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From the kitchen table

From the kitchen table

I’m all about that base…no sculpting!

Show me a rugged he-man with a bit of meat on his loins and I’ll show you a very sexy Roscommon man!

This week, as many of my female friends are discussing, ok, embarrassingly drooling and clucking over Channing Tatum’s appearance and performance in Magic Mike XXL, it seems that I am the only one in the henhouse who hasn’t been rendered weak at the knees by this beefcake bonanza’s performance, or even felt the tiniest need to throw some balled-up Euro notes at the screen, meaning I remain entirely – well almost – immune to the himbo’s, ahem, front-loaded charms!

You see, due to already falling head over heels in lust with Mr Tatum in GI Joe The Rise of the Cobra and OMG, (steady now), Dear John – yep, you’ve got it in one, I’m a sucker for a military man – it’s safe to say, seeing Magic Mike XXL would just ruin the whole fantasy for me because, well, an oiled-up set of perfectly-defined abdominal muscles, bulging biceps and a pair of thrusting hips on a thong-wearing male stripper just don’t do it for me; even if they are on a filthy-rich Hollywood star…unless of course they’re covered in army fatigues.

Ok, I admit it, Magic Mike definitely looks hotter than that string-vested lump leaving his bum grooves all over your good sofa, but stay with me here girls and try to picture that Neanderthal when he’s scrubbed up and shaved on a Saturday night.

He’s wearing his best Chinos, smart open-necked cotton shirt, splashed on a dab of aftershave and not a sign of builder’s bum cleavage or protruding beer belly in sight and I’m willing to bet he’ll look half-human and sexier than that male stripper you’ve been lusting over, (well he will after you’ve downed a few swift ones).

I suppose what I’m trying to say – but am being very careful, as this is a highly-respected family newspaper – is that distractingly handsome, diamond-cut men with ripped, six-pack abs just don’t do it for me and I was genuinely surprised to discover that my mainly intelligent gal pals were lusting over a group of fake-tanned, much younger blokes, wearing barely-there undies while professing to buy similar skimpies for their middle aged, paunchy hubbies.

Now readers, like a lot of woman, I am definitely an enthusiast when it comes to the fine art and science of men’s bodies and undergarments, but how could I take the gorgeous he-who-worships-the-ground-I’m-going-under seriously if he suddenly breaks into a mesmerising body roll or gyrates, bumps and grinds his way across the bedroom floor whilst wearing a skimpy pair of satin knickers that chafe, bulge and sag every time he moves and he has to excuse himself in order to expel the offending item and prevent it from garrotting his person.

However, the same cannot be said for the thousands of Irish women who’ve been ogling the Chan Man’s on-stage attire.

Look, I’m sorry, but no woman, even those who buy season tickets to Magic Mike XXL, (and you know who you are), wants her man to wear a thong. Seriously, nobody needs to witness that disturbing sight and yet, since this movie was debuted, sales of ample bum coverage underpants have plummeted while sales of tiny man thongs have risen by 40 per cent! Incredible!

Go into any department store, (which I did last Saturday), and you’ll overdose on pretty satin thongs, bikini briefs, y-backs, stretchy G-strings, slip briefs with braces attached – I kid you not – and for an extra summer heatwave bonus, little Cupid heart shaped motifs have even been sewn on.

Then do a double-take ladies as you realise you’re in the MEN’s section! I want to know where traditional black cotton with a touch of Lycra boxer shorts that covers a man from his waist to his thigh, gives appropriate support and exudes masculinity have gone.

While I’m at it, what’s happened to the good old days of the ‘dad bod?’ The days when men weren’t fearful of having an aul cheat meal, or three, where they have confidence, where they strut that gut and own that slightly protruding belly on a hot summer’s day.

Seriously, show me a rugged he-man with a bit of meat on his loins and I’ll show you a very sexy Roscommon man!

Putting our children on ice is not the way to empower women!

With a nod to political correctness, creativity, innovation, and, I would imagine, a genuine attempt to demonstrate the need to improve business outcomes and corporate popularity by bringing more women into their fold, Intel is apparently considering offering to pay for its female employees to have their eggs frozen ‘as part of its retention and hiring strategy.’ How very futuristic of them!

