Camilla Parker Bowles's

By booth, Lauren | New Statesman (1996), June 5, 2000 | Go to article overview

Camilla Parker Bowles's


booth, Lauren, New Statesman (1996)


I've given up drinking, but I'm not rushing off to the Priory. Why should girls always be contrite?

Friday night should have been entertaining. There were four vivacious women gathered around the kitchen table for an enjoyable powwow. But the entire conversation went like this: "1 haven't been out for two weeks and I've given up wheat"; followed by "I haven't done drugs this month and I'm not interested in chocolate any more". My own riveting input consisted of: "Well, I've given up smoking and drank on only two evenings last week." There we sat, four one-time bouncy, amusing females reduced to eating vegetarian Bolognese and convincing ourselves that not doing certain things is far more empowering than doing something naughty.

We are in the grip of a new, puritanical age directed at women, inspired by the media and fed by innumerable government surveys and initiatives which convince us that we are all unstable and undeserving in one sense or another. It may be that you're a smoking mum, that you use bad hygiene methods in the kitchen or that you eat too many biscuits. The information/guilt overload is starting to have an effect.

But, while I may have given up drinking, at least I'm avoiding the tearful rush to the Priory and the traditional heart-rending statement given to the press that appeals for space to "find myself". Nor will shots of me at celebrity bashes wearing a rictus grin and gripping a glass of milk be appearing this weekend. Why should they? The occasional bad-girl binge doesn't mean you need thousands of pounds worth of therapy and a telling-off by Tessa Jowell. It just means you need a holiday. Yet such embarrassing acts of contrition are now regular set pieces in the newspapers, particularly when a "ladette" or an "It Girl" is involved.

Camilla Parker Bowles's niece, Emma, has admitted to having an unspecified "problem" with drugs and alcohol. Whenever these vague admissions surface, I can't help wondering if the problem isn't just the lack of a regular supply of the substance in question. Anyway, looking suitably grim and battle-worn, she joins the long line of sexy demi-royals to sniffle: "I have just spent 35 days at the Meadows Clinic in Arizona. It's all very upsetting." Last summer, when her cousin Tom was caught doing drugs in public, his attitude to the media attention (and the family ticking-off) was far more mature and easy-going. He never felt the need to call his hobby a "problem" or to seek counselling. And Lord Frederick Windsor did not tearfully beg for a bed at the Priory after he sniffed his way into the tabloids this time last year. Sensibly, both just said that they probably wouldn't take cocaine in future (at least not in public).

When journalists catch a flighty femme doing drugs in a pub toilet, or falling down drunk on the King's Road, it's a different story. …

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