A recent conversation with a friend about the fact that I needed to get a better paid job ended up with me quoting from Karl Marx’s manifesto. ‘Ha ha’ she laughed, ‘as though earning shit money signifies your commitment to socialism: you are the only person I know who can dress up her lack of confidence as an ideological position!’ I was deeply offended. The point is, I know who Karl Marx is. I am quite well educated and have at least, unlike a lot of people I know (see friend mentioned above) got an ‘ideological position’. I am probably a Marxist (pause for laughter), possibly a Humanist (pause for cringing) and almost certainly a Feminist (pause for booing). That said, (pause for shame) the three little words I long to hear are: (no not those!) ‘You look gorgeous/pretty/lovely…(today/in that top/dress/naked- which strictly speaking means that the phrase is more than three words long, but that was just the gist, context is important). I hate admitting this and I know that this makes me a horribly shallow twit but I can’t help it. I also can’t help but wonder how my life might have turned out differently if I hadn’t been so susceptible to this type of flattery. I remember bouncing up and down on top of a terribly unsuitable man whom I had already decided was destined to be nothing more than a one night stand when he opened his mouth and uttered the words ‘you are so fucking gorgeous’. Three months later, despite having to silence the sane voices in my head by humming loudly at all times, I was still boffing him and I think you can guess why. Despite behaving like an utter shit most of the time, he was very free with his compliments. (A similar sort of selective hearing thing happens when you marry if your partner can cook: try telling your friends that ‘Bob made a fantastic curry last night after he finished molesting the kids’ and I guarantee they will only hear the first bit and lament his lack of fraternal siblings whom they could date, or fix up a single friend with!) It’s truly pathetic and I know it is but I still feel chuffed when a dribbling, myopic builder with a fat gut and half his ass on display whistles at me. What has caused this terrible need for reassurance? Well, try spending the entirety of your school days being a total geek. I was never fashionable or fanciable, and my teenage years were spent hiding behind a gigantic scarf my granny knitted and secretly pretending I was Sarah from The French Lieutenants Woman. I wanted to be a doomed and unconventional beauty to distract myself from the hordes of nasty teenage girls with six inch nails and pencil skirts who followed me around, chanting that my virginity would be a life long condition. Add to the mix the shame and social exclusion engendered by cultishly religious parents and a smattering of inappropriate interest from a much older next door neighbour during my early teens and voila! Here I am years later still disarmed by the simplest of compliments. The woman I see in the mirror, who frankly ranges from dishevelled to lovely, depending on the effort I put in, is always superseded by a gawky teenager who once shaved off her eyebrows because she hated her face so much. I guess I still don’t think I’m much to look it, but if you tell me I am, you could probably mug me afterwards and I’d go home smiling.