Now it can be told: I am secretly Trinny and Suzannah rolled into one and twice as ghastly, only without the grabbing the body parts bit.
I think I started young, and my targets were mostly boys. (Thankfully, they were blissfully unaware of this.) There were definitely a few youths at my school who I felt would do much better in life in general if they ditched the neat side parting/the bonkers winter hat that protected their ears/the ankle-flapper trousers. I doubt if their mothers would have agreed with me, though.
But this didn’t apply to students, and when I became one I was surrounded by blokes I couldn’t wait to get my hands on, in a manner of speaking. Didn’t they realise that, if their features were less than perfect, they could, unlike women, improve their appearance by 50% within a week or two just by growing a beard? (And they could add another 25% to that by growing their hair long.) Then as long as they stuck to dark colours and jeans that were long enough, they were home and hosed.I’m afraid to say I imbibed such shockingly judgemental behaviour at my mother’s knee. She and her friends had very firm ideas about HOW TO MAKE THE BEST OF YOURSELF and the proper way to dress. They changed their handbags to match their outfits and believed fervently that ‘blue and green should never be seen’, and neither should black and brown, or red and pink, come to that. An inveterate people watcher, when on holiday my mother would award a daily ‘hideosity trophy’ (not physically, you understand) to some hapless tourist who was simply trying to negotiate the Mediterranean heat as comfortably as they could. The unwitting victims of this award would have committed one or more of a number of crimes: clashing patterns, unsightly shorts (particularly on men), varicose veins she felt should have been kept under wraps rather than displayed for all to see, girly frills on women old enough to know better (I think the explanation for this is how little opportunity we get to wear out our warm-weather clothes in the UK – my wardrobe is full of summer garments decades old that are frankly unsuitable for a woman of my years).
It’s no wonder that I’m a sucker for makeover programmes. What Not To Wear, the thoroughly reprehensible Ten Years Younger, Would Like To Meet, How To Look Good Naked all peddle the dream of infinite perfectability, which, if it gets out of hand, is the road to ruin, or at least pervasive unhappiness. (I’m also a sucker for quiz shows, and I must say I’m distressed at the sight of blokes who think it’s OK to appear on national television wearing visibly grimy vests under their shirts.)
I suppose my only saving grace is that it would not occur to me to air my vile opinions on social media, but millions would and do…
And who am I to be judging, anyway? ‘Physician, heal thyself’. It’s not as if I go around looking like a Vogue fashion shoot, although I do aim to be turned out acceptably, and on occasion stylishly. Sometimes, though, I can’t even manage that: I was talking to an immaculately dressed civil servant at a recent training session and noticed that she was staring at a point some two inches below my chin. When I got home I realised that the lovely blackwatch tartan scarf I had flung on so insouciantly on my way out was covered in moth holes – some still even had those little white bits round the edge! And I can’t bring myself to part with a long flecked cardigan with bell sleeves that has ‘Roxy’ embroidered on the back, so when I wear it I have to prevent anyone getting a rear view of me. I think a need a makeover.