COLUMN: January 25, 2018

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The best non-copyright picture of a man having his hair washed that I could find

I WAS watching the television, because sometimes even highly-paid glamorous media superstars need to keep it real. We cannot live like Rihanna or the late Sir David Frost all the time.

I watch the television to relax or to get angry at gammon-faced men who say “Why aren’t we out of the EU yet? We voted Brexit” on Question Time, as if extracting ourselves from 45 years’ membership of a political and economic union while negotiating new non-punitive trade deals with the rest of the world were easier than cancelling a phone contract – which, to be fair, it probably is.

The point is I do not watch the television to have my life changed and all my preconceptions questioned. And yet…

I do not want to say what I was watching – that is none of your business – but it was one of the commercial channels. The channel had given me a semi-unit of entertainment, and now it was time for me to take part in the quid pro quo of watching a commercial channel – to sit there passively and be sold things.

An advertisement came on for Head & Shoulders, the shampoo I use. It featured one of those attractive footballers they have these days – from the David Beckham end of the spectrum rather than the Phil Neville.

He nodded the ball into the net, with his floppy haired head, while the voiceover man explained that men have special hair that takes a bit of a beating. He did not actually say that women, on the other hand, sit in the drawing room doing embroidery and pressing flowers lest they faint from the effort, but he didn’t need to.

And then there was the reveal. Head & Shoulders now makes shampoo suitable for men, called Head & Shoulders Men Ultra, a name so shot through with testosterone that it made me need to have a shave.

Now I am no stranger to the gender-specific product. All my shirts have buttons on the man side rather than the lady side. My toothbrushes are blue or green. I wear trousers rather than skirts. I drink Coke Zero instead of Diet Coke, even though it is basically the same thing.

But I have been using Head & Shoulders for years. I don’t want to get into the state of my scalp beforehand, but it was shocking. Every time I moved my head my suit jacket looked as if somebody had emptied the contents of a hole punch over me. I was tired of constantly being asked if I had just come from a wedding.

So I had good reason to be grateful to Head & Shoulders. That blessed elixir had made me able to face the world without looking as if I had had an accident in a correction fluid factory. But now I know the manufacturers have been lying to me for decades.

For years they have made out that Head & Shoulders was equally effective for both men and women, a true unisex product protecting all people from the curse of dandruff.

But now I know they were hiding the truth from me. They were not taking into account the special nature of my manly hair. I needed a shampoo that protects hair that heads footballs, gets covered in engine oil, and is frequently sprinkled with the residue from massive manly guns, even though I mostly work in an office and my greatest physical risks are carpal tunnel syndrome and piles.

And now I am wondering which other items I use regularly are not taking into account my overwhelming masculinity. Is the toothpaste I use really suitable for my manly teeth, which have to bite through raw steak and barbed wire?

Are my tea bags up to the task of withstanding use on a building site, where men are men and have four sugars in tea strong enough to clean loose change?

Is my vacuum cleaner handle ergonomically designed for the male hand, accustomed to picking up spiders, putting up some shelves, and bare-knuckle street fighting?

And even if there were specifically male versions, would that be enough? Is it enough to use Colgate Men, or would I need Colgate Men Ultra? I would not want people to think I were only technically a man, say for purposes of filling out a form or using the correct toilet.

I want them to be in no doubt of my masculinity. For I am MAN! Clear my dandruff.

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