I’m taking a risk here, as I’m pretty sure there will be a few readers standing-by to take issue with me. But if I can’t be contentious on my own blog, where can I? Here are some thoughts on just a few contemporary lifestyle and fashion trends which make me feel, well… old.
1. A passion for ink:
The craving for tattoos on every inkable scrap of flesh is a trend that’s completely beyond me. Extended ink used to be the province of gang members and warlords boasting allegiances and body-counts. Now it seems, ink is cool and everyone wants a tattoo, or several. From a cute little devil on an ass-cheek or a rose on an ankle, we now have sleeve tattoos, whole-back imagery and random scatterings of words and clip-art creeping across shoulders, chests and necks and down arms and legs. Some look upon it as an expression of what matters in their lives; some simply pick images they fancy from the tattooist’s catalogue; others wake from drunken outings to discover indelible messages in embarrassing places. And is there anything more unsightly than a woman in a graceful couture gown, her elegant image scarred with an obtrusive back or shoulder tattoo?
2. Facial foliage:
I don’t know about you, but IMHO, men whose looks are improved by a fulsome beard are few and far between. I’m not talking about close trimmed growth – light stubble or the careful cultivation of what used to be known as ‘5 o’clock shadow’ – but the tangle of undergrowth now sprouting from male faces everywhere. Often ungroomed, untamed and extending scrappily down the neck, is it a throwback to the 70’s hippie era, a craving for simpler times? Do men really believe it makes them look more masculine? Are they blindly following the edicts of men’s grooming magazines or are they relieved that this particular trend masks the fact that they’re just too busy, or lazy, to shave? I know… I know… there are plenty of women who will disagree with me. But beards… I just don’t get it.
3. Boob jobs and botox:
Since when did artificial, Barbie Doll looky-likey become the norm? As a woman born in the 60’s and educated to strive for and expect equality in the workplace and beyond, it disturbs me to see women unable to feel comfortable with the naturalness and individuality of their own bodies. Fearful that their looks aren’t good enough, or worse, sexy enough, they balloon their breasts, plump up their cheeks and lips, swell their buttocks to some grotesque parody of a feminine ideal. Men – some men – don’t seem to mind that what they admire is fake. By their enthusiasm for this pretence, they encourage women with self-esteem and body confidence issues to pump themselves full of chemicals and substances that have no place beneath human flesh. Girls as young as 16 going for breast implants; older women with their faces scragged up behind their ears, their lips tight and immobile. The craving for porn-star looks – is this what feminism and equality was meant to bring us?
4. Footwear – fashion or fetish:
Talking of porn-star looks… seven inch heels used to be the province of fetish shops and stalls at the Festival of Erotica. We used to call them ‘bedroom shoes’, because that’s where we played with them. Yet, here they are, in every high street shoe shop. Young women are forcing their feet into these perilous articles and tottering around, barely able to put one foot in front of the other without clutching on to a friend or passing banister. But all young women wear bizarre fashions, every generation, no exception, myself included. I’m only taking shoes as an example here. What discomforts me is the blurring of boundaries, the aggressive sexualisation of fashion, and not just footwear, seemingly without limit.
5. Pings, rings and dings:
Always-on, social media is with us everywhere. Etiquette and courtesy have gone out of the window in restaurants, cinemas and homes – even, for some, in the bedroom. Our Pavlovian response to those chippy audible commands is to reach for our phone or tablet – which of course, is by our side – and respond immediately to every Tweet, comment, status update or email. As a result, every natural social and even intimate activity has the potential to be interrupted a hundred times. Even those who know they are being rude by jumping to attend to a ping or a ring will do it anyway, accompanying their knee-jerk response with a helpless shrug or a mumbled apology. Worse still, is to see the person who hears his or her phone go off in a remote place, suffer, squeaming from one buttock to the other until they can make an excuse to dip into whatever pocket or bag contains the demanding device. Social media has much to offer society, but the intrusion into our face-to-face social time, the demand it makes for immediate attention, is a price we pay.
6. Demise of the landline:
How did that happen? Increasingly people are abandoning the traditional telephone landline in favour of their constant companion, the mobile phone. To have both is deemed – by some – no longer to be necessary. I understand when a person is on-the-move, regularly relocating or a frequent traveller. But using a landline is so much more… comfortable. The sound quality is better and a landline enables us to ‘take up the position’ on the sofa, telephone handset curled into our shoulder, for a nice, long natter. You can’t curl up with an iPhone. A landline requires you to settle down to take a call. It expects you to give that call your full attention, for as long as it lasts. Maybe the days of the nice, long natter are slipping away.
7. Travelling light:
I read a piece in a magazine this week which seemed to coalesce all my thoughts about the transitory nature of… modern stuff. A young woman wrote that she no longer had collections of CD’s, Books or DVD’s – but kept everything in the cloud. She bought ever cheaper clothes which she could dump before the next season, or discard at the end of a holiday. Her furniture came from Ikea, because it was cheap enough to leave behind when she moved on. This woman travelled light through life – and this seems to be the way these days. Play it right and you can move house in a hatchback. Modern stuff is short-term, temporary and easy to shrug off when you move on. But those who live in the cloud will never have the pleasure of owning a bookcase with bowed shelves, crammed with volumes which relate the story of their life.
8. The cult of celebrity:
In the world of Hello and OK, WAGS, TOWIE and the Kardashians, paparazzi and appearances, fashionistas and their designer handbags, too many are being sucked into the shallow, vacuous world of celebrity. This is where the young aspire to be famous for being famous, not for acquiring any skill or mastery, achieving status within a profession, forging a career. Instead it is enough to be spray-tanned and squeezed into the tightest, shortest garments, then photographed falling out of the hottest nightclub or dangling off the arm of a footballer. In the cult of celebrity, ignorance and stupidity are badges of honour and achievement is being seen in the right place.
9. Scripts, soundbites and the death of authenticity:
With an election coming up in the UK, we’re drowning in soundbites, scripted speeches and staged appearances. Nice and safe, rallies of the party faithful have replaced the pitch-and-toss of a Town Hall meeting or session on a soapbox – the politics of yesteryear. Modern politicians are polished and dressed, coached and prepped to within an inch of their lives, directed to stay on-message, forbidden from eating anywhere near a camera or getting caught – heaven forefend – talking to an actual member of the voting public. Everything is stage-managed and the fear of being caught off-guard is palpable as politicians are ushered, surrounded by minders, from one scheduled activity to the next. The reason people warm to a Boris or a Nigel is because in their clumsy oration, bad-hair days and offhand asides, they offer a tantalising glimpse of spontaneity and reality – the way politics used to be. Today, it’s all about leaving the right impression. Politicians are afraid of being seen being… real.
So I’m certain you’ll take issue with some of my thoughts. I don’t – obviously – want to be trolled, but I am interested in hearing from anyone, whether you’re in unashamed agreement or horrified opposition. Or do you have any other trends and fashions to add to my list – things you don’t ‘get’ about modern life?
These are, after all, only my own humble opinions – and they’re put out here in the interests of generating a little lively interaction.
So… please… don’t be shy. Let’s have a debate!