I Became a New Man, and What Good It Did Me
If I say that it all started when I
was having my nails done, I can see you’re going to get the wrong idea, so let
me state right from the start that I am a rampant, red-blooded
straight-down-the-middle fully heterosexual male. I present as evidence for
this my lust for Madeleine from Emerging Markets, the thought of whose perfect
form filled my every waking hour and rather too many of my night time ones.
Moreover, this new-found interest in personal grooming on my part was entirely
for Madeleine’s sake.
How can I describe Madeleine?
There were so many things. The way her long black hair fell over her eyes when
she tilted her head just so. The delicate way she brushed it away with her
hand. Her slender wrists. The nape of her neck. Her firm yet slim thighs. Her
“OK, love, can we move
on to the right hand now?” The voice of the beautician rudely broke into my
daydream. It was so easy to drift off when your eyes were covered up with a
couple of pieces of cucumber.
“So who’s this Madeleine,
then?” she said.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Madeleine. You was
mumbling about her.” She giggled. “You was in a little world of your own, there.”
I smiled ruefully.
“She’s a girl … at work … I –”
“Asked her out yet?”
“Good lord, no. I –”
I could almost hear her
rolling her eyes. “Oh dear,” she said. “Oh dear, oh dear. Let me guess. You
wanted to wait until you’d tarted yourself up a bit. Well, let me tell you,
sunshine, it’s going to take more than a manicure and a facial to turn you into
Mr Love Pants.”
“I beg your pardon?
Hey, I didn’t come here to be –”
“Calm down, lover boy.
I’m about to offer you the best advice you’ve heard in your life.”
“What you need is our
comprehensive holistic personal renovation treatment. Make you a new man.
’Course it ain’t cheap, but I’d guess that a geeky bugger like you makes a
“So what does that
involve?” I said. I was intrigued.
“I’ll get you a
brochure when we’re done. Fifteen per cent discount if you sign up today. Now
spread your fingers, OK?”
So it was that I signed
up for a week-long holistic personal renovation course at a health spa in the
country. I say “health spa”, although in reality, Camp X-Ray with Pilates and
mung beans was closer to the mark. But by now I was ready to suffer anything to
get my hands on Madeleine. Since my visit to the beauty salon, she had turned
up at my desk out of the blue, asking me for a report on Moldova. Unfortunately, I was too busy trying to remember where the fuck Moldova was to come up with a slick response, so our first contact could not be considered
a great success.
But she spoke to me.
Her voice was like the chattering of a thousand love-birds. And she came close
enough for me to smell her. She smelt of innocence. Of purity. Of perfection.
“You’ve gone off again,
haven’t you?” said the elocution teacher. “What was I saying?”
“Something about the
rain in Spain?” I said. From his frosty response, I could tell that I was more
than a little wide of the mark.
The elocution classes
were tiresome, but at least they were more pleasant than the strenuous exercise
programme that I was subjected to. Each day started with a ten-mile run around
the perimeter of the complex. This was followed up by an exhausting circuit
around the weights equipment supervised by a monosyllabic muscle-bound hulk
called Sven. I grew to hate Sven, almost as much as I hated Roger from Export
Credit Control. Ah yes, Roger.
Roger had had his eye
on Madeleine for as long as I had. He fancied himself as a ladies’ man. He was
a balding little git with a slick moustache and a line in cheesy jokes that no one
in the office found remotely amusing. Frankly, there was no way that he stood a
chance with her – she was way too classy for a slug like him – but I found it
galling to see how he was managing to smarm his way into working with her at
“Lat pull-down. Twenty
reps,” said Sven, nudging me none too lightly in the small of the back.
I will pass over the
other weirdos that I had to deal with in that place. There was the nutritionist
who spent half an hour poking around in my stools with a stick, all the time
fixing me with a beady, disapproving eye. And there was the assertiveness
coach, who spent our session devising a convoluted role-play in which I had to
explain to him how unhappy I was that he had buggered my mother, whilst all the
time maintaining the correct body language and a reasonable, non-aggressive and
appropriate tone of voice.
But the most
humiliating part of the week was the appointment with the plastic surgeon. The
first thing he said when I closed the door behind me was “OK, get your kit off
and stand over there.” I did the usual “Who, me?” thing, before realising that
he was indeed looking in my direction. Once I had disrobed and was standing
shivering in the middle of the room, he began to walk slowly around me, making
odd marks on my body from time to time with a felt-tip pen.
“Streuth! Well, we’ve
got some work to do here, haven’t we?” he said, examining me with evident
distaste. “From what the other guys have been telling me about your ambitions,
I was expecting Brad Fucking Pitt to walk in the room.” He paused, as if trying
to make a difficult decision. “How soon d’you want to make your move?”
“As soon as I get back
to work, of course,” I said. Before Dodgy Roger gets his teeth into her, I
“And you want to stride
into her office like a god?”
“Well, yes,” I said.
“In which case, the
choice you have is between Zeus –” here he prodded me in the stomach – “or
Which wasn’t much of a
“So I guess we’re
looking at a bit of the old lipo,” he said.
“Liposuction. Suck out
all that unnecessary gunk, and I can get you looking like an Adonis by Sunday
tea-time.” He paused for a moment. “And whilst we’re at it, how’s your old
fellah down there?”
“Your love shovel. Your
shag spike. Your todger.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, does it do the
business? It’s no good getting the cylinder oiled if the old piston doesn’t
touch the sides, is it?” He picked up a magnifying glass from his desk. “And if
you ask me, you’ve been a bit short-changed in that department, mate.”
“It’s a bit cold in
here,” was all I could manage by way of reply.
When I returned home, I was a new
man. Confident, healthy, slim, fit and with an air of supreme confidence – to
say nothing of a little bit extra in the trouser department. I was ready for Madeleine.
But first I had to finish that Moldova report. I put my heart and soul into it
– twenty hours a day for a whole week, until at four o’clock on Friday it was
ready for delivery. It was a masterpiece.
I stood outside Madeleine’s
office, trying to remember everything that I’d been told. I was about to knock,
when I heard laughter coming from inside. I almost turned around and walked
away when I remembered that I was a new man now. So I rapped smartly on the
door and went straight in without waiting for a reply.
There was a flurry
of activity as the two people in the room adjusted their clothing. The one that
I recognised was Roger from Export Credit Control, standing behind the desk,
smirking at me. He was still the same old balding moustachioed tosser. But the
blonde woman sitting at the desk, buttoning an ill-fitting blouse over her
vast, surgically enhanced cleavage, was completely unknown to me. At first.
Then as she looked up at me, I realised with horror that it was Madeleine. I
gaped at her, unable to speak.
“Can I help
you?” she said. A waft of cheap scent hit me full in the face. And what had she
had done to her lips? Collagen?
“Er … report on Moldova. Like you asked. Y’know,” I said.
“Ah, it’s you,”
she said. “You look different.”
“S-so do you,” I
looking down at her enormous bosom. “So I do, don’t I? It was Roger’s idea,”
she said, looking up at him. “Wasn’t it, tiger?” Roger responded with a
ridiculous “Rrarrr” noise.
I couldn’t take
any more of this. I flounced out of the office, slamming the door behind me. As
I walked back to my desk, I realised that in doing so, I’d damaged one of my
nails. Sometimes it’s the little details that hurt the most.
©2010 Jonathan Pinnock
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