Friday, November 30, 2007

Watching her father shaving - from a poem by Nancy Gandhi

Nancy Gandhi is a poet who lives in Chennai in India and whose blog Under the fire star is a treasure . Here is a stanza from one of her poems called Pretend. I love its affectionate portrayal of a child's view of her father:

Her father's shaving. He makes a foamy beard,
draws the razor in a lawnmower swath
to smooth skin.
"Shave me too, please!"
He removes the razor's two-sided blade,
squirts her face with shaving cream,
shows her her beard in the mirror.
She stands very still
while he shaves off the foam.
She wants to have a moustache
when she grows up.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Early death risk for men in routine jobs, statistics suggest

Men in routine jobs, such as bus drivers and refuse collectors, are more likely to die early figures show, says this BBC story. The Office for National Statistics data showed routine workers were 2.8 times more likely to die by the age of 64 than high-level managers.


BBC NEWS | Health | Bus drivers' 'early death risk'

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Breaking up is so undignified to do say Tubridy Show guests

(This is the text of my RadioScope column which appeared in The Irish Times on 20th November, 2007):

How to break up and how not to break up

The cover of a magazine at our local newsagent’s proclaims: “Ziggy – why I dumped Chanelle.” The cover of the magazine beside it screams: “Chanelle – why I dumped Ziggy.” (That's Chanelle above right.)

The aftermath of breakups is not always edifying. After model Katy French got dumped by her boyfriend when he walked in on her doing a perfectly legitimate lingerie photoshoot, she allowed his subsequent text messages to her to be published in a newspaper.

She probably shouldn’t have done, it she told the nation on the Tubridy Show, but she felt good about it at the time and, actually, she still feels good about it today.

The programme was exploring the whole business of breaking up and what happens afterwards.

The grieving process

All agreed that a break-up is followed by a grieving process for at least one of the two people involved – but the grieving seems to work differently for men and women. Men think the way to grieve is to follow the principle that “the best way to get over one woman is to get under another,” said John Breen, whose play “Falling out of love” is touring Ireland at the moment.

Women, said counsellor Betty Drury, grieve by networking with other women and talking through their feelings over two-hour lunches.

Starting again
Afterwards, there is the question of meeting someone new. Like many another person whose relationship has broken up, Katy French can’t stand the thought of going through the motions of the dating game again. She has learned through therapy that it’s ok to be with herself, alone, for a while and that she doesn’t have to be in a relationship, or surrounded by people, at all times.

John Breen believes that having your heart broken is not an entirely negative experience: it makes you value true love all the more when you eventually find it.

And breaking up can be liberating for a person who is escaping from attempts by the other person to change them, Betty Drury observed.

The programme did a vox pop in which opinion seemed divided between those who believed breaking up should always be done face to face and those – mostly women – who advocated doing it by text.

Which prompted Katy French to observe that women “don’t give a hoot” about the process of breaking up once they’ve decided to do it. Men are far more likely to be cautious and to mumble and mutter their way through the whole thing.

How and how not to do it
And what’s the best way to break up? Do it honestly and without delay, advised counsellor Betty Drury. Otherwise you steal the other person’s precious time for weeks, months or years as you string them along.

But don’t do it like the guy who rang his soon-to-be-ex girlfriend, said he was out of credit and asked her to ring him back – and then dumped her at her own expense.

You can hear the programme again at

Monday, November 26, 2007

Accepting your death and talking about it to those who will stay behind

(This is the text of my That's Men for You column in The Irish Times on Tuesday, 20th November 2007)

Channel 4 programme points the way

A man in his 70s who spent most of his life in the practice of Zen Buddhism recalled an encounter concerning death.

It had occurred many decades previously when he was training under the eye of an old-style Zen master. He had been contemplating the subject of death and had become rather comfortable with it, thanks to many hours of meditation.

Foolishly, he informed his Zen master that he no longer feared death. The master responded by jumping on top of him – they did that sort of thing in those days – and commencing to strangle him.

The attempt went on until the student had almost lost consciousness. Luckily, he had previously spent some years at sea and had learned how to take care of himself. He managed to land a punch on the jaw of the master and to free himself.

When he regained his breath, he berated the master for almost killing him.

But, the Zen master replied, I thought you told me you had lost your fear of death?

I presume the Zen master was trying to convey, in a way which would be barred by health and safety regulations nowadays, that if you say you have lost your fear of dying you are probably fooling yourself and anybody who believes you.

