Thursday, 19 December 2013

A Media Ban on the Word 'Fat' is not the Answer

In the news today is consideration of a ban on television and other media using the word ‘fat’ to describe celebrities and other figures. Much of this stems from the actress Jennifer Lawrence, who has spoken out about some (apparently blind) sections of the media referring to her as fat.

I mean, seriously?

It’s not nice to be called fat. I can tell you that from a decade of experience. And seeing healthy celebrities who, thanks to advantages of their lifestyle, look better than most mortals being called fat isn’t nice either. It is, as this campaign rightly contends, damaging to self-esteem and a contributor to health issues such as anorexia, bulimia, and depression, particularly in young people.

But a blanket ban on the word ‘fat’ would only serve to ignore a number of other problems, and potentially make them worse.

I’m not a parent, but I often consider what I would do if my child began to become overweight. On one hand the last thing I would want to do is berate my child and give them a complex about their looks. That’s equally as harmful as exposure to this kind of media. But simply brushing weight issues under the carpet isn’t the answer either.

I gained several stone in weight between the ages of 10-11 and at no point did anyone sit me down to make me aware that it was happening, and that it might have severe ramifications in my later life.

Me in bigger times.

I lost a great deal of that weight aged 17, and a little more aged 20. I’m now 26, and my self-esteem, body image, and social skills are still catastrophically poor. I still struggle with my weight on a daily basis. Being severely overweight during those crucial formative years casts a long shadow. It would not be different if these kinds of media stigma did not exist. I would still have been unaware that it was a problem and therefore unable to address it. But it might have been different if someone had helped me to understand.

My fear is that simply pretending that being overweight does not hold the potential for harm, or that simply pretending the word ‘fat’ doesn’t exist, will only allow weight issues, and the psychological toll, to run rampant.

It’s admirable to promote positive body image. If someone, whatever their size, is happy with their body, that’s fantastic. I agree wholeheartedly that being overweight should not make you a target for derision or judgement. Undoubtedly what celebrity media considers fat is outright hurtful and unrealistic. There are very few people who wouldn’t agree that Jennifer Lawrence is a beautiful woman. But a blanket ban on the word ‘fat’ is not the answer. What it threatens to do is promote a different kind of ignorance that will only perpetuate or even exacerbate issues pertaining to weight and negative body image.

There are also other issues to consider, such as personal health, financial strain on the NHS, and, as obesity figures spiral in countries around the world, particularly in children, the possible impact on infrastructure. It can even have a negative impact on others. To use an anecdotal example, I have a family member who is a paramedic, and is frequently expected to carry people weighing 20 stone or more down flights of stairs, to the detriment of her own physical health.

It seems to me, in my limited knowledge, that the answer should lie somewhere in better education about nutrition, addressing the rampant poverty that is forcing families to rely on cheap, unhealthy food to survive, and providing better support to help overweight people improve their health if they wish to do so. If there was better education, understanding, and support, these media stigmas would carry far less influence and potential for harm.

The intentions behind this idea are good. But it feels a little like scapegoating, and it is not only simplistic in its approach, but even has the potential to cause further damage.

Monday, 2 December 2013

My Book is Getting Published

For the last decade I have been working towards getting a book published. It has pretty much been my only goal in life. And now it’s happening! My first novel will be published in 2015 by Constable & Robinson, who are lovely and bought world English rights.

This is probably the first time in my life that hard work has paid off. Apart from that time I took a 2 hour round walk to purchase discounted ice cream. That paid off handsomely.

Real handsomely

The book is entitled The Marxist Fingernails of King Richard III, and tells the story of a lonely royal fingernail swayed by the coquettish allures of the capitalist model, and his rebellion against his Marxist nail-mates to achieve the American Dream. Along the way he must battle a nasty case of fungus, avoid his head being clipped off, and endure the embarrassment of having faeces embedded underneath himself.

Okay, so I just made that up as I was typing. It actually sounds better than the real book. You can read about that in the press release via The Bookseller.

Official cover artwork

When I started university I set myself the target of being published by the time I was 30. Although in recent years I’ve known that I was good enough to achieve that, I always thought that another obstacle would scupper my chances, as it does for so many: a book idea that isn’t easily marketable; that doesn’t happen to resonate on a personal level with an editor; my lack of sheer dumb luck; my questionable personal hygiene. So I really couldn’t be happier that I will achieve that goal.

In 50 years, when I am living in a hover house full of snakes, I will be able to shout to the hover children outside the hover window that I will be leaving my mark on the world in the form of some book about fingernails I had published once. And the children will say: “What the fuck is a book? Does it hover?”

And I will be so proud.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Lost in a Hong Kong Shopping Mall

I escaped the neon-soaked Kowloon bustle after my companions dismissed me with a shrug and cloistered themselves in our cubicle of a shared room. A constellation of roadworks led me to the base of the ICC, a fairly innocuous glass monolith at night that is nevertheless the fifth tallest building in the world.

