Tuesday 20 August 2019

Millennial Diary

Leo Varadkar pictured with Kylie Minogue in Dublin last year
Leo Varadkar pictured with Kylie Minogue in Dublin last year

Ciara O'Connor

It's fair to say that when Leo Varadkar came out, a certain demographic were fairly confused: mincing was not his primary mode of transportation, he wore suits - just like the straight politicians! He did not appear to be attached to a fabulous young woman as a Gay Best Friend, the entire raison d'etre of gay men everywhere! He did not burst into show tunes during parliamentary debates!

And, of course, he doesn't mind shaking the hands of virulent homophobes, and seems uninterested in furthering the interests of Ireland's LGBTQ community. His gayness appeared to be the only gay thing about him.

But those people are not confused any more, since last week's revelation that Varadkar dashed off a handwritten note to Kylie Minogue expressing his admiration and desire to personally welcome her to Ireland.

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The scan of the letter itself is truly fascinating. I would say I'm no graphologist, but I think graphologists are charlatans anyway so I think I can actually call myself one: as a graphologist, I notice that the pressure on the page is light, the speed rapid, here is a man who is trying to get this done as quickly as possible, before he comes to senses. His letters slant to the right, now the left, and right again. I'll leave that one to you. This is a man on the back foot, unsure. Dazzled. The disconnected letters reveal a reluctance to engage. But not with Kylie; his lines drift progressively more to the centre, it is the graphological equivalent of leaning in towards the reader.

There's the warm familiarity, the first name terms: 'Dear Kylie'. There's the fact that he appears to have written the letter, re-read it and inserted, 'Am a huge fan!' between paragraphs as if that needed explaining. There's the amazing sign-off, that we'll be getting value out of for years, his scrawled name with 'TAOISEACH' underneath in tiny capitals, and then - an afterthought, a moment of insecurity in the face of Kylie's real enduring power - in tinier capitals '(IRISH PRIME MINISTER)'.

Leo tried to have the release under FOI blocked a couple of times, and perhaps that's why the public reaction was so mixed. There was talk of disrespecting the honourable office of Taoiseach, of acting like a teenager, of wasting public resources (though, as a graphologist, it did very much look like a first draft so I think we can chill about that). It's so hard to know these days what will make you beloved king of the internet and what will have Twitter calling for your resignation: wearing fun socks - good! Love Actually references - mixed! Recognising the grace and power of the original and still the best Queen Kylie: bad. Unless you own it. If Leo had just come out as a Kylie Minogue fan, loud and proud, the country would have understood. Millennials, who love a cause almost as much as they love 1990s gay culture, would have got #KylieMeetLeo trending.

The way it worked out, however, we all just ended up googling what 'headed notepaper' is. As a graphologist, I suggest Leo come to terms with his musical tastes before Madonna tours again.

*****

Everyone knows that April 1 is the most embarrassing day of the year for brands large and small: a day when all self-respect and branding guidelines painstakingly assembled by hardworking marketing teams go out the window in favour of terrible dad-jokes on a corporate scale.

Last week, for example, Google announced a 'screen-cleaner' app which was a windscreen wiper for your phone LOL; Amazon announced 'Audible for fish' LMAO. Microsoft's marketing exec was obviously intimidated by the ROFLs and sent around an internal memo warning employees off pranks, "I believe we have more to lose than gain by attempting to be funny on this one day."

Tinder dropped their prank early: they were going to introduce 'height verification badges' for users to put an end to 'height fishing' - men who add a few inches to their height on their profile.

Despite the announcement containing things like, "This type of dishonesty doesn't just hurt your matches - it hurts us, too. Did it ever occur to you that we're 5'6'' and actually love our medium height? Did it ever occur to you that honesty is what separates humans from sinister monsters?" people (men) categorically did not see the funny side. They lost their damn minds. A light-hearted comment on how people get creative on dating profiles turned into an orgy of misogyny and bile. Tinder accidentally tapped into a deep well of anger from average men who felt cheated because they're not able to sleep with supermodels.

Men in their hundreds spluttered that a weight verification was needed for women - as well as verification for filters, selfies taken from flattering angles, fake tan, false eyelashes, 'too much' make up, nice clothes, hair, eyes, smiles, faces. Their ideal Tinder, it seems, would feature mug shots under strip lighting. It was a primal scream of pain over dates who turn up without puppy ears and noses, or love-hearts for eyes; or indeed feet, when their photos were all from the knees up.

Tinder was forced to clarify days later, having witnessed the virtual devastation wrought by their joke: "While we aren't really verifying height, we encourage all Tinder users to be honest and keep an open mind while on the app. Sometimes your most unexpected match can lead to amazing things."

Microsoft had the right idea.

*****

After months of teasing about her new project, last week Kourtney Kardashian launched Goop. Or Poosh. It's actually Poosh, but everything about it is Goop. It's a 'lifestyle brand', that female celebrity equivalent of an extra-curricular gin/tequila/whiskey brand.

An article on how to look good naked opens with the mystifying line, "In a world of mirror selfies, bikini shots, and filters, the pressures to look a certain Instagramable way are real. If that's you, you're not alone (we get it)." This incredible bit of copy is delivered unironically, as if the Kardashians did not invent mirror selfies, bikini shots, filters and the idea of being 'Instagramable'. Of course, it feels kind of galling to be told by a Kardashian that a body scrub and a candle can help you 'love the skin you're in' when the entire Kardashian brand is built on hating the skin they're in and changing literally everything about it by any means necessary.

There are bewildering tips such as "you can recycle products you don't want to use on your face by using them on your body" and turning the lights off to hide cellulite. In another piece on 'Foods to Flatten your Belly,' Kourtney suggests "spreading half a ripe avocado on a piece of whole-grain toast". It's brilliant! We could call it... Avocado toast! Someone give this woman a lifestyle blog. Wait.

Although Poosh is Goop, it does not have the bonkers charm of Goop - with its self-consciously ludicrous suggestions of $100,000 gold dumbbells and truffles made with moon pantry spirit dust, and vampire repellent and toothpaste squeezer and camel milk and - always, of course - jade vagina eggs. When compared to the rich history of Gwyneth's brand/longest running April Fool's joke in history, Poosh seems sad. But if this works out for Kourtney, it could prove to be a lucrative new business model for the Kardashians: they could invent Facebook, Twitter, Grindr, flat whites, spaghetti bolognese. Watch this space.

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