Belfast Telegraph

I remember when a six-pack was just case of beer

By Robert McNeill

Oh men, male persons, citizens of the 'Y' chromosome, what's happening to you? Once, it didn't matter much what you looked like.

It was enough just to be male. That's all you had to do. You'd wake up in the morning, check that nobody had removed your genitalia, then stravaig about the face of the Earth as if you owned the place. These were good times, happy times, natural times.

Now, look at you. Sweating away down at the gym. Your best friend? The mirror. Your obsession? Your looks. Your problem? You are, quite frankly, a fop.

That's what you've become. Egged on by magazine images, and women's insatiable demands, you've become like teenage girls, but with more points on your Boots Advantage card.

I've ululated before about my shock on witnessing at gymnasia the unabashed narcissism of men, particularly those lifting large bits of metal while simultaneously texting. They adore themselves. They're dedicated to themselves. If they could, they'd promise to love, cherish and obey themselves, standing side by side at the altar with their full-length mirror, before whisking it off on honeymoon to David Lloyd's. According to a study by the Centre for Appearance Research - beg pardon? - at the University of the West of England, 80% of men talk regularly to other chaps about their bodies. Can I first make an observation? No, they don't.

Second, the researchers found that one in three men uses protein supplements to try and gain muscle mass. Eh? Three? Protein? Mass? Whatever can they mean? This is disturbing news. You nip out for five minutes and return to find everyone's inhaling protein pills. And what for? Muscles. Boring old muscles. They're everywhere now. Even some women have them. There must be proportionately more biceps in the world than ever before in history. You half-expect the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Pope to roll up their sleeves and show off their muscles.

Muscles mania has gripped the country. The roundheaded oafs with the really big ones walk as if they've got a courgette rammed up their butts and probably couldn't fight their way out of a soggy paper bag. Any fast puncher would have them whimpering in seconds.

But muscles are now the holy grail, while beer bellies are the midriffs of Satan. According to the research mentioned above, four in five men are unhappy about their bodies. Dear oh dear. In the good old days, we didn't even have bodies. Or at least not bodies that we noticed. Bodies were just stuff that got us from A to B. They were what we sat down with.

Now they're a source of angst. The research says beer bellies and lack of muscles were worst for making men weep into their jockstraps. Thirty-five per cent of survey respondents said they'd even trade a year of their life to be the ideal shape.

This is becoming a national crisis. The nation's men are losing the plot. Why can't the state step in and just give us the muscles? Why do they allow us to eat and drink so much?

You say we live in a free society. Yes, we're free to be fat and weak. Please help us. Please save us from ourselves, and our leering doppelgangers in that most dastardly of furnishings: the mirror.

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