This building, right here.

In this part of the story I ascend 100 floors in 60 seconds, fear I have suffered the bends, and nothing terribly interesting happens.

The lift that returned me to earth deposited me into a shopping mall. As the doors slid open, fear ran its fingers up my spine. Most of the last two weeks had been spent trapped inside sprawling retail arcades that I’d entered whilst trying to cross the road/find the zoo/escape a different retail arcade.

I had to search for an exit, always deliberately hidden so that you might instead scurry inside a shop. I wouldn’t be fooled. My path divided into four. The signage had chosen a non-committal approach to language, opting for pictograms of leaves and what were perhaps intended as animals: an oak leaf, a lotus, a hobbled raccoon, an elephant with shingles. I picked one and hustled past the gaudily glamorous shops until I reached glass doors.

A washcloth of humidity pressed against my face. The Outside. But my relief was curtailed as I realised it was a decoy; a car park that opened onto an overpass with no pedestrian access.

Back inside. Now shutters were descending like emotionally clumsy cinematic fade-outs. Closing time. I pursued Oak Leaf until it dead ended at a desolate food court. Elephant doubled back on itself and left me at an escalator that fell eerily still as I approached. The situation was dire. I accepted my awkward fate and went in search of a staff member. I found her by the lifts that had got me into this mess.

This is her.

“How do I escape?”

She stared blankly back at me. Perhaps she only understood pictograms?

“Do I follow raccoon, elephant, oak leaf, or lotus?”


I threw her a thin-lipped grimace, the English symbol of I’m too polite to panic but I don’t want to die here.

She primly walked away as if my existence had elapsed.

I hammered the lift button but it was one way only. I cast around desperately for an exit and saw, tucked away in the corner, a metal fire door. A pictogram of an exploding sun indicated that it was alarmed.

I hurled my weight at the release bar and all but tumbled down the concrete stairs as the alarm spiralled behind me. I didn’t pause for breath until I reached the roadworks that would guide me home.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Anti-Dating Blog

‘Do you ever worry,’ asked my best friend, ‘that your blog might stop girls from wanting to date you?’

There is indeed a convincing argument to be made that young women aren’t interested in a guy so openly entrenched in depression, so terrified of the sticky exchanges of intercourse, and whose face currently looks like this:

Similarly, I should stress that I’m hardly strapping women down and subjecting them to an endless Powerpoint slideshow of blog entries while I moisten their eyeballs with a syringe. But women have found this blog with alarming regularity.

The very first entry was about my disastrous first kiss. I was seeing an older girl at the time, which cliché dictates made her a font of experience and expectation. I stayed at her flat the weekend after I had posted that entry.

‘Was that all true?’ she asked. ‘About your first kiss?’

When I answered in the affirmative, she blew out her cheeks and quietly went back to watching our inexplicable evening choice of Embarrassing Bodies. I never saw her again.

Because nothing says romance like fungal feet

The next time a girl found this blog she read every single entry in a single day, and told me she thought I was lovely. It was only once she’d met me in person that she lost interest entirely.

So, early evidence is inconclusive.

I’ve brought it on myself since then. The biggest fallacy propounded by this blog is the impression it gives of me as a nice chap blighted by misfortune. I can singlehandedly disprove that with the entry that unfairly insulted a girl I had just stopped seeing. She saw it, of course, and no amount of apologies since have convinced her to talk to me again.

Recently, a girl I was chatting with via a dating site asked me to add her on Skype. I did so with a new account I’d set up for freelance work and anonymous video sex calls. Without my knowledge it had linked with Google and listed this blog immediately next to my name. Five minutes into our first conversation:

HannahK: Aren’t you embarrassed writing such personal things?

Dave: What do you mean?

HannahK: I’m on your blog.

This was particularly bad as the most recent entry was my 26th birthday post, an entry which Thom Yorke of Radiohead famously described as ‘testicle-stonkingly depressing.’ I immediately went on the defensive to convince her that it was just an off-day, usually I’m an iridescent bundle of raindrops on kittens tied up with string.

Then I smelled my own bullshit. There was no point in lying. She was already looking for a way out of the conversation. So I decided to give her one.

Dave: Don’t worry, you can run to the hills if you want.

HannahK: I’m thinking about it, haha.

Dave: I’d understand. I’m actually thinking about drawing a nice hot bath...

HannahK: I don’t mean to be rude.

Dave: ...break open one of my mum’s leg razors.

Dave: I’m sick of it all, tbh.

HannahK: I hope your [sic] joking.

Dave: I’m riddled with syphilis, too.

HannahK is now offline.

Because why not live up to expectation?

