More notes on leaving home: The war of the noticeboard, letting go of bitter things and early drafts of new year resolutions
The most important note to make on leaving home- remember. To do. The hoovering. You are going to regret it so much when you neglect the hoovering.
The notice board wars began in early October and have continued until now, the final week. The debate over which side shot first rages on, but what is known is this; in this Welsh medium hall, on the noticeboard there is a welsh and English side to each notice. Someone swapped all of the notices to display only the Welsh side, or only the English side, depending on who you ask. The war began to escalate into a blockade of language. The English notice would be pinned over the Welsh, the Welsh over the English, endless loops of passive aggressive pinning. The battle reached a fever pitch when someone took a sharp object to the English section of a notice and slashed it through. The war then entered an uneasy truce. We all knew a line had been crossed. The war was revived last week, when someone attempted to throw out the ruined and slashed English language sign along with a reminder to keep the kitchen clean for inspection.
The war entered a new, potentially explosive phase: That of the note. A note was posted, berating the attempted binner of the notice and the slashed sign. A reply was quickly posted, citing the reasons for the binning and signed ‘love, Batman.’ A final note was posted in an attempt to defuse the renewed hostilities. ‘I LIKE TRAINS’, it proclaimed. There could be no truer peace treaty than that, and for now at least, the warriors rest.
So I’ve been in Wales for three months, and it’s been nice. A new network of friends and interests hesitantly and shyly started to root out. A lovely thing that happens when you’re completely removed from your old town is that all your bitterness and anger just flows away. It’s so much easier to just let go when you realise that these things don’t really matter, that these things are shifting, that there are more people to see and places to go and things to do than you could ever possibly get through. Why waste time being stubborn and unhappy? I slowly started to reflect on the place I’d stepped out of and while looking at it from an angle I hadn’t seen before I began to see where my edges were. Where all the things that I had raged and wailed and cried about didn’t actually matter one single fuck once you were out of there. I slowly got back into performing, after a pretty bitter departure from it last year. I rediscovered the old magic and sprang back into it.
Doctor Who and Roomates
I started bonding with my roomates on the Pantycelyn international students corridor. Three Americans, an Austrian and two French girls formed my little circle, along with some friendly Welsh and English from upstairs. In a moment of near unrivalled glee, we ran up to campus as a group and found a Tardis parked in front of the Union, with a talking, lit up Dalek trundling around. It offered a great photo op, both sweet group snaps and self indulgent selfies.
Now it’s nearly time to come home. I’ve started into a new diary, a smart black notebook I bought to convince myself to maintain this diary- I paid 13 pounds for this notebook, for fucks sake, so I’m going to use it. Around this time of year, I usually start to think about what I want to do next year, and reflect on what I’d like to develop, change or introduce in 2014. I present to you here my rough longlist of new years resolutions for your consideration.
1. Become blood of the Dragon
2. Buy more mugs
3. Get really buff and strong. Start lifting.
4. Also, get super fit and flexible. start yoga
5. Kiss more people.
6. Use the word ‘accoutrements’ more (Referring to luggage and bags)
7. Vacuum every week, so that your room does not become white with dust and the halls warden suspects that you’re dealing cocaine.
8. While deflecting this suspicion, illicitly brew Yakka in bedroom sink (not really, I promise. Please don’t kick me out if you read this…)
9. Listen to more podcasts. In fact, make one. It can’t be that hard.
10. Do couch to 5K, without ending up in a bath of cold water sobbing and eating oranges.
11. Learn to dance properly, and not like a complete berk. (seriously, you’ve made a name for yourself here as the ‘dancing Irish girl’. That’s not a good thing. You need help.)
12. Drink less soft drinks. Stop being happy about being a non-drinker when you ingest about nine times your healthy level of sugar and caffeine every day.
13. Try to quit coffee. not tea though. You gave yourself a three day migraine last time.
14. Vacuum every week. Remember how much you regret not hoovering enough this semester. Remember it!
15. Post more letters. people like letters.
16. Practice yoga stretches, tai chi and herbal tea to become one with your spirit and nature.
17. Be less of an angry motherfucker.
18. Keep your diary this year. don’t just get bored after a week like usual.
19. Make lists that are a nice, satisfying length. Don’t end list blogs on an odd number.
Niamh ‘Wait… fuck!’ Keoghan
In the wake of Jemma O’Leary’s interesting column ‘Ultra-Feminism is Eroding Our Values’ on the university times website, a lot of people asked the question just what is an Ultra-feminist? Well I’d like to take up this mantel and proudly declare myself an ultra feminist. I claim it not because I think all the lowly men-folk in this world ought to be made slaves that carry me around like Cleopatra and feed me grapes for the rest of my life, but because I am a screaming, raving, hardcore fan of feminist theory. I’d just like in the spirit of sisterly debate to rebut a few points Ms. O’Leary made in her piece. I promise that I’ll try not to oppress anyone too hard under the hard sole of my Doc Martens and sexual liberation.
I just really like critical theories that point at the world we live in and go ‘hey, here’s some stuff that seems RIDDLED with problems. Can we get some maintenance guys in to look at this? There’s a light bulb gone in the gender relations department.’ Feminism is essentially a strand of critical theory- It was created, generally, by people looking around, seeing that there is a whole world of stuff to examine through the prism of gender (or class, or race, or whatever) and went with it. That’s all. Much as I would love to think that feminism has become so influential in the corridors of power that it could even approach being an oppressive force, I don’t think that’s true sadly. In a country that doesn’t even have free right to choice for it’s citizens and less than 10% of the parliament is represented by women, I don’t think Ms O’Leary has a strong case.
Ms O’Leary also talks about how she, in her personal opinion, thinks feminism has gone ‘far enough.’ Well, I think I can agree with her in so far as it’s done wonders for women like us- both university students, both from presumably comfortable backgrounds. She’s right that generally speaking, we’re doing okay. We get to sit around in seminar rooms and read about all this stuff and decide for ourselves what we’d like. We have protection in employment, pretty good maternity leave ahead of us and anything that we need that our country doesn’t offer to us, we can pay to travel out of Ireland to get it (we also have the freedom to travel wherever we like without suspicion, as western ladies) Yeah, We white middle class western ladies have it pretty sweet.
