Feb 13, 2006

"You're a page four girl," my friend Andrea greets me. "I saved this."

She hands me Le Journal de Quebec. Sure enough, I'm splashing snow in a black-and-white quarter-page image. Really, next time I'm nearly naked at minus 30, I must remember not to slouch...

"I'm embarassed," I whine.

"You'll show this to your grandchildren," she insists. "Be proud. You're tough and you looked great out there."

"I just hope I'm not on the AP wire."


My issue's about control, I realize. As a member of the media since 18, I'm accustomed to editorial veto on coverage of myself. Some, at least.

A sadistic features editor once assigned me "Three Hairstyles for the Millenium". I protested; yes, I was that uppity cub reporter, a serious chronicler of science and literature and travel, not fluff.

"You, dearie, cover what I tell you to cover. Now go get groomed."

The experience was wretched. The hairdressers hand-tonged my thick, long, perfectly straight hair, starching it into crispy curls. The styling and photo-shoot took seven hours longer than expected. The final molded 'do was so plastic, I biked home through a rainstorm and it didn't even wilt.

My colleagues were much amused. "Blimey, love, you clean up well," a 65-year-old paperboy announced.

I wrote a wrathful piece about my hatred of salons and the bunny-torturing cosmetic industry. My boss ran it under a headline that said "What a Difference a Day Can Make!"

"Erm, Fiona. This title doesn't match my angry-young-woman text."

"Do you think you know how to write headlines better than me? I'm Assistant Features Editor!"

"Well, maybe you could read the story beforehand? So there's a vague connection between the two?"

No dice. So readers of the Oxford Mail were treated to schitzophrenic double-page spread: my rant, her rave, plus photos of various Merchant-Ivory upsweeps (so very 2000).

Worse yet, I passed the front-page designer's terminal. My picture simpered above the masthead. The text beside it blared, "how to get a head for the holidays."

"That's a bit suggestive," I offered. "Maybe get rid of the innuendo?"

My colleague wheeled around and snapped: "You're such a Yank feminist. I'm sure whoever this bimbo is, she doesn't care."

The bimbo minds. Yes indeed.

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