2 MARCH 1991, Page 44


Gender bend


In Competition No. 1665 you were in- vited to provide two verses from a femi- nine, or feminist, counterpart of Kipling's 'If.

This idea, suggested by Mr A. Babing- ton Smith, had struck me as a good one, and so it proved to be. But nothing in the world of jokes is new. According to a veteran competitor (who may well be younger than me), almost exactly the same competition was set almost exactly 14 years ago. I haven't checked the archives, but there you go. Second time round was terrific. I'm sorry that Alison Shell, Lind- say Staniforth and Martin Fagg couldn't be among the prizewinners printed below, who get £12 each. The bonus bottle of Chivas Regal 12-year-old de luxe blended whisky goes to Moyra Blyth, who has never been far away from it.

If you can keep your counsel when they clout you, And losing blood don't lose your temper too, If you can trust no single soul about you, Except yourself ('To thine own self be true');

If you can wait on those who'll keep you waiting And lie to them their own convenient lies, Or being hated, while reciprocating,

Hide hatred in your heart with smiling eyes: If you can talk small talk when they desert you, Or walk unlimping when you need a crutch; If friends are foes, and careful neighbours skirt you, If others pity you ('Do keep in touch!'); If you can reach Fate's rotten wheel and spin it But lack the courage then to cut and run, Yours is the female Hell — and once you're in it Don't wonder what it's like to be a nun.

(Moyra Blyth)

If you can shrug it off when men despise you, And call you toffee-nosed and hard-to-get;

If you can laugh when people patronise you With 'angel', 'darling', 'poppet', 'love' and 'pet'; If you can use your brains, but not seem clever, And look your best not striving to attract; If you can answer 'No!' and not think 'Never!' And do all this with never-failing tact: If you can fend off lechers and no-hopers, But show a little humour now and then; If you can cope with whistlers, flashers, gropers, And still not lose a sneaking faith in men; If you can best a man, then give him quarter, Content with winning some, and losing some, You'll earn your shining womanhood, my daughter, And, chances are, end up like me — a mum.

(Philip Dacre) If you can handle rake, old fool and stripling And, not castrating, put each in his place;

If you can skip Germaine and Kant and Kipling, Read Woman's Own and not feel loss of face; If you can let a chap do something for you And not imply he seeks a quid pro quo; If you can let your man or boy adore you

And know when to keep hold, when to let go: If you can cope with birth and death and bulges That come to plague us all in middle age, Stay temperate when every friend indulges But never boast that you're uniquely sage; If you can state your case and not grow raucous, Be mother, mistress, wife, yet have career, Can steer a course `twixt cause and chores and caucus — We'll think you're doing pretty well, my dear. (Alyson Nikiteas) If you can keep your cool when Terry Wogan Suggests you touch his knee (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), If you can stomach every party slogan Or telly ad presuming you can't think; If you can walk a dark road from the station, Without a fearful tremor up your spine, Or cope with bosses giving you dictation And gropers on the Edgware-Morden line: If you can guess their motives when you're flattered, Or fearlessly refuse to be a drudge, If you can show your bruises when you're battered, And hope to move a neolithic judge; If you can look on men as silly-billies Who'd rather die than be observed to fail, You'll know why they're concerned about their willies, And — which is more — be glad you're not a male! (Roger Woddis) If you can charm your man into believing That he's the master of the human race, Encourage him in all his self-deceiving And let him think he's put you in your place; If you can settle stomachs, bills and quarrels, Can wipe away defeat and mud and tears, Keep smiling when you doubt your children's Morals And worry without showing them your fears: If you can be there ready, when they tumble, To mend a puncture or a broken heart; If dressed from Oxfam or the village jumble You still can turn out looking pretty smart; If you can watch while all around are sleeping And manage birth and death without a fuss, And laugh at life although you feel like weeping, I'm proud to claim that you are one of us.

(Alanna Blake) If you can bear to make your home all chintzy Because you want to please his ghastly mother; And, when he quotes whole gobbets of De Quincey, Your every aching yawn contrive to smother; If you're resigned to hear him, come October, Discourse of 'mellow fruitfulness and mist', And know that though he's deadly boring sober, He's infinitely tedious when he's pissed: If you can stand his confidently stating 'All modern bards are impudent pretenders', And revel in his endlessly dilating On what he'd like to do to young offenders; If you can hear remarks that make you curl Day in, day out, and haven't yet exploded Well, either you're a masochist, my girl, Or else the pompous creep is superloaded.

(Molly Fitton) If you can be the family's social diary And not resent there's ne'er a date for you; If you can answer sweetly each enquiry On whereabouts of homework, socks or glue; If you can cope with vomiting at midnight And still be up to feed the babe at four, Or praise them all for everything they did right And their untidy bedrooms just ignore: If washing whiter really gives you pleasure And hoovering the house is not a chore, If shopping is the way you spend your leisure And cooking is a hobby you adore; If you can watch them mutate through their phases From turtles till their GCSEs come, Don't expect they'll ever sing your praises But maybe they'll acknowledge you're their