• Mon, Feb 22 2010

Who Wants to be A Footballer's Wife?

Is there an American equivalent to being a Footballer’s wife? We do, after all, have athletes here. And we have athletes that are worshipped with a passionate fervor in some circles. But I’d hesitate to say that it’s a deeply cherished dream of little girls to grow up and marry one of them. Not so in Britain! There’s a great article in The Guardian which details the plight and joy and sadness, and the glory, oh, the glory, of being a Footballer’s wife (or WAGS as the article refers to them – it stands for wives and girlfriends). Just look at how it begins:

                Nicola Tappenden was a 14-year-old schoolgirl, living in Croydon, when a psychic told her she’d grow up to do something very special. She would marry a professional footballer.

To be fair, I think in America, this would be taken as a really nice prediction. Hey, wanting to marry someone who is really good at something is pretty much a universal dream for women. Though I’m not sure that the excitement at marrying a professional athlete would exceed the excitement at, say, marrying a business mogul (Gordon Gekko, call me) and I think it would be slightly less exciting than marrying a movie star. And frankly, I’d really like to believe that most 14 year old girls’ follow up question to the psychic would be “great – and will I be a professional athlete/business mogul/movie star, too?” Certainly, marrying a football player is not a feat we would call “something very special” as though she was going to discover a cure for cancer. In any event, Nicola does go on to date one footballer and is currently engaged to another. And we begin to see why it is very, very special indeed:

                Tappenden is living many young girls’ dream. She’s a kind, appealing woman – chatting openly about ­everything from her PMT to her ­worries about being a good mother – and I believe her completely when she says that she didn’t date Zamora for the publicity. But she admits it raised her profile: she appeared on TV shows ­including WAGs Boutique and Celebrity Big Brother, began an online ­clothing business, and is now bringing out a single, Drunk.

                Which is perhaps why:

                In recent years, marrying a footballer has become highly ­aspirational for some young women. Surveys confirm it is seen as a career option by a minority; and that many girls can name more wives and girlfriends of footballers than female politicians.

                With the exception of Victoria Beckham (who I knew about because Posh was always my favorite as a kid, not because she married David Beckham) and Elein Woods, how many athletes’ wives can you name? Because I am stumped after those two. And, had Tiger Wood’s numerous affairs not become public, I guarantee you I would have no idea that Tiger was married to a woman named Elin Woods. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton. There, I’m at the same number of female politicians, and it’s nearly impossible not to know about those two. I think one of the women on The Real Housewives of Atlanta is married to a football player, but she’s quasi-famous because she’s on a reality TV show, not because she’s married to him. In England, clearly, it’s a much, much bigger deal.

                The Wag style, with its manicured nails, high heels, huge false eyelashes and tiny dresses, is as feminized as it can possibly be – underlining these women’s status as possessions, part of the package for footballers. Kervin once interviewed the England striker Peter Crouch; and in reply to the question “If you hadn’t been a footballer, what would you have been?”, he answered “a virgin”. As well as showing an attractive self-deprecation, his quip underlines the fact that girls are ­considered one of the rewards of being a top sportsman… Nicola Smith, who dated Teddy Sheringham for eight years, says the attention the players get is extraordinary; that women “parade in front of the boys in bars, walk up and down five or six times, looking them in the eye, even when their girlfriends are sitting next to them . . . I was actually attacked once by a girl who was doing that; she tried to hit me.”

I’m not saying that in America football players don’t get laid. They do. Like crazy. In high school. Then in college, guys who are in bands get their turn. Sure, grown up professional football players can probably sleep with a Victoria’s Secret model because they’re rich and successful, but the same can be said of a tech guy who made millions on the internet.  And yes, I think the wives of very successful men, especially if those wives are less successful in their own right, tend to be impeccably groomed. But I do not think that women are throwing themselves at any particular group of men the way women in the article are described as doing.

I doubt it’s because American women are necessarily more independent, or somehow have better career options (note the popularity of every Real Housewives show). But we certainly don’t live in a culture where there’s much of anything to be gained by it. No one is going to let you release a single because you’re dating a football player (though dating a record producer might help). Though, to be fair, I imagine a reality show about the wives of NFL athletes isn’t such a long way off. At which point? I suspect we’ll have our very own footballers wives.  

From The Guardian

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