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.


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