Only after a decent interval has elapsed will we ascertain the extent to which Nicola Sturgeon’s One Scotland approach will have healed the wounds that recently cleaved open the nation’s breast. If many of us were being honest though, we would have to admit that the seeds of bitter division have been apparent for many years to those with eyes to see and noses to sniff.
Perversely, it’s at this celebration of peace and goodwill to all mankind that ignorance and misunderstanding rises to the surface and makes this time of giving a raw and painful experience for many. The soul searching can be a traumatic process for the Scottish male: do I continue to deploy the tried and tested Desperate Dan approach to my personal grooming or do I elect to embrace radical change and include moisturising and exfoliation in my toilette and weekly ablutions? So please bear with me as I unburden myself in an attempt to describe my personal journey from No to Eau.
It was in the early years of this still new millennium that I first began to consider the possibility of adding some new accoutrements to my toilet bag. Out went that funny, familiar, furry bottle of Hai Karate which had served me so well at countless weddings and wakes and in came a cheeky wee Paco Rabanne that you could actually spray. A transparent, blue tube of hair product and a deodorant from the House of Gillette completed the metamorphosis in my facial maintenance.
Thus I was proud to become one of those metrosexuals which lifestyle magazines like the People’s Friend were urging us all to be. Occasionally, a small bottle of conditioner would crop up in a Christmas gift box which would always elicit a bat-squeak of angst and bewilderment before being gingerly placed beyond use.
On such occasions you would recall those times when you wake up in a hotel, enter the shower – still howling to a degree with the previous night’s imbibings – and wonder why the words “shampoo” and “conditioner” are not more clearly marked on the identical plastic bottles from which each is dispensed. The transition was not, however, as painful as I had thought it might otherwise have been, and merely added a few minutes to my morning circumspections.
Admittedly, though, I wasn’t a complete stranger to the notion of cosmetics. Why, throughout my childhood years my beloved mother had introduced me to mascara, rouge and eye shadow as, in an exotic and mind-broadening period, she dressed me up in alternate years as a pirate or an Arab prince for Hallowe’en. This, though, was an unhappy arrangement as the make-up tended to run after several attempts at dooking for apples in the homes of assorted neighbours. Both of these costumes involved liberal applications of the aforementioned slap as well as the creative use of tea towels, eye patches and dressing gowns. I look back fondly on this time as having provided an early lesson in ideas of inclusion and ethnic diversity.
Later, as a student and following a gruelling afternoon on the Bacardi with my best friend I experimented with an auburn rinse. But perhaps the less said about that, the better.
Distressingly, I began to detect a stealthy revolution in attitudes to male grooming which left me feeling bereft and undermined. Over several years I began to sense that quality aftershave, a brand shampoo and a chi-chi, roll-on stick of deodorant would no longer coupe le moutard. Things called moisturisers and exfoliants were creeping into the Christmas gift sets of my two daughters and a couple of former lady friends. That the unwrapping of these gifts was often accompanied by peals of laughter only heightened my discomfiture.
Soon it began to dawn on me that some male friends, chaps whom I had considered to be confrères in my rudimentary attitudes to our appearance arrangements, were not only using these lotions but – and this really spooked me – would often exchange tips on the application of same in pub conversations. When pressed, I would splutter something about once having been told that jojoba was all the rage. Though I could never quite erase the joyful memory of that time when Billy Connolly referred to said unguent as the month before November.
It seemed that this was a tyranny; a pernicious campaign to persuade men that they would somehow be judged wanting by women and society in general if they elected not to avail themselves of such a shallow beauty regime. I have long admired some of my favourite feminist writers for railing against the wretched and sinister marketing of the beauty industry that enslaved women by causing them to get depressed over issues of body image. Now, I thought, it was beginning to afflict men too.
“It’s OK for you lot,” I told some of my male gay friends. “You always look gorgeous, sport man-bags with insouciance, wear designer foundation garments and seek to smell like the Queen of Sheba’s boudoir. So it’s natural that you’ll want to exfoliate and moisturise too. But I’m hopelessly heterosexual and am accustomed to austerity in the bathroom.”
To my mind I was deemed to be nothing more than a scrofulous brute merely because I chose to forsake the empty blandishments of the company that produces the black peppercorn bodywash. In a bewildered and confused state of an evening you wouldn’t know whether to splash it or drink it. My self-esteem was diminished and I was encountering feelings of isolation. Often I could be found wearing pyjamas and taking to my bed in the afternoon.
Recently though, I have experienced something of an epiphany. I worked up the courage to add a lotion from the Molton Brown portfolio to my bath and discovered that the effect was not unpleasant. Just the other week I furtively applied a moisturiser that elicited some nods of approbation from my chums. A phial of exfoliant remains untouched on my bathroom cabinet but at this rate it’ll be getting hammered in preparation for the office Christmas party. Soon there may be rose petals.
Meanwhile, friends and family take note: all I want for Christmas is a tube of Baxter of California night cream.