I expected more from Caitlin Moran

I first met Caitlin Moran at Julie Burchill’s flat in Bloomsbury. This was in the early 1990s and she was a precocious teenager who’d written a play and published a few pieces. Julie had asked her to write for the Modern Review, a magazine I co-owned with Julie and her then husband Cosmo Landesman, and Caitlin’s stuff was really good. After that, she became a kind of junior member of our gang and I remember liking her a great deal – she was warm and funny and didn’t seem remotely intimidated by older, more experienced journalists. It was obvious that she was going to have a brilliant career. I tried

Bring back sideburns!

Our collective Man Card is on the verge of being rescinded. The number of lonely, single men is rising – and testosterone levels are falling. The causes of our macho decline are myriad, but a quick fix is at hand: it’s time to bring back sideburns. It seems these days that the only facial hair options most men consider are beard or clean-shaven. Gone is the cheeky pencil-thin moustache sported so dashingly by Errol Flynn and the devil-may-care ’burns rocked by Harrison Ford’s Han Solo. The Lionel Richies and Tom Sellecks of the world still play their part in the strong whisker game, but that’s probably owed to the same reason

The age of the male hag

This, we are told, is a very bad time to be a woman. When young, we’re warned that we are sexual prey, privy to a misogynistic ordeal both on the streets and in the sheets, courtesy of the jungle of app-mediated romance. Despite being slaves to the gym and learning to pole dance, we still can’t win. We are locked in a never-ending hell spiral that sees droves of us as young as 18 racing to the plastic surgeon, desperate to fill our faces with Botox and hyaluronic acid in a bid to look sexier, younger, hotter, fitter, less tired and more like the stars of reality TV. Did I

The toxic concept of toxic masculinity

Anyone who has passed through an education in the past decade will have encountered the term ‘toxic masculinity’. It is one of the many charming phrases that our age has come up with to pathologise ordinary people. Brewing for some decades, the concept of ‘toxic masculinity’ was brought into the mainstream in the last ten years by fourth-wave feminists intent on portraying half of our species as ‘problematic’, to use another of the delightful watchwords of our era. The simple assertion of the ‘toxic masculinity’ crowd is that specifically male behaviours are a problem. The most extreme aspects of male misbehaviour are portrayed as though they are routine. So young

Male friendship is in crisis

Most of my women friends work hard to keep ancient friendships alive; the seasonal lunches, shopping trips and afternoon teas are observed as scrupulously as the feasts of the liturgical calendar. ‘Friends make all the difference in life,’ my mother used to say. In her late eighties, she would defy the wobbles of Parkinson’s and haul herself on to a bus for the all-important ‘Tea with Daisy’, inscribed with a shaky hand in her diary. My sister was the same. In September last year she marched her girlfriends off to Whitby for a week of what I assume was slightly manufactured jollity (she was dying of cancer), but you’d never

Fatherhood is a risk men aren’t willing to take

Recent reports that half of women in England and Wales are now childless by their 30th birthday reveal a worrying new attitude amongst Gen Z. Parenthood, to the younger generation, is the enemy of unfettered frivolity. Young women, we are told, would rather live for the moment than plan for the future. ‘Being present’ has become the mantra of the ‘mindful’ generation who see autonomy as the ultimate expression of a life well lived. But how complicit are men in this myopic ‘me-only’ utopia we have created for ourselves? Are women actively rejecting the sort of men who would like to settle down or have the sort of men who once

Why men of a certain age love to get naked

Something very strange happens to men as they get older: they like to go nude. I don’t mean they become practising nudists who seek out and enjoy the company of others of their kind. But unlike most younger men, they feel no embarrassment or regret at being seen naked. Consider the recent battle between one nude man and his neighbour. Simon Herbert (54) was in his Oxfordshire garden mending a fence when he spotted his next-door neighbour — Air Marshal Andrew Turner (54), the RAF’s second-in-command — strolling naked in the paddock of the cottage Turner shares with his wife. Herbert says that his partner and stepdaughter caught an eyeful

Contains moments of spellbinding banality: Radio 4’s The Poet Laureate has Gone to his Shed reviewed

The interview podcast is a genre immoderately drawn to gimmicks, as the logical space of possible formats is gradually exhausted. The interviewee, quite often themselves a podcaster, might be, for example, invited to noisily eat lunch while nominating their top-five deceased childhood pets. The theory is that fanciful formats encourage the interviewee to open up. Under such conditions, the interview itself can come to seem incidental to the main event, the atmosphere chummy, comfortable, back-scratching, but fundamentally uninterested: you do my interview, I’ll do yours, no real questions asked. The moderately fanciful premise of The Poet Laureate has Gone to his Shed sees the poet Simon Armitage solitary and at