Sunday, June 11, 2006

You're beautiful, it's true

MY SISTER phoned me on Monday night to tell me about an ad that is currently airing on TV. (Sadly, no, we don't have more exciting things to talk about in our family).

She said the new ad for Dove, of all things, was really moving. Well, in the interest of journalistic investigation of course I sat down in front of the TV and flicked the channels until I found out what she was going on about.
Dove, who make very lovely soaps and shampoos, have launched a 'Self Esteem Fund' for young girls. While Cyndi Lauper (or someone trying to sound like Cyndi Lauper) sang about letting your true colours come shining through, images of young girls flash on the screen. One hates her freckles. One thinks she isn't smart enough and then an impossibly skinny girl lets us know she thinks she is fat.
Then Dove announce they are going all out to show every little girl just how beautiful she really is. It's a lovely sentiment and I admit feeling all warm and glow-y as the ad ended.
The cynics out there will no doubt write this whole escapade off as a cynical marketing ploy by a company who, by dint of their very existence, are more interested in selling products to stop you smelling like a back end of a donkey than changing the world.
But I, for one, have to commend them. I like that a company isn't afraid to use real women in their ads. I like that they feature ladies over a certain age and women with real, saggy boobs and wobbly cellulitey thighs in their campaigns.
And I really like a company who has made it their mission statement to make little girls feel like the most special and beautiful little creatures on the planet.
I visited Dove's website ( and discovered that 92% of girls aged between 8 and 12 would change one or more aspects of their appearance.

Sindy and Barbie
My God, when I was eight all I cared about was Sindy and Barbie and which was the cooler. I remember being vaguely aware that I had a wee touch of a pot belly and what my mother lovingly referred to as a "duck arse", but this was, in my mind, just the normal S bend shape of a child.
I never thought about getting rid of my freckles, nor did I really contemplate my weight or long for bluer eyes or a smaller nose. I never thought I was stupid, even when long division baffled me beyond words.
It saddens me to think that young girls can doubt themselves in this way- and it angers me that we have allowed them to believe they are anything less than perfect and beautiful and that up until now no one has really deemed it an important enough issue to do anything about it.
Sure, we had the Spice Girls, with their "Zig a Zig Ahs" and shouts of "Girl Power" but in reality were they role models for us to aspire to? Erm, there was the skinny one who married a footballer and lives off his money. Then there was the chubby ginger one, who became skinny, the chubby, then normal, then had a baby she called Bluebell. I'm sure there were a couple of others too, but they didn't really amount to much in the grand scheme of things.
Looking around today it's hard to know who young girls aspire to be. The charts offer little inspiration. I mean there is that stupid Fergie woman singing about her humps and her lady lumps or there are the Pussycat Dolls (or is that Dollz, with a z? I'm so not with it) encouraging young girls to be freaks like them.
The best selling toy for the 8-12 year olds are dolls (with an s) called Bratz (with a z). Now I know I'm nearly 30 so hurtling towards old age at lightning speed now but surely things haven't moved on so much that we no longer regard being a brat as a bad thing? Next thing you know there will be a range of dolls on the market called "Wee Feckers" and no one will bat an eyelid.
If our toys and our heroes aren't there championing our self esteem and letting us know it is ok to be nice, polite and non freakish young ladies then how are our young girls supposed to accept themselves for the people they are?
I, for one, find it so sad to see young girls trying to conform to perceived notions of what being beautiful and cool is. It's a sad day when you see a seven year old wrestle her way into a boob tube and slip on a pair of heeled shoes. Similarly there is nothing as heartbreaking as seeing a child of the age of four point to her belly and tell you it is fat.
So I'm all for Dove and their Campaign for Real Beauty and I want to tell all the little girls out there with freckles, or pot bellies, duck arses, sticky out ears, you are beautiful, it's true!

A load of balls

*First published on June 2, 2006.

IT IS with a heavy heart that I have realised we are now in the month of June.

As the days pass, the sense of impending doom and dread I feel grows stronger and stronger. This is the month I have dreaded all year- the World Cup is almost upon us.
In precisely seven days time my husband, my male relatives and the lion share of my male colleagues will morph into football obsessed yahoos who will become incapable of discussing anything other than the qualifiers between the Ivory Coast and Serbia.
This delightful experience will last a joyless month, during which time I will have to fight with himself for use of the remote control- which I imagine will be a pointless exercise anyway as there will be nothing on the TV remotely non-related to the footie.
There will be no escaping it. Matches will be played at all hours of the day and when the matches aren't actually on there will be pre-match coverage and the post-match coverage and the between match coverage.
Nothing will be sacred. They will move Coronation Street and EastEnders to accommodate the matches. (I am physically restraining my hands here from typing bad words to express my displeasure. I realise that is neither big nor clever and I apologise for my thoughts).
To add insult to injury even the priests are in on the act- and worse still they support England!
As you may have guessed I'm not a ladette. The astute among you may realise that I don't care for football. The closest I've got to watching a match in recent years is checking out the latest series of 'Footballers' Wives'.
I may have feigned an interest if Ireland had managed to qualify. I'm pretty sure that if the boys in green had made it to Germany (and yes, I did have to ask my colleagues if that was right) I would have shown some enthusiasm just as I have done in the past, when I joined the throngs of people watching the big screens in Squires in 1994 when Jackie's Army stormed the USA (and yes, I had to ask that too).
I'd have found a player I fancied and ogled his legs. I'd have gone to the pub with my friends and waved a cheap agus nasty plastic Irish flag around and sang a resounding chorus of "Ole, ole, ole, ole"- but in the absence of a national duty to watch the football, I would love to ignore it entirely.

