Thursday, 23 October 2008

Pretty in pink

They are making us wear pink to work tomorrow. If we wear pink, we give them money. If we don’t wear pink, we give them more money. Sounds like a good business model. (Yes, I’m grown up now and I have a career and I can use expressions like ‘business model’ without laughing. Well, almost.)

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pink clothes, apart from a pair of shoes I fell in love with because they were so rock’n’roll. The reason I don’t have pink clothes isn’t because I don’t want to; it’s just because I look terrible in pink. If it didn’t make my face look a weird colour I’d wear pink all the time. Because, as everyone knows, that’s what middle-aged women do.

I hate jokes about ‘menopause pink’. Because they’re cheap and lazy and misogynistic and ageist. But there’s some truth in them. When I was young I used to wonder why women of a certain age tended to wear fuschia. Now I know. It’s because they can. Because they’re not scared any more of what people think. Because they’re not scared any more of letting themselves be feminine. I blame Enid Blyton.

You’re more likely to hear me say ‘I blame Margaret Thatcher’ or ‘I blame Bill Gates’, but there are times that I blame Blyton. For denying a generation of women the chance to express their femininity. Think back to the Famous Five. If you were a girl, who did you want to be? George of course, the ‘tomboy’ who wants to look like a boy. (Have you ever seen the word ‘tomboy’ outside an Enid Blyton book? Did she invent the concept?)

As a tiny child I preferred blue to pink. Barbie had been invented for a while but the major marketing hadn’t really kicked in. By the time I reached my Blyton years I wouldn’t consider pink again for decades. At eight, I cut off my hair and was delighted when someone did actually mistake me for a boy.

At 18, I cut off my hair again as a punk and barely veered from my jeans and T shirt, one-of-the-boys image for years. In my late 30s and newly single, I was unreceptive to my best friend’s attempt to give me a makeover. She kept talking about ‘sweetheart necklines’. I still don’t know what they are.

I was around 40 before I had the nerve to flaunt my assets. When it was almost too late. What a waste. Not long ago, I was at a works do, standing in the queue for the Ladies and listening to a drunken conversation along the lines of ‘who has the best tits in the company’. (Yes, chaps, this is what we discuss among ourselves when you’re not there. All that talk about shoes is just a front.) And as I listened to the names - which didn’t include me - I had one of those ‘I used to be a contender’ moments.

It’s true you don’t appreciate what you’ve got until you’ve lost it. So, I’m not afraid now to dress like a girl. But I won’t be wearing pink tomorrow, except on my feet. I won’t be regretting it too much. On reflection, it’s a relief that I’m not tempted too far in that direction. The logical conclusion is, after all, Barbara Cartland.

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