In an undeniably bleak year, I’ve discovered one bottomless well of guilty pleasure. No, it’s not that dreadful Emily in Paris TV show that everyone (including our dear Elizabeth Day) but me is obsessed with. It’s the memoir Friends and Enemies by Barbara Amiel, wife of former media tycoon Conrad Black who was imprisoned for fraud and obstruction of justice. As a result they were shunned by their elite circle.
While that was surely harrowing for them, she should take comfort in the fact that it’s been worth it for those of us who’ve devoured Barbara’s gloriously gossipy takedown of everyone who’s wronged them. What tickled me most are her tales of the schoolyard-style cruelties meted out by her high-society ‘friends’. It’s an extraordinary glimpse at a life where, apparently, insanely rich people believe wearing white is a lower-class faux pas and ‘patio jewellery’ is a normal way to describe a dress code.
While most of us will never relate to Barbara’s rich-girl problems (so awkward when your friends have less money than you), we can all sympathise with the struggle against Mean Girls. I don’t believe, as Barbara does, that there’s no such thing as the sisterhood. But we’ve all met the bullies. A chat in my office has revealed they can strike at any time, and at any age. One of my most memorable experiences happened when I was 35. I took my newborn daughter to the weekly check-up clinic. I wheeled my pram into a room where three other women sat chatting but went silent the second I entered. I took my daughter out of the pram and she was dressed in pink – onesie, slippers, beanie, bib. (When you have a girl, everyone buys you pink!) After a few minutes one of the women smiled sweetly and said, ‘How old is he?’ A subtle, yet effective snake-strike of pure bitchery.
My colleague Cath says, ‘I bought a holiday home in Italy and I’ve been shocked by the one-upmanship of some of the expats. I took one on a tour of (what I thought was) my gorgeous farmhouse. She touched my bath and said: “I don’t do plastic.’’’
Even our fashion director Shelly, the most stylish woman in any room, is not immune: ‘I’d splurged on a vintage cape and was wearing it with a favourite long black dress when a group of women on my train platform sidled up to me and asked if I’d forgotten my broomstick. I’m ashamed to say I went home and changed.’
It’s a comfort to know that even having millions in the bank won’t spare your ego in the face of petty meanness. Yet there’s something strangely enjoyable about comparing these battle scars (cat scratches?). So please do laugh/cry with me and tell me yours.
Enjoy the issue.
Perfect workday wear. Dress, £49.99, zara.com
If it’s Bowie-related, I’ll take it. Print, £28, Fanclub, wolfandbadger.com