By Author Anonymous
I woke up this morning to a message from my friend Mavis:
“Dotty looks a bit rough!”
I was a bit confused. I didn’t know what she was on about. And I don’t know a Dotty.
So, as the guttural, early morning grunt that would have been my response (had Mavis been in my house) was tricky to spell, I replied in the universal way;
“Underwood. She was on breakfast TV at the pencil museum. Not sure I like her hair but if she does that’s all that matters”
Then I understood. Mavis, a friend of mine had seen another friend of mine on the TV. It was too early in the morning for a rational response.
So I replied:
“1) Dot, not Dotty
2) absolutely what she thinks is all that matters – it is not about her hair and about whatever she was invited on the TV to talk about
3) at least you sent this as a message to me and didn’t slag her off online like all the other twats do
4) would you like to go on TV to see what people tweet/text/say about you and how they perceive you look?
Fucking hell Mavis”.
I got on with some work, went for a swim and calmed down. After four hours, Mavis had not replied so I sent her another message.
“I’m sorry if I overreacted this morning but your message was the first thing I saw when I woke up, and she’s my friend. Just like you’re my friend.
She had to be there at 5 this morning, so she got up I guess at 3:30 or 4, and did her own hair and makeup. She wasn’t there when her kids woke up, because she’d gone to work.
She gets abuse online every time she goes on TV for how she looks, her hair, her accent, because she’s female. Sometimes just because she’s there.
I spent a good deal of time speaking to her the week before last because she was going on TV during the Labour conference and the Momentum folks would do what they do. She just gets abuse.
Disagree with her if you want. I do. We enjoy it! Today I’d argue that her sensible cynicism towards government policy is outweighed by the fact the Tories are set on the policy and there’s money in the pot for councils that go along with it, so the prudent thing to do is to acquiesce.
So say that, disagree with the content of what she says, engage in a debate, but don’t just say that she looks rough and her hair is shit. Because that’s my friend.
And if anyone said the same about you I’d fly off the handle about that too.”
Dot never needs to know.
But that got me thinking, we forget too often that it’s someones’ friend on the screen.
Today, it was my friend but they’re all somebody’s friend or mother, brother or sister, father or child.
I don’t care what you look like on the TV. I don’t care what you wear, what you sound like, where you’re from. I’d like to listen to what you’re saying, and engage with you on the issues.
To borrow a sports metaphor, play the ball not the person.
You might come back to me with Farage and Hopkins, who don’t engage in reasoned debate but sensationalise and rabble rouse.
I’d argue they’re the exceptions which prove the rule. Rent-a-gobs are few and far between. Most talking heads on our screens are there because they have an interesting perspective, experience or approach.
Listen, and disagree if you want, but don’t slag off what they look like.
It’s cheap, it’s petty and it’s juvenile.
And I know, I called this piece ‘That’s My Friend’, which makes me sound a bit like a five year old. But that is my friend, and if you go after her you’re no friend of mine.
Names have been changed to protect Mavis and Dot. Also, she wasn’t at the pencil museum – but you should go, I hear it’s great!