Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Covering up

It's disapp-ointing to read that almost half of women questioned about make-up say they feel negative about themselves if they don't wear it. And the dislike of their natural faces can start in their early teens or even sooner.

The 44 per cent who don't like going without make-up say that without it they either feel unattractive, or naked, or self-conscious. Where does this aversion to their given appearance come from?

As a bloke who's never used make-up and just accepts my face as it is, ugly or otherwise, I simply don't understand why women are so repelled by what they see in front of them in the morning that they have to conceal it and prettify it as fast as possible.

I remember that in the sixties and seventies many women decided to abandon or severely reduce their make-up as a protest against having to meet men's expectations of what women should look like. Gradually however they lost their nerve and went back to slapping on make-up as lavishly as before.

Presumably the more you wear make-up, the more you believe it's necessary and the more unnatural it feels not to be wearing any. Your real face becomes an embarrassing secret you have to hide from the world.

Older women are often trying to cover up wrinkles, a rather pointless exercise since men will assume straightaway that's the purpose of their make-up and wonder just how decrepit they are underneath.

Of course if a woman uses make-up, her boyfriends won't know what she really looks like until the moment they discover her without it. She must get nervous about their reaction. Will they be dismayed or will they prefer the natural look? Mind you, there may still be a few males out there so unobservant they fail to notice the difference....

And why is it only women who feel they can't be seen without a generous layer of make-up? Jeez, there are plenty of men out there badly in need of some cosmetic enhancement. Funny though, I can't see the average bloke getting up and putting on his face any time soon.

Unfortunately I've had to reintroduce the dreaded wordcheck as I'm getting loads of email spam. Rats!

Sunday, 26 February 2012


It seems that asexuals, or people with no interest in sex, have a lot of difficulty getting others to accept their disinterest.

In a world preoccupied with sex and finding sexual partners, where the media is awash with scantily clad women and advice on seduction techiques, those who're naturally indifferent to sex are still regarded as oddities - or suffering some sort of psychological problem.

An estimated one per cent of the population are thought to be asexual, and one asexuality website has over 50,000 members. There are plenty of couples who're perfectly happy without any love-making.

Yet whenever they "come out" to other people, sooner or later it'll be suggested that they're not really asexual, that actually there's something else going on.

They haven't found the right person, they're sexually repressed, they've been abused, they're secretly gay, it's a temporary phase, they're late developers. And so on and so on.

But why shouldn't people simply be uninterested in sex? Is that really so strange? It's just one sort of pleasure among a thousand others, and not everyone finds it essential. Life won't come to a grinding halt if a few people don't share the universal obsession.

And obsession it certainly is. Asexuals say they find it extremely tedious listening to workplace conversations that so often revolve around sex and the sexual attractiveness of workmates. They're mystified by the time and effort devoted to the topic.

But in our sex-sodden world, someone who never feels the tug of lust or the frisson of a naked body can be hard to comprehend. What, lacy underwear or rippling biceps do nothing for you? Nothing at all? What's WRONG with you?

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Wardrobe malfunction

Oh dear, student leaders at Exeter University have really got their nappies in a knot. They're warning students that cross-dressing is offensive to transsexuals.

Come again? I'm loath to use that much mis-applied expression "political correctness gone mad", but that's what it is.

The Students Guild maintains that cross-dressing creates a parody of women and is the equivalent of "blacking-up". It is mocking transsexuals who are still in-between genders.

They really haven't thought it through, as more enlightened students have since pointed out.

Cross-dressing is not only harmless fun, but it breaks down gender roles and the absurd rules about "gender-appropriate" clothing.

Yes, there are some drag queens who ridicule women, but the vast majority are simply liberating themselves from the tyranny of shirts, ties and suits. In fact many dress as women specifically to celebrate female beauty and adornment.*

Okay, some drag queens are so inept they end up as hopelessly unconvincing women, but that doesn't amount to "parody", only an aesthetic blind-spot.

The supreme irony of all this is that transsexuals themselves are cross-dressing. So by what strange logic can it also be offensive?

The Clare Project, a transgender support group, has already criticised the student leaders for trying to be politically correct and getting it wrong. Well said. Men in skirts are simply that - men in skirts.

*I'm confining myself to men here, as women are effectively "cross-dressing" on a daily basis anyway.

By an odd coincidence, John has posted on the very same subject, in his own inimitable style.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Party fever

Well, the fifth blogiversary party is well under way at Nick Towers, and hundreds of guests are dancing, drinking and coking the night away in a frenzy of uninhibited enjoyment seldom seen in the sedate residential district of Belmont. Already I'm having to placate angry neighbours who're threatening to call the police or unleash their slavering dogs.

In fact I'm worried the party is getting a little out of hand. I can hear the sound of breaking glass and splintering wood from one direction, and piercing screams and ripping fabric from the other. I do hope the priceless Victorian chaise-longue and the exquisite Ming vases are still in one piece.

Various celebs have somehow heard about the glittering soirée and dropped in uninvited, but I haven't the heart to dispatch them to some far inferior gathering in the less salubrious cul de sacs of east Belfast. I won't bore you with a tedious round of name-dropping, but Katy Tunstall, Annie Lennox and Natasha Bedingfield are shrieking with laughter just a few yards away.

