Highlighting things we notice but never do anything about

Gym etiquette (for men, at least)

One of the most popular resolutions that people make at the start of any year is to get fit. Many of us will have forgotten what drunken promises we claimed to adhere to back in January, but some good souls will have kept theirs and possibly joined a gym.


I have to be honest and admit that I am the member of a gym. It’s the fifth gym that I have been a member of (I move, a lot), and as ever I am currently paying for a service that I rarely use.

It isn’t because I don’t want to use the gym, it’s just that I can’t be bothered. It is so much effort. You get in after a long day, and you can either settle down with tea and Tivo or head out in the cold and dark to a place that offers few comforts. One of which being the etiquette that you are forced to follow.

To begin with gym changing rooms are bizarre places. I can only speak of the men’s changing room, but wow are they weird. Firstly, no one speaks to each other. If the silence is broken then it had better be about football, getting drunk or problems with the mrs – the universally accepted topics of conversation when getting naked in public, between men at least.

And that’s the other thing, you are undressing in a public place. Some guys don’t care, some should really care, and then there are the guys that should be on Britain’s Got Talent with the way that they can keep a towel wrapped around themselves regardless of what they do.

The last time I was in the gym a man dropped both his iPhone and iPad on the tiled floor. I could see, almost in slow motion, the mad grab the guy made to stop the inevitable from happening. He failed and both screens smashed.

There were four guys (including me) stood in close proximity. We all felt his pain. I clasped my iPhone thankful it wasn’t me. But no one spoke. The guy was in shock. You could see he wanted to vent, but he had to remain true to the gym code. So he casually put the broken items into his bag, dressed and walked out (no doubt to sit and sob in his car).

As you move out of the changing room and onto the gym floor it’s all eyes to the ground. You are now engulfed in a sweaty atmosphere and surrounded by walls of mirrors. Then you meet the gym folk:

The wannabes: Women that turn up to the gym in full make-up with no intention of getting into a sweat. They usually have very good physiques and wear very tight clothing.

The meatheads: Usually men, but occasionally women that hover around the weights section. They tend to be very well built and scare off people who can’t bench press their own body weight.

The family guys: These are parents that have been badgered into going to the gym by the kids. They usually wear odd gym gear (bit like the gym kit you’d wear if you’d forgotten your PE kit at school). They’ll either work hard, or simply spend five minutes on the cross trainer to clear their conscience and tell the kids to zip it.

The sunseekers: (This is me) Those people that have booked a holiday and realise they need to bare flesh in the near future. With mates snapping pictures that will be put on Facebook regardless of the location, content or quality, you can’t let that growing gut make too many appearances.

I tend to head for the family guys or the odd sunseeker, but occasionally I get mixed up with the meatheads. But whoever you find yourself with the general rule is to keep quiet and act as if the other people don’t exist. It is painful, and it is lonely.

That’s why I try to break convention from time to time to make my trip to the gym more pleasurable. Occasionally I will get into a conversation – tends to be with fellow sunseekers, but I have been known to chat to the wannabes. It isn’t easy, but it’s surprising just how many people are prepared to have a chat about what they are doing and hoping to achieve.

So, if you find yourself paying for gym membership that you rarely use, then try adopting a new approach. Now I’m not saying to waltz around the changing room literally baring all to whoever will listen, but try speaking to someone on the equipment. Now some may not respond, some may think you are hitting on them, but others will appreciate a chat. It makes the whole situation less mundane, and you won’t mind sacrificing your tea and Tivo for the night.


Dead couples

As I sit in a restaurant or coffee shop, a few things interest me. One is the price that people will pay for a cup of coffee, the other is dead couples.


I termed the phrase after witnessing a particularly painful experience of two people in Pizza Express. As I sat munching on my ‘healthy pizza’ under 500 calories (they basically cut a hole in the middle of a normal pizza and fill it with salad), I noticed a couple that weren’t speaking.

Now people watching is fun. Not in the weird perverse way some may enjoy, but just looking at how people interact in various social settings can be really interesting. This couple, probably in their mid twenties, looked plain bored. The girl had obviously put effort into her outfit and I could smell the guys cologne from where I was sat, so I assumed that it must be a date.

I couldn’t decide whether this was a first date, so two nervous people not sure what to say, or a couple in an established relationship. Had they had an argument? Why the silence?

I was with a friend who told me I was being rude not wanting to listen to her issue with her mother, so I multi-tasked (yes, something men can do) and listened attentively while keeping an eye on the quiet couple.

