What Robin Thicke learned from his father about women

Thicke's interview in the US version of Elle magazine reveals choice tidbits such as his father's advice: “I know she’s pretty, but you stared at her and followed her across the room. What if there’s a prettier girl sitting two tables away?"

This article originally appeared on the New Republic website

I’ll admit it: I’ve been resisting disliking Robin Thicke. I know a lot of people consider the “I know you want it” chorus of his big hit, “Blurred Lines,” nothing short of a call to rape—and I have to say, the phrase “tried to domesticate you” makes me pretty queasy—but I could never understand what people heard that they thought was so much worse than—nay, even as bad as—the pop music norm. The un-self-serious, frankly goofy music video helped redeem the song for me. Plus, I think it’s fun to dance to—so sue me.

But I’m done. I officially realize that Robin Thicke is just as gross a specimen of American maleness as you’ve all been telling me he is for months. The deciding factor is the interview with him that US Elle published Thursday, and which you should read if you think you ate some bad shellfish and need to throw up.

Here are his five most nauseating answers: 

1. What did [your father, Growing Pains star Alan Thicke] tell you not to do [with women]?

We were on vacation and some pretty girl walked by. I started ogling her like a 12-year-old boy, and he said, “I know she’s pretty, but you stared at her and followed her across the room. What if there’s a prettier girl sitting two tables away? Now she’s not going to feel special. She’ll say, ‘You look at all the girls like that.’ You’ve gotta play it cool so you don’t look like you're desperate.”

2. You told Howard Stern that you lost your virginity at 13. Is there anything you’d do differently?

Make it last longer than 30 seconds.

3. Was she someone you cared about?

Yeah, I can’t comment on who it was. But I got it out of the way, let’s just say.

4. The unrated music video for “Blurred Lines” features balloon letters that spell out Robin Thicke Has a Big Dick. You also give your manhood a shout-out in “Give It 2 U.” I’m sorry, but how big is this thing?

In “Give It 2 U,” it’s more a comment of swagger. Like, I’m big-dick swingin’. … Listen, compared to my son, I’m packing. If I’m next to LeBron James? It’s probably not quite as impressive.

5. Do you listen to your own music in the bedroom?

Yes. In fact, [my wife, Paula Patton] likes to do it more than ever now. Sometimes she’ll even play groupie for me.

This article originally appeared on the New Republic website

Good with the ladies, or a total skeez? You decide. Image: Getty
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Beware of tea: the cuppa has started wars and ruined lives

. . . and it once led F Scott Fitzgerald to humiliate himself.

A drink sustains me – one that steams companionably as I write. It is hot, amber and fragranced differently from any wine; nor does it have wine’s capacity to soften and blur. I’ve never understood how the great drunks of literature, Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald and their like, ever put anything on the page more worthwhile than a self-involved howl, though even Hemingway apparently finished the day’s writing before beginning the day’s drinking.

Tea is more kindly, or so I’d always thought. Those aromatic leaves, black or green, rolled and dried and oxidised, have some of wine’s artistry but none of its danger. Even their exoticism has waned, from a Chinese rarity (“froth of the liquid jade”), for which 17th-century English traders were made to pay in solid silver, to a product that can be found dirt cheap on supermarket shelves.

There are even home-grown teas now. The Tregothnan estate in Cornwall has supplemented its ornamental rhododendrons and camellias with their relative camellia sinensis, the tea plant, while Dalreoch in the Scottish Highlands grows a white (that is, lightly oxidised) tea, which is smoked using wood from the surrounding birch plantations. Tellingly, this local version is priced as steeply as the imported rarity once was.

I enjoy a simple, solitary mug, but I also appreciate communal tea-drinking – the delicate tea warmed with water at 85°C (a little higher for sturdier black blends), the teapot and china, the pourer volunteering to be “mother”, as if this were a liquid that could nurture. But in reality, tea is not so gentle.

Those long-ago English traders disliked haemorrhaging silver, so they started exporting opium to China from India and paying with that. This was a fabulous success, unless you happened to be Chinese. In 1839, a commissioner attempted to clamp down on the illegal and harmful trade, and the result was the Opium Wars, which the Chinese lost. “Gunboat diplomacy” – a phrase that surely constitutes froth of a different kind – won England a great deal of silver, a 150-year lease on Hong Kong and an open tea market. China received a potful of humiliation that may eventually have helped spark the Communist Revolution. As many of us have recently realised, there is nothing like economic mortification to galvanise a nation to kick its leaders.

Later, the tea bush was planted in India, Ceylon and elsewhere, and the fragrant but bitter brew for the upper classes became a ubiquitous fuel. But not an entirely sweet one: just as the opium trade ensured our tea’s arrival in the pot, the slave trade sweetened it in the cup. Even today, conditions for tea workers in places such as Assam in north-east India are often appalling.

Scott Fitzgerald also had tea trouble. When invited round by Edith Wharton, he frothed the liquid jade so assiduously with booze beforehand and risqué conversation during (a story about an American tourist couple staying unawares in a Paris bordello) that he was nearly as badly humiliated as those 19th-century Chinese. Wharton, unshocked, merely wondered aloud what the couple had done in the bordello and afterwards pronounced the entire occasion “awful”.

Some would blame his alcoholic preliminaries, but I’m not so sure. Tea has started wars and ruined lives; we should be wary of its consolations. On that sober note, I reach for the corkscrew and allow the subject to drive me softly, beguilingly, to drink.

Nina Caplan is the 2014 Fortnum & Mason Drink Writer of the Year and 2014 Louis Roederer International Wine Columnist of the Year for her columns on drink in the New Statesman. She tweets as @NinaCaplan.

This article first appeared in the 27 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Cool Britannia 20 Years On

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