On Being an Asshole


Esther & Lisa have become obsessed with a self help guru who looks like an evil albino magician. I came back from work the other day to find them mumbling his mantra over and over again:

“I am independent of the opinions, either good or bad, of others…”

Bit of a complex sentence, I thought, bit of a clumsy clause in the middle there. It’ll never take off.

evil albino magician

Evil Albino Magician

 

‘Does this coat look alright?’ I ask Esther the next morning as I get ready for work.

‘You are independent of the opinions, either good or bad, other others,’ she says.

‘Ok,’ I say, ‘But just for this moment I choose to listen to your opinion.’

‘That’s not how it works,’ says Esther, ‘The only thing that matters is what you think.’

Which is why I spent a day in the wrong coat. What a horrible day.

I get back from work to find Esther & Lisa in deep discussion.

‘It’s so hard to be an asshole,’ Esther is saying, ‘I need to try harder.’

Lisa guffaws.

‘I can’t believe you just said that. You are an asshole,’ Lisa says, ‘It comes naturally to you.’

‘What’s going on?’ I ask, ‘Why are we talking in American?’

‘We’re People-Pleasers,’ says Esther, ‘We have to learn how to be Assholes.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘Well the video says you have to go into Starbucks and take ages choosing your coffee until a big queue has formed behind you. Really make everyone wait and don’t act apologetic at all.’

‘God that is asshole behaviour,’ I say, ‘I don’t like that at all.’

‘That’s why we’ve got to do it,’ Esther says, ‘We need to care less what people think.’

name-tag_asshole

The following morning, I was so stressed, I thought my head was going to explode Scanners-style. I’d changed what I was wearing for the fifth time (independence of the opinions of others sucks) and then ran to the busstop. As the bus was about to deposit me at City campus ON TIME, I happened to check my diary FOR THE FIRST TIME to find it was a 9am start at THE OTHER CAMPUS.

I legged it across town to the busstop for buses going back the same way. As the bus crawled along, and I watched the seconds tick past 9am, my head began to feel like it was popping. I need something soothing I thought, something lovely and calm.

Q: What’s the most relaxing music in the whole wide world?

And so I googled ‘that music from the Shipping Forecast’ and binged on Ronald Binge’s Sailing By, eyes closed. The trouble with that is that Esther & I had a spate of using the Shipping Forecast to send us to sleep, Sailing By being the lullaby that one of us had to turn off, finally drowsy and heavy-armed, at the end. (Clue: It was always me.)

Dragging myself out of the departure lounge of snoozeland was enough to make me really grumpy and so I ran to the other campus full of the joys of hell.

‘I’m getting a damn coffee,’ I told myself, ‘nobody can stop me.’

It was ten past 9 as I ran up the back stairs, taking huge John Cleese strides and gurning in frustration. As I rounded the corner flailing and gnashing, I realised there was a man sat at the top, watching me.

‘Just getting my legs to work’ I said and then laughed enough for the both of us.

Of course, what I was really doing was Being An Asshole.

freshmanstarbucks

Boring and Ugly Crimbo Special: 1st Anniversary!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


22nd December

I’m not sure I’m getting the point of The News. I’m sure it’s meant to be sad and gritty, but all I can think about is clothes and how good people look when they die young.

The Stephen Lawrence enquiry has revealed some great 90s clothes collected as evidence. With a 90s revival nearing the end, I am still in love with the clothes I would have been wearing back then had I been cool.

What an outfit! Jazzy jacket, sparkly cardi, pink polo shirt and high waisted acid-wash jeans. When I look round today and see all these draw-string grey tracky bottoms, v neck t shirts and silly bobble hats, I despair. Think about it people- do you really want to die dressed head-to-toe in Primark?

 

24th December

A relationship is a relay team, and each couple passes on their own make of baton. Ours is misery and irritation. All last night and this morning, Esther has had the full blown grumps.

“What’s the point? Christmas day is just like any other- we’ll get up, eat till we’re sick, walk the dogs, watch TV and go to sleep”

The thing is, when I think about it, that’s true. Coz Esther doesn’t work, this isn’t a holiday or a treat for her. It’s just another day.I cling onto hope when Weasel and Kung Fu, Esther’s parents, ring up and invite us for coffee.

Surely she won’t dare ruin their day too?

Of course she will- that’s her sacred role in the sisterhood.

We go for Eggnog Lattes in Starbucks with them and Lisa. Weasel has promised to buy a winter hat for Esther. She gets out the brochure for her to choose from.

