“The idea of ‘fitting in’ just repels me.”–Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) in the Star Trek: TNG episode “Hollow Pursuits”
Ever since my childhood I’ve been in the “out group”, and that’s just fine with me. I am not and have never been into wearing fashionable clothes, joining a gang, swearing (though I do employ some choice Japanese terms now and then), getting tattoos or body piercings, or basically “fitting in” overall. While there are some things I enjoy which happen to be popular (such as Doctor Who), I like them because of what they are, and not because I feel it’s somehow required of me.
For example: I’ve never liked football (as in soccer, a.k.a. Association football) — while American men at least get three or four obligatory “manly” sports to choose from, like baseball, we Limeys are all expected to care whether eleven thick blokes are better at kicking a ball around than eleven other thick blokes, and to worship them to the point where they get paid more than doctors or firemen. While I’ve lived in places I’ve liked and places I haven’t, I’ve never felt the need to support a local footie team (although with the number of expensive international player transfers these days, it’s not even about representing your local area any more anyway), and find it hard to understand why anyone would care enough to spend hundreds of pounds on season tickets, replica kits or whatever. I like a casual kick-around in the park, and I enjoyed Fantasy Football League on TV (perhaps because it poked fun at footie’s foibles instead of treating it as sacred), but watching football on TV? Ecch. And that goes double for international competitions: I always hope England gets knocked out so that people stop droning on about it all the time, or putting those stupid flags on their cars! I still have bad memories of the World Cup Final being shown simultaneously on BBC1 and ITV, back in the days when we only had four channels, but at least we have digital now…
Of course, I don’t begrudge other people supporting football teams if it makes them happy, it’s just that (a) I resent being told I’m not a “proper bloke” for not being into it (remind me again which of us watches twenty-two fit young blokes running around in shorts?!), and (b) I hate the drunken violence, racism, homophobia etc. that still pollutes the Beautiful Game, though I appreciate the efforts of those fighting to stop it. I actually have no interest in any sport, with the possible exception of Formula 1 (cars, vrrm vrrm) and 1990s pre-name change WWF (which is really “ballet for men” with larger-than-life characters), or even boxing (though again, it’s more fun to “play” on the Wii than to watch). However, even in these cases I don’t care who wins, it’s more about the experience than joining an “in group”. The things that make me angry are real injustices in the world, or abuses of our freedoms by our supposed government, not some decision by a referee who needs to go to Specsavers…
As well as sport on TV, I also won’t watch reality TV, which seems to be all the ITV channels show any more since TV Burp ended — it’s only movies and the occasional Columbo that mean I keep them tuned in at all! (Well, that and the bother of detuning them…) I especially despise The Only Way is Essex: what a bunch of contemptible morons with no personality or intelligence, bumbling through their vacuous lives while being paid millions for being famous! I won’t slag off the people who watch the show (my friend at work who lends me music is a fan), but I will say this: when people ask me if I like TOWIE, I confuse them by saying yes, I do like that particular South Park character, but I wish he’d get off his pot habit…
In addition, I’m the only person in Britain who hated, hated, that awful film Four Weddings and a Funeral. No, Hugh Grant being hit in the face doesn’t help matters, because it’s just acting (or close approximation). In fact, I find myself automatically loathing any film with the word “wedding” or “bride” in the title (the obvious exception being The Corpse Bride). As for pop music, I consider modern music to be awful (with a few exceptions like Cee Lo Green), but it’s not due to my age: even when I was a child in the 1980s, I hated most of what was then called “modern music”, the exception back then was any novelty song that wasn’t a “love song” (this was obviously long before I discovered girls), such as “Loadsamoney!”, which will appear in a future “videos wot have cheered me up” post. Of course, I now like a lot of music from my childhood, thanks to the age-related condition known as “nostalgia” (it’s partly Tony Blackburn’s fault).
