Pharmaceutical-aided recreational activity

Ben Elton, back when he was funny, once observed that ready-made meals in supermarkets were never labelled 'meals for one'.

Instead, they were 'meals for two', no matter how minuscule the proportions; he suggested that the reason was that a 'meal for one' was just too pathetic, implying a lonely and miserable existence.

A 'meal for two', on the other hand suggested a whole different ambience, that someone cute might be coming over for dinner, a bottle of wine, a few scented candles, and who knew what magic the night might bring.

Prescriptions for Viagra or Levitra might carry the same message. After the initial embarrassment is overcome, they are usually requested with an arch, knowing man-of-the-world, I'm-getting-it-and-you-aren't look.

So when old Joe requested yet another prescription, I was rather surprised. Joe has a face only a mother could love, his personal hygiene is less than optimal, and he has halitosis and crumbly fingernails. I wondered what kind of young lady would suffer his attentions.

'Are you in a relationship?' I enquired.

'Far too much trouble,' he said.

'So why the need for these prescriptions,' I asked, not unreasonably, these medications usually being indicated for what are coyly termed intimacy issues.

'For when I'm on my own, like,' he leered, unabashed.

I realised that many of the would-be Don Juans for whom I have been prescribing Viagra are actually using it for what we might describe as solitary recreational activities.

Are the drug companies missing out on a huge market here? Their ads are soft-focused and full of handsome couples wandering into the sunset, as if having sex was the last thing on their minds. Maybe they should be more hard core, a seedy back-street video rental shop with sleazy guys like Joe boasting about their six-times-a-night exploits.

My distaste must have been evident, and Joe was ready to defend his ethical position.

'C'mon Doc,' he said. 'You do it, everybody does it.' He then displayed a surprising degree of erudition. 'It was George Bernard Shaw, I believe, who said that 98 per cent of men engaged in solitary recreational activities, and the other 2 per cent were liars.'

'Maybe,' I replied, 'but they don't brag about it to their doctors.'

Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Email him at

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