Douglas Bastard's Rants of Rage


This article was written on 20 Aug 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Magazine Man and Magazine Woman

I had a conversation with my partner this morning where we both talked about the magazines that we’d read and jokingly came up with the idea of ‘Magazine Man’ and ‘Magazine Woman.’ Both of them live the kind of idealised lives projected by Men’s Health or GQ for the men, and Marie Claire or Good Housekeeping for women. We assigned them both a series of qualities and ideas and then forgot about them. And then we saw them this afternoon.

We were both in Homebase, walking the line between price and utility that everyone who is either skint or very close to it will recognise. I saw her first, with her flawless makeup, hair gathered loosely back from her head in a way that was designed to look casual and some perfectly chosen silver flats that radiated heedless elegance. Then we saw him at the checkout, with broad shoulders, a chin like a bum and a boyish face. He radiated solid reliability and had his Boden shirt tucked into his jeans, the off-duty uniform of the Good Chap.

Because I’m hugely nosy and was already busily spinning a whole narrative about them, I discreetly followed them into the car park where they loaded £250 worth of Farrow and Ball paint into the back of the Audi A4 and then drove off to their perfect lives, heedless of the slightly paunchy forty something marvelling that people like them exist and lead such perfect lives. We had joked about them this morning and yet here they were: Magazine Man and Magazine Woman, in the flesh.

Whatever I say now will be flecked with envy like vomit up the side of a pub, because I’ve clearly missed the social boat that they’ve sailed on, years previously, but I’m minded to think about the unwritten rules by which Magazine Man and Magazine Woman become successful, as our society might define it. For the others, like me, who are eternally left outside, scrabbling around while they enjoy their ease, we can only hope to guess.

So here goes. I think they’re both Tories, because voting Tory is, to them, a mark that you have something worth protecting from people who you think would take it off you. The Magazine Couple, you see, are probably big on individual responsibility and think, quite naturally for two affluent people who have never had moments of nagging doubt or gone to the cashpoint machine wondering how overdrawn they are, that if you fail that it’s because of something that you did wrong or a personal failing deep within you.

Their jobs mean that they’re never brought sharply into contact with anyone outside their cohort because they’re young professionals in frightfully nice jobs. He probably works in property or one of the more exalted branches of the law, which involves making it easy for incredibly rich people to buy something or use some kind of service, while she works in publishing. In time, when she has children, she’ll be able to stop work because he’ll have been made a partner and will be earning some, astronomically high sum which means it won’t be an issue for them.

Of course, they’ll see themselves as terribly down to earth because they went to Homebase and bought the paint themselves and, for all I know, intend to put it on themselves as well, rather than paying a little working class man to do it for them. Were they to do that, they’d need a friend to recommend someone, because they certainly won’t know any and because Bristol University, where they probably met, won’t have educated many painters and decorators.

But why call them Magazine Man and Magazine Woman? Because their lives are, of course, models of perfection that are only seen in the pages of certain magazines. She won’t have any embarrassing vaginal odours or underarm hair, because they will have been rigorously dealt with at a much earlier stage. Any signs that she actually has a body which does things of its own volition will have to have to be treated in the same way, because this was an effortlessly beautiful woman walking around Homebase with full make-up. She has no time for looking or smelling unkempt.

Him too, of course. His magazines will have told him that he needs to work out three times a week, which he does, because his wife has been told that she shouldn’t accept a paunchy man who is unfit. A set of assumptions attach to men of his station which he must fulfil, and does, from the shirt tucked in the jeans to the hair that was long, but not too long, and definitely lustrous. A woman like that doesn’t want to be seen with someone who is balding, and won’t be. She chose well from the gene pool and he wants to be seen to be proof of that.

The magazines will advertise products, such as Audi cars, Farrow and Ball paint and silver flats that they will need to own, or be told to want, and which they do. You don’t become successful by thinking too deeply about how the system works and certainly don’t ponder whether capitalism is fair. You had over cash for your Audi or your paint, and you assume that this is how it has always worked and how it will always work. People like you have money, that you give to unlucky people who work in shops, and who then hand you things which you have a right to.

By any reasonable estimation, these people are the winners. They have a comfortable standard of living and don’t have to worry too much about what’s in the bank because it’s accumulating nicely and they’re never, ever in debt. Life has delivered so far and there are no signs that it won’t continue to deliver in perpetuity. And by that metric, which is the one that my society uses and is the only one that really matters, I am a loser.

I’ve had an interesting life, but have little in the way of income to show for it and am the kind of freelance for whom any kind of cheque feels like a blessing that will go part of the way to covering last month’s bills. You wouldn’t invite me to a dinner party, because I am in no way classy or likely to fit in well with your friends and have a tendency to say things which suggest that I don’t like the way the world works. But then, of course I say and think these things. I am a loser who has fallen by the wayside and we, that’s losers, always resent success.

Such is the way society works. It’s here to comfort Magazine Man and Magazine Woman who are effortlessly living out magazine lives and whose magazines hold out the hope that while the others may not achieve the same perfection, by wearing the same jumper or the same shoes, eating the right soup or going on holiday to the same places, they can bask in some of the reflected glory. To people like Magazine Man and Magazine Woman, the spoils. And to people like me, left far behind, bitterness, rue and dumb incomprehension.

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