Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Patron Saint of Painted Babies

A guest post by Polly Peachum

This brief return to the Tavern is prompted by a recent foray within the unfamilar portals of the Mail, where following a link led us to stumble across a monstrosity. Prize for the most repulsively unsettling image of the week goes to the picture of Jordan's two-year-old daughter tricked out in foundation, lipstick and false eyelashes.

We have not reproduced or linked to it here for fear of upsetting readers of a sensitive disposition (or attracting dodgy googlers), but her mother has happily placed it on her Facebook page, presumably for the world to see. And for anyone who missed that, the Mail has helpfully obliged by reproducing it in gruesome technicolor.

The article was followed by a piece showing Tom Cruise's daughter - she of the high heels and designer wardrobe - shopping for bright red lipstick, encouraged by her mother. Suri Cruise, it appears, is all of three years old. It's as bad as those women who dress their chihuahuas in diamante, or the Roman aristocrat Hortensius putting earrings on his pet fish.

It is in the light of images like these that the ban on Valentine cards at a primary school makes perfect sense. It may once have been a harmless tradition but parental interference and media hype renders even the simple giving - or not giving - of a token of affection a potential emotional minefield, quite apart from the distraction it causes in the classroom.

For generations of the past, the feast of St Valentine - once a whimsical Victorian conceit - was an innocent affair but, thanks largely to the media, it has grown sophisticated and cynical, embracing marketing opportunities and acquiring a veneer of carnality entirely inappropriate for children of primary age.

Unless, that is, you are the sort of mother who delights in putting make-up and high heels on your infant daughter, in which case it provides you with an opportunity to exerience a vicarious thrill at exciting - and inciting - the admiration of the opposite sex, and to pass your warped priorities on to your children.

Small wonder then , that a significant number of under 14's express a desire to grow up to be Wags, glamour models or pole dancers. If the action of one brave head teacher (it's a risky business, upsetting parents these days) can go some way to lifting the horizons of his pupils beyond these dismal depths, it will not have been in vain.

Update - Some interestingly varied opinions on this story at Ambush Predator and Mark Wadsworth and a wonderful take on it by Giles Coren in the Times.

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