It’s like Lucinda Creighton when she spoke of how proud she was to be an Irish woman, and how she thinks it’s a grand county to be a lady in. Well, it’s great if you’re university educated, middle class, in a well paying job and don’t have to look beyond your own experiences for things. If my and Jemma’s experiences were the sole barometer by which we measured how all 3.5 billion odd women in the world were getting on, I might agree that we ought to tone the feminism down a tad. Perhaps.
But it’s not. We live in a world where class, gender, sexuality and race all intersect in fascinating ways to create the accepted structures of power. That’s how you get cases like Slanegirl- Variously described by the delightfuls on twitter as a ‘skanger’, a ‘knacker’, a ‘dirtbird’ and a good old fashioned slut. It’s not that all the feminists were crowding around to defend this girl to the hilt; it’s that in the face of a torrent of online abuse and mirth at the picture of a public sex act, it was the girl getting all these names thrown at her. The man in this story was ‘a pure lad’ a ‘lucky bastard’ or a ‘dirty fucker’- but there was still a sort of shrugging ‘eh… fair play’ reaction to his part in the act. The girl was the dirt bird. It goes back to all these double standards we have about sexuality, and the roles we give people in sex. Which while we’re at it, sucks for everyone.
Women are told by society that sex is a chore and something that needs to be endured to please men. Men are also told this and that reinforces the idea that women need to be sort of coaxed into the act. Like they’re an easily spooked pony, you must always approach a lady from the side. I’ll also point out that the entire field of masculinities is a feminist critique of the expectations placed on men by a gender binary and how deeply screwed up it is. Just look at the absolute goldmine of essays on breaking bad and masculinities recently. The expectations placed on dude by the patriarchy are crushing for the men who don’t easily fit into them. Personally, I strive for a feminism that allows us all to shag without shame and with respect for each other.
I just question what ‘values’ Ultra Feminism is eroding and why they’re such a great idea anyway. Why is that value that sex is basically dirty and gross and people are gross for doing it something that needs to be protected from erosion by the sea walls of patriarchy? Why does the value that women ought not to criticise or speak up but rather elegantly and gracefully take it on the chin something that ought to be preserved? Ms. O’Leary doesn’t make a decent case for this at all. The entire idea of Critical theory is that it challenges these norms and forces us to examine them. It’s the similar to Marxist critique of capitalism- just because you have a few problems with the way the world works doesn’t mean every single Marxist is out there tearing it down. Feminists simply point out inconsistencies in our social world. That can be uncomfortable for us all- being forced to acknowledge our own privileges and biases- but it’s important work and it certainly doesn’t need to tone it down.
Let’s call a spade a spade here- O’Leary isn’t talking about the erosion of ‘values.’ She’s talking about the erosion of norms, and not making such a hot case for why they’re so great in the first place.
Really at the end of the day, Ms. O’Leary is saying people are ‘ultra fems’ (I do love this term, and hope that she won’t mind me nicking it for my own purposes in future) are out of control because they dare to criticise. ‘Critical’ is a very loaded word when it comes to women. All their lives women are cautioned against being a shrew or a nag, or being too loud. Being ‘Critical’ is kind of code for ‘being a bitch’ or ‘thinking too much into these things.’ But when you really examine feminist theory- And I mean get a cup of tea, a pack of biscuits and really sit down to get to grips with it- you’ll find a multitude of voices.
It’s not a monolithic structure with ONE opinion, that opinion being CRUSH THE MEN. There are actually lots of ideas and opinions about lots of things- about body image and policing, about gender roles, about Trans women, about race, about class- and yes, some of these theses don’t include a disclaimer that says ‘by the way we recognise that men aren’t all pigs, some of them are rad.’ That goes without saying. You’re not going to get much out of feminism if you just read The Second Sex and How to be a woman then dust off your hands and declare it all a bit of a faff (although I do recommend reading both as an excellent articulation of basic theory and a silly but enjoyable memoir respectively). If you look at the wealth of feminist literature out there- From the big guns of the 70s like Greer and Dworkin right through to the bloggers and activists of today, you’ll see a lot of variety and lot of discussion.
So yeah, I don’t think Ms O’Leary is, as she so elegantly put it ‘a cold-hearted bitch.’ I think she’s a little blinkered, possibly a bit sheltered to the wider field of feminist theory and activism. I think she probably forgets that she, like me, grew up in the age immediately prior to camera phones being carried by every person in Ireland connected constantly to twitter and Facebook. We both had our teens played out in relative, blissful privacy and all our moments of ill judgement or drunken revelry were carried out away from social media and only the stuff of mere rumour. I think in short that she’s being a little judgemental in writing a piece that writes off an entire field of critical thought as going ‘a bit too far’.
Sorry if you were expecting me to smash a table or scream ‘INTERNALIZED MISOGYNY’ at you for a few paragraphs. That’s not how the Ultra Femmo rolls.
Niamh ‘Battle cry of the Ultra Femmo’ Keoghan
I didn’t really think I had much of an accent before I left Dublin.
Of course, when you grow up in the Dublin bubble, of course it wouldn’t be noted much. In fact usually it’s my lack of a distinctive accent that is remarked upon back home as it is now. I have a voice that seems to shift depending on the direction of the wind and the regional accent featured on whatever TV show I last watched. But suddenly when asked where I’m from, I reply ‘Ireland’ and people go ‘oh of course, yeah!’ Three drunk guys hardly able to stand who wandered onto my corridor picked it up from my irate yelling at 3AM and started doing mangled impressions of Dara O’Briain.
Leaving home is really weird.
My final week in Dublin was strange. Packing up things for the first time was strange. Sifting through clothes and finding I could actually fit all my outfits into one case was quite satisfying. After a summer spent mostly alone whilst my friends got stuck into intern ships and J1s, my final week was a flurry of fond meetings and cheery goodbyes. I think it’s because it’s nice to say goodbye to someone who actually wants to go and have an adventure for a bit, unlike the goodbyes we’re all getting used to. Plus, I am very lucky that I’m only going away for a little while. Just to test the waters. Other people aren’t so lucky and have to leap blindly into new lives without any set date to return and pick up all the threads they left loose in Dublin. I was really lucky. I could leave all my threads uncaught and they’ll still be waiting when I get back.
