I've seen enough of Barbra's inner child, thank you

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The Independent Online
ON Barbra Streisand's 50th birthday: instead of buying her presents, her friends held a treasure hunt for her inner child. I'm not sure whether the aim was to find the inner child (where was it hiding, how did they know when they'd got it?) or simply give it a good time. I am indebted to a rare interview in Vanity Fair for this information, as well as, indirectly, to analysis and New Agery. If Streisand hadn't spent the past 30 years in therapy, it's hard to imagine what she'd have found to talk about. As it was, she was able to say things like: 'When I regress and go toward people who are unsupportive, that's a throwback to my stepfather.' By the time you've realised that this is utterly mystifying, and may indeed be meaningless, you're on to the next paragraph.

Psychobabble does celebs great favours, making spurious sense of vacuity. When Streisand drops the jargon, she has a worrying tendency to sound self- absorbed. 'I usually eat non-fat yogurt with a non-fat chocolate sauce and almonds or walnuts on it. You like that idea?' she says to her interviewer, offering him lunch. 'Or I could give you non-fat chocolate pudding with low-fat Cool Whip. Or I could give you non-fat chocolate pudding with low-fat Cool Whip.' This is not a normal woman talking, a woman who's lucky if she's got one chocolate cake, fat-free or gooey. This is a woman who is so far from having worries that she thinks it's terrible that when she was a child 'my grandfather, my grandmother, my brother, me and my mother all shared a bathroom'. Well, sure, Barbra, under those circumstances, anyone would feel driven to become a superstar. But the greatest thing about psychobabble isn't simply that it camouflages (up to a point) the rampant ego, but that it permits people to be so vile. 'I have forgiven my mother,' Streisand says. 'I know she did the best she could.' I can't quite see why she needs to devote so much energy to excavating her inner child; it seems to be well on the surface, and horribly spoilt.

I AM a sucker for celebrity circuit feminists: I think deep down I must believe they're going to produce some revelation to change my life. So I happily trailed across London last week to hear Shere Hite talk about the positive aspects of being a single mother. That was how it was billed, anyway: I'm not sure what she did talk about because I spent most of the time fascinated by her tight black lace top. Distractingly, this kept slipping off her shoulder (no bra) to reveal alabaster arms and narrow shoulders, a china-doll body to go with the pale face and improbably blonde, curly hair. No wonder she was clutching her stomach, swallowing glasses of water and admitting that she was nervous: she'd come out dressed for her coven, not realising it was seven o'clock on a Thursday evening.

When she did get on to single mothers she suggested the attacks on them had been started in this country by 'John Lilley among others' (presumably those bad guys Peter Redwood and Norman Portillo). When someone pointed out that the trouble with single parents is that they cost money (possibly the most crucial point in the general debate) she seemed genuinely struck by the thought, and said she'd like to get involved in thinking about that. Finally, someone else asked, bemused, 'what do you think are the positive aspects of single parenthood?' Unfortunately by then the time had run out so she was unable to answer.

She did make the point that a huge number of adolescent boys (according to her research) experiment sexually with each other. This, she said, never gets reported in the press. So I am now going to redress the balance. My sister, in her youth, was fascinated by this very issue, and conducted her own, similar, piece of research. (Though as shameless as Shere, she has unhappily not since turned into a celebrity feminist.) She asked all the (East London, day school) boys she knew, and found only one who hadn't.

WHAT colour was the backdrop at the Labour Party conference? It was widely described early in the week as turquoise, although one rather grand commentator had it down as eau de nil. A man from the Labour Party was heard earnestly explaining on the radio that it was pistachio: I don't know if this was the old Labour or new Labour term, but when I rang up I got someone from the other faction, who said, 'we call it green'. Green was what it looked to me: the sort of undersea hue that might be your last sight if you were drowning. Labour admitted they'd employed external consultants to help rid them of the previous grey (now appropriated by the other side) so I asked one, too. According to Lillian Verner Bond, author of a colour therapy manual, green frequently denotes birth in poverty (fine, even now, one imagines) and problems handling money (less fine). Still, it also rejuvenates. In Austria, Brazil, Pakistan and Portugal, it's the colour of hope. Luckily for Labour we are not in Sweden, where it positively shrieks inexperience.

READING John Mortimer's entertaining new volume of memoirs, I was struck by a photograph of his daughter Sally. 'If the world's divided into patients and nurses,' the caption runs, 'she's one of the great nurses.' If the world's divided into people who are always dividing the world into two, and the others who aren't, there's an awful lot of the former. Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington, wife of the Californian senate hopeful Michael Huffington, is said by Vanity Fair to believe that there are two kinds of people in public life: leaders and managers. (Arianna, predictably enough, sees her husband as a Great Leader, and his Democrat opponent, Dianne Feinstein, as a boring old manager.) Some people think the world is divided into hosts and guests (I am a natural guest, please note). I've also heard of divisions into radiators and drains, parents and children, and espressos and cappuccinos (I like this one). Aha] said my friend Ian, and you mustn't forget blondes and brunettes.