There's a new breed of minx roaming the streets in Cool Britannia. She
drinks beer by the gallon, goes man-hunting with a tribe of like-minded
girlfriends, sleeps half the day and reportedly changes her boyfriend four
times as often as she changes her bedclothes. This is the new Ladette,
according to a survey commissioned by DuPont of 506 British single women 18-34 years of age, and she is taking the pubs and the tabloids of Britain by storm.
These are no whiny, Ally McBeal-ites desperate to get hitched and create
their own Dancing Baby -- although it must be said that "Ally McBeal,"
along with "Friends" and "ER," are their favorite TV shows. Nearly half of
these "squalid creatures" (as they are referred to in the London newspaper
the Evening Standard) must wash a dirty cup when they need one, and one in
six vacuums less than once a month. They sleep in until the early afternoon
(22 percent), iron their clothes on the day they need them (65 percent) and over a
third of them admit to cheating on their boyfriends regularly.
Ladettes had packed the pub the night I went to see a World Cup match on
big screen TV when I first arrived in England, although at that point I
didn't know what these sex-crazed, ale-swilling man-eaters were called. All
I knew was there were just as many young women watching the match as there
were men, and they all looked the same: tiny tank tops with spaghetti
straps, tight pants, strappy sandals and aggressively pretty. They were fascinating to watch -- seemingly neither man nor woman, but some sort of gender in between, or of their own making. They were downing beer with speed and
determination, and shouting at the screen when they weren't chatting
animatedly with the lads. "Lager Lout-esses," my friend Trevor had mumbled.
What I didn't realize at that point was how
potentially incendiary the combination of Ladette and World Cup was to
domestic tranquillity. After dinner, Trevor, his girlfriend Sallie and I
were to trudge off to the trendy North
Pole pub in West London to catch the Brazil vs. Holland semifinal. Trevor
was anxious to observe the prowess of the Brazilian goalkeeper; meanwhile,
I wondered how many Ladettes (who were ferociously knowledgeable about
would be there. Football interested me about as much as, say, the Super Bowl, but I was keen to observe the mating habits of this new vixen.
"I didn't know you were such a fan of football," I said to Sallie. She was filing her nails at the kitchen
surrounded by the clutter of our pasta dishes, empty wine glasses, bottles
and the odd arugula leaf here and there. Trevor was scraping
leftover penne into plastic containers, eyeing the clock every 45 seconds
"We still have an hour," Sallie said to him.
Trevor snapped the lid on a piece of Tupperware. "I know. But
you know how that place gets when there's a match on."
"No, I don't," Sallie said a bit shortly, and I looked at her.
that concerned with football as a rule," she said to me. "But you feel a bit
of an idiot when the entire country is discussing if a player is offside
and you have no idea what that means." She was right. Despite England being
unceremoniously eliminated the week before, London was still in a vise grip
of World Cup Fever. It was an event that many of my British friends could
not talk about without a catch in their voice and a glassy-eyed stare
that, through my American eyes, looked curiously like lust.
She drew the file across her nails in a long, exaggerated stroke and
added pointedly: "Mind you, I'm in the minority. Ask any of the
Ladettes there tonight, and they could tell you strategies, history,
players' stats, everything. Trevor could tell you all about Ladettes."
Sallie was 36, and so -- besides being unmarried and
needing a housecleaner -- couldn't really qualify as a Ladette, not that
she'd want to. Ladettes reportedly liked George Clooney; Trevor bore a
certain resemblance to Martin Amis. Still, it wasn't like her to be peevish
about other women.
Trevor looked at me, jingling his house keys. "This is all about
England got knocked out," he said. "I got a little out of control."
"A little?" Sallie repeated. It was clear we were stumbling into
an area that they'd discussed ad infinitum, but with little satisfactory
resolution. She waved the nail file at me. "You should have seen him that
night. I have never, ever seen Trevor as drunk. He was so drunk that he had
to balance his head on the bed as he took off his trousers." She started to
laugh, saying, "It would have been hilarious if they hadn't kept me up all
night, all those people he brought back from the North Pole."
"People you knew?" I asked.
"Two Ladettes. And one of their boyfriends," said Trevor. "I was
really, amazingly drunk. We all were. Nigel had been chatting up these
girls and suddenly there we were, going back to my house at 11 o'clock
on a Tuesday night to drink more. It was horrible -- uhhhhh." He cringed
and shuddered. "I threw up all night."
"God," I said, looking at him with new eyes. Trevor rarely said
very much, and when he did it was with measured cynicism, humor or both. I
asked Sallie, "Where were you?"
"I decided to stay home that night," she enunciated dramatically. "I
was really looking forward to Trevor and Nigel coming back to the house. I
thought they'd bounce into the room, jump on the bed and we'd all have a
good commiseration session. Instead they bring back two Ladettes, one with
her drunken boyfriend, and not one person even sticks their head in the
bedroom to say hello. Not even him." She shot an accusing look at Trevor.
"They proceed to drink and shout all night, even after I'd gone out into
the kitchen to tell them to please be quiet. Then I screamed at them. Once
I went in to get a glass of water, and it was just the two Ladettes sitting
there -- the rest of the boys were in the garden. They just stared at me as
if I were a person from another planet. I felt so old."
Trevor looked at the ceiling, tossing the keys up and down.
"What possessed you?" I asked.
"It was not the Ladettes," he said vigorously. "It's the World
so emotional. You just have no idea. Suddenly you're talking to these
Ladettes, moaning about David Beckham and England. And you drink, drink,
drink -- because you're so nervous about the match. Then the match is over,
and it's like you've been through a war with them."
"That is true," admitted Sallie as she got up and started to
dishes. "I have loads of male friends who've paired off with girls after
watching the World Cup. It does inject the air with this intense
sexuality." Trevor nodded.
"Not for you," I said to him. "Did they think they were going to
"No, no," he said. "We all just wanted to continue drinking. And
flirting." He paused, searching for the words. "The World Cup is sexy. It
does strange things to you." Sallie -- to her credit -- giggled. "Those
Ladettes are the women that happen to be in the pub and they're very
chatty. They'll talk to everybody. Add to that the frenzied, desperate
feeling that the World Cup
brings -- that anything can happen -- and, well. I'm glad England got
knocked out. I wouldn't have been able to take another match." He rubbed
his hands together. "There you are. Maybe it's like your Super Bowl."
"I wish." Now I couldn't wait to get to the bar.
We started down the narrow hall toward the front door. "Are
you don't want to do something else tonight?" Sallie asked as she put on
her leather jacket. "Go to the West End? See a play? Go out for a curry?"
I sighed. "You still don't know me very well, do you?"