Category Archives: Unapologies

Calling out the oblivious bullies

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Yes, it’s another framegrab from babysimpson.co.uk!

One problem I’ve had over the years is bullying.  Yeah, big surprise, introverted eccentric goody-goody boffin got bullied at school, but it seems to have continued over the years somehow — almost as though I bring it out in other people… or, perhaps, I overreact and take things to heart?

There’s no sense going over the petty name-calling I endured at primary school, because almost everyone gets it anyway.  I also won’t mention physical bullying in this situation, because (a) it seldom happened to me (I count myself lucky not to have had Eminem’s life), and (b) a physical bully could hardly be “oblivious” to the consequences of his actions!

My first secondary school was all-boys, and to my shame I passed some of the bullying down the pecking order, since for once I wasn’t at the bottom; I paid for my sins at my next school, which was mixed, by getting it not only from the boys but also from the girls!  I was already a bit of an introvert when I went there, and it only got worse because of this, as only in my own room could I be free… but then I somehow let the bullies get inside my head, which really took some getting over.

I can only pity the kids of today, who really can be bullied in their own homes by genuinely malicious people thanks to social media (damn you, Internet!), but back then it was my own paranoia and obsessive behaviour that prevented me from letting go when I was at home.  Hey, there was one guy I actually thought I would have been friends with, if we hadn’t gotten off on the wrong foot!  At least that part of my life ended with my GCSEs, as most of the obnoxious crowd left before I started my A-levels… but not one particular guy who continued to annoy the HELL out of me for another two years.  However, I feel that might be something to save for my later post on hatred… watch this space.

The sad thing is, I still got bullied at university!  Certainly in my freshman year, where several blokes in my class (Geology, of all the sciences, seems to attract the most laddish kind of student) began referring to me as “coathanger” whenever they thought I was within earshot, amongst other exclusionary tactics.  As a postgrad, I encountered the guy I always call “good housemate”, who was influenced by a classmate who had a very short temper with me, often sneeringly telling me to “shut up” for no particular reason; both used to insult me all the time, sometimes aiming simply to exclude me from the group entirely.  At least I had “female best friend” and “other female best friend” in my corner, the latter being very angry with those two because she personally hated bullying!  And “good housemate” continued having a go at me while we were housemates (sometimes making me quite upset, as you may remember), but still, I like to think he toughened me up.

(A mark of the strength of our relationship: he’s still my friend on Facebook today…)

Alas, one of my current housemates is becoming an oblivious bully: not only having a go at me for being a vegetarian (something else I haven’t apologised for), but playing practical jokes on me and criticising my lifestyle.  I could take it when he jumped out at me when I turned the light on in a dark room, I could take him going “moo!” in his room when I walked past his door, I tolerated him turning the kitchen light off and walking out while I was cooking, I got over him implying I wasn’t normal for never having had a long-term girlfriend before (I know, it’s not normal and neither am I, it just sucks to have it brought home out of nowhere), and the time he grabbed my backpack as I was about to walk into our front garden at night was just below the line (at least he didn’t go through with his original plan to grab my face!).

But on Saturday, he ran into the kitchen just as I was returning to my baked beans and veggie sausages, which were cooking nicely on the stove, and held the kitchen door shut, sneeringly saying “no, Dave!” when I asked him to let me in.  I had a minor panic attack and objected loudly to him preventing me from getting to my food, rather than playing whatever game he wanted me to play, he got quite snotty and said I needed to “get laid”.  (Well, obviously, but what’s that got to do with his unfunny pranks?!)  The next time I saw him (hopefully the last time before 2014), he asked if I was “still depressed”, since that was obviously why I hadn’t laughed at his antics.

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At least this guy was trying to knock the rough edges off of young men and discipline them so they could be ruthless, efficient soldiers, and not just being a sadistic douche for his own amusement… right?

