One of the most gratifying moments of my life happened when a young intern at The Independent shared a lift with me one morning. “I love how you did that flicky eye thing with your eyeliner,” she said, gesturing towards a particularly expert use of make-up I’d achieved that day. “Oh, thanks,” I replied, “I really like your eyeliner too.” She paused and then said, “Yes, but… your flicky eyeliner got me into journalism.”
“Wow,” I said, “not your love of writing? Your passion for the pursuit of truth? Your interest in political affairs? Your skills at headline-writing and your years of service at the student newspaper?” She thought about it, shook her head and smiled. “No. Really it was all about the eyeliner.” And with that she was gone.
Strangely enough, that whole incident happened on the same day Theresa May met a young MP in a lift at her own place of work who told her that her shoes had gotten her involved in politics – which is to say an entirely fictional day bearing no resemblance to the reality of her job or mine.
But I’m not here to judge how well Theresa May managed to position herself as a national treasure and a universal source of inspiration through painfully PR-led storytelling on BBC’s The One Show, even if she did compound the whole thing by describing her childhood as an opportunity to “get insight into the lives of ordinary people”, a la Jesus.
Who hasn’t described their childhood in those terms once or twice, though? Personally, as soon as I was born I seized upon the opportunity to interview the family members surrounding my crib in Newcastle: ordinary members of a northern electorate in a Labour stronghold, no less.
As a toddler I was struck by their earthy normality, their rough-and-ready regularity, their quaint Geordie habits. At 11 years old, I seized the opportunity to attend a real English comprehensive school and, when my parents divorced, I was immensely grateful for the insight into what people can say to each other when pushed to their emotional limits.
Although I can’t definitively say that I predicted the EU referendum at that tender age, I did get the distinct feeling at the time that paying close attention to their court-ordered custody terms would equip me with the tools to understand and perhaps implement a strong and stable Brexit deal in 2019.
But enough about me. There’s a much more serious issue at stake here: what Philip May was wearing.
Did anyone else notice that the Prime Minister sat on the BBC sofa alongside a man whose top button was visibly undone, positively flaunting his assets? Now I’m all for taking a relaxed approach to politics, but this for me was a step too far.
Granted, the gentle sweep of his hair and the bold decision to pair a chequered print with a black jacket didn’t go unnoticed – well done, Phil! – but I couldn’t help but feel he would have had time to slap on a tie and perhaps even a nice bit of lippy if he hadn’t insisted on keeping his busy City job during the week, rather than focusing his efforts on supporting the leader of our country.
Is it so much to ask, really? You know what they say. Behind every successful woman, there’s a man; he should have seen it as an honour to be that man. After all, as our Prime Minister herself confirmed last night, “there are girl jobs and boy jobs” – and when people don’t stick stringently to those gender roles all hell breaks loose.
Back to the shoes (and before you ask, Phil had gone traditional by teaming his figure-hugging suit with a pair of modest black brogues for TV – after all, you don’t want an undone top button with a suggestive pair of sandals). When asked about whether media scrutiny on her fashion sense had made her job harder, our PM replied that really it just gave her the opportunity to buy more shoes, so it was a blessing in disguise. This is what I always say to women when they talk about unfair scrutiny on their looks or their fashion sense. Why not turn that frown upside down?
Just last week, a midnight catcaller who told me I had “shaggable legs” (whatever that means) gave me the wonderful opportunity to invest in a pair of fishnet tights in order to pleasure the menfolk of Hackney even more. Isn’t it nice to make people happy?
I think my favourite part of Theresa and Philip May’s interview last night, however, was when the PM said: “You should take people as you find them, not have any preconceptions about people and treat everybody equally. That is an important lesson I’ve had.”
And that’s why, on 8 June, as a woman who sticks to the strength of her convictions, I presume she’ll be voting Labour. Bravo.
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