Here's a cat licking my eyeball

I stand by anything I write on this blog, no matter how shameful, raw, or ridiculous. I have a mental illness, yo. My friend was absolutely right; any female with her head on straight should run a mile if she encounters this blog. It is the Anti-Date. Woman repellent. But it’s me. And it’s best they find that out from the start.

Maybe someday one of them will stick around.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

5 Observations About South Korea

I went to South Korea last month. It was great! And, in a welcome break from the usual, nothing particularly embarrassing or untoward happened to me. This leaves me little recourse but to write an unabashedly trite list of observations. Don’t worry, you can skip to the (also quite shit) photos.

South Korean food is mostly gross.

I’m not one of those ‘live like a local’ type travellers who believes that sampling the native diet is imperative to any given journey. This is very often because local food is a horrific abomination. South Koreans like fish. Any fish. If a creature has so much as taken a breath of sea air they will eat it. Banks of restaurants are fronted by tanks writhing with octopi and sea urchins and things that worryingly resemble human hearts. I visited South Korea’s largest fish market. At any given moment it officially* represents 97% of the ocean’s maximum occupancy (*not a made up statistic). Koreans eat the fish raw and, very often, while it’s still alive.

Dave’s travel tip: Eat only ice cream. If the milk comes from Korean cows, it’s technically local food.

The North/South border is a pantomime put on by children.

The border between North and South Korea is amongst the most militarised places on Earth, second only to a Millwall FC home game. They like to highlight this fact as often as possible. The empirical evidence (checkpoints, minefields, the world’s most respected barbed wire collection) doesn’t prevent the tour guides hammering it home every few minutes that you might be randomly exploded by a North Korean shell. The border visit itself is a series of fleetingly staged procedural line-ups overseen by soldiers who, due to mandatory service, are barely out of school. Half of them stand for hours in poses of aggression that make it seem as if the biggest hazard at the border is chronic constipation.

Dave’s travel tip: Seriously though, those kids could kill you with their left thumb.

Everyone in South Korea is a model.

I am not an attractive man. My eyes are beady and I walk like a half-witted oaf. By English standards, I am merely forgettable. By Korean standards, I am pepper spray to the eyes. Everyone in South Korea is beautiful. I have never seen such a high concentration of attractive individuals outside of that recurring dream where I’m naked and everyone laughs. This is partly because they have an attitude to caring for themselves that puts much of the world to shame. It also has something to do with cosmetic surgery being commonplace. They even advertise it on the subway.

Dave’s travel tip: Don’t expect to have any sex in South Korea.

You might die of old age at South Korean traffic lights.

South Korean roads are so wide that most English people would expect sponsorship just to cross them. A wait at South Korean traffic lights is like a queue for the world’s worst theme park ride. Chance it, and you’ll certainly be killed on one of approximately twenty-seven lanes of traffic. Bus drivers spend so much time at junctions that they actually get out for a cigarette break before the lights turn green.

Dave’s travel tip: Just stay in your hostel. Sod it.

South Korea is absolutely beautiful.

Capital city Seoul has no globally famous landmarks; there’s no Big Ben or Eiffel Tower or Penge Market. The majority of buildings are identikit apartment blocks. But what it lacks in a focal point it more than makes up for in green spaces, clean and efficient transport, and preserved heritage. Stray out of the city and it’s nothing but stunning mountain scenery in all directions. It’s one of the more beautiful countries I’ve ever visited.

Dave’s travel tip: Or just look it up on Google Earth. It’s basically the same.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

A Non-Depressive Blog Post about Depression

The discerning amongst you will have noticed that this blog has taken a turn for the depressive of late. It’s not something I’ll apologise for, but I have every half-hearted intention of going back to what this blog was originally about: pointless bollocks.

But before I fail at that resolution, I’d like to write a non-depressive post about depression. It’s been in the news this week that young people, some under ten years old, who fear they have depression, are being dismissed by doctors. This is total bullshit.

Depression can be an overwhelmingly lonely illness. This is not only because you often don’t feel up to socialising, and so shut yourself away and, in my case, litter the internet with bollocks instead. More acute is the sense of isolation. It is difficult to talk to anybody about what you’re feeling. Not only is it intensely personal. The fear that they won’t understand is tremendous. And when you finally, desperately summon the courage to talk about it, to have them dismiss you is confusing, painful, and hugely damaging.

I’ve only been open about my depression for a year or so. But several years ago, during a particularly difficult spell, I decided to tell my two best friends that I might have depression. Using the full scope of my maturity I did this via Facebook message.

He didn't care either.

Shortly afterward they responded to ask if I wasn’t just overreacting a little bit. Perhaps I was just feeling sad because my life was in a rut. It would soon pass, and I would realise I was just being melodramatic.

So I tried to forget about it. To show such vulnerability and be knocked back was completely humiliating. So I continued to ignore the problem and only found the courage to seek help years later, by which time my depression was far worse.

