In what can only be considered the perfect example of a double standard, women are practically wetting themselves at the sight of Channing Tatum and his spunky co-stars dropping trou in the movie Magic Mike. And yet, should a man cock an appreciative eyebrow at a comely lass, he is instantly labelled a boorish pervert.

When I confronted my female Facebook friends about their disgusting behaviour, the answers ran along the lines of “It’s our turn to leer.”

That’s all fine and dandy, but if women are suddenly so desperate to treat men as little more than meat puppets, so eager to demean us for the sake of their depraved fantasies, then the least I can do is give them something to stare at. Which is why I’ve decided to become a male stripper, um, exotic dancer.

I mean, seriously, how hard can it be? I’ve done my research — and by research I mean I’ve watched the trailer for Magic Mike — and have narrowed down the attributes a successful exotic dancer needs to a mere three.

One: The ability to dance. No problem: I’ve been wriggling my booty ever since the Frug was invented. Why, just the other day I was gyrating around the bedroom with a look of pure intensity on my face. The routine featured me hopping on one leg while clutching my other foot with both hands. That particular shimmy may have been the result of a close encounter between a baby toe and a bed post but picture that performed in a thong and suddenly it takes on a whole new context.

Two: Muscular build. According to Gray’s Anatomy (the medical research text, not the TV series), all men possess the same muscles. Some of us just prefer to keep our six-packs wrapped in several layers of protective insulation.

Three: Hairless body. OK, this one could be a bit trickier, especially for those whose body hair most closely resembles a pelt. Once considered a desirable indication of virility, back hair is now somehow considered, well, gross. Apparently 21st century women prefer their men as sleek as an otter. Or as a 10-year-old boy.

But how does one achieve a fur-less body? Lawnmower? Line trimmer? Secateurs? A female acquaintance recommended laser hair removal. A full-body Brazilian, as it were. Maybe I’ve seen Goldfinger one too many times, but just the mental image of a red-hot laser scorching one’s nether lands is enough to cause me to shrink in fear. However, if that’s what it takes to make women salivate, then let the zap-zap-zapping begin.

So there you have it: I’m turning in my journalist’s notebook for a spangled g-string and taking to the stage. Prepare to be astounded.

There is only one small detail I have yet to work out. Magic Mike is set in America, a country which still uses $1 bills, perfect for stuffing into skimpy outfits. But no matter how skilled I am as a dancer, I still may find it tricky to shake my money maker with my stubbies full of gold coins. And then there’s that whole chafing thing to consider.

It will all be worth it, of course, when the women start screaming. Too bad the music will be so loud I won’t be able to hear what they’re yelling.

This column originally appeared in the August 8 edition of the Napier (NZ) Courier.


The beauty of being a section editor at a community newspaper is that the senior editor is usually too busy working on the front pages to worry about anything else. That meant I was pretty much left to my own devices when it came to producing the Sports section.

I appreciated the independence this lack of interference afforded me (although there was that one editor who complained about “goddamn roundball” during the entire high school basketball season).

Flying solo also allowed me the opportunity to experiment and, on at least one occasion, nudge the boundaries of good taste.

In writing about the numerous injuries suffered by the players on one high school girls soccer team, I referred to them as “a chiropractor’s wet dream.” Mentioning nocturnal emissions in a story about teenage girls? Yeah, probably not what you’d call a shining moment in my journalism career.

I recently had occasion to recall that bit of cheekiness when I read this headline in the March 29, 2011 edition of The (NZ) Dominion Post: Kapiti police to take hard line on sex in the sand.

“Hard” and “sex” in the same headline? Brilliant. The fact a copy editor actually got away with that kind of double entendre? Priceless.

The story? Oh, yeah, it concerned police making plans to “start targeting exhibitionist nudists at a Kapiti Coast beach” because residents were complaining about “offensive sexual behaviour.” No word on whether the complaints were based on jealousy. Considering that the majority of the offenders were gay men, I’m guessing no.

The part of the story that caught my attention was this: “Nudity is allowed on beaches unless it is deemed offensive.”

Nudity is allowed on New Zealand beaches? Oh. Really.

The thing is, I’ve visited several beaches in New Zealand – hell, both cities I’ve lived in have bordered the ocean – and I have yet to witness a single incidence of nudity.

