Hilary Fannin: Steaming vaginas, how has it come to this?
Why am I drawn to the sun-kissed, horrendously expensive and nauseatingly exclusive lifestyle advice on Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop?
Gwyneth Paltrow. Photograph: Cindy Ord/Getty Images
Good God, Gwyneth Paltrow has me exhausted. I blame myself. My current state of ennui, which kicked in about 20 minutes ago, is solely due to an unscheduled foray into the online publication Goop.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Goop concept, congratulations. Now allow me to roll back the mossy boulder and shatter your Goop-less self-satisfaction. “Curated” by actor and occasional macrobiotic Paltrow, Goop is a lifestyle website that is all about aspirational living. In Goopland, everyone is strong and fit, which are the new, politically correct words for thin; Goopites are also gorgeous and gracious and organically good and orthodontically flawless.
They floss. They go yurting in the Yucca Valley with an endless supply of detox pantry essentials. They travel with a wardrobe of nonboring neutrals and a partner with an alpaca crew-neck sweater casually slung over his or her magnificent shoulders. Generally, they also have two multilingual toddlers, possibly called Parsley and Thyme who, when the blood-red sun sets over the ridge, are tucked up under Argentinian llama-wool rugs handcrafted by pipe-playing Peruvian porridge eaters, allowing the scented Goopers quality time to break open a bottle of elderflower juice and toast their tightened abs.
I dunno. I dunno why I find myself drawn to gawp at Gwynnie’s sun-kissed, horrendously expensive and nauseatingly exclusive lifestyle advice, other than that it’s some kind of penance for having eaten two Pop-Tarts and a handful of Pringles for breakfast. Anyway, the latest trend from the woman, once married to “the world’s sexiest vegetarian” (beat that), is to have one’s body stung by bees and also to engage in “vaginal steaming”.
“What?” you cry through a mouthful of cream crackers. “Honeybees? Actual honeybees?”
Oh, forget the bees. Who cares about the possible anti-inflammatory effects of bee venom on your swollen joints when the woman in the $500 hemp culottes is advocating that we spend our downtime squatting naked over a steaming bucket of boiled mugwort replete with a sprinkling of flowers of the forest? It’s another world out there, mate. Forget queuing up in the garden centre with your six-pack of primroses to create a springtime border around the ornamental fish pond. Forget planting your marigolds in the self-drain plastic window box to add a bit of colour to your dreary life. Believe me, your mixed antirrhinum and majestic begonias have other fish to fry.
Anyway. Leaving the steaming aside (oh, must we?), I learned something new from Goop this week. Having gleaned as much information as I could about spring-cleaning one’s uterus with half a pound of dandelion leaves and a geranium mulch, I (somewhat reluctantly, I have to admit) turned my attention to an essay on the site about “archetypes”.
“You’re at a cocktail party,” the piece began. (Nope, can’t say I’ve ever been at a cocktail party, although many years ago I did drink quite a lot of vodka and orange in the back of a Passat with a French horn player – but I don’t think that counts.) While at the “cocktail party”, you find a conversation you are having with a total stranger “resonates with you completely” because the similarities with your own life are “uncanny”. You feel “connected”, sharing an “unspoken kinship” with this person who was heretofore unknown to you, a person whose uterus is doubtless brimful of sea kale and rough clover. (Okay, probably not.)
The article went on, reassuringly, to say that “no, you’re not crazy” to feel an instant connection with this random someone; you’ve simply “found your archetype”.
What followed was a list of archetypes, on which all of us can be found, apparently: victim, saviour, fighter, martyr and so on. I skimmed through the list without feeling much “kinship”, until I came to “the puella”. Puellas supposedly “lose themselves in the enchantment and promise of art” (I’m more likely to lose myself in the supermarket car park, but I know what they mean), and puellas never grow up. Repelled by the adult world, they are reckless, easily distracted and very bad at remembering to buy a bin tag.
The nuns had a word for us puellas, in the good old beeswax-convent-school days when a fistful of primroses were simply for decorating the May altar. We were “flibbertigibbets” who were “away with the fairies” and would “never amount to anything”.
Too right, Sister. Take it from this puella with a Pop-Tart, still banging her thick head off the mugwort bucket.