Friday, April 29, 2011

My Eating Disorder and Me

Ashling is knocking timidly on the door of her own bathroom, which is an insult in itself.  I have been occupying her bathroom, or more specifically, the floor of her bathroom, for roughly forty minutes.

"...Caroline? ...Are you ok?"


Slight pause.

"Can I come in?"

I stretch my foot over to the door and turn the handle, because I don't have the physical energy to lift my head from the edge of the toilet seat. The door swings open, and there I am. My fringe, recently cut and truly dreadful, is sticking in damp clumps to my face. Day-old eyeliner is rolling down my face in fat blobs. I am clad only in her pyjama pants and her boyfriend Seán's Mudhoney tshirt, which I have folded my knees under. In short, I look like I've contracted the black plague at a Wilco concert.

Ashling begins quivering with laughter.

"Shut up."

My friend is now bent over, an entirely acute angle, laughing.

"Close the door."

"I told you not to eat it."

She's right, she did tell me not to eat it. She warned me that eating her abandoned chicken roll, still swimming in last nights mayonaise, was disgusting on basically all levels. But I ate it anyway. Why? Because it was there, and therefore I had to. And here I was, paying for it by vomiting up all of my internal organs.

At some point in my life, I developed an obsession with food. Not just the eating of it: the hoarding, the searching, the dizzying highs, the terrible lows. I'm not entirely certain where all of this came from, because food obsessions are generally the hallmark of people with unhappy childhoods, which was not the case. Here I am on my first day of school, trying to eat my own hand.

It only got worse from there. Whenever I had any sweets I would hide in a quiet corner of my bedroom. I would then organise my confectionary, trying to figure out a logical way of consuming them that would maximise on their deliciousness. Not unlike other areas of my childhood, I think it was something that temporarily worried my parents, but because I never seemed to gain much weight (oh simple childhood, how I long for thee) and because there were other children to worry about, they just left me be. While my brothers found new and interesting ways to fit our cat into a rollerskate, I wandered around the house like a contented buddha, eating fistfuls of Rice Krispies at a time. A little later, I began the hoarding process.

I don't know if this is usual or not, but from the time I was old enough to have pocket money, a large sum of it was dedicated to buying food which I could then hide in various places around my house. One of my favourite places was in the pockets of disused winter coats hanging in the closet. That way, if I was having a bad day (I don't know how children can have bad days, with their lively feckless existences, but I get the feeling that they definitely do) I knew I could just stick my hand into one of those coats and find a veritable plethora of delicious E-numbers. If I had a spirit animal it was something between a hoardy, forward-planning squirrel and the shameless rooting raccoon.

Of all the social foibles that plagued me as a child, this is the one that I find the hardest to understand. Maybe it was something to do with being the youngest of four kids. Maybe it was less about having sweets, and more about having something secret, and that only belonged to me. Maybe I was just a greedy little bastard. All I know for sure is that, of all the habits I've ever harboured, it's been the hardest one to kick. Yes, I still hoard food like a bulhimic pirate. And yes, I can think of three places in my room right now where you can find a kinder maxi.

This isn't me, but it isn't far off.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Quiet Or I'll Get The Wooden Spoon

As a retail worker, I exist as a backdrop figure in the life of the Irish consumer. Most of the time, you forget I'm there. I don't take great offense to this. Everyone is the star of their own movie: while I'm merely an extra in your life, you are in turn an extra in mine. (The key difference being, of course, that my movie is much better then yours.)
The other thing you forget though, is while you are oblivious to me, while I'm at work it is my job to specifically not be oblivious to you. This means I spend a great deal of time watching you from the safe distance of the cash register. And some of the things you do I take issue with, and one of those things I'm going to record here today.

Do Not Attempt Logic And Reason With Your Children

Let's face it, children aren't really people. They will be, someday, but as it stands they are merely empty whining shells that are out for all they can get. So when people assume emotional intelligence with their children, it's like assuming emotional intelligence in the blank, open face of Jared Leto.


