Apr 7, 2012

Never A Bridesmaid

I came to the Samantha Brick brouhaha somewhat late. After finally reading the English columnist's first "Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful" piece, then her follow up "You Trollers Have Just Gone and Proved My Point" rejoinder, I thought perhaps I should write about it.

My initial idea for a response on the topic was an ironic parody in which I too identified as heart-achingly beautiful, and echoed the troubles that Samantha herself encounters by merely existing. But that got done pretty quickly.

My next idea was to point out how The Daily Mail must be laughing all the way to the bank with this hullabullo; whether or not they deliberately put Samantha Brick up to it, or just cashed in on the massive response doesn't really matter - the click-throughs, the comments, the media coverage must be absolutely delighting the paper's publishers. But then I read this great piece from Jezebel, which covers those points much more eloquently. There's also this insightful column that outlines how no one cared about some of the other things Samantha Brick wrote about, some quite sad things, until she committed the unforgivable crime of being "massively up herself".

And so the only thing I can think to write on the Samantha Brick affair that hasn't already been covered related to one line. One little line that may have not jumped out amongst the self-praise and discussion of her slightly creepy mustachioed French husband...


 ... but one that resonated with me. One of those quite sad elements of her column that got overlooked (not undeservedly) by her massive up-herself-ism.

"And most poignantly of all, not one girlfriend has ever asked me to be her bridesmaid."

Maybe I'm a complete sap, but that made me feel very sorry for Samantha. I've never been asked to be a bridesmaid either; and in recent years it's made me a little heartsick.

Now I'm not suggesting I'm too beautiful to be asked to be a bridesmaid. I really don't hold any illusions about my own level of attractiveness. I'm all right looking, I could lose a few kilos, but I generally have interesting hair. I think that's a fair assessment.

What the bridesmaid deprivation represents to me is that I have not had the fortune to have a bestest female friend.

One of the reasons I love Sex and the City so much is because I adore the four leading ladies' closeness. I love that they really can say anything to each other, and they actively keep each other company. I know a lot of people dismiss the show, but it allowed me to experience something I felt I lacked in my own life - having the kind of girlfriend you could call at any time of the day or night for absolutely no reason at all.

I am incredibly aware this is much my own doing, and I'm not looking for pity. I realise I wasn't ever very good at cultivating female friendships. I was always affected by jealousy and the idea that I was never as pretty/clever/nice enough. I liked hanging with the boys. I've also never been into big weddings, and as a bit of a show-off actor type, don't really present as someone eager to put the time, money and energy into making sure it's all about the bride. And of course, everyone has different reasons for choosing who they choose as their companion/s for their "special day".*

But as the years have gone by, the "bridesmaid" position has started to mean something specifically to me - whether or not it's 100 per cent representative of the truth.

Surely, a bestest female friend would have you as their bridesmaid no matter what the hell you thought of weddings, parties or anything. I've never been close enough to another contemporary woman to be considered in that role - therefore, I've never had a bestest female friend.

I'm not saying I don't have lovely girlfriends. I do (even though I've done my best to mess up a fair few of my female friendships). But most are already married, or if not, have existing bestest female friends who are far more suitable a choice, should they decide to pursue the wedding option. And none feel so close that I would feel OK calling them at any time of the day or night for no reason at all.

So I feel a certain empathy towards Samantha Brick, and wonder if perhaps a deep-seated longing for a more closer female connection has perhaps manifested itself in her overblown self-confidence.

Perhaps it's a vicious cycle. She wasn't able to cultivate good female friendships, because of her looks perhaps, or because of her personality. She blamed female jealousy, which is hardly likely to encourage other women to warm to her. She reasoned that their stand-offish-ness was due to her beauty - and the cycle continued.

Maybe I'm imposing my whole frame of reference and experience on her, and giving her sympathy she doesn't deserve. Maybe she simply is a vain, arrogant woman.

But I am a bit of a sap. I find it hard to criticise someone who's already born the brunt of the internet's fury. And I feel sorry that her relationship with men, according to her writings, seems to be mostly as glamourous plaything and dollybird.

Because while I may not have a bestest female friend; I've still had friends. Friends to knock me down a peg, lift me up a bit, and help me out occasionally.

Samantha Brick doesn't seem like she has any friends at all. She almost certainly won't for a while after this business. And if that's not a reason to feel sorry for her, I don't know what is.

*I've been reminded by the lovely KatKohl that being a bridesmaid can, in fact, be a huge pain in the backside. I'm not unaware of this, and am sure if I was ever a bridesmaid I would complain endlessly about it. That's just the way life works, isn't it?


  1. Maybe you need to encourage your male friends to not be bound by bullshit traditional notions of "brides have bridesmaids and grooms have groomsmen" and say "Hey, fellas, how come we're so tight but you've got your distant cousin watching your back in your bridal party? I look GOOD in a suit."

    And then there's the coveted MC role as well. No reason a woman can't MC a wedding even if she's not the bride's uncle who once did Toastmasters in his uni days 20 years ago (which tends to be my experience of wedding MCs (at least when I'm not doing it)).

    I guess these roles aren't quite what you're talking about here, but I have no experience with female-female friendships so am going to give my advice as a middle class, suburban, white, heterosexual man; i.e. I'm going to talk about my own experiences.

  2. Hey Sam! Thanks for commenting. I actually have MC'd a wedding, which was very nice. It's obviously a good role for me; I just have to be loud and do minimal preparation. :)

    And again, the male friends probably have better candidates for their groomsmen than me. ;)

  3. Kudos to you for your referencing of Weddings, Parties, Anything.

  4. I was my sister's Bridesman. It was a full scottish wedding and the Black Watch kilt i wore added a certain level of danger tp my clothes .. as did the very very sharp Sgian Dubh tucked safely into my boots.

