Tag: Society

I’ll Never Compliment Your Looks, So Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

(me versus fashion, round three?)

Okay. This isn’t personal. That title is just a fact. If you’re fishing for compliments on your new top by telling me you like how my hoodie matches my trainers, piss off and lurk around Primark, waiting to be told by employees that the jeans you just picked out look so good on you, then revel in your apparent validity as a fashionista like their kind word wasn’t a contractual obligation.

But there’s a more serious point here, a discussion about to what extent fashion is a thing. Bear with me on this.

Take a particularly detailed blog post of mine; it’s not unreasonable to assume that I have put a lot of work into it, and would like people to read it and tell me what’s good and what’s not. It’s not narcissism, nor fishing for compliments, it’s just a pretty average response for a creator who has just created something. But it’s harder to impose that model onto fashion. While not everyone writes blog posts, and so those that do and would like to discuss them are obvious, everyone has to engage with fashion on some level. Even I must pick out one black t-shirt with things written on it instead of another black t-shirt with things written on it. But I don’t engage with fashion as much as I engage with posts I write, so I’ll always be more comfortable talking about things I’ve written, not things I’m wearing; it’s just a personal preference.

And because we all have to engage with fashion, it’s hard to see where a lot of people fall on this divide that separates people who care about it and want to be engaged in a discussion on it, from people who are wearing a shirt because otherwise they’d get chilly nipples and an ASBO.

Because all of us have things we’d like to talk about, and not like to talk about; and I don’t want to assume that a person wants to talk about their outfit, even in an entirely positive manner, just because they happen to not be naked. I’m uncomfortable complimenting people on things that they might not themselves have paid attention to.

As far as I can tell, assuming in this way opens all kinds of cans of worms in your relationship with that person: in discussing a thing they might not care about, but that you assume they have, has emphasised your role in your relationship, and that what you want to discuss is the thing that will be discussed. There’s also the ever-annoying existence of gender here, where our idiotic and generalised to the point of obsoletion idea that women care more about their appearance than men has led to awkward situations: I’ve seen women be innocently complimented on their looks, only to be told that actually they didn’t care what they wore that morning, and men who did make an effort totally ignored, the world unappreciative of their matching jean hems and shoelaces.

I like talking to people about things they like; normally this criteria is filled, but if it’s not, then by extension I’m abjectly ignoring one of their interests in favour of my assumption of those interests. As far as I can tell, talking to a person about their hair means not talking to them about their favourite TV show, or their stance in the Mass Effect 2 vs Last Of Us debate, or whether they remember any of the songs from Charlie McDonnell’s album This Is Me. Making this mistake is already a bad thing, but when it comes to clothes, and bringing with them all their connotations of superficiality and, especially, gender roles, I worry that every time I say ‘your outfit is nice’ I’m judging them as a human mannequin and not as the collection of ideas and mannerisms they are.

Equally, I’m not part of the ‘shut up and take a compliment’ hoard of folks over on Men’s Rights sites; I don’t want an oppressive, simple solution to my own insecurities, confusion and awkwardness in conversation, I want those problems to be thought about, and discussed.

The best part of coming to uni has been that I’m interacting with people I genuinely care about on a near-daily basis, so I’m less arrogant than I was back in the ‘I’ll say what I like and if you get offended it’s your fault’ days of a few years ago. I like my friends because they’re smart, and have interesting ideas and the ability to discuss them, and a few of them even get the references on my t-shirts; I don’t want to discredit that personal connection we have by introducing superficial pleasantries to our discussions, that are boring and generic at best, and presumptuous and offensive at worst.

So I won’t tell you that you look nice today, even if you do and you put loads of effort into your outfit and such a compliment would literally make your day. It’s hard to tell whether someone cares and wants to talk about their looks, but we can’t deny that we all want to talk about the thoughts we have, and the words we say; so I’ll play it safe and talk to you about those things.

I’m Such A Tourist

(I should never go on holiday again to avoid such a problem)

Today, we went for a hike, and I not only bought a postcard for my family, but took not one but two photos of local landscapes. Two! Me, James Patrick ‘I’d rather experience my life than document it publicly on the Internet for no reason apart from those crap blogs I have’ Casey!

