Much as I love my husband, he’s a bog-standard bloke. And sometimes the bog is strong in him. Take last year:
exhausted by three kids, a stressful job and a profoundly irritating wife, he gave up on his hitherto rigorous exercise programme. As he piled on the pounds, I drew a clear message: I wasn’t worth bothering for.
We sparred about it for a bit – my husband tabling some hard-hitting points of his own, which I shall pass over – before reaching a compromise: he’d get fit for me; I’d watch Ice Road Truckers for him. A year on, our deal holds. As he plods down the cellar steps to the rowing machine, he mutters, “I’m only doing this so you’ll sleep with me.” And you know what? I do!
But as I Iie in my post-coital glow, watching another rookie tanker take on Wasagamack, I’ve started to worry: what is going on with all those women who are nicer than me? Who stands up for the Good Wives who never venture a word of criticism about their husbands, mouldering away into middle age?
George Clooney is no help, that’s for sure. Earlier this year the 54-year-old star declared there was no point ”trying to fight’’ the ageing process. The man who would win, hands down, in the ”Ageing Most Gracefully’’ Oscars believes ”tricks’’ from hair dye to plastic surgery just make a man look older. It is an admirable point – and if all men aged like George Clooney, I’d let him have it.
But they don’t, do they? Not outside the Hollywood hothouse, anyway. Replant Clooney permanently here in beer-soaked, wind-blasted Blighty (I know he has a home in Henley but he and Amal are the ultimate transatlantic couple, as well as doing the East Coast/West Coast flit as required) and he’d soon start to look like Nigel Farage. At which point, he’d fit right in. Jeremy Clarkson, Jim Davidson, Mike Gatting, John Barnes, Ed Balls, Philip Green, James May, Jim Kerr, Prince Andrew, Eamonn Holmes… it’s a roly-poly roll call of men ageing badly – and then some.
True, there are exceptions. But for every Sean Bean there’s a Mick Hucknall; for every David Beckham, a Ricky Gervais; and for every Colin Firth there’s a Darren Day. And for every mid-lifer who dons Lycra to run/cycle/swim his way to maintain some semblance of youth, there are four others nodding off to Gardeners’ Question Time.
So why are so many of our men so bad at looking good? Weight gain, hair loss, increased pallor, diminished muscle tone – these are all hallmarks of the British male, for whom middle age is not something to be feared but staggered towards, a safe place where they can pick their ears, undo the top button of their trousers and caress their athlete’s foot.
While their modern, young counterparts embrace metrosexuality – applying moisturiser, concealing pimples, selecting their clothes with pride – the older gent resists: to fuss is unmanly, to care about one’s looks simply vain…