  5. Thanks, Kokey!

    Albion - trust you to pick up that one. ;)

    The Wah - yes, I'll never forget once and for all finding out what a Scotsman wears under his kilt.

    Of course, the surprise had been slightly ruined while you were off on the buck's whisky-sozzled weekend, when a drunk Rangers supporter flashed me in Sauchiehall street while your sister, Mum and I waited for a bus home..... but still, it was nice to have it confirmed. ;)

  6. Thanks Nat,

    Like Sam, I can only provide my own perspective.

    Firstly, I'd like to comment on the whole 'beauty' thing.

    There are "blue chip" public companies who's entire revenue stream depends on making women (and men) feel insecure about our physical appearance.

    Fashion, cosmetics, media companies all conspire to perpetuate the myths associated with beauty.

    As a bloke, with vocational training in biology, chemistry & physics and an amateur interest in psychology & integrated marketing communication, the ads with Megan Gale banging on about the 10 signs of aging, just shit me to tears.

    How the hell am I going to raise Bug (aged 2.5) and slug (aged 7 months) into functional, well adjusted women? Bug is skinny & has food intolerances. Slug looks like the Michelin Man.

    I don't have good strategies in place yet. For starters: calling them "Bug" & "Slug" probably is not wise. I wonder how I raise confident, self assured kids who don't rely on face paint & glad rags for their esteem. How do I teach them self worth that is not comparative?

    Secondly, although I have compromised my androgeny by growing a beard, most of my close friends are women. I have filled the role of a bridesmaid. I don't think it had anything to do with my beauty or lack there of.

    Thirdly, as a parent of infants, I don't have a lot of disposable time to invest in maintaining close friendships. My bestest friend is my beloved wife.

  7. Hey Rowan,

    To answer your points - I think the most important thing you do for your daughters is what you're already doing - loving them and treating them well.

    Bug and Slug are good names - my Dad still calls me "Bert" after Bert & Ernie, because I was an anally retentive child. ;)

    I think attacking the beauty industry is too easy - I for one really love make-up and cosmetics! I don't wear make-up every day (I can't be bothered), and I do think girls should grow up knowing their natural features are lovely enough.

    But I think most women would understand that many of the "scientific" claims of cosmetics are bunkum - the point is if something makes you feel good (if only by placebo, even), why not?

    Your daughters may or may not grow up to like playing with cosmetics - my advice there is to just make sure they keep a level-head about some of the more costly items.

    I also think you're right regarding male bridesmaids and female groomsmen - I've seen this happen more and more regularly. As I said, my concept of what being a bridesmaid means has evolved to mean something specific for me. Reality is proving differently, which is always a good thing.

    And yes, our partners should be our best friends in life, and mine certainly is. But sometimes I want to talk about silly, frivolous things that a female ear might be better suited to, as opposed to a logical and practical man of science's. ;)

  8. Hmm, after publishing that comment, I realise Rowan that your beef with the beauty industry likely goes beyond their attempts to make women feel bad about themselves.

    I know you too well!

    I think there are smaller beauty/cosmetics companies out there that are trying more sustainable/ethical business practices - there the ones I'd urge you to seek out.

    By the time your daughters are teenagers, I hazard a guess there will be many more. Ethical cosmetics are becoming much bigger business.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thanks Nat,

      My grandmother was not permitted to vote or have a drink in a public bar.

      As an infant, I watched my Mum banging her head on glass ceilings. She needed twice the qualifications & three times the experience to gain the same positions as men.

      Women in my generation have gained so much from women of the last few generations. There is still a long way to go.

      The modern day 'beauty' industry seems to me, to be a step backwards for women and for ethics and sustainability (as you observed).

    3. Oh, by the way, I hated the name "Rowan" as an infant, & changed my name to "Ernie"... My mum asked me to revert to my given name when I was enrolled at school. Perhaps she was concerned I would develop a snicker & ambiguous sexuality.

  9. So Nat - how many girlfriends have YOU asked to be YOUR bridesmaids? You could lead by example!

    1. Hey Gregg,

      You're perfectly right. Perhaps it's a "you pick me, I'll pick you" scenario. ;)

      Should I ever get married, I'll probably now go with no bridesmaid - keep it simple and hopefully avoid offending anyone!

    2. Impossible to avoid offending anyone when you marry. Then again - your experiences as a theatrical actor / performer / Director might at least help you develop the resilience needed to endure the machinations, tantrums and judgmental / mean spirited 'advice' from family and people you thought were friends.
      Bitter? I'm not bitter ... unless you were talking about divorce?

  10. Missed the entire 'Hullabulo' and 'bruhaha' LOL

    People who spruik their greatness tend to be about as emotionally sound as a comedian.

  11. Great post Nat. I was wondering what you were going to write about. I kind of feel sorry for her too. I'm not sure where she is coming from but perhaps if she did have some close friends they may have knocked her down a peg or two as only good friends can. She is clearly lacking more than humility.

  12. I still don't even know if she was genuinely up herself or just put up to it. But honestly, the comments from the women who weighed in were just too much. They DID prove the point of the whole article - that's the joke. I just thought "Not playing this game".

    I have never been a bridesmaid either. I had a friend that I considered close yet she never asked me and to this day I have not raised the subject even though I was terribly hurt by the whole thing. At least I'm comfortably sure it wasn't because I outdazzled her in the looks department.

    You are not alone in feeling that you don't have anyone you can talk to in that way. I feel that too at times.