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The Ermintrude approach to ‘men’s health’

How did we men ever manage before? We chugged quietly along, not saying too much, keeping our problems close to our chests, not wanting to be a nuisance to anybody or to make a show of ourselves. We are simple creatures, we hate to lose face, except at GAA club matches, when dignity and restraint goes out the window (mea culpa, I have been that soldier many times; it’s part of what we are).

Our roles were clear-cut — we hunted and fished, maybe drove a big shiny car, and our womenfolk stood beside us and cooked our meals and bore our children (and not the other way around).

So when women’s health became a politically correct issue and an unprecedentedly easy method of squandering billions and billions of dollars, we indulged them with a quiet smile. Even if the evidence base for breast screening is doubtful, it’s a multi-billion industry by now, with its own massive inertia. It would be easier to turn an oil tanker around, or get Donald Trump to shed that hideous yellow hairpiece.

‘Let them have their day in the sun,’ we thought, ‘those gorgeous but fragile creatures: Why shouldn’t they enjoy a little bit of pampering, the adorable little poppets? Sure, they live longer than us anyway, even without all this screening guff, but it’s no skin off our nose’. As Tennyson said: “Old men must die, else the earth grow mouldy.” Even the eternally youthful Gooch is beginning to show a few grey hairs.

Those were the days, my friend, we had health and then we had women’s health. If there was a problem, they could always see the token female partner, provided she wasn’t off on maternity leave yet again.

 But this world is changing faster and faster, and suddenly we had our very own clinical specialty — men’s health.

You can’t escape it. Men’s health is in our faces everywhere, and like any self-respecting disease awareness campaign (hey, if drug companies can’t advertise direct to the public like in the US, what are they supposed to do?), it is bankrolled and driven headlong by the drug industry. Check out any magazine or symposium on men’s health and sooner or later there’ll be an article on erectile dysfunction and a little footnote that the magazine or symposium is sponsored by one of the relevant drug companies; men’s health being the politically irreproachable Trojan horse from which they will flog their undoubtedly effective (so I’m told) wares.

All those soft-focused adverts about what are coyly termed ‘intimacy issues’; I look at them covetously, knowing that I’ll never belong to that blissful utopia of well-preserved, handsome couples wandering dreamy-eyed into the sunset — an Elysium where sex is never down and back-seat dirty, or in the Room 101 of knob jokes, gay sex, and what might coyly be termed (coining suitably ‘coy’ terms is clearly a big earner for the PR companies) ‘solitary recreation’.

The bandwagon of effete Western decadence has started to roll, the emperor’s drunken soldiery are abed, and increasingly I yearn for that kinder, gentler time, that time of pre-Raphaelite innocence when I was a happy, horny guy, one equal temper of heroic hearts, an alpha male blithely exercising the droit de seigneur befitting a scion of our ancient and aristocratic profession.

Women’s health is multifaceted and nuanced: Breast disease, osteoporosis, menopausal disorders, urology, the importance of lifestyle and mindfulness and living in the now, and quality of life issues, including art and literature and the pursuit of happiness and understanding the beauty and fragility of the universe.

Men’s health, by brutal contrast, is crude and insulting in its simplicity, the Donald Trump of medical specialties; is Ermintrude cranking or not? Men’s health has become synonymous with erectile dysfunction. Anything else is just a smokescreen; apparently nothing else matters to us, it’s the only thing we care about, a demeaning stereotype that reduces our infinite humanity to the most primal Darwinian drives.

We are no longer that strength that in old days moved earth and heaven; that which we were, we are not. To paraphrase Richard Gordon, you can’t lead a gift horse to water and then look up its arse. The Trojan Horse has already penetrated the walls, and Ulysses, Diomedes, Bluepillacus et al are rampant in the city, violating the women, laying ruin the temples of Apollo, setting high Pergamon aflame and hurling down the top most towers of Ilium.

And relentlessly undermining the menfolk’s confidence.

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