Weasel- “Choose your top 4 from here”

“I don’t want one” she petulates (this should be a word- I’ve written it, so now it is)

A look of weary resignation flits across Weasels face. Lisa rolls her eyes.

“Give it here then” Esther chides, snatching the leaflet from Kung Fu’s hand, and without seeming to look, scrawls numbers next to  pictures.

“You didn’t even look at that!” says Lisa in horror

“Yes I did; white’s the best colour, so I chose the whitest then numbered down from there”.

We are clearly dealing with a genius here, for whom simple tasks like this are odious and best treated with contempt. She is Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon in foreshortened female form.

"Whosoever invented this should be flayed alive!"

Well you know what, now it’s time for my go with the bastard baton. It always changes from red to green in my hand though- from misanthropy to jealousy when passed from a middle to an only child. a week ago we paid £15 for the runtiest tree we could find. It leans over drunkenly like my erection.

Now, on Christmas Eve, the trees that were for sale at the bottom of our road have been abandoned. Lisa and Dom can take their pick, and choose one 3 times the size of ours, for free! In what universe are the poor allowed to triumph over the rich with such smugness? What’s the point of having ostentatious spending, if other people are going to get the same stuff for free??

I know I should be thinking “It warms the cockles of my heart to see the Tiny Tim’s of the world smiling”

But instead it’s “I want a tree that big! Maybe I should have two trees, then I’ll win!” Winning in my mind is a vague concept, something to do with the unhindered accumulation of stuff. I guess it comes from the entitlement of being the golden child backed into a corner by a real world full of grasping hands.

Suffice to say, when we both got home we had snapped the baton in half and carved each others faces with it.

Esther- “I’m not going to wrap your presents…”

Me- “Why not?”

Esther- “Coz I hate wrapping presents. I can’t be bothered”

Me- “Well, we can put them in plastic bags at least…?”

Esther- “I can do what I like. You can do what you like”

She stomps upstairs for a snooze.

“Don’t go to sleep” I call after her plaintively

“Why not?”

“Erm, because we can go and watch Christmas TV…?”

“I’m bored of TV”

“We can…tidy up?”

This isn’t going to work. She grunts and disappears. Why can’t I think of anything to do anymore? My excitement is draining away. What’s the point of anything?

I trudge upstairs to bed.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Are you an N or an F?


I finish my day at work and automatically ring Esther to find out what she’s doing so I can do it too. This reminds of the joke about when spouses Kenneth Brannagh and Emma Thompson were inseperable in the mid 90s:

Emm: “Where are you darling?”

Ken: “I’m in the shed”

Emm: “Oh, can I be in it too?”

Anyway, unusually for them, Lisa and Esther are sat outside Starbucks having a coffee. I jump on an 82 (not an 88 since I was prevented from boarding one for holding a coffee: “Is that a hot drink?” “No, it’s gone cold” “Well you can’t get on” etc) and hop off the stop before Starbucks, sauntering in my most relaxed-looking way up to the cafe.

“Half F, half N” confides Lisa to Esther as I sit down.

“More F than N, I’d say” says Esther, “He has got a clean shirt on”

I tuck my shirt into my trousers, flustered by the attention.

“Oh no, that’s definitely N, tucking it in like that” says Esther with satisfaction.

Finally, they explain that they have been playing a game where they judge whether people are Functional (have a job and relationship, good self esteem) or Non-functional (on benefits, mentally unstable, or intellectuals) from the way they look as they walk past. I notice a funny man sat in Starbucks window behind us- he has a shock of grey hair sticking vertically up, a huge round belly and a spotted handkerchief peering from a pocket in his white tucked-in tshirt.

“So what’s he then” I say with as much subtlety as I can muster (not much).

“Oh, him. He’s a double N” says judge, jury and executioner Esther.

Next, Lisa scurries off up the street mumbling “Do me”, before turning round after about 3 metres and coming back. She is trying her hardest to look normal, which means she is surging forward with a furious look on her face.

Without having to confer, Esther and I proclaim “definitely an N”, to Lisa’s bitter disappointment. Now Esther goes for a wee, and after about 5 minutes reappears behind us, having sneaked out of the side door. She is unsurprised to learn her N status too.

Ecclesall Road is wall to wall with Fs, usually rich students with box fresh clothes, or kept men or women perched like vultures in the window of Nonnas, draining spousal money in the futile pursuit of real happiness. I think rampant materialism is a sign of something missing.

But if this is what it takes to get status in this world, I guess I am a player too, but only on week days. I am a wekend hippie and a fairweather flakey. I’m proud of my N/F mongrel ways.