Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How to go to a Comedy Night

I've been to a few comedy gigs over the last few months. I'm by no means a connaiseur but it's one of my favourite things to do, even if the comedians aren't very good. I pretty much know how it works by now, or at least what to do, and definitely what not to do. This is what I've learned. It is by no means the right thing to do, or the best thing to do at all, but they've worked for me so far.

1. Seating is optimum. It is a common theme that most comedians pick on people in the first two rows, because, well, it's easy. So if you don't like to be asked your name, inside leg measurement and relationship status with that guy from your office who secretly fancies you and hopes you're on a date, make sure you arrive pretty soon after doors open so you can sit in what's probably affectionaly named 'coward's corner'. By the same merit, do not wear anything which draws attention to you, because it may also get you picked on (I've seen it happen).

2. Come armed with a question. In some places it seems to be de rigeur to write a question down to go in the pint glass being passed around, some of which are then read by the MC and comedians. I had a great question, but I forgot to, crucially, put it in the pint glass. So that's another piece of advice - remember to make sure you put your question in the pint glass. It is also a good time to learn the inappropriate thing to ask.

3. Do your research. If you think going to any comedy night  will be a laugh, you may be wrong, because you might not like the styles of the comedians, or you just might not find them funny. Find at least one act on the bill who you like, otherwise it could be a really long night. Maybe even two, actually. 
4.  Do not feel any pressure to laugh. If everyone around you is laughing, it doesn't mean it's funny. A particularly GREAT night I had was spent on a boat with not only racist, homophobic, sexist, unfunny comedians, but an audience who thought they were hilarious. I couldn't leave, because of the whole boat situation, but I crossed my arms, looked disapproving, and did not laugh. Man, did I show them.

5. Don't punch that annoying person laughing three times as loud as everyone else like a braying donkey and explaining the jokes' punchline to their mate. Someone else will probably do it for you, and you don't really want to get involved in that social awkwardness.

6. It may seem obvious, but for God's sake, go to the loo before the show starts. There's no way of knowing how long you'll be in there. And drink half pints. Heard it from a friend.

SO there we have it: six steps to seeing comedy, and another 2-5 minutes of your life wasted.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Trauma of Food Shopping

The innocent food shop can seem like the most normal thing you can do, and well, it is. But the truth is, it’s rife with opportunities to feel socially weird... in a completely non-social situation. I've already been over the potentially traumatic situation of what it's like to see someone you know in the supermarket here.

Entrance can sometimes be tricky, especially during daytime, because there’s a possibility of being accosted by a charity worker – no, I am not a charity hater, but I DO hate being forced into a Direct Debit 6-month commitment on the spot when I am trying to buy sausages. So it’s important to walk very quickly, suddenly receive a pretend phone call or simply pretend to be so engrossed in music that you are in a semi-trance.

Then, the vegetable aisle. What could be weird about a vegetable, you cry? Well, for starters, the competiveness of it all – one punnet of raspberries back, the speeded-up walking and grabbing, followed by a dirty look from a woman in Hunters and a gilet... Then, when you’re picking up loose fruit, how long is too long when squeezing an avocado, and how many can one pick up and put down without feeling like some weird vegetable squeezer? And if there is a way of picking up a cucumber without looking around furtively and feeling like you’re doing something wrong? No? Just me?

Don’t even get me started on trolley etiquette. Which seems to be non-existent, let’s face it. Yes, man, please do stand in front of the tiny fish display with your massive trolley for five minutes whilst a small queue of fellow shoppers too embarrassed to cough ‘excuse me’ forms. And of course, the little old ladies who leave theirs smack-bang in the middle of the aisle to get that pint of milk they forgot, but then they get talking to Doris from number 4 and everyone else trying to get past has to either do a complete U-turn or stand awkwardly, raising their eyebrows and shaking their heads faux good-naturedly until she comes back.

If it so happens I come across and make eye-contact with an attractive man, it doesn’t often go well. There are so many opportunities to knock objects off shelves, fall over trollies and generally be an idiot. And of course, the inevitable jumbo box of tampons and toilet roll in my basket. It’s just safer to pretend they don’t exist and try not to burp audibly.