My intention in relating this story is not to blame my friends. I am just as guilty of showing the same ignorance to a member of my family. While she struggled for many years with severe depression, I sat back and wondered, often aloud, why she couldn’t just get over it? After all, what did she have to be depressed about? Instead of trying to understand or offer any kind of awkward teenage familial support, I made them feel weak for having a mental illness.

Something for which I am very, very sorry.

The point I’m labouring over is that we have to hear people out when they voice a concern about their mental health. If a friend told you that they think they’ve found a lump on their body, you’d take it seriously and tell them to see a doctor. It should be no different for depression.

It will always be especially difficult to diagnose depression and other mental illnesses in young people, especially while they’re being subjected to the hormonal rigours of puberty. But to dismiss them out of hand is simply wrong. It’s an obvious point, but one that clearly needs to be made.

To end, I’d like to share a link. I’m well aware, from personal experience, that comprehending depression and how it affects people is incredibly difficult. This is a selection of comics that capture depression as accurately as perhaps is possible. I really urge you to take a look.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Piss Parachute

I woke up in the middle of urinating.

It was a recurrent problem in my early youth. I was a prolific bed wetter. So frequent were my illicit leakages that my hindquarters were dyed a sickly yellow. My mum installed an old shower curtain under the bed sheet, but it quickly grew mildew and had to be disposed of.

Every few months I would unwittingly abandon my bed and awaken on my feet, a fine stream of urine splashing onto an area of the house ill-equipped for the task. Often it was a bin or plastic drinking cup, perhaps a habitual hangover from my days of potty use, and easily dealt with. At my Grandma’s house it tended to be one corner of my bedroom, resulting in several frantic middle-of-the-night panic scrubbings.

Image posted without comment

This time I woke up and found myself pissing all over my school project, due the next morning. The task was to fashion some kind of parachute. Its mettle would be tested by throwing it over the balcony in the school hall. I had gathered together all my engineering genius to stab holes into all four corners of a white handkerchief, run string through each and tied it all around the waist of a rubber action figure.

Now it was soaked in piss.

Even to my young mind this was clearly a problem. It was now far too saturated to float. And it stank of piss.

I hurried quietly into the bathroom and ran the hanky under the tap. Its new yellow tint refused to recede. Even after a thorough rinse it smelled of piss. I cast around the bathroom until I spotted a bottle of mint mouthwash. I drenched the material with it, sure that the sharp medicinal mint would overrule my pre-pubescent urine. Finally I set the project to dry on the radiator and returned to bed.

This is what happens when you search 'happy mattress.'

In the morning my room smelled like a hospital ward: the clean smell of mint undermined by a distinct bodily musk. Still, at close quarters the handkerchief smelled reasonably fresh, and it was dry. I had got away with it, and for once my mattress had not borne the brunt of my lascivious bladder.

The parachute remained in my bag until mid-morning. The class trooped through into the school hall, and small groups took it turns to ascend to the balcony. The winner would be whoever’s parachute remained in the air the longest.

What's the worst that could happen?

My group lined up on the balcony. I took the parachute from my bag.

“Ugh, what’s that smell?”

The mouthwash had worn off. The heady tang of stale piss drifted across the balcony. My classmates swatted at the air as if the smell were a cloud of gnats, pulled the necks of their jumpers up over their noses. Even the teacher was taken aback, reeling as the smell pinched at her nostrils.

Eyes began to turn in my direction. I had to act quickly. Before they could single me out I stepped to the rail of the balcony and hurled my parachute over the edge.

It plummeted to the ground in less than a second. I rushed to retrieve it before anyone else could, and celebrated last place by flushing the project down the toilet.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

26th Birthday

It has become wearisome tradition that each year on the anniversary of slipping from ‘twixt my mother’s thighs I write a narcissistic and self-pitying summary of the year since my last birthday. Even though this blog has recently been less populated than a Fukushima hamlet, I feel compelled to continue the trend.

An amusing aside: in last year’s birthday entry I predicted that by my 26th birthday I would have transformed into a bitter hermit. I annotated it with a picture of a heavily bedraggled bearded old man:

Well, shit.

So, to my 26th year. A year in which so little happened to me that isn’t depressive or devoid of entertainment. This is going to be a blast.

I took a 3 week trip to China and Thailand, where I variously horrified locals with my disarming western stench, was molested by overly-sexed trans-women, and spectated on the ejaculation of a turtle from a bodily orifice I will never find attractive ever again.

Despite quitting the gym due to lack of funds, I’ve continued to nurture my substantive dream of being able to make my pecs dance. I am pleased to announce that my pectoral muscles can now shimmy like a pair of inebriated scallops.

I had sex once.

