Archive for the U Lads Category

U Beauties!

Posted in Grave News, U Lads on December 5, 2008 by Johnnie

UMagWhichHasAnUnmissableLad'sColumn.Honest.The ever-wonderful U Magazine just got even more wonderful.  Last night, it won the PPA Consumer Magazine of the Year 2008 award.  Congratulations to all the lassies in the office, especially my ed Jennifer Stevens, and deputy eds Shauna O’Halloran and Martha Connolly (and of course my long-time colleague Nathalie Marquez Courtney who is now at Kiss magazine), all of whom do their best to put up with me on a fortnightly basis, even though they don’t have to. Mind you, they don’t let me visit them either; hardly surprising, really, why on earth would they let a bloke in who wasn’t Mr December from the Dublin Fire Brigade charity calendar?  I trust there will be one or two girlie cocktails consumed this evening in celebration; meanwhile, I will sup a celebratory Limoncello from the comfort of my Father Jack armchair…

Make Up The Break Up

Posted in U Lads on November 20, 2008 by Johnnie

From U Magazine, May 2008

the-end1We’ve been rumbled – again. Word has seemingly leaked out on a subject that men conspiratorially assumed to be a trade secret. Tracing the source of the leak will be a tough job but my guess is it was some kind of honey trap – a drunken buffoon blabbing all to some girl’s cleavage in a club one night – and now all of womankind seems to know. So, I suppose there’s no point in pretending any longer – I admit it, men who believe their relationship has come to an end would rather come up with a devious way to get dumped themselves than to be the ones to do the breaking up. Whether they give their intended ex the silent treatment, start blatantly chatting up other women in every conceivable location, or lose all sense of personal hygiene, some men will try anything to get dumped to save themselves the grief of saying, “we need to talk”.

Now, before I try to explain why, I just want to make it clear I disagree fundamentally with this ‘strategy’; and not just because, like open heart surgery or flower arranging, it requires a skilled hand to pull off otherwise things just get horribly messy. It’s simply the most toe-curlingly, cringingly embarrassing thing to even think about attempting; such an idea can only seem plausible in the midst of a Jaeger Bomb haze. And, sadly for all concerned, men really are more likely to completely balls things up if they dare employ this plan.

A friend of mine told me recently that I should compile a book on things that men are crap at, a sort of user’s manual of potential relationship pitfalls. Before I could reply to his suggestion, his girlfriend cut in: “That’s impossible,” she said, “it’s the unfinishable book, you could write it until you fall off your stool with old age, you wouldn’t come close to all they do badly.” No, I told her, that was very unfair, we’re not that crap, we’re just a little under-rehearsed at certain things, and perhaps a smidgen tactless – but that’s why you become ‘a gentleman’ at a certain time of your life, because you’ve had your faults so drummed into you by the woman in your life that, by the time you’re in your late 50s, you’re a divorcee with plenty of time on your hands to be thoughtful, tactful and considerate.  She took umbrage.  Look, I continued, the vast majority of men’s faults come down to one thing: cowardice. That throat-seizing, heart-freezing terror of doing ‘the wrong thing’ which stops us from doing anything which, on paper, would seem absolutely right. “That’s just a wimp’s excuse,” she said, waving her hand dismissively.

Which is fair comment but, like it or not, cowardice is a huge reason why men attempt to pull off the ultimate, guilt-free break up.

It’s the guilt that’s a huge issue; if you know in your heart that it’s over for you but it clearly isn’t for her, breaking up is bound to really hurt her. You can do all you can to set the scene for breaking the news but watching her crumble and cry in front of you might completely sway you into some kind of guilty submission, resulting in you never being free of the relationship. Or, you could be responsible for her having an entire emotional breakdown; and men don’t ordinarily enjoy the feeling of responsibility for anything, never mind breaking a girl’s heart.