Then, of course, the checkout. Sometimes I get weird/annoyed looks because I like to play Tetris with my purchases (it’s oddly satisfying) but that’s by the by. It does mean that it does look very obvious when I am trying to hide something embarrassing, or if I have odd combinations in my basket (once I bought only Marmite and toilet roll without thinking what it looked like. I definitely got a funny look from the cashier). Then when your turn finally comes around, they might not even want to say hi to you – totally crushing, by the way. It’s their JOB. Sometimes, they’ll ask you about your day, which is nice, but sometimes, it’s just an extended silence in which you have to look everywhere else but their eyes, especially during the inexplicably long time that the card machine takes to process when you have nothing to say.

So if you’re not convinced about the supermarket being a minefield for social awkwardness, you’re doing it wrong. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

So I Went on a Date with Hundreds of Other Strangers

A few days ago, I went on adventure with my pal. She had a spare ticket to the Doing Something Big Brooklyn Bowl Date at the 02 Arena, and well, I had nothing better to do (it was in my diary for WEEKS. I love going to the zoo. And by zoo, I mean 300 single men and 300 single women in an enclosed space).

We got there pretty early – excepting the ten minutes circulating the 02 trying to find a way in. Anyway, we arrived, received a time for bowling (8.45) and a free beer ticket. There was an hour to kill. What the hell were we going to do with an hour? Oh yeah - people watch.

The bar area was predominantly female, with a smattering of men leaning nonchalantly (at least they’d like to be perceived that way, anyway) against the bar. It was kind of like walking into a school disco, because the men and women were so far not really interacting, and coupled with the empty dancefloor (it was half seven!), there was a slightly awkward vibe, at first. Also, the music choices were a little bizarre at first, coupled with the fact that it was far too loud.

It’s quite an odd environment in itself, throwing hundreds of members of the opposite sex together in the hope that something might stick. It takes quite a lot of courage to go up to someone else (or even a group) of the opposite sex and strike up a conversation, merely hoping that you won’t get shot down. This is where the bowling concept comes in (you know, because they’re called ‘Doing SOMETHING’). it's a good idea, though, because when people are left to their own devices, it generally takes a lot of alcohol to bind people together.

After a fashion, some brave souls started to interact. Every time we saw members of the opposite sex chatting, a photographer appeared, as if by magic, to document the evidence that it was WORKING. We saw some interesting people. My favourite was the guy walking around with his tie slung over his shoulder. I can only assume this peacocking was working in his favour, because he made his way around the room at an alarming rate. We pondered for a while going up to him and correcting his tie, but ultimately decided we wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.

Finally, we got called up to bowl. The DJ had clearly been told to change the music, my pal observed, as what sounded like ‘Best of the 80s’ was switched in. It was a definite improvement. There were a lot more guys and girls chatting, possibly more at ease with a combination of alcohol and the prospect of activity. The camera guy was still omnipresent at the sight of guys and girls chatting.

There were three more girls and three more guys, all of whom seemed pleasant. It was a little awkward at first, standing in a huddle of people, having been immediately paired off by the enthusiastic-looking guy wearing a rosette. There was some chat, mostly fairly superficial. There was a little chemistry in the group, I think: I hope the couple sitting slightly behind everyone else went on a date, they seemed to be getting on really well! My friend’s ‘date’ was easy to chat to, and a high-fiver when anyone did well (why does that seem to be the universal congratulation in bowling?). She got slightly upset that he didn’t get her Big Lebowski White Russian reference (well, not that upset. She has a boyfriend). My ‘date’ was a nice-seeming guy, just a little ill-at-ease with the fact that he was about ten years older than the rest of the group, and spent two of his goes at the bar (in which I got a strike, somehow). We didn’t really chat that much about anything except bowling, but that was fine. I was bowling.

A choice quote from the game was "you've left me with a really hard one!" I can only hope he was talking about the singular pin in the corner of the alley.

We ended up winning, and I was supposed to stay on til 11pm to take part in the final, but we were in Greenwich, and we had to get back to North London, so declined. I think my friend’s date wanted to stay on to play with my date. We left shortly after we’d returned our shoes for a burger from Byron, which I managed to wolf down in record time (still double the amount of time my pal demolished hers). So all in all, not a bad evening. If I’d have come expecting to meet a guy, however, it might have been different - I was mainly there for the S&Gs.

