Amber Heard: stay away from the wrinklies!

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It baffles me time and time again why women will marry up.

And when I say ‘up’, I’m not talking about finances – because any sensible human being should be looking to improve his or her fortune. I refer to the delicate subject of age. For young women can’t stay away from older men.

The senior seducers have always been in demand – even though they almost certainly guarantee lacklustre results. Take today’s example: Amber Heard, the 30-year-old actress who fell for 52-year-old Johnny Depp. It was all fun and games, until the pair announced their separation after 15 months of marriage.

You might say that any number of problems could have caused the breakup, but I had doubts from the start. And the skepticism I held was not the type of typical skepticism you reserve for all Hollywood unions – instead, the result of my unreserved, unapologetic and very politically incorrect beliefs about age and relationships.

Heard and Depp have a 22-year age difference between them, which has always shown on the red carpet. And I know 52 isn’t old, but Depp is looking very Grungey Gramps these days – while Heard is beautiful and fresh-faced. When news of their romance first aired, I was alarmed to see that one of the most beautiful women in the world had essentially gone to the bargain bin of Hollywood men. She could have had her pick of anyone – male or female (Heard is bisexual), but only Jack Sparrow would do.

Anyway, I know, you can’t help who you fall in love with (*throws up into bin*), but sometimes these things deserve logical consideration. Particularly because in youth we are most energetic, and have better reserves to cut things off – and time to find someone new. But instead you see repeated instances of media women falling prey to the wrinklies -unfortunate when if you consider how many girls around the world look not only to starlets for fashion ideas, but life advice too. They might think that dating an older man is cool and sexy.

But it isn’t, and we women need to be more aspirational about our dating choices. We get a terribly rough deal in the relationship world when it comes to age. From the onset of our teenage years, we are told to go for older chaps because they are “mature”  – or another terribly dull thing that provides little compensation for the fact a perspective partner will – most likely – nod off before you (and I’m not just talking about sleep).

As if this isn’t unsatisfactory enough, as women get older, intuition and the Daily Mail frequently remind us just how unsexy we become. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or industrial, try to get a snog anywhere and you become the nation’s favourite cougar.

If no one’s going to date you when you’re older, you may as well date down. And I’m imparting this advice to any woman of my age – which is close to Heard’s – because we might want to make the most of these wrinkle-free years to have some wrinkle-free fun (well, sort of). If you court a younger man, you inevitably circumvent the problems that come with the older types – namely that they’ll die earlier. Add to that the enjoyment of a young body that can do young things, like making lots of cups of tea for you. The only real time we women can really have a young man is in our youth (unless we’re Joan Collins), so we might as well use this time to eat all the metaphorical candy.

I hope that newly single Heard, back on the dating market, will take another look at the Hollywood menu of prospects: this time, only the deluxe will do.

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Sheryl Sandberg should be President of the United States

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Watching a recent Sheryl Sandberg speech, a thought suddenly occurred to me: Why isn’t she running for President of the United States?

I was listening to her address at the UC Berkeley commencement last week. During it she touched on a number of subjects – most saliently, the death of her husband Dave. As I sat there welling up at my computer, I realised what an impressive feat it is to be able to stimulate someone’s brain and tear ducts. It’s the sort of talent that makes someone cut out for serious leadership (and I’m not just talking about Facebook HQ.)

I’ve been a huge fan of Sheryl Sandberg ever since I read her book Lean In, which gained a lot of criticism upon its publication. Mostly because Sandberg is quite socially conservative and advocates the importance of a nice husband – which many women felt was crude and dismissive of their situation.

I thought this criticism was unfair – you can’t please ’em all! – and detracted from the fact it was an extremely useful book, packed with practical advice. It’s progressive feminism, encouraging women to take control of their own lives and “lean in” to opportunities – while acknowledging that there are challenges. One of my favourite lines of Sandberg’s is: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” I frequently repeat to myself when I’m unsure of something, and can vouch that it’s rather helpful.