Experience plays a hand here, and not necessarily in a positive way. I’ve met women who, for perfectly good reasons, have a variety of hang-ups about men and relationships and have even, in some cases, been prescribed drugs for post relationship trauma; and I’ve lost count of the amount of times a so-called friend of theirs has confided, “you know, she’s never been the same since [bloke] broke up with her.”

Furthermore, there’s the (quite serious) issue of the notorious ‘bunny boiler’. Sometimes such women are impossible to spot until it comes to the end of the relationship – at which point she suddenly morphs from being the sweet, kind, loving girl you for some reason want to dump, into the most terrifyingly neurotic, unpredictable, clingy, snot-ridden, machete-wielding stalker you hoped never to meet outside of Xtra-vison’s bargain bucket.

With these things in mind, such a bloke thinks to himself, ‘why would I put this burden on myself to split up with her, break her heart, then spend the next few months feeling guilty about it? Why not simply let her think she’s doing the dirty work?’ And even then, that’s only if he’s applying any thought

The truth is, of course, that men are but amateurs when it comes to deviousness (women obviously being the professionals, but we’ll leave that for another day). Only the very cleverest could engineer a set of circumstances in which he moves seamlessly from being the beloved to the detested – and it’s all such an effort too. OK, the idea of acting single or being boisterous may have a flicker of appeal to the most dunderheaded but even then, feigning a personality transplant it’s not exactly a risk-free strategy.

The likely response from a girl who really likes you is to say, “Do we want to make this work, should we go for counselling, should we…” basically prolong the whole agony because this muppet here is just too much of a wimp to let her know, gently or otherwise, that it simply isn’t working for him anymore.  Girls are so much sweeter than we are, they so often see the good in us rather than the unsavoury – our misbehaviour becomes a challenge and women relish challenges. I mean, why else would they spend Saturdays rearranging, redecorating, basically rebuilding the house from scratch?

But there are the cynical men who, although they may hold a mirror up to themselves on occasion, will say that the sure-fire way to get dumped by a woman is actually to be the perfect gentleman: be punctual, considerate, polite, buy her flowers, tell her you love her every day… odds on she’ll get bored within a fortnight and find herself the complete bastard she really wanted.

I’m not such a cynic. If the ‘get dumped’ strategy was universally successful for us men, sooner or later we’d meet our match – and if she’s the girl of our dreams, how much is that going to hurt when she suddenly morphs into something we don’t recognise? Employing ludicrous deviousness is hardly the way to earn respect and, unless you live in a particularly sprawling metropolis, this is how your future reputation will precede you. However much hurt a relationship split causes, and, no matter how painful it may be for both of you, telling her the truth and putting a full stop at the end of your relationship is the only solution. It’s so easy to get into a relationship, but the fact that it isn’t so easy to get out of one should make people think a little deeper about the whole issue to begin with.

But then, there’s a truth that transcends the gender divisions: people are strange, love just makes them stranger.

Honestly, I’m Fine With It…

Posted in U Lads on October 8, 2008 by Johnnie

Originally published in U Magazine, August 2007

My good friend, the self-elected font of all knowledge on the subject of women, has surpassed himself again.  You can tell what an expert he is by how sweet he seems when he and his beloved are together – followed by how vitriolic he is about her as soon as they’re apart.  He knows only too well that if he let slip to her any of the subjects he whinges and rants to me about, it might lead to the disintegration of what he freely admits is a rather cushy life.  He reasons that if he didn’t just pretend to be cool with all these things, she’d join the dots and reach the unnecessarily drastic conclusion that they were over.  In spite of his blotto bravado, he’s never left me in any doubt that he completely adores her.

So it’s perhaps as well they don’t have such discussions.  On another of our ‘quick pint’ nights, the ones that tend to last until the next morning, The Expert and I started discussing those things men ‘put up with’ for the sake of peace; we actually had an astonishing number of them in common.  Unfortunately, by the time last orders came around, the sozzled Expert had started going off on one.  Trying to draw a line under our evening’s work, I asked him:  “So, if there was just one thing that you pretend to be OK with that drives you privately mad about her, what would it be?”  He swayed slightly, composed himself as best he could, pointed his finger into infinity and answered, with an expression of arseholed defiance: “The fact that she won’t just GO.”  I decided he’d better stay at mine than night.

