Last week, Country Life – a weekly magazine for people whose ancestors probably owned one or two slaves – set out its guidelines for the modern gentleman. The sort of pointers that your 21st century man should apparently live by include "Cook[ing] an omelette to die for", "Sing[ing] lustily in church" and, strangely, never visiting Puerto Rico, which I cannot tell if is a euphemism or racist or classist or what. Either way, Country Life's expectations of the modern hairy ape are, at best, antiquely hopeful and, at worst, the ramblings of an old major who thinks depression isn't a real thing.
Fast forward to the now, and Country Life – realising about five years late that listicles generate extreme #BrandAwareness – have come up with 39 more directives for today's toff – though, in this case, it's a toffette. Yes, "The 39 Steps to Being a Lady" is upon us.
I'm not a lady, but I'm going to stick one in the eye of Country Life's draconian attitude toward non-binary gender and check off everything on this list that applies to me, a cis male. Hopefully, by the end, I will realise just who I am and where I sit in this crazy, mixed up world.
[A lady] finds laughter is the best medicine
I think that laughter works great as a medicine – almost as well as cannabis. But whether it is the best medicine is in dispute, I think. I wouldn't use it to treat, say, rickets or legionnaires' disease, but it can be used to cure upside-down frown syndrome!
Can say 'thank you' no matter where she is in the world
I'm not sure whether this means "be able to say thank you in all 6,500 known languages" or "don't be a rude prick on holiday", but, suffice to say, I do both, so this is a yes from me.
Cooks perfect, crispy roast potatoes
Not gonna lie, not in love with roast potatoes, or roasts in general. I find them a dry waste of time. People always tell me that I just haven't had a good one and that their mother makes the best roast in the world. But I say: "Your mum isn't a fucking Michelin star chef; she's probably, at best, an average cook, and I don't think her 'special onion gravy' is going to make me change my mind."
Offers to split the bill
Offering to split the bill implies that you don't want to split the bill. If you say, "Shall we split the bill?" it makes it sound like you don't expect that to be the normal course of action, and then put your cohort under pressure to say, "No, no, it's fine!" Instead, you should just plonk your Coutts card down and say, "How much is it then?" while leaning slightly to the side in your chair to pass wind. A confident state of intent emerges.
Knows that everyone, including herself, improves with age
Things that improve with age: wine, sometimes cheese.
Things that don't improve with age: human bodies and brains.
Offers the builder a cup of tea
The concept and archetype of "the builder" as a crude man with an arse crack covered in plaster dust is outdated. Maybe he does want a tea, but perhaps he's a water guy? Maybe he even wants to replenish his electrolytes with a cool glass of Powerade? A true lady would never be so bigoted with her drink offers.
Excels at making love, lasagne and long gin and tonics
These are going in decreasing levels of importance.
Can silence a man with a stare and make a dog lie down with a hand signal — and vice versa
Unless you're trying to make his head explode, silently staring at a man is probably counter-productive, and I thought making a dog lie down with a hand signal was actually quite standard. I'm not sure how a dog is supposed to read the subtleties of your expression and know to lie down via an intense stare, so I would go ahead and just outright ignore this one.
Can imitate Piglet and Pooh voices for a bedtime story
I don't do voices for my bedtime stories because I've learned to read in silence.
Prefers Mr Knightley to Mr Wickham, but is secretly in love with Rupert Campbell-Black
I don't know who any of these men are, but I don't think I'm supposed to.
Never downs a drink in one, unless it's a shot of tequila
What drinks other than shots are people downing? Unless you're in Newquay dressed as a newsworthy plane crash for a stag-do then you shouldn't be downing any drinks. Agree!
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Is aware that the school run and dog walking do not require full make-up
Nothing aside from "going to the gala" or "stand-in drummer for KISS" requires "full make-up".
Never wears shoes she can't walk in
Sometimes you have to break a shoe in, and if that means lancing 14 blisters at the end of the day and having your heel look like the Whole Foods red meat counter, then so be it!
Knows when a man is spoken for
This is quitter talk; get what you want or you'll never be respected in the local Whole Foods.
