Dear Man Who Has It All,
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule juggling a successful career, fatherhood, me time and looking good, to answer a few questions about your new book.
Here at Canvas, where we occasionally publish men's opinions (on merit), we were fascinated by the concept that a man could go from frazzled to fabulous in just 107 pages. Why are there no books like this for women?!
We understand from your publisher you would prefer to answer questions by email. Frankly, our secretary is relieved he doesn't have to transcribe an interview. We look forward to hearing back from you at your earliest convenience (or now, if you've finished the school drop off and defrosted a cauliflower pizza base).
CANVAS: It's almost exactly a year since you stubbed your toe, iced your wife's laptop shut and embarked on the journey that resulted in this exciting new book. How did you decorate your cupcakes this Halloween?
MAN WHO HAS IT ALL: This year I was determined not to let my wife and kids down so I decided to keep it simple. I kept it to just eight designs - ghost, cobweb, pumpkin, spider, witch, monster, cat and owl. I can't believe I'm admitting this, but I used shop-bought icing sugar! Lazy dad hack number one. Some of my spiders only had two legs and I didn't have time to give every witch a hat, but I just thought, 'so be it'. You can't be Superdad every day.
CANVAS: "Emotional labour" has come in for a bit of flak lately. But, as you point out, organising the staff Christmas party, buying gifts for the cleaners and offering to wash the tea towels in the weekend can really earn a man collegial respect. What washing powder would you recommend?
MAN: I make my own by mixing one bar of soap, one cup of borax and one cup of washing soda. My wife thinks it's wasteful to buy what I can easily make at home. She's right of course.
CANVAS: Your advice about it being okay for men to express opinions (with grace and good humour) is so empowering! Can you give us an example of the last time you felt you successfully expressed an opinion?
MAN: Successfully? Let me think. I try to express myself, but so often my tone of voice lets me down. My wife says it is too deep and grating. She lets me have my own way when it comes to anything to do with the house and kids, within reason. I'm so lucky. For example, I chose our cleaning gentleman and lay down the law about which jobs I thought he should do each week. My wife just left me to it! I'm a bossy little mister.
CANVAS: On that note, sometimes a man's voice is just naturally deep and loud. But, like you say, that can be a real turn-off. Isn't it time women just accepted this and moved on?
MAN: Science tells us women can't move on. It's biological fact. You probably already know that women's synapses filter out the noise of men nagging. My wife tells me this is an evolutionary imperative. I don't know what this means but I don't understand enough about biology to argue with her. My best boyfriend Andy says that because most scientists are women, evolutionary psychology will always be skewed in their favour. He says there is actually nothing wrong with men's voices. Unfortunately, Andy is one of those radical, strident, angry men. My wife can't stand him.
CANVAS: When did you first realise you had it all? Can all men have it all? Or just some men? Is it possible for women to have it all? Or even just a little bit of it all?
MAN: I first realised I had it all when I changed my attitude. Instead of nagging and complaining about how much I do, I keep a gratitude journal. I have a beautiful home, a successful wife and three healthy kids. What more could a man want? My wife lets me work outside the home too. She is always keen to stress that I don't have to, and she's right. But I like to work full-time to remind me of the man I was before I had children. It gives my self-esteem a boost. She would prefer it if I worked part-time, but as long as I can fit the housework in, get the kids organised and I don't lean on her too much, she doesn't mind. The one thing I don't get enough of is 'me time'. That's time just for me. To answer your last two questions, to be honest, I don't think women worry about having it all. They just do what they do. They don't have the same pressures we do.
CANVAS: On your Twitter account, you frequently share advice from other men on how to have it all. One of our favourites was from Clifford, a working dad, aged 57, who said: "I keep an oily fish and an avocado in my shirt pocket." What's the single best piece of advice you've received from another man?
MAN: When my oldest was a baby, my friend Martin told me to ignore all the advice I would get as a new dad. He was right: I was bombarded with tips from my dad, brother, friends and colleagues. It's all they wanted to talk about! Martin said I should do what was right for me and do you know what? He was right, I listened to my intuition and ourselves and each other. We are our own worst enemies. Instead of lifting each other up, we tear each other down. Men can be so mean. Until we learn to change our voices, attitudes, posture, arguments, body shapes, silhouettes and shadows, we won't break through. Men can be so unreasonable. We demand to be treated as people, we want rights over our own bodies and we moan about having our penises grabbed at work. Is it any wonder no one listens to us?
CANVAS: Back in February, when you first really established your social media presence, and began to get traction with international media outlets, you asked: "Is it REALLY possible for men to juggle kids, housework, career, 2 or 3 almonds, water retention, healthy snacking and 'me time'?" Are you any closer to answering that question?
MAN: Yes, like I said before, I think it's all about attitude. Only men themselves have the power to change their situation. Some radical men campaign for system change but I believe that women will be women. We can't change them. I would rather accept my lot with good grace, a clean home and a smile.