The next morning, I fished a wilted beer mat from my jacket pocket and could just about read the list we’d compiled between us…

Your mate and her “issues”…
Now, your friend really is a lovely girl and it’s always nice to see her… but could she maybe arrange to see you when she doesn’t have some raging problem going on in her life?  You don’t see her for weeks on end, when she’s obviously in good form and things are going well – so just exactly what ‘friends’ of hers are seeing the best of her?  As soon as she’s in the midst of one of her ‘issues’ (whether it be with men or work or men or health or men or her flatmate), she suddenly needs you to sort her life out for her.  Stop being so bloody nice to her, for God’s sake – tell her the truth! Naturally, it’s not my place to say anything…

When you wear our clothes…
I wouldn’t complain about this because it started out as a kind of tribute – all that, ‘ooh it smells of you, it’s like hugging you when you’re not there’, etc.  But after a while, when it comes to wearing a shirt I rather fancied wearing tomorrow, it’s almost like you’re saying, “you wouldn’t go outside wearing this, would you?”  Plus, you start to change the shape of our beloved clothes too – what was the point of me getting that slimfit t-shirt when now there are permanent lumps and bumps in it where I don’t actually have any lumps or bumps?  Anyway, the actual issue is – what happened to those sexy things you used to wear to bed?  Are you trying to look and smell like me simply to repel me?

Your hairy legs…
Making an effort all the time is hard work, we know.  It’s perfectly understandable that you might like some time away from your beauty routine, that’s fine.  It’s just that we still hold dear those memories of when we started – the days when you were a baby-soft, satin-smooth love goddess who would envelope us in permanently silken limbs of an evening.  Now that you’re ‘comfortable’ with us, your leg seems to ambush us in the night like an uprooted, animated cactus, sending us flying towards the ceiling in fright.  Obviously we wouldn’t make an issue out of this either…

Your giggly, girlie chats on the phone…
Why did men pay extortionate rates to listen to a woman talking titillating rubbish on the phone in those frustrating days before the internet?  Beats me.  There’s very little more excruciating than listening to a woman natter on the dog.  Inconsequential clap-trap, scurrilous, sanctimonious scandal-mongering, gasps of ghastly gossip-gathering; you’re the modern, living room versions of the old, garden-fence busy-bodies.  And since the proliferation of crap American TV programmes, the language, intonation and exaggerated use of superlatives are all more irritating than ever.  We have to leave the room to let you get on with it.  And to bite our lips.

Your Ex(es)…
Oh, he’s sent you another text, has he?  What does he need your advice on this time?  Why he can’t  sleep, still can’t cook, some new girl on the scene (who probably looks like you anyway) – or maybe a new paint job for his bedroom?  Yes, I know you’ll think I’m being paranoid or just plain jealous for getting irritated by this, that’s why I’m not saying this out loud – but I know boys better than you do and you shouldn’t think there’s anything remotely innocent about him getting in touch at 3am.

Waking us up when you come in drunk
We know we can’t make an issue out of this either – mainly because we do it too, and probably more often.  But really, why is it that you always have some revelation or epiphany while waiting at the taxi rank, which then requires you to wake us up and force us to listen to every slurred detail of your new slant on life?  In three hours’ time, it’ll be replaced by a brain-warping hangover anyway and honestly, we’ll be far more receptive when it’s not being blown at us on a fragrant breeze of second-hand Corona.