Part of this is that this trip is, quite accidentally, one of the most personal I’ve been on; I’m pretty close to the Dingle Peninsula in western Ireland, where my mum’s side of the family – the Moriarties – originate from, so I wanted a postcard to commemorate this. Also Ireland, at least the bit around Killarney, is fecking beautiful; and I don’t mean in a bullshit ‘isn’t nature pretty’ sense where all you’re getting is the kind of marginally-more-colourful-than-a-tramp’s-faeces crap that city rats spread over Snapchat like the Plague or gonnorhea when they go abroad, but artistic beauty. The trees framed sweeping views of the lakes, the dull, crisp water reflected the sky and sillouetted my friends against their waters like inverted clouds roaming across a still Spring sky. I’d show you a picture, but I’ve got my poetic hat on at the moment and the stick up my arse is too far up there for me to meddle with such literal, pedestrian forms of communication. That and I’m still wary about giving the WordPress app access to my phone’s photos.

After all, there’s nothing inherently wrong with sharing your life online, but there may be an issue of emphasis: if everything is shared, publicising becomes a means to highlight the negative, rather than the positive. Instead of awesome things being shared and most things being ignored, most things are shared so it’s the bad experiences that are highlighted by not being tweeted about. And while I plan to have experiences in my life ‘worthy’ of a blog post about them, I don’t want to devalue those events by over sharing pictures and videos of things I do. Basically, I’ve taken one set of holiday snaps in my life, because I’ve been on one trip of my own accord, that I’ve genuinely loved.

Written Weds 1st April

Get Off Your Phone You Loser

(whose ‘friends’ are in inverted commas now, huh?)

I blog about things that happen to me, right, and often those things involve other human beings, because even I can’t exclusively play Football Manager by myself, listening to nothing but the Tetris soundtrack and the sound of teardrop-like rain splattering down the window to my left that provides a view of, yet fundamental divide from, the other seven billion humans on this planet. Once, I talked about two of my friends hooking up, and now I’ve been encouraged to tear into another mate for committing the heinous crime of not giving the rest of us their perpetual undivided attention, as if we’re all simultaneously and unparadoxically the centre of each and every universe in existence; and while I kinda wanted to turn this into a weirdly personal, yet ultimately anonymous roast of said friend, I’m not too eager for this blog to degenerate into a WordPress version of EpicLloyd’s excellent Dis Raps For Hire series, where I’ll be whoring out my critiquing talents for five minutes of gratitude at the start of a conversation and a total of five views in the process.

That being said, I’d like to get annoyed instead at people in general who use their phones in social events. The usual unpleasantries have been well-documented all across the Internet, so I’m gonna make the point that screen-staring in such a context is harmful for the screen-starer themselves, because they’re prioritising a technology-based form of communication over a face-to-face one. I’d argue that being skilled in the latter is intrinsically more useful, considering humans have kinda evolved to have faces and use them to communicate with other humans with faces, and so many more people engage in real-life conversations than they do ones over Facebook Messenger. Also, when the majority of jobs and university courses prioritise interpersonal skills – why do you think interviews are conducted face-to-face and not in a rap battle-style contest to find the most original emoji combinations? – it’s hard to argue that specifically conversational, not just broadly communicative, skills aren’t integral to our society.

But even if face-to-face conversations aren’t inherently more valuable, there’s the practical difference between these kinds of interaction that, in general, a text conversation can be continued at any time, whereas a real-life conversation can only be conducted now, while all the participants in the conversation are present and willing to engage in it. Of course, you can have real-time conversations over text or Facebook, but many of such conversations can span days and whole weeks, with each participant chipping in whenever they get a free minute between two annoyingly close together lectures. Ultimately, text-based talks can operate on a real-time or an extended-time level, a kind of flexibility offered by the wedge between you of your phones that you simply don’t get when talking to someone for real; you can’t just piss off and play Fire Emblem for three hours in the middle of a real-life conversation, because social taboos around those conversations have become far more entrenched into our behaviour.

I don’t want to preach, though, and a lot of people will have genuinely important things to slide their fingers over instead of engaging with the people around them, and I’m not going to call for a universal ban on texting in public places, like a kind of Thai policy to force people to be happy in each other’s company or dieSocial interactions are, by their very nature, based on winging it, deciding what is appropriate in individual contexts and changing your behaviour accordingly; otherwise you’ll end up as the dickhead who’s a lofty, dismissive bastard and won’t change their conversational style to suit anyone else’s (i.e. me).

