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Over the past few years, body image has been a popular topic for debate, particularly on social media, with many companies supposedly moving away from using the stick thin supermodels of the ‘80s and ‘90s, in favour of healthier women with curves (which happen to be my favourite bit, for what it’s worth).

While this is to be applauded, not least for raising awareness about eating disorders among women (and especially young girls) around the world, as they strive to achieve what society has historically deemed to be ‘attractive’, we as a species still have some work to do.

I know this for a fact, as I just Googled the word ‘model’ (with caution, as I’m in the office), and I had to scroll through a disappointing number of images before I discovered a lady even close to what I would consider to be healthy looking. Ok, some of those images may have been associated with stories highlighting eating disorders, but I didn’t click to find out – and the problem is, many young impressionable girls won’t either. They will search online for what a model should look like, and be immediately faced with images like this:

Now, it may be the case that these three women are naturally skinny, and happy in their own bodies, and if that’s true then I applaud them, but it does worry me that those images were in the first few rows of the Google search result for ‘model’.

Don’t assume we men have it any easier either, though. I have just done another search (again, with extreme caution), and within the first few results for ‘male model’ I was faced with the following:

Fuck right off.

The thing is, I have never been one for going to the gym (I have this irrational fear of merciless ridicule), and even though I have a weights bench at home (it’s buried under a mountain of crap in the garage), I guarantee I could spend an hour on it each day and still never look even remotely like any of these fine specimens of manhood. Ok, one of the men is black, but you get my point.

Would I like to have a body like that? Sure. Perhaps not quite so muscly – because my wife assures me that she doesn’t find a six-pack sexy, even though I feel sure she would prefer that to the current ‘keg’ I try to disguise each day – but a flatter, toned stomach would be nice. Together with some arm and leg muscles, perhaps, so I don’t resemble a twiglet. Oh, and you show me a man who wouldn’t like a bigger penis, and I will show you a dirty stinking liar.

Therein lies the fundamental difference between men and women (no, not penises, even though that is a major difference) – our attitudes to body image. Social media constantly reminds us that, if we want to be attractive, women ‘should’ be thin, and men ‘should’ be muscly. Bullshit.

Fortunately, our attitudes to body image are slowly but surely improving, and there appears to be an increasing trend for women – particularly those who have had children – to post pictures of themselves on social media, either without wearing make-up, or without wearing much full stop, to show that they are happy with how they look. Halle-fucking-lujah (for once, that was not typed sarcastically).

Ok, I still get annoyed when these pictures are accompanied by corny phrases like ‘your body is not ruined, you’re a goddamn tiger who has earned her stripes’; because, well, it’s all a bit fucking cringey, but I do understand what those people are trying to say, and I whole-heartedly support the message.

The thing is, though, women who have had children will often use their previous pregnancy(ies) as justification (or, worse, an excuse) for having a fuller figure, and this is inherently wrong for two reasons:

  1. Firstly, women should not feel pressured into explaining their image, whether they are happy with how they look or not;
  2. Secondly, and more importantly, the last time I checked men cannot give birth, so we are denied this justification (if, indeed, that is the right word) for our bodies not being at their best as we get older – even though, believe it or not, having children affects the way we look as well.

Next February, I will be turning 40, and like most people I have decided this would be an appropriate milestone to reflect on the ageing process, and what I can do to improve the way I look (or slow down the decline),

Admittedly, some aspects of my body are outside of my control, unless I consider surgery (my ever-deteriorating eyesight, and insecurities in the trouser department instantly spring to mind – although, there is at least some spring still in it), but there are parts I could take better care of as I approach my forties, because they have been badly destroyed by becoming a parent.

In fact, if we consider my body from top to bottom (although, that should perhaps read ‘head to toe’, as the problems most certainly do not cease with my bottom), there is very little which has not been worsened by fatherhood….

Hair

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I suppose I should think myself lucky that I have avoided grey hairs until my very-late-thirties, but not only will I need to give serious consideration to masking the ageing process with hair dye in the next year or so (something I have not had to consider before), but I recently had my hair cut shorter than normal to save money, and if my wife mentions my apparent bald patches one more time, I may have to kick her in the shin.

