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Corona Diaries: Britain’s manhood under lockdown – from Dapper Dan to Desperate Dan

May 25, 2020

There must be a word for it in German: malicious pleasure at seeing friends who have put on weight in a time of plague. Not really malicious, but I’ve noticed one or two people we haven’t seen for a couple of months looking a bit jowly, and walking with a waddle that wasn’t noticeable before the lockdown.

I can say this because I haven’t put on any weight. Actually, thanks to sessions on our cross-trainer, I feel fitter than I was nine weeks ago. I noticed this when I played my first game of golf. I didn’t exactly skip back home afterwards like a March hare, but I certainly felt far less tired than I normally would after a long break away from the fairways.

I have no right to be smug, however, because I’m just as likely to succumb to some deadly illness as I was before. But at least the job of hauling me around in a coffin would be marginally easier than it would have been at the beginning of this year. A month in Asia, and then the lockdown, made sure of that. I’m one of those strange people who always loses weight on holiday, probably thanks to swimming twice a day and because the places we visit usually lack the toxic eating pleasures to be had in the UK.

Because we don’t zoom with friends and relatives on a regular basis, and therefore miss out on witnessing their gradual transformation, it’s a shock to see people suddenly turned from Dapper Dan into Desperate Dan, hair all over the place and four days of stubble.

It’s almost as if Britain’s well-groomed men have adopted “We are all Boris Johnson” as their motto. As for the women, best to refrain from comment in case I’m accused of some gender crime.

The other thing I’ve noticed is how many amateur hairdressers have been proudly pointing out their handiwork. This is also a sensitive issue, so I won’t talk about grey hair where none was previously evident and jagged fringes that look like the coast line of Madagascar

Again, at the risk of sounding smug, I don’t have that problem. I have no need to impress anyone with shaggy silver fox locks, which is a relief, because I don’t have much in the hair department. I avoid the Gorbachev look – hair sprouting out in plumes either side of a shiny pate – by using a shaver, set at Number 4, every couple of months.

Though I’m slightly ashamed of the secret pleasure in watching the physical deterioration of others, it’s actually a welcome relief from watching (and writing about) the mental deterioration of prominent leaders upon whom we depend for our health and well-being.

At least my friends can do something about their paunches. I very much doubt if there’s any easy return for the likes of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson from the heart of darkness that’s fast enveloping both of them.

PS, in case you’re not sure who Dapper Dan is or was, it’s a pomade beloved by George Clooney’s character in the Coen Brothers’ superb movie O Brother Where Art Thou? Some smart Brits subsequently marketed a product by that name.

From → Politics, Social, UK, USA

  1. I’ve put your question to a friendly German linguist, who suggests the following German word construct – shall see what some Deutshfeunde/ innen think.


    Literally joy at acquaintances who have gained weight during the pandemic.

  2. At least it’s unpronouncable.

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