Death in other cultures
The dread of death seems to be common to people in Western cultures but this isn’t always so elsewhere. There’s a tribe in Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean which believes that everyone dies at 40. Even if, after reaching 40, you are walking, breathing and talking, you are still, essentially, dead. I apologise, by the way, to anybody who is staring down the barrel of the Big Four Oh but do remember that this is Micronesia we’re talking about.

Far from struggling against the idea, people over 40 seem to see the whole thing as a form of retirement. For instance, they don’t work as hard anymore. After all, they’re dead. What do you expect?

This acceptance of death and dying is found in many Buddhist traditions too. Indeed, in those traditions in which there is a belief in reincarnation, the ambition is to get to a point at which you can finally die and don’t have to be reincarnated anymore. That’s an attitude most of us in the West find baffling except when we’re sitting in a traffic jam on the M50.

In facing our own deaths, there is the question, if we know it is coming, of what to say to those who are closest to us. Many men, I suspect, would be inclined to take a sort of stoic attitude to it and to speak about it as little as possible. We would try to be good, strong men who are not going to upset other people by talking about our deaths. But in fact, talking to our partner and children could help to ease the pain for everybody.

The Mummy Diaries
These thoughts were prompted by the Channel 4 series, “The Mummy Diaries” about how mothers facing death through terminal illness interact with their children. The first programme in the series was reviewed by Olive Travers in last week’s TvScope so I won’t to into the details here. But essentially it seems to bring great comfort to children and partners if the mother talks to them about what is going to happen and if they gather up memories for after her death (these include letters, to the children, memories, advice for their future lives and so on). In other words, the whole family becomes involved in what is happening to one of its members.

It all seemes so much healthier than denying that anything is going on at all and keeping everybody isolated in their own world of pain and fear.

The final programme in the series is on Channel 4 next Thursday night. It’s worth watching. None of us knows when we might have to deal with the issues it raises but the approach it promotes has an enormous value, in my opinion, not only for mothers but also for fathers who are facing death through a terminal illness.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Court rules children's removal from State unlawful

Appeal in 'Mr G' case rejected

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by a mother of twins against a High Court judgment that found their removal from the State and retention in Britain without the consent of their father was unlawful.

In the "Mr G" case, the father brought a successful action against the mother, who took them to England in January.

Link: - Breaking News - Court rules children's removal from State unlawful

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

25 ways to approach a woman at work and not get sued

Cautious note a sign of the times

These tips on the Bootstrapper blog are pretty good on all the ways to approach that person who has caught your eye - and heart - at work. I guess it's a sign of the times that the tips are couched as ways to "not get sued". Is the average female really that ready to call a lawyer? Is it really true that you shouldn't ask someone out more than once if they refuse the first time? I knew someone who asked a girl - this was back when there were girls - out several times, politely, before she reluctantly agreed. Then she married him. Then she divorced him. Gee, maybe Bootstrapper is right.


Bootstrapper » 25 Ways to Approach A Woman At Work And Not Get Sued

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How the Family Mediation Service helps separated Dads and Mums negotiate Christmas and other issues

Service also helps parents who have never lived together

(This is the text of my article on the Family Mediation Service which appeared in The Irish Times on 13th November 2007)

Christmas is more than a month away but for parents who don’t live together there is just a short time left to work out who will see the children and when, during what ought to be a joyful occasion.

What presents should be bought? Who should buy them? Should one parent buy an expensive present which the other parent has already told the children they cannot have? If the children are young enough for Santa to visit, who will be there when they open the presents, or will Santa have to visit twice?

Issues such as these can exceptionally emotional, difficult and painful at times like Christmas.

“I never saw my youngest child coming down the stairs to find her present,” said one father. “And I never had the opportunity to bring my children to my parents’ grave on Christmas Day.”

These are the sort of problems which the Family Mediation Service, part of the Family Support Agency, deals with all the time. The mediation service aims to help couples – married or unmarried – to settle issues between them when they are separating. These include the important issues of finance and property but also the important issue of the future relationship with the children.

The service also helps people who have never lived together to sort out parenting problems.

Parenting flashpoints
Potential flashpoints which parents living apart would do well to work out in mediation include communions, confirmations, holidays and even children’s parties, says Polly Phillimore, the service coordinator for the Family Mediation Service.

People working on separation or maintenance agreement may want to deal with these things later, but “later” could come sooner than they think and could find them unprepared.

