You may have seen that Donald Trump has been bragging, big time (or bigly, as he might say) about scoring a hole in one on his Florida golf course. “Trump brags” doesn’t exactly count as news. Trump was the Bragger-in-Chief for his entire time in office; he is the Bigly Bragger, not to mention the Fantasist Bragger and the Bragger Denier. In his lengthy statement about the lucky golf shot, he said he would not reveal the winner of the game because “you will then say I was bragging, and I don’t like people who brag”.
Even so, this particular bit of regular – and, if true, legitimate – man-bragging struck us as almost refreshing in a world where humblebragging is out of control. When the order of the day is make yourself look good while appearing to be reluctant to blow your own trumpet, that’s when we start to crave straightforward “I’m the man” showing off. Most of us would far rather get weekly statements from Trump regarding his golf prowess, his amazingly resilient hair or his many many friends, than listen to people whispering about the money they have personally sent to the Ukrainian appeal, while uncorking another bottle of Pinot Grigio.
Bragging is boring and bad manners, yes, but at least you can squash an old-style bragger, and bragging can even be quite endearing so long as the bragger is amazed by their own success.
Here are some of the things it’s OK to brag about, and some brags that you should avoid:
1. Bragging about being mistaken for someone half your age
This is a women-only brag; while men are keen to look good for their age, they’d be panicked at being taken for 20 years younger. Not so the ladies. If you even vaguely know someone who was once asked for proof of ID at a student bar in Bristol when visiting as a parent, you will never hear the end of it. Note: “I-pass-for-21” bragging is fine, but not if the husband joins in and it turns into a “My wife is so hot” brag. Then everyone feels queasy.
2. Bragging about your vegetable garden
Currently (though you say it yourself) looking forward to some of your unbeatable asparagus. Gardening bragging in general doesn’t, for some reason, really count as bragging, although that’s not to say you can’t easily bore your friends. Note: photographing your homemade blah blah with ingredients from your garden and posting it on Instagram is a brag too far. Then you’re into smug territory.
3. Bragging about your connected friends
This can be highly entertaining for your audience, provided the friends are glamorous and you’re prepared to dish in full, Theo Fennell-style. Note: “When I was seated next to Lord Whatsit at Lord and Lady Whatsits, which was a terrific honour I may say”, is stuffy, old-style bragging and nobody cares. We want Jagger or Wintour or Princess Margaret or nothing.
4. Bragging about old conquests
Great, so long as those conquests are of general interest (eg Martin Amis), and something hilarious happened. Just revealing that so and so was covered in hair from head to toe is not nice and makes everyone feel grubby. Sexual peccadillos should be amusing and dealt with swiftly.
5. Bragging about success at work
Dull dull dull. Also, one work bragger gives everyone present permission to start wheeling out their successful recent pitch stories, and that way lies misery. However, bragging about your kids’ success is entirely appropriate, so long as you keep it brief.
6. Bragging about self-improvement
As in, “I’ve been having tennis coaching/golf lessons and I’m getting pretty good”. Perfectly OK, so long as you don’t insist on showing us. But bragging about weight loss is not on. What you might do is turn up one day wearing a crop top and very tight jeans, and no one will thank you for it.