DR DEAN BURNETT
I Am Not Jealous of Rod StewartDean Burnett puts himself on trial against the rocker
Since becoming a writer whose work has appeared on prominent online platforms, I’ve had many complete strangers accuse me of many things.
I’ve been accused of being a ‘Big Pharma Shill’, of perpetuating the myth of climate change, of picking on the poor defenceless Pope, of being a literal Nazi, and/or a radical communist, of being simultaneously pro-trans and anti-trans, of denying the existence of mental health conditions (something which, if true, would make my ambassadorship for the mental health charity ReThink rather unsustainable), and of waging a one-man campaign to discredit clowns (ending with my being challenged to an actual fistfight by one, which was a very surprising thing for a clown to do, because it was genuinely funny).
I’ve even been accused, 100% seriously, of libelling frogs. Sadly, ten years hence, I am still awaiting legal correspondence from amphibious solicitors.
But despite all this, it was only recently that I had one of the most surreal accusations ever levelled at me: that I’m jealous of Rod Stewart.
It was New Year’s Eve, and I was at my in-laws house, watching Jools Holland’s annual Hootenany.
I had also just inadvertently revealed, to my wife and mother-in-law, that the show is pre-recorded, not live. I thought everyone knew this, but my wife and mother-in-law did not. They digested this revelation like they’d just learned that boogie-woogie Santa doesn’t exist. So, I attempted to avoid the awkward conversation in the living room, by turning my attention to the ones on the screen.
And that’s when Rod Stewart appeared.
He’s a very distinctive individual at the best of times, is Rod Stewart. But even more so in this particular instance. Because he was wearing a very loud black-and-white pinstriped suit.
Which compelled me to make the following post, on the myriad social media platforms we need to have now.
My thinking was, the iconic Michael Keaton character wore a very similar suit, and also had big hair. He clearly wasn’t pushing 80, though. Hence my comment. A harmless enough joke, you’d think.
Apparently not. I got, as ever, some angry replies. The most memorable of which accused me of being jealous of Rod Stewart. And that got me to thinking.
…am I jealous of Rod Stewart?
That is the hypothesis this irate stranger has put forward. So, as a man of science, I felt compelled to test it.
Am I jealous of Rod Stewart’s hair?
That was the conceit put to me by the original accuser. My profile pic, or indeed any image of me online, makes it clear that I am not of those men who enjoys an abundance of follicles. By contrast, Rod Stewart, despite being nearly twice my age, has an impressive mane.
Therefore, he has something that I do not. Ergo, I must be jealous of it.
However, I dispute this contention. My hair started thinning when I was 18, and year after year, my bare scalp, like the advancing Saharah, began claiming ever more territory, before stabilising some time in my mid-30s.
This never bothered me, though. Not really. I’d been largely indifferent about my hair and appearance my whole life, so premature balding wasn’t exactly a major psychological blow. Or, to put it another way, I’ve never felt compelled to ask anyone “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” Because I’m fairly confident of the answer.
If anything, losing my hair and wearing glasses has made me look even more like a scientist, making me seem more credible than I am.
So, if someone were to come up to me and say to me “I can give you hair just like Rod Stewart, if you want”, I’d definitely decline. Because I’d look ridiculous.
We can extend this to his whole image. My angry accuser insisted that Rod looks great for his age. And for a 78-year-old man, Rod Stewart looks in very good nick.
Thing is, though, I’m not a 78-year-old man. I’m in my forties. Call me ageist if you like (I’ll add it to the pile of accusations) but if I woke up tomorrow, glanced at my reflection in the mirror, and discovered I like Rod Stewart, I would not be punching the air with joy.
So no, I wouldn’t say I’m jealous of Rod Stewart’s ‘image’.
Am I jealous of Rod Stewart’s success?
Rod Stewart has been an internationally famous rock star for decades, with all the glamour and fortune that this leads to. So, if you’ve any musical ambition at all, Rod Stewart is clearly a success.
Again though, I don’t have any musical ambition. All my life, I’ve had all the musical acumen of a standard house brick. To me, someone achieving musical stardom is akin to being crowned ‘Miss Paraguay’: well done, it’s definitely an achievement, but not one that I’d ever considered striving for.