So far (A week in) assimilation has been swift and painless, probably because lectures have STILL yet to start so I’m been officially mucking around doing nothing for six months. I sank instantly into my new bed and slept like a baby in a huge room meant for two people that I inhabit on my own. It even has a sweet view of the town and the sea. I don’t think anyone has ever landed smoother in a place than I have here.
Laundry, far from being a chore was an opportunity to finally learn how to play poker. The only moment of tearfulness was the very last moments I had before my parents got in the car and drove off last Saturday morning (and we all had the good sense to cut it off before we all blubbed in the Car park of Lidl. It was more dignified that way) On the first night I became paranoid and convinced one of my corridor-mates had stolen my freshly bought milk. A day of crazed labelling and criminal profiling eventually led to the discovery that the entire fridge had been replaced in the night, with my milk becoming one of the old fridge’s casualties. I’m not 100% convinced that it’s not all just a very elaborate plot to steal my milk. Either way, this university owes me 45p.
The new town is very friendly, busy and exactly the sort of place I’d like to get lost in. Students here don’t go home religiously every weekend and there’s things to do on Fridays. I can walk from the top of the town to my room in 15 minutes flat. There is an incredibly satisfying to climb hill to my building. It goes vertical at some portions. I’m beginning to form the calf muscles of a mountain goat. Seeing Freshers lose their minds and get absolutely shitfaced on freedom is funny until I remember I’m just like them on my own in a strange town for the first time. The only difference is I’m 21 and really can’t drink more than half a glass of wine without keeling over.
My first pang of homesickness came when I skyped home, and saw my family all wandering around behind my mother on the camera. Making dinner, asking for things to be washed, arguing over the Playstation. I ached for home for a second, until my brother came into the room, pulled down his pants and mooned me. I quickly remembered why I left in the first place and reaffirmed my determination to not waste any time feeling angst for home. It’s still there waiting for me to get back to, so for now I need to enjoy my sea view and eating bagels for every single meal.
I’m living in a Welsh speaking hall which is a baffling experience to tell the truth. Most spectacular was the mix up yesterday when I sauntered into my safety induction talk 10 minutes late to find I was sitting in the Welsh language session. Welsh speakers don’t fuck around, man- Irish speakers will alternate between Irish and English every few sentences, but here it’s about ten minutes of welsh with a quick sentence or two summation at the end for the non-speakers. There’s a sign in the bathroom that I’m pretty sure tells you how to work the shower head, but which is solely in Welsh. Everyone who I say ‘I live in Pantycelyn’ to chuckles and wonders why they stuck all the Erasmus people in there. I shrug and just remain thankful that I wake up every day halfway up the hill and don’t have to climb the whole bloody thing.
I discovered that our generation on the whole loves getting postcards. They’re a lot of fun to write, and after the format was rammed into me during leaving cert Irish and French I’m rather good at them. Stamps are 88p to post to Ireland, so anyone who gets one ought to appreciate TEH FUCK out of it. They might as well have been written in my own blood. So far so smooth for my Welsh adventure. We’ll see how it goes when the work actually kicks in.
Niamh ‘Don’t you dare quote Mock the week at me, I’m cross with you’ Keoghan
Any regular readers of BHT will know that I’ve been on a weight loss kick since last September and so far, I’ve done pretty well. Since then I’ve lost a stone and five pounds. Over the months a few people have asked me about how I did it, what kind of diet I used and do I have any advice for them. I’m always reluctant to say anything- I’m not a doctor and I don’t know what will work for other people. I’m also coming from a place where I spent years hating my body quite intensely and comfort eating to an alarming degree. A lot of the people who asked me about weight loss were also not overweight themselves, which really changes the game. The difference between losing a stone when you’re already 3 stone too heavy is very different to dropping nine pounds from the upper threshold of a healthy weight. I didn’t really diet so much as I started weight watchers, which is cool because it’s more about monitoring how much you eat and the quality of that amount- basically what a diet should be with no gimmicks. That idea of ‘not eating like you’re preparing to hibernate’ served me pretty well, and then I started exercising, which has got me going again.
I’ve become aware of the fact that once you start losing weight, it does become a sort of personal challenge, and I’ve begun to beat myself up a lot when I don’t lose anything for a few weeks. Not out of anger at how I look (I look and feel fantastic overall compared to a year ago when I’d just eat another bag of crisps and cry) but because not losing makes me think I’ve started ‘slipping back’ on my good habits and that I’ve done something wrong. I think I’ve discovered the root of my problem- the fucking Bathroom scales.
owning the number
We recently got a lot of work done in the house and part of the work was a shiny new bathroom with shiny new tiles and a shiny new bathroom scales. We’ve never had a scales in the house before; as a teenager I’d weigh myself at my grandmothers on her absolutely flawless set of scales from 1980 but because that wasn’t a regular thing I wasn’t able to put the number on the scale into context. Until I was 17 I didn’t know what my healthy weight ought to be. I just had the vague knowledge that I was some degree of ‘fat’ and lived with it. When I started weight watchers I got used to being weighed once a week. Being weighed once a week is brilliant. It’s just long enough to keep a watch on it but also not so long that you can do any serious damage. I’ve never gone up by more than 4 pounds in one week before I brought it back down. But then we got the scales in the house.
It started that I’d just ‘check it’ on a Sunday to make sure I was keeping on track to losing that week. Then it was every time I had a shower. Then it was every morning. The scales became a daily habit, something to tick off having done. Since we got them in February, I haven’t lost any weight. I just go up and down around the figure of 13 stone. And every single day the needle would stay on that number and madden me. I began to get very depressed. Even my dad noticed, which means it must have been bad. I started skipping meals and fasting, which is just fucking stupid. it was my dad who actually had the quote that snapped me out of the mindset- ‘Up a pound or down a pound, it doesn’t fuckin’ matter- you’re still alive you know!’
