A friend recently returned flush-faced and revved-up from a boot camp run by ex-military men and declared it was “refreshing to be around non-bohemian men who aren’t faffing and moaning”. She is, to be fair, a literary agent. Shades of Withnail.
This was followed by another friend who has just moved in with her fella in Brighton. “He was putting up shelves and it was so sexy,” she said breathlessly over the phone, like he’d just invented electricity. I’ve never heard that quiver in her voice before now. All hail the man’s man.
Whether we like it or not, men doing stereotypically masculine things is just sexy. It’s probably because it seems so rare these days – certainly in London, anyway, when everyone is a media/ social-media type fannying around on Instagram with filters and ironic hashtags. A world where working hard is growing a novelty moustache in the month of November. I jest of course, but it’s like most things in life: the rarer something is the more desirable it is.
Which brings me to my own rare specimen. It’s unusual enough that I have a boyfriend at all, but the fact that he rides a motorbike that he can also fix himself has not gone unnoticed on my inner sex-o-meter. He picked me up from a drinks thing (where I’d been fannying around with media/social media types) wearing leathers. I felt a bit weak at the knees. It’s my very own Steve McQueen fantasy – a man of few words who gets stuff done.
With a bike though, comes a garage, which is where Steve McQueen gives way to a representation of masculinity more commonly found in a B&Q ad, or that one for sealing your wood fence. I spent about 20 minutes the other day discussing a lighting system for the garage, and a specialised workbench he’s bidding for on ebay. “Is he sleeping in that garage?” was my dad’s question. “Not yet, no, but give it time,” I reply – and instantly I’m Her Indoors, a role I instinctively know how to play despite having never played it before. It’s all very interesting this gender lark.
I do think that you really can get the best of both worlds, though. He sent me a picture message last week of two Darth Vader-ish motorcycle helmets. “His & Hers! I bought you a helmet,” he said. “What a cool first present!” was my very genuine response. I think he thought I was criticising it because it’s so practical – I wasn’t. I think it’s cool. A few days later he rocked up at mine on the bike with a bunch of flowers strapped to the seat. I die.