Can paunch a rabbit, pluck a pheasant and gut a fish, but allows men the privilege
Why do all that when you can get delicious rabbit and fish at the nearest Whole Foods?
Remembers her godchildren's birthdays
I can scarcely remember my dad's birthday, let alone a bunch of punks that don't even exist (yet). Making someone a godparent is essentially saying, "Here is a potentially heavy unwanted burden. You'd better hope we don't die or you're fucked, mate."
Knows songs for a long car journey
The car radio has existed since 1930.
Is neither early for a dinner party nor late for church
Neither of these things are fixtures in my life because I'm not approaching pension age and I don't live inside an episode of Lark Rise to Candleford.
Doesn't over-pluck her eyebrows
No one likes a Camden Market alopecia-brow, so this one stands up.
Knows how to deflect a lecher with grace, and a proposal with kindness
Just tell them to get fucked.
Comforts nervous flyers
I'm too focussed on comforting myself as my heart races during an upsetting ascent/descent to worry about some sweaty old freak gripping onto the arm rests, reclining back and forth to quell the tsunami of lost lunch brewing in their throat. Does not apply.
Would never have Botox
If it came to it I would definitely have botox. Even now I'm contemplating getting the reservoir of fat hoovered out of my arse and put into my pecs and 'ceps. I think it's called "liposculpture".
Knows when to let a man think it's his idea
Argue everything until you're blue in the face or run the risk of losing respect from everyone you know, including this "man".
Would never own a handbag dog
It's not the dog that's the problem, it's people putting them in fucking handbags, no?
Can tie — and untie — a bow tie
Bow ties are for magicians, croupiers and paedophiles.
Might not understand the rules of rugby and cricket, but enjoys the game anyway
Both of these games are for cunts and you won't catch me dead watching or playing either of them.
Knows when to take control in the bedroom and the boardroom
Knows the difference between Bentley & Skinner and Baddiel and Skinner
This is the part in the list where you can sense the tire of the author. It's descended into pure "This thing? More like THAT thing, amirite?" I didn't know what Bentley & Skinner was before now. It's a fancy pants jewellers in central London. It's not very #relatable.
Instils manners in her children, but lets their characters flourish
I don't have children, but when I do they will be browbeaten into silence. I guarantee you the sort of mother who reads Country Life is the sort to let her precious Hugo spit on my American Hot and scream until the very beams holding up the Wimbledon Pizza Express begin to rumble.
Knows when to deadhead a rose
This just makes me think of a school bully putting a delicate rose in a headlock, noogie-ing its precious pollen off until wilted.
Is never afraid to overdress
I'm a typically flamboyant metrosexual millennial male and thus am never, ever afraid to over dress. Yaas! #work.
Can handle a sports car, a sit-on mower and a ski lift
These are going in decreasing levels of importance.
Knows when to stop dyeing her hair
Is this an ageist thing, or does it mean, "Don't bleach your scalp to the point where it turns into a boiling, bubbling salt flat"? Either way, I'll only stop dyeing when I start dying, right girls?
Teaches her son to iron his shirts and her daughter to change a fuse
I for one will not be lifting little Helen (?) aloft, face pressed against the sparking, spluttering fuse box so she can act as a conductor for both of our fatal electrocutions.
Owns a little black dress
I do not own one, but a quick survey of the women on my desk shows that indeed this stereotype is accurate.
Always has a hanky
Like the gloomy damp one stuffed up your gran's sleeve.
Knows that 'brevity is the soul of lingerie'
Anyone who says this out loud is a Tory and a nonce.
Has kissed several frogs and made them feel like princes
I have only kissed people who are of equal or greater levels of attractiveness, so I cannot abide or endorse this loser mentality.
However lucky in life, she doesn't boast on Facebook
Boasting on Facebook is fine; don't let Country Life tell you you shouldn't be proud of your Victoria sponge courtesy of Mary Berry. Country Life can fuck off.§
So there we have it. I don't really feel at home with Country Life's assessment of my burgeoning womanhood, but I'm perhaps not the target audience. I am now deeply in love with Rupert Campbell-Black, whoever the fuck he is, and am making moves to marry him in the spring.
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