As women, we’ve been warned for years about the dangers of unrealistic role models. In the nineties, the stick insect supermodel was paraded in front of us selling lotions and potions trying to convince us we could all look like Kate Moss. For most of us with half a brain, that was a fairly easy one to see through. No amount of a £30 moisturiser is going to leave the average woman looking anything in the same region as Kate Moss. We accept it, we’ll live with what we have.
Feminist commentators would regularly be seen giving out about how unhealthy the images were to young women feeling they must live up to a totally unattainable set of female ideals.
In some ways, with technology, that sense of feeling we must all be flawless has now lessened. Most of us know our way around a digital camera and some of the lesser rate glossies pride themselves on their non airbrushed celeb front page exposes. Now we know if we see too white to be true teeth or skin that doesn’t have a wrinkle within a mile of it, that these images aren’t real. They don’t represent the average woman and we should be happy with what we have rather than trying to emulate them.
But recently I’ve discovered there is a new version of the unrealistic celebrity role model.
Myself and the other half were watching TV. After finishing off the last of the day’s housework, after a day at the other job in the office I made for the sofa in front of an open fire. It was to be bliss.
There, the aforementioned other half was watching Nigella. For those who don’t know she’s the amazing looking woman who’s married to a millionaire and can whip you up a sponge cake faster than you can say Doherty’s Bakery.
“She’s lost weight,” says himself.
“Do you think so?” I ask, secretly annoyed at the fact that now on top of everything else she’s thin.
“You never make me anything like that,” he said, pointing to something resembling a giant doughnut Nigella had just made.
“You’re not a millionaire, so I have to work,” I piped back.
As Nigella made her way along some of London’s more quaint back streets, in and out of specialist food stockists and patisseries she looked like she was having a grand old morning to herself. In the sunshine, her with her grocery basket and lovely black hair.
It was, as himself knew, a far cry from me wrestling with the trolly on my way out of Sainsbury’s wondering how I’m going to fit 15 shopping bags into a Volkswagen Polo which already has a car seat, a buggy and a load of toys in it. It’s far from grocery baskets and strolling around London that my food shopping habits were formed.
So as I watched Nigella and watched the man I married looking on in a way that they might ask a starving child from Ethiopia to pose when they look at the camera for an Oxfam appeal, I thought about how completely unrealistic it is to expect the average real woman to be Nigella-esque.
I should emphasise that I can cook, I can even, if I find the time, bake. But can I stand in my designer kitchen and wax lyrical about the texture of batter? No. That would firstly require a designer kitchen and secondly some kind of intimate knowledge of the science behind batter. I have neither of these.
There are of course massive economical disparities between Nigella. I can summarise this in some senses by saying that she married London millionaire art collector Charles Saatchi. I married Caoimhinn Barr, well known in Inishowen but not huge on the London scene at the minute. But we won’t put it all down to marriage. She came from an incredibly privileged background, her father a former Chancellor of the Exchequor. She comes from money they might say, were we all chatting over dinner on the Titanic.
So you see to parade Nigella on prime time TV puts the rest of us in an awkward spot. It’s leading the average woman to think we should aspire to that level of domestic goddesness and in some ways, that’s just as bad as telling us we can all be a size six. It’s time to take a step back from the perfect TV housewives. Besides, Sainsbury’s do a pretty decent pastry selection to keep the other half happy.