CANVAS: Do you think women will ever understand the bliss of simply strolling around the shops?
MAN: Ha! You must be joking. My wife ridicules my shopping habit even though I rarely have time to shop. When I do shop, it's either food shopping or stuff for the kids. When my wife shops, she goes straight to the thing she wants, buys it and comes out. I prefer to browse. It's definitely the way our brains are wired and nothing to do with the huge pressure on men to a) look handsome, fashionable and appropriate at all times b) buy clothes and toys for the kids c) buy all Christmas and birthday presents and d) buy clothes for their wives. Men are born to shop.
CANVAS: Sometimes, and this might seem a strange question to ask a man who has it all, but it's like your Twitter account is an actual mirror to an actual 30- to 40-something-year-old woman's soul. What do you see when you look in the mirror?
ME: I see crow's feet, a sagging jaw, fine lines, deep nose to mouth lines, open pores, an oily T-zone, hooded eyes and dark circles. Sometimes being a man is no fun. My dad was right, you do have to work harder on your face as you get older.
CANVAS: Do questions like that make you wish men's contributions to society were taken more seriously?
MAN: Yes! Sometimes I wish people referred to me as simply an author and a guru instead of a male author and a male guru. I said this to a journalist once and she asked me why I had to bring gender into everything. Sometimes it feels like you can't win!
CANVAS: Katie, a linguist, once pointed out to you: "I don't bother using the word 'man' because 'woman' includes both. Check out the spelling of 'woman' if you're not sure." What can men do about gender-biased language?
MAN: Unfortunately, language is fixed and can't be changed. The best thing to do is accept it and focus on bigger issues happening in other countries.
CANVAS: So, as a man, if you could be anything in the world, would you rather be a firewoman, a policewoman or a fisherwoman?
MAN: That's such a good question! When I was a child, I wanted to be a male fisherwoman when I grew up but parents said it was no job for a gentleman. Now I'm older, I realise they were right.
CANVAS: Controversially, you suggest that some women actually find a man with a sense of humour attractive. Really?
MAN: Okay, so I might have been exaggerating, but I do think being able to lighten up is helpful. Some men take themselves so seriously. Obviously, you don't want to go too far the other way and put women off, but men can attract women with their personalities as well as their looks.
CANVAS: Apparently, one of the toughest things about being a man is figuring out what to pack your wife for lunch. What is your favourite thing to put in a no-carb sandwich?
MAN: I like to use simple swaps. For example, I swap bread for cabbage leaves and replace pita breads with a delicious cauliflower-based crust. My wife can't tell the difference. Cabbage is a great wrap for tuna, grilled chicken or cottage cheese. I sometimes add cherry tomatoes or olives for a little twist.
CANVAS: Should more women just stay at home and look after the kids?
MAN: I think it's up to individual families to make their own decisions. It would be wrong of me to say what women or men should do. However, I don't think we should judge men who go out to work or women who stay at home too harshly. If it works for them, I say, 'Why on earth not?'
CANVAS: While you are, generally, supportive of other men, back in March you got a bit judgey on Twitter when you said: 'I don't make my own table centrepieces. Does this make me a bad husband?' Richard, age 29. Yes, I'm afraid it does, mate. What would you say to Richard if you saw him now?
MAN: I would say the same thing. Richard is one of those radical men who refuse to do things on principle. He says, 'why should it be my job to make a table centerpiece'? At the end of the day, it's his family who suffer. Unfortunately, principles don't get things done. I suspect the real reason Richard doesn't make his own table decorations is a) lack of time or b) lack of confidence. My advice to Richard and other men in his situation is to get up two hours earlier than your wife and kids to fit everything in.
CANVAS: In March, you reported that Claire, CEO, said: 'Talking to men is a minefield. You have to avoid bullying them, patronising them and treating them like objects. It's exhausting.' If you could say anything you liked to Claire, on behalf of all men around the world, what would it be? (Note: please restrict your answer to 140 characters or less).
MAN: Claire, we love you! You're the queen of women. Don't let anyone change you.
CANVAS: Some quick-fire, fun questions about being a man. Are you ever too old for mascara, or testicular contouring?
MAN: No! All men are attractive, whatever their age. It's all about accentuating your good points and disguising your flaws.
CANVAS: Can shorts ever be too short?
MAN: It depends on your age. Men over 30 should never wear shorts above the knee.
CANVAS: This is a family publication, so we can't talk too much about the (excellent) sex chapter in your book, but you do raise an important point: Does the "male orgasm" exist?
MAN: It's hard to be absolutely sure, because there is so much mystery surrounding the topic. Even men themselves have contributed to the debate in recent years. Nonetheless, the male orgasm remains one of life's greatest puzzles.
CANVAS: Finally, as a man, what if you just don't feel like smiling?
MAN: Fake it.
From Frazzled to Fabulous, by The Man Who Has It All, Bantam Press, $30.00