Since Lean In, Sandberg has become something of a star, making speeches on channels such as TED to inspire women. She also posts blogs on her Facebook page about many topics, including Dave’s tragic death. Her emotional transparency is refreshing in a world where most executives are guarded by tough corporate PR teams.

Sandberg’s command of language is exceptional – whether she’s speaking or writing. This is really what makes me think she should be President. For, as well as having an Economics degree and top-level experience of steering one of the world’s biggest companies, she has a remarkable ability to grab and sustain people’s attention. No matter what background or academic level, Sandberg can engage with all – partly why her UC Berkeley speech became such a big hit online. But it’s not only engagement, it’s enablement – Sandberg makes people want to get off their chairs and do something with their lives.

In the current presidential elections, you could say the rise of Donald Trump shows that many Americans are enticed by the idea of a businessman (or woman) as leader. Many believe that this sort of nous is what could really drive the economy, and so the choice of a Facebook CFO as leader does not seem so widely ambitious. Even if she’s no Republican.

Speaking about her politics, Sandberg said: “I am very supportive of Hillary Clinton. I’ve said before I’d like to see her as president. And I’d like to see more women presidents all over the world”.

I’d like to see more women presidents too, but more than that: good presidents. Female or not, Sandberg has all the qualities we should demand from our leaders: intelligence, communication skills, empathy and direction. Most importantly, she gives people a sense that they can do whatever they want to do. And if sometime in the future, Sandberg ever tried for Democratic candidate, I’m sure she could do it too.

Please don’t make Tom Hiddleston Bond. I don’t fancy him at all

Everyone’s bothered about Bond recently, and although I’m not bothered about Bond, I am bothered about this: Tom Hiddleston looks increasingly likely to get the part.

I’m sure he’s a lovely bloke – and, yes, an impressive actor. But if there’s one thing that he can’t do for me, it’s get my heart racing. Not in the way that more conventional lookers might do, like George Clooney or Josh Harnett. Who cares about nationality, they’re 00 heaven.

Hiddleston joins a new wave of actors who Hollywood producers have decided women should fancy, such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Steve Buscemi and Simon Pegg. They’re all what I’d call ‘growers’; wild cards that aren’t traditionally handsome, but have a certain je ne sais quoi that some find irresistible.

Not this cat, anyway. And I think many women might agree with me that we are having some strange choices inflicted on us. Instead of symmetry, hot muscles and great facial hair, it’s all about quirky looks and personality these days.

But I’ve had enough. Ever since one film suggested to me that Simon Pegg could seduce Kirsten Dunst. And don’t even get me started on that 2013 Rom Com About Time, where gorgeous Rachel McAdams was forced to cuddle up to Domhnall Gleeson. About Time she got a decent man to snog, I thought to myself!

As if that isn’t bad enough, there’s the wrinkly contingent, starring Tom Cruise, Gary Oldman and Johnny Depp. Everything’s falling apart besides their acting careers. And we’re still meant to believe some of the best-looking women on the planet want to ‘Netflix and chill’ with them.

No one wants us when we’re wrinkly. Last year Maggie Gyllenhaal told how she was deemed, at thirty-seven years old, to play the love interest of a fifty-five-year-old. And I feel for her, truly.

But also I feel for me and my eyes and my stomach when this picture comes out. I don’t want to watch a film about the underpant activity of a middle-aged man.

Just like I don’t want to watch any more films about smoochy Martin Freeman or anyone else trying to pretend they’re incredible looking. They might give some sort of hope that the ‘ordinary man’ can pull stunning women. But, it’s not true and – like I say – films should be about the extraordinary (aesthetics, included).

Either way, I’d like a really sexy Bond. Not quirky, or interesting-looking, but as gorgeous as a man can get. And throw in some abs for good measure – none of that Dad Bod nonsense. Not Tom Hiddleston.

It seems harsh, but the fact is that Hollywood is neglecting women’s needs. Goodness knows, we’ve earned the right to be critical of the calibre of men that grace our screens. The film industry is extremely tough on our sex, and shows no signs of changing. But perhaps we should embrace this. Art should be about the beautiful, and we should demand more from our male subjects.

