Wednesday, 24 February 2016

AB FAB AND FEMALE FRIENDSHIP


Below is my first piece for The Pool, a site I'm extremely chuffed to write for.  It's about how I want to be Eddy and Patsy when I grow up.  

When I first watched Ab Fab, I was a suburban pre-teen, curled up next to my mum on the sofa, still wearing my grey and red school uniform. The lives of these London fashionistas were completely foreign to me, with their magazine jobs and VIP lives, and I found them slightly terrifying – and hilarious. Eddy would regularly tantrum when Saffy, her neglected teen daughter, didn't know about Lacroix. And I mean proper prostate-on-the-kitchen-tiles, banging-her-fists-on-the-floor tantrums. Meanwhile, Patsy would sidle up to men 20 or 30 years her junior and perform her own version of the Joey Tribbiani “How you doin?” on them, fag in hand, beehive rock solid with hairspray. These women were utterly disgraceful.

But now, watching as a grown-up, I find them utterly delightful. Aspirational even. And I'm pleased to note I have more in common with Eddy and Patsy than ever before. (Also, I now get all the references to Fired Earth and Jocasta Innes, and was giddy to see a young Idris Elba dancing with Patsy in a backwards Kangol hat). In fact, Eddy and Patsy are now my template for how to age, my TV version of the Jenny Joseph poem Warning. Because, really, this is a show about women, and how wonderfully silly and funny women can be when they're not worrying about what everyone else will think.  They're women let loose – and I want that.

I want their friendship, too. Eddy and Patsy are soulmates. When Saffy organises family gatherings with her gay father and his partner in tow (again, this show was streaks ahead of its time), Eddy and Patsy sneak off to the toilet together, where they roll around on the floor, giggling and necking champagne like teenagers. When Eddy has to meet Saffy's headmaster, she asks, “Can I bring my friend?” They don't care about behaving in a way that would be deemed socially acceptable; in fact, the worst thing for them is to be normal. On one occasion, Patsy begs Eddy, “Don't ever make me a cup of tea.” Through their worries about sagging skin, or their careers, or whether Eddy should still be doing her food shopping at Harvey Nicks, their friendship is the most important thing in their lives. And the older I get, the more I realise that's something I desperately want for myself and my close female friends.

But Patsy and Eddy aren't the only examples of strong women in the show. Watching the show this time around, I no longer feel sorry for Saffy. She gives as good as she gets, and her verbal sparring with Patsy puts her in good stead when she gets involved with New Labour – there's no doubt she could hold her own against the Malcolm Tuckers. I also found myself becoming unexpectedly emotional when Eddy rounds on an older man who has been wooing Saffy without revealing his marital status. She punches him in the face, to a cheer from Patsy and a grateful hug from her daughter. A lot of women have less than perfect relationships with their mothers; Eddy and Saffy's is just a different flavour of dysfunction.

Another great – and telling – moment is when Saffy writes and directs a very serious, po-faced play about her terrible home life. Eddy and Patsy reluctantly slope in to watch it, only to be delighted by their actor counterparts, and the way the audience mistakes the drama for comedy, clambering on to the stage so they can take a bow. They even hang out with fake Eddy and Patsy after the show, with Patsy only doing the tiniest of double-takes upon realising she was played by a man. And, of course, Gran or Mrs M has her moments – when Eddy announces that inside her there is a thin person screaming to get out, her mother fires back, “Just the one, dear?”

So, as the publicity for the upcoming Ab Fab film kicks into gear, I'm resolving to call people “sweetie” more, to dress as flamboyantly as I dare and to plan several disgraceful outings with my soulmates. 

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