I then happened to notice an older couple, I’d say in their forties, also sat in quiet solitude. The woman gazed out of the window and the guy flicked the menu. What was up with this two?

As the food appeared the conversation between both couples started: How great does this food look? It smells delicious! Then the silence resumed.

I asked my friend if she had noticed the couples in silence. She said no, and carried on talking about her mum.

Now I realise that you shouldn’t judge people by first impressions, you shouldn’t really judge anyone, but we do. The couples had their reasons for silence, and I completely respect that. But witnessing ‘dead couples’ makes me wonder just how many people are truly happy in relationships.

The term YOLO (you only live once) is tossed around casually in conversation, but it is true. Now I don’t want to get all philosophical in this blog post, but how frightening is it that society tell you to find one person to spend your life with. One person. Is the person you are with that person?

I suppose the word compromise is crucial here. Why we stay with one person requires that we accept who they are. Perhaps they work hard and provide you with security, maybe they know you better than anyone else in the world. And maybe they aren’t very chatty in a pizza restaurant.

But, there are dead couples that are literally walking zombies. Together for all the wrong reasons. So, next time you are out have a look for them. Or perhaps you are being watched.

How to deal with your shaving problems

Whenever I shave my face gets very angry with me. I have heavy growth and so a wet shave is in order. Every day.

Now, as most men will testify, shaving is a pain. What’s worse is trying to shave at 6am with a razor. For some reason, no matter how hard you try, the razor manages to cut through your skin.


There are a few spots on the face that are particularly frustrating to catch with a razor. Here is my list:

  1. Under your nose: for some reason I think there is an unidentified artery located in the septum, as once this starts bleeding, you have a good 30mins before it stops.
  2. On or near your Adam’s apple: cutting yourself here is not as gruesome as under your nose, but it seems to bleed very slowly, for a long time.
  3. Under your ear: this spot isn’t as painful as the others, and for some reason you can forget to mop up the mess, that’s until your work colleague causally tells you that you look like you’ve been in an accident as you have dried blood down your neck.

It all sounds painful, and it is. Not only that, but there is also the shaving rash that flares up if you don’t exfoliate and moisturise.

So, after a morning battling with the results of a swift sharp shave, I stand infront of the mirror and sigh. I look like a mess. So what’s the solution?

I have been tempted by the countless products for men. Usually packaged in black or orange and using words like ‘invigorating’ ‘extreme’ and ‘maximise’ (no doubt to quash any fear of my need for a decent shave seeming at all feminine), and I have many of them lined up in the bathroom. But all they do is cost a small fortune and smell nice.

I was in a chemists the other day, nursing an angry face, and came across a product that I was undecided about. There was no bright packaging, and no words telling me that I’d be full of vigor, etc. if I used it. Glancing at myself in the mirror over by the perfume counter I took my chances and threw it in the basket.

The following day after a battle with the razor I took the product, applied some to my fingers and watched as my complexion turned a healthy pinkish colour. I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered why I had never used this product before.

I headed to the train station feeling good, and once on the platform approached a colleague, “Morning” I said. “Are you wearing make-up?” he said, looking confused. Shit, I’d probably put too much on. “Nah, it’s this concealer cream that I found”, “So, you ARE wearing make-up”. He wasn’t impressed.

So, the miracle product was a concealer, or a ‘BB’ cream. A product that according to my colleague not something that men should be using. As I sat on the train rubbing my face to remove the excess I began to get frustrated. Why can’t I wear this, what’s wrong with wanting to look your best?

As I got to the office it quickly became apparent that my colleague had announced that I wore make-up, and the jibes quickly ensued. Even women were looking shocked and laughing.

I asked them all casually for one reason why I shouldn’t use the product. No one could provide an answer other than ‘men shouldn’t wear make-up’. I asked if they meant wearing make-up was a feminine act and to use it meant you were less of a person? So why should we view femininity as lesser to a more traditionally accepted masculine act? Are men somehow better than women?

I can say quite confidently that I won the argument and the jesting ended; my cream and my face were safe.

I strolled confidently to the toilet, as I washed my hands I looked at my shirt. My white collar was covered in the BB cream.

The next day I shaved and applied only a small amount of cream. It worked in doing its job, and I felt confident in my choice. Who needs colourful packaging to tell you what you should be using? It’s personal (just make sure you don’t get it on your collar).