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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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Noblog Laureate

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‘IF’ by Rudyard Kipling

ft. The Middle-Raged Dad (and probably Justin Bieber)

(2019 Remix)

 

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing their shit and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when everyone else tells you it’s chocolate, but you know better,

But make allowance for their doubting, and give it a quick sniff anyway;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, even though you’re really fucking tired all the time,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, unless it’s that one about Father Christmas, or the Tooth Fairy, because those are good lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, even when Isaac is being a cock again,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise. Because, let’s face it, you DON’T look good these days, and you haven’t made sense in weeks:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master, it means you’ve had more than two hours consecutive sleep, which is a win,

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim – when you are not sat on the toilet,

If you can answer your wife, when she asks ‘what are you doing in the kitchen?’, with the reply ‘marinating my chicken’, yet still not snigger like a child,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster (or Ollie and Isaac, as you prefer to call them),

And treat those two impostors just the same (except you don’t, because at any given time you have a favourite);

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken (because she’s bound to repeat it when you least expect it)

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, or a den for the kids,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken – like the house, the car, your left foot on that fucking piece of lego….

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools (assuming you can even find your tools, because the tool box went missing months ago, and the last time you needed to put a picture up you had to use a shoe as a hammer):

If you can make one heap of all your winnings (or, if not, a giant mountain of laundry),

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, rock-paper-scissors, or even ‘pull my finger’,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings (or at least pre-children),

And never breathe a word about your loss, because other parents may judge you;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew, and occasionally your right hip if it will only stop clicking for five fucking minutes,

To serve your turn long after they are gone to school,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you (because the kids ate the last of the cereal),

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

But they ignore you and do it anyway.

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, or at least master sleeping with your eyes open

‘Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, but a swift kick to the trouser-clams makes you want to vomit and cry at the same time,

If all men count with you, but none too much, because they too are fathers and have their own shit to deal with;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, because sixty seconds is all you can manage these days (and we’re not just talking about running anymore, are we?);

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Middle-Raged Dad, my son!

Thanks for reading x

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Blog In The Oven

This time last week, I became an uncle.

Technically I was already an uncle – to the delightful Olive (4), Violet (3), Audrey (2) and Ruby (2 months) – but they’re my wife’s nieces, so I’m only their uncle through marriage. They still call me uncle, obviously (along with various interesting suffixes – my personal favourite being ‘Uncle Egg’), and I love them all dearly but, strictly speaking, to them I’m only an uncle in the same way Camilla Parker-Bowles is a member of the royal family.

But now I am a proper bona fide uncle, because last Friday morning, my brother and his wife welcomed Darcy Isabella into the world, and we are very much besotted with the latest addition to our family.

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I remember those first few days as a new parent fondly. Well, I say fondly, but I do of course mean ‘with a bone-chilling terror, that I do not wish to encounter ever again’.

My wife and I have endured those first few days of parenthood twice now, and they were very different experiences indeed. I half-expected that the second birth would be easier, as I thought I had a better idea of what to expect, but no two births are the same, and because Isaac was so poorly for the first month or so of his lifetime, it was even more traumatic than with Ollie. Fortunately, Isaac overcame his illness, and is now very much a normal child (well, apart from the fact he is clearly possessed by some malevolent demon).

Becoming a father for the first time is daunting as hell, and no amount of ante-natal instruction can prepare you for certain aspects of parenting in those first few days. In fact, if I could go back and give my childless self a ‘heads up’, there are three issues in particular that I would raise. So, to expectant fathers everywhere, here are my top three pieces of advice, that they don’t warn you about in the classes….

Everyone Hates You

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Not generally, and not permanently, but throughout your partner’s labour, most of the people in that room will openly despise you.

She will hate you, because it was you and your stupid penis that got her into this state in the first place – even if she was the one who was desperate to have children (don’t, for God’s sake, point this out to her though). She may not say/scream that she hates you, but you will see it in her eyes.

The midwives and other medical staff (who, without wishing to sound sexist, will be predominantly female), will hate you and your penis too. The very fact that they may have children of their own, and if it weren’t for penises everywhere they would be out of a job, will not spare you from their vitriolic glares. You got her into this situation, you horrible little man, and for the next few hours you are the enemy.

If there are any men in the room (assuming they are part of the medical team, and haven’t just wandered in to see what all the commotion is about), they will also hate you. It matters not one bit that they also have a penis, because they are at some point going to be required to get up close and personal with your partner’s lady area, and they probably feel just as uncomfortable about this as you do.