And so we come to the crux of the matter: people who think victims like me should somehow be “thankful” for the way they treat us, or maybe that they’re even “helping” to toughen us up (oh, such altruism!).  Hey, maybe I got overly upset at being kept out of a room into which I had every right to go, but so what?  If he barricaded me out of my room, or locked me out of the house (especially on a wet, windy night like this — I have concerns about getting home for Christmas tomorrow, but never mind that now…), would he still expect me to laugh it off?  Would he even care?  Did the new tenancy agreement I signed the other day include a clause stating that I must indulge him in such things or be evicted?

(Did it?  Damn, why didn’t I read it properly before signing…)

This unpleasant incident reminded me of the bullies at school: like a mantra, every time I got upset or angry at the way they treated me, they sneered, “why d’you take it so personally?”.  Sorry, but that’s how I am, and if you don’t like it, don’t bully me — I’m under no obligation to respond to your taunts in a way that pleases you (indeed, the one time I laughed along with their joke — a “wanted” poster of me, featuring a picture of Terry Venables as a young man — it really seemed to take the wind out of their sails).  Basically, unless you’re a dominatrix, I’m not gonna thank you and ask for another!  Yeah, maybe I need a thicker skin and more of an ability to laugh it off, but that’s for my sake, not yours, bullies.

And YES, I think you’re a bully even if you didn’t specifically intend to upset me, if you carry on doing it despite seeing that it upsets me, and react by telling me that I should behave how you want me to.  I’m my own person and I’ll react however I react, regardless of whether it ruins your fun or not.

Some people can mock me playfully, but they’ve earned that right by being my friends and helping me (yes, even “good housemate”… hey, especially “good housemate”, who let me stay in his new flat for a week when I was between homes!) — but even then I set limits: one time “best mate” snidely suggested I get something with meat in it to eat, but apologised when I pointed out to him that, unlike everyone else, I never give him any flak for refusing to drink alcohol (which is a rarity in an Irishman, but you know how I prefer “weird” people).

Of course, I put myself down humorously all the time (especially in this blog, as you may have noticed if you’ve been able to stay awake this long — see, Q.E.D.!), but perhaps it’s a “control” thing — none shall mock me before I have mocked myself!  In fact, that confused the hell out of one of the bullies at school, back when I was 15.  I suppose I need to find a way to let others laugh at me without it being me telling the jokes, but perhaps the problem isn’t that I object to them mocking me: perhaps it’s OCD, and I think they’ll just get the details wrong!

Finally, I myself have, in the past, been a horrible person to others (especially a good friend I had at school who just happened to be dyslexic), and for that I’m sorry… I guess being on the receiving end so much has made me realise how I don’t want to do the same to others (like my comment about “best mate’s” drinking above).

All right?  Have I born my soul enough now, and can I go to bed before the onslaught of Christmas Eve, and fighting my way back to Worthing?  Fine then.  As Jerry Springer would say: take care of yourselves, and each other…

Self-conservation, or: What I really don’t want to become

“Why do women always leave me? Why do they dump me for men who wear turtleneck sweaters and smoke a pipe? I mean natural yoghurt eaters. ‘Reliable’, ‘sensible’, ‘dependable’, and lots of others words that end in ‘-ible’. They’re obsessed with house prices and spend half their life at antique fairs looking for bargains and drinking wine. It’s never beer, is it, it’s always wiiine! ‘What do you want on your cornflakes darling?’  ‘Oh, I’ll ‘ave some wine please!'”
Red Dwarf (S2E4, “Stasis Leak”)

ForeverAloneBefore I start, yes, this is another “girl troubles” post, so if you’re sick of me going on about my love life (or lack thereof), please feel free to post a complaint in the comments section.  I assume there’s someone out there actually reading this…?  Well, for those of you left, this is also an “unapologies” post, because I’m making a stand for who I am.

To summarise recent events, I have been “sort of” dating someone — an “older woman” (but young-looking due to being Oriental) — but it’s come to an end because she prefers someone else she was seeing at the same time to me.  She still wants to be friends, but here’s the thing: even though we got on well and could talk for ages about whimsical things, and even though she herself is geeky and into anime, she felt I was “immature” and “too much like a teenager”.