Forehead

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Not only is mine getting larger as my hairline inevitably recedes, but wrinkles (or ‘worry lines’) are appearing at an alarming rate. Now, far be it from me to make a connection between these increased wrinkles and Isaac’s birth, but it does seem more than a coincidence….

Eyesight

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My eyesight has always been dreadful, but since having children the rate at which it is deteriorating seems to have accelerated. Worse, I now find that whereas I used to decline all the optional extras when purchasing new glasses, I now actively seek additional ones just to be on the safe side.

“Ok, so that’s the anti-scratch, smash-resistant, anti-glare lens options all added, plus we’ve got that thing which makes car headlights less blinding, but can you offer me anything by way of ‘sharp object repellent’? No? How about something which makes it look like you’re asleep, so the kids leave you the fuck alone?”

Ears

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Look, I know everyone’s ears get bigger – and, in the case of us menfolk, hairier – as we get older, but I have noticed my hearing has deteriorated far more rapidly since we became parents. Now, this may be because of the excessive noise created by the boys screaming at each other, and us screaming at them to tell them to stop screaming at each other, but I also can’t rule out the possibility my body is trying to protect me from having to listen to that fucking Baby Shark song ever again. Evolution is a wonderful thing, sometimes.

Nose

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As a father, I suppose the worse-case scenario, is that your nose will be broken at some point, whether by a stray baby leg during nappy changing, a toy thrown at your face when they are a little older, or by your partner punching you for any number of things you may or may not have done to upset her (almost all of which you will not have foreseen), but even though I have thankfully avoided ever visiting A&E to have my conk snapped back into place, I now find that I apparently have a cold for the majority of the year, because my children collect and distribute every single bug available at school. I swear I never got ill before we had them, and now I feel ill all the time.

Boobs

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From the moment we are born and they nourish us, through puberty when we realise they are fabulous and we long for nothing more than to see them up close, right up to middle-age when we try to remember the last time we saw a pair in real life, we (heterosexual) men are obsessed with boobs. But now I suddenly have a pair of my own, and not only has the appeal worn off when I look down at them each day, but I sometimes cry myself to sleep at night when I am reminded of their presence.

Stomach

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I have already covered this above (although sadly, actually covering mine is getting increasingly harder these days), and there are only so many times your shirt button can ping open before you have to accept there is nothing wrong with it, and you have fastened it correctly each time, it’s just that your clothes can no longer accommodate the vast gut underneath, but the real kicker is the first time you glance down in the shower and realise you can no longer see your own penis.

Hips/Legs/Knees

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These are all, quite frankly, destroyed, and while I have to blame running as being the primary cause for my lower-body deterioration, I’m not ruling out child-based factors either. If I am not running up and down stairs to fetch things for the boys (or, more commonly, to bollock them for fighting again), I am smacking my lower extremities on items they have left strewn around the house, or being kicked by Isaac.

Feet

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I have lost count of the number of times my feet have been injured by small sharp objects being left lying around (and, yes, Lego usually gets the blame when someone on social media posts about the pain of standing on a piece for the 1,000th time that week – I do wish people would get their own material – but the truth is most things kids leave on the floor are likely to hurt like Hell when trodden on).

So, there we have it. My body is ruined, and I fear the situation is only going to get worse as I enter my fourth decade.

Wish me luck, folks.

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Thanks for reading x

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Happy Blogday To Me

On Monday, I turned 36.

This, as you may imagine, was pretty depressing. Sure, those of you whose last birthday began with a ‘4’ or higher might wonder what I’m grumbling about, and no doubt long to go back to their thirties, but for some reason this particular milestone has hit me like a truck (which would at least explain why my body suddenly hurts all over). It’s odd, because 36 isn’t generally considered to be a ‘milestone’ age, but Monday really felt like a turning point. And not a good one.

If you have read this blog for a while, you will know by now that I am a happy-go-lucky kind of chap, who doesn’t let life’s little hurdles get him down, and who greets each new day with a smile and…. ok, I really can’t keep that up (better get used to saying that as I get older).

Fine, I’ll admit that I’m grumpy most of the time, and I whinge about a lot of things, but that’s only because I seem to encounter more than my fair share of dickheads on a daily basis, and the universe frequently transpires against me.