In general, it is better to make agreements about such issues in the relatively calm atmosphere of a mediation session than on the other parent’s doorstep.

What works now?
The first step, says mediator and area-coordinator Sheila Healy, is often to “look at what’s working at the moment.” Who is involved right now with bringing the kids to school and getting them home? Who brings them to and from their extra-curricular activities? Seeing what contribution each parent can make to this in the future may allow the whole process to flow more smoothly.

Indeed, says Polly Phillimore, where parents make plans in this way, the children sometimes get to see more of both parents after the separation than they did before.

The same principle, of seeing what already works, can be helpful in looking at the issue of Christmas.

“It’s helpful for the parents to ask what are the family traditions?” says Sheila Healy. Do the children and the family always go to granny in the morning and then somewhere else in the evening? Do they always go to the graveyard at a particular time of the day?

“Can we build something around this?” asks Ms Healy.

“Families often have certain things they do that are key to their Christmas Day,” she says. “Perhaps all the family gets together in a particular house.” In such a situation might it be feasible for both parents to be there?

It can also help separated parents enormously if the grandparents can put to one side their feelings about one or other of the parents and can make them welcome at Christmastime.

On the question of Santa and presents, parents sometimes agree that both of them will be in the house when the children open their presents, says Sheila Healy.

Where there are two families and two sets of children involved parents may need to be aware of the potential for jealousy over presents between the two groups of children.

They need to work out issues such as how a parent will feel if the other parent’s new partner is there when presents are delivered. Again, these issues are better handled in the mediation room than on the doorstep.

Ray Kelly of Unmarried and Separated Fathers of Ireland talks of fathers who have no visitation rights on Christmas Day simply because the visitation days laid down in a court order don’t happen to include the day of the week on which it falls. If these matters can be sorted out in mediation, an enormous amount of conflict and pain can be avoided.

Always parents
The work which the family mediation service does in relation to children is based on the premise that the parents, even though apart, will always be parents.

The service was set up in 1986 and has over 14 offices around the country. Many of its offices have waiting lists and it may be difficult to get an appointment before Christmas at some of them – but issues concerning separation and parenting don’t vanish at Christmas.

There is more information on the family mediation service at and its headquarters telephone number is 01-6344320.

See Tips for making Christmas better for separated parents (below) for summary of points from this article.

Tips for making Christmas better for separated parents

Start early and see what worked before, mediators advise
  • Parents need to talk to each other soon rather than later about Christmas arrangements.
  • It can be helpful to look at what has worked for the family in the past. What is the usual Christmas routine? What “makes” Christmas for the children?
  • Has there been a tradition in which the extended families meet on Christmas Day? Can this occasion be continued and can both parents be present?
  • If there are small children, is it possible for both parents to be together when they are opening their presents from Santa?
  • Parents may need to agree in advance on what presents will be given. It can create difficulties if one parent gives the children an expensive present to which the other parent has already said No.
  • If there has been a tradition of visiting family graves, can a way of doing this be worked out for both families?
  • Can grandparents or other members of extended families put their feelings about one of the parents to one side to facilitate them to be present, for a time at least, on Christmas Day?
  • 8. If one parent is delivering Christmas presents will, or should, the other parent’s new partner be there? It may be wise to discuss this in advance or at least to be sensitive to the issue.

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Family goes for potential son-in-law bald-headed

Police in India's Assam state have received a complaint from a prospective groom against his would-be in-laws for allegedly thrashing him for not disclosing that he wore a wig to conceal his baldness.

Link: - The Irish Times - Tue, Nov 20, 2007 - Family goes for potential son-in-law bald-headed

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Maintenance and true love

This marvellous poem by UA Fanthorpe was posted by Sarah Carey on her great and feisty blog, GUBU. To read other poems sent by her readers in response go to her post here and check out the comments.