Yes, I know, what an enormous revelation, but stick with me here.  I don’t drink to get drunk, hang around in a gang of yobs or call random people “fag” in online games, so what’s the problem?  I can envisage only two alternatives:

  1. I’m not grown-up enough, and need to put away childish things, force myself to wear suits all the time and enjoy adult pastimes like wine-tasting; or:
  2. Society itself has a bad attitude, and I’m fine just the way I am.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things I want to change about myself (as you’re only too aware if you’ve been reading this drivel long enough): my social anxiety, my quickness to anger over silly little things, my tendency towards introvercy, my pessimism over changing my life and meeting someone (which leads to brooding and hence to full-on depression), and my inability to concentrate on… er… ooh, a page of Red Dwarf quotes, I’ll read that for 20 minutes instead of writing in my blog…

Sorry, where was I?  Ah yes.  I have a lot of psychological problems, no doubt about it, but I’ve been combatting all of these through a combination of exercise, yoga, Meetup.com events and studying IT through an agency that will compel me to get on with it.  One thing I don’t hate about myself, one cancer I don’t want to hack out of my being and grind beneath my heel, is the fact that I’m a bit childlike, that I enjoy video games, Beavis and Butt-head, heavy metal music, Doctor Who, horror films, chocolate, and soft drinks.

(Mind you, my sort-of ex couldn’t even really put her finger on why she found me too juvenile for her tastes: a general impression, something about referring to TV shows she’d never heard of…?)

Okay, so I don’t have a house or a mortgage, and I can’t drive, and I make silly jokes rather than being earnest all the time.  So what?  I’ve had a steady job for many years and have savings, I work out and eat healthily, I don’t go out boozing with “the lads”… I don’t even support a football team (not that there’s anything wrong with doing so, but it seems to be the only fun thing “real men” are allowed to enjoy).  I have problems, but I’m not a total deadbeat who needs a woman to “fix” him (ironically, I’d probably have more success with women if I was).  A manchild?  Certainly, but is that even necessarily a bad thing, if I behave responsibly?

I yam what I yam, and while I strive to improve myself both mentally and physically, I don’t see why I should have to turn myself into a boring old fart who goes on about house prices, just because our society thinks adults, and especially men, should only be able to enjoy the Harry Potter novels if they’re reading them to their own children (I read the first four back in 2000-1 on the recommendation of a female American friend), and that anyone who doesn’t choose to work overtime, drive a car (in London!) and otherwise put themself through all sorts of “grown-up” stress isn’t a “real” adult and would thus be a burden rather than a potential mate.

Here’s a rhetorical question, but you can answer it if you want: should I change something fundamental about myself, something I actually like, just to attract women who would probably bore me, or should I change the parts that I hate, such as my shyness and anxiety, and keep looking for someone who makes me happy, and who is made happy by me?  Am I alone because I’m so very, very different to “normal” blokes, or is it solely because I haven’t met enough women due to my introvercy (and not asked enough out due to love-shyness), and should I hold on until I meet someone who would love me because of my childlike whimsy, and not despite it?

Hey, should I just lie about my age and date younger women, or would they be too genuinely immature for me?  I’m pretty sure I’m done with older women — I want to find someone I can grow old with, not someone waiting for me to catch her up (probably with hands on hips and a disapproving frown… yeah, and her hair in curlers…), and miss out part of my life.  Yes, I’ve been in arrested development since my teenage years, guilty m’lud; but if I’m not “mature” enough for women my age, isn’t that the loss of women my age?  Are they perhaps old-fashioned, and does the future lie with the young?

(Of course there are heterosexual women out there of around my age who want to enjoy life rather than endure it, who aren’t hung up on what a man earns or whether his interests are “grown-up” enough, who don’t think theme parks are just for children, who might enjoy my sense of humour — even my tendency to impersonate Beavis and/or Butt-head, or Kenneth Williams, at anything vulgar-sounding — and who might even play video games with me… but they’ve all got boyfriends or husbands!!!)

