Normal life, as seen today

Sometimes the best thing about a book or an article is the title.

Now let’s see some tattoos and pole dancing

Just look at Thomas Wolfe’s forgettable novels bearing unforgettable titles: Look Homeward, Angel, You Can’t Go Home Again, From Death to Morning – don’t bother reading Page 2.

Today’s Mail serves a similar dichotomy in an article. Its title is so replete with implications that even a long book wouldn’t be able to explore them exhaustively:

‘I’m not a little girl’: 22-year-old who is ‘stuck’ in the body of an eight-year-old struggles to live a normal adult life in new reality series that shows her pole dancing, drinking, and getting a tattoo

The story is about a new reality series I Am Shauna Rae. Its eponymous heroine suffered a rare form of brain cancer when she was six months old. Subsequent chemotherapy damaged her pituitary gland, stunting her growth and leaving her with the body of an eight-year-old for life.

Apparently, the documentary covers Shauna’s epic efforts to “live a normal adult life” while being everywhere taken for a child. Her love life, in particular, suffers greatly.

“My relationship status is single,” she says. “I attract creeps, assholes, and idiots. It is scary to put myself out there, but you have to put some risk in to get happiness.”

A tragic story indeed. However, at the risk of coming across even more insensitive than usual, I’d suggest its implications are more tragic by half.

Shauna’s idea of normal life is evidently shared by The Mail – otherwise its editors would have worded the headline differently. Hence our most conservative paper believes that pole dancing, drunkenness and getting tattooed are perfectly normal activities for a 22-year-old girl.

I know I’m being repetitive, but I have to rephrase to make sure I grasp the idea. A normal young woman is a drunken, tattooed slut performing in strip joints. Yes, that has to be what the headline is saying.

Toto, I’ve a feeling we aren’t in Georgian England anymore. Jane Austen certainly describes very different rituals of coming out for young girls reaching adulthood.

Fine, I understand, tempus bloody well fugit. You can’t go home again, according to Thomas Wolfe, and neither can you step in the same river twice, according to Heraclitus.

We can’t expect today’s young ladies to have either pride or prejudice, nor either sense or sensibility. They are taught the timeless significance of condoms when still in kindergarten and the ballistic advantages of various sexual positions in elementary school.

Thus enlightened, today’s Elinors, Elizabeths and Emmas can’t be expected to resemble their Jane Austen namesakes in appearance, dress and demeanour. Look at any gaggle of young girls in King’s Road and you won’t see any crinolines, blushes or demurely lowered eyelashes.

That’s fair enough. But I believe, nay hope, that there is a vast middle ground between such attributes and the normal young woman The Mail sees in its mind’s eye. And somewhere in that expanse one ought to be able to find untattooed, relatively sober young women who don’t twirl around poles naked.

Yes, I’m sure they exist, and they may even be in the majority. But that majority has to be dwindling under peer pressure and especially under the pressure applied by the mass media and the Internet. Political despotism is easier to resist than the tyranny of the zeitgeist.

Society has a way of communicating and enforcing its ideals, and most people aspire to cutting themselves down to the promoted stencil. If the whole tenor of modern life forced The Mail to say “No, Shauna, normal life isn’t about drinking, pole dancing and getting a tattoo”, then the civilisational ideal would be different, falling somewhere between crinolines and puking on the pavement.

We can talk about politics till the MPs come home or the red rosette turns blue (or, more likely, the other way around). But when all is said and done, the real catastrophe of modernity isn’t political. It’s aesthetic.

When ugliness becomes the new beauty, and deviance the new normality, you know it’s the end of the world. Every telltale sign has been posted.

And Shauna? I’m really sorry about her ordeal. But not only hers.

7 thoughts on “Normal life, as seen today”

  1. What comes to my mind are those those terror magazines of the 1950s when the damsels in distress are chased by mad scientists and monsters ready to disfigure them and add them to their list of “successful” experiments. Alas, in this age, we cheer on the monsters with smiles and happy claps as we see women disfigured mentally and physically. What a sorry age we live in.

  2. Sense and sensibility were products of the colonial (racist) era. Thank goodness (God?) they are behind us, and we have halcyon days of a world full of drunken strippers ahead of us!

  3. “‘I’m not a little girl’: 22-year-old who is ‘stuck’ in the body of an eight-year-old”

    NO ONE [?] says she is so but she does appear to be so. Pardon their innocent mistake. Certain freaks out there might want to see her pole dance.

  4. “I attract creeps, assholes, and idiots“

    I am confused. Is this the “normal life” she has successfully achieved or the abnormal life she is trying to escape? Just asking. I must be a total square because I find her very unattractive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.