News, Culture & Society

Elizabeth Day: Petty grudges? Bring them on

Elizabeth Day: Petty grudges? Bring them on

Hair: Fabio Nogueira. Make-up: Ruby Hammer. Styling: Holly Elgeti. Dress, Stine Goya, Jewellery, AlIghieri

Every so often, a news story comes along that encapsulates profound truths about who we are. A story that not only mirrors the age that we live in, but defines it. The Watergate scandal. The Profumo Affair. The collapse of Lehman Brothers. The episode of Dallas when Bobby, who ‘died’ in a car crash, suddenly turned up in the shower.

These are the stories that have shaped our lives. The narrative of 2020 has been dominated by a global pandemic. But there is another story that has been making headlines which is, in its own way, a barometer for the shifting tensions within our national psyche. I talk, of course, of Vardygate.

A handy recap: in October 2019, Coleen Rooney, wife of footballer Wayne Rooney, posted a statement saying that someone she knew had been leaking stories to the press. Coleen began to suspect it was a friend who followed her ‘private’ Instagram account, and so devised a thrillingly cunning plan whereby she blocked everyone from viewing her Instagram stories apart from one person.

Then she started posting false tales about going to Mexico to select the gender of the couple’s next baby, returning to her television career and a basement flooding in her new house. (When I read this, I had to admire the range of Coleen’s imaginary life, which took us on a journey from the sublimely unexpected to prosaic domesticity in the blink of an eye.) The false stories all made their way into the media. And then, with a final flourish, Coleen revealed that the one person who had allegedly viewed her posts was, in fact, fellow footballer’s wife Rebekah Vardy.

‘It’s………Rebekah Vardy’s account’ was Coleen’s concluding sentence, a phrase that became instantly iconic despite its long ellipsis. Coleen was dubbed ‘WAGatha Christie’ while Rebekah claimed her Instagram might have been hacked.

Fast-forward nine months. Rebekah has launched a £1 million High Court defamation lawsuit against Coleen, who is said by ‘insiders’ to be terrified that her dirty laundry will be aired in public. I am obsessed with this story.

It encapsulates so much about the age we live in. This is a society where our lives are played out on social media and where a young woman can become that nebulous thing – an influencer – by amassing a following of other predominantly young women looking for the secret key that will gain them access to the same celebrity. This is a society where nurses struggle but Premier League footballers are rewarded with multimillion-pound salaries, which make it seem feasible that they would fly to Mexico to select the gender of their baby.

But the main thing I adore is the sheer, unadulterated pettiness. This is a story for people who bear grudges, who will never forget the time Tracy Carter told them in double chemistry class that their hair looked stupid in a top-knot. It is a story about what happens when you don’t trust your friend and you know you should talk to her like a grown-up, but you’re determined to confront her with the facts of her betrayal like you’re both teenagers again, accusing each other of fancying the same boy or wanting the same pair of ankle boots from Tammy Girl.

Reading about the lengths that Coleen and Rebekah have gone to has made me feel much better about any time I’ve been unnecessarily petty. It’s joyously entertaining because there’s so much scary stuff happening now that we long for this level of triviality. It doesn’t really matter who did what; I’m just enjoying watching it unfold in unforeseen plot twists which will quite probably end with Bobby Ewing stepping out of the shower.

This week I’m… 

Reading The Weekend by Charlotte Wood, a novel that examines the friendship between three women in their 70s. Riveting.  

Lusting after Rixo’s new-season collection, especially this Kristen ‘midaxi’ dress in hibiscus floral. Perfect for… well, everything.  

Joining Ourglass wine club: in return for a monthly subscription, you get wine suited to your tastes delivered to your door.