Not that I tried that hard anyway, I suppose. Not like Tie Guy.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Social Minefields at the Gym

I have recently started going to the gym again. I’d forgotten how many minefields there are there are for somewhere that’s supposed to be a temple of calm. There are so many ways in which you can make a total arse out of yourself, or want to disappear into a sweaty puddle (in the steam room, of course).

For instance, when going for a swim, what is the correct etiquette? Are you supposed to say ‘hello’ if another person goes into the pool? Or nod? Or even make eye contact? What is the acceptable limit of times you can look at said person to attempt some sort of greeting (It’s 3. After that, it gets a little embarrassing)? And don’t even get me started on the Jacuzzi (or hot tub, just to cover all bases). Are you supposed to wait to go in there if there’s another person in there or do they secretly want your company so they don’t have to spend the time staring aimlessly around the walls? I spent a good fifteen minutes attempting to look ‘natural’ and trying not to stare into the security camera when I was in there the other day, but that could just be me.

I’ve always found the sauna a little awkward, because, well, you’re basically sitting in a very enclosed, hot room in your underwear with several strangers. With complete visibility. And then there’s the inevitable conversation that you have because, well, it’s the polite thing to do. Sometimes it’s great, and your fellow sauna buddy could be really nice and interesting. But sometimes, God, it’s torture. Boring, tedious torture. And exiting the room is a concept just out of reach because you’re engaged in a conversation that won’t seem to end. Still, if it gets really bad, feigning heat exhaustion is always an option. The steam room is in a way, worse. Yes, good for hiding body from pervy old men, bad for recognising pervy old men and accidentally starting yet another weird conversation about their life story. Again.

The gym itself is an endless pit of staring. Some men stare at you as if you are some kind of anomaly (Newsflash: it is very normal for women to go to the gym). I’ll admit to be a starer too: mainly at self-important body-builders flexing seven different muscles and trying out different shades of ‘Blue Steel’ in the mirror (whilst I try not to giggle). If you’ve ever used a small gym, there’s also the tricky business of getting to the front of the queue for the sole treadmill whilst trying to appear nonchalant and not like you are about to pounce as soon as the current user hits the stop button.

I can only wait for more uncomfortable encounters.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Why I don't write about music any more and why I think it's ok tolisten to Justin bieber

I became disenchanted with writing about music some time ago. Whilst I liked listening to music, I had lost interest in analysing on paper why or why not I liked it. But recently I have also become disenchanted by music itself. Not because it's worse than it used to be - this isn't going to be a snobby indie rant on how nicki manaj is the worst thing since the holocaust. There is a lot of music around that I don't like but there's a lot of music I do. 

When I was about 14-17, I thought I had the best music taste in the world, I think the strokes had just come out and I was just majorly getting into 'indie' as a genre so of course I believed my taste to be superior to everyone else's and used to descend into long monologues about why everything else was shit.

Now, I have a wide and varied taste in music (I'm not going to say eclectic, I'm not a wanker) and I'm not ashamed about any of it. I like what I like. If I want to listen to miley Cyrus' 'party in the USA', I will. It's a great pop song, for a start. 

What begins to bother me is when people, upon learning that I am partial to a couple of 'The Biebz's' songs, adopt a superior look and shake their heads at me. 'he's not music,' they say with authority. Well, he is, because he sings and there is a melody. No, he is not the best pop artist in the world. But I enjoy him so what of it? Why waste your time being disparaging of it instead of just listening to whatever shit you like? Well done, you can feel superior. 

It doesn't mean I have a shit taste in music. It just means it's different to someone else's. QUELLE HORREUR. I like cool, critically acclaimed bands too, but I refuse to be ashamed or even pretend to listen 'ironically'.

I was reading a group on Facebook a few years ago for u local pub and I've always remembered the following post, because it was such an absurd leap in logic:

"I asked the DJ to play [insert generic indie rock band] and [insert even more generic indie rock band] and he said I had good taste in music, so he must be alright." 