And, if there is one thing guaranteed to place a naturally grumpy individual into an even fouler mood, getting older will usually do it. Ok, no one over the age of 21 likes getting any older (at least up until that point, birthdays can be fun), but once we hit 22, annual ageing is met with utter disgust and anger.

But turning 36 was especially rubbish. Aside from the fact it only seems like yesterday that I had my last birthday (when, by all accounts, it was probably around twelve months ago), there were a number of reasons why turning 36 was utterly shit. In fact, I reckon I could come up with 36 reasons:

  1. I am now nearer 40 than 30. Ok, that might be stating the bleeding obvious, but it’s an important point. I can try and argue that I am still in my ‘mid-thirties’, but the truth is I will be turning 40 in the blink of an increasingly deteriorating eye, while my 30th birthday fades into my diminishing memory.
  2. I will never be a professional footballer. It is a well-known fact that, apart from some goalkeepers who play into their forties, most footballers retire at around this age, so I now have to accept that it is beyond me. The fact that I’m crap at football is entirely beside the point.
  3. I have now turned 18 twice. I remember my 18th birthday well, and it’s weird to think I have lived through that many years all over again. Was it really half my lifetime ago, that I went to university and met the girl who would one day become my wife?
  4. Princess Diana, Bob Marley and Marilyn Monroe all died at 36. Now, I don’t want to be unnecessarily morbid, and I am certainly not drawing comparisons, but look at what they achieved in their brief lifetimes, compared to mine so far. I’m not saying I want to marry a prince, perform reggae, or stand over a grid in a flowing white dress (ok, maybe that last one might be fun), but I feel that I need to do something.
  5. I don’t wish to dwell on death (rule #1 of successful blogging), but having done some research, it turns out the average life expectancy in the 1700s was just 36 years old. So, if I had lived in the 18th Century, I’d be on borrowed time.
  6. I went to a few concerts last year, and enjoyed them all, but I have reached an age where sitting down at a gig is particularly appealing. When I am forced to stand, I find myself looking at my watch and planning the journey home, often before the band have reached their encore.
  7. While we’re on the subject of music, I think it’s time to finally accept that I can no longer listen to the charts. The other day, Radio 1 played ‘Justin Bieber featuring Skrillex and Diplo’, and I assumed they were toys he got for Christmas.
  8. I have been a solicitor for twelve years. It should be apparent by now, I am not totally in love with my job, and the fact that one-third of my existence has been spent working in the world of personal injury law, is frankly upsetting. As it happens, I have also been married for the same length of time, but in contrast those twelve years have been like a wonderful dream (she’ll read this).
  9. The average man (which, I have convinced myself, is a category I just about fall into), undergoes average hair growth of six inches a year. Adopting that statistic, if I had never had my hair cut to date, my hair would be roughly three times as long as the rest of me (I’m 6’3”). How cool (if slightly inconvenient) would that be?
  10. I have just worked out that I have spent around £1,500 on haircuts during my lifetime. So, not only would I now have awesome hair if I had never had it cut, I’d have saved a shit load of money in the process (although, in all probability, I’d have spent more on shampoo, so it’s swings and roundabouts I guess).
  11. My memory is starting to go. Honestly, I can’t even remember basic things anymore.
  12. I have now reached an age where I find myself paying attention to headlines like ‘Eating red meat will give you cancer’. I still eat red meat, obviously, but I now do so with a slight twinge of apprehension. And chronic indigestion.
  13. I finally ‘get’ Radio 2. I’ve tried listening to it a few times in recent years, but I have always found the chat to be boring, and the music to be too easy-listening for even my mellowing tastes. However, I decided to give the station one more chance this week, and it suddenly made sense. I enjoyed it so much, I got all the way to work without changing the station.
  14. I have to wee at disturbingly frequent intervals. Honestly, if I now have a cup of tea or pint of beer (the worst offenders), my need to go to the toilet will reach a critical level at some point in the next half an hour.
  15. I took my GCSEs twenty years ago, and I have forgotten almost all of what I learned. For example, I studied German for five years (between the ages of 11 and 16), but unless I happen to now find myself lost in Deutschland and in desperate need of the nearest Town Hall, I’m properly screwed.
