April 25, 2010

I don’t enjoy travelling by tube. Work, of course, means that most days I do have to venture underground. It is not the mode of transport I dislike, but the seemingly innocuous fact that it is public.

Truth be told, I don’t enjoy bodily contact. Obviously, I don’t object to physical contact when one has to get physical – for instance when one is having sex. Bodily contact whilst having sexual intercourse is perfectly acceptable. But having other bodies crammed against me while travelling to work is distasteful. I hold my breath and try to shrink inwards to avoid having to touch another commuter’s bottom (a man’s bottom being worse than a lady’s, for obvious reasons.) I’ve tried that Pilates thing of trying to get my navel to touch my spine, but it doesn’t seem to work.

Most commuters get off at Westminster, which is when I normally manage to grab a seat (unless a lady is standing of course – I always offer a seat to a lady). The last ten minutes of my journey is usually bearable, then, until I get to work when, unfortunately, all that bodily contact starts again.

Advertising, you see, is a kissy-kissy sort of industry. Lots of it. Particularly when one works with European clients.

I try to avoid it, but have found that one doesn’t need to kiss to be kissed.

The Spanish clients are the worse. They kiss as a minimum twice – on arriving, and at the end of the meeting. What I find most difficult with this kissing malarkey is remembering how many cheeks to proffer. The Spanish used to be both cheeks but being Russian must be fashionable in Barcelona nowadays because the meeting I had last week with the new “lingerie fashion house” (must remain anonymous, for obvious reasons) ended up with the unshaven marketing director (J) grasping me by both shoulders and greeting me on the cheeks four times with such enthusiasm that my feet practically left the ground (read into that what you will). Then he pumped my hand up and down – in an attempt to mimic our British customs, I suppose.

He is a tall, dark haired man who must have an intolerance to light because he never removes his sunglasses.

J’s firm had chosen our advertising house to market a new range of shape wear under garments for men in the UK. (All the rage in the U.S. , apparently, particularly in San Francisco). The girls in the office were particularly excited by our new brief (if you will excuse the pun), particularly when J explained that the range would be modelled for us so that we could “fully understand its benefits.”

I have only ever had one experience of support underwear. My ex-wife used to squeeze her hips and bottom into tights called Spanxy spanx, or something similarly inappropriate. I was told that all the celebrities wore them under their sheath-like dresses at the Oscars. I don’t know whether they did or not, not really having much interest in undergarments myself, but I do know that the ex-wife looked rather like an uncooked sausage in her flesh coloured ensemble.

I joked with J, regaling him with stories of how she used to wriggle into them by jumping around the room, and asked what exactly the new support wear for men would be, well, supporting.

He smiled, revealing brilliant white teeth. ‘More than support,’ he laughed. ‘Enhancement. You know, here and here.’ He pointed at his crotch and slapped his bottom.

Six male models strutted their stuff that afternoon. The briefs were marketed as “front enhancing” and “bum enhancing” – the latter apparently giving a lift and tuck effect, although I was too embarrassed to really look. I was more interested in the white “hold it all in” vest – a discreet seamless undergarment that is popped under one’s shirt and apparently gives the impression of having lost inches around one’s middle. For some reason, they didn’t bother to model that.

Call me old-fashioned, but I am of the firm opinion that one must believe in the product being advertised and so I decided to give the “hold it all in” vest a go. Purely for professional reasons, of course.

So, the following morning I didn’t wear my white cotton vest (as is my habit) but squeezed into flesh coloured lycra. It did make me feel that my lungs were somewhat compressed and that my heart would stop pumping, but it did get my navel that little bit closer to my spine. I didn’t touch any bottoms all the way home.

And before you ask, I have decided to give the pants a miss.


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