Possibly the most inadequate, and weak with hostility, I ever feel is when I read an interview with, for example, a sexually attractive young actress and discover that, in addition to the above, she’s lived her whole life in Manhattan and her father is a highly acclaimed theatre director. It was ‘just normal for her’ to, say, have a great-grandmotherly Lauren Bacall smoking on the balcony or an avuncular Philip Seymour Hoffman playfully stealing the food from her plate at her childhood birthday parties; as opposed to it having been ‘a really big deal to me’ to go to the Black Stump for dinner.
Before I’ve even finished reading about such an individual, I will have a vivid mental narrative unfolding of how things would have been if the woman in question had been of the correct nationality, and age – which, of course, she wouldn’t have – for the two of us to have attended school together. Quite likely the children of today are more jaded, but in the old days, kids whose parents were even remotely connected to show business did not have to work for the keys to the city.
Two girls in particular who dazzled my classmates and me come to mind. The first was one whose mother, back in the days when no one troubled themselves too much about paedophiles, ran a troupe in which pre-teens wore brief spangled costumes and occasionally danced suggestively on The Mike Walsh Show; the second was one whose father had been the brains behind a television commercial that advertised soft drink by means of a giant balloon.
The girl with the dance-troupe mother was, in addition to her imposing lineage, gifted at the hatefulness that schoolgirls so respect. Due to the way she could destroy them psychologically with a few, not even well-chosen, words, her fellow students fawned over her until the day in Year Nine that she stalked out after being told off for public smoking and for having an affair with a thirty-eight-year-old man.
The girl with the TV-commercial-director father was eventually classified as a lesbian by her classmates, because she had a deep voice and was a fan of musical groups containing women who played their own instruments. Therefore, her window of anyone who mattered bothering to speak to her was small, but at least she had a few good times to look back on when people were yelling ‘Lemon!’ at her because she had a photo of Do Re Mi on her science folder. (The taunts got a lot worse after she became too friendly, for our liking, with a bowl-haircutted swot of a female exchange student from Kuala Lumpur.)
School popularity aside, having a parent with a glittering occupation is a real leg-up in being appealing to the opposite sex. An ex-boyfriend of mine used to talk wistfully about a female friend of his who was the daughter of a well-known (if, to my mind, overrated) novelist. I was aware that my ex-boyfriend would have enjoyed his relationship with me immeasurably more if I’d been the daughter of someone likely to pop up on Sunday Arts.
Yes, on one hand you could say that I should have tried to find a new boyfriend, but on the other, of course I could, and can, comprehend his point of view. I can appreciate that he wanted regularly to sit in the famous novelist’s vineyard, eating a slap-up lunch and calling the great man by his first name. I would have liked it if my ex-boyfriend’s father had been anyone of consequence – ideally, he would have been some kind of celebrated rough diamond only I really understood, and I would have made his wife furiously jealous of me as I stalked around showing off my ripe young body. Aside from getting to brag about knowing the famous parent, someone publicly acknowledged to be of consequence finding you to be of consequence would, surely, do more for the self-esteem than any amount of kindness from your actual, obscure, relatives or from true friends whom you’ve known since kindergarten.
Due to her fame by association, my ex-boyfriend’s friend had from her conception automatically been at least slightly interesting to others – now, imagine adding this advantage to manifold other attributes and turning into Rufus Wainwright. I look at his kind, and realise that I am so far behind in any race to be one of the beautiful people that I may as well be Peter Ustinov, with his long white beard and multiple cats, in Logan’s Run.