  16. I’ve realised that I really should get a will sorted.
  17. And health insurance.
  18. The thought of going clubbing (dancing, rather than seals) now fills me with dread. On a night out – which, with two young children, happens so rarely nowadays – if the music is too loud, or I am unable to sit down for more than half an hour, my evening is ruined.
  19. Speaking of going out, with each passing year my hangovers seem to get worse. The days of mixing my drinks on a night out, yet recovering by the following lunchtime, are long gone. Now, if I so much as sniff something that isn’t beer or wine, I end up requiring medical attention.
  20. If I had become a parent at the age of 18 (which some of the students in our year did), my kid(s) would be turning 18 themselves this year. Worse, if they had then become parents at 18 too, I could now feasibly be a grandparent.
  21. My memory is starting to go.
  22. Ollie keeps (subtly) reminding me how old I am.20160130_123837
  23. Napping is now, without a doubt, my favourite hobby. It’s not just that I enjoy it – I need it. If I suddenly find myself with an hour or so to spare, my first thought is nap time. I can even nap late into the evening, wake up feeling refreshed, and then have a quick brew before going to bed (subject, of course, to pissing like a racehorse within the next half hour).
  24. Every single part of my body now aches, or clicks, or both.
  25. I’ve noticed that I have started doing random and unexplainable things, like opening the fridge to take the milk out, but putting the kettle in by mistake.
  26. It has been six years since my 30th birthday party, which was when I first noticed my rapidly expanding belly. That means I have had six years to get into shape, and I have done the grand total of fuck all about it.
  27. Erm… what else? Crap, I’m now so old, coming up with a list of reasons long enough to match my age is damn near impossible. I’m not even at 30 yet. I haven’t thought this through properly. Have I mentioned that my memory is starting to go?
  28. Ok, how about this: I’ve started to make deep groaning sounds like a pensioner when I get up from the sofa.
  29. Stairs are now a problem too. We live in a three storey townhouse, and in the past I could run from the bottom floor to the top, without any major health issues. Nowadays, I can’t even do one flight of stairs without sounding like Darth Vader. If I want to go from the bottom of the house to the top, I have to set up camp for a few hours on the middle floor like a fucking Sherpa.
  30. Oh, and I turned 36 on a Monday. I hate getting older anyway, but it happened on the worst day of the week. Any of the other six would have been preferable.
  31. Right, I’m struggling here, so I’ve turned to trusty old Google for help. Did you know, 36 is the atomic number of Krypton? No, me neither. Now, I’ve never come into contact with it, but I’ve seen what Kryptonite did to Superman, so that can’t be good.
  32. This is interesting (and, by that, I mean ‘completely irrelevant’) – other than the number 1, 36 is the only ‘square triangular’ age that I will ever be. Apparently, a ‘square triangular number’ is both triangular and also a perfect square. Now, I’m not 107% sure what this means (presumably because I cannot remember any of my GCSE Maths), but I do know that the next square triangular number after 36 is 1,225, and I’m sure as hell not going to live to that.
  33. I’m admittedly dragging the barrel now, but here’s some more maths trivia for you: 36 is also a ‘13-gonal’ number, apparently. There are many things I don’t want near my gonads (sharp instruments, fast moving or heavy objects, Kerry Catona….), but we can now add ‘unlucky numbers in mathematics I don’t understand’ to the list.
  34. The number 36 apparently has special significance in Jewish tradition. Maybe if I was Jewish, I would appreciate this age a bit more, but I’m not. Damn my non-Jewish heritage.
  35. This will be the only year when Ollie’s age is the square-root of my own. I don’t think that will cause us to cherish this year necessarily, but it’s still sad to think it will never happen again.
  36. Despite common sense dictating that my next birthday is a shade under twelve months away, I will undoubtedly turn 37 in a matter of weeks. And that strikes me as an even worse age than 36. It’s not even a 13-gonal number for fuck’s sake. Plus, there’s no way in hell I’ll be able to do a list of 37 reasons to be grumpy next year.

Still, I guess that means we at least ended on a positive note.

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Blogging a Dead Horse

On Sunday, I turned 35.

Whilst this is not widely considered to be a significant age, certainly as far as your average Clintons is concerned, it was – for me at least – quite a poignant milestone, as it now means I am officially half-way to 70.

