Man-Boy Turns 40 by Richard Gray
Neil the barman: “What’s the secret of your eternal youth?”
Me: “A positive outlook, healthy food and tons of yoga.”
Neil the barman: “It’s working.”
Me: “Not bad for 40!”
Then I’ll have a gin and Slimline tonic while perched, with a Céline clutch, at a bar just off the M40.
This scenario has not happened yet, but it almost certainly will when I reveal the new middle-aged me. People will feel instantly compelled to throw their most intimate DNA in my exquisite direction.
“She IS amayyyyzing,” writes one middle-aged gay about Madonna on Facebook. He’s propagating the idea that you can still be alluring over the age of 40. Some gays take middle age particularly badly and go the other way, nasty: “Put another needle near Madonna’s skin and it would snap!” or “When is old claw-hands going to drop the cloud-god cult myth and stop adopting African children with flies round their gobs?”
Middle aged – the term – is middle of the road. Middle aged is in the middle of the road of life and that means that everything that comes after that middle is closer to the end. You know, D.E.A.T.H! We didn’t need those full stops and capital letters there – death is death, it doesn’t need a drum roll. Loo rolls are loo rolls, so why do hotel cleaners fold down the corners? It’s filthy, this getting-old business.
I AM NOT having a midlife crisis. Jesus!
I’ve just turned this landmark age. I said to Gordon (you don’t know him), I said: “I could have had an affair with that vacuous blonde in accounts, but I joined a gym instead. Could have been worse!” and sort of climaxed at the end.
Zac, 28, from Blackpool, is my trainer. I said: “I don’t want to be massive, Zac. It looks silly when fellas are as tall as they are wide, like walking wardrobes.” Zac, 28, from Blackpool, agreed. We speak differently in the gym, stuff about birds (girls) but mainly other trainers; trainers are worse than hairdressers for things like that, bitchy.
Shoulders (with a big head)
We do pully uppy with a dumbbell. That muscle from my neck to the tops of my arms is looking ace. It’s not bulk I want. I just want my big head (it’s a big head) to not look too big. “Can we balance its great whacking mass with a wider shoulder, like shoulder pads but made out of, like, muscle?” I got a nod.
I want shoulders that are less “Mark Vanderloo, Versace, 1994”-type shoulders, or him from Emmerdale who always comes downstairs in a towel, than… I want, well, me. But broader.
I think I just made the point I was looking for then, that this getting more toned, bigger, looking “better”, is about retaining you. It’s not about anybody else. I still can’t admit to myself that I’m taking this whole body-change thing that seriously, because whichever way you look at it, gyms are completely naff. And, by association, this means everybody who goes to them are naff, too. Would Raf do gymwear? No. Well, there you go then.
Arms and dangerous
Zac says that body types are just like clothes, and go in and out of fashion: “I’ll bet you £100 [He said, ‘quid’.] that during the Olympics we’ll get fellas coming in and asking for arms like so-and-so javelin thrower. It’s the same every time there’s a big sporting event. During the World Cup it was legs like Beckham.
For Operation Bratwurst, however – for this is what we’re calling this here “weight-loss midlife crisis that’s not really a crisis, I could have had an affair with that vacuous blonde in accounts” experiment – we’re not about huge arms, we’re about biggish arms. Not tight-T-shirt-wearing arms. Not arms that belong to hairless torsos and Aussiebums. It’s about a good arm, an arm that will look good with a pint. A permanently tanned, somewhat-hairy arm that will pull a drowning labrador from a country river; an arm with blond hairs that will obey the warm breeze, moving this way and that… Wait a minute. Hold that. Bank it. That kind of arm. A gent’s arm.
Legs (also known as lallies)
Mum: “Bob! He’s a dwarf!”
Dad: “He’s not a dwarf – he’s in proportion, look.”
This, a conversation at our house when I was three and was relatively small for my age. I’m 5ft 8in now, by the way. That’s not dwarf-y, is it? Is it? After that, my legs became a favourite topic of conversation. My mother used to make me hold on to the top of the kitchen door and then she’d stretch me with my ankles. Issues, me?
I said to Zac: “Can you make me taller?” “We can make you stand straight, give you a couple of inches more in height, that’s just practice.” It’s worked, you know. If somebody – say, Ellen, who, if I ever wanted to be a lesbian, would want to be like her (she’s got some lovely teeth, and that sofa!) – interviewed me and said, “Richard, name two of the most embarrassing things you’ve ever done”, one would be when I picked up some dog poo thinking it was a fossil when I was nine. The other is having to do walking lunges with a sweating head the size of a shoebox and the colour of a pigeon’s foot. (Pigeons have lost ground, haven’t they? Mythology has it that pigeons used to pull the chariot of Venus, now they just peck at old tab ends. It’s a political downfall akin to that of Edwina Currie.) But, it has worked, you know, this walking-well thing. I’m A Cocking Inch Taller.
Titties, knockers, booby-doos, fun bagz, ee-orrrs, Janines, cheap laughs
I still have them, but they’re not wobbly. I used to have side tits – these are tits that used to appear on the side of my normal tits when I lay on one side. They weren’t even the front tits that had moved down for a look. No. These encroaching flabby fuckers were a whole new chest limb. Well, now they’ve gone, disappeared, and you could rest a naked baby on the front tits now and we’d fall asleep on a nice sofa somewhere and somebody would walk in and take a photo in black and white and retouch it, a lot, then sell it all over the world in places like Athena and/or regional branches of HMV. Hard tits are good.
In conclusion to this here masterpiece, I would argue that even if you don’t have any money, you don’t have to smell. Neither do you need to throw filthy nappies out of your hellhole high-rise flats instead of using the bin, nor feed your child bits of sausage roll from Greggs that you pick off with filthy fingers. Why don’t you go for a walk, stop eating as much and fight middle age? I am.
“Another Slimline please, Neil. What’s that? ‘Great tits!’ Oh, you are naughty. Years down the gym, dear. Chin-chin.”
Taken from Issue 31 of 10 Men. Richard Gray is the Executive Fashion Director of The Sunday Times Style