DISCLAIMER: I don’t know Ferne McCann. But her words this week really struck a chord with me.
Talking about her relationship with model and marketing manager Jack Padgett, 29, the former Towie star claims he told her she wasn’t “on brand” for him before they split.
Perhaps the poor boy forgot he was out of his marketing office and dealing with an affair of the heart, because that was a shocking conclusion to draw.
It was also a damning indictment of the position in which many successful women find themselves.
Apparently the fact that 31-year-old Ferne was famous — read independent and savvy — was just too much for the poor lamb to bear.
Presumably he had never heard of her before they started dating.
And hadn’t been one of her 2.6million Instagram followers, or picked up a newspaper, celebrity mag, watched reality TV or logged on to the internet.
But I digress.
You see, of late, I’ve found myself in situations that are not directly comparable to Ferne’s — I’d struggle to know what my “brand” is apart from dogs, dahlias and sourdough.
But the lack of backbone in her ex is something of which there are increasing wafts in my midst.
I have a few years on Ferne — a head full of experiences and a heart somewhat bruised.
A number of encounters with men — younger (mainly) but some just a few years my junior — have followed a disheartening template.
From the outset they appear to be enamoured with the idea of an “older” woman and that they are independent, strong, capable and self-assured.
Men complain that “young” girls are needy. Quite what the definition of “needy” is in their Ladybird Book Of Successful Relationships is debatable, but it appears to snake along the lines of young women who insist on responses to communication.
In actual fact, most women would bathe in the luxury of regular correspondence, a sense of continuity and momentum to keep the situation afloat. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Truth bomb: Just because we want a response does not mean we want to marry you.
Perhaps it sounds too hackneyed, too trite, to suggest that men actually struggle with the concept of a woman being independent, strong and self-assured.
Maybe it sounds like a bitter defence from women who can’t take rejection.
But the fact remains that many men with a woman who can stand on her own two feet become intimidated, perhaps even emasculated.
It becomes too unnerving and appears to weaken them. And they withdraw.
I had this very conversation recently with my SAS: Who Dares Wins buddy Vicky Pattison on her podcast The Secret To . . . and she said she has faced the exact same impasse.
Men have loved her for her autonomy and self-sufficiency but ultimately it presents itself as a threat.
It has less to do with fame and celebrity, but that is an added handicap. And it is disappointing.
Someone such as Ferne, who has travelled so far in the saddle of fame, will find it impossible to dismount. She will for ever be the girl from Towie.
She is also mum to a beautiful three-year-old girl. Motherhood brings with it an enforced qualification in self- determination and self-reliance.
One that banishes self-indulgence in lieu of a life dedicated to a dependent.
I am a mother of four. I’m not looking for someone to help me care for my children.
I’ve managed very well for the past 27 years, thank you very much. But I guess it presents itself with another layer of trepidation for some men.
We independent women learnt to hustle personally and professionally.
We had little time for navel-gazing and wondering what is best for us because we’ve always had little people demanding priority.
The greatest irony, of course, is that our independence and resilience doesn’t make us hard and unapproachable.
‘SUCKER FOR LOVE’
On the contrary. Ferne, in her own words, says she’s “a sucker for love”. She wants a happy ever after.
I, too, am soft and yielding — a believer in love and relationships because cynicism and pessimism towards men is too bleak.
Though, I might add, I am currently nudging the tender boundaries of cynicism with every experience I continue to endure.
Yet I have to remember that lived experience tells me there are great men out there. Men with enough calcified courage to give them a decent backbone.
My ex took me on with three children who weren’t his own.
He didn’t fear my independence and strength but, rather, embraced and harnessed it.
So, I rile against the gorgeous Ferne’s concern that she may never find anyone to share her life with.
She should continue to plough her furrow with her daughter in her arms and wearing her “brand” with pride, because there are men out there who can see beyond the fascination and are capable of sustaining the reality.
It may sound scary for men to hear that we don’t need them. But our hearts sure would love to have them.
Heartbroken on 9/11
EVERYONE remembers where they were when the 9/11 attacks took place.
I’m no exception.
Twenty years ago today my daughter, Bo, who was born with a congenital heart defect, found herself in the PICU (Paediatric Intensive Care Unit) at Guy’s Hospital, London. It was the day after her first open heart surgery.
I had been a nervous wreck for months in anticipation of this planned procedure that could potentially save her life or take it away.
As she lay on a bed, kept alive by tubes, fluids, machines and nurses, who went about their business with hushed confidence, respect and empathy, a member of staff walked on to the unit and said: “A plane has just gone into one of the Twin Towers.”
It was a strange thing to hear but one to which it was hard to respond: My daughter was fighting to stay alive and a plane crash appeared tame and like sheer misfortune in comparison.
A few minutes later, the same nurse came in saying: “Another plane has gone into the towers . . . ” and it was at that point I left my daughter’s side.
Heart racing, I walked speedily and breathlessly into the staff room, where a small TV was relaying the shocking pictures.
I remember thinking that the world was coming to an end. One plane could be an accident. Two was undoubtedly deliberate.
This was compounded by the fact that Guy’s Hospital, for those who don’t know, is a tower.
Rushed thoughts propelled me to images of subsequent planes flying into the very tower in which my daughter and I found ourselves.
There would be a power outage and the machines that were keeping my daughter alive would fail and she would die.
Her open heart surgery was the biggest and scariest thing I had endured in my life to that point. It was beyond breathtaking that something else could possibly eclipse that. But it did.
I still see the intensive care unit clearly before me, her place in it, where I ran to see the fresh pictures on the small TV and how small I felt holding Bo’s hand.
I nursed her for those next few hours, insecure in the knowledge that outside the doors of the ward, something so terrifyingly big and unknown was unfolding.
To shave, or not to shave?
BETHANY BURGOYNE, a 30-year-old lass from Essex, made the decision in 2018 to stop shaving off her body hair.
As women, we’ve been indoctrinated by the patriarchy and the beauty industry for decades.
Removing body hair goes back centuries. A razor company brought out a model just for women as far back as 1915.
The process has often been regarded as a sign of class and femininity, contributing to the gender dynamics we live with today.
Pictures of Bethany with her hairy legs, neck, armpits and an area spreading well beyond her under- carriage and nether regions are enough to give even the most moderate trichophobe a mild heart attack.
But I salute Bethany for her strength and conviction, especially as she says she often gets mistaken for a man.
Women capable of doing this are challenging social norms and stigma – and the more we see of people like Bethany, the quicker we will get used to it.
Or will we? For me, it’s a bit of a struggle.
I’m not the hairiest person but when my legs start looking like an equatorial rainforest and I see dark shadows under my pits, I get the irrepressible urge to remove any sign of hair.
Does this mean I have been brainwashed? Sure it does.
I also know that if I didn’t mind having hair in unmentionable places, I would stick up two fingers at the world and grow it. But I do mind.
And then, to add to my conditioning and gender stereotyping, I have the insatiable desire for a hairy man. There is simply no hope.
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