I finally understand what people meant when they cautioned me not to get obsessed with my weight. Having a scales there every day in open view is a nightmare, because weighing in every day is pointless- having a cup of tea can add on a pound, peeing can take it off again – at least when it’s once a week you can take that number away and work on it. So no more daily weigh ins and no more depression sessions about it. The amount of frustration and reduction that number creates is frightening- no matter how fit or good you feel that day, it still marks you down as ‘fat’. Not fun. See I like the Weight Watchers model- I know it sounds strange, going in to get weighed. It does *sound* very judge-y, but I’ve always found it to be a very positive way of keeping a handle on things. The person running the class is usually someone who has successfully lost weight themselves (personally, my local weight watchers leader is HILARZ) and it’s always framed in a very positive manner. Obviously not for everyone and at a tenner a week, not the sort of thing everyone can afford, but I’ve found it useful.
So yeah, fuck bathroom scales, fuck daily weigh ins and fuck that level of body monitoring. It’s scary how easy it is to fall into that habit and how natural it feels- even now, I have the itch to go and check my weight even though I was weighed AT 6PM THIS EVENING. It’s scary. My only advice to anyone trying to lose weight is this- only weigh yourself once a week. And do it in the morning or just before you go to bed. And do a big poo before you get on the scales.
One thing that has become clear to me is that eating a healthy diet, avoiding fast food and just generally trying to moderate my comfort eating has taken me as far as I can go with this whole journey. I still feel quite doughy and unfit, while having this lighter, more mobile body that I can put to use. So I tried running for a bit which was a disaster. I’m just still too darn heavy and my knees were bearing the brunt of that. Swimming is a lot of fun but it’s a pain getting out to my pool now so instead I managed to get what I’ve been hankering after for a while- a brand new bicycle.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find a shop that stocked Penny farthings (Actually that was fortunate because they’re actually really hard to ride). It had to fit two important criteria
1- sturdy enough to cope with moderately long cycles
2- girly enough so that my brothers wouldn’t ever be inclined to ‘borrow’ it.
The second criteria ruled out anything like a racer and my childhood of bounding around on a series of rusty mountain bikes has left me with a bias against them. I finally found a nice heavy roadster that looked nice.
They see me rollin’, they hatin’
So I set out for the first time and tried cycling around my area. The great thing about cycling is that you can feel like the cat’s pyjamas rolling out of the drive way and speed through your estate to the coast all in fifth gear, then you turn around to go home and find a subtle uphill climb waiting for you. There’s something very satisfying about it. It’s the same sort of satisfaction I got from walking, except you go faster and farther. There is a strange, simple satisfaction found in bringing yourself to a new place by the force of your own feet (and some forgiving down hill slopes). As exercising, it’s rewarding. You sweat all over and your knees feel like jelly.
The honeymoon was short. After a day, I had my first puncture and after 2 days had my first crash into a parked car on an empty road. The next day my mother came home with a hi vis vest and shouts at me if I don’t wear it.
BUT, the best thing about cycling everywhere isn’t the weight loss part of it (I actually haven’t gotten any lighter since I started- I’ve gone up a little bit because I’m eating more and making myself crave sugar). The best part is after three weeks starting to feel my body get a bit leaner and fitter. Hills are still an absolute BASTARD but I’m recovering faster and I’m lasting longer. now that I’ve got a feeling of control over my weight and my body, I can actually do fun things with it. That was my problem all along- I didn’t have a weight problem, I had a control problem. I felt utterly powerless and out of control when it came to my body. I was a slave to my compulsive eating, which meant I was a slave to being overweight, and then a slave to whatever clothes they had in my sizes.
It’s nice to feel like you’re putting your body to good use rather than just losing weight to sit around and look better. Being lighter means I can actually do stuff that before was just so fucking hard. Seriously no lie, I had a mountain bike last year and every hill I came to I had to get off and wheel the thing up. I was just too goddamn heavy to pedal myself up the hill. The bike was constantly punctured and I’m pretty sure that was a combination of being an old bike and being unable to carry my weight. Probably the best thing about getting fit again though is all the time I spend on my bike is time spent thinking about blogs and writing, which I’d fallen out of doing since my commute ended.
So in summation- Bathroom Scales bad, Cycling good.
Niamh ‘Can all car drivers please look for cyclists before they fling their doors open onto the road’ Keoghan
This weekend has been one of nostalgia, dear readers. Usually I am wont to tell nostalgia, politely as I can, to fuck right off. Nostalgia at it’s root means to long for something you can’t return to and I’m not down with that futile shit, yo. But now and again, nostalgia can be a pleasant, warm ride.
I’m not okaaaaaaa-aaaaaaa-aaaaa-*Cough*
Last Friday I was mildly surprised to hear that the band that haunted my adolescence more than any other was splitting up. This was strange for me, as I was under the impression that My Chemical Romance broke up in 2008. Alas no, they have plodded on since the early days of 2006, which is when the first contagion of the emo craze was spotted in secondary schools across Dublin. I was there, man. I remember it. Those little bug eyed cartoons drawn on schoolbags in sharpie marker. The elaborately decorated Nightmare Before Christmas wallets. And the music. Oh God, the music.
I think I am completely qualified to talk about the emo craze because not only was I there, I desperately wanted to be one of them. A younger BHT wanted so much to have a side fringe, a piercing in the cartilage of her ear and one of those chains you put your wallet on one end of and clip to your belt. I wanted the Chuck Taylor sneakers and the dyed black hair, the gloomy outlook of a misfit child happily counterpointed with impossibly hysterical, chirpy melodramatic music and an aesthetic picked up from a children’s animated musical made in 1993. But I didn’t manage to make the emo transformation for the following reasons:
1: I was too fat for skinny jeans.
2: My mam wouldn’t let me get piercings1
3: All of those accessories were so expensive
4: Razor blades make BHT so awfully nervous. Poor 14 year old BHT saw one set of earring studs shaped like razor blades and she was outta there.
