It’s that time of the year again. There’s not a lot going on (except in your bank account, where the numbers are relentlessly getting lower and lower), and everyone is sitting at home, wondering whether it’s worth buying another pair of winter boots in the sale, as last year’s seem to be leaking snow into your frozen toes every time you leave the house.
Even the news isn’t giving us much. Yes, there’s the odd Tory politician who says something unbearably stupid – which makes a headline. There’s the inevitable babble of celebrities caught up in sordid affairs; and I’ll predict a natural disaster sometime soon, too. They conveniently appear when there’s nothing else for jaded hacks to be writing about. Except a recent event has indeed caused a ripple through the air. Kenneth Tong, some obscure minor celebrity who no one had heard of until recently, took it upon himself to create a Twitter account for the sole purpose of convincing girls they should be anorexic. Not men though – they don’t need to be a size zero, they only need to be rich.
I have no intention of getting into a rant about the disgusting moral and sociological implications of his attention-seeking behaviour, because, no doubt, you’ve read as much as is humanly possible on the subject. However, at a time of the year when our resolutions to give up chocolate, booze or crushes on musicians are beginning to take a toll on our self-discipline, one has to wonder, why is it that the Brighton population seems so much more obsessed with its image than other parts of the country? I suppose an obvious answer is that we have a high population of students and young people, who will inevitably be more likely to spend hours in front of a mirror than an area where the majority of the inhabitants have two small children, a full-time job and a mortgage to worry about.
But is this really the only reason? I wouldn’t argue that Brighton is inherently a superficial town. There are many aspects which ooze soul and depth. If you dig enough you will find an art exhibition which is truly moving, a magazine which features more than pictures of girls in tiny dresses and guys with stupid moustaches. If you really set your mind to it you might even – dare I say it? – come across a band which is actually about making brilliant music as opposed to looking amazingly cool on stage.
Yet these aren’t the things many weekenders take back from Brighton. And I say that’s our fault. We shouldn’t make a place less pretty any more than we should gorge on Krispy Kremes to rebel against Tong’s despicable claims into female aspiration. But those of you who know Brighton, who know there’s more to it than kooky clothes shops and trendy cafés, should make sure the secret gets out. A friend of mine recently almost had a nervous breakdown because a small pub off Western Road called the Shakespeare’s Head had closed down. It’s not one of the cool ones, it’s not in the guide books, I don’t think you can even check into it on Facebook Places. But it’s the only one she’ll go to because it’s friendly, it’s quiet, it’s cheap, and no one looks at you like you should go home and sort your hair out before ever leaving the house again. I don’t know why it’s closed, but it would be tragic to find out that people were ignoring these pubs because on the surface they don’t look pretty enough.
Maybe someone should get Tong to Brighton and show him that there are parts of the world where we care about more than how people look and how many calories they don’t eat. That’s the town I’m proud to live in, not the one where pubs close down because they don’t sell the cider that was featured in Vice Magazine. Let’s get it right next time.