Explaining why and how a child cannot have or do something is, I believe, the most fundamentally useless parenting action since 'parenting' itself became a pseudo-science. You see it all the time. A child starts throwing a wailing tantrum because they can't have a game or a bar of chocolate, and their parents get down on their haunches and actually attempt to reason with their progeny.

"Sweetie, mummy can't get you this today. You already have two games you're getting."


"Honey, baby, mummy can't. She doesn't have the money to get you that aswel. Maybe we get it next week?"


"Darling, I'm afraid in the current economic climate, it just wouldn't be fiscally responsible for me to buy this. Both your father and I have recently lost our jobs, and have no steady income to speak of. In fact, if you will recall, we are only in this shop today so Mummy can hand out CVs."


Children are senseless assholes. The only way you can communicate with them is by being a senseless asshole yourself. This is why, when a parent is faced with a tantrumming child, I think they should turn to their child, look them dead in the eye and say "If you don't be quiet, I am going to kick the absolute shit out of you."

Best start young.

Obviously, you never actually beat the life out of them. But the threat is enough. One of the great successes of Irish parenting was The Wooden Spoon Complex. When your mother threatened the Wooden Spoon on you, you knew it was serious: you had got up to some mischevious shit. You probably only recieved the wrath of the Wooden Spoon once or twice- and it probably wasn't all that bad, either. But the threat of The Spoon coming down on you is one that stiffens your stomach for years afterwards. I still can't open the cutlery drawer without being mildly threatened by the thing.

You are going to get MESSED UP.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Noose Update

This isn't really a proper post at all, so you don't have to pay an awful lot of attention to it if you don't want to.

#1 Part of the reasons I've been slow-ish on posts these days is because I'm not doing a bit of scribbling for the Irish music website, Drop-D. If you're in anyway interested in the opinions I attempt to form there, you can read my entries so far here and also here.

2# In case you haven't seen it yet I've started a Facebook page for Work In Prowess where I post both blog and drop-d updates. You can "like" that if you'd like, but only if you'd like to.

3# You may have also noticed that my updates are much less frequent these days. This is something to do with my final exams, which are in two weeks. After these exams are over I will have two letters after my name, and they will be "B" and "A". They will probably be the only letters I will ever receive after my name, so I'll try to make the most of them.

#4 If I can get momentarily cheesy, I want to thank everybody for reading this thing and being so supportive of it. No-one ever gets tired of their work being read and enjoyed, even if the majority of that work is nostalgia and soapboxing. So, yeah. Thanks. Really, thanks.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Why I Suspect My Father May Have a More Interesting Life Then Me

I have a reasonable advantage over a lot of people in that I actually like my parents. I think they're neat. They're occasionally funny, and they're good at dispensing the love, support and relatively constructive criticism in fairly equal ratios. People generally fear turning into their parents like it is an inevitability beyond their control. Like somehow the ghosts of their parents' shared ideology was going to rape them both physically and spiritually, á la tree demon in Evil Dead 2.

If this is indeed the case, let me be the first to welcome the tree rape revolution. Mum and Dad have set a decent blueprint, and I can be reasonably sure that I can take that inspiration and make a suitable advancement. I refuse to be the rushed-to-theatres-sequel: I will be the critically revered Godfather II. (My siblings, while they have their positive traits, are probably not as awesome as me, and will hence have to settle for being Godfather III's.)


I am comfortable with the idea that I can be the evolutionary upshot to my parents, but I am most certainly not comfortable with the notion that they may already be cooler then me. There is one reason to suspect this, and that is my father's phonebook.

One day, while briefly using my father's phone, I couldn't help but notice one thing: he knew some people with some goddamned interesting names. As we all know, names are hugely important. They shouldn't be, but they are. When I hear somebody has an interesting name, particularly if it's an interesting first name/surname combo, I am shamefully excited to meet that person. Unfortunately, and through no fault of their own, my friend group is a world of Kates and Daves, O'Briens and O'Learys. Simple, homogenous, time-honoured names that say very little about you other then that your parents were Irish and sane. So why does my dad get to know these people and I don't?