But ultimately I never really ‘got’ how to be an emo. Young BHT did make a very ill advised decision to cut a side fringe over the Christmas of 2006 and spent the next eight months going around convinced it was the cat’s pyjamas. My Chemical Romance existed on the side fringe of my teenage years: I was never really a true fan, but they were everywhere around me. Slowly they soaked into my subconscious and made a damp little nest there. BHT for one will mourn their passing as a band. I will remember them fondly during my more melodramatic moments, where I am fond of screaming ‘I’m not okaaaaaaa-aaaaaa-aaaaaay’ in the style of Gerard Way.
I feel like the whole emo brand has come full circle on me. Last week, I bought my first ever pair of Skinny Jeans. Maybe there’s hope for me yet. But anyway the whole MCR breakup was in my head for a few weeks while I encountered other nostalgic fare.
Is nobody else still excited about the TGV except me?
I caught the last ten minutes of the 1996 boom fiesta Mission: Impossible on Friday night and it triggered yet another wave of nostalgia. The climax of MI is possibly the most 90s thing put to film along with that scene in Baz Lurhmans Romeo + Juliet where Leo DiCaprio sits on a beach in California looking meaningful and young while Radiohead play on the soundtrack. In Mission: Impossible, between product placement for the (at the time newly opened) TGV high speed train and Tom Cruise running away from things (as is his wont in every movie ever) we are treated to copious shots of mid 90s mobile phones, laptops and internet woes. Then a freaking helicopter gets dragged into the channel tunnel as the train rockets through the English countryside. Tom Cruise, why are you running everywhere? How is this CGI so hilariously dated? Tom Cruise, how did you survive that explosion? How are you not deaf?! Why does the English bad guy look like the current prime minister of Australia? Questions for the ages…
I felt a strange pang of nostalgia while watching this scene. I can just about remember 1997, back when a mother fucking high speed train that goes through a tunnel under the freaking sea was pretty much the best humanity had. The boundless optimism of the booming 90s, the clunky technology proudly flaunted as cutting edge. The pre twitter, pre-wifi pre smart phone world is a quaint one indeed but it’s also the one little BHT was convinced she would inhabit one day. I imagined myself sitting on my high speed train under the sea, tapping away on a ten pound slab of a laptop, while wearing a big hat.
I’m a Daphne in the street and a Roz Doyle in the Bed
The 90s were a good decade for Seattle- There was sleeping in Seattle, a little known music movement you might have heard of called ‘grunge’ which would eventually spawn the emo monolith discussed above, and then there was that spin off from Cheers set in the rainy north west city that nobody has given a shit about shit (literally nothing else has ever happened in Seattle except for Jimi Hendrix and Boeing).
There is something supremely comforting about the 1990s high-brow sitcom Frasier. Because the series focuses generally on the lives and problems of well educated, gainfully employed people of means, it’s a very safe show. Nobody is going to be left destitute, evicted or oppressed. That’s not to say it’s a bad show. A modern comedy of manners with what is to me a wonderfully welcome early 90s trip. The big hair, the baggy suits, the PHONES again, posh people bitching at each other and inevitably being zinged perfectly by the down to earth working class characters.
If given the chance then, would I wish myself back to the golden days of 1994? Or perhaps to 2006 to relive the emo glory days in the skinny jeans I could probably fit into now? I think not. Nostalgia is tempting but in the end, all one really remembers are the highlighted high points and moments of quality; with respect, if all I can remember of the emo craze are the ‘good parts’, I’m fine with staying here. As for the early 90s, I actually can’t imagine life anymore without constant remote access to twitter.
Niamh ‘That being said, I think I’d go back just for the big hats’ Keoghan
-Elected on the fifth vote of the conclave, one more than was needed to elect her predesessor Pope Benedict XIV
-Benedict, now Pope Emeritus, will take up residence in the granny flat at the end of Pope Bey’s garden and shout at her how he’d do everything better. His duties will now included cutting the grass, wearing sandals with socks and being grumpy about retirement.
-will adopt the Papal name Pope Bootilicous I, after her classic pop hit, ‘Bootlicious.’ Speaking from the Balcony of St Peters she informed adoring and jubilant crowds that her body ‘too bootilicious for ya babe’ and that the crowd was ‘not ready for this jelly.’ she then led the crowd in song and prayer before delighting them with her patented ‘single ladies’ move.
-First American, black, married and second female pope. Also first grammy winner and oscar nominee to win the papacy in a move that media outlets speculate is an attempt to modernize the church.
-A native of Houston Texas, Bootlicious was a surprise choice, not being a cardinal, ordained in the church, baptized Catholic or present in the Vatican during the vote. However through copious viewing of MTV bases’ countdown of Beyonce’s 47 best dance move, Cardinals unanimously agreed to make the shock appointment.
-Of of course, none of this happened and instead they elected a conservative elderly man who hates gays and democracy. But close enough!
Niamh ‘The Pope can’t handle me’ Keoghan
Lately, on my wanders through this world, I’ve encountered a strange phenomenon in Ireland and the discussion around feminism. This is when I throw up one of my feminist cards- like talking about rape culture, or casual misogyny, or consent- I’m usually rebuffed with ‘well what about the MEN? Men get oppressed by sexism TOO, you know?’ And this makes me sad. Because most of the people who say this are very cool, groovy, right on people who are concerned with justice and fairness. We’re on the same page, guys. We shouldn’t be fighting! But most alarming to me in the ‘mens rights’ camp is one John Waters, who has been on my radar for a long time. Oh Mister Waters. I used to read you column in the Irish Daily Mail back when I was a baby writer. You taught me more about writing than anyone else- I just didn’t do whatever you did. Lately he’s got a gig trotting onto various radio shows and wailing against feminism and women’s rights as infringing on the rights of men.
Now, Mister Waters is absolutely, 100% right in saying that men are oppressed. Try getting married to your male partner or adopting a child to raise together or indeed, even try walking around town at night holding hands. You’re pretty certain to get a shit storm of abuse. Also rather oppressed is the Trans man, who some feminists have said very mean things about and who a lot of people will still be really resistant to accepting. Oh, if you’re a working class man or a man with a mental illness, you’re likely to get shit too. If you’re a man from the travelling community you’re probably getting a fair bit of ‘we have the right to refuse admission’ off bouncers and dying about 10 years earlier than your settled peers. So yes, men are oppressed.
