Self-checkouts are creeping up in Palma supermarkets and shopping centres on the island. | Archives

I’m no fan of self-checkouts, but I see that they are creeping into Palma supermarkets and shopping centres on the island. I find them a totally dehumanising experience, and something inevitably goes wrong when using them. They beep and shout out nasty little barbs and flatly refuse to process certain items that have dodgy codes or include alcohol. Then you have to wait an age for some young feckless assistant to come and wrestle with the beast.

At El Corte Ingles yesterday, there were big queues at three checkouts, but the self-checkout counters were completely free. A smiling assistant cheerily asked me if I’d like to go to one instead, and smilingly I told her ‘over my dead body’ or something to that effect, in Spanish. Other shoppers shook their heads and refused to budge. At Decathlon, you can’t go to a manned checkout anymore. So, I decided that maybe I would just return the items to the shelves and shop elsewhere, but an assistant whisked away my basket and sweetly processed the whole thing for me. He told me that only younger people liked the new system so staff were doing the self-checkout for all their customers. What in heaven’s name is the logic in that? Hopefully, they’ll get bored with all of us renegades who like to engage with humans and return to having a manned desk.

Home sweet home

In a recent Girlguiding survey, 67 per cent of girls aged between 11 and 21 admitted to being ashamed of their appearance and feeling under pressure due to social media narratives from influencers. These young female influencers appear to be perpetually having fun, looking perfect and staring at themselves in mirrors at luxury locations around the globe. It’s enough to make anyone feel fed up and insecure, let alone an adolescent girl on the cusp of womanhood.

The truth, of course, is that it’s all a carefully constructed myth. The videos and shots are curated and idealised with most face and body images distorted to look unnaturally perfect. The reality is that many of these young influencers are miserable, have terrible self-esteem and are often very lonely. They project a false fairy-tale lifestyle which is often the envy of young, impressionable women but it’s hollow and as genuine as a Hollywood filmset.

So, the poor old girl guides. I see why they are confused and feel inadequate. They have bought into the online madness and are at pains to mirror these plastic-perfect girls with their shiny white plastic veneers, dyed hair, bust and butt lifts and regular tweakments. So unhappy are modern age young girls that a third opined that they would consider having cosmetic treatments and surgery.

With so much pressure on them also to be a success in the workplace, more than half of those surveyed said that they’d prioritise having their own house and a well-paid job, over a partner and children. And can you blame them? With crippling taxes and breathtakingly expensive childcare in the UK, these girls would need to be bankers, lawyers, hedge fund managers or entrepreneurs to make ends meet in the future if they did want to raise a family. I read on a recent Twitter feed between young working mothers that average childcare costs in London were about £1,600 per child for three days. Even on two salaries, I cannot imagine how a couple copes with that, let alone consider having another child. The alternative would be to rent a place, share gruelling working hours and kid minding with a partner and try to juggle bills.

Some of my friends who have done well financially in life, have taken a lot of pain away for their offspring by putting hefty down payments on flats and houses. Even with this financial leg up, a good proportion of their adult children are still struggling with coordinating childcare, work, mortgages, bills et al. Other of my less lucky friends, try to offer financial scraps to their hard-up kids but cannot go as far as helping them to get a foot on the ladder.

It’s all a far cry from my teenage and post university days. Now I realise that although we had certain disadvantages and not as many baubles and seeming luxuries as the current Gen Zers, thankfully we didn’t have social media, computers, iPhones and other techie gadgets to distract us. Instead, we communicated with one another, had fun and went and saw the world with our own eyes, not via a selfie stick. We didn’t care too much about how we looked as online trolls and cancel culture were unknown to us. Few of us had any spare cash so couldn’t have afforded expensive tweakments anyway.

Fewer of us went to university so mostly found jobs when we graduated. Those of my friends who chose not to go to university ended up in good commercial job or enrolled in nursing. We were hungry for work and took jobs that we often didn’t want but used the experience to help us get where we did want to be. There were full grants in those days and in my mid-twenties my flat mate and I were able to share a mortgage on a north London flat with hardly any down payment. Happy days indeed. So, animo to the girl guides and young women of today. Let’s hope they find their way through the manmade jungle of modern times.

Body positivity

These days the buzz words for young women are body positivity, inclusivity, self-love, body confidence and joy, and other happy ways to describe how they should be feeling about themselves. Beauty brands tell their Gen Z customers to be what they want to be and not to care what they look like or about their weight. Sadly, the real world isn’t so kind. Just as the girl guides have found to their cost, judgement is everywhere, and the fakery of social media is in large part to blame. On the one hand young people are being told to love themselves for what they are, while nearly every online image of twenties womanhood is about being plastic perfect and full of facial fillers and Botox. And surely there’s nothing positive about that?