Anyway, I don’t imagine I’ll always like the things I like — $DEITY knows, my tastes have changed over the years (I used to hate the very idea of violent horror movies, for example) — but I won’t give up the things I enjoy just because they make most single women look down upon me as a manchild.  Maybe that’s why they’re still single — in which case, by rejecting me they’re actually sparing me from a boring, prosaic life.

On the other hand, I could always just not tell them I like heavy metal until we’re married… as Basil Fawlty would say: don’t mention the Gwar!  I did once, but I think I got away with it…

The new sexism

(Sorry, long-winded rant ahead…)

s02e01_287This’ll probably upset my female friends, not to mention my mother (considering I’m going home to visit her this weekend), but I feel I have to get on my soapbox about this topic: the vilification of heterosexual men.  Er, anyone who asks why I’m so offended on behalf of heterosexual men can go stuff themself with any implement of their choice, because (if I haven’t mentioned this before) I am myself of the straight persuasion, what with John Barrowman being off the market and everythi… what?  Oh, shut up and stop distracting me!

To be serious, this is something that’s troubled me for a long time, but two things really crystallised it recently.  The first was a story my newest friend told me of an incident he’d witnessed on the Tube, and it should be noted that this was apparently only one stop from the terminus, thus rendering the situation all the more bizarre:

Woman: May I sit there, please?
Man: Are you pregnant?
Woman: No.
Man: Then no.

Was this man a sexist pig, was he standing up for equality, or was he an upstart defying the new order?  Come to think of it, am I a sexist pig for always sitting as far from the doors as possible on my morning commute, to reduce the likelihood of being asked to give up my seat, on the grounds that the only reason I as a man should ever even have a seat is so I can give it up for a woman?

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I’m in favour of equality between the sexes: I think women should be paid the same money for doing the same work as men, and that they’re just as capable of doing the same work (although physical labour clouds the issue, there are plenty of physically strong and tall women out there who can hold their own).  I’m also not “threatened” by “strong women” (okay, my mother threatens to beat me up, but that’s a separate matter… just kidding, Mumsy, don’t hit me when I get home!), and would be delighted to see more women in IT, for example, to break the whole “boys’ club” stereotype.  I didn’t like Thatcher, but that was because she was Thatcher, not because she was a woman, and I don’t like MPs Jacqui Smith or Claire Perry because I think they’re incompetent, and that they want everyone in our supposedly “free” country to be treated like a child and a potential criminal (which seems to be the general thinking of politicians in the world today, but I’ll rant about that another time).

What I’m against is the notion that even when we finally achieve gender equality, smash the glass ceiling, see off the sexist “old guard” into their graves etc. (about the same time we’re rid of racism, presumably), men should still have to be “gentlemen” all the time, and that a man should give up his seat for a woman not because she’s pregnant or otherwise “less able to stand”, but solely because he’s a man and she’s a woman.  Surely anyone who’s young and fit should be willing to give up their seat, hold open a door etc. for someone else who needs it, regardless of gender, simply because it’s polite?

(Being a gentleman for your date is a separate matter, because that’s a choice, not an obligation — and some girls don’t care about it anyway!)

Oh, and don’t even get me started on pregnant, overburdened etc. women who just stand there huffing and puffing about the insensitive man who hasn’t noticed she wants his seat, because apparently she “shouldn’t need to ask”, or indeed those who think a man who does offer his seat is being sexist for “assuming” she needs his seat and doesn’t wait for her to ask.  Men can’t be expected to be telepathic (despite what Rule 13 says) any more than women, and there needs to be some kind of polite consensus on this, rather than the current attitude.  It feels like women are saying: “We want men to get it wrong so we have something to criticise them for, and so our negative opinion of ALL MEN is validated!”