There is a kind of love called maintenance
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;
Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget the milkman, which remembers to plant bulbs;
Which answers letters, which knows the way the money goes, which deals with dentists
And road fund tax and meeting trains, and postcards to the lonely
Which upholds the permanently rickety elaborate structures of living; which is Atlas.
And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing to my brickwork;
Insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dry rotten jokes,
Remembers my need for gloss and grouting;
Which keeps my suspect edifice upright in the air,
As atlas did the sky.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Off-topic: Africa to pay for Europe's "green policies"

In efforts to make quick and symbolic gains in Europe's otherwise failed policies to curb climate gas emissions, environmental and anti-globalisation politicians are aiming at Africa's few economic success stories, says this story on Campaigns to buy locally produced food and travel to local destinations particularly hit out against African products.


afrol News - Africa to pay for Europe's "green policies"

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Off-topic: Executing child offenders in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen

One of the most shocking photographs I ever saw was of nooses being put over the heads of two teenage boys who were being executed in Iran for having sex with each other. Now Bock the Robber has this list of boys and girls who are under sentence of death in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen for crimes committed when they were under 18. While he used the headline "Islamic Savages," I happen to think - and he probably does too - that most Muslim countries are outraged by such executions and by Islamic extremism in general.

According to this article by Amnesty International, "Iran has the shameful status of being the world’s last official executioner(1) of child offenders – people convicted of crimes committed when they were under the age of 18. It also holds the macabre distinction of having executed more child offenders than any other country in the world since 1990, according to Amnesty International’s records."

In the past three years, children have been executed in China (1), Sudan (2) and Pakistan (1), according to Amnesty. Iran is the only country to have executed children this year. lists people, mainly teenagers, over 18 who are under sentence of death in Iran for offences committed when they were under that age....

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And here is the rest of it.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Net veteran Grohol's five tips for a successful marriage

This is the text of my That's Men for You column in The Irish Times on Tuesday, 13th November, 2007:

There are lots of people out there promoting products which will purport to tell you how to have a successful marriage – but when the advice is relayed by John Grohol (pictured above right) it’s worth our attention.

Dr Grohol, a clinical psychologist, is one of the pioneers of useful information on the internet. He launched his Psych Central website at in 1995 at a time when relatively few homes anywhere had an internet connection.

Since then, Grohol has published thousands of articles based on mainstream research and has made them available, at no charge and in plain English to anybody who wants to read them.

Grohol reckons he’s cast an eye on about a thousand articles on how to have a long-term successful relationship or marriage. None of them, he complains, seem to capture the core ingredients he has found important in long-term relationships.

He believes there are five such core ingredients. Here they are:

First: Compromise. You may have found your soulmate but that doesn’t mean you’ll agree on when to put out the bins, how to discipline or reward the children or what time you should be home from work on a Friday night. So unless you both learn to compromise, your day to day disagreements could turn into something much worse.

Second: Choose your battles carefully. Once you accept that you and your nearest and dearest are never going to see eye to eye on everything – because that’s the way people are – then the wisdom of this piece of advice becomes obvious. Is it really worth fighting over the cap being left off the toothpaste or the toilet roll being turned around the “wrong” way? Mightn’t it be better to reserve your fighting time for more important issues, such as family finances or children?

Third: Communicate, preferably not in the middle of a row. The notion that “If you really loved me you’d know how I feel” is, to put it politely, bull. Even a psychologist would not know how you felt about anything unless you actually told him or her. So tell. And if you want to be heard, do it when you’re at peace, which hopefully is most of the time, and not when you’re fighting.

Fourth: Don’t hide your needs from yourself or your partner. If you’re unhappy with working too much, or not working enough, with the amount of affection or sex in the relationship or with anything else that really matters, you need to admit this to yourself and to discuss it with your partner. Otherwise these unexpressed needs can corrode the relationship.

Fifth: Recognise the importance of trust and honesty. People in long-term relationships need to be able to depend on each other. This is why betrayals of trust hurt so much and why the worst aspect of an affair, for instance, is that betrayal of trust.

If you do these things will you have a peaceful relationship? No, of course not. Much of the advice above is based on the recognition that permanently peaceful relationships are not a human possibility. And, curiously, once you recognise that, your relationships can become deeper and more loving than before because you are accepting the reality of the other person.

It is as though we are shut into a room and each is allowed to look out through one of the windows in that room – but not the same window as the other. So you’re both in the same room alright, but what you see and what your partner sees are different. Each needs to accept that the other person’s reality is different, sometimes radically so. And who knows which ‘reality’ is the right one?

So to me, what is important from Grohol’s five points (Click here for original article) is for each partner to accept that, in many ways, they are as different as chalk and cheese. Each needs to give up on the effort to turn them both into chalk and chalk or cheese and cheese.

That said, please don’t ask me to put the bins out when I’m watching I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Thanks.

  • Note: John Grohol has written a generous response to this post on his blog here.

Is abuse risk higher with non-biological live-in boyfriends?

