Belfast Telegraph

Why are men so unhappy?

By Frances A. Burscough

It used to be universally-accepted that teenage boys were the most disenchanted members of society. Remember Morrissey in the 80s who, as the self-proclaimed spokesman for a generation, penned the classic anthem, Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now? Or Marc Almond from Soft Cell who bleated the chorus: "And now I'm all alone, in bedsit-land - my only home ..."

And who can forget those 'coming of age' films like the Dead Poets Society and Stand By Me, where the torment of the mid-teens was a movie genre all of its own?

Melancholy used to be as much a part of the awkward years as inappropriate crushes, spotty skin and greasy hair.

But now the tables appear to have turned. Those gangs of 'youths' dressed in a uniform of black-on-black who loiter around town centre landmarks swigging cider and puffing on the solitary ciggie they dared swipe from their dad's jacket pocket, would seem to be a relatively happy lot compared to their angst-ridden predecessors.

In fact, if my son's mates who bed down on my living room floor every Friday night are anything to go by, then they haven't a care in the world. I should know: their noisy guffawing at repeats of Jackass and loud, lively banter keep me awake until the wee hours every weekend without fail.

No. According to a new survey of social trends, the sector of society whom we should be most concerned about are not teenage boys, but their big brothers and older uncles.

A report out this week by The British Market Research Bureau concludes that the most disenchanted lot these days are in fact the pre-40s who have settled down, got themselves hitched (or failed spectacularly) and now believe they have little to look forward to except a receding hairline and a mid-life crisis in 10 or so years time.

The survey confirms what I had concluded personally many months ago, when I found myself single again after almost two decades and had begun the tiresome process of dating again.

The 'Angry young men' of the 1950s and 'Grumpy old men' of the 1990s seem to have fused this millennium into a hybrid species. It's a relatively new phenomenon, as yet un-named, but for the sake of social stereotyping, let's call them the 'Disgruntled Desperados'.

My own personal experience of disgruntled desperados, observed during countless fruitless dates via a popular dating agency, uncovered a number of variants. Though their circumstances varied vastly, they were hopelessly miserable to a man. Here are just a few examples:

Date 1: Had married his childhood sweetheart. They conceived two children and a giant mortgage then one day she announced she was a lesbian and left him for a sub-post office manageress. He's been bitter ever since.

Date 2: Had paid for his wife to train as a nurse. She subsequently ran-off with a doctor and he's been angry ever since.

Date 3: Was colour-blind but had passed his driving test by bluffing. Subsequently crashed his boss's car, lost both his licence and his job and has been stroppy ever since.

Date 4: Had been living with a woman for 10 years in total bliss. They then got married and after one month she left him for his best man. He'd been depressed ever since.

Date 5: I had high hopes for this guy. He was handsome, witty, clever. Furthermore, he seemed happy and care-free. But on our third date I asked him about his ex-wife and he broke down, weeping uncontrollably into his pint, confessing that he still loved her.

I've been miserable ever since.

Dogged followers of fashion

The phrase 'Doggy Style' took on a whole new meaning this week when pampered pooches from across the world converged on New York City for the beginning of Pet Fashion Week.

Yes, I'm being serious. On the catwalk (shouldn't that be dog-walk?) pedigrees of almost every known breed were paraded up and down in the latest gear, including a Marilyn Monroe-style sun-ray pleated party frock (for her) and a Donegal tweed double-breasted trouser suit (for him).

Models sashayed in front of the world's cameras, stopping only occasionally to wee on the stage props.

It seems money was no object for some proud dog owners who were queuing up to acquire the expensive bespoke petwear.

For those with a casual approach to fashion, there was a collection of leisurewear including tank tops, waist coats, T-shirts and "jogging" pants, with a pocket to carry your favourite ball or stick. And if you think that's barking mad, just wait 'til you hear about the "hairstyles".

Apparently the very latest must-have accessory is a wig to complement the total look. I kid you not.

One of the most popular examples was a fluorescent pink clip-on hair piece which is designed specifically for long-eared breeds such as King Charles and cocker spaniels.

Another is inspired by Pollyanna and features two long blonde plaits which are secured in place with ear clips and dangle fetchingly to frame the face.

Judging by the look of hilarity/incredulity on the faces of passers-by when I dress my puppy Heidi in a sparkly bandana, it is unlikely that many of these trends will catch on with the more conservative breed of dog owners on this side of the Atlantic.

But if your spoilt bitch starts demanding the latest "It" wear you don't have to travel to the States.

We have our own canine couturier over here, believe it or not - SnazzyDogz in Bangor.

Taking mickey out of Albert

In the UK, poking fun at the royal family is one of our nation's favourite pastimes. Comedians have built entire careers out of royal irreverence while popular TV shows like Have I Got News for You draw much hilarity from lampooning the House of Windsor.

But if comics like Rory Bremner and Ohmid Jahlili were to turn their attention abroad, they might have difficulty raising a laugh.

It seems Prince Albert of Monaco had a sense of humour bypass recently when a political satirist dared to take the mickey out of him online.

Marc Giacone was arrested after his " Monaco Politic Circus" website made fun of the Prince, assorted politicians and an Archbishop and was then interrogated for seven and a half hours by police who are believed to have suspected the cartoonist was involved in a plot to damage the monarchy.

The offending website was shut down within days, he was sacked from his day job as a cathedral organist and now faces the likelihood of six months in prison and a hefty fine.

And what was Giacone's unspeakable crime, I hear you say? He published a photograph of His Serene Highness Albert, with a red nose superimposed onto it.

Food bribery is sprout of order

As a child I was forced to eat Brussels sprouts once by nuns who towered above me in the school refectory and remained there until each revolting, overcooked, mushy, stinking last one of them was cleared from my plate.

I kept gagging because they were so repulsive and so it took quite a while.

By the time the ordeal was over I was traumatised for life and have never been able to face a sprout since.

And I've certainly never made my kids eat anything they don't like. Fortunately they love vegetables - remarkably they even love sprouts - so it has never been a problem getting "five a day" into them.

But apparently they are unusual in that regard.

In fact, it has become such a problem down South that the Irish government is introducing a scheme which literally bribes kids to eat their greens.

Under the Food Dudes programme, which starts at the beginning of the new term in 250 Irish primary schools, children have to finish the fruit and veg on their plate for 16 consecutive days.

If they manage it they are rewarded with prizes such as pencil cases and lunch boxes. Trials undertaken at an Irish university resulted in a 10-fold increase in the longterm fruit and veg consumption of many of the kids who took part.

It will be interesting to see if it works. As for me, I wouldn't eat a sprout for all the pencil cases in Ireland.


From Belfast Telegraph