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Bachelors want women who glow, purr or slither

BOOK launches are not events normally associated with girls in fishnet tights and leotards with no bottoms. But most book launches are not in aid of Nesta Wyn Ellis, John Major's biographer (principal revelation: John Major is sexy), who has now compiled Britain's Top 100 Eligible Bachelors. She celebrated publication of this latest work at Stringfellow's on Wednesday night (Peter Stringfellow is bachelor number 30), where the first sight to greet arriving guests was not the usual scruffy author or intense literary type, but girls with no cellulite and the willingness to walk around with only fishnet tights covering their buttocks.

Nesta arrived late, making an entrance to the orchestrated popping of flashbulbs. She decided to write the book, she told me, because she is 'quite good at men'. This may be true, though several of her list are homosexual, and at least one represents social death, having last been seen hiding in a pigsty in France (James Hewitt, number 58, 'best known for not having had an affair with Princess Di'), though personally I'm not sure number 95, Reggie Kray, would get you into the best parties either. But then Nesta, who is 53, says she's only slept with three of them. She has very long blond hair, and favours decollete tops, high heels, and answering the door dressed only in a towel. She advises women interested in bagging one of her bachelors to 'glow, purr, slither, and above all listen. Don't open your mouth except to laugh at their jokes'.

I contacted Nesta a couple of days later to see what she'd made of her party; I was interested because I've rarely had so scary an evening. This was partly the fault of Stringfellow's, where machines in the ladies toilets dispense tights and condoms, so you feel if your stockings haven't been ripped off already you should certainly be making plans. But it was mostly the fault of the event. A number of the bachelors were there, although curiously not Pierce Brosnan, number 4, or Hugh Grant, 12. I spotted Dai Llewellyn, the Marquess of Bath (married, but who cares with 60 wifelets and counting?), Peter Stringfellow and Eddie the Eagle. I also identified Hugo Vickers, Francis Leeb, Eddie Davenport and Joel Cadbury, and so did the huddles of girls who were eyeing them up. There seemed something ineffably sad about being one of the 100 most eligible men in Britain and still having to spend the evening at Stringfellow's. The girls (I've no idea who they were) had the even more desperate air of clients of a tacky singles bar. I hid in a corner, hoping no one would ask me to glow, purr or slither.

MEN ARE so intimidated by media images of flawless male bodies, according to Cosmopolitan, that they're having silicone pectoral implants, tummy liposuction and penis extension, and going in for body-building on a scale previously dreamt of only by Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's a symptom, apparently, of confusion about their Role In Society.

I'm not sure when this confusion is supposed to set in; it doesn't seem to have had much impact by the age of 14, if the school I visited in Reading recently is anything to judge by. I watched a lesson in which small groups of adolescent boys and girls had to make up a composite image of an ideal man and woman from a pile of magazines. They all started with the woman; the boys, without exception, did the cleavage first. Their ideal invariably wore a Wonderbra, probably in between Michelle Pfeiffer's head and Barbie's legs. Easy enough; but when it came to the ideal man they were stumped. The girls created theirs from bits of pop star and male model, but the boys turned the pages, stared at the supposedly troubling images of hunky forms, and frowned. One group cut out the head of a particularly ugly contributor to Tatler. In the discussion about attributes of the opposite sex that followed, the girls said one of the things they'd looked for was fame. The boys said they'd gone for 'not many clothes'.

THE biggest problem in modern life is hairdresser tipping. If you don't think this is serious, you're someone who never has a haircut; the very thought of it makes most people go red. My hairdresser, for instance, seems like a useful sort of friend. He cuts my sister's hair, and my boyfriend's, and the hair of at least three people I used to work with, and knows about my life without my ever having to tell him. It would be like tipping my mother. But when he was last snipping away at my bob, his previous client slipped him a fiver, and he confessed that when he was training the stylists used to pass each other a note saying 'your last client left you this'. He has his own salon now, and I told him (secretly appalled by this other woman's generosity) that I had always understood it was naff to tip the proprietor. And, I added severely, 'I assume you pay your juniors properly?' The juniors, he said, didn't expect tips, although they always felt they'd had a good day if they got them. I intend to tip juniors from now on. But I'm still not sure what you're supposed to do about non-proprietor stylists. Not tip I think, but I may just be mean.

EVERYmorning and evening I brush my son's teeth. I shouldn't have to kneel down at the bottom of the stairs and stick the toothbrush in his mouth while he's putting on his shoes; at the age of seven he should have mastered this simple act of personal hygiene. But I do it. And I thought about it last week when I saw how gaunt Baroness Thatcher looked at the Conservative Party conference: that, I thought, is the kind of trouble you are storing up for yourself. That, and complaints from his future girlfriends that he can't cook and doesn't know one end of a vacuum cleaner from the other. I set my daughter incredibly high standards, but sometimes I think I have no standards at all for my son. Maybe it's because I don't know what I'm trying to turn him into; because I can't work out what an ideal man is. But it feels as though it's because if I didn't do it, he'd never brush his teeth at all.