Most people's first impressions of Ingrid Hook are unflattering, to say the least. I am well accustomed to the abrupt nature of my wife's personality after over 40 years of marriage, but I still smile at the reaction her forthright mannerisms sometimes bring out on a first encounter.
Ingrid has generally avoided the media spotlight during my television and radio career, but I persuaded her to join me on a TV appearance with Ray D'Arcy earlier this year.
The reaction on social media afterwards was not universally complimentary, as some viewers were bemused and put off by her demeanour and interaction with yours truly. I knew exactly what I was in for when I asked her to join me, but, for many people, Ingrid came across as a bit cold and uncaring. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ireland has been home for Ingrid for almost half a century, but she isn't Irish. Born in Austria, and raised in Germany, Ingrid, to this day, is a product of her heritage and upbringing.
And despite sustained pressure on her over the years to conform to a more 'Irish' personality, Ingrid remains the exact same woman today that I met and fell in love with all those years ago. I respect her hugely for it.
Germans, typically, do not stand on ceremony where uncomfortable truths are concerned. They tend not to dance around the facts where the truth needs telling, just to avoid a confrontation.
If I happened to put on a few pounds over Christmas, Ingrid would let me know, in no uncertain terms, that I was getting fat. She wouldn't do it to be mean: her DNA requires her to tell me that I am piling on the pounds, because it is in my best interests to hear it. How I take the news is an irrelevant consequence of her doing the right thing.
Irish people, for the most part, do not do this. Most Irish people would rather tell a hundred lies a day to avoid unnecessary conflict or an uncomfortable conversation. This type of soft-handed behaviour has manifested itself in an eggshell ball of political correctness.
Ireland in 2017 is terrified of telling the truth for fear of offending. We would rather ignore the giant elephant in the room to save some else's blushes than to front up to the obvious and risk offence. But whose interest does that serve?
Fat and proud
Body-shaming is the latest buzzword for the hypersensitive mob to hide behind. Those affected seem personally affronted by suggestions that their weight problems are a manifestation of overeating and lack of exercise.
We are fat and proud of it, so back off!
Anyone who has ever been overweight - and I'm speaking from personal experience - knows full well that there is little or no happiness to be found in staring at a mirror with an obese or overweight body looking back. And isn't it a lot easier to vilify anyone who points out a weight problem than to go to the trouble of doing something about it?
My mother used to tell me that misery loves company. The modus operandi in this instance seems to be: all fat people stick together, publicly shame anyone who casts aspersions on our lifestyle and keep on rolling. Soon it will be the fatties that will be the accepted norm, and the slim jims will be drowned out.
You may laugh at such a notion, but Ireland has the highest obesity rates in Europe, and one-quarter of all Irish adults are currently classified as obese.
And as long as Ireland keeps its head buried in the sand, where anyone who dares to point out the madness of piling on weight in the face of all medical evidence, is vilified by the mob, it will continue its descent into mass obesity.
Whenever my own waistline threatens to bulge the belt buckle, I know I can rely on my wife to bash me into shape with a blunt remark. I don't take offence, because I know her heart is in the right place and she is doing it for my own good. A thick skin on a point of fact is a very useful tool. It allows for personal development and growth. It's just a pity we seem to have taken the decision to protect ourselves against the possibility of offence, by shaming those who are willing to speak the truth.