But the men that are decidedly NOT oppressed are ones like John Waters and David Quinn. Middle class, comfortably employed, conservative, catholic broadsheet columnists are doing pretty okay in this country. You’re not being oppressed on the basis of your religion or your gender. If you’ve been interned without trial for simply being a catholic well then you’re totally being oppressed, but somebody talking about the massive industrial scale slavery that religious orders ran or the institutional rape that was covered and perpetrated by the Catholic church isn’t. If I have to as a feminist deal with the stupid shit Caitlin Moran has said on twitter then you guys have to deal with the criticism of your religion’s hierarchy.
I should probably point out here that I have heaps of what is now fashionably called ‘privilege’. I’m white, straight, comfortably supported financially by my parents and studying at university. I get misogynistic comments and sexist bullshit but it’s usually of a sort that doesn’t ruin my life or severely impede my liberty. I get a little bit more bother for being outspokenly atheist and left wing than I do about being a woman, generally.
That being said, I do get some strange comments. When I’m told to cover up and not get drunk in order to avoid getting raped- guys, why doesn’t this attitude to rape bother you more? I give out about rape culture and a lot of guys take offence to the idea that women are always victims and men are always the rapists. But this ‘look after yourself and avoid dressing a certain way’ is so insulting. It basically says the men can’t control themselves- that if given the slightest chance, they would rape a woman for showing skin or being vulnerable. It reduces men to animals unable of control or restraint or respect for bodily autonomy. I think about the men I know- the kindest and most polite gentlemen you’d ever meet- and I know that’s wrong.
But yknow, women do get oppressed and in Ireland, we were fucking chronic for it. In my lifetime, there were Magdalene women imprisoned in laundries. Women had to sneak over the border to get contraception and sneak it back. The original premises of the Irish family planning association had a back exit just in case they were raided. Information about abortion- not even the procedure itself but information about it- was banned from distribution. Women weren’t even trusted to make their own decisions about their bodies with all the relevant information and options. Symphesiotomies happened until 1986. In the same year a fifteen year old girl gave birth and died in a grotto in Longford. People see Nell McCafferty on telly and roll their eyes. I get hounded for expressing the apparently radical opinion that I should have a voice.
Really what John Waters and David Quinn are afraid of isn’t being oppressed. They’re afraid of losing the position of power and privilege that the Irish catholic male has held since 1922. They don’t like women speaking out because they then lose the ‘right’ to speak for them, act for them and make decisions for them. They wail oppression when the old taboos are broken- when we criticize the church openly and bitterly, as it should be criticized as an institution. You can’t claim to speak for ALMIGHTY GOD and ask us to lay off when your massive rape ring is uncovered. That’s insulting to your members, your followers and insulting to everyone else.
Women don’t always just get oppressed for being ‘the women.’ Often it’s influenced by race, by ethnic background, by social or economic status. One of the challenges of feminism now is how we collate all these different little bullshit things and kick them down. But whatever the complications and challenges of the movement, You simply can’t ask women to get back in the box. It’s arrogant. Please stop politely and reasonably asking to be treated as something more than a baby and cake dispenser, because you’re oppressing John Waters. Stop politely and reasonably asking for reform so that childcare and custody are equally shared between parents. Stop politely and reasonably asking for equal marriage and gay rights. Stop politely and reasonably asking to change things, because it’s making John Waters feel challenged. Yeah.
I’ll get right on that.
Niamh ‘crushing you with the boot of my polite requests for fairness’ Keoghan
This column originally appeared on the StudentStandard.ie on 26th February, 2013. Additional editing by Keith Broni.
I think everybody likes breasts. Who wouldn’t? They are providers of food, arousal and can be all-in-all aesthetically pleasing. Let me just make that clear: I’m very pro-breast. I am a tits-positive feminist. But also increasingly, I feel like I have less and less ownership of my girlies. Generally when I see jokes made about boobs, they’re all made by definite non-breast owners. Like Seth McFarlane who had a whole song dedicated to lady bits at the Oscars. Unless Tina Fey and Amy Poehler had a song dedicated to the cock when they did the Golden Globes, I am going to absolutely 100% file this under ‘sexist bullshit’ (McFarlane was also heaps of unfunny overall, but lets just focus this on tits).
I’ll concede the point that tits are just a lot more aesthetically pleasing than penises (up for debate but generally, I mean), but that still doesn’t condone their massive overuse in media, marketing and advertising. And alarmingly, I don’t feel like I’m in control of mine a lot of the time. They are disembodied from me: my disembodied tits, if you will. Floating just separate from the rest of me, two ghostly orbs to be objectified. Both slagged and admired.
Often I have reflected, while lounging in the bath pouring water over my head from a plastic jug because our showerhead doesn’t work, that my girls are a good reflection of who I am. They’re a bit lopsided and awkward, but they dress up nicely (in a nice bra they can be killer). They’re a bit small but they’re also resilient and determined. Essentially, my breasts are just some plucky kids trying to make their way in a crazy mixed up world. I can empathise with their struggle. But sometimes even though breasts are everywhere in our culture, I often feel like my girls are not my own. I feel like they’re out there in the public realm despite the fact they live here, under my shirt and very few (very lucky may I add) people actually see them.