As women we are always demanding equal pay across the film industry. Perhaps it’s time we demanded equal aesthetics too. We’ve got a pulse – please get it racing, Hollywood.

Heels are going out of fashion. No need to worry, ladies.

54a752560309b_-_elle-high-heels-h-elhEven as a heel aficionado, I had some sympathy for the receptionist whose story was splashed all over the newspapers this week. Having worn flat shoes to PwC, she was sent home for not adhering to the company’s policy that female employees wear high heels.

PwC’s rather insensitive dress code has sparked an intense reaction, with vast numbers of men and women coming forward to recount their tales of uniform oppression. Perhaps the worst example of this is the photo of two bloody feet currently circulating around the internet, photographed after a waitress was made to wear stilettos to work.

The rage against high heels hasn’t ceased, and there is now even a petition to ensure no company ever forces its female staff to wear them again. Fair enough. But not enough. The Fawcett Society – which I thought might be to do with Charlie’s Angels, but is actually a charity that promotes gender equality – has set up a hashtag campaign to celebrate flat shoes. It’s called #FawcettFlatFridays, and encourages flat-shoe sporting women to show off their comfortable tootsies. Stella Creasy and the Women’s Equality Party have already taken part.

Interestingly enough, the more backlash heels get, the more concerned I am about their future. As a terribly short person, heels have been the saviour of my life. Not only giving me the illusion of height, but lifting me up into new levels of confidence and assurance. It sounds trivial, but people take you far more seriously when you’re not making eye contact with their crutch (no, really). Besides, they look fabulous.

But heels are dying out, for a variety of reasons. One of the most trivial is noise: in offices without carpets, heels can be very noisy – and marching about in them may be viewed as a type of social suicide.

Ultimately their plight is down to fashion changes, and I blame the hipsters. In Berlin – which is about as hipster as it gets – wearing heels will get you banned from bars. For German bouncers hate anything that says ‘I made an effort tonight’.

The UK isn’t all that different, and has somewhat of a fashion foreign exchange with Berlin – as the two largely swap ideas on what to wear. None of this has been lost on my generation – which now views heels like the plague, instead adopting Nike Airs, Converses or worse. I would list more trainer brands, but I don’t know any. For I find them ugly, naff and spent most of my childhood looking forward to getting out of them and into the big boys. Heels.

Alas, they are a dying breed. Even Victoria Beckham has been forced to concede that heels aren’t that cool anymore. She recently gave them up, saying that she needed to be more comfortable. But I think even Vicky knows that heels have lost their edge. There are photos of celebrities in Cannes, such as Kristen Stewart, marching about in her flats. Forget glamour, it’s all about comfort these days.

So you will see that PwC, as well as being archaic, was quite insular in its view of high heels. For the rest of the world is running as fast away as possible from them – while heel lovers desperately cling on. Of course we all must all be allowed to wear what we feel most comfortable in – but for some people, comfort is height. And high heels are a step-up to more than a glamorous image. So for all us stiletto-wears, let’s stand tall and proud.

There isn’t a statue of a woman outside Parliament. And?

Mahatma Gandhi statue erected in London’s Parliament Square

Isn’t awful? Doesn’t it make you want to gasp in outrage? There’s no statue of a woman outside parliament.

Feminist journalist Caroline Criado-Perez spotted this while out for a jog with her dog. As she sped past the area, something felt awry. Pausing for thought, she noticed that there were eleven statues, none of which were of women.

Criado-Perez’s not happy about this and has drawn up a petition to set matters right. “Put a statue of a suffragette in Parliament Square”, reads the thing on Change.Org.

The petition has gathered immense momentum, and – at the time of writing – had 69,000 supporters (out of the 75,000 it needs). This is no doubt thanks to its author’s past success getting Jane Austen on the £10 bank note, as well the numerous celebrity backers who won’t sleep until Parliament Square gets a dose of oestrogen. Signatories include Caroline Lucas, Emma Watson and J.K Rowling.

