Getting caught blogging.

I’m not a shy person. Almost anyone I’ve ever met could attest to that, I don’t think anyone would ever even consider describing me as “quiet” “withdrawn” or “introverted”. No, I’m much more likely to blunder into meeting someone new, use my Northern accent/charm/wit to enchant/offend them, and then potter off to make a mess somewhere.

Yet when it comes to my writing, I’m very self-concious. I don’t like people reading anything but the finished product- schoolwork essays were never reviewed mid-way through, articles are never sent to editors until I’m 110% happy with what I’ve written. Otherwise, I get nervous and forget how to spell and feel like everything I write is stupid. It’s not just original work, either. When writing up bills at the restaurant I waitress in, I get flustered if a customer is standing on the over side of the bar watching me- and there’s no creativity involved in writing “Bottle of house wine, £14.75″.

I can’t stand people reading my stuff in front of me, either. It feels very self-indulgent to watch someone read an article, email or blog I’ve written. It’s like when you watch your favourite comedy or youtube video in front of someone. Instead of just being relaxed and enjoying it yourself, you’re nervously checking that they’re reacting to the funny bits, and promising that it gets better in a second. Awkward.

Part of publishing articles and blogs online is that when people Google my name, it will come up with a list of things I’ve written. Which is obviously fine, because if it wasn’t I wouldn’t have written them in the first place. Yet it is slightly scary. People who are so inclined merely have to tap out my name in order to read through anything I’ve ever had the courage (vanity?) to publish online.

Seeing as I’m pretty likely to be the only Farrah Kelly in the world (Arabic first names aren’t usually paired with Irish surnames), I’m pretty easy to find. It wouldn’t take much effort to cyberstalk me, in any case. Unlike all you Joe Smiths and Liz Bloggs out there, I can’t hide behind the thousands of people with the same name online. I’m up there, ready for anyone to mock. It’s a good job very few people actually care what I have to say for myself, otherwise my self-esteem might be in trouble.

Blogging- the lamest hobby ever?

There are also certain people that I feel embarrassed about “admitting” I blog to. There’s something very lame-90s-girl-who-writes-about-feelings about telling people you blog. You say the word “blog” in front of people who don’t bother much with the world of the interpipes and all they hear is “0HMYG0D Justin B33bz iz SO CUTE 4eva LOL xoxo”. And while I mightn’t have a style that’d sell millions of novels, I’d like to at least credit myself with a little more talent than OMGLOL-ing tweens.

Recently, I’ve been “caught” blogging in two capacities. It was like I was caught picking up leftover food in the street, or watching Big Brother sincerely. Ah, the shame.

Firstly, my boss found out I blog. He quickly assumed it was about my feelings (which it is, I guess?), rolled his eyes, and moved on with his life. It was pretty embarrassing. And if he has any inclination to have a nosy, then he’ll be reading this (Hi, Adam!). I hope not, because it’d make for a pretty awkward conversation at my next shift.

Secondly, someone found an old blog post. And I mean old. I won’t mortify myself further by going into any detail, but suffice to say that we now know that it is definitely physically impossible to die of humiliation. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be writing this now. Never write anything you don’t want people to see. Not on paper, in sand, and certainly not on the bloody internet. Just think it, shrug it off, and be glad that your thoughts aren’t screened publicly. Put down the pen. PUT DOWN THE KEYBOARD. Trust me.

Whatever my self-conciousness issues are about people seeing my writing, it’s tough, frankly. I love writing too much to stop just because I cringe whenever I say the word “blog”. It may be an indulgent hobby, but it’s mine. So I’d better get used to it already.


Gentlemen’s Rules & A Lady’s Insight.

Oh alcohol. There’s an allure in pouring you down our throats so strong, so overpowering, that means we’re happy to sacrifice the following day for you. We’ll happy splutter our way through god-awful cocktails, down shots of acidic filth, and chug on gassy pints in order to maximise your effects. We condition ourselves into thinking that whisky doesn’t scorch the back of our throats, that cider doesn’t smell like the dodgier subways in city centres, and that Fosters doesn’t taste like shit (okay, maybe too far) in order to enjoy you.

So far gone is our obsession, our determination to experience every humiliating consequence that booze affords us; that drinking, at some point in the hazy and probably forgotten past, became a platform for natural human curiosity.

Who can remember the most? Does this stain? Can I shot this? Who can throw up the least? What’s the fastest way of getting this vodka into my face? What would actually happen if I tried to kiss the bouncer? Can you be arrested for this? Where are my clothes?

It’s beautiful, really. Aside from all the vomit. And social damage. Other than that. Forget that. The point is, drinking does a strange thing to us. It makes us question who we are (and where we are, and who it is in our bed, and…), and it brings us closer together. If we can both down a pint in less than four seconds, then it probably means we should be best friends. Or something.