That being said dude, we were all, like, talking to each other and you were just sitting there on your phone; either put it down for a second or invite us all into your chat 🙂

RaeLynn, Meghan Trainor, And Feminism

(*opens three cans of worms simultaneously*)

I planned to write an upbeat, happy post today after a few days of quite personal ‘God I love my friends’ nonsense, but the musicians I quoted in the title were brought to my attention today, and so that changed. For those of you who have been blissfully living under a rock like this badass, RaeLynn is a singer whose song ‘God Made Girls’ include such lyrics as ‘Somebody’s gotta wear a pretty skirt, / Somebody’s gotta be the one to flirt [and] drag his butt to Church’, and Meghan Trainor’s recent ‘Dear Future Husband’ contains the lines ‘I’ll be the perfect wife / Buying groceries’ – neither of these songs are what I’d call particularly ‘progressive’.

Raging (Yet Respectfully Reserved) Feminist James was up in arms about this, and wanted to wrest control of my mind to write a post about how these artists, Dapper Laughs and the Justice For Men And Boys Party are helping to set back gender equality about six thousand years; and how we men should all relinquish all social, political and economic positions of power and give women a go because we’ve basically been steering humanity since we crawled and frakked our way out of the gene pool onto land, and we’ve done a pretty shambolic job of it. But then Reasonable James regained control, and I started to think that perhaps these songs aren’t quite as women-ruining as they first appear. No, hear me out on this.

The first point is that these are women producing art, and this is being acknowledged; whether we agree with Trainor’s floor-mopping techniques, or RaeLynn’s bizarre infatuation with woman-on-horse action, these are subjective, flexible opinions – the fact remains that women are being musicians, in an industry that is, according to some, not as upsettingly sexist as it once was (although it’s not perfect). It’s an old problem that feminism has – if the movement is about empowering women to make their own choices, what if a woman chooses to have some choices made for her, and some power taken away? Is this a feminist thing, because a woman is making a choice, or an anti-feminist thing, because power, by whichever route it gets there, is ultimately being taken away from women?

Personally, my issue with these songs is not that they present a submissive, romantically-driven, male-defined image of women – if you’re a woman and those things appeal to you no-one can tell you you’re wrong for wanting to pursue that image. My issue is the relentless and narrow reinforcement of that image, that instead of choosing to be a horse-riding, ballet-dancing heartthrob, women have to be a horse-riding, ballet-dancing heartthrob. Look at the lyrics – ‘Somebody’s gotta wear a pretty skirt’ suggests that caring about one’s appearance is some kind of intrinsic social obligation, and by fulfilling it women are just filling a role picked out for them in advance, rather than wearing that skirt because they actually like it, which places the emphasis on the woman’s ideas and her own power in choosing what to wear. Trainor’s command ‘Take me on a date / I deserve it’ is a more aggressive version of the same idea, that women go on dates because they’re women and that’s what they do rather than because they enjoy the company of their date, or are genuinely interested in seeing the upcoming Avengers film. In both these examples, there is a similar outcome – women wear x, women do – but for dramatically different reasons – of arbitrary social obligation, and individual choice.

And while I’m not sure this is strictly ‘feminism’, sexuality isn’t addressed in these songs; ‘Dear Future Husband’, from a female narrator is a pretty clear reinforcement of heterosexual relationships, as is RaeLynn’s ‘He stood back and told the boys “I’m gonna rock your world” / And God made girls’. This furthers the lack of choice in these songs; there’s nothing wrong with heterosexuality (we do kinda need it to continue the human race) but there is a problem when heterosexuality is sexuality, and no alternatives are presented. Even The Bloodhound Gang addressed non-straight orientations in ‘I Wish I Were Queer So I Could Get Chicks’ – it’s vulgar, homophobic and makes awful generalisations, but at least it presents queer sexual orientations as a topic for consideration, discussion and, in this case, comedic inspiration. The difference between The Bloodhound Gang and the other two musicians is the former present a thing in a way that offends me so as to provoke a reaction and a discussion, while the latter ignore it altogether, killing even an appreciation of the existence of that thing.

This is my overall point – that there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ ways to do anything, especially when it comes to something so personal and complex as gender roles. Independent, reliant, empowered or disenfranchised, these are a few states of being with merits and drawbacks, and as a complex society consisting of complex individuals, we owe it to ourselves and each other to present these as equally valid choices, so that we can have discussions about our decisions, not damn people for the ‘wrong’ choice, or force them to pick a shit option because no alternatives were presented. Personally, I don’t agree with the priorities presented in those two songs – that life consists of romance and domestic submission – but I’m sure a lot of people do, and even more won’t have an idea; but those songs suck because they don’t cater to those who disagree, or those who haven’t made up their minds. Opinions don’t matter, but the ability to choose them is vital.