US data suggests that the risk of child abuse grows when a man who is not the children's biological father moves in, says this story from Associated Press.


Newsvine - Abuse Risk Seen Worse As Families Change

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Irish kids today - good news, bad news

This is the text of my article in The Evening Herald on 14th November, 2007:

The good news from the latest research by Barnardos is that relationships between parents and children today are in good shape.

The bad news, in the just-published survey by the childcare organisation, is that we now have worries which did not exist – or not to the same extent – when today’s parents were children.

Eighty per cent of parents say their children have a better childhood than they had themselves and just over half believe their relationship with their children is better than the relationship they had with their own parents.

And in a technological age, relationships continue to be top priorities for parents and children. When children were asked what made for a happy childhood, they put ‘a loving family’ at the top of the list. So did their parents. For children, friends came second and a safe community third.

Parents have fears about the safety of children and about the dangers of alcohol and drugs. Bullying is a major concern for parents and children.

In a good example of technology as a double-edged sword, parents find mobile phones beneficial for keeping in touch with their kids but they worry about those unsupervised phone conversations teenagers have with other teenagers.

Nevertheless, and as every parent knows, technology is a big priority with children. Over half the children interviewed for the survey – and by extension probably over half the nation’s children – are using social networking websites such as Bebo. That’s an awful lot of children. In effect, these networking websites have become a vast, national – sometimes international – conversation, mainly involving children and teenagers.

Nothing wrong with that, in itself. But parents cannot be blamed for worrying whether the conversation is always safe and unexploitative. And who can guarantee that?

That said, this parent’s view is that sites such as Bebo offer teenagers unprecedented ways of maintaining and expanding friendships and that the pluses probably outweigh the minuses.

The issue of the time that parents get to spend with children produced interesting results. Essentially, people seem to think that other people are doing less well than they are themselves. For example, three quarters of parents surveyed believed they themselves were spending enough time with their children but that the rest of Irish parents were not. Some of this failure they put down to the demands of work. However, 80 per cent of children and young people believe parents and children are spending enough time with each other.

But is interaction between parents and children under threat from the phenomenon of televisions and DVD players in the bedroom? The survey found that three out of ten 5-9 year olds have a television in their bedrooms. One out of seven 1-4 year olds has a TV in the bedroom.

As Barnardo’s chief executive Fergus Finlay put it at the launch of the report yesterday, “There must be some ground for concern, though, in the finding that an extraordinary number of young children have televisions, and often DVD players, in their own rooms. A child who spends too much time alone is less likely to be a happy child, and less likely to be able to sustain relationships. The fact that a quarter of our children up to the age of nine are supplied with their own televisions is something we ought to be thinking about.”

Nevertheless, the overall picture appears to be a positive one. But, as Finlay reminds us we cannot either ignore the fact that one child in nine lives in poverty and that one in three finishes primary school unable to read or write. Children with a disability, as Finlay put it, are ignored and discriminated against. And as the economy and government spending tighten it is vital that these children in particular should not be forgotten.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ouch! Men have a higher pain threshold than women - or have they?

A detailed investigation suggests that men have a higher pain threshold than women - but were the lads faking it?


BPS RESEARCH DIGEST: Ouch! Men have a higher pain threshold than women

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

30-something single Irish females - desperate women in baggy trousers, bachelors claim

This (a little late) is the text of my Radioscope article in The Irish Times on Tuesday 30th October 2007:

Irish women in their thirties: are they slobs, desperate to get their hands on a man at any price? That’s the sort of impression I took away from this discussion with bachelors on Ryan Tubridy’s radio show. I’m afraid the views of the two bachelors in the studio, Paul and Joe, will have made them few friends among the female of the species.

Paul (39) is a property developer which must make him a desirable catch in our society. He has left a long-term relationship and is single.

Irishwomen are badly dressed, they wear baggy trousers and flat shoes and have short hair, he complained to Tubridy in the text message that got him onto the programme.

When Tubridy asked him to read out the text he amended “Irish women” to “some Irish women” but this may not be enough to spare him the wrath of females scorned. Joe complained about women in their early thirties, in a rush to get married and have kids. During the Golden Minute – the first minute of an encounter, he explained – these women size up the suitability of any potential new partner. I’m not quite sure how they do this – perhaps they look at him with an odd squint or something – but Joe reckons he can sense this going on.