Maybe there are secret beaches only sun worshippers know about, their locations carefully guarded by those who prefer their pink bits to be baked to a golden-brown. A Fight Club for hedonists that no one else knows about because, well, no one talks about Fight Club.

I’ve never had much luck when it comes to catching a sandy eyeful. When I was a young man growing up in the Fraser Valley, the place everyone giggled about was Wreck Beach, but it was located in Vancouver and I simply had no way of transporting my horny teenage self to that fleshy Shangri-La.

Besides, I’d heard the beach was located at the foot of steep bluffs and I had this vision of abseiling all the way to the bottom, arriving breathless and covered in deep scratches from the underbrush, only to find myself surrounded by naked people from my parents’ generation who could best be described as, well, “saggy.” Or “lumpy.” Hardly worth the chunks of skin I’d just left behind on every bramble and thorn.

I recently spent a year in the Cook Islands where the locals swim in their clothes and those businesses who sell bathing suits must weep into their empty cash registers. I attended one company’s Christmas pool party where a young girl leaped into the water wearing a white dress that would not have looked out of place at her First Communion.

There was the occasional report – invariably uttered in a tone of moral outrage – about European tourists sunning themselves in the nude, flaunting both themselves and the Christian values of the locals, but that always seemed to occur on a beach situated exactly opposite wherever I happened to be located at the time.

I’ve always maintained that a man can never see enough boobies in his life but, for some strange reason, I seem to have already achieved my allotted quota. If I’d known I was approaching my designated cut-off point, I would have paid more attention. Or at least taken photos.

Those of us who reside on Planet Man possess many special talents and, if you give me a minute, I’m sure I can think of a couple.

In the meantime, there is one concept we have never quite grasped — laundry.

When I was a kid, I simply left my clothes scattered in heaps and mounds on the floor and, when I arrived home from school, they had all been cleaned and tucked into drawers or hung in closets. I’m not sure how that happened, but I’m pretty sure it was fairies.

For some reason, those magical creatures seem to have abandoned me. Maybe they were tired after all these years although, considering I own all of one pair of jeans, I don’t think they were exactly overworked. Maybe they were frightened off by Viking Woman. She can be scary at times, usually after I’ve done something she calls “a man thing,” whatever that means.

With no fairies available, Viking Woman took me firmly by the hand and introduced me to that mechanical beast sitting behind the folding doors in our bathroom. It’s called a washing machine because — how cool is this? — it washes clothes. Who knew?

(I know what you’re thinking: John, where is the dryer — which, wait for it, dries clothes — that should be nestled next to the washing thingee? To which I  can only reply, well, this is New Zealand, after all, where electricity is expensive and clotheslines are free.)

Operating a washing machine appears rather simple, even by Planet Man standards. You throw clothes in, add some kind of detergent, perhaps some fabric softener, press a button or three, and go have a nap to recuperate from all that effort.

Easy, eh?

Um, no.

Because, apparently, there are light clothes and dark clothes and some rocket scientist has decreed that those two groupings should never mingle. At least not underwater and covered in soap.

And then, as if my brain wasn’t full enough already — as if I wasn’t still struggling to grasp the concept that people, not fairies, clean clothes — Viking Woman threw in the fun fact that “light” does not necessarily mean “white.”

She went on to explain how pink is actually considered a “light” color. At least where women’s, um, dainties, are concerned.

So let me get this straight — there are light and dark colors and then variations of light colors? And people wonder why the residents of Planet Man tend to bumble around with a look of perpetual confusion on their faces. Hello?

I had a further lesson in all things laundry when I spent two days helping out at a seniors’ residence. This is what I learned: after washing and drying, there is a third step and it’s called folding.

Sweet Baby Jesus, is there no end to this madness?

We need to get one thing straight right now: Men scrunch. We roll. We wad. We pull open drawers and jam. We tuck under beds. We pitch into closets.

What we do not do is fold.

But there I was, mouth gaping in wonderment, as Florence demonstrated the art of grasping corners and then drawing them together once, twice, maybe three times. And then smoothing it all down, adding the item to a pile and moving on to the next one. And the next 400 after that.

To my credit, I managed to learn the art of folding towels by lunchtime. Facecloths proved a bit finicky, if only because they’re so small. Sheets — those great flappy  bastards — are tricky but doable. In fact, as long as it was square or rectangle, I managed to successfully convert it from a rumpled heap into a tight, neat package.

