Friday, 21 October 2011

Hot or Not

In our mid-teenage years, when sex was still a lofty aspiration and movies like American Pie a romanticised self-help blueprint, my very small circle of friends (three of us, so more of a friendangle) explored any avenue that aligned us even remotely to the near-mystical realms of carnal pleasure. Predating these halcyon days of free streaming, we downloaded 20-second samples from porn sites and secreted them in hidden files on the family computer. We lit digital candles and flopped out our gigantic e-penis’s for frantic cyber-fornication in chat rooms. We stretched the boundaries of decency in answering the social measurement: a/s/l?

Typical answer: 18/Hot Guy/Up the bum?
Real answer: 13/Oh God Please/Not here, my mum’s watching.

We were three guys with newfound hormones trapped in the pubescent pressure cooker of an all boys’ school. We feared that if we didn’t satiate our desires we’d inevitably cross the point-of-no-return and bugger each other blind behind the sports hall. Fortunately, the perversions of the Internet always serve up a fresh humiliation to aid distraction.

Before MySpace and Facebook made it possible to lower your trousers in front of any girl in the world with only the persistent sting of shame as repercussion, Hot or Not encouraged us to pass judgement on people’s worth by rating their appearance from 1-10. No friends, likes, or interests. Just a parade of narcissism designed solely to inflate or shatter fragile egos.

It’s still going. Check it out: hotornot

It had its problems. The beautiful would undercut their rivals and the ugly amongst us would rally against the aesthetically gifted like a massacre at an Abercrombie & Fitch store. Still, nothing online at the time quite matched the heady thrill of rating these girls’ faces from the safety of a desk that hid the real reviews in our laps.

Quite what we hoped to achieve by throwing our own mugshots into the breach I’m not sure. Perhaps we felt that, robbed of the opportunity for real girls to laugh in our faces, we’d let the anonymous do it instead. More likely, we aimed to establish a hierarchy in our friendangle, like rutting stags comparing the size of their antlers.

So for one afternoon my front room transformed into a photoshoot. The other stags carefully shaped their hair with gel until, respectively, they resembled an underfed bird of prey and Chandler from Friends when Matthew Perry was in rehab. At the time, these were considered good photos.

Worthy of note, this was around the week or so that Peter Andre’s ‘Mysterious Girl’ was back in the charts. Possibly the most sexually ambiguous moment of my life is preening myself in front of two camera-wielding boys while this video played repeatedly on the music channels: Contains Gratuitous Homoeroticism

I was very much at my fattest, and unaware of the tricks the overweight utilise when being photographed (wear dark colours, take photo from high angle, pull a face that apologises to the viewer for scarring their eyes). I wore a shiny blue shirt, and decided to run my head under the shower to really capture that fetching ‘drowned wildebeest’ style that drives girls wild. I looked like an over-the-hill pornographer hoping to forge a career in heart disease prevention posters. At the time, it was considered a good photo.  

Our profiles went online. Each morning on the walk to school we discussed/gloated/commiserated over the results. I don’t quite have the heart to log in to my old account and check my score. The hierarchy had been established, and I was firmly at the bottom.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Let's Get Ready to Rumble!

There’s a general consensus that I’d kick your arse. Just last night a man easily twice my weight assured me with some enthusiasm that I would ‘fuck him right up proper.’ This declaration came in a busy Penge pub where half the patrons would open my jugular with a splinter of pool cue if I accidentally slagged off the wrong football team.

In this particular showdown, I might have fancied my chances. It would be a simple war of attrition; I, the plucky dogfighter, circling King Kong, peppering tracers into the furry titan’s plentiful folds until he topples, lengthening heartbeats thumping around the beer garden to spell the end.

Ever since I defied my diet of crisps and Turkey Dinosaurs to surpass the 6’ mark, this misconception of an inner ferocity has dogged me amongst male company. When some rapscallions from a lower year disturbed a school drama rehearsal, it was my presence which deterred further irritation. Despite my aged necrophiliac in pink long-johns costume, they retreated from the room murmuring warnings that ‘the big one might switch.’ I hadn’t moved a muscle.

Those who know me well are keenly aware that I am, to use appropriate regional dialect, a fassy. If threatened with violence, I’m more likely to flee at the head of a urine trail as the darkening stain on my trouser-front greets the pavement than I am to stand and fight. A broad pusillanimous streak as served me well in avoiding being stabbed/mauled/buggered with garden shears.

My official fighting record thus far in life is 1-1. My first pugilistic foray was against Charlie, a weasel-like boy smaller than myself who lived in the same tower block as my dad. Some time before we had fallen out after he gashed open a younger boy’s head with a rock. I was indoors and received a phone call from my sister inviting me outside to play with her and Charlie’s sister. I did not sense the trap.

The lift doors slid open, and Charlie was waiting, a Bond villain smile on his chops. This was the 10-year old equivalent of having dropped through the floor hatch into the inconsiderately placed crocodile tank. With our respective sisters his baying crowd, he came at me. And I switched.

Without throwing a punch, I got hold of his neck and forced him to the ground. Those in possession of a killer instinct would have rained punches on his not-so-smug-now face until it more closely resembled a half-eaten placenta. Instead I became confused as to what should happen next and just sort of squeezed his throat a bit until his sister started to scream ‘He’s got chewing gum in his mouth!’ Bruce Lee would not have shown mercy. But I, the humble victor, released my quarry, whipped my imaginary cape across my shoulders and disappeared into the night.

Well, went inside and ate a celebratory Kit Kat.

Years later I was cut down to size by Michael O’Neill, a physically imposing bully who chose the wrong day to practice his pro-wrestling moves on my face. By this time our lives were defined by emulating steroid-addled tanned phalluses in rubber shorts who, much to our belated chagrin, pretended to beat each other up in increasingly extravagant fashions.

Michael’s disregard for the structural integrity of my head however, was very real. After one involuntary faceplant too many, I stood up and kicked him.

To my horror, he kicked me back. Far harder than I had kicked him.

I would not be discouraged! I kicked him again!

Then he kicked me really hard. Twice.

It’s somewhere around then that I fell down and proceeded to cry for as long as it took for him to wander away in disgust. A tactic not often seen in the WWF, but a far more convincing performance.

‘Whoa, I’d never mess with you, big fella!’ chatters King Kong as he wraps his opposable thumbs around his pint and lurches off to scale the kebab house. As always I laugh, brandish my fist and clench my teeth in a mock snarl. Inside me, the humiliated teenager lifts his head from the tear-soaked grass and wipes his forehead in relief.