The ones who are the most desperate are the ones who don’t look after themselves, Paul chimed in diplomatically.

Tubridy had interviewed single women the previous week and, judging by the segment he played back to the bachelors, they are as critical of men as the men are of the women. Irishmen, they said, don’t know how to flirt, have an underlying shyness, tend to be rude and once women get to a certain age they (the women) become invisible.

Is there a clue in all this as to why these people, men and women, have not yet found permanent partners?

Mind you, Joe doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. It’s great, he declared, to be able to watch whatever you want on TV all day long and to give yourself lots of space – a declaration which probably brought a nostalgic twinge to some male, married listeners.

In fact, he feared, there is a danger you could get so fond of this life that you could end up permanently on your own but that’s not what he wants.

Chris, who is fifty, found it harder to meet Irish women as he got older so he went to England to meet the apparently less ageist women there. He is now living in the Isle of Wight where he seems to be surrounded by interested females.

And Paul informed us that the new trend among Irish guys is to go out with East European girls. They’re very slim, he said, and they look better than their Irish counterparts. So there.
You can listen to the programme which includes the interview with the lads here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Male And Female Adolescents Equally Victims Of Physical Dating Violence, Study Shows

Physical dating violence affects almost one in every 11 adolescents, with males and females equally affected, according to research presented at the American Public Health Association’s 135th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.


Male And Female Adolescents Equally Victims Of Physical Dating Violence, Study Shows

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High Death Toll After Severe Urinary Complications In Men Over 45

As many as one in four men admitted to hospital with acute urinary retention will die within a year, finds a study published on the British Medical Journal website.


High Death Toll After Severe Urinary Complications In Men Over 45

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Kidults - refusing to grow up gracefully

This is the text of my That's Men for You column in The Irish Times on Tuesday 6th November:

Are you by any chance, a kidult? A kidult is an adult who has never really grown up and who is in no hurry to do so. Generally speaking, kidults are in no hurry to grow up because they’re having too much fun or they are scared of taking on responsibility, or both.

The kidult has been around for ages. I remember Gay Byrne reading out letters on his radio programme from mothers fed up with sons who refused to grow up but preferred to lie around being fed and watered by their parents. These letters tended to elicit an outraged response from the ‘Give him a good kick up the arse’ brigade.

I wonder what happened to these kidults? Did they run into strong women who took them in hand and made men of them? Did some of them find wives who took up where mother left off? Perhaps some are still sprawled on the sofa preparing to apply for the pension as mother, now in her 80s, keeps them in beer, cigarettes and pizzas.

But today’s kidult, as I understand the concept, does more than lying on the sofa.

Do you, perhaps, put on short trousers and a baseball cap, worn backwards, at the weekends and go skateboarding around the streets of our great cities? If so, you may be a kidult and that may be the kindest thing you’ve been called in a long time.

If you’re in your 30s, 40s or 50s and you go out on the pull (you are not, of course, married) do you ignore women of your own age and head straight for girls in their 20s? If so, you are definitely a kidult.

Do you spend hours with your PlayStation 3? Kidult again.

Perhaps you even jet off to London now and then kit yourself out in a school uniform and dance, drink and snog the night away at the school disco scene? (Let me say straight away, in case there is any confusion about this, that I only know about the school disco scene because I looked it up on Wikipedia. It’s a long time since I’ve been in short pants.)

I may have given the impression here that the kidults of the past were exclusively slobs who lounged around on sofas in their parents’ living rooms. This is not an entirely complete picture.

Many of you may not know that there was a time when there was no such thing as an ATM machine. So if you ran out of cash in the evening or at the weekend you were in trouble, especially if you were a kidult looking to impress the girls. One kidult I knew solved this problem and enhanced his status by opening a bank account in the Dublin Airport branch of the Bank of Ireland which was open outside normal hours. If he ran out of money at the weekend he would simply nip out to the airport in his snippy, jazzy car and make a withdrawal. This sort of thing was just perfect for impressing the sort of girls who were impressed by this sort of thing.

There are, let it be said, female kidults too. You are still a student in your 30s? If so, you may well be a female kidult, a sort of eternal schoolgirl who doesn’t have to face the world for as long as Daddy keeps paying the bills. Does Daddy still pay for your health insurance? Does he take your car for its NCT test? All these may be symptoms of the female kidult. Here’s another sign: has your boyfriend put you on his credit card? If so, you are probably a kidult and he is probably an eejit. Don’t let him get away.

