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Pretty Girl Bullshit

When Did Modern Romance Turn into Cold War?

Decades of cool, festering hatred doesn't sound like a good basis for anyone's love life.

Christine Keeler, the former British showgirl who was at the heart of the Cold War's Profumo sex scandal.

Britain, 2013 – not a great place to live, is it, really? It looks like we're off to war again, our government seems to actively hate us and love and infatuation have been replaced with Tinder and internet porn respectively. Essentially, it's starting to feel a lot like 1984 but without the romance to keep us going. We're at the "alright, alright, just please don't let those rats eat my face" stage.


While at times it seems impossible to effect the grinding, clanking machinery that controls public life, it's equally depressing to me that we've started treating the people we meet in our private lives in the same way we treat politicians: with a mixture of derision, apathy and cynicism. We don't seem to think enough of each other to give people we meet the chance to impress us. Instead, we warily scope others out from the distance provided online, engaging in romantic espionage as we attempt to pre-select The One based on how fit they look on Facebook and how funny/lonely they seem on Twitter. Tinder isn't even a dating website really, it's basically a satire of the dating experience, one in which an endless cast of would-be romancers are paraded before you, held up to be scorned for their shortcomings.

And then we go out into the street, or the supermarket, or the club (who really goes to "the club"), and we can't hold eye contact with anyone. It's a sorry state of affairs, with very few affairs, because when it's preferable to spend 20 minutes spurning 50 people you'll never meet than to realise you are on the top deck of a bus sitting next to someone human and scary and – potentially – mysterious and attractive, you can see why we have a pathetic shrinking perception of real life.

The problem is, we're encouraged to size each other up. Adam Curtis made a great film about how the US Government employed Cold War tactics on the American public in order to promote widespread paranoia – watch it now, I know you have time – and I don't think the current climate for socialising in the UK is far from where they were at. I'm not a fanatic, I don't think there's a global conspiracy to lower the population rate (I probably should be a conspiracist) but there's definitely an impulse from certain appendages of our media to instil added senses of violation and negativity to the way we socialise. To make us suspicious of each other.


Take, for instance, this. We all know about it, the idea that male irises are magnetically drawn to female nipples. The notion that upon meeting a man he will immediately and automatically size you up, surveying your body for sex-potential. It's a ridiculous, useless piece of irrelevant information, which the Daily Mail wants you to believe is incredibly important. It wants us to re-consider how we feel about our bodies in respect of people we don't know. It wants to divide up our breasts and hand them out to hapless, confused men, who, if looking at a woman from afar, will inevitably fall in to the category of "boob starer".

Why should we be taunted with the fact that men look at women's bodies? Why is it some kind of horrible sinister "truth" that the Mail goad us with when the last thing we want to do, as sensitive, intelligent people, is clutch our chests and quiver at the thought of never finding true love? "It also emerged, worryingly, one in four men have even been caught out looking at a woman by their other half," the article continues, as if that were some kind of death knell for human empathy.


No wonder we're all retreated into our Instagram caverns, punctuated by shorts bursts of Tinder and a couple of drunken snogs with people we've already vetted online. (Or who we are currently in the process of vetting – which, if we're honest, is a process that never really ends.) If the world of relationships playing out primarily on our iPhone screens is a place where looking at a member of the opposite sex is "worrying" then it's not a world any of us would want to live in. How desperately insecure are we supposed to become? Racked with fear that our boyfriends will look their attractive friends in the eye, or rather breast, convinced it means they want to up and leave?

Does a period of cool, festering hatred that lasted for decades sound like a good basis for your love life? It's time we thawed this romantic Cold War – the biggest con the scare media ever pulled was to make us scared of each other.

Follow Bertie on Twitter: @bertiebrandes

Previously – Penelope Cruz Is Helping Agent Provocateur Sell You Lies