Out there ... how to cope with life in the emotional jungle
No man should ever worry about going bald.
I'm not an authority on men's health; in fact I'm not even sure about the positioning or function of large parts of my own female body. My knowledge of biology is only slightly worse than my geography, so if you need to know where a womb lives or which dots on the map are the Turks and Caicos Islands, I'm not the one to ask.
What I do know is that, as a lady, I am the proud owner of too many hormones which sometimes make me cry hysterically when I see an old person carrying shopping bags on the bus, and a feeble lady mind which shouldn't be troubled with anything more than basic stitching and looking at kittens doing funny things on the internet. Seriously though, since I can't be of any real help regarding serious male health issues, I thought I might at least be able to allay one of man's greatest fears - baldness.
Baldness, I have learned with time, is a very touchy subject with a lot of men. The mere mention of receding hairlines or thinning on top can transform sensible men into psychotically defensive balls of fury.
This is hard for women to understand, as we spend vast fortunes of our time, money - and are willing to get on four legs in front of a total stranger - in order to get rid of excess hair on our bodies.
I may also assure you that in all my days on Earth (many of which have been devoted to speaking about men) I have never once heard anyone cite a lack of head hair as a reason not to date a man. We are far too concerned with our own hair to care about yours. Seriously, if you ever open a magazine and wonder why every picture of Alexa Chung and Kate Bosworth has been ripped out, the answer is because some woman is making an asymmetric bob mood board to show to her hairdresser. That's how much we think about our hair, so please; don't worry your pretty little heads about losing yours.
'Down there' is a bit too out there for me
I come from a home of bygone times, where farts were called rudies, my father buried his face in a newspaper when an ad for a bra came on the TV, and the nether regions were referred to as 'down there'. So for me, as a single parent with two boys, to discuss anything 'down there' with them was a huge ask. So I didn't. As they got older, any reference to below the waist remained taboo.
We've come a long way from the days of my father and the bras, given that men are now waving misshapen willies around on 'Embarrassing Bodies', so I hope my sons would be able to discuss any issues with their friends. And if push came to shove, I suppose they know they could come to me if they brought me a treble vodka and Coke first..
I once plucked up courage and asked them if they 'checked themselves' and they looked at me as if I had just suggested they enter the Eurovision. I'm not even sure they knew what I was talking about and I wasn't going to explain. I couldn't even share with my son that I had nearly ruined his future with a safety pin when I was changing his nappy at three weeks old. Mind you, I'm doing it now.
I don't think they would regard me as a very sympathetic mother anyway, when it came to any ailments. A hint of a sniffle and they both become drama queens. One of them would take to the bed and claim that people who go out when they are in any way - and I mean in any way - sick are very selfish for sharing their bugs, and should be jailed. The other fella does a lot of throat-clearing and nose-blowing and spitting into hankies. And moaning. My mother would turn in her grave. She abhorred any form of spitting. Instead of ignoring all of the histrionics, I buy all the potions in the pharmacy, administer them, make sure the house is warm, make dinners...
I, on the other hand, would be sweating with a fever, like Red Rum after the National, and would be asked if there was anything for dinner.
Sometimes, honesty is seriously overrated
Contrary to popular wisdom, honesty is only sometimes the best policy. It's best around money, food and pharma ingredients, health and the odd other thing. In other matters, it needs consideration. It's useful to tell someone an outfit doesn't suit them in the changing room before they buy it. It's awful to tell someone an outfit doesn't suit them at a party when they cannot change. And anyway, most of the time that honesty is just the brandishing of an opinion rather than a fact. In short, honesty is really not always the best policy.
Over the years, we all change physically. Only rare folk would feel it appropriate to greet someone they haven't seen for a while with, "Whoa, they're some wrinkles you've got going on there!" "Jaysus, get a load of those jowls!" "Holy Cow, your arse is enormous!" You get the picture. There's a general agreement that in cordial relationships there's no good to be gained from commenting on changes that the person in question might not be delighted about. And there's also the glass houses factor.
The one area largely exempt from this agreement is baldness. Men who lose their hair will undoubtedly have been amongst the first to notice what was happening, yet they can be assured that someone, somewhere will point it out. People they haven't met for years, or weeks, will screech something about a cue ball or not needing too much shampoo. Why is it OK to comment on baldness? Because it mostly affects men?
An estimated one in four men will have noticeable baldness by the age of 30. Few are delighted by it. Some are really upset. If I lost my hair and people kept making jokes, even just commenting on it, I'd spray them with Mace and kick them lots while they were spluttering snot and tears. But balding men are expected to smile and laugh. To take it on the chin and in the spirit in which it is intended. But in what spirit is it intended exactly?