For one thing, that person must be a TERRIBLE judge of character. And another thing, how is asking for a couple of tracks a fair way to judge someone's taste in music? Some would say, he was probably just making conversation. But if you ask me, it's an irresponsible way of defining someone's taste, really.

For me, having good taste in music, objectively, is not liking a few of the same bands that someone else happens to like (after all, they are usually the judge of such things, inevitably). Having good taste in music is being open to new music and accepting that there are things that you don't like. Perhaps even a bit of genre-spanning. It's probably not a coincidence that a lot of bands appear in the lists of many people with 'good taste' because they probably are very talented musicians with great songs, but that doesn't mean that those people should be ashamed of liking a good old pop song every once in a while, even for fear of their sneery mates ripping them for it. Like what you like, in the end, it's only you who gets genuine enjoyment of what comes out of your earphones or in your bedroom.

The moral of the story is: get off your high horse. It's much more fun on the ground, not being ashamed, or superior.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

My Four Worst Dates, to Date

Top 10 worst dates 

Yeah everyone's dating, and writing blogs about it, and having tumblrs for their funny tinder responses (incidentally, I have one here). But this is a lifestyle blog (or a blog about people mostly, I suppose), and this is definitely about people. 

So I thought is stick my two pennorth in anyway. Here are my top 4 worst dates. More to come soon, I'm sure.

1. I knew it wasn't going to go THAT well when I didn't fancy him the moment I saw him. His pictures were a little different to his profile. Which is a little deceptive, but so far so average - these things can be fun even if you're not attracted to your date. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

He paused every five minutes or so to thoroughly blow his nose on a really ratty tissue, which is off putting from anyone. I think I might have even caught him inspecting the contents on a couple of occasions.

That wasn't the worst thing, though. He was just really, really dull. He spent about ten minutes (the longest ten minutes of my life) listing the chocolates that his work out out for the staff. Yes, it was as riveting as it sounds. He also spent much longer than it is needed explaining his cineworld unlimited card to me ("you go four, five times and you get your money back. Even six or seven and it's even better". I GET IT, IT'S UNLIMITED! 

I decided to be honest after I got home - I texted him shortly afterwards and said that I didn't want anything romantic, but it would be nice to be friends. You would appreciate the honesty, wouldn't you? He sent me a barrage of abusive texts explaining how hard done he is by women and why I was a bad person.

Yeah, didn't see him again.

2. The date wrong-footed me straight away. We went to the bar, he asked what I wanted and then said 'shall I get the first round, or...?' Not that I'm being anti-feminist, but... wet lettuce much? And if you're going to make it clear that you're buying in rounds, one of us has to buy the first one.

We had some ok chats, but I could tell from the off that we weren't on the same wavelength. He kept making too many references to, er, self-pleasuring, oddly. He even started talking about keigel exercises at one point. Which sounds well, actually kind of funny, NOW, but it was just, really, really awkward. 

At 9, I asked him if he wanted another drink (it wasn't my 'turn' but he'd been nursing an empty glass for the last 10 minutes so I thought he might be a bit short of money. His response, 'let's just leave it'.  An odd thing to say anyway. At 9 o'clock? Really? Actually, it turns out he wanted to go home and cook some vegetables. Yeah, I know. And we did leave it, if you're interested.

3. Don't get me wrong, I had a nice time. But that's not quite enough, is it? I didn't really fancy him and we didn't have anything in common, and most importantly, he didn't make me laugh. So at some point during the evening I had a brief conversation with another guy, in which I expressed my thoughts about how the evening was going and assumed I'd never see him again. But this guy, who I later found out was alone in the pub, came over to antagonise my date, and continued to do so until my date left. I don't know with whom I was more irritated - the other guy for being a dick, or my date, for not being man enough to tell the other guy to bugger off.

4.  I had completely forgotten about this one, until I started going through my texts and found it. I'm still not sure why we met up, since we were a complete mismatch from the start - just over text, he really hated it when I tried to gently take the piss out of him, but somehow there was a double standard for him, so we had a fair few set-tos. He was also a wannabe steroid-taker, who on answering my favourite question, 'what is your favourite sandwich?, said that he didn't keep bread in the house. WHAT KIND OF AN ANSWER IS THAT?! 

