Monday, 4 July 2011

The best psychology lesson I've ever had

Ever had someone trying to wind you up? There's way of dealing with it. Most of you already know how to correctly react. I only learnt in my early 20s. I share this story, as I still come across folk who fly off the handle whenever they're goaded.

Back in the era of grunge, indie and Britpop™ when I frequented a local nightclub for its alternative nights, I pretty much resembled Neil from The Young Ones. This wasn't an issue for the crowd I hung around with, who were pretty much mandated to wear Kurt Cobain tribute shirts and mosh/dance/rave about to the sounds of Rage Against The Machine/Kinks/Chemical Brothers.

You could paint your face fluorescent green and wander in there wearing a fishnet smock, just as long as you weren't a 'townie'. Townies, a tracksuit-clad fag-end-sucking bumfluff-moustache-sporting social group, were pretty much our social nemeses. I suppose these days, the terminology used for such folk would be "chavs", a term I'm not proud to cite here, as it tends to make people (wrongly) think I'm anti-working class. But, hey, we hated townies and townies hated us.

Goodness knows what label we actually were. We didn't quite have a label as such, and have never really craved such a thing. In any case, we were a diaspora of eclectic social circles. Some of us were fairly gothic/industrial, others were hardcore metallers. The BritPop crew - who would happily wave their forearms with their elbow seemingly attached their hips when dancing to Shed Seven or Longpigs - were fairly adept at doing their own thing, to the point where they formed their own club nights at other venues. (At its peak, they had separate themed nights that could cater for genres such as film/TV themes and retro-hammond-organ funk.)

Oh, and I must give an honourable mention to a contingent of villagers would always bop around to rap-metal, with dreadlocks proudly on display. Bless you, Irchy Boys.

With cheap beer and a playlist that ranged from Megadeth to Elastica, the Alternative Night on Wednesdays at the long-gone Network in Wellingborough town centre, attracted all sorts. I particularly remember on my first night there, a savage looking bullet-belted metaller with the phrase 'I EAT CHRISTIANS FOR BREAKFAST' scrawled in Tipp-Ex over a ripped black t-shirt.

In the eyes of the townies, we were "grebos", "grungers" or "moshers". All of us. Even the quirky suited-to-the-nines Mod chap who would would calmly trot along to the Small Faces.

Yes, some of us, in our Nirvana smiley face t-shirts, German Army jackets, striped tights and Doc Martens, did conform to the stereotype.

We viewed the townies as trouble-makers. This is actually a fairly irrational condemnation, as I've been friends with such people, and really have no justification for smearing them all like that, although we did use the term specifically for the ones who did go out of their way to cause a bit of aggravation.

So, with the pubs shutting at half eleven and low price beer on offer, Network would occasionally attract the type of people who certainly didn't want to come along for Ned's Atomic Dustbin or Kingmaker. (Can't say I'd blame them for the latter.)

I spent much of the 1990s walking round with long hair, and came into two types of grief. Trying to dry it on a winter's morning (I remember it froze one day when walking to work) and of course, townies. I was a "fucking hippy", "poof", "headbanger" and sometimes all three, despite the presence of a Prodigy t-shirt, and, on the odd occasion, a girl who fell for my charms.

Looking like that, you had to develop a thick skin, and also to beware of provocation. On a number of occasions, a dozen or so future-Jeremy-Kyle-Show-loyalty-card-holders would pop in, get beered up, and try and start fights with the clientele. In particular, Karl was a target of their jibes. He was a tall thin guy who would regularly be plastered in eyeliner of all colours, with an outrageous flamboyant hairstyle that leave your retinas working overtime.

One 'grebo-bating' incident sticks out in my mind for the way it was dealt with. Gary, a guy who had recently been hanging out with us, had fairly long blonde hair, and was sitting in a quiet corner of the club. To be fair, Gary wasn't exactly a textbook definition of a Kerrang reader. Other than his long locks, nothing distinguished him from being particularly "alternative". In fact, he had confided in me that he loved R&B. Most of the time he was after a rather sexy black-bobbed girl who would writhe around to Nine Inch Nails and Sheep On Drugs, decked out in the kind of plastic skirts you'd see in sex shops. He feigned an interest in industrial music whenever he was chatting to her, and didn't really succeed.

Back to the story and three knuckle-dragging reprobates, all decked out in JJB Sports' finest, were trying to goad him. I remember Gary just calmly rolling up a cigarette while these yobs mocked his hair, loudly vocalising their false assumptions on his sexuality.

Gary just looked up slowly and... blew them a kiss, smiling as he did so.

All hell broke loose, with the goader-in-chief picking up an ashtray hurling it at Gary, which was the cue for nightclub security to rugby tackle them to the ground and escort them out of the premises, as we all pointed and laughed.

I'm no stranger to being insulted, and with the rise of social media, there's all kind of opportunities to do such things to me. What Gary did there, was a valuble lesson to me, as I felt, that had I been in his position, I'd have probably ended up having a war of words, or more likely, cowering away in the corner hoping they'd go away.

There's plenty of examples in my past where I've reacted badly to someone provoking me. I cringe at these memories.

Looking back on what Gary did was awesome. Not getting angry at the situation - which is what the instigators wanted. Bonus points for handing out a reaction they weren't expecting, and the star prize for getting them dropped in the shit.

There will always be comments designed to make me spew out anger, and that's exactly what the author intends. Question the motives of anyone aiming something unpleasant at you, otherwise you'll end up swallowing their bait. They'll be chomping on the popcorn as you dance to their tune.

So, with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and whatever flavour-of-the-month website comes next, look out for the Annoyance Seed planted in front of you. I know this is screamingly obviously to the bulk of my friends, but you'd be surprised at the sheer gullibility of people out there who let themselves get wound up by digital goading.

1 comment:

Jamie said...

I always find the stereotype that young, less-well-educated men as to what makes for a "poof" fascinating.

As a practicing homosexual - practice makes perfect, after all - I have mostly shaved my head since I started to get thin on top when I was in my early 20s. Before that, beyond my Morrissian quiff of my teenaged years, I've always kept my hair short... like most gay men. Long hair on a man is, very very generally, seen on straight blokes, not gay ones. Similarly, the majority of young gay men would never wear eyeliner and similar make-up, because it's "a giveaway", while straight teenagers into that music/culture/type of girl that likes that music/culture/type of guy happily don the look.

Like you, I can't draw any conclusions from any of this, other than the idea that young, less-well-educated boys are less-well-educated about sexuality than they might be. And are subjects of a large specific sub-genre of gay porn, unlike boys in eyeliner and long hair....