THE BLOG

... Just Like Everybody Else

09/05/2014 15:51 BST | Updated 08/07/2014 10:59 BST

So I hear that one of this season's celebrity trends is 'Normcore'.

This fascinating departure from glamour is to be 'deliberately ordinary' in how you present yourself. You might have nondescript, untidy hair and possibly a rather anonymous pair of glasses. You might wear a lived-in hoodie and sensible, flat shoes. You might - gasp - even wear last season's style of jeans. Whereas that sounds like a typical weekend outfit for most of us, celebrities accessorise it with irony - because they just are so completely fabulous, dahlings, that they don't have to look fabulous. They do looking normal with abnormal éclat: it's not a case of trying to look anonymous, but rather an ironic twist on how the rest of us try to make ourselves look better than we are.

And in a world where our best seems never to be good enough, we're always stretching to be even better than our own potential. Contestants on The Apprentice or The X Factor defy mathematical logic by giving at least 110%. In classrooms across the country, bewildered teenagers are berated because they haven't all scored above the class average. Leave normcore to the people who are so beautiful that the downgrade to normal lets them still look better than the rest of us: the Sunday supplements and glossy magazines are full of helpful hints on how we can be better. Shinier. Glossier. Have better hair and a more streamlined physique. They advise us on what make-up products to buy, and how to apply them carefully so that it looks as though we're wearing no make-up at all. How to style our hair each morning to look as though we've just rolled out of bed. How to make it look as though we've just been on a fortnight's holiday in the sun, when we haven't stopped working for weeks and are sleep-deprived because we're getting up at dawn to apply our 'no make-up make-up' and artfully dishevel our unco-operative hair. It's exhausting. If the kind of poorly concealed under-eye shadows which come of too much late night reading are ever 'in', then what my darling husband calls my 'Alice Cooper look' will place me at the pinnacle of style.

A few months ago, a mobile phone advertising campaign urged viewers to upgrade their handsets by selling the notion of upgrading their lives. A young man in a nightclub cheated on his girlfriend with a more glamorous model: he upgraded his love life. Our TV schedules are swamped with different kinds of reality TV. Talent shows, fly-on-the-wall documentaries, and the ever more popular 'constructed reality' shows like Made in Chelsea or The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. In these shows, it seems, 'characters' are told to take part in scenes in specific places and in interactions with particular fellow 'characters'. They play themselves as opposed to being played by actors: the ultimate in being famous for being famous, in a landscape where everyone can be someone but no-one wants to end up as just anyone.

Social networking compounds the pressure. The inter-generational peer-pressure of the social media where we imagine we have friends makes us filter our photographs to make our lives look better than they are. We blur and angle and filter, upgrading the normal grind of daily life into a lifestyle. A filter coffee isn't just a drink, these days: it's an instagrammed construct, only that you can end up spending so long making your Americano look cool, that by the time you get to drink it, it's gone cold. We distill the hundreds of words that we speak each day into witty tweets or desirable Facebook statuses: not so much 'famous for fifteen minutes' as a micro-celebrity in 140 curated characters or less.

But does it matter if we're all trying to upgrade? Is it perhaps a positive trend, an antidote to human laziness, an active approach to one of those cheesy slogans about 'being the best that we can be?' Or is it like that mythical 110% - the effort that we're all meant to be making, but which the logic of maths and science tells us we can't do? Are we aspiring to drag ourselves out of our anonymous normality, to stop ourselves being invisible in a crowd, by aspiring to be better in ways which we can never achieve? In trying to present the new, upgraded versions of ourselves, are we denying what is simple human imperfection, as though constantly trying to reach the horizon?

The 'stylized blandness' of normcore applies a filter of self-satisfied irony to what's usual for most of us. That it's fashionable for people who are someone to seem like just anyone, places everyone in a hall of mirrors where good is an underachievement, better is tolerable, and best is nobody's idea of good enough. The deconstructed reality of ordinary life is getting lost among the filters and the glitter and the inspiration. If, as my favourite fridge magnet tells me, I am unique, just like everybody else, then maybe it's fine just to be normal. Insignificant. Invisible in a crowd.

Maybe that's what happens when all you have to give is 100%.

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