Hilary Fannin: Chin-Up Man proves even more taxing than a tax return

What’s an unco-operative calculator compared with an unreconstructed he-man?

Photograph: Thinkstock

Photograph: Thinkstock

 

I was trying to do adding-up in my head, because the electronic calculator on my phone was causing me serious stress. The decimal point kept jumping around and informing me that, by its inarguable electronic calculations, I owed the taxman €172,000.00.

“Listen, mate,” I told the phone, “I have never seen, let alone earned, let alone owed, 172,000 whatevers in my long, messy and badly made-up life.”

“Go away,” I spat at the nibbling, dancing decimal point, hitting the buttons on the handset until the little electronic man inside my Siri app, who sounds a bit like Maurice Chevalier, started getting all shirty with me.

Maybe you don’t have an electronic man in your mobile phone who says “I’m sorry, I don’t understand you” in utterly supercilious tones every time you accidentally hit his damn call bell, usually when you’re trying to return a missed call from the dentist.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand you,” Maurice Chevalier hissed, to which I hissed back: “Yeah, well, I don’t understand you either, Maur-eece, or your decimal shagging point.”

I was adding stuff up because I was trying to do my tax returns, an unhappy annual occasion for me. I blame my blistering mathematical incompetence on some malfunction, some fault line, in my genetic inheritance. Conceivably, one of my ancestors idly chewed on a mouthful of infected sheep’s brain while sitting around the campfire in his acrylic pelt, whittling down the hilt of his Neolithic dagger – and bang, there went the numeracy gene, along with that little warning voice inside your head that tells you when you’re wearing too much eyeliner.

 

Pensions and pyjamas 

Being a member of the “precariat” (not my word, sweetheart) has its advantages: you can stare at an empty screen all day long, eating crackers in your grubby pyjamas, and absolutely nobody, barring yourself and the cat, needs to know about it. The less fun bit is the annual tax return and an unpensioned future as precarious as an octopus on a tandem.

Anyway, impatient with my facility for teeth-gnashing and banging my head off my slightly crooked self-assembled desk (it also being a member of the precariat), I abandoned trying to calculate what percentages of my mobile-phone bill, diesel consumption and periodical subscriptions the Revenue legitimately allows to be offset against tax, and instead scrolled around my computer screen looking for something to distract me.

 

What men want

“What men want (but are afraid to ask for),” read the title of the online article.

Oh, what joy, what fun, I thought, rolling myself a cigar out of old Revenue returns and yellowing parking receipts. Let’s see what it is that men want but are too timid to request (not sex, food or promotion, one might speculate).

“He can act like an alpha male and do chin-ups, but don’t let that fool you,” began the piece, which included many optimistic photographs of chin-up boys lolling in unbuttoned check shirts or purring under duvets like happy kittens. Oh, okay, right, so the article concerns the kind of men who go to the gym and eat protein bars, not the ones who lose their glasses while they’re looking for the bin tag.

Here is a quick precis of what these tongue-tied young chaps want, for your delectation and edification. First, he doesn’t want to change and he doesn’t want to do the washing-up at the weekend (he wants to relax). He wants your respect, your admiration, your appreciation and your encouragement. He likes when you “express your gratitude” when he “helps” you with something (the washing up?) He wants to date a beautiful woman. He wants to feel desired. He wants “sexts” (with or without a decimal point).

He wants to eat without the irritation of a girlfriend counting calories at the same table. He wants to be able to cry without worrying that you will take advantage of this “flaw” to “manipulate” him. He may be a natural “leader”, but he likes when you take the lead in bed.

He is Chin-Up Man, as dated and unreconstructed and dangerous underfoot as a trodden-on Lego castle.

Who writes this baloney? Or, more shamingly, who reads it? “He likes when you express your gratitude.” I’m sure he does. Maybe he’d like to recalibrate my decimal point and I could express my tender appreciation by not counting how many calories it takes to watch him scrub out the scrambled-egg pan.

I never thought I’d be grateful to get back to the calculator. Every cloud as they say, every damn cloud . . .

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