Your makeup…
Another point I’m going to keep entirely to myself –  I’ve seen you first thing in the morning, I know you already have a face, why do you insist on then painting a new one on from scratch?  And who exactly is supposed to clean up this mound of powder and other assorted debris you keep leaving behind?  And you call me a nerd for my DVD collection? What about your arsenal of makeup brushes?  Isn’t this little one for archeologists to painstakingly flick pieces of Sahara off ancient Egyptian artifacts?  And what’s this one for – Artexing a ceiling?

Your cat…
What is it about this evil, dusty, smug, idle, volatile, utterly repellent sofa-hogger that you love so much?  And why does he always stare at me like that?  Wait… he knows what I’m thinking, doesn’t he?

Your list-mania…
You are organiser-in-chief and everything is about lists.  Your day is listed for you.  My day is listed for me.  Daily timetable.  Morning checklist.  Grocery list.  Cleaning list.  To do list.  Done list.  Books to read list.  GI index list.  GM index list.  Current danger foods list.  Christmas card list (in September).  Must-watch TV programme list.  Bedtime checklist.  When are you going to stop writing lists and enjoy some form of life?  But obviously I’d never, ever actually say that…

The Second Flush Of Youth

Posted in U Lads on September 23, 2008 by Johnnie

Originally published in U MAGAZINE in December 2007

Internet shopping is great, isn’t it? Why would anyone bother to go out to actual shops, where you run the risk of frostbite, turning the balls of your feet to puree, getting your face elbowed in queues or being forced to have lunch in Starbucks, when you could sit at home in your underwear and buy anything you want on the computer?  Books, CDs, groceries, surf boards (“the best surfing gear in the midlands – guaranteed!”), reptile eggs, anything can be delivered to your door these days, all without the inconvenience of leaving the house or lifting the telephone.  Or even chatting people up, it seems.

More than a few times lately, I seem to have spotted some middle-aged, approaching elderly, old fart with his arm ostentatiously hooked around a very young, cute, shapely, exotic and, sadly, lost-looking woman. Upon spotting this type of couple, it’s entirely normal and expected that most people will look away in embarrassment and speculate on: A) how much he might have bid for her on http://www.ForeignTotty.com; and B) does she look as nice as she did in the catalogue?

On a night out with The Expert, relationships advisor to the bottoms of pint glasses everywhere, we witnessed one such couple giggling playfully in a city-centre pub. While a grizzled assembly of the man’s peers sat gawping at her in envious disbelief, we looked upon the whole spectacle with amusement, trying to work out what it was about him that first attracted her. The acres of spare face? The wispy fluff sprouting from his ears? The wiry, copper-tinted comb over? The whiskey-ravaged nose that protruded from his face like a giant, bursting, scarlet raspberry? Or was there something large, bulging and enticing concealed in his pocket that he was only too happy to whip out at a second’s notice if she so desired?  Yes, his wallet.

Unable to stomach the sight of them any longer, we averted our gazes from the unfolding tragedy and began to speculate on the wider implications of older people making fools of themselves with partners from an entirely different generation. I trusted that The Expert would be experienced in these matters and, bang on cue, he related a little tale of his teenage self and a mate being propositioned by a couple of doughnut-midriffed mums in a club. “One of them was actually quite hot,” he claimed. “But we couldn’t work out what to do about the other one, so we legged it.”

Cougars, women 35 years plus who prefer the ‘company’ of younger men, seem to be on the increase these days – or perhaps they’re just putting themselves out more. There’s been a persistent hoo-ha in the press over Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher’s beautiful relationship, and those of past age-gap couples like Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake – but the non-celebrity versions, the fabled “modern-day Mrs Robinsons”, seem to be filling the pages of magazines and tabloids with their ‘true-life’ revelations every other day.

“And why shouldn’t they?” mused The Expert. “It was always acceptable the other way around.” True, I said; old movie idols like Ronald Colman, Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant were generally seen canoodling with much younger women, all of whom seemed to be swept up in a fit of dramatic sighs by these men’s ‘distinguished’ features, general maturity, life-experience and rather sinister protective instincts.