Sure, they may exude professionalism, and they may even try to smile in your general direction, but under the calm exterior, they will be extremely conscious of the fact they are at conversational distance with your partner’s foof. Even though this was their career choice, it’s your presence in the room which is making the situation so bloody awkward. Besides, all of the women in the room are very much ‘anti-men’ at the moment, so they know that if anything happens to you, the chances are the women will turn on them for also having a willy, irrational as that sounds. They’re a secondary target now, and that’s your fault too.

In short, just accept that no one will like you, until your son or daughter has safely arrived into the world (at which point, the mood in the room will miraculously change, and you will be offered hearty congratulations from everyone involved).

The ‘Push Present’

Buying your new son or daughter a gift, is most probably something you have already given thought to (and may have it ready in your bag, for when the big moment arrives), but one thing I had not contemplated before becoming a Dad for the first time, was the concept of a ‘push present’.

A push present, is exactly as it sounds – a gift to thank your partner for pushing a tiny human out of her body. Crass as it may seem, this is a real thing, and one which you sure-as-hell better honour. Do not, under any circumstances, use any of the following lines to try and circumvent buying something:

  • “but it was only Christmas / your birthday / our anniversary / Valentine’s Day / Easter* a few weeks ago” (*delete as applicable);
  • “oh, come on, it doesn’t count if you have a C-section, you never pushed”;
  • “is our son/daughter* not present enough for you?” (*delete as applicable);
  • “and what do I get out of this?”

Basically, any sentence other than “I got this for you, to tell you how amazing you are, and how much I love you…” (or something along those lines) is best avoided.

As a general rule-of-thumb, a push present is most commonly jewellery, but it will depend on your own personal circumstances and finances. Just make sure it’s thoughtful and appropriate. Items to avoid would be: something for the kitchen; gardening or power tools; sexy underwear (the last thing on her mind right now, is letting you anywhere near her bits ever again); and something which you clearly want more than her. “Look sweetheart, I got you a Stockport County DVD….”

Nappies

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Ok, if you have become a father without knowing what a nappy is, or the fact they are often filled with baby shit, then you probably shouldn’t have had children in the first place, but those first few nappies can still come as a shock.

Forget the stereotypical ‘toffee-brown explosion’ that you were expecting (oh, don’t worry, that’s coming soon enough), as the first few days of dirty nappies will take on the colour and consistency of bitumen. This is normal, so don’t run screaming from the house, assuming that your child is possessed by a demon (most children aren’t, we were just unlucky), or that something is disastrously wrong with their bowels.

This substance is called ‘Meconium’, and there is no stickier substance known to man. In fact, it is so adhesive, and so vile-looking, it should really feature on the Periodic table, somewhere near Plutonium. Don’t be fooled by the fact it doesn’t necessarily smell that badly either, because the sheer memory of it will haunt your dreams for weeks, and will put you off treacle toffee for at least the next three bonfire nights.

Thankfully, the presence of Meconium is fleeting, as it is basically a combination of everything your baby ingested while in the womb, being flushed out of their system. Within that first week, whether they are being bottle or breast fed, the yellow-brown liquid nappies you were expecting, will arrive, and there will be times (usually as you wipe some of it from your clothes and face), that you will want the Meconium to return.

This will be one of your very first experiences of the golden rule of parenting: whatever shit you think you are going through (in this case, literally), everyone has to deal with this shit, and there is worse shit just around the corner, so make the most of it.

As the days progress, your nappy changing routine will alter. What will begin as a military-style level of concentration, whilst securing a clean nappy, will gradually lapse into a resigned ‘that’ll fucking do’ half-hearted affair. Essentially, as the poos become increasingly loose, so will your attention to detail, because soon you will realise that babies love nothing more than to immediately soil themselves following a change. As a result, you will take less and less time to ensure the nappy is perfectly secure, because you know full well you will be removing the damn thing again shortly. Why waste your time?

Naturally, you will then reach a stage where your concentration will lapse so much (or, through exhaustion, you will care so little), that you will leave the nappy just that little bit too loose, and it will leak. If you are lucky, this error will only cost you a set of clothing (yours, and your baby’s), because the alternative is that you will need to completely re-carpet, or re-decorate, whichever room you were in at the time.

Conversely, while your standards in fastening clean nappies may slip, you will hone your removal skills to those of a highly-trained bomb disposal expert. You will begin to mentally ask questions like: should I remove the left or right sticky tab first, to minimise the risk of an explosion?

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However, unlike bomb-disposal experts, who don’t necessarily get to make too many mistakes (usually a maximum of one), you will only learn through your errors, as you bath your son or daughter, and put the washing machine on, for what feels like the tenth time that day.

Still, it could be worse. Wait until they move onto solid food – those nappies really stink.

Good luck – you’re going to need it.

 

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