  Well it’s already de rigueur among companies in Silicon Valley in the US with Facebook and Apple leading the trend so I suppose it was only a matter of time before it hit good old-fashioned, turf footin,’ (my new hobby), potato pickin’ Ireland.

  Now I don’t know about you readers, but in the past, when I’ve applied for a job I did it mainly because it was somewhere I wanted to work, my qualifications fit their specifications, it was close to home and, mostly because it paid well. Never, ever in any scenario, even a science fiction one (and I’m a huge Trekkie), did I think, yeah, I’d like to work for this organisation because they’re very kindly offering to provide me with an incentive scheme; a perk, if you like, where I can avail of the extremely intrusive, invasive, painful and personal procedure of having a medical specialist harvest and then freeze my eggs.

  Egg freezing (or for nerdy readers, oocyte cryopreservation), is an expensive medical procedure, costing approximately €16,000. It allows a woman to have her eggs harvested, stored and replanted into her uterus at a later stage in her life, when she feels she’s ready to have children. This could likely happen at a time when her fertility is at a stage where her age and perhaps medical circumstances may have prevented her becoming pregnant naturally; and, bear in mind, for anyone thinking of having this done, there is no cast-iron guarantee that when your eggs are implanted a pregnancy will occur. Are you with me so far?

  Now, according to Intel’s very capable vice president, Cork native Margaret Burgraff, “nothing is off the table,” when it comes to her employers becoming industry leaders in so-called ‘diversity hiring.’ Mind you Ms Burgraff quickly adds that she personally doesn’t want her “workplace involved” in her fertility. Smart woman. I fully agree with her.

  For me, as a working woman, the use of the term ‘diversity hiring,’ to describe my gender and to refer to what is actually the potential recruitment of 51 per cent of the population is flipping derogative, downright insulting and bloody sinister with the phrase womb raiding immediately springing to my mind. I mean, come on, in my opinion, any employer who dangles the offer of this procedure in front of any female employee is pushing the boundaries too far because they are effectively telling us that women are good…we like having women on our workforce, we embrace them; but mothers, nah, mothers are bad; they interfere with progress.

  Ok, look, I can see where the offer of this procedure could somewhat liberate career minded women from the shackles of wanting to get pregnant, putting blossoming careers on hold while they take maternity leave and then struggling to get back into their stride; and as a career minded woman/wife/mother myself, I can definitely relate to that line of thinking; but dear God, haven’t we got enough problems already without a sinister directive coming from our employers?

  I remember when I joyfully announced to work colleagues that I was pregnant with my second daughter following an 11-year gap after my first pregnancy 22 years’ ago.

  Now this was my choice, I was lucky enough to be able to plan both pregnancies and I empathise with those women who can’t. However, my then boss, a misogynist and himself a father of four, hit the roof. He ranted, raged and shouted at me that he’d thought I was “done with all that nonsense,” and announced he would be sending me to work in the “upstairs office, effective immediately because I am not having a pregnant woman on display in my organisation. It’s bad for business.” 

  As I said, that was 22 years’ ago and he wouldn’t get away with it now. I steadfastly refused to be shut away like a fairground freak and told him so by using some very colourful language. I also told him that if he pushed me I’d shame him by arriving into work each day wearing a sign that said ‘unclean’ dangling from my neck.

  I believe women need to make a decision to have their families based entirely on when it’s right for them – this is what I did – and not when it suits their boss. I also believe that Apple’s statement saying, “Apple cares deeply about our employees and their families, and we are always looking at new ways our health programmes can meet their needs,” when they launched their egg freezing incentive is particularly soulless and will lead to stripping their potential female workforce of the very assets that set them apart from their male colleagues. Bosses should be reforming work practices and policies to suit women not plotting and scheming how best to keep us chained to our cubicles.

Thin may be in – but being body positive’s where it’s at!

There is way too much pressure on women to be thin, says our columnist, who believes social media, for all its wonderful aspects, is having a negative effect, causing ‘an awful lot of anxiety for many, especially our susceptible, highly impressionable young adolescents’…

In the materialistic, image-obsessed world we live in, there are so many negative impulses and influences on us to have the body beautiful – especially for us women, so it’s vital we listen to the important messages our bodies are sending us. I mean, it may seem obvious but I’m going to say it anyway…we should respond to our natural urges to eat when hungry and to stop when full. Simple isn’t it!

