A couple of months ago I read Caitlin Moran’s “How to Be a Woman” book. It was an entertaining enough read, though I rather felt as if she wasn’t quite trying hard enough, as if she’d settled for being funny and self-deprecating rather than really doing justice to the topic and, well, putting a bit more work into it. It’s billed as “a new way of looking at feminism” but she completely skates over the issue of how an overweight, uncool and unpopular girl from a poverty-stricken working-class background found herself working for Melody Maker at the age of 17. How did she manage that? Talent? Luck? Sheer bloody-mindedness? She doesn’t say. In fact she doesn’t talk about work at all, it’s all about relationships and fashion and weight and body hair and babies, which some might say is a rather one-sided view of what being a woman is all about.
There were two statements in the book I took particular exception to… Firstly, she’s wrong about heels. (“WE CANNOT WALK IN THE DAMN THINGS. We might just as well be stepping out in anti-gravity boots, or roller skates.” She’s wrong.) Secondly, on weddings. “Weddings are our fault, ladies. Every aspect of their pantechnicon of awfulness happened on our watch.” She may well be right on that front, but her starting point is that “all” girls grow up dreaming about their wedding day and start planning it in obsessive detail from about the age of five. Well I didn’t, and I know plenty of other women who didn’t either. Some are horrified by the girliness of it all, some by the idea of being the centre of attention for the whole day, some by the underlying notions of the virginal bride being given away by her father to her husband, and some just can’t see the point of going through all the expense and hassle.
I know people who wanted to get married but chose to do so on a beach in St Lucia or in a quick ceremony at Gretna Green with no-one else present or in the Chapel of Love in Las Vegas, because they couldn’t bear the thought of a traditional wedding, be it of the church or registry office variety. They thought it was just about the two of them, not about putting on a show for everyone else. And I know plenty of committed couples who have been together for years, and have no intention of getting hitched; it’s partly because they don’t see any need to get married, but in more than a few cases it’s the wedding itself they dread. If they could just change their Facebook status to ‘married’ overnight, they might well go for it.
I am pretty sure that, despite what Caitlin Moran says, I am not the only woman who has never, for a nano-second, envisaged herself walking down the aisle in a white wedding dress, or throwing a bouquet… (I was the kind of five year old who thought anything girly was ‘yuk’ so no, not even back then). I can appreciate whether a wedding is a ‘nice’ one, but in the same way that I can appreciate whether someone is putting in a good performance or not at karaoke; it doesn’t mean I have any desire to putting myself through the experience! I’m a detached observer, slightly bemused by the fact that other people want to do it, but perfectly happy for them to do so if it makes them happy.
I do, on the other hand, have my funeral planned… well, I know what songs I want played on the way in and out, which is the important bit. (Teenage Kicks being played as John Peel’s coffin was carried out of the church: what a perfect send off). On the long drive home from a wedding yesterday I found myself reflecting on the happy couple’s choice of music and pondering in an entirely hypothetical way what song I’d want played if I was in that situation… I skimmed through my entire musical memory store on fast-forward, then gave up and whacked up “Like a Hurricane” on the car stereo. The perfect song for driving through dark, winding country lanes in the deserted hours of the night. Especially the bit that comes at 6 mins 43 seconds. Sublime… See, I have the important stuff nailed!