But does anyone actually care that Parliament Square doesn’t have a statue of a woman? I’m not convinced, particularly as it took a jog for someone as politically astute and educated as Criado-Perez to notice. This was not only slightly embarrassing, but demonstrates a sort of ambivalence about statues I expect many of us feel.

It doesn’t matter, anyway; the crusaders won’t rest until there’s a suffragette on Parliament Square. Their reasoning is simple; they believe omission is enough to belittle women’s contributions to society. And that young impressionable young girls might walk around the area, and have their dreams quashed upon noticing the lack of female statue.

Like I say, I struggle to accept that anyone’s that bothered. In fact, most of the people I know who trot around Parliament Square – aside from politicians – aren’t activists or those who might fall victim to sexist messages, but bumbag-wielding tourists. And they’re not thinking about gender inequality; more like, ‘how do I read this map?’ Or staring at a statue of their favourite historical bloke: Jan Smuts, perhaps (who?) or the 3RD Viscount Palmerston… Yeah.

This latest campaign is just another example of arbitrary feminism. In recent years, instead of trying to actual problems for women, such as FGM and arranged marriages, campaigners have become quite proficient at inventing issues (that aren’t really there). It’s a sort of empty nest syndrome of feminism: “what’s there to tidy up now?” Justified on the basis that these small issues matter. Let me tell you, they don’t. Unless you’re trying to get a Guardian column.

That there aren’t any statues of women at Parliament Square is of little consequence; a legacy of history, rather a representation of contemporary sexism. And I suspect the suffragettes who the campaigners wish to represent would have said, “come on, ladies. Haven’t you got better things to do?”

Let Harry find a girlfriend

Prince Harry Attends MapAction Briefing Ahead Of Nepal Tour

I know it’s not terribly fashionable, but I’m a huge royalist. I’ve been one for years, and that’s not because of any sort of intelligent reason – political, economic or otherwise. It’s because the Royal Family’s fun. As with an episode of Eastenders, you get involved with the characters. My favourite is Harry; he’s colourful and untamed, similar to his hair. I like to think we could hang out together and talk about Strictly Come Dancing, Birdy’s latest album, or something else that can be enjoyed by both commoner and prince.

Because I care about Harry so much, I was distressed to hear him tell a TV station yesterday how fed up he was with the “incessant” press intrusion into his personal life. It doesn’t take Sherlock to see that the poor chap is having a frightfully hard time getting a girlfriend. We all saw how tough it was when he wanted to go out with Cressida Boneface. The pair were followed everywhere. Then let’s not forget her predecessor, Chelsy Davy – whom, I confess, I preferred because we went to the same university together: Leeds. It made me think she was quite edgy, to take so well to northern life. By this time she was Prince Harry’s ex-girlfriend – but even still, the press would stalk her through corridors as she was trying to get to lectures. I watched and thought, ‘poor Chelsy’. (As well as, ‘wow, that girl can run in heels’).

Since Cress and Chess, Harry’s had a hard time finding love. And I wish people would leave him alone, because he’s not going to find a girlfriend – let alone wife – with all this probing. I’m genuinely rooting for the old bean, and desperately want him to find “the one”.

I should come clean that the reasons for this support are slightly selfish. It’s not only because I like to see a strapping young man making the most out of his looks and general joie de vivre, but because I’m eager for some entertainment. Specifically, I want a dazzling new princess. A diva, even. Mad, bad, or sad, I don’t care – just make them interesting. Make them… not Catherine Middleton.

There. I said it. But we were all thinking it. Truth be told, I’m bored rigid with the Duchess of Cambridge. I can see entirely how she lacrossed her way into William’s heart: her vanilla personality was very much the ticket. And I’m sure she delights the Queen with her niceness and ability to say all the right things. But my gosh it makes for dull viewing, and I’m not sure I can stand for another twenty years of this. We only have one chance to set it right: Let Harry find a girlfriend.

Not just any girlfriend. We must let him search high and low to find our next princess – whether he wants to go to a fashion week to scout out a more worthy Vogue cover star than the Duchess of Cambridge. Or let him tour the top universities of this world so he can find a girl who will say something profound. As for the latter statement, I should mention that I don’t mind if Harry’s next girlfriend – our future princess – isn’t a looker. I know it’s hard to find both beauty and brains. All I want is some sort of stimulation, aesthetic or intellectual, or else this show – The Royal Family proper – is going to be seriously poor viewing.

