... brought to you in association with Michael Bywater

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The Independent Culture
I HAD ALL my lines ready, and everything. All the lines. "What I don't understand is why a beautiful, intelligent, successful woman like you is..." and "I normally don't do this sort of thing" and "Don't not misinterpret me, but may I come in for a nightcap...?"

All the lines. And the kit. The Penhaligon's "Hammam Bouquet" cologne, the caddish but immaculately cut blazer, the perfectly shone Oxfords , the understated wristwatch - perhaps too understated, being a pounds 20 job from Muji, but one likes to give a lady a little room for sudden generosity ("Platinum? Oh but I couldn't...") And most of the maintenance stuff: the sunbed job, the rug job, the nail job. And then the diet.

You have to do the diet, if you're going to be a Male Escort. You can't be ... expansive. It's not enough to firm up the buttocks; the comfy Bacchanalian belly has to go, as do the bosoms and some of the chins. It's the rule. You can tell it's the rule from looking at the pictures. Oh come on: the pictures on the Internet. Chaps who hire themselves out to women for hundreds of pounds a night, though not as much as women get for hiring themselves out to men, which is fair enough; the men only have to go to bed with women, whereas the women have to go to bed with men. Ugh.

I thought it would be a change. I thought it would be a matter of swanning into one of those restaurants where everybody looks as though they've come with a prostitute, and making suave conversation, deep eye-gazing, it's awful but somehow I can't think of you as a client ... and then the hotel room, the elegantly crafted mysterium coniunctionis, the room-service breakfast, the fee and the platinum wristwatch. Yippee. And since Viagra, there's not even that faint worry any more.

But the diet didn't work. I fell off with a fat plop on day two, God's way of telling me not to be such a self-deluding old tosser.

First thing you do when you fall off your diet is decide not to be a male prostitute. Second thing is, give up Hermesetas and head for the sugar. On the sugar bag it said: Tate & Lyle. Granulated Sugar. Gary Rhodes.

That was it. Not "Gary Rhodes reckons this is good sugar" or even "Gary Rhodes is a famous television chef who sometimes uses sugar when he cooks." Just "Gary Rhodes".

Someone in Tate & Lyle has thought this up. Someone in Tate & Lyle has obtained, probably for money, the right to print Rhodes' name - "Gary Rhodes" - on sugar bags. Probably both Rhodes and the someone in Tate & Lyle are doing very nicely out of it ... but what about the rest of us? Do they really think that we are so stupid, so craven, so utterly lacking in any sense of identity that we will be persuaded to buy their bloody sugar because it has, on the packet, the name of someone who goes on television to talk about cooking to an audience which will never, ever cook any of his sodding recipes, because cookery programmes are the equivalent of pornography: not instructions, but substitutes? Do they?

And if they do, are they right? Have we reached such a sewer-depth of degeneracy that we believe the mere name of someone famous will somehow add a special lustre to an otherwise boring product? I suppose we must have done; hence the "designer T-shirt" racket where you pay 50 quid for a 10-quid T-shirt because it's a Moschino T-shirt, and you can tell it's a Moschino T-shirt because it says "Moschino" on it. And? AND?

There is no "and". That's it. These products which offer only the name - we should call them, generically, "Adlestrops" - are the new currency of celebrity secular icons, representing a low-grade villainous magical thinking which we have spent 2,000 years trying to climb away from.

Perhaps we should have a new statute, outlawing such nonsense or at least making manufacturers match each piece of pointless name-dropping with a counterbalancing truth. For every Gary Rhodes sugar bag there should be one which says "Tate & Lyle. Granulated Sugar. Our Industry Got Rich On The Bones Of Black Slaves." For every Moschino T-shirt there should be one emblazoned "This Asshole Paid Fifty Quid For This T-Shirt." We could carry it further. For every pair of Nike Air Jordans there should be a pair of Nike Air You're Still A Couch Potatoes. For every bottle of Liz Taylor perfume there should be a bottle of Rather Dull Fragrance Company Executive eau de toilette.

I'm off the sugar for good now. All I need is for someone to bring out Ginsters Cornish Pasty: Little & Large, McCain's Oven Chips: Grant Bovey, and, of course, Mazola Sunflower Oil: Carol Smillie, and I'll be so slender you won't see me for dust. Or, rather, wristwatches. Rolex Oyster Perpetual: Insecure Flash Git.

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