E Jane Dickson: 'Lifestyle marketing makes me want to scoop up my kids and create a new life for us all in the Hebrides'

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The Independent Online

God knows I'm not immune to marketing. I have woken from troubled sleep, whimpering with desire for the latest, hyped-up handbag. I will cross continents for a particular shade of lipstick just because I like the name (when I am dead, "Rouge Coromandel" will be found engraved upon my heart). I can't cook for toffee, but a frail, fatuous part of me thinks that I could do it better, if only I had a full set of Nigella's curvy cookware. These are the small pleasures that make metropolitan living worthwhile.

God knows I'm not immune to marketing. I have woken from troubled sleep, whimpering with desire for the latest, hyped-up handbag. I will cross continents for a particular shade of lipstick just because I like the name (when I am dead, "Rouge Coromandel" will be found engraved upon my heart). I can't cook for toffee, but a frail, fatuous part of me thinks that I could do it better, if only I had a full set of Nigella's curvy cookware. These are the small pleasures that make metropolitan living worthwhile.

I would, therefore, be some kind of hypocrite to deny my children the pleasure of the latest fad. I may not enjoy it, but I guess I can cope with the seasonal rush on Beyblades/Ninja Turtles/whatever. I'll even indulge a craze for Cheestrings (not half bad with a glass of Pinot Grigio when the kids have gone to bed). Any parent can - and most parents do - take a firefighting approach to products. Whatever the received wisdom on "pester-power", nobody can make you buy specific items of pernicious trash for your children. And if Unsuitable Uncle turns up with Pole Dancer Barbie on Christmas morning, consigning your own lovingly chosen sustainable rubberwood gifts to oblivion, you bite your lip and get on with it.

It's the lifestyle marketing, though, the large-scale commercial brainwashing of children that makes me want to scoop up my kids and create a new life for us all in the Hebrides. I object very much indeed, for example, to being told that we are living in the age of the "tweenager". I have just returned from a trip to the US, where it is breathlessly projected by the marketing press that "tweens", girls between the ages of eight and 14, will by 2007 have a "buying power" of $43.5bn a year. That's an awful lot of lip gloss, and if it was just about lip gloss I wouldn't mind. It's the selling of the attitude, the "my first G-string" mentality, that is horrible.

And if we think it's just those dumb Americans falling for the emetically horrible concept of the "aspirant teenager", we're fooling ourselves. Already, Mary Kate and Ashley - the squillionaire twins who are the high priestesses of "tween" - are all the rage in my daughter's playground. Their straight-to-video films are impeccably soppy, invariably ending with the girls melting in the hairless embrace of a nice boy who will bring them home to their parents before lights out. But who wants an eight-year-old dreaming of embraces, hairless or otherwise?

I know that Clara and her little friends chatter constantly about what they will do when they're teenagers. Which is fine and completely natural. What is neither fine nor natural is the deliberate blurring of the boundary between childhood and adolescence. The creation of the "aspirant teenager" is just a cynical grooming of children for tastes and experiences that are, quite properly, beyond them. The child-woman thing was hideous when Dickens did it, and it doesn't leave a better taste in the mouth now. No amount of strawberry-flavoured lip gloss will disguise that fact.

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