Friday, 29 September 2017

Going gently into that good night

Recently I was reading Gaby Hinsliff's article (12 August 2017) on the kerfuffle caused by Alexandra Schulman's posting of a bikini-clad, Instagram selfie. Why kerfuffle? Well, Alexandra Schulman is 59, the out-going editor at Vogue, and by implication, should just "fold [her] tents, like the Arabs, And quietly steal away" (Longfellow, 1858, p. 267) rather than flash her aged and unkempt body around.

You know things are grim when people say "how brave" someone is. Gulp. The woman is on holiday. At the beach. Being in beach wear, while on the beach, is kind of the point. When you are on holiday. It would be brave to wear a kilt, or a cashmere Master's gown, but probably not a bikini.

Others suggested that this should be the next cover of Vogue. I can just hear the publishers saying "over my dead body", in the background. As Gaby said in her article, they are probably thinking that "young women wouldn’t buy it, would recoil from this beaming Ghost of Summer Future" (Hinsliff, 12 August 2017).

When did fashion magazines get so disconnected from reality? And when did we women buy into a perpetually 16 year old image? Pretty few of us looked like the fashion models at 16. Most of us had eaten healthy meals, played sport and not done the model diet (cocaine and cigarettes). At 16, we had thighs, shining good health and lacked that pouty, sulky expression that probably comes from having realised modelling isn't all it's cracked up to be (pun intended).

Good on Ms Schulman for wearing a bikini to the beach. I hope she keeps enjoying her wonderful machine for living. I think the human body is a miracle: to be savoured and used. Not hidden away from shame that we don't measure up to a bundle of pubescent sticks.

I enjoyed Gaby's reporting. I love her phrasing when she said that Alexandra Schulman "is refusing to go quietly despite being 59 in an industry where 30 might as well be dead, and where to have actual thighs instead of a puzzling gap where human thighs are generally located is deemed shocking" (12 August 2017). Being in our fifties shouldn't mean we are in the 'nearly dead' check out lounge. We should not "go gentl[y] into that good night" (Larkin, 1971, p. 474) ...and anyway, there's probably an all night rave on a the beach.

I better buy a bikini.



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