Nothing will be achieved until we leave Harry alone. Our own intrusion into his personal life is a false economy – for we are denying ourselves entertainment at a later date. With every photo or video we take of the young prince courting a lady, we prevent any sort of future romantic event. And surely the greatest tragedy of all would be for Harry never to meet someone because of our gross curiosity. To spend a life where no one will ever appreciate his charm, good humour and lovely red hair.

We’ve all got needs, prince or not; let our own desire for gossip not take precedence over one man’s quest for love.

(Oh, and Harry, if you ever fancy a brunette – I’ll be waiting).

Why I hate the sun

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Isn’t the sun great? Said everyone last weekend, as it reared its ugly head.

I wanted to agree, but the truth is that I hate that blobby thing. And, if there’s one benefit to living in the UK, it’s that I don’t have to deal with it often.

Only the sun was back, as yellow and dominant as ever. And people, left right and centre, were delighted – as they lapped up the vitamin D. But I didn’t know what to do; because I hate the sun.

You’re probably wondering what kind of individual hates the sun, but once I tell you my reasons you may empathise. You may even want to join my movement. I call it “sunsceptia”.

My largest issue with it boils down to the fact I don’t tan, which is a very unsatisfying disposition indeed. One that invites insensitive sorts to say things like “oh, I can’t believe you don’t tan! I do”, as if that will improve matters. But such comments make me red in the face with rage, which is the last thing I need – for, with the sun’s beaming rays, I already look more rock lobster than Nancy Dell’Olio.

That brings me to my next point, which is how terrible sun cream is. Like condoms, it’s a great protector against unwanted things, but has a remarkable ability to kill the mood. In fact, I feel quite depressed when I put sun cream on. It makes me a) greasy, b) poorer (worth three M&S microwave meals, that stuff) and c) reminds me how single I am, as I always struggle to find someone who will massage my back in Soltan’s latest offering.

Greasy, poor, singleton. Thanks, sun, thanks.

As if the misery of sun cream wasn’t enough, the heat additionally brings out the danger of being assaulted or murdered. As a young and optimistic psychology undergraduate, I was horrified to learn that the heat causes aggression – and the hotter cities get, the more homicide rates increase.

Over this weekend, I got park paralysis mulling over which bit of turf to go to, to ‘enjoy’ the sun. Eventually I realised that I was lying to myself about my gothic sensibilities, and – like the Lady of Shalott – decided to hide away in my room. (Actually, that’s a lie – I went to a pub.)

But I felt safer there. Pale, but alive, and away from the crowds. In fact, the more I thought about the parks, the happier I felt. After all, these seemingly cheerful zones just mean having to hang out with large groups of scantily clad people, with whom I would have to share phone signal and air. They might even put on one of those awful portable stereo devices and blast out Jay Z.

I thought of the park goers stomping around in their flip flops, and all of this led me onto my next concern about the sun: it might give me a verruca. The UK turns a bit Full Monty when anyone sees the slightest hint of light, and people can’t wait to share their feet with the world. Well I am keeping my tootsies firmly away. All this nakedness is not only enough to put you off dinner, but poses a great health risk.

And it also doesn’t look that great. In fact, the sun just makes me mourn for the days of winter, where people look delightfully demure and covered up. Winter not only allows people an element of sophistication, but gives short people – like myself – the pretence of higher stature. A pretence that I am forced to give up when the sun comes out, and society deems my heeled boots unacceptable. Only with heels I can feel tall (and happy), and free from the risks of verrucas and worse (is there worse?). The sun threatens my civil liberties.

Greasy, poor, short, potentially verruca-ridden, liberty-less, singleton. That’s what the sun makes me, and the hardest thing of all is that no one understands, for they are all out frolicking in the rays. Perhaps now I have given ‘sunsceptia’ a name, we can spread awareness of this troubling, but very real, disposition.