I dare not peek into the bedrooms to find out what unlikely couplings are taking place or whether the beds are wrecked beyond repair. I must say all the generous displays of cleavage and acres of uncovered flesh are creating an atmosphere so sexually-charged I think I shall pass out with over-excitement.

Some sort of gambling frenzy is occurring in the Janis Joplin Suite, and astounding quantities of banknotes are changing hands at dizzying speed. Suitcases full of cash are being brought in every few minutes by the chauffeurs. I gather a very famous toothpaste heiress has just kissed goodbye to a few million.

Several extremely sozzled novelists are exchanging scurrilous gossip about a certain veteran actor. They seem unaware that the actor's less famous brother is standing behind them, listening to every word. I have a feeling an ambulance might shortly be required. If not for them, for a number of guests who've visibly gone native.

Everyone agrees it's already the party to end all parties. Anybody who's missed it will be out of their mind with envy. Oh, hang on, there seem to be a couple of police officers at the door. Or are they guests in fancy dress? Or am I too stoned to tell the difference?

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Single vision

I've been living with Jenny for so long I sometimes wonder how I would behave if I were living on my own again. Would I still be so well-organised and domesticated, or would I be a total slut, letting everything slide into chaos and squalor?

After all this time as a couple, I really have no idea how little or how much Jenny influences me. Is she constantly changing my attitudes or do I carry on moreorless as I would have done anyway?

Before I met Jenny, I lived in a tiny bedsit that required the absolute minimum of maintenance, so it's hard to know how I would shape up if I had a whole house to look after.

Would I be so overwhelmed that I just moved into one room and ignored all the rest? Or I would I become ultra-houseproud and be hoovering from top to bottom at 6 am?

And would I eat properly? When Jenny worked in Glasgow for a year, we assumed she would be knocking up cordon bleu treats while I got by on snacks and packets of crisps. Oddly enough, it was the other way round and I was the one cooking decent meals.

And would I be happily socialising, looking up all my old friends and busily making new ones, or would I turn into a disgruntled hermit, refusing to answer the door and cursing humanity?

In my pre-Jenny days I was sociable enough, so I suspect the extrovert would win out over the recluse.

The fact is that if you live with someone, you do subtly modify each other's behaviour without always being aware of it. You're unconsciously motivated by the desire to look good, or be well thought-of, or make a good impression, and you may be faking it a bit. So how can I be sure what I'm really like?

Naturally I hope I never have occasion to find out. As Jenny is ten years younger than me, she's likely to outlast me. But you never can tell.

I've turned off the wordcheck. It's driving me nuts, especially the word in black and white that's virtually impossible to read. Hopefully I won't get a deluge of spam.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Militant atheists

Gosh, all these prominent public figures lining up to defend Christianity against "militant atheists" and "militant secularists" who according to them are putting the very existence of Christianity in doubt.

They're kidding, right? They don't really mean that Vatican City, thousands of churches, thousands of faith schools and millions of Holy Bibles are going to vanish overnight in a puff of smoke? And that the evil atheists can achieve this simply by saying "I don't believe in God"?

Well, not exactly that. An atheist got a court ruling that prayers before a council meeting were illegal. That's all it took to get one of the most powerful religions on earth quaking in its boots and predicting Doomsday.

Not only that, but uncovering a huge unsuspected conspiracy of militant atheists and non-believers, rattling their sceptical sabres and loading their cynical shotguns.

Well, holy haddock, I've never been remotely militant about my atheism. I've just quietly pooh-poohed the idea of a supreme being for most of my 65 years, ever since I realised what a chaotic mess the world was in.

But now suddenly I feel inadequate. I'm letting the side down, not pulling my weight. All those militant atheists out there, working their arses off, and all I'm doing is not believing in God. Pathetic, isn't it? Utterly shameful.

I should be doing my fair share. Burning prayer books. Assaulting vicars. Blowing up churches. There's so much to organise. It's a daunting task, but with so much militancy out there, I'm sure we can manage it. Onward non-Christian soldiers!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Thirty love

It's funny how when you start a relationship with someone, you've no idea how long it's going to last. It could be 30 days or 30 years. Or 30 minutes. Which is one reason why making out with someone new is so exciting.

When I first met Jenny at a central London bookshop and nervously fixed a date, I hadn't a clue what would happen.

We might have had a violent argument 10 minutes later and both walked off in a huff. We might have tried our best to get on with each other and decided it was a case of Mr Chalk and Ms Cheese. One of us might have had some personal passion the other totally detested.

If anyone had predicted we'll still be seriously in love three decades later, I'd have scoffed and told them to catch themselves on*. I'd have said, how likely is that when relationships come and go like taxis. Surely sooner or later we'll get bored with each other, get itchy feet, and start looking for an upgrade.

But the months and years rolled on and in some mysterious way we found ourselves still together, still enamoured, despite all the predictable squabbles, misunderstandings, grievances and stand-offs. They were never severe enough to break the deep bond that had somehow established itself.

