Shazia Mirza’s Weekend Column

Everyone does things for attention. When I was nine, I set my mum’s dustbin on fire and wore her gold jewellery to school without her knowing. At primary school, I was very naughty – I used to hide everyone’s coats in the toilets or throw them out of windows. I suppose it was attention seeking.

I received an email recently from a woman who wrote, “You stand on stage doing comedy with your hair done, you’re just doing it for attention. Who do you think you are? Britney Spears?” There are better ways of attracting attention than having a right parting, and I aspire to be many people – but not Britney.

I am now re-thinking my methods of seeking the spotlight; there is some serious competition out there.Glossy flyers and interviews in Time Out don’t cut it any more. I need to strap myself to a kite on Parliament Hill wearing gold knickers and Christmas lights and then get my mum to call the police to tell them I have been abducted by the Taliban.

The Balloon Boy, Falcon Heene, and his Colorado family have taken attention seeking to new heights. The parents are obviously creative. Building a homemade balloon from aluminium foil and sending it out in a tornado; my parents couldn’t foil a fish finger. Of course, Falcon was not in the balloon but in a safe box in the attic. Mr Heene obviously wanted attention, but if he wanted to go the whole hog he should have actually put the boy in the balloon! That’s the problem with fame these days. People want the notoriety but they’re not willing to make the sacrifices. It’s said that Mr Heene did it to increase his family’s media profile (they had previously appeared on Wife Swap). Why not just do some charity work or buy a black baby?

What Mr Heene didn’t realise is that it takes years of experience andhard work to hone a performance. You can’t just turn upon the Larry King show after afew days of rehearsal and expect the entire cast to know all the lines.

We’ve come a long way from getting our kids to make tractors from egg cartons and yogurt pots, now they are being forced by their parents into living in cupboards, attics, and under their uncle’s beds for some money and infamy.

Of course some parents aren’t quite as callous in the way they treat their children, but are still pretty keen to see them thrust into the perilous spotlight of fame. It’s quite common for parents to shove a 14-year-old in front of Simon Cowell and a baying mob of bingo wings, determined that their progeny will “live the dream” – ie, gain instant fame and wads of cash.I’m a big fan of reality TV shows, but some contestants are clearly too young to face the national humiliation. Perhaps ITV1 could do Foetus Factor, where agroup of unborn children race tobe the first to be born, or Sperm Idol, where a million sperm fight forthe chance of winning the egg.

Nowadays it is frequent to see bad behaviour from celeb parents rather than their children. The Price/Andre kids appear positively cherubic in the face of their parents’ constant tabloid mud-slinging. Jude Law’s children must merely blush at their father’s bed-hopping antics, and, as she enters her teens, Lourdes Ciccone must be desperately trying to work out what kind of rebellious behaviour will shock her perennially squat-thrusting mother.

It is very easy to be too critical of children these days – I frequently find myself channelling murderous thoughts towards the kids who playmobile phone music at 600 decibels on the bus. Maybe some children need a little more attention, and only their parents can give it (back) to them.