The phenomenon of the kidult goes back even further than the time of Gay Byrne. Bachelors were taxed in ancient Rome. And early in the last century, the Italian government imposed a tax on bachelors unless they had joined a religious order and taken a vow of chastity.

Now there’s an idea for the next kidult you spot skateboarding around the IFSC.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Loss of Intimacy

BBC Woman's Hour on the impact of losing an intimate relationship with a partner.


BBC - Radio 4 Woman's Hour -Loss of Intimacy

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Sexy walks 'keep men off scent'

A sexy swing of the hips may attract admiring glances, but it is not a covert sign a woman is ready to breed, according to researchers.


BBC NEWS | Health | Sexy walks 'keep men off scent'

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Men targeted for chlamydia tests in UK

A new strategy aimed at increasing the number of men in England screened for chlamydia has been launched.


BBC NEWS | Health | Men targeted for chlamydia tests

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Early Preventive Intervention For Disruptive Boys Can Improve Education And Reduce Later Criminality

Early preventive intervention for boys at high risk of antisocial behaviour can improve their educational chances and reduce later criminality, a new Canadian study has found.


Early Preventive Intervention For Disruptive Boys Can Improve Education And Reduce Later Criminality, UK

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sex changes accepted but thugs can still make life a misery

This is the text of my That's Men for You column in The Irish Times on Tuesday 30th October:

When Lib Dem Jenny Bailey (on right in pic) became Mayor of Cambridge earlier this year, the UK media sat up and took notice.

Media interest was spurred by the fact that Ms Bailey had been born a man but had a sex change operation about fifteen years ago.

Moreover, the Mayoress – traditionally the Mayor’s wife – would be Jennifer Liddle, (left in pic) her partner, who was also born as a man and who also had a sex change operation.

But though the media took an interest in this development, it was a fairly mild interest. A few articles appeared and that was that.

All of which indicates acceptance nowadays of the use of surgery to change gender – and that this is no longer seen as a barrier to high political office at local level underlines that acceptance.

Ms Bailey’s two sons, aged 18 and 20, live with her and her partner. When the media contacted Ms Bailey’s former wife she had nothing but praise for the person who had been her husband. She described her as “totally selfless” and said she would make an excellent Mayor.

Then last week, on Joe Duffy’s radio programme a person in Dublin who is undergoing preparation for a sex change related a rather different experience. She was born a man and for many, many years has been bullied by local thugs because, she thinks, she keeps herself to herself. Her life seems to be entirely dominated by the behaviour of local children. She chooses to do her shopping only in the early morning when the children are at school. Once they get out, she stays in.

She wears feminine tops and trousers but not skirts or dresses. In order to receive sex-change surgery in the UK she will have to live as a woman for a year and then be assessed. But to do that is impossible where she lives. If she left her apartment dressed fully as a woman, she would not, as she put it, know what was waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs. To venture out in women’s clothes would require a degree of courage and recklessness which few possess.

At one level, her story is simply about the acceptance of low-grade thuggery at official and community level. Her story also, however, shows that while persons with a sex change in one setting may become the mayor of a city, there are other settings in which such a venture is very risky indeed.

On reading such stories the question will, no doubt, arise in many people’s minds as to how successful these sex changes are and whether they bring people the improvements they hope for in their lives.

There is now some interesting evidence that indeed surgery to change gender from male to female is largely successful and that those who have such surgery are largely pleased with the results.

The research was done by the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust in the UK. Researchers looked at the early experiences of more than 200 patients and they did detailed follow-ups with another 70.

In the early stages, almost nine out of ten patients were happy. What was the situation after more time had passed? The research team was only able to conduct detailed interviews with 70 longer-term patients. This, the explained, is because people who have this operation want to get on with a new life and therefore can be hard for researchers to contact.

Of the 70 (average age 43 years), more than three quarters were happy with their appearance following surgery. Eight out of ten said their general expectations had been met, according to a report on the research in the journal BJU International. Almost one in four were having intercourse regularly. Two thirds were happy with the depth of the vagina that had been constructed for them.

So it looks as though sex-change operations work well and that this phenomenon is increasingly accepted by families and, in most cases, by society at large.

All of which throws into question the whole nature of identity and how we define ourselves. But that’s another story.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Homecoming King and King

At Davis High School in California, they've just elected a gay couple at the school to be homecoming king and king says Ed Brayton's blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Homecoming King and King

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