Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Men: Think it through.

THERE are many things it is worth devoting a day of the year to.

There is a day for mums, when you buy her flowers and try to get her tipsy, and another for dads when you buy them a gadget and try to stop them driving anywhere. There is a day for the whole family to get together and argue, and generally in this country we call it Christmas.

There is a world day of peace, which when you consider that there's 22 current wars in the world (three of them in Yemen, which is a busy place), another 20 conflicts of one sort or another, and a worldwide, oxymoronic war on terror, would be quite useful.

If anyone who was at war ever stopped fighting long enough to observe it, that is.

There are days, recognised by the UN or by common custom, for the anti-malaria campaign, a day for AIDS, a day for our midwives, firefighters, and blood donors. Yesterday was no-smoking day, something which the new Pope entirely ignored.

A day given over to any of these things, I think we can all agree, raises awareness, provokes thought, and could perhaps change things for the better.

There are silly days too -  a World Sparrow Day, a day of international jazz, and one for goths. There is another when you're expected to talk like a pirate for 24 hours.
Then there are days which are, frankly, offensive - not because of their message but because they're for things which we ought to think about every single day of our lives.

On Friday last week it was International Women's Day, as though a 24-hour period of furrowing our brows about the plight of girls in the Swat Valley made it all right to do bugger all to help them for the other 364 days of the year.

A few weeks ago it was Valentine's Day, when traditionally those of us with loved ones exchange sweet nothings and devote ourselves to making our partner happy to be with us. There are some people who find this oppressive, and in as much as it involves the colour pink I'm one of them.

Keep your pink, and stuff your Valentines. If you only love me one day of the year then I am offski, sunshine, and good riddance to you.

And, thanks to some men who felt oppressed by all of the above, today has been specially devoted to steak and - how can I put this? - oral fun.

Now, I'm not averse to either of those things, but let's look at this logically.

Firstly, this day was set up to counter female-friendly celebrations of relationships, as though by telling your girl you love her in February equates to red meat and a bit of slap and tickle in March. Not only is this a rather slow transaction, but if you love someone it shouldn't be a transaction at all.

Unless this day was dreamed up by someone for whom love usually involves a cash payment.

Secondly, while all relationships need a bit of give and take if they are to survive, I can't imagine any disagreement being resolved by someone saying 'look, let's get jiggy next month and forget about it'. Someone has to clean the dishwasher filter quicker than that.

Thirdly, and most important of all, the habit of devoting a day to something inevitably means people don't bother with it for the rest of the year. That's why female genital mutilation is mentioned by the Prime Minister only on March 8, it's why you don't buy Valentine's cards in September, it's why people try to stop smoking one day and are happy to fail the next.

So if you have just one day for steak and a bit-of-the-other, that's 364 days of the year you've talked yourself out of it. That's a year of pasta and headaches, right there.

Insofar as it might advertise the male cause for more attention and some old-fashioned attitudes about keeping your man happy, Steak And Wha-hey! Day is a disaster. Not only are you quite capable of managing half of it by yourselves, it's a failure for the simple reason that you didn't need it in the first place.

Females are already taught, from the cradle, that their success in life will be measured by whether they can get and keep a man. From fairy stories to teen magazines, they're told to be pretty rather than clever.

From pubescence we are instructed by our peers, our clothes shops, our television programmes, the song lyrics of our idols and our reading material not only to have sex, but to do it 'right'. We are taught that if you don't do something then another girl will, so you'd better learn to do it better.

As adults we are encouraged to groom ourselves in such a way that meets the approval of men, whether he is our boss, our father, or a lover. Grey hairs do not make us distinguished, and wrinkles do not make us wise.

Skirts must be the 'right' length for our age, activity, or aim. Hairs that sprout over all of us quite naturally must be removed, and if we are to catch your attention it must be with the unspoken, ladylike, flirtatious yet shy promise of having the sexual skills of a middle-aged brothel madam.

Once in bed, you have two tasks - to make us happy, and to make it last. We have to make you happy, make it last, throw shapes like porn stars, not pull any funny faces, make encouraging noises, be casually adventurous but not intimidatingly experienced, pretend we're enjoying it even when we're not, and not get our make-up on the sheets.

You try doing all that with one leg behind your head, and then we'll talk about you having a 'special day' when things go all your way.

The fact is, men outnumber women at birth and, despite the fact our biology means we outsurvive you at every stage of life, we are under-educated, under-medicated, aborted and abandoned to such an extent you still outnumber those of us that remain.

You don't get to have the periods or the babies, which means you do get to have the jobs which pay you more and promote you higher. Your grey hairs don't make anyone think you're ugly, and your wrinkles don't mean that you're past it.

You can never marry, and the world will think you're a stud rather than a failure still waiting for 'The One'. You can get divorced and bitch about your ex and your friends will say 'too right, the bitch' rather than 'why don't you have a new boyfriend yet?'

You can have sex however you please, and if you don't want to see them afterwards it's just one of those things. Your magazines rarely insist you tie yourself in knots while demonstrating the biological knowledge of a gynaecologist.

You are the centre of the world's major religions, while all the sins are our fault.

This is not the fault of any one particular man, and nor should it stop you receiving steak and affection from your loved one. It does not mean you have to start revising.

But it does mean that, perhaps, the average man could stop for a moment and think about how many things in the world already suit him very nicely, thank you, and wonder if a day when he gets attention just for himself might not be over-egging the pudding, just slightly.

And, in the absence of the UN or Prime Minister recognising what we'd better call Steak and Cough Day, it also means that we women can choose what to do about it.

We can ignore it, just as we do World Sparrow Day, and which doesn't seem to bother the sparrows too much.

We could ask one of our foremost women - Kate, perhaps, or Hilary Mantel - to make a short, public statement of regret about men not having more fun. We could invent Cake and Let It All Hang Out Day.

But far better would be if we stopped treating ourselves like playthings, because what we allow others to do to us is just as bad as what they do without our permission.

We could start by insisting men compete for OUR attention; that they groom their hairy parts and learn to navigate our lives, needs and bodies without the need for therapy and a map; that they will get steak when they're good and not before.

Or, better still: We let them have their day.

Women do have it tough, in a lot of ways, and I have some sympathy for men who because of social changes can see the pendulum swinging the other way and are scared.

But it has not swung far enough yet, and the men who think devoting a day to their fun is going to stop it moving are fools. All your special day will do for you is the same as our special day does for us: it makes it easier to ignore you the rest of the year.

And trust me when I say that you wouldn't enjoy it at all.

Not one little bit.