The Guardian, Monday 22 December 2014 14.14 GMT
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Bridget Jones in penguin pyjamas … your Christmas wardrobe sorted. Photograph: Moviestore Collection/Rex Features
How can I have a stylish/healthy/sexy Christmas?
Women’s magazines, everywhere
Like “What outfit can take me from desk to disco?” and “Aren’t interviews with models your favourite form of journalism?”, “How can I have a stylish/healthy/sexy Christmas Day?” is one of those questions that exists only in women’s fashion magazines. No one cares a fig about how to have a stylish/healthy/sexy Christmas – they just want to eat figs, ideally dipped in chocolate, and that’s how it should be. The only kind of Christmas anybody wants is a cosy, ideally happy-making one, in which they don’t want to kill any members of their immediate family. But I guess that message does not make for an aspirational article in Vogue, does it?
The best Christmases of my life are ones where I’ve spent the whole day eating pastries in front of Die Hard, Home Alone and Scrooged (the golden Christmas triple bill) in my pyjamas – and I’m not talking about trendy fashion pyjamas that cost £200 from J Crew, or whatever. I’m talking about the kind that make me look like a cut-price Vicky Pollard, that I probably bought for a tenner when I was at university, almost 20 years ago. Hell, Baby Jesus didn’t care about fashion on Christmas Day, so I don’t see why I should either.
Look, I know it’s probably annoying that I keep repeating the same message, most weeks in and, yes, most weeks out: “Wear what you want! It doesn’t matter! Woo hoo!” What kind of fashion advice columnist am I anyway? Why can’t I just tell you all whether stripes or polka dots are in this week, or where to buy a great red coat in Birmingham city centre? Didacticism – that’s what the people want! When do they want it? Every week, in their friendly Guardian newspaper!
Well, maybe some do, but I personally think there is something more important than telling people where to shop for winter wear in Birmingham, if you can imagine such a thing, and that is telling people to give themselves a break. Articles about how to have a stylish Christmas are just another example of the media (particularly, I’m sorry to say, the women’s media) filling up pages by mindlessly and ignorantly berating readers about how to live.
When to get married, what kind of marriage to have, whether to have children, when to have children, whether or not to breastfeed, when to go back to work, what to wear when you go back to work, how much to weigh when you go back to work, whether your hair should be like Jennifer Aniston’s or Kate Middleton’s this year, and on and on it goes. Don’t worry, guys: I know you get this crap too, but, trust me, it’s nowhere near to the same extent that women get it. So instead of rushing to write a letter of complaint to me about how I’m ignoring your suffering, maybe take a moment or two to express silent thanks that you aren’t continually told that everything you are doing in your life is completely wrong.
Sometimes the people who write these ridiculous pieces are merely – and somewhat neurotically – validating their own life choices, such as that absurd article from The Atlantic last year arguing that, if a woman wants to have a baby, she should just have one child. By a remarkable coincidence, it turned out that the woman who wrote the article was herself an only child and the mother of one. As Private Eye would say, fancy that!
In other cases, the media is simply trying to create insecurities in women in order to flog products. Or, more specifically, in order to appease advertisers that make their money from stupid products, such as neck moisturiser and “anti-ageing” serums, which are about as necessary to any woman’s life as having a stylish Christmas.
And finally, there are the articles that don’t serve any educational or commercial purpose but simply exist to fill pages, and it’s in these articles that you generally find the most jaw-dropping examples of ignorance. A classic example was in a certain Sunday supplement this weekend, one that frequently peddles the sort of crackpot diets – juicing, fasting, etc – you might expect to read about in a health-food shop’s free leaflet, not a national newspaper. But even by the supplement’s low nutritional standards, this feature really took the wheat-free biscuit. Promising to teach readers how to have – yes – a “healthy Christmas lunch”, it advocated “an avocado and cacao mousse” and “stuffing made from quinoa”. But even more ridiculous was the nutritional advice, such as the writer’s insistence that “gluten-free flour” and “gluten-free oats” are inherently healthier than normal flour and oats. This is true if you suffer from coeliac disease, which is, incidentally, an actual illness and not a fear of carbohydrates. It is not, if you are anyone else. This is what is known as “classic media nutritionist nonsense” and is precisely the sort of guff that fills up these pointless articles hectoring people about how to live their lives.
So my Christmas present to all of you is to tell you to relax, enjoy yourselves and stick two fingers up at those who tell you to live your lives in a more stylish/sexy/aspirational/nutritionally dubious way. It’s all such a load of nonsense. So have another gluten-packed mince pie, and have a merry Christmas.
• Post your questions to Hadley Freeman, Ask Hadley, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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