  However, sometimes, there is an overwhelming pressure to judge and compare ourselves to others. This begins when a slow desperation creeps in and, very often it becomes impossible to conquer. This desperation is all about insecurity, survival and the will to control our own destiny. How do I know? Been there, done that! This desperation can even lead to destructive impulses; the type that are felt by every person who has suffered from the debilitating and chronic effects of the illnesses known as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa; ailments that are becoming far more common, but, popular to what sufferers believe, do NOT, in any shape or form,  create the body beautiful. In fact they destroy it!

  I thought I’d address this issue in light of last week’s appalling headlines surrounding Zara Tindall (Britain’s Princess Anne’s daughter) who was lambasted by unkind critics for turning up at that over-hyped and highly privileged pomp fest Royal Ascot displaying what critics are calling a ‘mum tum.’ Now while I feel no solidarity whatsoever with the British Royal family I do feel so sorry for this young woman who was forced to defend herself, even rebutting rumours that she was ‘pregnant,’ just because her hip bones don’t protrude far enough to set off airline security scanners.

  It’s my opinion there is way too much pressure on women to be thin and this fact was highlighted  earlier this month when the Eating Disorder Association of Ireland Bodywhys said they saw a 50 per cent increase in the number of people contacting their services last year for help. 

  Now, for me, this would be a cause for concern because it’s my belief that anorexia and bulimia can strike anyone at any time; however, many sufferers will never admit to falling prey to this heartbreaking disorder because they’re afraid of its implications. Due to this, I would advise that the most important thing for those who are suffering is to understand that they’re not alone and to remember that as they are vibrant, valuable members of society; are daughters, sisters, wives, girlfriends, husbands, brothers mums and dads; people will understand and will want to help.

  I don’t have any medical training but research has led me to believe that in most cases of eating disorders, the sufferer has previously undergone difficult life experiences such as bullying or has possibly been through the untimely death of a loved one. These experiences are nearly always accompanied by feelings of depression and/or a compulsive obsessive disorder which is likely to be a contributing factor.

  I also understand the myth that anorexia sufferers hate their food is just that…a myth. Sufferers actually like their food but their bodies are the one thing they can have complete control over meaning their bodies and food become the enemy. As I said, just my understanding.

  There’s hardly a day goes by that my Facebook page isn’t showered with images shared by friends of some photo-shopped, perfect, fabulous, flawless yet impossibly skinny model which surely must cause psychological and negative effects to many women.  I know I feel distinctly dowdy, frumpy, ugly and old when I see them. And last week when I was uploading a group photo onto Facebook one of the women in it warned me – now didn’t ask me mind, she warned me – not to attempt to tag her in it unless I’d first ‘instagrammed’ her!

  Yes she’s become all kinds of obsessed with Instagram and has, along with my two daughters become part of its reported 300 million active monthly users. This meant contouring her jawline, widening and brightening her eyes, making her lips look fuller, altering her skin tone and doing God knows what else rendering her totally unrecognisable to the beautiful woman she actually is.   

  “Seriously?”  I asked; “sure if you want to look like that love, we’ll need a Genie in the camera not a filter system,” but hey, given what happened to poor, put-upon Royal, Zara Tindall when some happy snapper caught her belly at a bad angle; I suppose my friend had a point and as I’m one of the few people who do not subscribe to Instagram…no, what ya see is what ya get with me; I had to bow to her wishes and didn’t upload the pic.

  But look readers, it’s no secret that the big bad world of social media, wonderful though it is, and much as I love and embrace it, has actually caused an awful lot of anxiety for many, especially our susceptible, highly impressionable young adolescents; becoming a dominant, mostly positive but often negative force in their everyday lives with some allocating way too much time and putting way too much relevance on image-related activities in their desperate bid to self-objectify and reach their so-called perfect idyll.

  We would do well to take a leaf out of the unperturbed Zara Tindall’s book when she replied to those unkind harpies following the circulation of her unflattering photos, dismissing them with “I’m just a normal girl.”  Er, “Normal Girl” with millions in the bank sweetie. But nonetheless she’s a girlie who oozes self-belief and self-esteem and I for one, tip my tiara to her.

