I am an older and quite well-known person about to be interviewed for a national newspaper. Any tips?
An Older Person, Celebrityland
Oh, my dear Older Person. When I look at you, I see not a dignified soul striding off to attend to one’s media requirements but a helpless young babe in the wood, rucksack on your back, skipping straight into the mouth of the lion.
It may seem odd for me to have sympathy with the interviewee as opposed to the interviewer, given that I am, in fact, an interviewer. Yes, I am; but I am also – I cry, climbing up on my high horse, wiping a tear of outrage from my pinked cheek – a human being. Hath not a journalist eyes? Hath not a journalist a heart? Eyes that read newspapers and a heart that sinks when it sees yet another older person thrown into the mincer of media outrage? I do. I hath.
Here’s how it works now: a famous older person goes off to give a talk or an interview. They are either encouraged to give their views on transgender people or do so of their own accord. Their slightly outdated views are then gleefully published everywhere by newspapers so as to encourage people to tweet and Facebook their outrage, ideally with links to the article, thus generating more readers. Think of the newspaper here as being like a mangy dog bringing in a half-eaten sparrow from the garden: “Look at this! Isn’t it disgusting! Go on, be shocked!”
Both Ian McEwan and Fay Weldon suffered this fate the other weekend and doubtless five more shall do so by the time I’ve finished writing this sentence. Indeed, asking what an interviewee thinks about trans rights is the new asking if they’re a feminist, in that it’s a question with a newsworthy answer either way. Still, there’s something – what’s the word? – pathetic about trying to get a 60-plus-year-old to say something that will get them into trouble, just to cause a momentary stir on Twitter. And sure, fighting bigotry comes in all forms, but it doesn’t generally begin with screaming at an 84-year-old author online.
Anyway, what can you, famous older person, do about it? Fortunately for you, I have compiled a small map to guide you through this minefield. Just ask yourself the following questions and go to the appropriate answers. Good luck, gentle soul.
1. Do you want to talk about trans rights in an interview?
(a) What are trans rights? (Go to 5)
(b) Actually, I have some very interesting thoughts on this subject that I’d like to share. (Go to 2)
2. Do you think men are men and women are women and no fancy political correctness can change that?
(a) Obviously. (Go to 5)
(b) Actually, my gay nephew Owen was explaining to me just last week that it’s a little more complicated than that. (Go to 3)
3. Do you plan to make frequent references to genitalia in your argument?
(a) Well, of course. (Go to 5)
(b) In public company? Certainly not. (Go to 4)
4. Speaking truth to power and all that, but do you fancy spending the next month being yelled at by millions of people online and the rest of your life answering questions about this in interviews?
(a) God, no. (Go to 5)
(b) Why would people yell at me? (Go to 5)
5. Do not talk about trans rights in an interview.
Please tell me this is a joke: tracksuits are in fashion?
Shirley, by email
Yes and no, Shirley, yes and no. Yes, tracksuits are in fashion this season, but no, not any old tracksuit. For example,Jeremy Corbyn’s famous grey tracksuit remains irredeemable (sorry for citing you again, Jeremy, but I’ll grab any excuse to include you in this column.)
The fashion industry may like to pretend it’s down with the cool kids, but its survival depends on exclusivity. This is all a fancy way of saying that, yes, tracksuits are in fashion, but only really, really expensive ones. This means spending between £1,000-£3,000 – yes, £3,000 FOR A TRACKSUIT – at Chloé, Gucci, Loewe or Bottega Veneta. And you thoughtJuicy Couture was a big rip-off.
Look, it’s easy to make fun of this – for a reason: it’s completely ridiculous. But I have to admit, Chloé and Gucci, in particular, have made some rather lovely tracksuits, far smarter and sexier than ones you could find on the high street. But they are, ultimately, still tracksuits. This has to be the ultimate example of a fashion trend being for those in the know because, whereas your fashion friends will be impressed that you manage to buy the Chloé tracksuit top, to everyone else you just spent over a grand on a quite nice trackie top. And that doesn’t make you look chic – it makes you look like an absolute numpty.