According to my Sunday paper (and yes, I did swear I was going to stop reading them) for a woman to enjoy career success these days she needs to commit to Extreme Grooming. I’ve heard of extreme sports – Downhill Hoovering for example – but this grooming thing is a new one on me. In order to be taken seriously in the workplace one apparently requires freshly blown-out hair, gel nails, and regularly threaded eyebrows. Oh, and heels. Never mind what havoc high heels will wreak on your feet and your spine. Without them you may as well abandon your boardroom ambitions and become a lollipop lady.
This is all over my untended head but it doesn’t really matter because I gave up trying to be taken seriously round about 1966. When you’re self-employed and home-based the only person who sees you is the postman. You can have dry, flyaway hair and ragged cuticles and the quality of your writing will not be affected. You can sit all day in your gardening shoes, and I do.
I do scrub up once a year to have lunch with my editor, a woman of such drop-dead elegance it’s no contest. I feel free to wear the same old jacket and to order a side of fries. My agent is an exhausted father of young children so on the rare occasions I lunch with him it would probably go unnoticed if I dressed as a five foot gherkin. All either of these people care about is the quality of the stuff I write. I am a lucky woman. I’m also quids in. £60 to get your eyebrows done, so they say.
But to be serious for one moment, what an extraordinary turnaround in one generation. Mothers who wore droopy Laura Ashley and long curtains of hair have begotten daughters who to go to nail bars. And are the guys smartening up too, I wonder? That would be something to see. Why do I suspect that offices everywhere are still full of men in two-day shirts and white socks.
Anyway…. people sometimes ask me how to become a writer. I guess my new first rule had better be KNOCK OFF THE MANICURES AND STOP LOOKING IN THE MIRROR.