I REALISE that I am of an age that means I now watch music award ceremonies largely to work out what the young people are listening to these days.
But still, allow me a few words on the Grammys. No, not about Madonna looking like the Quaker Oats man – she really did, didn’t she? I so wanted to love Beyoncé opening the show as only Queen Bey can, and it was going OK – I’m not mad about the song Drunk In Love, but I was coping. And then Jay-Z lumbered on to the stage in his ill-fitting tuxedo and over-sized bow tie. Talk about a spoiler. And then it got worse. I thought at first my ageing ears were deceiving me – Ike Turner? Did Jay-Z just say Ike-drug-addled-domestic-abuser Turner? Surely not. Alas those were indeed the words he said, and he continued: “Now, eat the cake, Anna Mae, I said eat the cake, Anna Mae”. It’s a reference to a scene in the Tina Turner biopic What’s Love Got To Do With It? in which the abusive Turner acts out his jealousy over his then-wife’s soaring success by attempting to force her to eat a cake and it ends in a scuffle. It’s a horrible scene. So what I can’t work out is why Jay-Z wants to reference it? And why, on an album on which she celebrates motherhood and includes Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk on feminism, Beyoncé is happy for him to do so?
LAST week someone (Jill, it was you) called me, to my face, a “wee woman”. Obviously, I have been called worse and, to be fair, it wasn’t hurled as an insult, it was simply descriptive.
This brings me to the uncomfortable truth that despite the notion being shocking (to me at least), it is accurate.
It’s not that the photo to the left of these words is actual size – although jokes have been made about this – but it’s closer to reality than I’d like. I am 5ft three-and-a-half. Half an inch shorter than the national average. If you think counting in halves is a bit petty, you are plainly over 5’6” if you’re a woman, 5’9” if you’re a man. It seems only reasonable to accept, therefore, that I am, indeed, wee. And yet, that is not how I think of myself.
I don’t feel wee. Or short. Or small. Or petite. It’s true that at a gig I see a lot more of people’s shoulder blades and armpits than would be ideal. It’s also true that I fairly regularly suffer the indignity of having people bend down to talk to me, particularly women wearing vertiginous heels. Awful. But, honestly, I still don’t think of myself as little.
So what’s my problem? And what’s wrong with being titchy anyway? I love Ronnie Corbett (4’11”). And Mrs Pepperpot (the clue’s in the name – tiny). And Dustin Hoffman (5’6”). And Amy Poehler (5’2”). Nothing’s wrong with it, obviously, apart from the fact that we shorties are less likely to go on to higher education, less likely to earn as much (the difference between being 6’ and 5’4” is £100K over a 30-year career, apparently) and we’ll enjoy fewer dates when we’re teenagers too. Being tall is venerated. We connect height to power and so we behave accordingly. No wonder I consider my true stature to be 5’7”.
Despite all this, or rather since I didn’t know it, I’d always secretly thought that my height issue was my own (talk about a Napoleon complex.) But a recent experiment provides even more evidence for my height delusion.
Sixty women wore virtual reality headsets in order to take a (virtual) tube journey at two different heights – their normal height and a full head (30cms) shorter. They didn’t just do this of their own volition, scientists at Oxford University asked them to. What happened? The results were, what the researchers described as, “dramatic”. When the women felt smaller, they had increased feelings of “inferiority, weakness and incompetence”. This explains why, when they were short, they believed that other people in the carriage (avatars, but convincing ones, obviously) were being more hostile towards them and trying to upset them by staring.
In short, being short made them paranoid. This is not entirely heartening news for a person who is 5’3”. And a half. But it probably is if you’re a person who is lacking in confidence or who struggles with paranoia, because it means that changing your perception of how big you are is likely to make you feel more confident and competent. And, it allows us to end this once and for all – no matter what anyone tells you, size really does matter.
Hypocrisy and soda
Oh ScarJo, what’s happened to you? Once, you were cool. You were charming in Lost In Translation and we’ve been so excited about seeing you in Under The Skin. But now you’ve dumped Oxfam, a charity that helps millions of people every year in dozens of countries all over the globe, for SodaStream. Oxfam opposes all trade in goods produced by Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories; SodaStream has a large factory in the West Bank. What’s a multi-millionaire movie star to do? Given that ScarJo has also advertised Moët and Mango, Calvin Klein and Dolce & Gabbana, presumably it takes even more cash to compensate for having no scruples. «