While trying to maintain a contented life amid the milieu of our consumerist, capitalist end-days, sometimes, you just stumble upon something really bewildering. Face primer. I have now met face primer, and it’s a real thing. Does my face need priming? I did not know. I just did not know. Face primer made me […]
I have a life-long love affair with Denmark, only heightened by the fact that I’ve never actually been there. It’s not even that far away, but I’m a little afraid: what if it’s just as great as I’ve been led to believe? I would never come home. It’s a risk.
But, judging by the fact that Viggo Mortensen was raised in this wonderful country, it would probably be worth it.
Anyway. Being beautiful and being Danish, are, according to Oliver James in his book ‘Affluenza’, one and the same. It’s a great book, which looks at how people across the world deal with the pressures of consumerism, or manifestly don’t deal with these pressures, ending up emotionally ‘distressed’. In first and second place, step forward America and Britain. Turns out working on the career treadmill all your life to pay for shiny, impressive possessions doesn’t lead to a very healthy emotional life. Surprises. He puts forth the terribly sad opinions expressed to him by a succession of high earning individuals, along the lines of ‘my plan is to work for thirty years, pay for my daughter’s wedding, and then die’. It would be bleakly amusing if it wasn’t so, uh, bleak.
When James turns his attention to beauty ideals, those feisty Danish women appear, all statuesque and glowing, with lessons for us all. They have got it going on.
Firstly, James makes the distinction between being beautiful and being attractive – i.e, finding yourself beautiful by your own intrinsic values, and therefore feeling pleased with your appearance, regardless of what the world around you thinks, and, on the other hand, being ‘attractive’, ‘using physical attractiveness to gain praise or manipulate others’. Put like that, everybody can be beautiful, and nobody would want to be attractive. Guess which kind of person the pushers of beauty products prefer? Not the people with a mind of their own, anyway.
Danish women, though honest that ‘a lot of work’ went into their look, favoured looking natural and healthy. James went so far as to suggest that Danish men tried a lot harder with their appearance, as, in a society that values good fathering skills and social equality, a big pay packet wasn’t really cutting it with the women. Handsome Viking men? Handsome Viking men indeed.
An innate pleasure in their appearance was what they went for, and it makes for heartening reading. Clothes were chosen as self-expression, to create something ‘lovely looking’ each day.
James writes, “However conventionally ugly the sitter for a Lucien Freud portrait, faithfulness to the original plays an important part in its beauty […] forget about how you look through others’ eyes, concentrate on what you find pleasing and amusing”.
Amen to that. This means that a) I don’t have to stop buying insane jumpers in charity shops, because to me, dear reader, they are innately beautiful. Also, b) I think I must move to Denmark.
Well yes, we have no idea what she might have looked like originally when she was probably a young and pretty boy dressed as a girl on the London stage (16th century London: original den of sin and good times).
However, since I am newly in love with Claire Danes in Homeland, here she is, perfectly cast, as a young, wholesome Juliet with a cheeky glimmer about her.
I’ve been working on tutoring prep tonight for my students’ exams next week, which meant re-reading Romeo and Juliet. I now feel I could sit an exam on this play. I mean, I may not get an A, but I think I could pass. Reading Shakespeare for my uni finals made me fall, big time, for his cynical political wranglings (Julias Caesar) and eccentric, liberal, cross-dressing comedies (12th Night! Love) but I’d always thought of Romeo and Juliet as a bit gaudy and shallow. How shallow I was. Its amazing (I know, everyone knows that already). Juliet is a character with some serious poker face: assured, duplicitous, determined. Her declarations of love for Romeo are eerie and lovely:
‘Come, loving black brow’d night, give me my Romeo, and when he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars, and he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night, and pay no worship to the garish sun’.
It’s all very intense, just as star-crossed loving should be. Just before Romeo sets eyes on her for the first time, his friends tell him that he talks of love as if it wasn’t tender. ‘Is love a tender thing?’ he asks. We can just feel some bloody demise on its way…
Toward the end a minor character sombrely warns, ‘for now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring’. Its a shivery moment.
Here’s the moment that starts it all: