How to Get a Life: The aftermath
9th August 2012
So here endeth the lesson. 26 stories, filmed over 9 months, broadcast over 6 weeks, crammed into 6 programmes, shown on BBC3 - and exxxhhhaaalllleeee.
How To Get A Life was one hell of a ride. And when I say ride, I mean dressed in PVC on the back of a man dressed as a horse in a smart suburban area of London....but more on that later...
How To Get A Life was born out of a desire to ponder further upon modern dilemmas that people were talking about. Twitter, Facebook, the pub, nights in on the sofa, nights out dancing - we really wanted to capture the conversations that people are engaging in today. And we wanted to reflect the tone of these conversations - confrontational, shocking, funny, serious, confusing and sometimes downright bonkers.
The programme topics were:
Ep1: Single vs. settled
Ep2: Are we all addicts?
Ep3: How can looks change our life?
Ep4: How prejudice are we now?
Ep5: Why do we work and play so hard?
Ep6: How does money affect love?
For each episode I hosted a wonderful twitter party (with jammy dodgers, slightly warm squash and Best of R’nB playing softly in the background) and the response was incredible. Thank you to everyone who sent comments, questions or constructive criticism - it was brilliant to be part of a live conversation about the programmes.
It’s also been really exciting to see how many people downloaded the programme from iPlayer and I won’t lie, I took a screen grab when it hit number 1 (Not very cool, I know).
It’s always slightly terrifying to open up your life to public scrutiny and I think the people who featured were amazing for sharing their stories.
One story that was particularly touching was that of Delphine, a tattoo artist featured in episode three. She was incredibly open about why she modified her body in such an extreme way and many people got in touch to say they had been inspired by her candidness.
I had previously thought that there was as much vanity involved in tattoos as there was in wearing lipstick, but for Delphine - the motive was very different.
She told me how her long-term boyfriend had been unfaithful - as a result of his unprotected sex with other women, she became infertile. Coming from a family that revere women when they became mothers, Delphine felt that she would never truly be a woman.
Of course, to me and many of you who got in touch, she is a beautiful, honest and very real woman. Delphine explained that the reason behind her piercings and tattoos was about re-appropriating her body. She felt that a boy had taken something physical from her and so she needed to reclaim her physical self in some way.
Delphine completely changed my understanding of why some people are so passionate about the art of tattooing. I was so happy that she agreed to give me my first (and last I think - they’re really painful) tattoo, especially when she told me how it gave her such pleasure to know that her art-work was scattered all over the world. Well, it isn’t very exotic but I’m proud to be flying the Delphine flag for west London!
In the same episode I also met a group of feisty, clever, gorgeous girls called Those Pesky Dames. You can get to know them better here:
They opened my eyes to the robotic approach I’d had to hair removal.
I’ve removed my body hair since I was 11 - totally automatically, without thinking and without questioning it. So they set me a challenge - could I grow my body hair for 6 weeks and display it loud and proud?
Well, I did it and was completely stunned at how hard it was. When I was in the warm bosom of the girls it was fine - I actually felt proud of my newly cultivated legs, pits and, ahem, other areas. But the minute I stepped away from them I lost my courage.
All it took was one look from a shocked commuter and I’d put my t-shirt on quicker than you can say ‘mind the gap’. It really opened my eyes to how unliberated we are in this area.
Whilst this isn’t great news, it is a call to arms for the generations of women to come - the work of feminists is not done, we still have a way to go and I think that’s exciting. I’ve always counted myself a feminist, but meeting Those Pesky Dames opened me up to a funny, accessible and bright approach. Feminism isn’t an aggressive battle against women or men and it's not exclusive to academics or full-time protestors; it's relevant to absolutely everyone. A feminist believes in freedom of choice and equality for women - how could anyone not be a feminist?!?!
(Read here for an article I wrote for Huffington Post)
The series took me to some thrilling, terrifying and very personal places. I fulfilled a childhood dream with the female fire-fighter, Becky, who took me for a ride in the fire engine, let me slide down the pole in the station and showed me how to use the hose. (Why do all of those sound like innuendos?!). I met a buff stripper who, on the face on things could be deemed to push the limits of vanity, but his devotion to his children showed that his pecs weren't as important as making them happy. He also rapped. Which made me laugh so much I cried.
I also visited a dominatrix dungeon which took me further out of my comfort zone than I’ve ever been - although I can report that PVC is extremely flattering. I interviewed a man, partial to a spot of submission, dressed as a horse. He told me paid that £200 buys him an hour of humiliation. The reasons why this tickles some people’s fancy are fascinating, often complicated and require an entire article of their own...stay tuned.
I’d love to know what you thought of the show - so please do get in touch via this website, Twitter or Facebook.