I Was An Arsehole At A Club

(as well as being an arsehole the rest of the time, obviously)

On Saturday night, I spilled a drink over some bloke at a club; it was only water, and it merely darkened an already dark brown jacket, but that didn’t seem to matter to the bloke in question, who stared at me with the disbelieving contempt you reserve for people who loudly eat bacon sandwiches at Bar Mitzvahs, or claim that the ‘reject’ option in the Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut is the best choice of ending (but seriously, the ‘control’ and ‘destroy’ endings I can understand, the ‘reject’ one is silly).

What made it worse was the mutual spillage of the drink – I was splashed as much (i.e. hardly at all) as the guy was; in fact, I thought he’d spilled it on me, not the other way around, so when he first stared at me I offered him a dismissive ‘it’s cool, bro’ hand waved in his general direction, before getting back to dancing. It was only a few seconds later, when I realised he hadn’t given me an equally dismissive ‘sorry anyway, dude’ nod of the head that (largely) men use to communicate with each other that I expected, and I turned back to him to receive his Stare of Death, Infused with the Power of a Thousand Dying Suns (+10 to social anxiety, gives the user +20 Judgemental Bastard points).

And I couldn’t really do anything about it; I accept that it was my fault (probably – I don’t really remember now, and wasn’t even too clear on it at the time), but I could hardly offer him a flannel or dab pitifully at his lapels with a roll of toilet paper, could I? I mean, practically I could, but even I have some standards when it comes with interacting with other human beings. Which brings me to the logical question, why was the guy taking it so seriously?

I’m not a perfect individual, but I’d wager that most people wouldn’t accept responsibility like I’m doing – the guy just accused me without showing me any damage to his jacket – so a genuine, if useless, apology was probably the best he could hope for from this interaction. And he got it, but was still wide-eyed, like David Moyes after stubbing his toe; he couldn’t expect any reparations from calling me out on this, and he’d be lucky not to get blanked entirely, or asked to settle any problems he may have in the local Lidl car park alongside a dangerous yet hilarious amount of cheap beer.

But I’m no mind-reader; he got pissed off, I felt bad for a bit, then we got on with our lives; I saw him literally three minutes later dancing without a care in the world. I suppose the only thing to have come from this episode is a blog post on an otherwise uninspired day, so I’m blogging about a thing that’s helped my blogging.

Someone call Lawrence Sterne, this is a meta-blog.

London Is Still A Tougher Place Than Skyrim

(and I’ve still not beaten the damn game)

Over a year ago now, I wrote this piece, detailing how the largely cushy, but occasionally annoying and life-threatening world of London provides a much more tangible threat to its inhabitants than that of the fantasy nation Skyrim, a land dominated by bandits, dragons and sorcery, but where its people are encouraged to be armed and vigilant at all times. And this being Redux Week, in which I revisit ideas and themes from my old posts, and update them with my new, apparently university-educated, writing style, I thought I’d offer some more ideas about how London is more of a bitch to live in than Skyrim.

The first problem with London is that its dangers are as life-wrecking as those in Skyrim, but are substantially less cool; in London, you can die from being hit by a cab as you drunkenly stumble home after a night out that really wasn’t worth the three quid drink prices and fiver for entry, that you only went to out of pity after your sad friend invited you when their unnecessarily capitalised Facebook event only got three ‘Goings’ and four ‘Maybes’, but in Skyrim, you can get roasted by a dragon atop a flaming tower infused with the raw energy of the universe itself, with your mate Lydia who’s wearing quite a cool hat.

And I don’t know about you, but I’d quite like to die in a cool way like that, so that my last impression on the world will be to have a more original caption on Twitter, when my dickhead grandkids inevitably take a shit-load of funeral selfies in front of my vengeful corpse, than ‘#RIPGranddad’. Speaking of which, you’re likely to be killed in really tedious ways in London, either through the steady decay of your internal organs through smoking and alcohol, whether you choose to indulge in them or not, or by numbergeddeon, as you’re forced into abject poverty because blah blah something economics that’s somehow your fault. Meanwhile in Skyrim, death is quick, glorious, and delightfully frequent, to the extent that your family and friends, if you haven’t done something to offend their honour will probably treat your untimely demise with a brief ‘meh’ and a shake of the head, instead of the drawn-out, frankly unnecessarily sentimental response to death, the only certainty in this ever-changing century, that we buy into here in London, and indeed the rest of the Western World. So if London isn’t necessarily a tougher place to live, it’s certainly more annoying.

