THIS MONTH'S issue of Cosmopolitan includes a feature entitled "Men We Love", which is the magazine's annual selection of "men with the mostest". There are 89 of the pouting lovelies, and they come in all shapes and sizes, including Terence Stamp("we'd lick him all over"), Dennis Skinner ("brings out the beast in us"), and General Sir Michael Rose ("giving peace a chance"). Along with Cosmo's main list of desirable men, there are also a number of extras. For example, the brainy men we are supposed to love are Alan Bennett, Tom Stoppard and Colin Thubron, but the magazine adds in small print that we might also love Nick Hornby. ("Obviously it was a bitter disappointment that I was in parentheses," says Hornby. "And of course I'd far rather be loved for my torso than my brains. But I hope to move further up the list next year.")
At least Hornby gets a mention, unlike the man I love: David Caruso, better known as Detective John Kelly, the star of NYPD Blue. Kelly is a hero for women like me, who never quite got to grips with how to be post- feminist babes. We were the ones who didn't go to see the Chippendales (we couldn't get a babysitter); who were too tired to ogle at the naked willies in Marie Claire; who didn't buy a single copy of the rash of women's soft-porn magazines that were launched a couple of years ago.
Instead, we succumbed to the charms of John Kelly, and you can see why. He's a caring, sharing kind of guy, who says "Hey", as in: "Hey [to his love interest, currently on trial for murder], we're going to get through this, OK?" You wouldn't actually want to have sex with Kelly (he's got ginger hair, for one thing); in fact, when he finally stripped at the end of the last series, I didn't know where to look. Naked Kelly? Absolutely not . . . I need a man who understands my troubled soul, not a New York cop with his trousers off.
Despite Cosmo's glaring omission of Kelly - a pin-up for exhausted mothers who like to go to bed early after watching a bit of telly - the magazine deserves some credit, if only for acknowledging that we may not want to see the men we love exposed naked to the world. Indeed, most of the men featured in the Cosmo list remain fully-clothed in their photographs, and for good reason: they would look hideous undressed. That's OK, says Cosmo, magnanimously. Ugly men are still lovable, even a fattie like Mike McShane. ("We'd give him a bear hug," say the Cosmo girls.)
Would a men's magazine do the same? Are there obese but lovable Penthouse Pets, or bald but brainy Playboy Bunnies, all well- buttoned up in sensible day clothes? No, of course not; but this is probably a big mistake. Male fantasies can take unexpected forms. How else can you explain the fact that one of my friends, who shall remain nameless, believes himself to be in love with Virginia Bottomley? And what about Margaret That- cher? I bet the readers of Penthouse would fall over themselves if she were made Pet of the Year, blue suit and all.
Anyway, in case you didn't already know it, sexually explicit full-frontal pin-ups are out this year (it's true, it says so in the Evening Standard); or at least they are as far as women are concerned. No more naked bodies in glossy magazines: the readers didn't really like them, apparently.
This should come as a relief to my friend Melanie, a loyal fan of Marie Claire who nevertheless was unimpressed by the serried rows of willies displayed in the magazine last year. "They were not even a little bit sexy," she says. "If anything, they were laughable." Melanie does, however, find John Pilger very attractive. "But I wouldn't want to meet him," she says. "He probably hasn't got a sense of humour."
Melanie is quite right to avoid John Pilger at all costs. It's not that I've got anything against him, it's just that our objects of desire, however obscure, should stay firmly out of reach at all times (far better to admire them fully-clothed and stapled in a magazine, or trapped on a small screen for ever). Should you ever get to meet a real live sex-god, do not attempt to engage him in conversation, for nothing but humiliation will follow.
I can state this with complete authority because it happened to me, when I met Jack Nicholson in a New York nightclub. This was in 1987 (the last time I went to any nightclub, anywhere), and there he was, sitting just a few feet away, "fat but fabulous" as Cosmo so rightly says. Miraculously, the man who had taken me to the nightclub knew Jack, and he introduced us. I said "Hello", and Jack sniggered. This was bad enough, but the snigger was a peculiarly unattractive snigger, more of a giggle really, and very high-pitched. And that was that. Hello. Snigger.
Since then, I've never felt the same way about Jack (the prat); which is why I don't want to meet any heart-throb ever again, not even David Caruso. The reason I mention this is that I could, possibly, meet him, if I really wanted to, because I once worked with his sister, it turns out. Yes, I sat in an office with David Caruso's sister! Unbelievable but true. I thought about this occasionally last summer. I'd push my small baby in his buggy around the park, and think, one day soon I might fly to New York and bump into Joyce Caruso, and she'll say, "Justine, you look like a fabulous post-feminist babe! You must come and meet my brother!"
But these were mad ravings: post-natal delusions, almost certainly. I would have nothing to say to David Caruso, and he would have nothing to say to me, except, perhaps, "Did you know that you've got baby sick down your jumper?" But hey, David, we're going to get through this, OK? !
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