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Chin up, cheeks in ... but park first

THE curse of the "selfie" continues unabated.

They have been linked to a rise in plastic surgery, the spread of nits and a public rift in America's First Marriage, following President Barack Obama's dubious decision to take one during Nelson Mandela's funeral.

Now, selfies are being blamed for bad driving. Incredible as it may seem, one in nine drivers admit to (which means the actual number is higher) taking a self portrait while driving, according to a survey by Confused.com this week.

Motoring organisations, as you would expect, have been quick to criticise the hashtags which have sprung up to encourage such pursuits.

Seriously though, what price vanity?

My heart was gladdened by a recent Facebook campaign which urged people to post an image of a piece of art on their page in place of the ubiquitous self-portraits which are the mainstay of social media sites. It's a refreshing idea but I can't see it catching on, sadly.

One clever way of turning this self-love phenomenon on its head though is the No Make Up Selfie craze which went viral this week and is thought to have raised more than £1 million for cancer charities.

In place of the usual preening shots, women were snapping themselves at close range, sans slap, in a bid to raise awareness. It proved a hit online and had snowballed within hours.

Charities admit they have no clue where the idea came from but are over the moon with the results.

Maybe not all bad on the selfie front then. If you can't beat 'em, just remember: chin up, cheeks in, cheese!

HAVING grown up devouring Roald Dahl stories along with generous lashings of Enid Blyton's Famous Five, my heart sinks on hearing of the persistence of gender-specific titles for children.

One publisher, which I won't name, markets The Beautiful Colouring Book for Girls and The Brilliant Colouring Book for Boys.

How depressing. If that's your game, why not cut to the chase with some less ambiguous titles to really hammer the message home to little girls: How To Bag a Prince and Never Work Again, 101 Ways to Appear Less Intelligent than You Are (No Man Likes a Clever Clogs) or Adventures With Lipstick.

All the best loved children's authors - CS Lewis, JK Rowling, Phillip Pullman - entice their readers, regardless of gender, into wonder-filled worlds where imaginations can run free and anything can happen.

Instead of opening up a child's world view, these pink and blue-themed pulp fictions with their drudge-y, prescribed notions of what boys and girls want, serve only to restrict and narrow it.

SHAME on you Prince Harry. The spare heir recently missed an opportunity to express solidarity with that most maligned of societal subgroups - gingers.

It is alleged the flame-haired young prince spent much of his recent trek to the South Pole - in between bouts of altitude sickness - vehemently denying the beard he was sporting was ginger, preferring to refer to himself as blond.

Now it's a well-known fact gingers feel pain more acutely than others. By turning his back on his own kind in this way, he has hurt fellow strawberry blonds everywhere. He also risks his popularity in Scotland, spiritual home of the red head.

Perhaps flattery will bring him back to the fold. Since completing his Antarctic trek, a feat which is captured in a documentary to be screened on ITV tomorrow, he has been named sexiest ginger man in a poll by the British Heart Foundation, ahead of actors Michael Fassbender and Damian Lewis.

Don't deny your roots Harry, the future's clearly orange.

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