I took a selection of gaming consoles to a homeless shelter in London and wrote an article about it. In my head I was some kind of charitable wizard, sweeping in with gifts of technological wonder to rescue these poor unfortunates from the doldrums of their blighted existence. In actuality I was an ignorant middle-class white guy with dubious morals.

I quit online dating. Then I started again. Then I quit. Then I started again. Somewhere in the middle I scuppered a promising relationship, and only realised months later that it was entirely my fault (sorry, Ruth).

I featured in a mini-documentary on a major gaming website that looked at the relationships between depression and video games. Here I am, putting on my best intelligent voice!

As you’ll have already noticed, this post isn’t terribly funny. To be honest, it hasn’t been a terribly funny year. This was the year I came out of the depression closet (an abstract space decorated with skinned cats and perpetually out-of-order vending machines). I’ve almost certainly never been this unhappy thus far in my life. I’m now 26, and I’m single, jobless, living at home, fatter than I’ve been in years, and suffering with a mental illness. It isn’t my finest hour.

This is why I’ve all but abandoned this blog. Although it’s always had a fierce depressive streak, it was always intended to be funny. Self-deprecation is my finest talent. But when that self-deprecation is rooted in very real and profound self-hatred, it becomes increasingly difficult for me to laugh about it.

I am deeply depressed. In the past year I have realised its true extent. I am lonely. I am hopeless. I am broken. There is little more in the world that I hope for more than for the age of 26 to be the year in which I turn it all around.

I would also quite like to get my picture taken with Grumpy Cat.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Shelter Bowl: Gaming in a Homeless Shelter

A couple of months ago I took a selection of video games consoles to a homeless shelter in London. The idea was to write a really worthy piece about the power of gaming. What happened instead was that I had one of the most hilarious, terrifying, and heartwarming days of my life.

I usually wouldn't post this here. It's an article I've been paid for on an entertainment site. But the article is very much in the style of these blog posts. And it's probably better than anything I've written here. In fact, it's one of the best things I've ever written.

Please follow the link below if you'd like to read it. And if you're feeling really kind, please share it along.

Shelter Bowl: Gaming in a Homeless Shelter

Friday, 21 June 2013

Man Boobs: The Video Game

I've recently bought a swanky camcorder and other kit, in the vain hope that developing my video skills will make me more employable. This is the first thing I've made with it. It's a feminist satire, I guess. It's very silly.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Social Interactions That I Don't Understand

I’m not a very good human being. By that, I don’t mean that I’m a bad person. In fact, I am morally rather middle-ground. I will contentedly drown a kitten, but I won’t film it on my phone. Rather, I have never been able to master the quotidian social interactions that collectively make us well-adjusted human beings. Things like:

1   Encountering Someone You Know in the Street

With the prevalence of social media, this can be a problem for anyone with a tendency to add on Facebook anyone they’ve ever briefly met at a party/bought a car from/ejaculated into. Indeed, it’s a problem that can sometimes be solved simply by crossing the road or vaulting into a front garden. The difficulty arises when through a quirk of geography a fleeting encounter becomes inevitable. My face begins a complex launch sequence of approximated appropriate shapes. First, I must pretend not to see them until the very last second to avoid staring intensely at their approach as if I plan to hit them with a thunderous clothesline.


At the moment of contact, my repertoire consists of an erratic nod as if I’m suffering from dropsy, a taut smile indicative of a wandering butt-plug, and a torrent of sweat that steams from my armpits like alfresco urine on a cold winter’s day. Combined, it’s possible that I suffer a small stroke upon every encounter.

2     Kisses as Greetings

What I formerly believed to be the exclusive jurisdiction of chick-flicks and wankers, this touchy-feely greeting has sporadically, yet firmly, muscled its way into my life. It raises so many questions: single or double kiss? Which side should I start on? Will the recipient smell the Chilli Heatwave Doritos I ate for lunch?

Are there people out there who think me rude for neglecting to press my quivering lips against their flesh and call them darling? For all I know I should be kissing my kitchen fitter, smooching the self-checkout supervisor, and puckering up for my... Proctologist? (Excessive alliteration is another social barrier I don’t understand). Of course, if I misjudge kissing propriety I risk the screaming disdain of women. Which leads me to...

3     Sex

I’ll keep this brief, due to its personal nature and the fact that I’ve had barely any sex to complain about (I’ll leave that up to my unfortunate partners). My record speaks for itself. The first girl I ever kissed proceeded to throw a pint glass at my head. All of the women who have ever been unfortunate enough to have me love them promptly hooked up with my best friend of the time. My last few dates have ended with frosty silence/drug abuse/accusations of homosexuality. Sex remains an unfathomable enigma to me, the machinations of which instil a terror great enough for me to exile myself to a life of loneliness, regret, and masturbation to increasingly bizarre forms of pornography.