Of course, these were the days of beautiful black and white movies where even ageing film stars had a photogenic flawlessness about them; and manners of the day dictated that there was no gritty, sweaty, close-up on-screen rumpy-pumpy, thus preserving everyone’s dignity and Brylcreem. By contrast, anyone who witnessed the clearly crumbling Sean Connery getting it on with Catherine Zeta Jones in glorious, gaudy colour during Entrapment only put people in gruesome mind of Ms Zeta Jones’s actual husband, Michael Douglas; a man she has to help up hills, up stairs, up ladders – up everywhere, no doubt.

So, what, I asked my learned friend, were the advantages of the older woman? As usual, The Expert paused to consider his answer with the look of a toothless judge sucking a lemon.  “Well,” he declared, “older women are going to die sooner leaving you free to hit on younger chicks. But while they’re still here, they know plenty of tricks they want to try out on energetic younger men.”

However crude his latter point is, it actually makes perfect sense. As every schoolboy knows (or thinks he knows), a man’s sexual peak is already behind him before he’s out of his teens; a woman’s, meanwhile, doesn’t ‘climax’ until she’s in her mid-30s. It’s little wonder that there are reported increases in the numbers of older women reinventing themselves as sexual predators and preying on men half their age – who seem only too happy to oblige. It’s everywhere you look at the moment. A new Sharon Stone film, entitled Cougars, depicts just such a predator (can’t think why they chose Stone for this role, she’s like America’s answer to Penelope Keith), while even that nice Agnetha “I’m not just a sexy bottom” Fältskog from Abba, the 57-year-old blonde one who used to be married to Bjorn, is asserting her mature sexiness by stepping out with a chap 20 years her junior.

Relationship-wise, though – what do these age-gap couples talk about? What do they do? Women always seem to know what to talk about and their younger men are astonishingly malleable for the duration of their relationship – although the briefer the better, perhaps. But what of those men who go all out to woo a younger woman? While there are many young women who are so frustrated by the relative immaturity of their male contemporaries that only an older man will do, the male ego soon finds the initially attractive energy, flightiness, and flirtatiousness of the younger woman hugely threatening.

The girl’s male friends are a constant worry, their own friends’ sanctimonious approval of the relationship is irritating and there’s often a gulf in what they find fun socially; dinner parties turn her off, clubbing for him is something they do to seals – and renditions of The Oldest Swinger In Town will only prickle him like a Hessian vest.

So, quietly between ourselves, The Expert and I wished our whiskey-nosed friend with the imported girlfriend the best of luck; he’s going to need it, with the best will in the world, and all the ginseng and Viagra money can buy.

The thing is, neither of us could seriously be smug about it; if what all of us ultimately wants from life is someone to cuddle us warm on cold nights, someone to share intimate little moments with and someone who’ll look after us selflessly when we lose control of our bladders and forget who we are, maybe his is the best path to happiness. We can’t all be Rod Stewart, can we?

A Fruity One..?

Posted in Food & Drink, U Lads on September 7, 2008 by Johnnie

Originally published in U Magazine, April 2008

There’s nothing wrong with a man drinking a fruity cocktail, is there?  Actually, don’t answer that yet.

I don’t know why I feel like I’m in confession here, because I haven’t exactly sinned.  But then, if you’re transgressing unwritten North-European boozing laws, which were malletted into stone before Moses first grew a beard, you have to be prepared to explain yourself.

You see, I’m not, by nature, a pint-drinker.  It might not look bad in print but in reality it’s the drinking equivalent of being a vegan; if you tell people, they take a small step backwards, look vaguely distressed and start to talk to you as if you’re an illegal immigrant.  “Well, what do you drink, then?”

I knew I wasn’t going to be a habitual pint-drinker from an early age; specifically, the New Year’s Eve party that someone spilled beer all over my baby sister – I can still smell that Thovaline/McEwan’s Export combination and even the memory makes me gag.  But that one mishap sowed the seeds of my difficult relationship with beer.