I was recently given the rare and questionable honour of being allowed to sit in on your standard rugby lads social. For those of you who, like me prior to the event, only know of rugby socials from the infamous headlines they make, this was both a daunting and exciting offer. I was being given a prime spot- a real life woman feminist on the inside of a banter-heavy LAD social. I was eager with a morbid curiosity to see how offended I would be, what laws would be broken, and what limits these boys could be pushed to.

Under strict instructions to not to take photographs (so as to protect the secretive nature of the pre-drinking), and more importantly not to partake in the drinking games (for my own safety), I watched, mystified, by the events unfolding in front of me. Several, several pints were set out on the table at arrival. The boys were suited up, arrived on time and took their seats. After calming down the general hubbub of 20 guys chatting happily away- with a general sense of dread and excitement bubbling at the sight of all the drinks prepared before them- the drinking began.

The pre-drinking session strictly adhered to Gentlemen’s Rules. I’d never seen these in action before, but they basically consist of self-governed laws that tell you what you’re not allowed to do during a drinking session. Swearing is out. The word “drink” is out- “consume” or “beverage” replaces. I think there’s a rule about using only your left hand. Toilet breaks must gain permission from the leader, the social secretary. People must be referred to using their full titles (as assigned by the social secretary) or their surnames. There are plenty more rules that probably went straight over my head- but the general gist is that you have to behave yourself. The penalty for breaking a rule is you have to drink. Or consume. Whatever.

So far so civilised. Guests were at the disposition of the witty social secretary, who had set up various drinking challenges for the boys. Pint downing competitions, readings of poems, a race to see how quickly members could produce then drink a cup of “Earl Jag” (pronounced /erl yay/- Earl Grey with a generous shot of Jagermeister, for the uninitiated). Some members, for their previous sins, had to chug a lethal and vile looking combination of cider, Jagermeister, ale, and god knows what else. Drinking game rules were heartily enforced, and any pint-downing punishment was cheerfully accompanied by a bizarre loutish rendition of Yellow Submarine.

They were all considerably less sober than when they started, and in fear of being vomited or spilt on, I scarpered from the midst of the group to a safe corner to watch the nature documentary unfold at a distance. Wise move on my part, because the social become more animated and less orderly as the night went on. The atmosphere was incredible- of solidarity and competition. I’ve never seen so many people having such a good time doing something that they’re all aware will make them vomit- sorry “chunder”- in the impending hours. Partly, I was jealous that I couldn’t get more involved in the excitement. Mostly I was just relieved that it wasn’t me being forced to sing “Goodbye My Lover” topless on a chair having just downed several ales.

So what did my insight to this ritualistic and overtly masculine bonding session provide? I’m not really sure- in my keenness to make my experience as authentic as possible (for purely journalistic reasons, you understand), I’d had two whole pints of fruit cider and a shot of blackcurrant poison and neglected to take notes. In any case, I was impressed with how organised the rowdiness was. Guests happily submitted to the rules and tormented each other tirelessly on failure to adhere.

The social was deemed a success by all, not least by the takings at the bar, and everyone uprooted ready to go the nearest club for a night of more drinks, fist-pumping and general debauchery. In high spirits, the boys went for a quick “tactical chunder” to facilitate more drinking later on and pootled off on their merry way. The damage was minimal- only a few things had been broken within repair, no one had spilt or vomited anywhere inappropriate, and I hadn’t found even the smallest thing to take offence by. I was impressed. This rugby social proved that while the whole uniLAD debate fades into obscurity, these boys still know how to have a good time, without ending up in the columns of the Daily Mail. And almost everyone left with as many eyebrows as they started the night with, so everybody wins.


Shameless (Shameful?) Self Plug.

So I’ve ambitiously entered this:


The chances of me being even shortlisted are slim considering the massive amount of excellent competition, but ever the optimist, I thought I’d give it a go. So go and nominate me! (Looking at you, mum). Who knows, the rejection letter they eventually send me might even contain some useful feedback! ;)

Also, I’d like to quickly explain what I’ve been doing with my life lately. It consists of not very much, as per, but I have been up to some slightly more notable things. I’ve been elected The Yorker’s lifestyle editor, taking over from the lovely Laura! It’s a big job, and I cannot wait to see what I can do with the section- I already have some great ideas & content lined up. If anyone would like to join me in my mission to make Yorker Lifestyle the best website ON THE INTERNET then that would be awesome and definitely send me an email.

