Simon Page

SIMON PAGE reflects on his manliness, or rather: lack of.

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Maybe it’s because of the empowerment of women; or the omnipresence of male grooming products; or the recent fashion of male cardigans, but I can’t help but think that men aren’t as manly as men were a generation ago. I’m certainly not.

It all started with grout (doesn’t everything?). Basically, a while ago I had a bash at grouting. Grouting, for the uninitiated, is applying that white stuff that you get between tiles: very much the denouement of tiling.

The long and short of it is that my grouting efforts ended up looking like a five-year old/Jackson Pollock had tried to draw an outline around our bathroom tiles using a chicken drumstick dipped in gloss paint. Then, when I called my dad to ask him where I was going wrong, he said: “It just came naturally to me. Maybe this isn’t your kind of thing.” The disappointment in his voice was palpable. Clearly, he meant: “Son, grouting is an essential step in becoming a man. You have failed it and, by extension, me. Go pick flowers.” Needless to say, DIY just doesn’t work for me. I don’t even have a tub of Swafega – surely the detergent-based equivalent of a Y-Chromosome.

But grouting isn’t the only thing that separates me from real men. I can’t offer bribes. The first, last and only time I tried to do so, it went horribly. It was a while ago, and I was taking my then-girlfriend out for dinner. Swanky restaurant, fancy napkins, the lot. As we walked through the door, I breezily said: “Table for two, please.”

The waiter looked at us, and then looked behind him, and then said: “I’m terribly sorry. We’re full.”

This was patently a lie.

There were vacant tables everywhere. Not a problem, I thought. Just offer him a bribe. I’ve seen this loads on films. Just pretend you’re Bond. No, wait. Be Bond.

So, I took the waiter to one side and said: “I’m sure I can make it worth your while.” (I’m shuddering whilst writing this. Who am I, Tony Montana?) Reaching into my pocket, I attempted to pull out a fiver. Instead, I got 28p, some chewing gum, and my bike key. Maybe I should have offered to write him a cheque?

And there are loads more areas where “real men” excel and I have failed: estimating lengths in inches; bike maintenance; trapping insects with the ‘glass-and-card’ method; estimating an appropriate amount of Araldite to mix; doorway etiquette… the list goes on.

So, to sum this up before it becomes neurotic (okay, it’s already neurotic), I deeply suspect that my man credentials are woefully lacking. Most people’s dads can do this stuff in their sleep, but I’m worried that, somewhere along the line, our generation missed the boat. Or, maybe it’s just me?

Gosh, I really feel like I need to man up now. Right, I’m ‘unna find me some beer and put up some dry wall and talk about ketchup.