And then I came to the round tablecloths. Followed by fitted sheets.

Tonight I will pray for the fairies to come back. I will leave muffins at the door as a gift. I will promise to stop making short jokes. I will stop laughing during Tom Cruise movies.

Because I’ve had it with this whole laundry thing.

And, if the fairies refuse to come back, if not even the lure of double chocolate/macadamia nut muffins is enough to convince them to risk the wrath of Viking Woman, then I will have no choice but to become a nudist.

Yes, it will be a bit breezy in the netherlands, what with this being winter and all, but at least I won’t have to worry about figuring out the difference between “light” and “dark.”

That’s because, after a few chilly nights, everything will be blue. And then, when the pieces start to drop off, there will be red. All dark colors — I know that for a fact.

Burlesque fever is currently sweeping New Zealand, bringing with it the inevitable discussion about whether this is vaudeville with pasties or strippers who can sing.

Either way, it’s all about torturing the inhabitants of Planet Man with the possibility of a glimpse of bare female flesh. And because said inhabitants can never see enough breasts in their lifetime, burlesque is suddenly very popular.

I won’t be going to any of the shows. I had my fill of naked women hanging upside down from metal poles when I was younger and easily impressed and, according to Viking Woman, not yet trained in the art of appreciating the female of the species. And by that I mean I had yet to learn to cook.

Actually, I was well into my 20s before I attended my first peeler show. Oddly enough, it was also the first time I’d been in a room with a naked woman I wasn’t about to, you know, engage in a discussion with about the differences between Star Trek and Star Wars.

I was embarrassed and nervous. And slightly confused by the logic behind having to occupy the table closest to the stage. I kept my head down during the first performance, staring into the watery depths of my Coke. When I did happen to look up, if only to see what had prompted all the hoots and whistles, there it was, the Danger Zone, pretty much in my face. Oh, hello. Fancy meeting you. And, yes, it is rather hot in here.

It wasn’t the close encounter with, um, you know, female genitalia that concerned me. What I dreaded most was having a stripper exotic dancer watch me as I watched her. I mean, how embarrassing would that be?

But, of course, when I was finally brave enough to elevate my eyes, she was staring straight at me.

That’s right — while I’m gazing upon her baby maker, she’s looking at my face. And we’re both thinking the same thing: I sure hope I unplugged the iron.

And then, just as the first song was winding up, she happened to catch sight of one of my tablemates.

“Roger?” She squatted down and started chatting while the men on the other side of the stage were left holding their dollar bills in one hand and their, uh, wallets in the other.

As it turned out, Roger had gone to high school with the young lady and, after her set, she donned a robe and came to sit at our table.

Can you believe it? I’m a friend of a friend of a stripper. I mean, it doesn’t get much better than that now, does it? On Planet Man, I practically rule.

High five! Oh crap, I spilled my Coke!

Actually most of my stories about strippers involve Coca-Cola. Funny that.

For example:

A family jaunt to Las Vegas, about five years ago. My brother JK and I decide to check out the Glitter Gulch on Fremont Street. After all, we both live on Planet Man, which means we are cool, and by cool I mean sophisticated, and by sophisticated I mean we’re standing outside on the sidewalk hoping to get a sneak peek every time the doors opens. As you do.

We’d actually made it inside the doors during an earlier visit years before. At that time, we’d caught a quick sight of a stage at the front of the room, with tables filling the space in front of it. And then, noticing it was almost time for the Fremont Street Experience, we’d turned right round and walked out. Light show in the sky? Would not want to miss that.

But now we’re back, standing in front of the doors again, double-dog-daring each other to go in, two 40-somethings acting like 10-year-old boys egging each other on to enter the creepy abandoned house and silently praying the other one says no so we can leave and never come back.

But then somehow we’re inside and this guy is leading us further into the twilight that passes for illumination. While attempting to avoid walking into walls, I realize the interior has changed. The stage is gone, the tables and chairs are gone. In their place are small platforms, surrounded by bar stools.

“Whaddya want ta drink?” the guy asks after depositing us at one of the clusters.

I look at JK. He nods. I waggle a pair of fingers. “Two Cokes, please.”

He brings them back to where we’re now perched on bar stools. “Eighteen bucks.”

