I’m currently presenting a phone-in radio show on Cork’s 96m while my colleague, PJ Coogan, suns himself in Santa Ponsa. The difference in callers to a female presenter has been interesting, with my favourite one so far being Diarmuid… who called to ask me how to cook a chicken.
Diarmuid said he wouldn’t have called PJ, for fear of being laughed at. So instead, he phoned me and with 91,000 people listening, asked me how to cook a boned and rolled chicken.
Having never cooked a boned and rolled chicken – only the real thing for me, wha! – I asked him to read out the instructions, and told him to follow them. Happily, and sounding relieved, he agreed. Not one to let an opportunity pass, I asked Diarmuid, a bachelor if ever there was one, to describe himself, in case there was a nice lady listening who’d be interested in cooking him a chicken the odd time. GSOH required.
Despite the fact that his best attempt at selling himself was “large” and “fond of a pint”, there was. Of course there was. Women, you see, are suckers for a helpless man. Particularly one with the ability to laugh at himself, which Diarmuid clearly has. They were due to go on a date this weekend.
“Look after me, I’m helpless”, seems to be as good a strategy for men on the hunt as anything in the pick-up artist bible, The Game. And before anyone goes theorising that this is a result of the Irish Mammy, I’d beg to differ. While my granny always loved to see a man appear in the doorway – another one she could feed and make tea for – this is not a uniquely Irish mammy phenomenon.
The mismatch between capable, get up and go women and less-than-motivated men is the theme of countless romance novels and even romantic comedies.
Stubborn Mr Rochester, who finally recognises Jane Eyre’s love for him when he is blinded and needs a carer; inarticulate, stuck up Mr Darcy, who can hardly handle his end of a conversation but recognises in Lizzie Bennett one who can prop him up where other people are concerned; and every character ever played by Hugh Grant, who really just needed someone to cut that fringe so he could see.
US romcoms are even more clear cut about it – a beautiful “career woman” jumps at the chance of a long and happy life together with a slacker whose only income is from the cannabis plant in his attic. The film Ted, in which Mila Kounis plays a gorgeous young hotshot publicist in love with a drug-chugging manchild who barely manages to hold down a job and whose best friend is a talking teddy bear, is a case in point.
Think of Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin. Both, granted, are cartoon characters, but they are a cultural manifestation of something well known – if you can make a woman laugh, it doesn’t matter how much of an idiot you are. You may never need to learn how to cook a chicken, because some woman out there will take over from your mother when the time comes. And you probably won’t die alone.
You don’t have to look too far in the real world, either. Take Sarah Jessica Parker, a one woman personification of the late 90s / early noughties. She’s a successful actress, movie and TV producer and a fashion icon, almost singlehandledly responsible for turning Manolo Blahnik into a global brand and reinventing the appeal of New York as a tourist and shopping destination for women all over the Western world. And then there’s her husband Matthew Broderick, whose claim to fame remains that he starred in a famous teen movie, a really long time ago. Seems like a nice guy, scrubs up well.
An air of baffled helplessness, an inability to feed or look after oneself and a distinct lack of pride in one’s appearance often seem to be advantages to men looking for love. As for Diarmuid… I see roast chicken on tap in his future.