We met up for breakfast (who goes on a breakfast date?), which was the most unmemorable date that I had been on thus far. I can't even remember what we talked about (oh, except for his lengthy explanation about the many tattoos of other people's faces on his legs). After we departed (not missing a rather sweaty hug), I made a jokey comment about him not being as cocky in person (which would have at least been more interesting and attractive), which escalated into us never speaking ever again. Well, I do like a good argument.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

On so-called quirkiness

Ok, so this is in kind of a similar vein to my last blog. It's ranting about a subsection of people who annoy me. Wait, that's what most of my blogs are like.

This one is about 'quirky' people. 

This need to be a bit different is getting a little insufferable. I blame all of the propaganda in the 90s and early 2000s, encouraging people, especially girls, to be different. YOU'RE UNIQUE! YOU'RE SPECIAL! YOU'RE DIFFERENT! (Yeah, just like everyone else). 

I get it. It's great to be different. If you like classical music and none of your friends do, great. If you are a heavy metal fan amongst a sea of teeny-boppers, also great. And the thing is, it's a little hypocritical, because I like to be a bit different too.

I can't help that at the moment, though, there's this great sense of people being different for the sake of it. Some people do it because they seem to think it's cool, and some people do it because it makes people think they are having more fun, or it's just another 'random' story to tell their mates. Being quirky doesn't actually make you interesting. And being 'normal' is not a character flaw.

Do you ACTUALLY think that ironic Brownies t-shirt or My Little Pony bubble watch looks cool, or is it just another ironic accessory to make people look at you? Are they literally only cool because they're old and unexpected? 

Are you really enjoying hanging off the bars in the tube carriage like a monkey (Actually that looks quite fun but you get my point)? 

Everyone likes what they like! There is a strange fascination with being 'weird', like it's something to be celebrated over just you know, being a human being. 

Obviously it's a sweeping generalisation, and I'm not pretending to know the inner workings of a 'quirky's mind, but I can't help but feel a lot of this stuff is just to impress, and is just being different for the sake of being different. 

It's very easy to be able to change your sub culture. One day you're a goth, one day you're a hipster (not that you would call yourself that). Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's a free country. But it's this idea that you're better than someone because you dress in a certain way. 

Prime example: chav hating. Ok, there is a small portion of people who wear tracksuits on a night out and enjoy chequered caps (that I read Burberry no longer make for this reason) who are terrible people, but it doesn't actually mean that being associated with that makes you a terrible person. I'm sure middle-class 'poshos' wouldn't particularly like to be discriminated against for similar reasons, just because they're carrying mulberry handbags and drinking Pinot Grigio.

Having said that, I was taken the piss out of for being reasonably well-spoken ('WHY YA TALKIN' IN A POSH VOICE?') by a delightful girl at school. I'm not even posh!

Anyway. The point is, whereas ten years ago, people were made to feel shit because they were different, and now people seem to be made to feel shit because they haven't got some kind of 'hook', or thing that sets them apart. They're just you know, living their lives, and shouldn't 'have to play up to someone else's idea of whether they're deemed interesting in someone else's eyes'*. 

*That one is from my friend Alex). 

It's just insufferable. Going back to my last blog, it's the 'IM A GEEK!!!!11!!1!1 thing all over again. Just because youi watch Doctor Who or the Big Bang Theory, it doesn't make you a 'geek'. It is a point very well made by Stu Heritage here. Again, the need to set yourself apart from other people by inventing quirks for yourself. 

I anticipate this may piss off a few people because it seems like I'm making sweeping generalisations. Not everyone who appears to be quirky is affecting interesting personality traits. I know for a fact that some people are plain weird. Some of my family and friends are testament to that (LOVE you guys). Just you know, don't feel like you have to be weird for the sake of it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Facebook vs MySpace

Facebook vs MySpace 

I was thinking about MySpace today (I was reading an article entitled 'Top 8 most annoying people on Facebook' and thought 'what a wasted opportunity, shame it wasn't about MySpace'). 

Anyway, I do miss it: I don't know if I miss being that excited about social networking, or because I was only allowed on the computer at home for 2 hours a night. But it was an experience, right? So I decided to compare the merits of MySpace with Facebook, because, well, listicles seem to get the most views and I am lazy.