4      Not Talking About How Much I Hate Myself

A slew of internet searches and randomly encountered dating profiles have told me that I need to have confidence. This flies in the face of my usual technique when I run out of things to say: draw the conversation toward some negative aspect of my person.

“Sorry, when I’m nervous I sweat like a panful of well-prepared asparagus.”

“Oh man, I’m really bad at self-deprecating metaphors.”

“Have you noticed this weird rash on my face?”

“I think I have Weil’s disease.”

This isn’t limited to everyday conversations. I do it on dates. I do it in job interviews. If the opportunity arose, I’d probably do it during sex. My personality is constructed entirely on a foundation of self-hatred. As to why I can’t help but spew it at others, perhaps I’m just trying to be funny. Perhaps I want to push people away. Or perhaps I’m hoping that, one day, I’ll be able to believe the people who tell me I’m not as bad as all that.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Games vs. Depression - Mini Doc What I Am In

I'm well aware that this isn't something I'd normally post here. But it's my blog, so what are you going to do about it? The above video is a mini-documentary about how video games can help people suffering with depression. I feature in the video as the 'expert,' a term I'm dubious about. I just about qualify as some of the video is based on an article I wrote a few months back. There's not a lot of research in this area, so I probably am as close as you can find to an expert, really.

Anyway, please check it out. Not just because I'm in it, but because it's a brilliantly made film full of sad and inspiring stories.

We need to remove the stigma of mental health issues, and talking about films like this are a brilliant way to do so.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Vapid Attempt at Generic Enhancement

Do you remember when Ozzy and Kelly Osbourne released a cover of ‘Changes’ which was possibly the worst thing ever? Just in case you don’t, here’s a reminder:

Now you’ve towelled the blood from your ears, I should inform you that this song is the official theme for this blog entry. The excruciating execution, half-hearted sentiment, and misguided intentions match the forthcoming content uncannily.

I want to affect some kind of a change in my life. I call this my Vapid Attempt at Generic Enhancement, or VAGE. A life of sitting in my room watching my waist expand, my fear of sunlight burgeon, and my bin fill with coagulated tissues isn’t agreeing with my current state of mind. It’s like being locked in a cell with the one person I despise the most. I’m trying to convince myself that I hold the keys to improving my situation – that after 135 job applications I still have the power to find work; that my career as a writer can still take off; that I can conquer what is, suitably enough, the catalyst for VAGE – loneliness.

Recently I attempted to solve this by re-establishing contact with a girl whom I dated for a short time last summer. At the time I blamed her for the demise of the relationship – it coincided with the onset of a serious bout of depression, and I believed that she used it against me. It was ugly.

Now I realise that it was far more my fault than hers. Although I was genuinely struggling with depression, I used it as an excuse because I get scared in relationships. My longest lasted 3 months. I’ve never been in love. The medication I’ve been taking wreaks havoc with my sex drive. I don’t know how to be with someone. I let this fear get the better of me and I looked for a way out.

I got it into my head that she was the answer to my loneliness. My urge to apologise was genuine, but I also believed that I could revive our relationship. She had been kind, understanding, and, something so rare for me, we clicked. So I was surprised when she didn’t reply to my message. I pushed it further, forcing a polite reply or two, but nothing more. I don’t know what I expected – anger, perhaps, or cold disdain. Perhaps a part of me expected her to fling her underwear over my face. In fact, she reaffirmed what I already knew – that she’s kind and understanding. But that doesn’t mean that she wants to know me anymore.

This is the problem with VAGE – like Ozzy and Kelly Osbourne crooning at each other, it makes me insufferably misguided and painfully annoying. It’s a kind of selfishness I can’t escape because, despite knowing better, I can’t shake the belief that it’ll lead to my happiness, just like I always believed that losing weight would fix my life. It might be the case that this girl would make me happy – in so many ways, I believe she was good for me – but that doesn’t matter. By pursuing these blinkered ideas of how to fix my life, I’m only going to bring pain to myself and, far worse, to others. And I want to believe that I’m a better person than that.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

How to Grow a Depression Beard

There are many ways to deal with the cloying symptoms of depression. You might talk about it with friends or family; take your mind off it by going for a nice walk or punching a goose; moan about it incessantly on Twitter/Facebook/your personal blog. 

Here is a (totally serious) guide to an alternative form of therapy: growing a depression beard. There is no better way to inform the world of your depression than by growing an unsightly, pungent bush of hair. Ladies, do not feel left out. Remember - a beard doesn't have to be on your face.

Stage 1: Escape Puberty

The infancy of a beard is shrouded in uncertainty. Will it grow in ginger? Will you be mistaken for the Yorkshire Ripper? Legitimate concerns, all. The pubescent phase of the beard is commonly reached within weeks of launch, and this is your only chance to turn back. If you look like a serial killer who should be dressed exclusively in animal semen, I encourage you to persist. If it grows in ginger, I insist that you shave.