On that topic, it does seem that women in offices are allowed to make bigoted generalisations about men, of the “they’re all the same” variety (I have personal experience of this), yet if the genders were reversed, a man who said such things would be in serious trouble and probably lose his job.  Why is this?  I don’t accept any notion that the men of today “deserve it” as reparation for all the hardships men inflicted upon women in times gone by, and I refuse to accept this “sins of the father” punishment.

Do you understand?  I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT MEN DID IN THE PAST, and until such time as I become a manager, an officer, or indeed a father (and perhaps not even then), I will not be responsible for the actions of other men.  I will try to be a good person and treat women with respect, but I am horrified by the idea that persists in our culture today that male heterosexuality is something of which I should be ashamed and for which I should apologise and atone every day of my life, through abstinence and self-vilification.  How many women hate themselves simply for having sexual thoughts, and more to the point, how many women think they should?

And that brings me onto the other thing that finally made me write this long-awaited post: a plot in the EU to “ban pornography”, which follows calls in this country for it to be censored from the Internet “for the sake of the children” (words that are often used to justify removing freedoms).  Leaving aside my belief that it should always be the parents who decide what their children see and do online, and not some unaccountable government diktat (because it absolutely will be expanded to include anything the government du jour doesn’t like), how about defining what you mean by “pornography”?  Are you including gay porn, or porn aimed at lesbians or heterosexual women (such as that Chippendales video my mother probably wishes I hadn’t remembered her watching)?  No, it’s been clearly stated that it’s porn aimed at heterosexual men, because it “exploits women” (and I can’t see someone even as misguided as Claire Perry ever deliberately alienating gay male voters by telling them they’re just as bad as straight men).

Yes, apparently all women who so much as dress in one-piece swimsuits are tragic victims of exploitation, and any man who looks at any even remotely-titillating image of a woman is a vile, sexist beast who thinks that sex is all women are good for.  Presumably the “ban porn” brigade don’t care about blokes who aren’t in relationships and can’t get laid (believe me, there are guys out there more hopeless at getting a girlfriend than me — guys in their 30s who have never been kissed!), or wish they would just “stop existing” because they’re an inconvenient complication to their porn-free Utopia.  But look at the current scandals in the Catholic church for an example of what happens when you cut out any form of sexual release for people you expect to be celibate!

Are men more biologically compelled to think about sex than women?  Well, almost certainly, but that doesn’t make us all rapists-in-waiting (and indeed, availability of porn correlates with reduction in sex crimes — I know that doesn’t prove causation, but it certainly implies it), or even worse, proto-paedophiles.  The reason there’s overwhelmingly more porn aimed at heterosexual men is simple “supply and demand”: men want it, and there are women who are willing to supply it.  I have no problem with there being porn for women featuring men (just as long as I don’t have to see it, because I’m not gay, as I forgot to mention before).  Porn doesn’t turn people into rapists any more than violent video games turn people into psychopaths (people who are compelled to become psychopaths may choose to play violent video games, but that’s a debate for another day); maybe there’s nasty exploitative stuff out there that degrades women, but that doesn’t describe all pornography for straight men, any more than all porn for straight women portrays men as figures of fun, fit only for the derision of superior femalekind.

What do I mean by that?  Well, the fact that it seems to be okay to exploit men sexually in advertising, in a demeaning way that absolutely wouldn’t be allowed if the genders were reversed.  Never mind the Diet Coke adverts that are making a comeback (at least this time it’s twentysomethings rather than middle-aged married women ogling the shirtless hunk while Etta James sings in the background): tonight I saw a Bertolli advert where a group of cackling old Mediterranean ladies get a dog to steal the towel from a visibly nervous young man getting changed on the beach, and cheerfully photograph his, ahem, junk.  Okay, it’s fiction and the guy’s just an actor, but tell me why that’s less offensive than a smiling topless woman on Page 3 of The Sun (leaving aside the fact it’s a dreadful tabloid owned by an evil man), since we actually see the guy’s bare behind in this dreadful commercial!

There was also a recent Kinder Bueno advert with the two women stealing a man’s clothes, so he has to run naked from the sauna while they laugh… a man who did that to a woman would be torn apart, so why is this okay?  Should all men suffer like this for the actions of previous generations, or just the handsome ones?