If someone said, “Would you like to be Miss Paraguay?”, I’d be 0% tempted, 100% confused. Same would apply if I were offered Rod Stewart’s life. I lack the mental framework to appreciate it properly, let alone cover it.
Because if I, as I am now, were to be suddenly plunged into Rod Stewart’s life, it would go completely wrong very quickly, for all concerned. And why would I want that?
Some might say no, it wouldn’t be some sort of ‘body swap’ situation, it’d be one where I have earned that success the same way he has. Which would mean I’ve had a totally different life, and would be a completely different person. So it’s basically “Would you want to erase your individual sense from existence?” Again, no.
Others might say it’s not the success, it’s the money it brings. So, let’s say Rod Stewart is worth £100 million; if someone offered me £100 million, would I like to accept it? Sure. You can do a lot with that much money.
But that doesn’t really help the point in question. It just means I’d like to have a lifechanging sum of money, not that I’m jealous of Rod Stewart. And I don’t think that makes me unusual.
Am I jealous of Rod Stewart’s love life?
One area where Rod Stewart is undeniably successful is his efforts with the opposite sex. Rod Stewart has had many high-profile wives and girlfriends, and when you consider that many of those relationships broke down due to his serial infidelity, it undeniable that the true number of his ‘romantic conquests’ is considerably higher than the already-impressive official tally.
Surely I’m jealous of this?
I don’t know how I can prove this, but again, the answer is no. For one, Rod Stewart clearly has a type, and it seems to be ‘significantly younger blonde women’. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no doubt everyone involved are/were fully consenting adults, so it’s none of my damn business who does what behind closed doors. But even so, when a man actively and persistently pursues much younger women, I get a strong ‘ick’ response.
Sure, in terms of pure numbers, many men would do anything to enjoy even a fraction of Stewart’s success with the ladies. But I’m not one of them. I’ve only ever had two girlfriends, and am still married to the second one. I’m definitely not cut out for the Casanova existence.
It’s surely all part of the rock-and-roll lifestyle, but I am definitely not one of nature’s hedonists. After all, I spent New Year’s Eve watching the Hootenany!
Maybe if you’d asked my younger self, who was more single, more virile, more influenced by hormones, and more ‘not a parent’, he would be jealous of Rod’s love life. But we’re not asking my younger self, we’re asking me. Now. And I’m not.
Am I jealous of Rod Stewart’s Intelligence?
Well, it’s hard to be certain about this. I have no idea how intelligent Rod Stewart is. He must be reasonably savvy in many ways, to have become as successful as he is and, more importantly, stayed as such. But beyond that, it’s hard to say how smart he is.
I will point out, though, that Rod Stewart, even in late 2023, maintains he’s still a fan of Boris Johnson.
I won’t speculate what it is about the ageing serial-cheater millionaire with erratic blonde hair that Rod Stewart likes so much. But I will say that the sort of intellect that sees everything, everything, that Boris Johnson has done, and concludes “That’s a likeable guy!”, is not the sort of intellect I, a doctor of neuroscience and published author of internationally acclaimed science books, feel I should be aspiring to.
So, no, I’m not jealous of Rod Stewart’s intelligence.
Hypothesis “I’m jealous of Rod Stewart”: REJECTED
So, unfortunately for my anonymous online accuser, it seems there’s no real evidence that I am, in fact, the kind of person who’s riddled with jealousy towards an ageing Scottish rocker.
The fact that I am the sort of person who’d write 1500 words making that point in response to a random comment from a complete stranger? That’s a whole other issue…
Dean Burnett’s latest book “Emotional Ignorance: Misadventures in the Science of Emotion” is available in paperback from Jan 4th, 2024.
Dr Dean Burnett is a neuroscientist and best selling author of such books as The Idiot Brain and The Happy Brain. His former column Brain Flapping for The Guardian (now Brain Yapping here on the CSN) was the most popular blog on their platform with millions of readers worldwide. He is a former tutor and lecturer for the Cardiff University Centre for Medical Education and is currently an honorary research associate at Cardiff Psychology School and Visiting Industry Fellow at Birmingham City University. He is @garwboy on Twitter.