Like pretty much every other mid-20s woman who likes cats and hangs out in Stoke Newington, I am a little bit in love with Audrey Hepburn. The style, the poise, the elegance; the capri pants, the pearls, the delicate little cashmere sweaters. That late 50s/early 60s aesthetic is always at the back of my mind when I gaze at my teetering clothes rail, always what I'm aiming for on a charity shop budget.
But it was only last night, when I was bemoaning my lack of confidence in social situations (it is SO HARD TO BE ME) that I realised that elegance as a personality trait is not actually something I should be aspiring to.
Elegance seems best expressed by the oft-quoted Victorian aphorism about the proper place of children: seen but not heard. Elegant, and its sister ladylike, are about looking fabulous and shutting the fuck up. Which is exhausting.
The 90s moral panic about "ladettes" - god forbid we drink pints and have fun! - has, I think, infected my thinking on this. It's a deeply class-based prejudice, this - I don't actually know anything a bout the family backgrounds of Zoe Ball, Sara Cox, Denise Van Outen et al, but the Daily Mail's objection to them was "they're acting like our nightmare vision of working class women!" as much as it was "they're acting like MEN!".
What I'm worried about when I wake up wracked with shame is that I have acted like a Ladette, desperately needy to identify as One Of The Boys.
So what's the alternative? Smile sweetly and express the occasional opinion in a gentle, womanly tone, too demure to be heard over the Saturday night hubbub? I like getting into ridiculous arguments about sexism over several pints, setting the world to rights as we queue at the bar. I like using my chic little dress, with its teapot-print bodice, to mop up the lager I spilt gesticulating too enthusiastically. I like the contrast between ladylike dress and entirely unladylike behaviour, sitting cross-legged in a foofy 50s picnic frock while punctuating my points by stabbing the air with a cigarette.
It's all very well pointing out that subscribing to the aesthetics and hobbies of the 50s doesn't necessitate embracing their mores, but if I'm still aspiring to elegance, I've got a long way to go.
Hanging out with a gang of feminist types yesterday, I was struck by the brilliance with which the birthday girl synthesised the perceived incongruity of hairy armpits and elegant, feminine frock into something sublime. (Also: spending a hot sunny day with people who couldn't give the flimsiest fragment of a shit that you haven't shaved in a week is so restful.)
And with that, I am - no word of a lie - off to the pub.