Polo Shirts and Peer Pressure


“Why are you wandering around in your underpants, Dad?”

“I’m not.”

“Actually, Dad, you are.”

“Well, technically, yes.”

“That’s worrying, Dad. When Mum’s assessing patients ‘not knowing you’re wandering around in underpants’ will be right at the top of the list.”

I carefully explained to my youngest son that whilst at that moment I might – technically – only be wearing underpants and socks (sorry if you’re having breakfast) I was actually trying clothes on.

Lots of them…

It’s all down to my training for the Pennine Way. ‘Dramatic effect’ is an understatement. On my wardrobe as well as my waistline. Since Jane handed over my Fitbit on Christmas Day I’ve lost 17.5kg. I’ve moved from belt hole no. 2 (if I breathed in) to belt hole no. 5 (comfortably).

So I have a whole new wardrobe. Total cost, nil. Obviously thanks to my policy of never throwing anything away. “It’ll fit one day, darling. I’ll just push it to the back of the wardrobe for now.”

And now – miraculously – it does fit. They all fit. My clothes are re-born. They can emerge – blinking – into the sunlight.

Unless I listen to son’s advice. Which I’m going to hear whether I want it or not.

“What is that shirt, Dad?”

“In a word, stylish. I bought it when we went to Scotland.”

“What? I was seven. That’s ten years ago. How can you have a shirt for ten years and never wear it?”

As all middle-aged men will testify, very easily.

Ben stared into my wardrobe with increasing horror. “And that one. Did you forget to take your guide dog with you?”

“Your Mother bought it for me.”

“Oh. Bad luck. You’ll have to wear it then.” For 17, he has a remarkable grasp of the realities of married life. “Are you going to try all those clothes on?”

“Yes, I am. And ‘no’ is the answer to your follow-up question. Dinner won’t be late.”

“But why? You’re just going to put them all in the recycling aren’t you?”

I wasn’t, but clearly I needed to keep that to myself. Especially as my son seemed to be making a plea for my mental health as much as giving me fashion advice…

“Just go online, Dad,” Tom said over dinner – after his younger brother had described the trauma in vivid detail.

“I like to try things on…” I started to say. But actually, I don’t. The memory of a 360 degree view of my body in an M&S changing room still haunts me.

“What do you need?”

“He needs shirts,” my wife said before I had time to open my mouth. “And tops. Ideally tops that didn’t go out of fashion shortly after England won the World Cup.”


Tom sent the links ten minutes later. Shirts, polo shirts and peer pressure. Or whatever ‘advice’ is called when your family’s decided you can’t choose your own clothes any more.

“I can’t wear hoops. They make me look fat.”

Made you look fat,” my lovely wife said. “Remember you now have the body of a male model, darling.”

The woman should be a politician. She’d have Brexit sorted in half an hour. Or was that a hint of sarcasm?

A few more clicks and I was nailed on for the cover of GQ.

“See, that wasn’t so difficult was it, Dad?” Ben smiled approvingly.

“Thanks for your help…”

“No problem. And while you’re online there are a few things I need.”

What? He’d stitched me up. I’d been the victim of a sophisticated sting operation. By my own son…


  1. So funny Mark, but so, so true.

    “Your Mother bought it for me.”

    “Oh. Bad luck. You’ll have to wear it then.”

    And as Sarah said above, teenagers always find a way around to getting what they want. My 14 year old teen son absolutely hates shopping. I got my MA this year, and needed to buy son a new suit for the graduation ceremony. He timed me on his iPhone, and after an hour, walked straight out of the shop and went home!

    You’ve never seen me shop so fast.

    And I got everything that I needed for him too!

    • You must surely be up some sort of parenting award, Victoria, if you got a 14 year old to stay in a shop for an hour. Awesome achievement. And congratulations on the MA – I am slowly sinking to the bottom of our family’s qualifications league table. Badly need a Doctorate in Blogging Studies…

      • Thank you.

        Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I have seriously been thinking of embarking on a doctorate as I have to keep one step ahead of scientist son, as he already thinks I need to “learn more appropriate things” rather than fuddy duddy “so-old-it’s-in” academics!

        • You and me both, Victoria. Would love to go back and do the degree in English Lit I should have done all those years ago. Then again, I’m currently writing a uni prospectus for a client, but children remain resolutely unimpressed…

  2. That made me smile. Teenagers are devious sods who always manage to work out cunning ways to con parents into spending money.
    That is amazing weight loss! My husband has lost 19lb and he is transformed, but you’ve lost a lot more (although I can’t convert lb to kg!).

    • Sorry to be a while replying, Sarah – away on Pennine Way last week (as you’ll soon be reading!). Brilliant – although incredibly challenging – week with my son and couldn’t have done it without the training. Total weight loss for me is 35lbs and yes, feel like a different person. Hope you’re enjoying the summer holidays!

  3. I will look out for your appearance on GQ 😉

Thanks for reading: feel free to comment...