I don’t blink. I don’t breathe. I don’t crack wise with some comment about how I just wanted to buy a drink and not the entire company.

I hand over a twenty. “Keep the change.”

There is movement behind us. A woman is now standing on our platform. We’re practically nose to kneecap. The music blares. The clothes start to drop. We grab up our expensive glasses of ice-clogged Coke and back away.

This must be some kind of signal because, from some nearby darkened alcove, another woman appears. She puts an arm around my shoulders.

She leans in close. “How’s your day going?”

There is an ice cube in my mouth. I bite it in half and swallow the chunks whole.

“Fine,” I say. “My day is going just fine. Thank you for asking.”

“You boys wanna come in back with me?” She’s running her fingers across my neck. “I’ll give you a dance.”

I look at JK. He nods.

Later, when it’s over and our hearts have stopped galloping, we compare notes.

Yes, that was the fastest either of us had ever chugged a glass of Coke. And, no, neither of us had ever run away from a woman before.

We’re returning to Vegas this year. We won’t be going anywhere near Fremont Street.

One of my wonderful, beautiful step-daughters, knowing how much I miss the Great White North, sent me a gift to remind me of home. No, it wasn’t a copy of The Hockey News — I should be so lucky — but, rather, a DVD entitled Girls Gone Wild: Canada.

I knew of this series, of course, but had never viewed any of its, um, parts. Depending on your opinion, its founder, Joe Francis is allegedly a) an asshole; b) a complete asshole; c) a pornographer; d) a hopeless idiot when it comes to math, especially the part where you’re supposed to subtract the current year from someone’s birth year and arrive at a number at least equal to the legal age; e) a tax evader; or, f) all of the above.

I had to watch the DVD, if only because one of the commandments in the Planet Man Handbook reads, “Thou can never see enough boobies in your lifetime.”

Plus, the whole Canada angle intrigued me. I needed to hear someone say “eh” and “hoser” and “aboot,” having resided too long in New Zealand and grown frustrated with people ending sentences with “sweet as.” Sweet as what, people!?! Finish your bloody thought, for chrissakes!

There was a time when I would have watched this DVD to the final second, chair drawn close to the TV, one finger poised over the Pause button, another over Rewind, eyes wide and staring, breathing hard and ragged through my mouth.

But not this time.

In fact, I only watched maybe 10 minutes before pressing Eject.

It’s not that I’d grown bored with 20-something sweeties displaying and caressing their perky bits. My new passport photo may look like something taken during an autopsy but my ticker is still turning over and pumping blood to all the right places.

No, the reason I hit Stop was a combination of embarrassment, despair and sadness. I actually felt bad for these girls, plied as they were with free booze, flashing dazed and confused smiles as they dutifully followed the instructions of an offscreen cameraman (Francis himself?) to shed their tops and, because they were invariably teamed up with a best friend, to nuzzle each other’s breasts.

For what? The free beer? Free T-shirts? A free hat? The opportunity to be “famous” via the DVD? Was money exhanged and, if so, how many pieces of silver buys one’s dignity these days?

I found myself raising my eyes from these ladies’ breasts to gaze instead at their faces. Realizing this was not simply meat with nipples, but real people, with feelings and aspirations and dreams and entire lives lying ahead of them.

They might have been too drunk to feel degraded, but I certainly wasn’t. I was stone-cold sober and left shaking my head at how stupid people can be. And realizing the name at the top of that Stupid List was my own for watching this crap.

Oh, Christ, I’m starting to sound like a puritan here and I assure you, Dear Reader, that is not the case. I enjoy living on Planet Man, where porn and sports and scratching and farting and muscle cars and caffeine addiction are part of the air we breathe. The day I do not want to look at a winsome young lass is the day six of my closest friends will be carrying me into a church.

But I’m tired of being a grotty-minded voyeur. I’m bored with watching professional copulators, with their exaggerated size and endurance.  They leave me feeling less of a man and serve only to deflate my self-esteem. Why the hell would I want that?

Face it, I will never be the next Johnny Wad. But I can be a better John Ireland.

And if that means throwing a gift DVD in the rubbish, so be it. If that means deleting from my Internet Favorites, consider it done.

Maybe it’s a sign that I’m getting old. I prefer to think of it as an indication that I’m growing wiser.