OVER THE past couple of weeks I have found myself in a number of waiting rooms – at the doctor’s, dentist’s and hairdresser’s.
The only thing these three places have in common is a pile of magazines of the sort I rarely read but turn to on such occasions because they’re there.
These magazines, which rejoice in a variety of completely silly titles, seem to be populated by cloned young women with ironed hair extensions, false eyelashes, false nails, false boobs, fake tans and the wardrobe tastes of a burlesque stripper.
Most of them, it is alleged, are ‘celebrities’, but I don’t recognise them. Almost all are just recovering from a traumatic marriage or relationship break-up but have somehow managed to totter out of their homes in their seven-inch Christian Laboutins, fully made up and coiffured.
Of course, the cloned woman is not just a magazine phenomenon, these living Barbie dolls are to be seen on the High Street and, no doubt, in every nightclub (although it’s a very long time since I ventured into one, so I am basing this on photographic evidence from the aforementioned magazines).
Cloned women are everywhere and I find it worrying. Whatever happened to individuality and being yourself; to beauty being more than skin deep and all those other truisms?
We were Christmas shopping in York the other weekend and saw a cluster of girls, who must have been no more than 12 or 13, done up like characters from The Only Way Is Essex, their faces thickly painted and their clothing, such as it was, unsuitable for the chilly late winter evening.
“They’ll catch their death of cold”, I caught myself muttering as we went past, pulling my sensible coat around my sensible mumsy shoulders. “And that won’t be all.”
If evidence was needed that magazines and semi-reality series such as TOWIE (as it is known) or Made In Chelsea are affecting how young girls perceive themselves then you need to go no further than the High Street or the high school gates at home time.
The high-maintenance, artificial look that was once the speciality of footballers’ wives – who could afford the £600 hair extensions and weekly tanning treatments – is now the only way to look.
And it’s not just the young who have fallen into the post-feminist cosmetic consumer trap.
Middle aged women, who really ought to know better, are also clamouring to keep up with the Chelseas and Chardonnays.
They think it makes them look young while, in fact, it could be said to smack of desperation.
It has always been true that only the young can get away with a lot of make-up and false eyelashes – Dame Barbara Cartland proved this in the latter years of her life by looking as if she should have been in a pantomime.
Of course there’s nothing wrong in giving nature a bit of help – women have always resorted to a cosmetic trick or two, and I like a bit of make-up myself – but I’m sure I’m not alone in fearing the consequences of so much unattainable, artificial, airbrushed beauty.
Do we really want our young girls to think they can’t be beautiful unless they cover themselves in slap, get their teeth whitened, go around with a permatan and spend fortunes on nails and hair?
What messages are they receiving? That they will only be valued for their appearance.
Judging by last week’s X Factor performance by Kelly Rowland, who performed in her underwear, flashing her white teeth and hair extensions, I’d say this is exactly the message being given.