* For more information/help on eating disorders log onto www.bodywhys.ie or PH: 1890 200 444 or 01-2834963



Sometimes it's hard to be a woman!

Well readers, some weeks’ ago we had the disturbing ‘Kylie Jenner Challenge’ where vulnerable and highly susceptible teens were openly encouraged, through a massive social media campaign, to ‘suck shot glasses and blow up your lips to double their size.’

  The painful practice involves young people – and older women of my acquaintance who really should know better – placing their mouth over the opening of a glass or a jar and sucking inwards until the resulting air vacuum caused their lips to swell to an enormous size in the hope of looking like Kylie Jenner.

  The result was a raft of injuries with some teens even requiring hospital treatment due to extensive bruising. Then, just as we thought it was safe to turn on the TV, we were treated to the scary news that soon, in a bid to ‘mammy up’ her image, we will have yet another Kardashian to ‘keep up with,’ when Kim, desperate to keep her publicity generated ‘showmance’ with Kanye alive, announced she’s expecting a playmate for daughter North West.

  Now while I’m delighted to hear a new life has been created and will forever celebrate the wonderful miracle of parenthood, seriously, does the world really need another offspring of a daft-as-a-brush rapper who thinks he’s Jesus and a narcissist who likes to star in her own sex tapes and who cuts the baby out of selfies when she needs to keep the focus on herself?

  Alas it didn’t end there. 48 hours later, we had the promised but over the top unveiling of Bruce “call me Caitlyn” with a ‘C’ and not a ‘K’ Jenner, in order to break with the firm’s sorry family’s tradition of using the letter K as the featured consonant of their forenames.

  How utterly daring and original of you dahling! The world rejoiced, the internet broke and we celebrated a watershed moment as Bruce, (now Caitlyn), the 65-year-old former Olympian and patriarch of the Kardashian/Jenner dynasty prior to his/her transition, decked in a basque, displayed herself seductively across the cover of Vanity Fair and gushed how, deciding on her new moniker and the manner in which to spell it was “one of the hardest things in life.”

  Wow, well aren’t you just a fun filled little sweetie pie, rolled in honey and tripled dipped in your own self-importance! Look readers, as I’m perfectly happy being a woman and have absolutely no idea what it’s like to go through what must be the agonising heartbreak to live life as one gender, while all the time wishing you were another, I have to say the beautifully sculpted, enhanced – if square-jawed and shovel-handed – Caitlyn is hardly entitled to be hailed and celebrated as the new poster girl for the trans gender community, even if some may see her as one.

  In my opinion, and while I respect Caitlyn’s choice, (and envy her fabulous hips), and indeed, I support everyone’s choice to live life in a manner that makes them happiest, there is nothing at all ‘typical’ about this woman’s gender identity struggle.Why?

  Because as Bruce, Caitlyn was a stinking-rich, high profile, powerful celebrity and today, she still is. She still has her millions, she still has her media pulling power, she is still part of brand Kardashian which means she will still command major fees when giving interviews and making guest appearances.

  She is not, in any shape or form – even if that shape is now a fabulous 36-24-36 – ‘typical’ of many in the transgender community who are eeking out a life on the sidelines, are sadly shunned by family and friends and disgracefully often forced out of their jobs and communities due to certain individuals’ inciting hateful discrimination campaigns against them; dramatically and negatively affecting their mental wellbeing.

  You see, due to Jenner’s enormous wealth and celebrity status, her ability to talk pink pedicures with the world’s media, not to mention the fact that her triumphant transformation and global unveiling as a former toothy, all American male athlete to magazine cover girl following a gruelling ten-hour facial feminisation surgical procedure, our heroine will never be disproportionately affected by the ugly realities of life and will continue to enjoy being sheltered and pampered.

  While I congratulate Caitlyn and wish her every happiness, while I salute her for her courage and for raising awareness and recognition of the transgender community, I am profoundly sad that so many people who are enormously resilient, many of whom are young children and teens, are still being forced to spend a lifetime – one that’s very often cut short – supressing their much-yearned for and what they believe to be, true identities.

  Last month our little country made history by supporting marriage equality; last week, Tánaiste Joan Burton announced the application process under the Gender Recognition Bill which will (for those 18 years and upwards) adopt a self-declaration approach allowing for formal recognition and the issuing of a new birth certificate for transgender people who wish to change their name and gender. Ireland, at last, is coming out of the dark ages and there is light at the end of the tunnel for all its citizens. Hmmm, I wonder how many of them will manage to break the internet!

