Out on a dike

Out on a dike phr. [mid 19-C] (US) going out in one's best clothes. [DIKED DOWN] I'm out as a dyke, occasionally out with a dyke. What I do when I'm out on a dike can become your business once I write about it here.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Word of the day

I discovered a possible new word today, inadvertently created within someone's out-of-office auto-reply email. In fact I had an amusing half hour reading out-of-office replies following a bulk e-mailing at work. It's fascinating how much detail some people are willing to give to explain why they can't read or reply to a message immediately.

The new word is Mondnesday - as in, "I am away until Mondnesday 30 January". You what? It's possible to get into all kinds of scrapes when re-hashing a previous auto-reply message in Outlook's Out of Office Assistant. The Assistant provides no assistance at all sometimes. You type; we'll all laugh.

I immediately came up with a definition:

Mondnesday n. [early 21C] Any day you're not actually sure what day it is. Any day will do. A mindless day; my mind's gone numb type of day.

The challenge now is to get this into the Oxford English Dictionary. Do you think it will catch on? Given the challenges laid down by Balderdash and Piffle currently, there's got to be a chance - and perhaps this entry in Out on a dike will prove to be the first written evidence in years to come.

I've thought of a few more.

Tuthuday n. [early 21C] A painful day, when stress is often experienced in the jaw area. A deadline is approaching and there are 'too few' days remaining.

Friturday n. [early 21C] A waste. Sometimes experienced as boredom. You wait all week for the weekend and when it arrives you just don't know what to do or how to spend those 'non-school' nights.

Sunfriday n. [early 21C] A holiday. Everyone deserves at least one week topping up their tan in the sun (sensibly, of course).

While you're thinking about words, surely someone can help Balderdash and Piffle prove that gay was used in the queer/homosexual sense before 1935 [current OED entry]. In the first programme of the series Victoria Coren tried hard to get the OED panel to listen to the earlier evidence in a Gertrude Stein short story and a Noel Coward song. Unfortunately they turned her down on both counts.

What do you reckon?
They were regular in being gay, they learned little things that are things in being gay, they learned many little things that are things in being gay, they were gay every day, they were regular, they were gay, they were gay the same length of time every day, they were gay, they were quite regularly gay.
"Miss Furr and Miss Skeene", Geography and Plays (1922)

This story about two lesbians, written in 1911, and published in Vanity Fair magazine in July 1923, is considered to be the ultimate origin of the use of the term "gay" for "homosexual" (though it was not used in this sense in the story).



Monday, January 23, 2006

The future's pink

Does everyone who writes for The Guardian or Observer need to be called Polly? Today, in The Guardian, Polly Curtis turned her attention to the pink pound.

Lesbians earn £6,000 more than the national average for women, take two more holidays a year and spend £400 a month on credit cards, according to the survey of 1,118 readers of Diva and Gay Times by the marketing consultancy Out Now.

So - just how representative are the self-selecting people who agree to complete marketing surveys of this type? Let's think now. Two more holidays a year than the national average for women? Where does that leave me and my one holiday a year? Ok, so last year I had three nights in Blackpool and three nights in Brighton. That could be considered two holidays, but it still leaves the average woman with no holidays whatsoever. £400 on credit cards? I don't think so! I'm a Maestro girl who spends within her means. And what I earn is between me and my employer.

Yesterday I may have sounded obsessed with the millions spent on hair removal - but you can't blame me for that. Polly (Vernon) got there first; I was simply responding. Now we're to marvel at the multi-millions spent by gay men and lesbians on frivolous kinds of entertainment. Outrageous!

Gay men spent more on holidays, DVDs and clothing last year than lesbians, but lesbians outspent gay men on mobile telephone bills and buying pet food.

What does that tell us? Lesbians are practical and gay men are pleasure-seeking? Lesbians try harder at long-distance relationships and make up for it by pampering their cats and dogs, who (quite frankly) don't care if their lesbians wear clothes or not. Is this helping the stereotypes any?

And then we get to the crutch of the matter.

It's not really the money that Polly (Curtis) wants to draw attention to. It's femininity! The big issue here is the femininity of lesbians. But of course - silly me - that must cost them millions!

Diva magazine doesn't help, running it's own 'Fashion survey'. Jane Czyzselska, Diva's editor, is quoted as saying:
The stereotypical idea of lesbians - particularly from people with prejudices - is that we are not feminine and that's almost considered a crime. It's therefore interesting to note how many women describe themselves as feminine.

Apparently 33% who answered the survey describe themselves this way. And that's my point, really. 33% who answered the survey. It's a fashion survey, right. With questions about knickers and bras, accessories and cosmetics. Who is more likely to fill in this survey? Those who wear bras (95%) and high heels (25% own at least one pair) and make-up (75%). That's 75% of those who answered the survey, Diva. Not, as the magazine states, "three out of four readers". Did I answer the survey? No. Did three out of four readers answer the survey. I doubt it. I doubt very much if Diva are prepared to say how many responses they got. At least the marketing survey by Out Now gives us numbers.

So why is a lesbian magazine so keen to shout about the femininity of lesbians?

The point of these new surveys seems to be to demonstrate to companies that lesbians have signifcant disposable income and are prepared to dispose of it in large lumps if only advertisers would wake up and recognise the potential of lesbians as consumers.