Stage 2: No Going Back

By this stage the headlong descent into being a dishevelled outcast is as undeniable as the whirlpool of treacled despair sucking you into its fathomless maw. Now is the time to dress only in black and practice frowning, weeping, and stamping on kittens. Just like Queen Victoria. That picture right there? That's me smiling.

Stage 3: Delusions of Masculinity

This is a perilous stage in the genesis of a depression beard. When it blossoms into full-bodied, glossy adulthood, you might begin to feel kinship with your facial atrocity. You might even start to like yourself. This simply won't do. Take a few minutes of every hour to remind yourself of your shortcomings - your underdeveloped triceps, your unevenly haired buttocks, your incapacity to love - until the onset of Stage 4. No one feels good about Stage 4.

Stage 4: Pube Face

Here, weary journeyman, your quest is at an end. You have reached the zenith of the depression beard. In fact, you are now more beard than man. Children flee from you in the street. Baby possums attempt to suckle your face. Your jaw is indistinguishable from your groin. You are now wearing depression upon your face. Never again need you explain your affliction - not just because people will guess with a single glance, but because all humankind will shun you from its dwellings. You deserve it. Freak.

This was, of course, a tongue-in-cheek take on depression. I should take this opportunity to thank all of my friends and family who, be it with bafflement, kind offers of help, or by simply ripping the piss out of me, have taken news of my depression with aplomb. In the past it has caused me to upset people, let people down, and sometimes kept me from being the good person I strive to be. It also led me to grow a horrific beard. To all those people, I apologise. The beard might now be gone, but to all my friends and family who are still with me, I thank you, from the very bottom of my heart.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Fading of Friendships

This is not a treatise on the well-worn sitcom Friends, a program I can no longer watch without inexplicably vomiting bile from my eyes. It is instead, in keeping with this blog, something of a moan. Any long time readers will have gathered by now that I’m something of a malcontent.

It's still better than watching Friends.

While I’m loath to become one of those still-relatively-young people who whine about becoming old, with a quarter of a century behind me I do find myself stumbling into some of the social pitfalls of age. My chief concern is the gradual fading of friendships. 

Immediately after university friendships are shed like a malting cat rolling on a crisp white bed sheet, but the strongest connections remain intact. Far more troubling is how these connections are slowly rubbed out in the following years.

I’m somewhat socially awkward, not terribly amusing, and unfairly scathing of pretty much anything that other people like. Shockingly, I don’t make friends easily. This has made me all the more desperate to cling to the few that I already have. But, as friends relocate overseas, enter into serious relationships, and have children, it’s only natural that I become less important in their lives.

The problem is that not everyone can be successful in such endeavours. If we could all retreat into our marital microcosms, occasionally offloading our offspring onto irresponsible teenagers so that we could meet up and complain about how tired we are, everything would work out fine. But in any circle of friends, there’s the one person who can’t quite manage this, and as a result refuses to stop texting the others, inviting himself to their children’s bar mitzvahs, sleeping unnoticed in their sheds. They even make movies about that person.

Terrible, terrible movies.

You can tell where this is going – do I keep being the one to text friends suggesting we meet up, when really all I’m doing is holding them hostage? Or do I accept that they’ve moved on and back off?

One of my very best friends has recently been back in the country for three months. Despite his arrival in the midst of one of the deepest bouts of depression I’ve ever experienced, regular meetings with him for this short period have made me feel better, at least temporarily, on every single occasion. When he flies back to the other side of the world for at least the next 18 months, it’s truly going to come as quite a blow.

The only other thing that cheers me up is Grumpy Cat

I suppose all I’m trying to say is that my friends mean a lot to me, and, from a purely selfish perspective, I don’t want to let them slip away. I’m deeply lonely. But perhaps it’s time to accept that if I really care for them as friends, I should respectfully leave them to get on with their lives.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Caught Short in Shanghai

The subway carriage begins to stop, the momentum sending the puddle of yellow liquid streaming up the carriage. I jump out of the way but there isn’t time to reach my bag. The urine breaks around it, halting the flow so it soaks into the bottom. After a number of close encounters with bodily fluid in China, I suppose such an incident was inevitable.

It’s a faux-pas in travel writing to draw attention to Chinese toilets, those macabre pits of curious stains and dizzying odours. This great nation’s rapid industrialisation has yet to effect a change in public facilities. In many areas, including the capital Beijing, the street is good enough. Nappies are expensive, so Mother’s let their children resolve their business where they stand.

Not so in Shanghai, easily the most westernised city of mainland China. There’s even a Marks & Spencer. I had spent a few days here, and had all but forgotten the Chinese propensity to think of street as sewer. Crowding onto the subway I was quite prepared to forgive their idiosyncrasies, the elbows in the ribs as you board, the staring, the disapproving tuts as I set my oversized backpack on the floor and took position opposite the sliding doors for the long journey across the city.

