Can Your Relationship Survive a Dirty Week Away?

A surprisingly reasonable little naval-gazing piece about holidays, which appears to have little or nothing to do with the headline. Either the sub had a rush of blood, the editor wanted to spice it up, or I ignored the brief completely. Let’s agree it was the sub. Done for B magazine in 2004.


There’s nothing simpler than a holiday together. The chance to get away, forget about work, lie on a beach and worry about nothing beyond the arrival of the next ridiculous cocktail.

Except it isn’t simple at all.

Next time you ask a bloke the question, “Why don’t the two of us go away somewhere?” watch for the brief blank look that comes over his face, just before he says, “Good idea, my honeybun.”

For a young bloke, this is a significant event, a right-of-passage. Oh, not a big one, like first sex or first chest hair; but it’s the first holiday without the lads. That blank look means he is weighing up their probable reaction to this piece of news. They’ll see it as the beginning of the end for the old crew, that’s what they’ll do.

There’s a strong chance “the old crew” are bonded by little more than drinking heavily and talking about other times when they drank heavily (“Remember when Dave got so wrecked he tried to get it on with a tree?” etc). But the fact that you are subtracting their mate from this summer’s equation is a big deal.

I once tried to compromise by having a boys’ holiday in Tenerife – and asking my girlfriend along as well. It was never going to work. My girlfriend made it through by being very chilled and keeping herself to herself. My five mates were very well behaved.

Which was the problem. Against all the rules of blokes’ holidays, they kept the swearing down to a reasonable level, didn’t try to have intercourse with everyone they saw, and didn’t drink until they were rushed to casualty. In fact, they only spoilt things by occasionally knocking on our wall at night and enquiring whether we were “doing it”, or telling me to “let the poor girl get some peace”. My girlfriend’s main comment at the end, was that we talked “a lot of shit”.

For a bloke, being with a girl on holiday takes a lot of getting used to. On a date, we are on our best behaviour; when we are alone again, we can relax, scratch ourselves, look at girls (we may be going out with you, but we can still look), read comics on the toilet, and act like the slobs we are. On holiday, we have to be on our best behaviour all the time.

Suddenly, boyfriend is faced with the possibility of having to be an adult for two weeks. He has to pretend he never even sees the amazing blonde messing around with a beachball right in front of his eyes. He has to go outside and fart quietly. He has to drink out of glasses, get up before 2pm, and occasionally be sober. It’s hard work.

This works the other way, too. On a date, she turns up the acceptable 10 minutes late, looking great, and he doesn’t give a thought to the “getting ready” process that got her there. On holiday, we get to see the whole mechanism. There’s no avoiding it.

The first time I saw my girlfriend’s after-shower routine, I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. The thing is, I could have had a shower, gone for a walk, drunk a beer and had a nap, and she’d still be working her way through 16 small and mysterious pots of cream.

The bathroom looked like a chemist had opened up for business. The underwear and bikini bits on the floor seemed to be breeding and multiplying. Every time I thought we were ready to go, we weren’t: it was actually T minus half an hour, instead. Before a man goes on holiday with a woman, he knows almost nothing about the private part of her life. On holiday, he sees it, but is no closer to understanding it.

What I’m trying to say, is that even though you are there to relax, you are still spending an awful lot of time together, and not much apart. The routine might be little more than sunbaking, drinking and going out, but it still involves difficult things like compromise, understanding and patience. Things that blokes take, well, a while to learn. Just give him a bit of the same when that girl runs past with the beachball again…


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