I have a significant personal announcement to make: I am a Whimf. If I’m being honest, I always have been. Or at least, I have always been destined to be one. You see, I was born like this, but it wasn’t until my recent birthday that I realised I am now a fully fledged member of the white heterosexual Irish male in his forties (Whimf) club. I just can’t keep denying who I am, and if Marian would like to have me on to talk about it, I’d be happy to give her the first interview.
It's not easy being a Whimf. You wouldn't know where to look or what to be doing, what to say or when to say it. You wouldn't know whether to go down the pub to watch the match, bring the small ones to play on the monkey bars, separate the whites from the colours, or just hitch up your utility belt and put together those Ikea shelves that have been sitting in the corner since the January sales. Should I download the latest Ed Sheeran hit or put on Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti again?
As a Whimf, you can’t do right for doing wrong, or wrong for doing right. I read somewhere recently that it is sexist to hold a door open for a woman. Sexist! Up isn’t always the opposite of down and nothing is black and white any more. The Whimf occupies an area that is 50 shades of grey (in a strictly non-erotic way).
At every turn, the Whimf is responsible for all the world’s ills. That middle-aged, heterosexual white men are over-represented in politics is the main reason behind the economic crash. The banks collapsed because they were stuffed with pumped-up, macho Whimfs. The US invasion of Iraq can probably be laid at the feet of these creatures’ American cousins, the Whamfs.
Then there’s the issue of gender balance in the workplace. “Look at all the (awful) men,” people will be heard commenting on any depiction of a workplace. Most men are in favour of equality of opportunity across society (who isn’t?), but remember, Whimfs cannot help being Whimfs, and that they find themselves over-represented in the workplace is not the fault of individual Whimfs. Hell, some of them have worked hard for the positions they find themselves in, and yes, they also spend long days away from their children in order just to make ends meet.
The reputational damage to middle-aged men, Irish and other nationalities, starts at a young age. I was watching Peppa Pig with my Jonah (3¾) recently and was disgusted to discover how poor old Daddy Pig was being portrayed. He's very English and clearly a Whemf, an affiliate grouping across the Irish Sea.
Here’s a typical day in Daddy Pig’s life, as portrayed in the episode we watched: Mammy pig goes to town, to set up a new company, discover the cure for cancer, do the shopping and get her eyebrows plucked, while Daddy Pig is left behind with Peppa and George. They decide to hang up a picture. What could possibly go wrong? Daddy Pig, being a useless and incompetent fool like all men of his ilk, can only succeed in putting a huge crack in the wall. What a totally useless idiot he is.
It has always been like this; who remembers the incident of the man left to do his own laundry in the washing powder ad in the 1980s? Another idiot, who was not capable of operating a simple machine or following rudimentary instructions without the help of an able female.
Don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are feminists, and there’s nothing I like more than hearing the sound of a woman’s voice when I have to make a call about an overdue gas bill. Easier to deal with; nicer every time; more reasonable. I even prefer the company of women or at least a mixed crowd when socialising, and I avoid the type of male company that involves talking about football while bitching about “the wife”.
But, you see, other male groupings – be they cheeky-chappy working-class types, gay men, unmarried fathers, the very wealthy – generally have support groups or dedicated bars and clubs where they can hang out. The poor Whimf must suffer in silence. So ladies, the next time you feel the urge to rail against the men in your office, remember that gender quotas are not a victimless crime and that, although you may be surrounded by Whimfs, they also have feelings, hopes and aspirations. You might even have chosen to spend the rest of your life with one.
Lads, the next time you pass a whimf like yourself during a Sunday afternoon cycle, give him a nod and say hello; he too is working on those moobs as he tries to live up to some Jamie Dornan fantasy. He too inhabits a world of mortgage debt, talk of vasectomies (ouch), people carriers and ill-fitting Lycra.
Michael Harding is on leave