For many weeks I'd been deliberating about the issue of buying one. A leather thong. Not one of those thongs that hold the willy in but one of the necklace type ones, that every man about town who wants to give the impression that he's a bit of a surfer dude is wearing these days. You know the ones.
My deliberation wasn't about the cost side of the equation. Even in London, where a ten minute taxi ride usually requires a deposit and a written guarantee that you'll be able to pay the bill, leather thongs aren't up there in the expensive stakes. No, my uncertainty and my hesitation was about image, that whole fear of being accused of having a mid life crisis and the clear and now proven fact that my brothers and my daughters would mercilessly and needlessly take the piss out of me until the next victim marched into view.
Finally, last weekend, I took the plunge. Browsing in a shop the urge became too much and I did the deed. I'm now the proud owner and registered wearer of one of those platted leather necklace thingeys. It hangs around my neck quite tightly, I guess about an inch or two away from my neckline at the front, a little bit tighter than I had envisaged but I'm okay with that.
Men's jewellery is a concept I feel uncertain about though. Frankly, and I hope you'll allow me to be frank here, I'm uncomfortable with it. As is the law in London I had my left ear pierced when I was about fifteen or sixteen, spent several years wearing every variety of earring you can think of, then got a "respectable" job and stopped the radical and so rebellious behaviour and looked down on anyone who didn't think a suit and tie was the height of stylish anarchy.
My mind settled down with the conclusion that jewellery for a man was acceptable, but only if a very limited number of items are worn with a certain panache and a sense of manliness. A minimalist looking ring, an uncluttered bracelet or a subtle necklace on a chap were just about within the limits of what was acceptable to be within my definiton of manliness. I still hold those principles.
The most important thing is that men's adornments have to be chosen carefully, then worn all the time and treated like an old mate. There should be none of this waking up in the morning and trying to decide what jewellery to wear, none of that getting changed to go out for dinner and also changing your necklace to match your underpants and certainly none of the wearing a plunging necklace to gain attention for your manboobs business. That's what girls do, though they often have proper breasts, not manboobs.
No, a real man buys a thing and then wears it forever, or perhaps just a little bit less.
I bought my thong and chucked it on, expecting for it to sit on my neck for about ten, perhaps twenty years. It felt like and sounded like a plan. You know, chuck it around my neck, leave it there and get on with life. But it didn't turn out like that.
It's one of the platted thongs. I'm unable to tell you technical details but it looks as if it's a long leather bootlace that's been woven to make a patterned piece, about a few hundred reef knots joined together, with a big loop at one end that goes round a knot at the other end to clasp it all together. It's simplicity and practicality in action, mixed with a sense of style and a love of the outdoors. It's a reflection of the kind of lifestyle us surfer dudes like to live.
It also itches my neck quite a bit and the whole "not taking it off for ten years" thing is quite hard to live with.
At the weekend I took it out for a bit of a test run. It was a weekend it which I saw just about everyone who would matter to me, who would look at it and laugh at me, take the piss or perhaps tell me that it looked great and they were surprised more people hadn't bought them.
There were both of my brothers, both my daughters and close friends. You know them all by now.
K, the 11 year old, and Academic, the academic, were going to be the toughest challenges. The tightness of the leather embellishment meant that it would get spotted within about three seconds of anyone seeing me. A good thing and a bad thing.
The 11 year old daughter with the brain of a Bond villain who has decided to retire and use his mind for good causes was first on.
"Dad, what's that around your neck?"
"Well it's you know, just a necklace thing, you know, just" I answered with all the confidence and force of a young blogger who's left his ID in that hole behind the handbrake, then got stopped at a checkpoint.
"What for?" But she was already in gear for the laughing. My answer wasn't going to be relevant and I knew it.
"Well just" I said. I meant it to sting.
"Ha ha ha" she said and then called A, her sister over.
"A, look Dad's gone gay"
The sister wandered over and peered at my neck. She had that look on her face that women can do, a scrunched up nose and a Presley turned up lip, as if I had asked them to smell my fart.
"Uuuurgh Dad, what's that, are you gay or what?"
For the purposes of fairness I should mention here that I'm open minded and have total ease with people who ask others to smell their farts. We're all different and I'm happy for people to do whatever they want to.
"No I'm not, it's just a necklace."
"Eeeewww. You're way too old for that. You're having some sort of crisis aren't you?"
I felt that things were going pretty well under the circumstances. Academic Bro was next in line. The chances of him not spotting it, not mentioning it and not mocking it were about as slim as the chances of my Mum not having a go at me about, well anything really. As we often say here in England, I had two chances; Bob Chance and No Chance. Or something like that.
"What the fuck's that?" he asked. He's good with words.
I gave my carefully prepared answer. I gave it with the tone and attitude of a disgruntled teenager who's just been asked to tidy his room for the second time that year.
"It's just a bloody necklace."
He just laughed, giving me that look as if he knows better, which he usually does, then kind of rolled his eyes.
Since then, every time I've seen the girls they've made cutting and cruel remarks. On Wednesday K spent a lot of time asking me if I had a boyfriend yet. When I denied it she came to the conclusion that it was because I was too old anyway. A three way discussion ensued, about whether I was too old, too camp or both, to date women. The girls seemed to be coming down on the side of both. I disagreed with them.
But if I'd spent the best part of a week suffering the anguish and turmoil about the appearance alone I could have lived with that. The problem for me was compounded by water and British weather. When I shower the necklace got waterlogged. I ran a towel over it as I dried myself but making too much effort seemed overly concerned and taking it off before a shower is just against all my principles too, far too narcissistic.
So I've been sitting through my morning at work with the sensation of a wet cold piece of leather wrapped around my neck. My collars have been uncomfortable, my neck has felt a bit itchy and I've been questioning the price of vanity.
That price of vanity in conjunction with the unsubtleness of the thong led me to buy another one. A less cumbersome one, a thin black shoestring of leather with loud bits of subtlety written all over it. I'm field testing it and the signs are good so far. It's a bit longer so doesn't get seen by everyone the second they see me. It's less rugged looking and a bit more "jewellery" looking.
The results are pleasing on both of the major issues. The appearance thing is more subtle, which results in less mocking from my daughters and every other person who I have ever met. The waterloggedness doesn't happen either. But I'm decidedly undecided on this.
The balance between the first one, that surfer dude look and its ruggedness and the more subtle but also more "I take so much care about my appearance" look is a hard one to decide upon.
Currently I'm back to the first one. Who knows what tomorrow will herald?
At least I'm not over thinking the issue!