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The Coffee Table


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Ladies, never let him see you ....


* Shave your legs

Or your armpits. Until they first live with a woman, most men assume women are born without bodily hair on their legs and underarms (unless they've been out with a French woman). Before each date, we women religiously shave, wax or pluck ourselves into a marble-like smoothness - even when hidden under winter woollies. But as soon as we share the same postcode we think nothing of letting the five o'clock stubble on our shins become long enough to plait. The final mistake is to use his razor as he sits and watches in horrified fascination.

* Bleach your upper lip

Women's facial hair is not something men want to think about. While we all know that a dab of bleach here and there is all it takes to have us looking smooth-faced again, he will immediately think you're turning into a man and react accordingly. Having your hair scraped back into a towel is a foolish act of bravado too, unless you have the bone structure of Kate Moss.

* Empty your handbag

If anything is out of bounds, it's this. Cheque books without the stubs filled in and heavily over-the-limit credit cards are acceptable for him to see. But scrunched-up used tissues, fluffy chunks of old lipstick, bent matchbooks with long-forgotten admirers' telephone numbers scrawled on them, matted hair brushes, empty breath freshener sprays, worn out emery boards and spare keys to your last lover's flat will not impress your partner with your ice maiden efficiency or your organisational skills.

* Burp

In some other cultures, belching appreciatively after a meal is a sign of good manners. In most cultures, however, it is not considered so, unless you're living out a scene from Men Behaving Badly. It is best to hiccup gently into a hankie or find something that urgently needs doing in the kitchen.

* Squeeze blackheads

There are few things in life quite as physically satisfying as the squeezing out of blackheads, especially if you've also splashed out money on one of those little metal gadgets that do the job for you. This is definitely an activity to be done alone, however, and only when your partner intends to be gone for a very long while, because after all your squeezing, those tell-tale red nail marks around each emptied crater can often take several hours to calm down.

* Work out with a video

Full marks for bothering at all, but watch out for the pitfalls. Lying flat on your back performing pelvic thrusts can be horribly misinterpreted by men, who either assume that you are inviting them to participate or realise that your enthusiastic sexual response to them is no more than your way of keeping down the cellulite.

* Wear tights

No one, and that means no one, ever looks good dressed only in a pair of tights. Just check out your nearest communal changing room if you don't believe it. Tights are wonderful, functional creations that have changed our lives and given us freedom - but so have tampons, and you don't display those in front of the man you're trying to keep hypnotised.

* Break wind

This really is a watershed in a relationship. As soon as you have reached the breaking-wind-under-the-duvet stage, there really is no sense of mystery left in your romance. You might as well let him read your diary or look at your old passport photographs for all it matters.

* Cut your toenails

God, how you've paid the price for those platform shoes. Your feet are a moonscape of corns, bumps, bent toes and horny, thickened toenails you need secateurs to clip. Never attempt a pedicure when your partner is within striking distance of one of those Exocet-powered off-cuts from the nail clippers.

* Fill in quizzes

We're all addicted to those tick-box quizzes which tell us all about ourselves (even if we do go back and change our answers after having worked out the points). But leaving them around on the coffee table could mean the end of your relationship. He will then discover that you have always lied to him about: (a) how many previous lovers you've had; (b) how often you reach orgasm with him; (c) who you fantasise about sexually and (d) how much money a month you spend on your wardrobe.

* Put on make-up

Unless you're young, fresh-faced, and naturally beautiful that you can go without make-up, putting it on is an art form. The objective is to buy lots of expensive products which will look like we haven't used them at all, and then to murmur with agreement when he says he hates women who wear too much make-up.

* Floss your teeth

Flossing isn't sexy and neither is gargling with mouthwash. Remember when you used to clean your teeth before going on a date, in the loo half way through a date and, if it turned into a relationship, wondered how you would sneak out of bed first thing to brush them before he woke up? He thought you were born smelling of spearmint. Now, though, he realises that like everyone else, your breath smells of wet dog first thing in the morning and that you become kissable only after industrial cleaning and lots of spitting.

* Eat corn-on-the-cob

However delicious it may taste, tackling corn-on-the-cob is the nearest you become to Neanderthal. There is no way to do it that doesn't involve you in slobbering, dribbling and tearing at your food in a quite alarming manner. It also leaves you with irritating little bits of fibre stuck between your front teeth that will stay there for days, even if you brush your teeth till they bleed.

* Cope with a hangover

Disguising your hangover when you think you're dying is hard, but not as hard as trying to erase from his memory the vision of you with your head hanging over the toilet bowl, and alternately retching and sobbing with shame at your behaviour the night before. Always lock the door, run the taps loudly and emerge, smelling of toothpaste and announcing brightly, "That was a fun evening, wasn't it?"

* Talk to girlfriends

Men have no concept of female conversations and it's safest to keep it this way. Let them believe that we can spend hours debating the merits of the different brands of detergents, or whether beige is in again. That way, they'll never realise that we can reel off the most intimate habits of our best friends' husbands, or can spend an hour debating whether Robert Redford is too old to sleep with. (He is, but who cares?)

If you have something to share, send me an email, and I'll have it posted on this page.