My point is this. Why are lesbians being sold as attractive to advertisers only if they can be shown off as feminine? Even if only one-third feminine. Whose stereotypes are being bolstered here? By all means show lesbians buying make-up, wearing skirts and high heels (which is as TV drama prefers it), but even the most feminine of lesbians takes her high heels and make-up off from time to time. I want to see the adverts that play to the strengths of the other 66%.

Is it something of a backlash; is it at all significant that Diva's fashion survey appeared in the December 2005 issue with the hairy-armpitted model and main cover headline of 'Beauty and the Butch'?

Money makes the world go round. Or is that femininity?


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Deeply Depilatory

I came across a hair-related article the other day just crying out for my response. After all, I am the woman who shaves her head and lets the remainder of her body hair fend for itself - apart from one or two stray eyebrows, that is. (We all have our weaknesses.)

Read Plucking Hell by Polly Vernon (The Observer, Sunday 15 January 2006) and you'll learn that Polly is an obsessive plucker. She finds the pain of extreme depilation far easier to cope with than the sight of her own sprouting leg hair. As an experiment, she allowed the hair on her legs to grow until it became all too terrifying and would "physically repulse anyone I show it to." After three and a half weeks she was desperate to shave once more.

I can relate to Polly - but only in an inverted way (no real surprise there, then!) I know exactly what it feels like to go beyond two weeks without the slide of clippers on my head. It's a cruel form of self-torture. I could never achieve three and a half weeks. But put a razor, hot wax, or cream anywhere near my legs, armpits (no! never the armpits!) or (ahem) elsewhere and I'll be fighting to keep the root in every follicle.

Yes, head-shaving is my preferred form of therapy. It keeps me shiny, inside and out. It's also very cheap. Just what are British women doing spending £280 million a year on hair removal? Polly seems to know:

On a more bog-standard and British level, when was the last time you saw a woman expose leg hair or armpit hair, or (heaven forfend!) an untended moustache, on the streets of the UK? The rare female celebrity who dares to venture in front of the paparazzi without first ensuring that every last trace of excess body hair has been plucked from her lithe form is roundly and publicly vilified.

I guess this must mean that women are depilating all over the UK in order to keep out of (or get into, in some cases) Hello, Heat or the News of the World. Just in case they turn into celebrities overnight, I suppose! (Well, anything's possible - just look at Chantelle on Celebrity Big Brother.)

I know, I know - there must be times it would be just as bad, or worse even, having the neighbours or your workmates observe that you're sprouting more than the average woman. But I've said it before, and I'll say it again, it's a pretty sad state of affairs when hair is understood to be the distinguishing measure of how much of a woman (or man) you are. It all depends where on the body you're looking, of course.

There is a suggestion in Polly Vernon's article that women have to remove more hair these days because we are becoming hairier. One of the ironies I see is that my leg hair is probably less rampant than most women's (were they to let it grow) if they have been shaving or using other depilatory methods for many years. Removing hair encourages hair growth - doesn't it? Or is that one of the myths our mothers used to stop us shaving too soon?

If women are becoming hairier surely it's because they keep plucking, scraping and ripping it off. It's the hair fighting back.

By the end of Polly's article I'm able to admit I have one thing in common with the pluckers. I like hair to be in its place. Velvet and cropped on my head. Unshaven elsewhere. I enjoy the different pleasures my natural body hair gives me. I'm never repulsed by leg hair poking out the bottom of a woman's trouser. I prefer a fluffy underarm on a woman. I think it's amazingly sexy. Each to their own. My hope would be that £280 million is being spent because every woman is genuinely determined to pleasure and enjoy her body in the way she desires it for herself; not because she is attempting to buy an image of femininity and public acceptance in a gender (how to be a woman)-obsessed society.

When was the last time you saw a woman expose leg hair or armpit hair? If it was a little warmer in the UK I'd be doing it every day. I can't wait till summer.


Saturday, January 07, 2006

Celebrity Everything

My first post of 2006 and I've been feeling quite happy this week. Going back to work has involved no growling or roaring. Later in the year I'm sure there will be instances, but for now I'm enjoying the fact that the first week of January has felt like a 'bonus week' - a chance to get some things done before the whole country winds itself up to full-strength action and demands.

Of course I could just be pleased that a new rash of celebrity reality TV viewing is beginning. Having enjoyed such success in 2005, personally helping to vote Carol Thatcher through to Queen of the Jungle and Shayne Ward to the X Factor Number One spot (although Brenda really deserved to be in the final), I wonder who will receive my support this year. I'm not too sure how much of Celebrity Big Brother I will be watching, but Soapstar Superstar has already received my vote. Shame there isn't a voting option to remove judge Cilla Black, however! Next Saturday there's also Dancing on Ice, an ITV ice dancing version of BBC's Strictly Come Dancing. How can I not watch, given the Nottingham heritage of Torvill and Dean?

Talking of celebrity heritage, I was introduced to the My Heritage face recognition tool by a fellow blogger and obviously couldn't resist uploading my own photo to find out which celebrities I most resemble. Here are the results:

  • Tarja Halonen 64%

  • Kristen Nygaard 61%

  • Nicole Kidman 58%

  • Britney Spears 55%

  • Hilary Swank 55%

  • Meryl Streep 54%

  • Julianne Moore 53%

  • Diana Princess of Wales 51%

  • Eddie Murphy 51%

  • Anna Lindh 51%

I now think I need to give serious consideration to becoming a Scandinavian politician. Then again, there's just as much chance I could be a movie star. I'll definitely leave the Princess thing well alone. The best thing is I'm feeling pretty swanky myself since seeing Hilary Swank's name in that list ;-)