Insider Magazine – The One Where I Wonder Why We Don’t Do Massages

Sadly, this is my final column for Insider Magazine as the current edition was the last.

You can read all the old ones HERE.

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Perhaps you will consider the following sweeping generalisation of a question – why don’t men get massages? I don’t mean manly sports rubdowns because you’ve torn something unpronounceable playing rugby or to fix that thing you twinged going on that grueling 10k run up a mountain, I mean massages purely for enjoyment.

The idea only really hit me full on last weekend when I was in a spa with my other half staring off into the distance in a sauna waiting for our massages. Since I went to my first spa for one in my late 20s I’m usually one of a tiny minority of men in the room. A couple of times, like last week, I’ve had the whole men’s changing room to myself. Why don’t we see it as being something fun, relaxing, enjoyable?

My wife studied to be a massage therapist in her early 20s and her theory is that a lot of men don’t want to try the Zen bliss and incredible endorphin buzz you can get from a really good massage for what’s known in the industry as “fear of the unwanted erection”.

Some men have a genuine fear that even the touch of a professional working the muscles in your back will be enough to set off their hair-trigger of rampant masculinity. Apparently it’s a thing, if you’ll pardon the expression.

I had a similar experience of wondering where my own sex were a few weeks back when we went to have brunch down at the Whitefriar Grill. At one stage I looked around a packed room and there were only three of us there (the two other guys were halves of couples and had faces that looked like they were being made endure the delicious food at gunpoint) – the rest of the room was all female including three large tables comprised entirely of women.

I scoped around my wife and a few friends and came up with a few “things men should do more often but unfathomably don’t” I might not have thought of myself. Reading fiction for one. I know men read, but ask yourself out of all those you know who do how many spend any time with books other than a sports autobiography or just non-fiction in general? When the vast majority of Irish men ever stray into novels it’s mostly thrillers, crime or, for a rare subsection of us, SF/fantasy.

This is one I only twigged when I tried to start conversations with friends and guys I worked with about some of the incredible general fiction I’ve read and have just been met with blank stares. Like I was suggesting they try learning Latin over the weekend.

We should ask to see pictures of babies too! One of the guys in the office became a father for the first time the other day. Every single man embraced him with varying degrees of handshake or manhug congratulating him as if he himself had just gone through a 33 hour labour and a C-section (true story). What was the first thing every woman did that the men neglected to bother themselves with? Ask to see a picture of his newborn son. Nothing says “we’re happy for you but… I’m bored now” like that.

Yeah, look I know all of this nonsense is based on sometimes baseless stereotype, but a lot of it isn’t. I’m one of those guys who, through circumstance or genetic glitch, slipped through the “man” net. I’ve never worked in a mostly male environment, don’t go out for pints with the lads, play 5-a-side and I’ve never been on a stag (for my own I brought my friends, dad and son out on a boat trip and for a pizza.  Let’s face it, 100,000 years ago on the African savannah I would have been lunch for a lion fairly early on.

The most boggling suggestion I was given that men should (literally) grab wholeheartedly with both hands and try was flossing. One colleague said her husband will never engage in it no matter how hard she tries. Even I’m guilty of that one.  My wife does, I don’t. I just see it as 90 seconds I’d rather use staring off into the distance over my coffee first thing in the morning. I’m going to give it a go just for the craic. Sure what do I have to lose?

 

(This column originally appeared in Insider Magazine in the Irish Independent)

Book Ninety Two

Book Ninety Two 2014:

10 Billion by Stephen Emmott

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Remember earlier this year when I read Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything?

My one problem with it was that it’s quite a hefty tome, thus putting off so many people.

This gives the same message in 170 pages.

You’ll have it read in an hour.

If I could I would have one delivered into the hands of everyone on Earth.

Read it. The future of all of u and all of ourchidren depends on it.

Book Ninety One

Book Ninety One 2014:

Forsaken by Gerard Lee

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How on earth did I miss this when it came out? I am eternally grateful to the author friend of mine who sent a copy my way.

