Skip to Content

Diary

Diary

18 February 2012

4:00 PM

18 February 2012

4:00 PM

We are not made incrementally aware of things that happen incrementally. Though something may have been changing for a while, the realisation comes all at once in a swoop, usually when it’s far too late. I realised that I had become a ‘madam’ last weekend, in the butcher’s. We had a bit of a joke, the butcher and I, over the severed limbs, then as he handed me my bag, he said: ‘There you go, madam.’ Madam? Madam? Madam? What happened to babe? I’m sure I was babe last week. Since the butcher opened my ears, life has become a terrible cacophony of madams: ‘£3.50 please, madam,’ ‘sorry, madam,’ ‘thank you, madam.’ Whilst I was buying mince, my girlhood slipped away.

•••

Once a woman’s had her ‘madam moment’, there’s no turning back. Each ‘madam’ has a madamising effect: I feel more staid, less flippant; my feet flatter on the floor. Yesterday I impulse-bought Carmen rollers online. There’s some consolation to be had from the thought that men suffer too. Few notice, I guess, the slow steady loss of hair. All at once there’s a new pink patch in the changing room’s angled mirror; a tonsure in some photo tagged on Facebook. But you can hide a bald spot, boys, though your trembling fingers return to touch your tender head. There’s no hiding from the ‘madams’. Unless, I suppose, I live on takeaways, shop online and never take a taxi or buy a ticket for anything ever again. Which is a thought.


•••

Every day, except when it’s raining, I cycle to work through Trafalgar Square and pause to gaze at the ship in a big plastic bottle on the fourth plinth. What makes it so horrid? The ship is a scale model of Nelson’s Victory with sails made of an African print and I’m told it symbolises the triumph of ethnic diversity over pallid, monocultural imperial Britain. But that doesn’t make it pretty. The ship finally sailed last week, but just as I was celebrating, brother Jack told me that the Art Fund (usually an excellent institution) are trying to buy the bottle for the nation, so as to cement it to the ground outside the Maritime Museum in Greenwich where it will forever seem to float down the Thames as a monument, perhaps, to all the plastic waste at sea. The Art Fund have stumped up 50 grand, and they suggest that art lovers give a fiver each to help gather in the £300,000 that’s still left to pay. I suggest art lovers spend 46p on a stamp for their letter to the Art Fund setting them straight, and the remaining £4.54 on a cup of tea and a bun in the lovely café beside the National Gallery.

•••

After buying my Carmen rollers, I read that nice little note that Google wrote to its users about its new ‘privacy’ policy, in which it explains just how unfrightening data-sharing really is. It’s actually in my interest, said Google, for it to share my search history with interested parties, so that my internet experience can be tailored to my needs. The note was written in a super-casual voice — the sort a psycho might use to lure someone down an alley — but I was almost won round. And yet … on Monday night I woke too early and reached for my iphone to see the time. Because my iphone is tailored to my needs it told me I had an email from Amazon; because Amazon is tailored to my needs, it couldn’t wait till morning to tell me about a new pair of trainers it thought might be up my street; because paypal is tailored to my needs, it offered me the option of a one-click buy. It was 4 a.m. I didn’t need a tailored internet experience, but I did need some indefinable form of comfort. I clicked. In a few days a shoebox will arrive and I’ll glance briefly at the unwanted trainers before tucking them under my desk, where they’ll stay, with the other boxes, in the shameful dark.

•••

Vain men are much vainer than vain women — I have proof. In a pathetic attempt to stem the endless flow of ‘madams’ I went to the gym, but I was diverted from actual exercise by the extraordinary difference in male and female gym behaviour. Whilst the ladies occupy the unobtrusive mats in the communal workout area, the men jostle for mirror space — then stand so close they mist the glass, twitching their pecs and stroking their own stomachs. Because the ladies’ changing rooms were being repainted, we girls had the run of the men’s this week. The ladies’ room has nooks and crannies for the madams to hide in. All the men have is one big square box — no nooks — entirely lined with mirrors. My friend who works at the gym says that at closing time, when the men are in their usual room, he’ll go to turn out the lights and find, inevitably, a handful of narcissistic stragglers, unable to tear themselves away from their reflections, lost in a trance of self-love. 


Show comments
Close