My mother once told me, when I was a naive teenager, that women do nothing but “laugh” when they see male strippers.  So men admiring Page 3 girls or female strippers and regarding them as goddesses is sexist and depraved, but women looking at handsome naked men like they’re cattle is somehow fine, because it makes them laugh, especially if the man is visibly uncomfortable (as in the above advertising examples)?!

I agree that quasi-pornographic images are rammed down our throats (ooh, Matron!) in public and on pre-watershed TV, and I agree that there needs to be less overt sexualisation in our culture, but not because I’m trying to “apologise” to womankind for the crime of having a Y-chromosome; rather, because I think sex should be a personal thing and not inflicted upon people without their consent.  In private, I’m more than happy to ogle women who are willing to put their bodies on display, but I don’t think they’re inferior beings, or that unattractive women are somehow of no value to society.  I hope women feel the same way, but it doesn’t feel like it sometimes.  I also don’t like XXX stuff, largely because it features men, and I don’t want to see that.  (Don’t say “herp derp imagine you’re the man”, it’s stupid — I don’t imagine myself as Jack Bauer when I watch 24!)

As I’m sure you’re tired of me saying (especially since I said I wouldn’t go on about it), I want to find a woman and make her happy, but also be made happy by her — it’s a two-way thing, and I would not be willing to become a second-class citizen to an overbearing bully, as some kind of “payback” for all the times a woman’s been trapped in an abusive relationship.  But while I want to find that one special person, I’d also be (prepare yourself for this) happy with a harem; it wouldn’t be a case of exploiting women and treating them as interchangeable sex objects, it’d be about making several women happy instead of just one… and not to mention making up for lost time!  I’d only have consenting women in my harem, of course: no sex slaves, and I’d have no issue with anyone leaving if she wished to move on with her life.  Obviously, in this hypothetical situation, they’d be happy and fulfilled, because I’d be some kind of Casanova-esque sex god who could give a woman thrills with one raised eyebrow… yes, I’m into the realms of fantasy here: I can’t raise one eyebrow, no matter how much Star Trek I watch.

spock_eyebrow

Calm down, ladies, he’s only available once every seven years…

(As an aside, something Stephen Fry noted: why is bigamy illegal, even if all parties consent, yet adultery is legal, even though it’s a violation of trust?  Is it because bigamy would complicate the tax arrangements of marriage and the legal matters of divorce, e.g. who gets what?  You’d think politicians would be willing to create more jobs for their friends in law and the tax office, and thus give them more power over us “plebs”!)

Finally, and perhaps most sinister of all: what’s with the notion that rape and domestic violence are less important when they’re directed against men?  (Jacqui Smith took it a step further, by campaigning to stop “domestic violence against women and girls” — not “women and children” — as though she was implying that little boys don’t matter!)  Why is it that in some parts of America, the man is automatically arrested even if it’s the woman who attacked him, and that a man who is knocked unconscious by a woman can still be done for domestic violence if he “grasped at her clothes as he fell”?  And then there’s the idea that it’s also “funny” or “satisfying”: would you have laughed if Tiger Woods had hit his wife in the face with a golf club after finding out she’d had an affair, or Ross Kemp had beaten up Rebekah Wade for reasons probably not unrelated to consumption of alcohol?  (Okay, the latter isn’t a good example because she’s a thoroughly despicable excuse for a human being who deserves to go to prison, but still!)

And let us not forget John Wayne Bobbet, try as we might…

Then there’s the story (it’s the Daily Fail, but I think it’s true anyway) of a female Russian shopkeeper who overpowered a robber, tied him up, force-fed him Viagra and raped him: is that somehow “vengeance”, rather than a hateful sex crime for which she should be punished, and which would be abhorrent if it had happened the other way round?  (He was no angel, but rape is often cited as “worse” than robbery or violence…)  And what idiot wrote 40 Days and 40 Nights: I know I shouldn’t complain about things I haven’t seen, but the protagonist, who has wagered he can go the titular amount of time without sex, is raped by his ex-girlfriend so she can win the bet, and has to apologise to his new love interest for “cheating” on her.  And the ex-girlfriend GETS OFF SCOT-FREE.  Is this okay because men are all “gagging for it”?  If the genders were reversed, it would be an obscenity, no doubt about it, so why is this all right?

