This Man’s Life: Exfoliating? Cleansing? Moisturising? I use a face cloth to wash my face…


This Man’s Life: Exfoliating? Cleansing? Moisturising? I use a face cloth to wash my face…


A man washing in a bathroom
A man washing in a bathroom

Ageism never gets old. Especially when you use it against yourself like a weapon. It wasn’t my first “I feel old” moment. (Hardly. I felt “too old” for going to nightclubs in my late 20s – needless to say that feeling didn’t stop me going – and I felt “too old” for my mother bringing me to school when I was nine, and “too old” for going swimming with my dad when I was 12.) When I had my long hair cut quite short last Wednesday evening, I felt like I was on the final stretch to old age, or death, or some place where I am no longer young enough to have long hair.

And the depressing truth is: I’m not. My long hair was making me look older. The hair was becoming despairingly thin and as a consequence I was going despairingly bald at the back of my head.

More was less.

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So, I took the plunge. I had met Damien Dempsey for a long coffee in the Gresham Hotel beforehand. He wears his hair cut, shaved even. It looks great on him, distinctive. It wasn’t quite an epiphany but seeing Damo’s ‘do’ finally made me realise it was time I got the big chop.

I found a frighteningly trendy barber downstairs in a bar on Middle Abbey Street. There were “banging” club anthems coming out of the stereo system and I felt like I needed a full complement of tattoos all over my body to even be there.

Be that as it may, the ultra-charming tattooed messiah with the scissors worked away on my ghastly, grizzly gruaige.

I didn’t even look up once until he was finished – I was too frightened.

When I did, I didn’t recognise myself. When I got home at 7pm, my four-year-old daughter ran towards her mother because she hadn’t a clue who this strange man with the short hair claiming to be her daddy was; because her daddy with long hair had brought her to school at 8.15 that morning.

It was the shortest my hair has ever been. The thought that I might never again in my life have long, floppy hair was a cause for existential concern and self-examination.

As are a lot of things that come with being 51 and not 21.

My hair is one thing, my face is another. I fear I might have missed the boat on that. Despite two of my sisters, Marina and Karen, being queens of the Irish beauty business, I do not have anything remotely resembling a skincare regimen. Cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturising are alien concepts.

I wash my face with a face cloth.

Nor do I have a grooming routine. Nor, for that matter, a fitness routine. Running after a four-year-old and a 15-month-year-old who crawls fast and endlessly is enough of a fitness regime. Though I am toying with the idea of joining a gym or going to a yoga class.

Or I could just up sticks with the wife and kids and move to America, where they spend annually $16bn on plastic surgery – most of it, as The New Yorker magazine wrote, “on fountain-of-youth treatments for wrinkles, trying to close the gap between interior vitality and exterior decay”.

Joking aside (still: I can’t work out which bits of the last 600 words I am joking and which bits I’m not joking), I have recently stated something of a health regime.

I hope it will help with exterior decay and, maybe, even survive Easter (imagine: endless chocolate eggs and the tonnes of sugar and the like that will turn me into a self-loathing blob, fat-shaming himself to beat the band).

So, back to the tentative new regime. This involves drinking a pint of water with a vitamin C tablet dissolved in it every morning. This also involves me drinking alcohol no more than once a week. My head is much clearer for it, and I definitely have more energy.

Drinking lots of water in work throughout the day also makes me feel not only hydrated but good about myself, too. I also forced myself to eat salads every day for a week and I am still doing it. I enjoy the salads now. I feel like I lost a few pounds (though will probably put the weight back on over the Easter and the dreaded choccie eggs morning, noon and night).

While I don’t quite wear white trainers and a baseball cap on sideways, my dress style could at best be described as “immature”. I dress like I’m in my early 30s when I’m actually in my early 50s.

I used to wear suits a lot. But having young, active kids means you will be lucky to make it out the door to work in the morning without breakfast or sticky/paint hand-marks and so forth somewhere on your suit.

So I gave up on suits.

I did, however, take up the odd (make that, very odd) run in a late bid to appear less old. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t go as planned.

I went for a run in a park in town one evening. As I jogged along, feeling ridiculous, I saw some people bowling.

My mind was immediately drawn to Alan Bennett writing about a bitterly cold April morning in Morecambe in 1976, whereupon this conversation between two women is overheard: “I said to him, ‘If you’ve brought me here to mix with a lot of old people, you’re mistaken. You’ve got the bowling green to go to. Well, I’m not spending the rest of my life on bowling greens’.”

Sunday Independent


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