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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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Goldiblogs and the Three Bears

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there was a little boy called Goldiblogs.

Well, his real name was Isaac, but he had such long hair (on account of the fact he would scream like a fucking banshee if he was placed within thirty feet of a barber’s chair), he was often mistaken for a little girl. So, for one week in January 2018, purely because his father needed material for a blog entry, together with a *clever* title involving the word ‘blog’, he became known as Goldiblogs. If you don’t like it, then tough shit.

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Anyway, Goldiblogs lived in Sandbach, with his family – Daddy Bear, Mummy Bear and his elder brother, Ollie Bear.

One Saturday morning, Goldiblogs woke at his usual weekend time of 6am, a full hour before he would ever open his eyes during the week (when his parents actually needed him to get out of bed and ready for nursery), and he immediately began demanding to watch Youtube. Despite her sleep deprivation, Mummy Bear was able to find a suitable video on her phone in a little under ten seconds (she had considerable experience of searching Youtube quickly whilst semi-conscious), and immediately handed it over to Goldiblogs, so that he might ‘shut the hell up’. As Mummy Bear drifted back off, she reflected that such inadvisable parenting methods were fully justified, if it meant a few more minutes of blissful slumber.

Unlike most children his age, Goldiblogs didn’t want to watch Youtube clips of Disney characters, or CBeebies cartoons, and instead preferred to savour wildlife documentaries of small, innocent animals being ripped apart by savage predators (*this is a joke, in case anyone considers notifying the authorities about our questionable parenting. If you really want to report us, it would be far better to tell them about the cage we keep our children in sometimes).

Despite getting precisely what he wanted, Goldiblogs still decided to scream loudly for no apparent reason; and, when chastised by Daddy Bear, he retaliated with a swift kick to the testicles – his signature move. Daddy Bear knew this was likely to happen when the screaming started, and even began to take counter-measures to protect his teddy junk, but he was not yet fully awake, and his reactions were too slow. The kick found it’s mark, and Daddy Bear made a sound not dissimilar to a donkey giving birth.

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Goldiblogs’ scream then woke his brother, Ollie Bear, who immediately wanted to go downstairs to play games on the laptop. Daddy Bear tried to persuade both of his children to go back to sleep for a bit, but he knew this was fruitless, and he was destined to now get up and make breakfast for them both.

This was the usual weekend routine for the Bear family. Daddy Bear would get up early with the children, while Mummy Bear had a lie-in, and in return they would swap later in the morning, so that Daddy Bear could go back to bed for a much-needed nap. Daddy Bear loved his naps, and his record was five in a day.

So, Daddy Bear reluctantly hauled his tired (and bruised) body out of bed, and dragged both of his children downstairs for breakfast.

He offered Goldiblogs a bowl of cereal, which Goldiblogs initially agreed to, but having taken just one bite, he decided it was ‘too crunchy’.

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He then offered Goldiblogs some toast, which was again readily accepted, but after the briefest of tastes, it was ‘too chewy’. In the end, Daddy Bear gave up trying to placate Goldiblogs, and pretended to be asleep on the sofa, while Goldiblogs searched for his own breakfast. He soon returned from the kitchen, with a bowl of own-brand jaffa cakes, and they turned out to be just right.

Now, due to the fact the weather outside was horrible – because this story takes place in January, the worst of all the months – the Bear family decided to have a relaxed Saturday at home, without leaving the house. This turned out to be something of a mistake, however, because Goldiblogs was feral by nature, and belonged outdoors (presumably hunting for squirrels, and other woodland creatures to feed on).

As a result, within the first hour of their relaxing Saturday, Goldiblogs was climbing the walls. Normally, this is a figure of speech, to express one’s feelings of nervousness or frustration, however, on this occasion, Goldiblogs actually attempted to climb one of the walls in the living room, and nearly destroyed a cabinet of DVDs.

What made the situation worse, was that this was the cabinet on the left-hand side of the Bear Family’s fireplace, which was the one containing Daddy Bear’s prized collection of Bond films. Had it been the cabinet on the right-hand side of the fireplace, Daddy Bear said he would not have given a ‘flying fuck’ about the Home Alone and Scooby Doo DVDs taking a beating, but he was very protective of his Bond box set, and slightly over-reacted as a result. Fortunately, soon after Daddy Bear had shouted at Goldiblogs, Mummy Bear got out of bed, muttering something about all the noise, and Daddy Bear was allowed to go for his nap. This pleased Daddy Bear immeasurably.