What it comes down to is this: I will stand forever by what feminism should be — the campaign to ensure men and women are treated as equals.  Maybe we’re not the same, but we both matter the same, and neither of us should be subservient to the other.  And for that reason, I reject the notion that “women are more equal than men”, and that they could do without us but keep us around out of the goodness of their hearts.  We’re all humans, and we all deserve to be treated as such.  Can’t we all just… get along?

If I’ve said anything tonight that has offended you, remember, this is your blog too (well, not literally), so feel free to post a comment and we’ll have a slanging match debate about this hot topic.  Maybe I’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest, but I know nothing ever changes if people don’t talk about things, and I don’t like the status quo!

Unapologies: A minority of one

“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.

baddiel_skinner

Baddiel & Skinner, the one good thing about English soccer (from the Telegraph website, but I’m sure they won’t mind me nicking it)

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…

towelie

“Don’t forget to bring a towel!… You wanna get high?”

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?

simpsons_buddhism

“Who wears short shorts…?” “I wear short shorts…”
(from babysimpson.co.uk, again)

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?”
  • byesies

    “I mean… (manly voice) *byesies*!”

    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!

Unapologetic for being a vegetarian

I’m back, and I’ve got something new to soapbox about.  Now, there are a number of things I want to change about myself — my anxiety, my quickness to anger (especially where our flaky Virgin Media broadband connection is concerned), my inability to appreciate the fact that others don’t grasp things the way I do (as my poor mother knows after I got her to do some Wii Fit Plus exercises at the weekend) — but there are also some things about myself that I definitely don’t want to change.  Hence, the brand new post category of “unapologies”, which I’m inaugurisationating with tonight’s topic: my vegetarianism.

Image from babysimpson.co.uk (and originally Fox, or something)

Image from babysimpson.co.uk (and originally Fox, or something)

I decided in the mid-1990s, for reasons not entirely unconnected to the image on the left, that since there’s enough food available in our society, the only reason to eat meat (leaving aside getting marooned on a desert island etc.) would be for the taste, and furthermore that it wouldn’t be worth an animal dying just to give me a taste sensation that could be equalled or even surpassed by other means.  I made the switch at university, fair enough, but I’d already been thinking about it for a year or so (despite enjoying McDonald’s — ah, perhaps therein lies a clue?), and once made, it was an easy path to follow.  I had to do it in stages, though: for one thing, I didn’t manage to cut out gelatine-based foods (I really, really liked Wine Gums) for a long time, and Walkers cheese-and-onion crisps contained animal rennet until that glorious day in 2004…

Anyway, it’ll have been 16 years in April since the Geology field trip to Wales on which, due to it being self-catering, I decided to become a vegetarian (like the proverbial gay man bedding one last woman, I made myself a steak-and-kidney pie that day… hey, who is this gay man and why does he get more girly action than me?!).  Thanks to the availability of things like Quorn and Linda McCartney “fake meat” products, I haven’t been inclined to go back again, and the smell of frying bacon, ironically, also helped (though it should be noted it was bacon being fried by university students, so the word “carbonised” would be more appropriate).  Here in London, where I’ve lived since 2003, one of my female friends once showed me a nice little vegetarian fast food restaurant in Dean Street called RedVeg, now sadly long gone (thanks for ruining my life, Crossrail), at which I frequently had a very nice vegetarian burger (the one at Nando’s just doesn’t compete, and peri-peri be damned).