Of course, there will be plenty of people reading this who would just love to return to their mid-thirties; when it was only their fingers that clicked, and they didn’t have to worry about things like winter fuel allowances or ‘having a fall’. There is also the famous adage that ‘life begins at 40’, which, I am sure, has an element of truth to it, despite the fact it means I am now -5 years old.

So, whilst you might be expecting me to complain (who, me?) about my birthdays seemingly arriving faster than each new series of The X-Factor, I am going to try and be positive for once, and heed the advice given by Eric Idle during the musical conclusion to Life of Brian. I’m going to look on the bright side of life.

Don’t get me wrong, no-one (well, at least those of us over the age of 18) likes getting any older, but you can at least try to focus on the advantages of ageing, like looking forward to retirement, and daily naps. Sadly, my retirement is at least 30 years away (assuming I make it that far), and I’ve already mastered napping, so I’ve chosen to concentrate instead on the other benefit of growing older: the ability to not give a shit.

Whilst I am hopefully a few decades away from stopping suddenly in the street for no apparent reason; buying huge quantities of cat food (despite not owning a cat); or deliberately choosing the busiest times of day to go to the Post Office purely to buy one stamp and then publicly wet myself, I have at least reached an age where I don’t need to try and be cool anymore.

Some would argue I’ve never been cool, and they’d be correct, but I’m now finally at a point where I no longer need to try and prove them wrong.

So I’ve come up with a three stage plan.

Step One

I’m going to wear things that I think are comfortable, even if they look rubbish. For example, jumpers are becoming ever more prevalent in my wardrobe, as are sensible trousers.

I recently made the mistake of going into a ‘cool’ clothes shop (I forget which) to try and buy some new jeans. To my horror, the largest size they stocked was ‘slim fit’.

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Now, I know skinny jeans are all the rage with the youth of today, but surely you can’t classify ‘slim’ as being the fattest a customer can get, before they are so physically repugnant that they are no longer worthy of shopping with you?

Nevertheless, this particular shop had decided an appropriate business model, was to start with ‘slim fit’ as being the largest size they would stock, and then work their way down through ‘skinny’, ‘stretch skinny’ and ‘spray on’ until they presumably reached ‘Excuse me Sir, but is that your penis?’

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Step Two

I’m going to watch television programmes that I find entertaining, and that I enjoy, regardless of what others may think of them.

For example, I know Take Me Out is utter dirge, and Paddy McGuiness is essentially a monkey in a suit, but so help me God if it’s not the programme I look forward to the most during the week (with the exception of Pointless, obviously).

I think my love of this show, probably stems from the joy I used to get playing along to Blind Date when I was younger, only now there are lots of (slightly prettier) women to choose from, rather than just 3, and the selection process isn’t interrupted by rounds involving panels of men or pensioners.

Actually, I wouldn’t mind going on that show, if only to give my fragile ego a much needed boost, by having at least one or two lights left on after I’ve walked out of the ‘love lift’ and given my name. That said, I suspect I’d lose the interest of whatever stragglers were remaining after round two: “Now, here’s Greg’s wife to tell us a bit more about him….”

Cue immediate ‘black out’.

My idea for a show would be to merge the concepts of Take Me Out and The Voice, so that someone has to decide whether to turn around and go on a date with someone, purely from the sound of their voice.

Look, I don’t want to offend anyone here, but there are certain regional accents which, when particularly strong, are not in the slightest bit attractive. Equally, give me an average-looking lass who turns out to be from Newcastle, or perhaps Dublin, and my knees are all aquiver (or, perhaps, something more manly).

Step Three

I am going to listen to, and more importantly purchase, music that I like.

Yes, I like Def Leppard and Roxette, ok? Yes, I know they’re not cool, and never have been, but I like their songs.

Even worse, I’ve recently started downloading (oooh, hark at me) tracks from current artists. Don’t cringe, ok?

Taylor Swift? Check. Pharrell Williams? Sure. The All About That Bass song? Abso-fucking-lutely.

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I know it’s not very cool for me to like stuff that the young ‘uns are listening to, but screw it. Apart from Ed Sheeran. He’s a pointless ginger waste-of-space that I can barely form an opinion on, he’s so appallingly bland.

So, there you have it. My three step guide to turning 35, and not giving a flying fuck what anyone thinks anymore. Just think, in five more years my life begins, and I can buy a sports car.

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