Tense month
Unfortunately I am married to an English man. You may realise that sets the scene for a very tense month in the Allan household.
It's not that I hate the English football team. I'm sure some of them are fine footballers in their own rights. What I hate, however, is the jingoistic, self satisfied smugness that particular nation sees fit to adopt if they win a match.
They go overboard with the news coverage, the songs, the flags, the Union Jack boxer shorts and (yes, I've seen this) toddlers carted about in special edition St. George's Cross buggies.
It's galling. It is not like they've found the cure for cancer or caught Osama Bin Laden shopping for Weetabix in Tesco. One man who has spent his whole life kicking balls around has simply managed to kick another ball into a net the size of your average bus. Oh, some men chased him while he did it. Whoopee! Hardly cause for national celebration now, is it?
Himself, of course, is very excited. He loves the World Cup. He is is giddily excited about being able to share the World Cup with his son for the first time. They will bond over it, as I sit with a face like thunder in the next room- excluded entirely from my family unit.
I should say I'm lucky most of the time. Himself is not a mad football supporter, so for three years out of four I can more or less pretend the blasted sport doesn't exist- but there is a strange mist that descends on him around the time of the World Cup that changes everything.
He becomes an English version of Homer Simpson, who melds into the sofa, can of beer in one hand, cheering and jeering at the footie and nodding at the sage words of Gary Lineker as if he was given said words on tablets of stone from on high.
If he gets together with his best mate Chris, we have a real life version of 'Men Behaving Badly' played out in our living room. I remember France 1994 being particularly traumatic on this front. The two of them dragged a cool box, filled with ice, into the living room for each major match and drank their way through the Ivory Coast's supply of cheap and nasty beer.
For four solid weeks I gave up on the notion of getting any sensible conversation out of him. There was no point. Like all strong women, I know when I am beat.
I'm hoping the eight years between then and now will have mellowed and matured my other half and that his threats to train the wee man to fetch the beer from the fridge for him are, indeed, just idle threats.
I'm stocking up on a selection of the finest Chick-Lit books, fine wines and soppy DVDs and I'm going to lock myself into my room to escape the nonsense. Hopefully by the time 2010 comes along (which will be in South Africa- and yes, I had to check) I'll have a little girl to bond with and the men can get on with it themselves.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Watch yourself Mazza!

Dear reader,
I have written a novel! A proper one with loads of words (86,000 of the blighters if you want to know). Most are spelled correctly. Some have more than one syllable. There is a fair smattering of incorrect usage of the whole its/ it's thing, but hey, it's a first draft!
It's called This Little Piggy and if any agents out there fancy signing me up and finding me a fancy dan publisher, that would be just dandy!
I'm prouder than punch about it because this was one of the three life goals I set myself for before I turned 30!
The first was to learn to drive and pass a test. Well I ticked that badboy off the list on March 21! This particular ambition was resolved on 6/6/6 (hope that isn't an omen!).

Big up to Queen Mazza who inspired me in 'Under the Duvet' by revealing she wrote her first novel in her 31st year and also big up to my friend and colleague Siobhan, who always wanted to write a book but sadly never got the chance.

Also thanks to everyone who read it while it was a work in progress! Love ya all!

(For the record, my third ambition was to lose bag loads of weight- but in the words of Meatloaf, two out of three ain't bad!)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Month 28- "No Mammy, it's a orange lorry"

Dear Joseph,
Welcome to your 28th month birthday. In so many ways it feels you have been here forever and yet, there are times, I wish you really had been. It seems like a heartbeat since I held you in my arms and wondered what the holy feck I was going to do with this newborn creature.
You seem to have become a human sponge this month. Of course, as your mammy, I have to say I'm well aware of the fact that you were born the most handsomest, smartest child in the world bar none- but this month you have exceeded even my wildest handsome and smart expectations.
The curls on your head have become wilder than ever and I swear when I looked at your this morning your eyes were that little bit bluer.
The real beauty in you though is your personality. I love to hold you close and say: "Joseph's my baby"- this month you have learned that the best way to impress your doting mother is to reply "Mammy's my baby" back.
Smart and gorgeous- what more could a mother want?

Of course you can catch me out. On our mornings in the car, driving to see your favourite Pepsi dog, we like to spot the vehicles as we go.
By about now, I can tell you what we meet before we go and I can get sometimes get a little lazy with the lorry spotting.
Seeing a lorry speed towards us I said: "Look Joseph, it's a yellow lorry"
"No mammy, it's an orange lorry," you replied.
My heart swelled with pride as I skited you one across the top of the head for being cheeky!
Love you loads,

(No children were actually skited across the top of the head during the month of May)
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