Icons of our time

NAME: The Pony-tailed Mole.


AGE: Getting on a bit. Several decades have usually passed by the time it has sprouted sufficiently to catch the eye.

DICTIONARY DEFINITION: 'A darkly pigmented spot, usually raised above the surrounding surface, rough and covered with hair.' LAYWOMAN'S DEFINITION: 'Eeeeeeuuuw! one of those things.' BRIEF HISTORY: The hairy mole is of course universal, but the extremely lengthy hairy mole is a Chinese affectation, one which sprouts from men - usually past the age of 30 - like a horse's tail.

Few people forget their first sighting of one: a normal response is to stare for some time, resist the urge to reach over and tug on it, then make a point of telling a friend about it.

Although the explanation varies from person to person, it is commonly understood the hairy mole is believed by Chinese to be a sign of good fortune/prosperity/longevity. This explanation is, of course, used to explain away all other phenomena which raise alien eyebrows: garish red and gold restaurant decorations, jade jewellery, paunches.

As with most of these 'good luck' charms, however, the final word on a Pony-tailed Mole's worth usually comes from a fung shui man. It all comes down to location: one slap bang in the middle of the forehead may not be deemed fortuitous.

It is often mistakenly thought the Pony-tailed Mole is cultivated because Asian men have little body hair elsewhere.

NATURAL HABITAT: Around the jaw-line. The optimum position for a Pony-tailed Mole is halfway down the neck, where it offers its wearer the opportunity to grasp it between thumb and forefinger and gently toy with it while studying the racing form.

FANS SAY: 'Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.' CRITICS SAY: 'It just makes me itch to reach for the tweezers.' STRENGTHS: The hair involved is usually of such a wiry strength it could come in useful for emergencies - like pulling a crowded bus out of a ravine, for instance.

WEAKNESSES: An unfortunate habit of tickling fellow MTR passengers up the wrong way. This could lead to damaging allegations of sexual molestation.

NEW FROM INTERGOOD MARKETING: The Bo Derek-beaded Pony-tailed Mole. This beading service is usually available poolside at resort hotels.

CLOSELY RELATED TO: (1) Long, curling, yellowing nails on pinky fingers and thumbs. The greater the length, the greater the owner's fascination with it.

(2) The pot-of-gold belly (you know, the one that is revealed by rolling up a white vest in hot weather); jade jewellery; gold teeth; silk socks on businessmen.

(3) Aggressive nostril or ear hair.