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Unfortunately, Goldiblogs was no quieter during Daddy Bear’s nap, as he decided to play with ALL THE TOYS IN THE HOUSE simultaneously; and, having surrounded himself with all the toys, he set about searching for the absolute noisiest.

Following what appeared to be several hours of thorough investigation, Goldiblogs determined that the toy keyboard was too quiet, the toy guitar was too broken (thanks, in no small part, to Daddy Bear removing the batteries earlier in the week – something he chuckled to himself about at the time), but the toy drum kit, which Goldiblogs’ uncle had bought him for Christmas just two weeks earlier, was just right.

So, having located a device with which to re-create the precise thumping monotony and decibel level of a pneumatic jack hammer, Goldiblogs set about beating the living crap out of it for the next hour.

When Daddy Bear eventually gave up on trying to nap, and arrived back in the living room with every intention of launching said drum kit over the fence in the back garden (whilst simultaneously making a mental note to buy his ten-month old niece an air horn next Christmas, to enact sweet revenge on his evil sibling), the decision was made to get the family out of the house before someone fully lost their shit. That someone was highly likely to be Daddy Bear.

Sadly, the brief trip to Crewe, to buy new shoes for everyone apart from Mummy Bear – who, Daddy Bear remarked, already had enough pairs of shoes to wear different ones each day for at least two months – did little to raise everyone’s spirits, and so Mummy and Daddy Bear eventually gave in to Ollie Bear’s pleas to have lunch at Nando’s.

Once Goldiblogs had been provided with a packet of crayons, and something to scribble on, he was much quieter (if not particularly well-behaved), and eventually agreed to some chicken strips, garlic bread and chips for his lunch. Whilst not the healthiest of options, Mummy and Daddy Bear had long since given up hope of having a nice family meal out together, and so they chose their battles carefully. For a while, Goldiblogs seemed almost happy, and even posed for a photo.

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Naturally, when the food arrived, Goldiblogs wanted lashings of ketchup over EVERYTHING. Ketchup was Goldiblogs’ favourite food of all time, even above jaffa cakes, and he bloody loved jaffa cakes. It did not matter to Goldiblogs that ketchup is nothing more than a condiment; because, to him, it was the very centre of the culinary world. In fact, if Goldiblogs could smother jaffa cakes with ketchup, then he most certainly would – although the idea had not yet occurred to him, and if anyone were to mention it in his presence, Daddy Bear would surely hurt them. No, seriously, don’t even think about it.

In order to keep Goldiblogs happy / sedated, Mummy Bear applied a large dollop of ketchup to his plate. Goldiblogs was displeased with the quantity, however, and cried for more. Mummy Bear therefore glanced at Daddy Bear, who was in turn glaring at his youngest child (whilst chewing angrily), and she allowed Goldiblogs a little more sauce to keep the peace. This was still not enough, however, and so Goldiblogs grabbed the bottle from his mother, and promptly emptied the contents over his food, until it was almost entirely coated. This, to Goldiblogs, was just right.

That evening, following his bath, it was time for Goldiblogs to go to bed. Goldiblogs hated going to bed, and loudly screamed that he wanted to stay up late, but all of the day’s bad behaviour had taken it’s toll, and soon his eyes began to drop – although not before he had loudly announced that his bed had ‘Pooh in it’ (which caused Daddy Bear to come sprinting up the stairs in a blind panic, fearing the worst).

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Once Goldiblogs was asleep, Mummy Bear crept downstairs, so that she and Daddy Bear could have their evening meal, and regain some normality.

But, before long, it was Daddy Bear who began to feel sleepy, and he decided to head to bed himself. He crept carefully up the stairs, so as to not wake either of the children, but unbeknownst to him, Goldiblogs had already woken up, and had decided that his own bed was too small. He had then tried to climb up the ladders to his brother’s bed, but it was too high. So, in the end, he had walked into Mummy and Daddy Bear’s room, and got into the middle of their bed.

And it was just right.

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