That we've reached the present day in such enduring harmony never ceases to amaze me. It's as if we've been on a long journey through unfamilar territory with a thousand opportunities to get lost, get eaten by wolves, fall into a ravine, or be crushed by a landslide, and by some miracle we've avoided all the dangers and reached our destination.

I can only give thanks to whatever guardian angel is looking after us and keeping this old banger on the road.

* come down to earth. A common Northern Irish expression.

Pic: Not us, just another happy couple.

Friday, 10 February 2012

We need to talk

I talk to myself. I always have done. It's a trait I inherit from my father. It's one of those habits people don't like to confess to, but I'm sure it's very common.

I sometimes talk to myself outside the house, and I notice people giving me funny looks, wondering if I'm mad or mentally lacking. I silence myself instantly and feign innocence, as if it must have been someone else they heard.

I often talk to myself at home. I find it helps me to think. It's like talking to another person about something. The two-way conversation helps me to elucidate things and develop new ideas.

I wouldn't go quite as far as Woody Allen, who once said "I always talk to myself because I'm the most intelligent person I know". But certainly it helps to know that whatever the subject, I have a listener who understands what I'm talking about - because after all he raised the subject in the first place.

I've never tried to cure the habit. It's not doing any harm, except to cause a few puzzled glances. I have no idea what causes it, whether it's genetic or unconsciously copied from my father.

I don't even know how prevalent it is, since as I say, people don't like to admit to it. I don't know if it affects five per cent of the population or 55 per cent.

I remember once walking in Covent Garden, in London, and coming across Lord Longford, the late campaigner for prison reform and other causes. He was busily talking to himself, completely oblivious to the crowds of people all around him. And no, he wasn't on the phone. In those days mobiles hadn't been invented.

So come on, own up, how many of you talk to your own alter ego? If you all deny it, I shan't believe you. And neither will Nick.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


I'm always astonished at those people who have no inhibitions whatever about exposing every aspect of their lives, no matter how personal or controversial, to the entire population.

They appear happily on TV shows telling their amazed audiences how often they've shoplifted or driven while drunk or taken sickies* or had sex with their bosses. Far from being embarrassed, they seem to be proud of their extravagant behaviour, as if they're living life to the full while the rest of us are timid introverts not daring to do anything out of the ordinary.

I'm not complaining. They're not doing any harm to anyone (unless their fearless honesty includes a bit of fearless putting-the-boot-in**). And it's up to them how they want to live their lives and how private or all-revealing they want to be. What's it to do with me?

In fact it can be very enjoyable, in a morbid-curiosity kind of way, listening to someone confessing to the sort of outrageous behaviour I would never indulge in unless I was seriously under the influence.

But I'm never sure if their full-on disclosures imply simply a natural personality unspoilt by the normal adult scruples, or if they're ego-trippers seeking as much attention as possible and terrified of being ignored. And does it matter anyway?

Certainly many of us have learnt to be cautious about what we say or don't say for fear of people's frosty or censorious reactions. We err on the side of discreet silence rather than blurting something out that we might regret for weeks afterwards.

Even with close friends we've known for decades, we might hesitate to reveal something too intimate or unusual, something that despite their affection and loyalty they might still find too hot to handle.

I well remember an occasion many decades ago when I got so drunk I actually lost consciousness for an hour or so. My first feeling when I came to was terror that I might have said or done something utterly scandalous without realising. Did I try to seduce someone? Did I tip wine over the host? Thankfully I was assured that I'd done nothing shameful.

The idea of flamboyantly emptying myself out to the world at large fills me with horror. I'd rather eat my own left leg.

* pretending to be too sick to work
** having it in for someone

Friday, 3 February 2012

Pinkie in demand

Enough of the nasty side of humanity. Time once again for something soft, pink and fluffy.

The story so far: Mr Pinkie had some self-esteem issues as all his friends were yellow or brown and he felt a bit out of place. But his sessions with therapist Dr Melissa Flinch were helping a lot and he thought he would soon be proud to be pink.

He enjoys being soft and fluffy as this means he has a heart of gold and all the girls adore him. They tell him their deepest secrets and he gives them wonderful advice without ever betraying their confidence.

Little bears everywhere long to be as sweet as Mr Pinkie.

So where is Mr Pinkie now?

He's completed his training as a hairdresser and opened his own salon, Cuts by Pinkie, which is already THE place for smart gals and guys to get the perfect cut for that oh-so-important social occasion.

Of course they don't just get their hair attended to. As always, Mr Pinkie dispenses invaluable tips on how to deal with that distressing personal dilemma or ditch that unwanted suitor.

A big hug from the soft and fluffy Mr Pinkie is wonderfully reassuring and comforting, and so much huggier than the bony contours of the conventional hair stylist.

No wonder Mr Pinkie's appointment book is choc-o-bloc for the next 12 months and potential clients will do anything, ANYTHING, to secure a booking. Some of their suggestions would bring a rosy blush to the most sanguine countenance.

In short, Mr Pinkie is in his prime and floating on air. The world is his oyster. The future is his for the taking.

And before you ask, I have no influence whatever with Mr P. So any discreet (or indiscreet) approaches to me will be firmly rebuffed. Naughty naughty!!