1. Friends
MySpace had the whole top 8. You could get to your friends easily, and you could rank your friends (though obviously 'You're all the same position to me bbz!'). Facebook, sure, you can make lists of your favourite friends, but there is no ranking. Which to be quite honest, is better. Remember the tears of 'I was bumped off her top 8 for Bullet for my Valentine!' or because you didn't have a black and white picture like the rest of them. 
Facebook: 1

2. Profile
Facebook: blue and white. It's simple, it doesn't have any crappy music or green-on-white text and everyone's is the same. But on the other hand, let's express our creativity, man! It was way easier to quickly identify common interests and a great place to accidentally stumble upon a good song. 
MySpace: 1

3. Pictures 
The good thing about MySpace is that it was instantly gratifying because your teen friends sat in their houses like you waiting for their friends to upload pictures so you could comment on them (and get one back - PC4PC!) in their various states of ridiculous amounts of make up. And it wasn't called a selfie, it was called a MYSPACE PICTURE! But you didn't really tend to see much of what they were doing - just... pictures of them. Whilst Facebook has 'selfies' against it, and there's very much an air of 'LOOK AT HOW MUCH FUN IM HAVING!!!111!!' (or pictures of food), it feels a little more 'real' than MySpace - ie. not every single photo is photoshopped to shit.

Facebook: 1

4. Life updates
MySpace had bulletins, Facebook has statuses. Or is it stati? Anyway. Bulletins were used to play weird games with your friends or to complete self-indulgent quizzes, the answer of which even the completer of the quiz probably didn't even care about. Facebook statuses are used to rant about that guy in Tesco or to let us know when your baby's first shit was, so I don't really think there's a winner. Still, no-one cares about your life. 


5. Functionality
Facebook has always been much more of a functional site, having originated from a university. MySpace, on the other hand, always felt like more of a game. It was ok to befriend a fellow studded belt-wearer, because it was more you know, style over substance. Who can get the most comments or compose the best burn about, shudder, Bebo? But Facebook is for people you know. Not necessarily people you like, but people you know. Which is handy if the only weirdos you like talking to are your friends. So, I suppose it depends how old you are. 


So, to sum up, Facebook wins, probably because I remember it better, and also, on Facebook, there aren't as many people called xX-goth_girl-Xx.

Monday, March 24, 2014

On Superiority

am not sure why I feel so strongly about this. I seem to be irritated by a lot of things that people do and say. It's something I think I inherited from my father, which is both good and bad - on one hand, I like that I am so bothered when people misuse an apostrophe, and that I get angry when people say ‘PIN number). On the other hand, is life just too short? I actually feel superior to people who use 'lol' as punctuation. But I'm not better than them. It's a big thing these days, though - everyone seems to be in a big competition to be 'better'.

But this new 'superiority' is somehow worse. It's like everyone wants to make themselves seem the worst off. It's like a really drawn out, hipster version of 'The Four Yorkshireman' sketch. 

They are simultaneously proud and self-deprecating about how uncool or old they are. 

All I seem to see at the moment is 'I'm such a geek/nerd/ [for liking Mariokart on the Wii/has seen Back to the Future]!' or 'Is the CD skipping or it supposed to be like that? I'm SO OLD' [when listening to a remix by Justice]. But they rejoice in this, whilst making the younger/less informed feel inferior somehow. It’s just a really crap, unoriginal way of being mock self-deprecating.
Another form of this comes down to individual taste. The ‘cultured people’ who think that their film or music taste is better than others’ just because they watch films with subtitles or subscribe to artrocker that their opinion matters more. No, Justin Bieber does not write his own songs and he is not to everyone’s taste but I reserve the right to like his music and not be scorned by an eighteen-year old music crusader. I actually saw on someone’s Twitter bio ‘I’m a food snob, I hate chains’. Get that organic carrot out of your arse – chains aren’t the problem – yes, some of them are genuinely bad, but we make judgement on the chain’s individual merits, just like with independent restaurants.
I’m not claiming to be exempt from this. I’m as bad as anyone. But I wish, sometimes, that there wasn’t this endless need to be the best/worst person in the room. Just be a person in the room. Which is fine.


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