When he’s ten, JJ’s dad climbs up a tree and never comes back. This is the story of what happens next through his mother’s coping, his uncles attempts to fleece them and take their farm and all the way down through how one boy sees and incredible spiral of a dark, empty, pitiless spiral of a story leading to one of the most gothic, disturbing final images I’ve come across in years.

JJ is destined to be a classic character, Gerard Lee’s prose is sometimes beautiful, sometimes very down to earth but always consistently in the voice of one extraordinary protagonist.

Think part The Butcher Boy, part We Have Always Lived In The Castle, part The Wasp Factory but yet all its own book. I’ll be pressing it into people’s hands whenever I get the chance.

One of the best things I’ve read this year.

The 9 Beers Of (Close To) Christmas

So. I’ve tried a few more new beers…

First off I should stress I don’t really drink a lot of porters. This one deserves your attention. Not only because it’s from Blackstairs who make their wonderful Ruby Red IPA, but because it has a hint of ginger at the end and is as spicy as feck. Lovely stuff.

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Also new is this from Mountain Man. It’s a San Diego IPA and by far the best beer they’ve made.

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Managed to get around to the rest of the lovely 8 Degrees Xmas beers. The Double Irish is delicious but very alcoholly and lethal, the Russian Imperial is smooth.

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Honourable mentions to these ones too:

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Sadly too, I’ve found the only Brewdog beer I don’t like. I’d love to have said that the 0.5% Nanny State was a great alternative on a night out when you can’t drink but it’s not for me…

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Book Ninety

Book Ninety 2014:

Over Our Heads by Andrew Fox

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Reading collections of short stories, particularly from an author you haven’t read before, can be a bit of a minefield. Not so here.

Andrew Fox’s first collection of stories spans the Irish in America, Americans in Ireland and us here at home through semi-ghost apartment blocks, moving furniture in New York hotels, arguing couples, guys on community service fixing graffiti and parents bringing their American-born kids home to try out colleges in Dublin.

Most collections have some decent stories, some dull and some brilliant if you’re very lucky. Again, not so here. There isn’t a single dud in the pack and even the ones that are just decent are few and far between.

In some of the stories he creates incredible, real, detailed excerpts from much larger lives without losing anything in the brief skim you have across these people’s worlds. These characters are all alive and all too often you find yourself reaching the last words of the story wishing there was more. Edible stuff.

Over Our Heads is gorgeous in the most and hugely worth your time. Again, this one is to be anticipated in the new year, it’s out in February.

Book Eighty Nine

Book Eighty Nine 2014:

Touch by Claire North

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You might remember earlier this year me raving about The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August, I didn’t think we’d have a second novel from Claire North so quickly and frankly I’m incredibly glad we do.

Touch hooks you in just the same way Harry August did but in an entirely different world that’s no less thrilling. Our narrator is a person (spirit/being??) who can jump from person to person with touch and has been doing so for centuries (the host body remembers nothing of the time they’ve been taken over whether it’s 30 seconds or 30 years). He/she is being hunted, someone is trying to shoot he/she dead on the first page of the book in a crowded Taksim Station in Istanbul. Go.

Just like last time I’m not giving you any spoilers beyond this shy to say that Touch is fast, smart, cinematic and with a cracking central idea. This is absolutely destined to be one of the biggest thrillers of 2015. Makes you think a bit about what it means to inhabit a human body too. A very, very impressive second outing.

Sadly, for you anyway, Touch won’t be out in shops until the end of February 2015.

Book Eighty Eight

Book Eighty Eight 2014:

The Girl Who Walked Home Alone by Charlotte Chandler

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This is less a sanctioned biography and more part filmography, part literal transcription of many, many colourful conversations carried out by Charlotte Chandler with the legendary Bette Davis across the 80s prior to her death in 1989.

The story of how she gets the gig is in of itself well worth the read (she writes a book about Groucho Marx that Miss Davis likes and she gets an invite to the hotel suite she lives in.)

Incredibly insightful it may not be and it’s quite pedestrian at times in its treatment of every single movie she appeared in (even to the point of giving a full plot synopsis each time) but the colour of her pronouncements, observations and opinions are more than worth the read.

Not sure how available this is though, got mine in the library…