My first ‘problem’ in dealing with it was growing up in the west of Scotland, a place where even blood transfusions take place in a brewery.  Trying to worm your way out of pint-drinking in favour of something tasteful is more humiliating than arriving at a pub wearing an England football shirt; a terrible silence descends, followed by the type of raucous laughter an RTE sitcom can only dream of.  The first thing I remember drinking in a pub was an Appletiser; it went down much better with me than it did with the beer-supping lads I went with.  The next thing I ordered was a Baileys – and that, naturally, led to my excommunication from the group.

“So you don’t drink beer,” they say, “what about whiskey?”  I don’t like whiskey.  “What, you’re from Scotland and you don’t like whiskey?”  No, and I don’t like golf either, before you ask.  My one and only experience with whiskey led me to sail the River Thames while slumped unconscious inside a locked toilet, and I’m not going there again – mainly because I’m afraid they’ll remember me.

My second ‘problem’ was that I was brought up by an Italian mother.  Now, for someone with tastebuds, this is pretty much like winning the lottery of life.  Not only did it mean I grew up eating the best food in the world, I was, in time, introduced to some of the best drinks in the world; full-bodied red wine, Martini Bianco, Campari, sambuca, amaro, limoncello… no shortage of alcohol or, more pertinently, flavour in any of those tipples.  It’s just that none of them are seen here as being particularly ‘manly’ – unless you throw several flaming sambucas down your neck in a juvenile attempt to prove your virilty, or, indeed, how far you can projectile vomit.

Let me share another problem: imagine being an indigenous, full-grown adult male anywhere in Britain or Ireland and ordering a Campari and soda in your local pub – it’s a truly piano-stopping moment, where the regulars suddenly morph into a grizzled mob, replete with burning torches with which to chase you from their midst.  But the plain, honest fact of the matter is, Campari is a really, truly, table-thumpingly delicious drink, which mixes divinely well with soda water, with orange juice and even with gin; the latter of which has the potency of miserablist paintstripper and is the only cure for those appalling dinner parties which are soundtracked by David Gray records.

I’m with Scrubs’ Appletini-loving John Dorian on this one.  For a man, the joy of a ‘fruity cocktail’ is not that it makes you in any way ‘fruity’, it’s that you don’t need to imbibe pint after pint of something utterly tasteless to be merry or manly.  You don’t end up feeling massively bloated either and, best of all, you fail to develop one of those gigantic bellies that always seem to shout a flabby ‘hello’, usually from under a GAA fan’s over-stretched, eye-offendingly gaudy jersey.  It’s a win-win in the taste stakes.

We’ve had Al Murray’s widely misunderstood comedy character, Pub Landlord, to thank for keeping that stereotype firmly in place; ‘pint for the fella, fruit-based drink for the lady’ – like the Landlord’s ironic xenophobia, many just assume that this is what keeps the world on an even keel.  However, when even my dad (a curmudgeonly Scot who used to keep his ‘back to the wall’ because he wrongly suspected that our washing machine repair man was gay) orders a G&T as his tipple of choice, there’s no natural reason why I should think that my drinking habits in any way detract from my masculinity.

Oddly, I’ve even noticed that some men get to a certain age and start to admit to each other that they never really liked beer, or at least not that tasteless, watered-down horse-piss they serve on draught in pubs.  No wonder Germans actually laugh amongst themselves at Britain’s mock-superiority where beer is concerned – and no wonder people from Ireland and Britain flock to Oktoberfest every year, for the relief of a tipple they can actually taste.

But what of women?  How do these stereotypes sit with you?  Do girls, who feel they may have an equal chance with either, plump for the guy drinking copious pints or the guy sipping cocktails?  Would James Bond (pick your favourite) be every bit as alluring or heroic if he was guzzling down pints of Smithwicks in front of his croupier?  Answers to the usual address because, personally, I’ve never found that it mattered.

