The Modern Woman

The dangerous woman's guide to modern life

Accepting a compliment

Accepting a compliment can be extremely hard to do, particularly if you have grown up in an environment of criticism. In fact it is a skill that may take up to a lifetime to accomplish, but it is extremely important you do.

The most cherished compliments often come out of context, and in unlikely places, and they can often leave the recipient feeling slightly lost for words. Poor compliment etiquette is when you ‘deny’ the compliment giver, i.e. you imply that the compliment given isn’t actually true, because this means that he or she has to redouble his or her efforts and turns a charming, life-enhancing, generous gesture into slightly tedious, therapeutic reassurance.

The double-whammy is that you have also insulted the giver a little. The underlying message being that they are somehow not intelligent enough, perceptive enough, or don’t know enough about you to make this call.

So acknowledge the compliment gracefully, a simple but heartfelt ‘Thank you’ will suffice, and let the truth in about yourself too. Gradually, without becoming vain, you will develop self-acceptance and secret confidence.

(v: Secretive confidence, Self-deprecation)



Sometimes in life you just have to let go. Going on a bender is traditionally seen as a male preserve but increasingly women are doing it too. Sometimes benders creep up on one. You know, the promise of a quick drink with a friend at the end of work turns into a big night out, or a Friday night out with mates turns into a very long, alcohol-fuelled weekend (occasionally culminating in eating tripe, shoeless, in a workman’s café at 5 a.m. on a Monday morning).

A great bender is a holiday from real life: a spontaneous way of marking the end of a relationship, a divorce or to celebrate a landmark birthday. It’s often a rite of passage with friends, male and female, confidences are exchanged, relationships consolidated and the unspoken rule is, as a mark of your deepening respect and love for one another, that whatever your various states of disrepair nobody’s going to remind you of your extravagant pole-dancing in Trannyshack in Soho. Or maybe just a little bit…

In fact, a key feature of a bender is that you probably won’t remember anything when you wake up, you may well have lost a number of your belongings and you may end up in a hotel room, though not necessarily the one that you booked for yourself the previous evening. However, fragments of memory WILL begin to return during the course of the morning and you will probably find yourself looking into the mouth of hell. You may discover that drunk-dialling and a toxic bachelor or two have entered the mix, which is the point where regret, self-doubt and paranoia begin to creep in. The two solutions are either to butch it out at work or go to bed. Relief will finally come at about 7 p.m. when the miasma begins to lift. You can, of course, attempt to guard against all these things—eat carbohydrates before you go out; drink a glass of water after every glass of champagne; appoint a drink’s monitor; only take one credit card with you, and so on and so forth—but look into your heart and ask yourself truthfully and honestly whether such an evening really counts as a bender?

(v: Alcohol, Booty-calls, Booze, Breaking the rules, Cocktails, Dipsomania, Drunk-dialling, It seemed like a good idea at the time, Make the most of it, Regrets)



You are, or course, over the affair. You are out with friends, it’s a Friday, and you are boldly looking forward to the future but after that third drink the small voice of doubt creeps in. Maybe it was my fault? Maybe I need to tell him how much I do love/hate him? Is he with somebody else? Is he missing me? It wouldn’t do any harm to make the call. And so on and so forth… by closing time doubting Thomas has turned into a huge green glittering snake exhorting you to eat the apple. Before you know it, you are hitting speed-dial. At this point your BF will attempt to ascertain what is going on and then try to wrestle you to the floor, grab your phone and throw it in the nearest river—and not without reason, because she has spent every spare waking moment of the last three months listening sympathetically to your outpourings of rage and grief and the promise that you will never, ever speak to him again. But it’s too late, the die is cast, you make the call. Even as you are doing it, you already know somewhere in your heart that when you wake up in the morning, whatever the outcome, you are going to absolutely hate yourself. There is only one solution: it’s tough but mercifully simple. When an affair is over delete all phone and e-mail addresses from all relevant technology and keep it that way. He can always find you again if he wants to.

(v: Bad habits, Booty-calls, Booze, Cocktails, Dipsomania)



Life’s too short.

(v: Carbohydrates)



You’d be silly not to.

(v: Allure)


Moral high ground

Don’t take it. Ever. It’s deeply unattractive.

(v: Grace)



Make 2.30 p.m. the time of day to make all your challenges or difficult calls. Whether it’s to ask somebody out on a date, make an apology or ask your bank manager to extend your overdraft, it’s an hour of non-refusal. It’s post-lunch so the person has got through the worst of the morning’s tasks and their blood sugar levels are reasonably high. You will, of course, still be mightily relieved if their phone goes straight to voice mail.

(v: Apologising, Grasping the nettle, Opening brown envelopes, Will you marry me?)


Walking away

Sometimes this is the only thing to do if a situation has become truly untenable.

(v: Almost date, Bores, Emergency exit)


Dangerous Women: The Guide to Modern Life by Clare Conville, Liz Hoggard and Sarah-Jane Lovett is out now, published by Weidenfeld.