Postcard From New York

IT HAS been dawning on me steadily throughout the year that New York is a high-maintenance city. Whereas in London it's possible to get by with a paunch and slightly stained teeth, in Manhattan it just won't do. No one says anything, you understand, you just know it, and somehow you osmose an American attitude to fitness, dentistry and therapy.

As an out-of-condition gay man living in the city of perfect pecs, I addressed the fitness issue head-on, virtually from the moment I got off the plane. Three days a week, I start my day with an hour-long session in Central Park at the mercy of Brian, my trainer. No way would I have done this in London, but here it's the least I can do. And I have come to enjoy my early-morning dose of yoga and cardio-vascular work. But best of all, I love to box - a fashionable way of excercising at which I'm told I show promise. Well, who'd have thunk it?

Next stop on the road to the new me is dentistry. We Brits go about deluding ourselves that Americans associate us with good comedy, Buck House and the Mother of Parliaments - they don't. They think of us as people with bad teeth. And if I open my mouth wide in front of the mirror I can see why. Last week I went to the dentist, and after X-rays, an oral examination and lots of oh-my-Gaaaaaaaards, he told me what needed doing: one extraction ("I could try to save it, but it'd cost $1,400, at least, maybe more, and it'd mean a root canal"), cleaning ("a lot of cleaning"), bleaching and eleven fillings, "possibly more - I can't tell until we've bleached". Ouch.

Meanwhile, I've given up smoking, and spend a few minutes each morning looking for a new place to put my nicotine patch. That leaves one remaining item on my personal-improvement agenda, and that's my personality, which I intend fine-tuning at a therapist's. I just need someone to recommend a good one, and I'm away. Only New Yorkers are possessive about their therapists. They're loath to dish out their numbers - as if you'd asked to share a lover, or borrow their pet Weimeraner. And I'd be a fool to press the issue, even if it is the last box to tick before I reach the Holy Grail of total physical, emotional and spiritual perfection.

The other big issue in my life is the great Prada Man-Bag Debate. Those lovely people at Prada gave nice bags to all the male editors at Milan men's fashion week, and Manhattan fashionistas have been working out what to do with them ever since. You have to understand that they are quite beautiful, and made in calves' leather, but if you're not careful - and not oozing machismo - they look exactly like a handbag. The trick, I've discovered, is to wear them like a backpack rather than off the shoulder. When opening it, you unzip with one quick, decisive, masculine movement - you absolutely don't rummage about with it on your lap, like some confused old dear.

I am slowly getting the hang of it, and now wear my man-bag with pride, as a key element in the New Me. So, never let it be said that the life of an editor-in-chief is without its challenges. I intend to face them all - with resolution, and a pearly-white smile. So there.

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