My first girlfriend was very much a fruit-based drink woman; spritzers, perries, Cinzano, that sort of thing.  My next girlfriend drank sundry, anonymous pints – usually about four, then she’d start to wobble and get argumentative.  Neither presented a particular problem to me – although the latter’s gassy farts were particularly offensive in the night.  Still, the last thing I would ever be is judgmental over a woman’s chosen intoxicant.

However hypocritical, though, I have to admit there is something a little more naggingly attractive about a woman drinking something, well, womanly.  And I don’t mean those expensive beers that require a wedge of citrus fruit to give them a tang, I’m talking about wine or, yes, fruity cocktails.  I’ll happily order a G&T for myself and a Malibu and pineapple for her – although, truthfully, I’d be pretty desperate to try hers and I’d maybe even get her to order one for me next time.  Plus, let’s face it, she’s going to taste a whole lot nicer with a fruity tongue rather than a lagery one.

The thing is, I can enjoy a cool, refreshing, quality bottled lager with a pizza or a curry along with the best of them, and… oh, it’s no good pretending.  When it comes right down to it, I’m a wine quaffer, a gentlemanly G&T guzzler, a fruity cocktail fanatic, I don’t care who knows it.  It wasn’t me who put the ‘camp’ in Campari and if people think drinking that makes me gay… I’ll just have to ask my mum to get me an Italian passport.

About Face

Posted in Advice, Star "Style", U Lads on August 14, 2008 by Johnnie

Back in 2008, I had a thoroughly enjoyable stint as male columnist for U Magazine. After this article was originally published, in April 2008, I was charmed to receive a large box of male grooming products from Nivea For Men. I have just rediscovered the ‘Thank You’ mail I intended to send them but failed to. So, if the lovely person who was kind enough to send that along is reading this – thank you very much indeed. Of course, I still have some of it left, which means I probably haven’t read the instructions about frequency of use…

Do you want to know how thick-skinned I am? I’m pretending I’ve been on the receiving end of a backhanded compliment instead of taking umbrage at bearing the brunt of a woman’s generalisation – it would just have been nicer if the backhand hadn’t been wielding a baseball bat at the time. During a break from work, I was casually complaining to a female colleague about the nuisance of having to shave regularly when she launched into an immediate, and all-too well-prepared, tirade. “It’s not fair,” she screeched. I backed away immediately, closer to the coffee machine. “You men have much thicker skin than us! You bastards never age, even shaving keeps you younger. And don’t even think about complaining when you get older, I mean, how come men are always ‘rugged’ and ‘distinguished’ when women are called ‘haggard’ and ‘grey’? I hate you all.”

Rather than quitting while she was ahead, her rant moved on to the curse and inherent unfairness of menstruation, but by then my cappuccino was ready and I legged it. She was right, though, we do have thicker skin, and it really is unfair that women have to suffer periods, thin skin, premature ageing and, even worse, the longevity to endure the whole miserable process for way longer than us chaps do.

I know how important perceptions of youth and beauty are to women; your ageing process has a ten year start on ours, it obviously induces some degree of panic and paranoia among you. You see, I’ve seen the contents of this particular angry woman’s handbag – she carries around more beauty products than my local Avon rep. Lugging around that amount of stuff on a daily basis would age anyone, I get backache even thinking about it. If that’s her portable set, her work-day maintenance kit, you can only imagine what a vast range she keeps at home. There’s me whingeing about having to use a razor every day or so, when her whole life must revolve around what’s tantamount to facial reconstruction and deconstruction. All that cleansing, toning, moisturising, makeup – I often wonder if she’d be better off with a set of coloured pencils and an eraser.

