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And I should acknowledge that, when not waving a mascara wand, she plays chess far better than I ever could and passes exams with a studied diligence she might otherwise reserve for an out-of-place eyelash. As I write this, she is upstairs reading Paradise Lost. And since Sarah wears the stuff herself but also has a science degree (proper science, she reminds me, unlike mine in Economics) and helps run a very substantial advertising company, who am I to make a fuss? The politics and the psychology of beauty (not just the industry but the actual thing: beauty) are hugely complex and more than skin-deep. I’m sure they acted out of a genuine desire to protect him and allow him to flourish, but the result was that, to most of us, he appeared to be an oddball. Not in a stupid way but in a way that makes the day better.

And its message is as deeply relevant to my daughter and her generation as it was to my Mum’s, because the message is not about whether you can get a good job and go where you want and wear what you like — all freedoms Martha has that Mum did not — it’s about what it means to be a woman. Of course, life has changed hugely since de Beauvoir was writing after World War II and women today can care about their looks and have fulfilling careers. I am not the slightest bit worried about what people think I look like — or at least no more worried than you are when you shave before going to the Today programme studios. Young Kit, who remember is only seven, now has a mere 15 minutes to get ready. There is an industry out there — a booming and highly sophisticated industry — trying to capture their sweet, unspoiled faces and lure them into a world much older than their years.I’m talking about the legions of beauty bloggers and vloggers who invade our daughters’ bedrooms by means of You Tube ‘tutorials’ — I know I sound 103, but on what planet does a teen’s monologue on mascara amount to a tutorial? My daughter Martha may be 17 years old — no baby any more — but I’m baffled that my clever, funny, resourceful girl, who has aspirations to become a lawyer, should pay so much attention to these meaningless demonstrations and soul-sapping narratives.Pots and tubs, brushes and wands, sponges and serums jostle for space. And not only is she devoting increasing amounts of time to ‘getting ready’, but she is now booking beauty appointments, too. My mother had very few choices in life, and when she had an affair and got pregnant with me in 1960 those choices evaporated almost completely. I remember face-painting as a child and you are right that it led to my current interest, but not because of the result but because of the activity. After all, there are plenty of boys who spend ages in front of the mirror. You see, Daddy, I have plenty of time for things other than make-up.I was sitting at the kitchen table the other day looking at university prospectuses with her brother Sam when Martha breezed by. ‘I’m going into town to have someone look at my eyebrows.’Sam and I raised ours. The primping and prinking and tweaking and twirling to get the look just right. She lost her job, too, as you did as a pregnant unmarried woman in those days. This is the woman who wrote one of the most significant feminist tracts of the last century. The other thing that you get wrong is that I am doing it for myself. I once had a boyfriend who took longer to get ready than I did!

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