I see a lot of dudes making the breast-related humour and breasts being used to sell to them. I read the A Song of Ice and Fire series (on which the Game of Thrones HBO series is based) and have often noted how Daenerys Targaryen seems to be extremely aware of what her tits are doing at any particular moment. Are they swollen, bouncing, swaying gently in the breeze? Doing their accounts for the year? Sometimes the way they are described is as if they’re like a little principality beyond the rest of her body: sharing a landmass but also a state unto themselves. This is a mistake a lot of guys make about breasts: they assume that ladies are super aware of what they’re doing at all times. I think a lot of guys assume tits are the same as their penis. Having to gently explain to a seventeen year old boy that no, squeezing them will not arouse a lady nor is it a particularly pleasant sensation was quite mortifying. It took the girls a full year to recover from the awkwardness of that ill-advised grabbing. [EDIT- After being told by a good griend that this seems to generalize a bit on what ladies like done in the boudoir, let me expand just a tiny bit on the story. I left this part out of the standard column because it is a reputable publication and not a place for my sexual misadvantures to be recorded- that’s what this blog is for. The unfortunate boy I was referring to here grabbed onto my girls as we had an awkward, unpleasant shift in an alleyway out his back garden. He, not being schooled in the ways of actual subtlety or indeed, basic human biology, sort of kneaded my girls the way you’d test a melon for ripeness or a piece of bread for freshness, and then asked the immortal question- ‘Are you gonna come?’ No. No, aimlessly poking at a girls boobs is not the way to make the vast majority of women orgasm. This is also the boy who could not locate my vagina while his hand was up my skirt. ANYWAY. Poor boy. Left my girls in a state of trauma for years.]
It’s like we all love tits, but they’re public property so we’re not allowed own them. The sort of tits you see exposed (in mainstream non-porn media anyway) are a very specific kind of tit. Usually white, not too big but not too small. Kate Winslet and Emilia Clarke are both famous owners of great tits and I’m struck by how similar they are. Again not too big, small or ethnic. Just your good garden variety, well-proportioned, English breast: the sort you’d grow in a garden or buy from an organic farmer’s market. They are the golden ratio of boob.
Because most things are advertised to the heterosexual white male, the power and appeal of the boobs are placed solely in their hands. I’m not allowed to make jokes about tits aimed at other women. How many comments are there going to be about this very column calling it ‘brave’ or ‘honest’ or indeed ‘fucking disgusting’ when ALL I’M DOING is talking about these poor beleaguered breasts that I’ve been hitching along for the ride since they arrived from the puberty fairy in 2004? This isn’t bravery: it’s just me owning me bleedin’ body, lads.
Tell me anyone who doesn’t like breasts? Straight men and lesbians of course like them and within consensual jolly sexy times they are a wonderful thing to share. Children like them because food and the often overlooked fact that they make a lovely soft pillow with built in mother’s heartbeat to fall asleep to. Gay men and straight girls can appreciate tits for their aesthetic qualities: how they look in bras, how they move and how women can just rock them. I know there’s a whole spectrum of people I’m leaving out here but I still stand by my point: give me a person of any gender or sexual identity and I will give you back a person who can appreciate breasts. Of course individuals can not like breasts, but what I’m saying is, we’re generally living in a pro-tits world. But maybe we’re just a bit boob drunk, and we need to lay off them for a bit. Maybe we need to get off everyone’s tits, collectively.
We also need to discard the idea of the ‘perfect tits’. It’s a fallacy and we’re only limiting ourselves. We need OWNERSHIP. We need a revolution in private ownership of the breasts. I now implore you all, as I oft implore, to stand on a chair/table/raised platform, grab your breasts through your shirt with both hands and scream “THESE ARE MY GIRLS AND I WILL HAVE AGENCY OVER THEM.” We need to reclaim our girls, ladies. It’s okay for us to share them with our partners and our children and everything, but we need to do so with the firm conviction that they are OUR girls.
The world gotta understand that there are ours; that we are sole purveyors and monopolists of breast. We need to topple this empire of the golden ratio. I want to see everyone with ownership over their respective girls: big, small, black, white, working class or high society. But always owned and operated solely by the body they’re attached to. I’m calling this social movement pro-tits feminism. Say it with me now (if you’re still standing on that chair/table/raised platform so much the better) loud and proud: I AM A PRO TITS FEMINIST!
Niamh ‘Girls just wanna have fun’ Keoghan
FINAL EDIT: NUIM Drama, I am glad to no longer be involved with you guys. end of.
When I was 13, I started going to a drama group in Clontarf. While I was there, my brisk no nonsense teacher guided me through the craft of being a good performer. No bullshit, no arty farty crap, just how to act and how to speak well. Drama became the first thing that I was just… good at. Acting was easy. Even when it was challenging it was easy. It was fun. Drama was the one thing. Drama was my one thing. I might be fat, or stupid, or lacking in subtlety- but I could do a decent monologue and that was all that mattered. Acting became something really important to me not for productions or the limelight but for a small inner peace I had never known before. When I fell into the character of another person I could forget how much I hated myself. Eventually, as it went on I slowly began to accept myself. If I could do this well, I could do anything well. If I could turn in a good performance, nothing else mattered.
Drama basically helped me work through all my problems and my anxieties. It was enriching and rewarding and fun. My little group still keeps in touch- my fantastic, no-nonsense teacher is now training me to take the teaching exams myself after college. I’m still welcome in that class now. When I started in NUI Maynooth I hoped that the Drama society there would be just as fulfilling.
NUIM Drama, you have beaten me. You’ve exhausted me, and you’ve won. You have finally, as a society, killed my love.
The Play I was in the cast of before Christmas, The Last of the Last of the Mohicans, is going to the ISDA festival, and my part is being re-cast. Going to go public with this and say right now how much NUIM Drama have ruined my love of acting. Every time I’ve gotten involved with that society as a performer I’ve come out the other end feeling used and badly treated. Last year, it was to do with politics that had nothing to do with me directly but concerning the play I was a cast member of and now it’s about me directly. With your cliques, your politics and your complete disregard for my self worth as a performer, you’ve beaten me. You’ve used my ability to act for two productions and once again, you’re discarding me as an inconvenient piece that won’t fit. I hope Mohicans and it’s cast are brilliant at ISDA because they will be going at the expense of my good will towards your society. You’ve lost me. You’ve lost me as a writer, as a performer, a director and a well wisher. You must have realized this was the only reaction I could have to your standing by as I’m airbrushed out. You have burned your bridge with me. I’m not even angry; I’m just very sad that I matter so little as a member of your group. Whatever the reasons are for re-casting my part (and I was told it wasn’t based on my actual performance, which was fine), I reserve the right to be very hurt.