But London is a tougher place to live: you get thrown out of bars for wearing the wrong clothes, and social conventions here prevent one from smashing the bouncer to pieces with one’s handy Mace Of Molag Bal, so you have to walk home like a loser; you get kicked off buses because you’re using the wrong plastic card representative of debt for the privilege of riding the bus, and you can’t even sell your boots to the driver to barter your way on; and sometimes you have to get to Heathrow Airport with luggage, which means you become one of those wankers who sits on the tube with their big-ass suitcases taking up either every available seat in the carriage, all the standing room in the carriage, or the wheelchair spot in the carriage, whereas in Skyrim you can give all your crap to Lydia and she magically stores it away somewhere, where it’s perpetually accessible, yet never cumbersome (for you anyway).

And the Throat Of The World has better wheelchair access than most Tube Stations; gods I wish I could live in Whiterun.

My Impending Descent Into Alcoholism

(I’ll have to burn my Minor Threat shirt and Rise Against CDs at this rate)

I make quite a big deal – not really by choice, but by the fact that I’m quite obviously the only person at the party not drinking – of the fact that I don’t drink alcohol, and the last drop of the stuff I tried was three years ago, when I was fifteen at a family Christmas party.

Until now.

Last night, I consumed alcohol for the first time since that fateful day: I ate half a party ring that had been dropped in my mate’s cider.

Now, t-shirt burning, straight edge tattoo plans-abandoning reactionary nonsense aside, this isn’t really a big thing – I didn’t even drink the stuff, it only came with the much more enjoyable party ring. But I consumed alcohol, even in a minute amount, and didn’t immediately pass out, nor do I feel a sense of shame for living a life slightly less based on endless restraint – I’ve still not eaten meat, or consumed caffeine this year.

And it was this – along with the remainder of last night’s party that involved going to a club playing so-called ‘indie music’, which all basically sounds like shit versions of Bad Religion and Units – that has made me rethink the stuff I said in this post about clubbing, that things like pop music have their place, even if I don’t particularly enjoy them all the time. Now, I’ve refocused this argument on myself in an appropriately narcissistic way, and have come to the conclusion that it’s tiring, almost impossible, to constantly reject and go against what other people are doing, or enjoying.

Again, this doesn’t mean I suddenly prefer indie to punk, or Bulmers to water, but I think it’s possible to enjoy oneself  by indulging in [stuff one usually wouldn’t like, because in all honesty, it does bug me a little bit when I go to a club and am the only person who doesn’t know the words to the songs. Today I went to the North London Derby, for instance, the big Tottenham-Arsenal rivalry game, and participated in the shouting of obscenities, accusations of pedophilia and willingness to offer death threats as the rest of the crowd, things I’d never usually do, but things I’m happy to do in the moment (incidentally, a couple of drunk Spurs fans mistook me for an Arsenal fan on the way home for some reason – I resisted the urge to respond to their vulgarity and idiocy by headbutting them off the train).

I like doing what’s not expected of me; sure there are obvious and important ethical and health reasons for things like not drinking or not eating meat, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t entirely motivated by that desire to be an individual that we all have, to set ourselves apart from the people we associate with as part of some paradoxical social construct, where we’re all simultaneously looking for acceptance from and conformity with a group, but also to be seen as unique and interesting within it; if I’m totally dull and annoying otherwise, at least I’ll have the not drinking thing going for me. But there are times – increasingly frequent times now that I’m going to clubs and other such fanciful things – where conformity is more important, and even more enjoyable, where you can put away your belief that New Order aren’t great for a bit, because everyone’s dancing to them and you don’t want to be left out in the cold (another ‘incidentally’ here – this isn’t ever the fault of the people around you, it’s more of a personal feeling of not belonging because of what you perceive to be your own ignorance or inadequacy, which is usually totally unfounded but we’re all basically pessimists when it comes to looking at ourselves).

My current solution is a good one: don’t drink, but behave in a more open manner around drunk people, and don’t listen to indie, but try to enjoy it in the heat of the moment. But there is a part of me that reckons that actually conforming to a group identity completely – hopefully by finding a group of people who fit me, because the other way around is totally never happening – might be fun once in a while.

So if you know any straight edge clubs in London that play Rise Against, let me know and I’ll buy us tickets.