Cassie Lane: How To Dress A Dummy

how-to-dress-a-dummy

It’s International Women’s Day tomorrow. What luck that we happened to have this review parked in the shed….

‘Time is finite for pretty girls,’ the man said, as if he were an oracle handing out wisdom for free. ‘You should grab the opportunity while it’s available. If you get what I’m saying?’ He winked like we were sharing a dirty secret.
At first his words filled me with dread. Was he right? Was it only a matter of time before I would become invisible? But then, as this man continued to talk, eyes flicking towards my chest, I shone an empirical light on the things he was saying and I realised that they were utter bullshit. From far away, a ghost may seem scary, but when you examine it up close, it’s just your dead grandpa in an old bed sheet.
(220)

Don’t let your daughter be a model, even if, like Cassie Lane, she has loads of brains and magical healing powers. I’ll never look at a dewy-eyed model in a field of wildflowers again without thinking of cocaine and Xanax, anorexia and bulimia, castings like racehorse sales and the sort of men who infest bars where models go with their free-drink cards. With her dishevelled blonde beauty and large breasts Cassie tended to work the sexier end of the market, but even the top-end catwalk models live in a world ruled by the fear of getting “fat” (normal weight) and swarming with human sharks of all kinds.

This is a funny, savage account of life in the modelling fast lane and the vacuous star-world of Los Angeles. For Australian readers, there’s extra interest in the fact that Lane, when she returned to Australia, was the girlfriend of a well-known footballer. We get the inside story of this hyper-macho world and the enabling role of the WAGS (Wives And Girlfriends). When Cassie’s boyfriend gets drunk and abusive in public, accusing her of being a slut because she’s talking to another man, the anger of the club and WAGS is directed at Cassie because she, somehow, has created the situation.

…It wasn’t dismay at Alan’s behaviour that turned their eyes to slits and made them shake their heads. It was condemnation because I couldn’t keep my man calm. And disbelief that I was still there antagonising him. Alan had been fine until I’d arrived. If I left, he’d revert to his boys-will-be-boys antics. One WAG gasped loudly and turned to her friend, shaking her head. (237)

In this world, women are either WAG material or sluts. They have to bare enough to be desirable, so bringing kudos to their men, but not enough to be a whore. They have to smile through any kind of gross behaviour from their men because “they’re under such pressure.”

Things would be going well between us and then Alan would go back to training. By the end of each day, his attitude would change. I was writing an essay on schizophrenia at the time and I empathised with psychiatrists from my case studies. I too was attempting to sway an individual who initially listened to me, only to go away and heed other voices, returning inculcated and certain that I was the devil. (238)

Don’t let your sons be big-league footballers, either. This is the sort of man they learn to be, and in the end, like the models, they’re expendable. How do they get to be human beings again?

There’s a lot to think about in this book, not only the pernicious effect on women of our appearance-obsessed culture, and the deep vulnerability of sexually-attractive women, but also the effect on men of groups built around the physicality of maleness.

Cassie was smart enough, gritty enough, and bolshie enough to make a new life where she uses her brains rather than her body. Not everyone has that. The book is full of stories of beautiful girls who fell by the wayside. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s very serious.

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5 thoughts on “Cassie Lane: How To Dress A Dummy

  1. Good for Cassie, for calling time on all this. Shame on men of a certain persuasion, because they not only tarnish women’s reputations with such antedeluvian behaviour but also sully the standing of all men, especially those who refuse to subscribe to such attitudes.

  2. I’ve been watching a documentary about Rita Hayworth who was, IMO, one of the world’s most gorgeous women. Sad to hear about how she became the canvas for male fantasies.

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