However, society in general (and Gordon Ramsey in particular) seems to think I’m some kind of dangerous deviant because I choose not to eat meat.  Leaving aside the stupid loud-mouthed vegetarians who go around preaching at meat-eaters that they’re “cavemen” (I’ve never been like that and never will be), what’s the deal with criticising my eating habits?  It’s like the kind of homophobic bully who tells gay men they need to be “normal”, rather than just tolerating them and saying “hey, more chicks for me”; so similarly, why not say “hey, more steak for me”?  Are they really annoyed that I’m not competing with them for a finite resource?  (Not that I’m describing women as a “resource”, I should add, but there aren’t many single women left… oh, sorry, I digress!)

And then there’s the whole “herp derp, do you wear leather shoes?” (no, I go to annoying lengths not to, and shoe shop staff look at me like I’m crazy every damn time), or the “fact” that $DEITY put the animals on Earth for us to eat and thus made them out of meat (gee, never heard that one before), or “vegetables aren’t food, they’re what food eats” (ooh, careful with that joke, it’s an antique), or “don’t you ever hunger for a steak?” (yes, so I have a Quorn one — er, other fake meat product lines are available), and so on.  In fact, here’s a bingo chart about the subject:

If you're the person who made this, kudos.  And, could you make a slightly easier-to-read version, please?

If you’re the person who made this, kudos. And, could you make a slightly easier-to-read version, please?

I should add at this point that my former “good housemate” was like this a lot of the time, though he also concluded I was gay (sorry for bringing that topic up three times in this post — ooh, Matron!) because I hadn’t had “enough” women.  Basically he liked taunting me all the time, but he also supported me when I needed it, so I tolerated his humour (and he even made me some vegetarian chilli once).  What got to me, though, was our final “third housemate” who once told me, in all seriousness, that he wanted to “cure” me of my vegetarianism.  Yes, that’s the guy I grew to loathe before we moved out of Caledonian Road (should I conclude from his example that all meat eaters refuse to do their washing-up unless bullied into doing so, and make a lot of noise at night?).  One of my housemates here made a similar comment, but he at least was funny about it, and since he helped me out when I first moved in (especially with the heavy lifting), he’d earned the right.  My female best friends have both catered for me willingly and without grumbling (one of them has food intolerances and so knows all about cooking separate meals).

I guess I’m lucky to live in a country that actually caters for vegetarians (and, to a lesser extent, vegans).  There was actually a BBC News article about this topic recently, and I’m a bit worried about my holiday to the USA in May, but the company assures me I can buy my own vegetarian food and cook it over the campfire with no problem, rather than relying on American restaurants where they might think “vegetarian” just means “with vegetables on the side”.  At least I’m not going anywhere near South Dakota or Texas, and I know that the restaurant on the Eiffel Tower can provide vegetarian pasta if you specifically ask for it (and don’t call the waiter garçon, presumably).

I couldn’t become a vegan, though… I just like dairy too much!

Okay, so my eating habits aren’t perfect: I do need to eat more vegetables (though never broccoli — sorry, some lines just can’t be crossed), and I’m trying to have more stir fries and less pizzas / chocolate / caffeinated fizzy drinks.  But give me a break about meat, okay?  I won’t preach at you if you won’t sneer at me.  It’s like Paul McCartney sang: “Live and Let Live”.  Actually, it was “Live and Let Die”… well, whatever, it had a good rhythm!

(As a Godwin’s Law-based postscript, here’s the obligatory Hitler reference: not only was he not a strict vegetarian (he liked roast dove), but he also liked cakes, was heterosexual, breathed oxygen, occupied three-dimensional space and experienced time in a linear progression from cause to effect.  Are those things evil because Hitler did them?  Honestly, reductio ad Hitlerum is ridiculous — next you’ll be saying genocide is evil just because the Nazis did it!)

(Oh, and PPS: there’s a stupid IAMS advert on TV with cats “saying” that they’re carnivores and not vegetarians, as a way of advertising that the product has a greater percentage of animal protein in it than other brands of cat food.  So, er, why isn’t it 100% animal protein, P&G?  Is one of the richest companies in the world not only cheap but a bit hypocritical?)