Perhaps prescisely because they exploded in popularity, or perhaps just because they were so expensive in the 1990s, it took me a long time to get a mobile phone, although living in Worthing in my university interregnum meant I had few friends, and thus no-one to call while on the move. While I grudgingly got one in 2004 when I’d come to London and needed to be contactable by my new friends (and employment agencies), I’ve always hated ringtones, especially when played continuously by smug gits in cafés for the amusement of their friends. I certainly wouldn’t pay money for one… I won’t mention the whole “I’M ON THE TRAIN!” thing, because frankly everyone else is sick of that as well.
There’s also religion: I value my independence too much to become involved with any organised religion, and although I respect the “real” ones (i.e. not Scientology, which isn’t even a cult, it’s a scam… in my — ahem — personal opinion, of course), I don’t see anything in them that appeals to me enough to embrace them wholesale. I have my own beliefs, based on what I’ve seen and what makes logical sense to me, and I’ll write another blog post about those some day, but suffice to say, they don’t fit in with “any of the above”. Having said that, I’m also not an atheist — though I tend to believe in people (especially my family and friends) rather than any so-called “gods” — and I don’t want to see all religion banned, because I’m not a Daily Fail-reading “Ban this thing I personally don’t like!” kind of half-wit.
My “female best friend” is a non-denominational Christian, and tries to persuade me to join her faith; I’m happy she has something which inspires her and drives her to be a better person, but it has to be said, even if I were looking for a religion, Christianity just seems too obvious a choice, and too much like “fitting in”, in a (still predominantly) Christian country. See, even if I were to embrace a religion, I’d want to be different! How about Buddhism, which would help me conquer my anger?
So what do I do instead of fitting in? Well, I have some peculiar foibles of my own, which I’m sure no-one else on planet Earth suffers from:
- If there’s a John Wayne film on TV, I have to respond to everything his character says with a bad impression: “The hell it is!”
- Thanks to Baddiel & Skinner in the aforementioned Fantasy Football League, I have to respond to the front doorbell ringing with: “Who could that be?”
After that American Dad! episode in which Stan Smith tried to embrace the gay lifestyle, I occasionally bid goodbye to my co-workers with this: “Byesies!”
- Being a fan of Star Wars, like all right-thinking people, I occasionally impersonate C-3PO when my computer is taking a while to shut down: “Oh, switch off!”
- My ringtone used to be a 24-style CTU phone noise when I had a primitive phone, but now I have a smartphone, it’s Peter Griffin singing (or chuckling) “Axel F”. I still find other people’s ringtones annoying, and at work express the opinion thus: “No, that’s not annoying!” (Since I like being able to pay my bills, I don’t say that whenever a certain woman starts talking loudly and cackling…)
- One to which “female best friend” really takes exception: if someon asks me if they may ask a question, I respond that they just did, as though that’s the end of the matter. Is that more or less annoying than me reacting to a pointed finger by pretending to bite said finger off? Whaddaya mean, I should have grown out of that years ago?!
A final note, on the subject of booze (not “boo”s, which are what my comedy tends to get): while I’ve never wanted to get drunk, and truly hate my country’s drinking culture, I have been working to “get off the wagon” recently and stop being such a boring teetotaler. I still don’t like the taste of beer (much like soccer, the “only one” you’re allowed to like in this country if you’re a “proper bloke”) and choose sweet ciders instead (what sport would that mean? Rugby, cricket, showjumping?). I never understood why anyone would deliberately make themself drunk, and whenever a TV show goes on about Britons boozing abroad I feel physically sick at the amount of alcohol they’re downing, but a little alcohol helps me relax, especially after climbing (hmm, I do seem to be mentioning that rather a lot, don’t I?). I also tend to have a bottle when I’m home visiting my folks, but I don’t know what that says about me — hopefully that I feel safe enough to let my barriers down, and not that I’m trying to forget…!
Right, I wonder whether anything I’ve said tonight is actually all that unique, or whether I’m actually normal, which to me would be a fate worse than death!