Thongs but, ahem, no thongs!

Most right-thinking readers will probably agree with me when I say that 8-year-old little girls do not need to be sexualised! However, certain buyers in well-known, family-friendly fashion stores are, er, apparently, not most people, because they’ve stocked their shelves with itsy, bitsy, barely-there swimwear…for children!

  It’s a delicate subject I agree, but one I feel I have to address. You see last week, the light of my life, the child who can do absolutely no wrong, my granddaughter, made her First Holy Communion back in Dublin, and while I’d helped her mammy to kit her out for the big day and had the medal and the special card stuffed with the aul spondulicks ready for her – well what are Nanas for if not to spoil their grandchildren – I decided I’d go one step further and surprise her by making up a hamper of holiday clothes for her week away in the sun.

  Now, while I’m all for kids looking fantastic, I firmly believe they should still look like kids, but such was the calibre of skimpy, spaghetti-strapped triangle bras and thigh-high cut-thong briefs displayed on the store rails, rendering me, a very liberal, live-and-let-live type of person, so shocked and disgusted I decided to go out to the front of the store again, you know, just in case my muddled, menopausal mind had missed the memo that Ann Summers had set up shop in Roscommon and I’d unknowingly stumbled into it.

  Locating the manager in this well-known chain store, I asked if anyone working in this organisation had children and if so, which of them decided that body-revealing items of clothing were appropriate, informing him that in my opinion his stock was highly unsuitable, unnecessary and potentially harmful; especially given that the age range was from 3 to 12 years.

  I mean, some items even had padded cupped bras!!! And no, there is nothing at all wrong with your eyesight, that’s what I wrote. Look, call me stupid, but I was under the impression padded cups were for the sole purpose of providing support for boobs, and what 3-year-old has boobs? But hey, what would I know?

  Look, I’m definitely not condemning anyone for putting a bikini on their little daughter (not even you, Kim Kardashian). After all, I was trying to buy my granddaughter swimwear and wasn’t fussy as to whether it was a few bikinis or some fru fru all in one swim suits – and while I know that most parents retain a modicum of common sense and dress their children appropriately – there are obviously some diehards who see nothing immoral in allowing a small child to don a pair of dental floss knickers and a push-up bra, because, as the store manager hummed and hawed, he did have a point when he said, “that’s the fashion madam, shoppers want this type of gear for their kids.”

  “Why? Are their 3-year-olds going to get invited to poolside cocktail parties while on holidays? And don’t call me madam!” was my retort!

  Look, if this is the case and parents are favouring such skimpy attire, I’m afraid there’s a simple cure for these idiots – it’s called locking up! However readers, while I agree with this manager’s logic, I do have to say that chain stores who stock this type of suggestive clothing are bound to court controversy and criticism – and by the way, who the hell manufactures this kind of provocative fashion for kids? However, at the end of the day, yeah, he’s right, the parents are buying it and it’s up to them to call the shots and protect their kiddies by refusing to allow them dress in the type of sluttish attire that looks like it should come with matching hooker heels, a set of tassels and a complimentary pole!

  And, while I’m at it, what parent wants to draw attention to their little girl’s body? None that I know of! Now don’t get me wrong…for the record, I’ve nothing against thongs and sexy underwear at all. I like them, and believe there are two reasons why an adult woman should wear a thong: (1) To look and feel sexy; (2) To eradicate a visible panty line.

  However, when it comes to innocent little children who adore wearing the latest fashions on their sun-soaked holidays, like my own granddaughter, I’m all for the good serviceable armpit-hugging pair of Nana-knows-best-bikini bottoms and tankini-style tops being the order of the day.

  Our tweenies should never, ever be encouraged to express themselves through their clothing, and while this is probably the most contentious issue that any parent will have to deal with, my advice to them is to stop allowing your kids to use the likes of Rhianna, Kylie Jenner or that shameless exhibitionist and cast-off from the Big Brother house Aaron Frew as a template. It’s up to you, their mammies and daddies, to stop being wimps and stop giving into their demands by just saying NO!

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