex with a girl for years. She was fibbing - she'd once seen him across a sushi counter.

I've exaggerated in job interviews - "Sure, I love cats..." (babysitting, 1986) and "There's nothing I like more than dressing up as an orange!" (Fruit Awareness Week on This Morning, 1994) and I've lied to many people about the jobs I've supposedly turned down too.

"Yeah, they wanted me for that X-Factor show but I just couldn't be arsed..." and "Oh, Question Time have rung again, who can be bothered with that?" According to my CV I can speak Japanese (does "Please can I have some endamame" count?) - and I won an award for my netball skills. This would be true if "skills" meant never playing it at all. It also states that I grew up in Hampstead (more like Chalk Farm) and that I got 10 starred A-grades at GSCE.

I also lie about my kids. "Jake's school think he may be a genius," and "Matilda is sleeping through the night." They're all fibs to make me sound hip and in control. Truth is, he thinks "C' is for "apple" - and she's awake every night between 3 and 5am.

And now, like Cherie, I know Gordon Brown is lying. I'm part of a generation that expects its politicians to lie. Yes, the trains are going to run on time, sure the schools will get better and whoa, they have serious weapons of mass destruction. But I didn't foresee the campaigning Chancellor lying to try and be cool - otherwise known as the "Leftfield Trap".

In a recent interview he said he couldn't get enough of Arctic Monkeys. Big mistake. Huge. GQ magazine followed up this month and asked what he particularly liked about them. "Uh, they're loud. Actually, I prefer Coldplay..." came the reply. He'd been caught out.

This is the thing, Gordon: step away from the Project Popularity file that says you have to go on the Jonathan Ross show, be seen at a Chelsea game and be photographed standing next to David Furnish. We just won't buy it. You don't have to do a "yeah but no but" routine for us to like you. We're happy for you to admit to liking Classic FM and big books that are rammed full of long words. You just have to be honest, otherwise it will all end in tears. Take it from me, if you like Nik Kershaw, it's best say so now.

c.winkleman@independent.co.uk

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