When Jo’s fourth girlfriend arrived, I knew I should have gone to the pub. I stayed because I was curious to find out what women do when they gaggle. Yes, I know it’s not really a verb, but it conjures a pretty good image of what women do when they get together for a night in.
It was the birthday of one of Jo’s closest friends, so they had arranged an evening of pampering. They’d booked a hairdresser, a manicurist and a pedicurist, or at least I think that’s what they call someone who cuts toenails for a living. To me, having your toenails clipped is an annual ritual to be performed quietly on your own, with one foot placed firmly on the edge of the bath. Sometimes I remember to retrieve errant cuttings from the soap dish. Mostly I don’t.
Forgetting to pick up nail clippings is on a par with leaving all the cupboard doors open, forgetting what I’m saying in the middle of sentences, littering the kitchen table with tools from half-completed tasks, or throwing my socks on the floor beside the bed every night and only retrieving them when the pile gets big enough to trip over. I am a man, and I am wired differently to half the world’s population. Men don’t notice stuff. But we can do speed shopping.
I can never understand why women get so excited about clothes. They started talking about them the moment they walked through the door. I can buy a year’s supply in just five minutes from a single shop. If I find a pair of jeans that vaguely fits I’ll buy six to save having to go back again: it saves on the washing, too. I have eight black shirts, one for every day of the week and an extra one in case there’s a power cut. I wear the same shoes every day till they fall apart, whereas Jo has a roomful, and knows when she’s worn every pair. Neither of us throws shoes away: my trainers have been loyal to me for at least 15 years, so I haven’t the heart to discard them. Jo says she can smell them from the end of the garden.
Though clothes shops leave me cold, I can’t walk past an Apple store without buying a new toy. It will eventually end up in a drawer stuffed full of wires, connectors and old mobile phones and electric shavers. If I suddenly woke up back in the eighties I'd be completely ready for a world of analogue technology. I even have a VHS machine somewhere, and a reel-to-reel tape recorder. If I could find them. I’ll ask Jo – she always knows where everything is. She has a cupboard full of nothing but carrier bags: she even has carrier bags inside the carrier bags. I always forget to take them to Waitrose and come back with another load.
By the time the manicurist had unpacked all her little coloured bottles, I realised that the ladies were now speaking a language that was completely foreign to me, so I retreated to the snug where football teams I don’t support were playing a match I didn’t much care about. Jo was happy to see me go, leaving them to intuit away and analyse each other’s emotions. I assume that’s what women do when they go to the loo together in restaurants. My friend Keith would look at me very strangely if I suggested joining him in the gents for a discussion about our feelings or the latest polo shirts in John Lewis.
So while the women put the world to rights, I watched the game, drank beer and replaced the batteries in Izzy’s baby monitor, thereby disproving the theory that men can’t multi-task. Later Jo found me fast asleep on the sofa. The batteries were on the floor.