Tuesday, 1 February 2011

How the other half lives

Oscar winner, singer, wife, mother, and now celebrated blogger, Gwyneth Paltrow certainly knows how to keep herself busy. Apart from a guest appearance on Glee and a turn in new movie Country Strong, she's been keeping a fairly low profile the last couple of years. Which has given her time to focus on her babies, Apple, Moses and Goop. I know, it's hard to decide which is the oddest name.

But of course I jest. Anyone who's ever spent more than five minutes on the internet knows that little Goop isn't a toddler, but Gwyneth's lifestyle newsletter. A regularly updated, ongoing response to that staple 'Hello' magazine question - "Gwyneth, how do you juggle your hectic lifestyle with your home life".

If you haven't read Goop, I suggest you bookmark it right now. Because if you've ever felt like you let that handsome millionaire slip through the net, or cursed the drudgery of your subsistence-level existence, Goop will quickly remind you that you're not missing much.

Sure, while the rest of us are content to play the 'fantasy dinner party' game (compile your dream guest list of famous people) Gwyneth gets to do it for real, rustling up a tofu and nut loaf for Stella and Kate. But Goop also offers a disturbing insight into the realities of life on the A-List.

In a recent post, Gwyneth decided to share an average day with her loyal readers, and in doing so opened herself up to a relentless parade of abuse. Whether it's the 'ERROR 8' message on her coffee machine, the 'lemon flavored flax oil' she gives her kids every day, or her 'fitting with super stylist Elizabeth Saltzman', Gwyneth's existence couldn't be more removed from the average working mother's life. Out of touch? Like trying to read Braille in woolly mittens.

There's nothing wrong with a little aspirational living, it's a principle on which most magazines were founded. Everyone enjoys looking at pieces of occasional furniture that cost the same as a family car. Deep down, we know that we're simply indulging in a harmless flight of fancy.

The problem with Goop is that Gwyneth seems to think her excel spreadsheet, home-made cupcakes and vocal exercises existence is entirely attainable for the average housewife. You know, the woman who gets halfway round the supermarket before she even realises she's wearing her sweater inside out. She's more concerned with finding her car keys than baking gluten-free muffins and practicing her pelvic-floor exercises.

It's hardly surprising that half of Goop's impressive readership only seem to visit the site for something ridiculous to laugh at - after all, it makes The Lady look like Bella. Interestingly, displaying an out-of-character level of self-awareness, Gwyneth knows only too well how much of her lifestyle guidance falls on deaf or indifferent ears.

Although she established Goop to help readers "nourish the inner aspect" of their lives, she's been shocked by the level of vitriol she's inspired. This month, she tells readers of Harpers Bazaar (perhaps ASDA Magazine couldn't find the space for an article), "There were a couple of times when I thought 'I'm just gonna stop doing it'. People are so mean to me. I don't want to do it. But then I was like, 'Who cares what some lame person out there says?'"

Admittedly, Gwyneth is displaying a thicker skin here than many of us gave her credit for. Those kelp and quinoa facials must be working wonders. But I can't help wondering whether she has the same supercilious view of anyone who can't find the time for radio interviews and a trip to Morocco to buy scatter cushions in between the school runs.

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