I’ve also recently written a guest post for TheFWord on sexual harassment in the young. You can find the link here, and I’d like to humbly thank theFword people (once again) for letting me write on a topic so important.
Things I did instead of revision: Went to the beach!
I’ve also finished those pesky exams that have been getting in the way of all the important things I’ve been doing- I can proudly say that I will never in my life draw another syntactic tree. Not once. Not even if you held me at gunpoint. I’d rather sit alone in the dark than ever have to consider what triggers uninterpretable features on a verb to move (or something) again. 
And lastly, I’ve been frolicking up and down the country on trains again. I’ve visited Newcastle (again) for Evolution Festival (expect a review soon) and I’ve visited the University of Oxford (and was witness to the most hardcore drinking session I’ve ever seen- review to follow). All good fun, but I’m back home in York now, and will be until next month.
I’ll shut up now, so apologies again for the selfless self-promotion. I’ll work on being less pathetic in time for my next blog.

Being Flattered vs. Being Followed.

 Yesterday, the results of a survey commissioned by the End Violence Against Women Committee  (EVAW) were published. The results, while wholly unacceptable, wouldn’t surprise many women. 21% of women had experienced unwanted sexual attention, and 43% of young women had experienced sexual harassment in public. In fact, I’d argue that these figures are puzzlingly low.

Ask any female about this kind of thing, and you’ll get an extensive list of anecdotes. Being beeped at my white van men, being groped in clubs. It’s all part of being a woman, apparently.  Just something to put up with, not something anything can be done about. Chin up ladies, it’s supposed to be a compliment, after all.

What’s probably most frightening about this kind of attention is how women seemingly marginalise it, despite it being uncomfortable and unwanted. I know this from experience, and my experiences aren’t particularly exceptional.

I’ve bought tops and never worn them again once some drunken stranger has attempted to see what would happen if he unzipped me. I’ve phoned male friends at three in the morning while walking home, just so that the group of men lingering outside the kebab shop don’t think that I’m unaccounted for.  I’ve had grown men jeer at me in bars. I’ve been called a slag for confronting some drunken ugly bugger for grabbing my arse in the pub I meet my friends in regularly. It was me who left the pub, not him.

Yet worryingly, I’ve never considered my experiences “that bad”. In comparison with some shocking tales you hear, these things are trivial and barely worth complaining about. They’re just small instances that have happened and don’t ultimately matter. Some would argue that I’m pretty lucky to not have gone through worse. This attitude is just wrong. What would happen if a man was being inappropriately touched while queuing at a bar? Or if he overheard a group of people making smart comments about what he was wearing? It’s not too difficult to imagine a brawl ensuing. But when it happens to a woman, we all just put our head down and try to see the funny side. I can get a bit shouty and angry about women’s issues (as my friends will happily attest to), but even I still downplay street harassment.

When I was in secondary school, I had a guy follow me home a handful of times. He was a friend of a friend, way older than me, and was judged to be an all-round NICE GUY by everyone who knew him. He’d linger around on the road from my school to my home, waiting for me. He tried to engage in conversation that I clearly didn’t want to participate in, and insisted on walking a few paces behind me if I managed to overtake him. I’d wait at the end of my road for up to half an hour until he got bored and wandered off before going into my house, because I didn’t want him to know where I lived. After a while, I stopped seeing him around and figured he’d gotten the hint. About three months later I saw him while I was nipping to the shops trying to take a picture of me on his phone. I was terrified- heightened by the fact I was with my younger sister and I was deathly scared that he’d transfer his interest onto her. I was 15, she was 13.

This encounter- while I agree is a slightly more extreme type of street harassment- is still something I make light of. I joked with my friends that I had “a little stalker”, implied that I was followed due to my -ahem- irresistible charms.  Even while discussing the matter now, in light of these survey results, it took me a while to realise that this even counted as street harassment. What’s more disturbing, with hindsight, is that I was only 15. Before I’d even surpassed the legal matter of being considered a minor, I’d already had this pretty scary experience, and I was already brushing it off as nothing.

So what can be done about this kind of thing? Cuff everyone who wolf-whistles women? Dole out ASBOs to the men who shout out “nice arse” in the middle of the street? It’s obviously difficult to prevent or police this kind of thing, but it seems as though the main issue with street harassment is the perceived acceptability, both from perpetrators and victims. If these harassments were purely verbal or physical, if 40% of young women were being physically harassed in public, we’d all be kicking off. Yet add a sexual nature, and rather than duly becoming more sinister, it (unfathomably) becomes less of a big deal.  This isn’t a case of slapping the wrists of gropers, followers and catcallers everywhere; it’s a case of re-educating a society.

EVAW are currently campaigning for training of police and transport staff so these situations are understood and dealt with properly. There are campaigns (such as this one) encouraging women to report harassment. As Vicky Simister was quoted in The Independent yesterday as saying; “It’s not just about slapping cuffs on people, it’s about changing the way we think”. We need to be not okay with being harassed.