What ever happened to the new man? According to the finding of a report published (Yesterday) by the Office for National Statistics he still hasnÕt grown up. New Man hasnÕt evolved much past adolescence. HeÕs just New Lad in long trousers.
Look at his reading material. Back in 1980 and 1990 when any self-respecting man was waxing the car, or mowing the lawn on a Saturday afternoon, between 14 and 20 per cent of the male population read the middle aged bible Š the ReaderÕs Digest Š with car, DIY magazines and even the National Geographic (for the articles of course) bubbling under in the charts. But in 2000 he has his nose firmly between the pages of Lads mags such as Loaded and FHM, or heÕs sitting on his bum for almost three hours a day watching television. The other three most widely read magazines were all TV guides Š most probably so as not to miss Men and Motors or any episodes of Home Front. In 1980, however, 6% of men did admit to reading Mayfair, soft porn for softies, a gap in the market which Loaded and FHM fills with more of the same, but you donÕt need to stretch as far as the top shelf to get them.
Judging by the current success of magazines like MenÕs Health which focuses on fitness, exercise and, erm, health, you would expect the male population to be flexing their pecs and strutting their new millennium physiques at the gym. But Š no, BEEP, as Les Dennis would put it: our Social Focus on Men survey says: less than 10% list weight training and running as their preferred physical activity. Football is still the most popular team sport, but at 10%, again, New Lad prefers watching it to actually playing it. The most popular form of exercise is walking. Now look around you, but I canÕt see a significant number of blokes, certainly not the almost 40% quoted, out power pounding the pavements. So maybe walking from the car park, or to the newsagents to get the TV guide counts as exercise, as does searching frantically for the TV remote when it has fallen down the back of the sofa. Second most popular was Cue sports Š presumably billiards, snooker and reading dialogue from idiot boards. Since my preferred form of exercise is cycling downhill in the gym, I am hardly in a position to throw black balls, but since when was walking round a pool table an aerobic exercise?
New Lad is also prolonging his teenage years at home, being more likely to live longer with his parents. Additionally, he marries later and likes seeing his mates. 57% see their friends once a week and most trips away from home, are for visits to a pub or restaurant. And if they walk there, it also counts as exercise.
Not much has changed indoors, however. New Lad is still doing less than half the shopping, housework and childcare than the supposedly have it all woman. They never did do much and the touchy feely hands-on father that we women thought was going to partner us through our working and domestic lives have failed to materialise. HeÕs a figment of our imagination much more likely to spend his time down playing snooker with his friends than playing with his own children. New Lad spends on average 13 minutes a day on childcare. New Woman doesnÕt fare much better clocking up a mere 36 minutes. But given that much of a womanÕs daily life, including shopping cooking and other cores, incorporates childcare I assume weÕre talking about thirty odd minutes of quality time. Where is the woman who hasnÕt walked round SainsburyÕs fully armed with a shopping list, a colouring book, a fist full of felt pens, a bag of healthy snacks and a wipe clean picture book, pointing out Spot between stuffing Cornflakes into the trolley.
IÕm married to Old Man who faithfully makes packed lunches, tidies up and helps with the housework. Since we both work from home there is no hiding from domesticity. Nevertheless when it comes to childcare Š I am a single parent Š 100% responsible for sick children, school runs, and all under 16 social obligations. He has never hired a baby sitter and he still thinks the washing machine is self-loading and that his shirts auto iron themselves. Just today, watched me dash past him, run down the garden through torrential rain to bring the washing in, and said: ŅWhy didnÕt you tell me, I could have done that.Õ He was standing by the door watching the downpour Š what did he think I wanted Š a final rainwater rinse? Thank goodness he allows me to believe that all bills are miraculously settled by the bank.
But with two bona fide teenage boys in the house, I speak from first-hand experience when I note that itÕs nature versus nurture when it comes to chores. No amount of nagging will get them to do anything Š and indeed they consult the TV guide with academic scrupulousness, while junior FHM Š PlayStation and Nintendo 64 magazines are their only other reading material. Our house looks like a squat. No one tells you have babies that you simply end up living with a whole bunch of untidy teenager, whose father is often the worst offender of all.
Even when gardening, DIY and the longer time New Lad spends gainfully employed are taken into consideration, he still does less overall than his female counterpart. But this shouldnÕt be surprise. Increasingly, male or female, we are all consigned to an extended adolescent hell, where thirty is the new twenty and forty is the new thirteen. We suck hot milky drinks disguised as coffee out of beakers with spouts Š like training cups for toilet trained adults, grown men ride skateboards and roller-blading wearing long shorts and back to front baseball caps. WeÕre encouraged to go to Radiohead concerts and buy chart CDS, long after we should be listening to Jazz FM and buying Mantovani plays Steps compilations. Middle aged matrons wear cute t-shirts with sex-kitten logos, buy cosmetics and accessories with the same zeal as a seventeen year old in Miss Selfridge, and sport crop tops and Capri pants at an age when, thirty years ago, they would have been in a polyester twin set looking forward to grandchildren. As a forty five year old friend who is a lecturer in Brunel University, said to me recently: ÕI bought these fantastic new trousers with lots of pockets and zips in them, ideal for clubbing.Õ Before adding: ŌNot that I ever actually go clubbing.Õ
However in todayÕs post adolescent society, youÕre as young as you think you look. Age has been downsized, as are may of us. We get to our mid fifties, fondly imagining weÕre still spring-heeled chickens in our Nike Airs, then swoosh, weÕre back on the scrap heap, looking at redundancy and a lot of afternoon television.
So maybe the new lads have caught the zeitgeist and are quite right to be examining the cable guide when not polishing their snooker cues. TheyÕre practicing rubbing chalk into the wounds of a long, leisured, early retirement.