Manufacturers and advertisers have been taking advantage of women’s beauty obsession for decades, sometimes with the most preposterous claims imaginable. They used to panic you into believing your skin would crumble like an autumnal leaf if you didn’t smother it in lanolin, now they try to convince you that Andie MacDowell is somehow older than she looks. Well she isn’t, and whoever believes that is as mad as the spaced-out, bleached-out middle-aged woman in that ad for some miraculous product I can’t recall – you know, the one where she’s stumbling and guffawing around her furniture-free house in a black dress yelling, “I’m 55!” at the camera, as if we’ll all gasp in admiration and disbelief. Well we don’t, of course you’re 55, you look every second of it, Mrs – you may well have “reduced the appearance of wrinkles”, but once that bright light’s off you, they’ll still be very evident to everyone else.

It begs the question, what is beauty – is it something you have or something you do? The term ‘beauty products’ is somewhat euphemistic and, for many, blindly optimistic; in tandem with the manufacturers’ claims, it suggests that it’s effectively an elaborate illusion, a multi-part magic wand that will work as many wonders for the plainer woman’s self-esteem as beer goggles will for her sex life. Shouldn’t it be enough that they induce a feeling of cleanliness and well-being? Isn’t “reducing the appearance of wrinkles” just the application of that old sci-fi device, “willing suspension of disbelief”?

From a man’s point of view, it’s wonderful that women care so much about their appearance but the whole routine is robbing us of precious time with you – particularly at the latter end of the day. All that attention to the scrupulous cleanliness of every pore, face masks, facial scrubs, eye creams, eye gels, anti-ageing creams, plump-up serums, and all those luxury Molton Brown products that sound like they’re named after Bob Geldof’s children – no wonder it’s almost morning before you get to bed. And even when you do, you might smell lovely but you’re cold, shiny and slimy from all that lathering – it’s like lying beside a fragrant, flannelette slug.

And the effect it has on the dynamic of our shared bathroom is devastating; the more “improved” products that appear on the market, the more new stuff appears in our homes and gets piled on unfinished tubs and tubes. Even the most organised woman has overflow toiletry bags stuffed into spare corners of the room, all bursting at the zip with new or used potions – and let’s not even describe your masochistic range of mediaeval hair-removal implements. Plucking, scraping and shaping the relentlessness of hair regrowth is obviously a full-time job for many of you. As I say, we men doff our metaphorical hats at your dogged determination to snatch beauty from the jaws of oncoming ogrishness.

But there’s a habitual arrogance to this. You have all this space for your products (the cupboard above the sink, the floor under the sink, the windowsill, the shower, all around the bath) and we’re expected to make do with a mug, into we’re expected to fit our entire beauty regime – basically, a toothbrush, a razor and maybe a dog-eared sachet of Nivea for Men that fell out of a magazine.

Well girls, the revolution is here. If they haven’t begun already, your men are about to start scrubbing themselves to a whisker of their former selves, as cosmetics firms chase our precious Euro in the way that tailors have done for years. In a sense, this is what you’ve been demanding of us – unless you’re the sort of woman who finds dishevelled human shrubberies like Glen Hansard attractive. No more will men think that leaving the house looking like a torn-out fireplace is acceptable; nostrils and ears will become fluff-free zones; that awful dry-frosting on the faces of the unmoisturised will become a thing of the past; and there won’t be that aromatic, lingering fragrance of Denim, lager and KFC family bucket any longer. But don’t think this means we’re going soft.

Yes, girls, it’s time for bigger or, better still, separate bathrooms, please. We now need space for our new, revolutionary range of “male grooming” products (such a masculine name for beauty products, isn’t it? Comes complete with a handy horse-association too): mood-enhancing shower gels and bubble baths; some phallic implements to sandpaper away years of skin-neglect; pre-shave scrubs and post-shave balms to help search for the hero inside ourselves; finally, we’ll swathe our bronzed torsos in lashings of musky, hormonal gloop which have you all rushing out of your fluffy dressing gowns the second we appear in the boudoir with a mighty “Shazam!”

Oh, and don’t forget to say, “ooh, is that firming cream on your moobs, or are you just pleased to see me?” before you embrace us with a moist, romantic squelch.