You’ve turned something that I fell into as a vulnerable kid for escape and enjoyment into something that I dread to think about. I’ve lost all confidence in my ability to perform and I don’t think I’ll ever have the same love of drama and stage ever again. I’m not bitter, I don’t wish any individual member any harm (Many of you are my good friends and I wish you all the best) but as a person and a performer I feel utterly rejected and alienated. I won’t be participating in any productions anywhere for a long time. The thrill I used to feel being a part of something is lost- the confidence that used to flow in me is all drained out. You’ve taken a very important part of me away, and that hurts. That hurts me deeply. You kicked me out, and I’m not going to limp away without noting how much exactly you have taken away from me, how much it meant to me and what it’s cost.
I’m not putting this post up to have a go at you or make you look bad- as a society you are full of talent, boundless creativity and incredibly good people. That’s why I haven’t named anybody specifically in this letter. I’m not even mad. I’m not angry at the fantastic cast of Mohicans or the fantastic director who made the decision to re-cast me. I’m just really, really sad. I’m alone. I’m back in the place I was when I was 13.
Consider this my retirement notice from NUIM Drama and from acting at large. I will never participate in a production in Maynooth ever again. As for anywhere else, I’m still not sure if I will. I won’t write it off forever, but for the foreseeable future I can’t see myself being able to face it. Which is a pity. I wasn’t half bad.
Niamh ‘And no you can’t borrow my vintage radio for the set this time’ Keoghan
I hate the friendzone. I hate the word. It’s a shockingly clever concept- a catch all term for shaming women who turn a guy down, or decline their romantic advances, or just plain don’t want a relationship. It has a close connection to the concept of ‘leading one on” wherein a woman is oft accused of stringing a hapless everydude into her web with those feminine wiles only to cut him off cruelly for her own amusement. Most troubling for me is how women have started to use these terms I’ve heard girls say ”’he friend zoned me” or ”I wish he hadn’t led me on”. Hell, I’ve used these terms because there are out there people who will mess you around a little bit, and flirt outrageously. But these people aren’t friendzoning you. And generally this is a guy on girl trope- Some of parlance has begun to creep into lady talk, but it’s an institutional of hetrerosexual men to begin with. (Note- Not all straight men are ‘Nice Guys’in the way I describe them here. I have a lot of male friends and I’m not hating on the menfolk at all, just commenting on something I’ve experienced. Blah, I don’t hate men, these sexist concepts hurt men too, whatever x)
They might be kind of dick, but they’re not friendzoning you because and this may shock you so hold onto your hats and assort beverages the friendzone doesn’t exist. Sorry everyone. It’s just not real. I’ve seen women get messed around by men and men messed around by women, and I’ve never seen evidence of a real life friendzone. I did do a bit of research I stood around while my friends talked about relationships, and have also been in a few disastarous ones, and been on either side of the ‘let’s be friends’ equation. It’s also linked to another concept- that of Nice Guyism that we’ll talk about and discuss why it’s really fucking creepy. Bad romance is my specialist topic- so let’s talk the friendzone.
In the zone
In basic parlence, the ‘friendzone’ is where men who have romantic and sexual notions on a woman are placed when those women declined their advances- ususally with a phrase like ‘I don’t want to mess up our friendship’or ”Í don’t think of you that way’or ‘I love you!… as a friend!’ The zone is the purgatory men go to when women selfishly withold the sex that they are entitled to. Because hey, why does that girl have to be such a bitch and turn you down? You’re a nice guy, you treat her really well, you’re always interested and looking out for her. But okay. Here’s the thing nice guys- Somebody being nice to me is my BASIC prerequisite for continuing to even associate with someone. A guy being polite, courteous and listening to me is my baseline for being his friend- It’s not some magical perk that will automatically make me spit out a sexy time token, and that’s what it’s really about at the end of the day.
And further, the whole nice guy… thing is a bit creepy to be on the receiving end of. Lads, we know when you’re genuinely being nice and when your interest is forced only to make us think you’re nice. I have plenty of male friends who have little to no interest in hearing me discuss the finer points of my as yet unfinished novel, and in return I have no interest in hearing about the details of their record collection. You don’t have to take boundless interest in every single thing I care to mention or be involved in; all encompassing adoration and undying interest are as unsettling to receive as it sounds. It’s not nice. It makes me feel like I’m living in a world of plastic automatic yes men, all poking my ego until sexy time coupons pop out.
The scary thing is when men, after frantic and endless prodding, delude themselves into thinking a sexy time token HAS popped out, and that they ARE entitled to more of me than I am willing to give. That’s when I politely decline, and they scream, with arms thrown to heaven ”’FRIENDZOOOOOOOOONED!”
Sexy Time Tokens
I know I’m the last person that should be complaining about romantic attention heck, usually I’m complaining that nobody’s into me and how much that sucks. But the opposite extreme is scary and unpleasant. I was trying to quantify what makes one a ‘nice guy’ in the sex coupon seeking way I just described, and I have a very handy litmus test to discern between genuinely nice people, and ‘nice guys’-
If asked to give you some space to think and breath, a genuine person will do just that, and back off. They might be confused sure, or hurt or think you’re being dramatic, but they will still give you the space you’ve asked for and respect your feelings. A Nice Guy however, will ignore your requests for space and continue to bombard you with increasingly false-sounding declarations that they will understand and listen to you. They’ll completely ignore the fundamental point of what you’ve asked, and continue to steamroll you. And that’s the point of the Nice Guy, and the Friendzone.
In this whole unpleasant scenario, the woman is just an object to the nice guy. His feelings and his ego are the important things. It doesn’t matter how scared or uninterested or even hostile the object is, she still owes him something; He can wrap it up as a relationship, but in the end, the object becomes his possession, and in that possession there are obligations the object must fill. And if you refuse to play the game, check out and decline the thrilling chance to become an object?
Well, you’re just a frigid bitch who dumped that poor nice guy into the friendzone. You MONSTER.
Niamh ‘Offside in the friendzone’ Keoghan