The Shanghai subway is a marvel; clean, efficient, and navigable by tourists with minimum hair-pulling.

One or two stops later a family boarded, ranging in age from a toddler to grandparents, and spread themselves around the carriage. One passenger’s boxes of crab were shifted to give the child and his mother a seat.

The commotion began as we cleared the city. The mother started shouting, and the grandfather lunged across the carriage to thrust a restaurant menu into her hands. The toddler had left his seat and was having his trousers hastily removed. The Englishman in me insisted that I not stare, but this was China; staring is the national sport.

The restaurant menu was deposited beneath the boy’s posterior. It caught the primary transaction, but nothing could be done about the accompanying stream that puddled on the carriage floor.

Passengers scurried to clear their possessions; suitcases, laptops, boxes of crab. Positioned by the doors I thought myself safe. Until the train began to brake.

The urine surged for me like fire along a trail of gunpowder. My backpack could not be saved, the urine pooling around it like a yellow moat. As the train stopped and the doors opened to let in some welcome fresh air, I picked up my bag and stared pointedly at the family as their child’s effluence dripped from it.

They didn’t even look at me. They hurriedly gathered their things, and, leaving behind the pungent contents of the restaurant menu, ran for the doors. A teenager at the other end of the carriage let out a guffaw at my expense. And then the train moved off, the acceleration sending the urine hurtling in his direction.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

This Blog is Filth II

A few months ago, after vaingloriously deciding to follow traffic to this blog a little more closely, I wrote an entry telling of thefrightening and sordid things I learned about what people search for on the internet, and expressed my dismay (or, if you will, secret glee) at the search terms that land people on my blog. Well, this entry is going to do exactly the same thing. Not because I’ve totally run out of fresh ideas (ahem), but because these internet searches have got infinitely worse. Don’t believe me? Read on.

All men are obsessed with ladyboys.
Shortly after I arrived home from a trip to Thailand, I wrote an entry about an unfortunate evening in which I was molested by ladyboys and my desire to continue living, and ability to achieve an erection, was extinguished forever. Naturally this entry became far and away my blog’s most read, and still receives over 150 views every week. This, I have gleaned, is because men are colossal perverts. There are simple searches for ‘ladyboys,’ which I choose to delude myself are simply people innocently investigating the phenomena in order to best prepare themselves for an encounter, like carrying pepper spray or a 12-gauge shotgun. I choose to believe that several searches for ‘Me and my ladyboys’ are from fans of an obscure 90s sit-com I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing. And then there’s the search for ‘advice ass-stretching for my ladyboy.’ Sir, my advice to you is not to stretch your ladyboy’s ass. She’ll only want to return the favour.

Gay men turn to the internet for guidance
I’m no expert on homosexuality, but if watching Eastenders has taught me anything, it’s that coming out as gay can be difficult. Several search terms have revealed to me that, just as when I have an embarrassing rash/boil/seething wound I wish to keep private, closeted gay men turn to the internet for guidance. Some of these are ambiguous, such as a search for ‘Emotionally stunted virgin.’ As an emotionally stunted virgin for many years myself, I understand that it occasionally crosses your mind that you might be a virgin because you’re, in fact, trying to hump the wrong gender of person. I truly hope that my entryabout the time a male classmate molested me in primary school is helpful to the person who searched ‘Boy in class felt up my leg.’ As for the man (for I have no doubt it was a man) who searched ‘Are there showers in Wormwood Scrubs?’, I implore you to research other ways of engaging in sexual congress with men. Your idea is going to result in some serious tissue damage.

People are... I just don’t know anymore
I enjoy my humour close to the bone. I am very rarely one to take offense. But I also consider myself, by and large, a decent human being. So even I, increasingly frequently, feel the urge to break down into tears at some of the searches that land on my blog. At the tamest end is ‘George Lucas Paedophile.’ Now, it’s my belief that George Lucas is little more than an animated sheep’s stomach stuffed with dismembered kittens adept at raping well-loved film franchises, but the accusations should end there. Sliding down the scale there are men who seem bizarrely proud of their simple fetishes, such as those searching ‘wife never wear panties’ (your wife is almost certainly cheating on you) or ‘she play with my urethra.’ Then there are the searches for which I can’t even bring myself to joke about, such as ‘pubescent girl like to show off breasts’ or ‘Small act of naked girl fingering.’ Truly, truly this blog must be filth if these searches are bringing people here.

And as for the person who searched ‘masterbating circlle of men hamster [sic],’ I think you should look up the soggy biscuit game. It’s kinder to animals, and you’re less likely to end up with an infected bite in an unfortunate place.