The following are a list of the people I actually found in my Dad's phone book, and the lives I imagine they definitely lead.

Kevin Sanquest

Kevin Sanquest is a cartoon astronaut from the 1960's. His cartoon is 15 minutes long, and is the last shred of children's programming of the evening until the television is entirely given over to adult viewing. Kevin Sanquest lives on the moon, and routinely fights to protect it from space aliens and Communists. His favourite food is green vegetables, because they make him big and strong, so he can fight Communists. Every week Kevin Sanquest has a new message for the children of America. He lets them know that they can grow up and be astronauts and fight... space aliens, too.

Dixie Brazil

Dixie Brazil is a transexual showgirl* from the Bronx who rose briefly to prominence in the 1970's with a Carmen Miranda inspired fruit basket routine. Like all good transexuals, she is profoundly insulted to ever be referred to by masculine pronouns. Also like all good transexuals, she spent an inappropriate amount of time with Andy Warhol and Lou Reed. She has some stories to tell, and tells them at her Las Vegas comedy/musical act Dixie Un-Zipped! It has been running for seven years, despite mixed reviews.

*It may interest you to know that the real Dixie is actually a man, and Dixie is bizarrely short for Richard.

Malachy Boohig

Malachy Boohig was the original inspiration for Boo Radley in Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. He lives in a shed that he built himself, and lives almost entirely on pine nuts and woodland creatures. Having said that, he is on very cordial terms with the woodland creatures, and the pine nuts.

Petr Chovanec

Shhtart wearin' purple

Petr Chovanec is my father's Russian drug and blood diamond dealer, and cut the "e" out of his name the same day he cut his own ear off his face. He is violent and quick-tempered, and admits to being a hopeless romantic. He looks like David Boreanaz, and is one of the 4% of men who look sexy in a wife beater. Coincidentally, he also beats his wife.

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Suspicion

I have a suspicion. I don't expect it to be popular, and I don't expect many people to agree with me, but here it is: I think Mad Men is a farce.

In general, I'm not a big TV watcher. Ok, that's not strictly true: I do watch TV, but I find it hard to keep up with new shows. Mostly, I'll just watch six hours of Frasier in between checking the movie channels to see if anything starring Whoopi Goldberg is on. Man, I love Whoopi Goldberg. As I write this, I'm wearing a dressing gown and watching Ghost. Its two o'clock in the afternoon.

But back to my original point: Mad Men. When Mad Men came out, I was absolutely sure it would be my thing. It was complex and glamorous, and I seemed to forever be seeing publicity stills of the female leads smoking while wearing opera gloves. So I gave it the chance that I rarely afford over-hyped TV shows: I actually watched it. And with that in mind, I have something to say: I think it's time that we, as a culture, got over Mad Men.

Popular Culture is on the phone, and they want you to know you're wrong

Yes, it's beautiful. The costumes are sumptous, the actors are shiny, and despite being a heterosexual woman, I find myself in occasional bouts of lust with Joan Holloway. But I can't help but thinking that both Mad Men and the cult that surrounds it is quite vapid. There is an extraordinary amount of mincing involved, and I feel like whenever the storyline focuses on the female characters all we're getting is a sneak preview of this years Fall collection. Because obviously, Mad Men is just so good that it has to penetrate every level of culture.

And then there's Don Draper, the supposed hero of the show. At least when women love Mad Men you know that it's mostly for the awesome clothing, but when men love Mad Men it reaches new levels of insufferability. Any dude I've ever talked to that it is into Mad Men seems to lament that they weren't born in a time where their word was law and their secretary could fix them a high-ball. Lets face it: Don Draper is a douchebag. "But hes so complex!" I hear you cry. Don Draper is not complex. Hes a dick. From what I can gather, hes mean to people. Hes a negligent husband, and an even worse boyfriend. The world seems to have taken to him on the grounds that he has a gravelly voice and looks well in a suit, but I just don't think that's enough to base international obsession on.

He'd probably make some snarky comment and walk out.

I'm not saying I hate Mad Men, or even that it's a terrible show. It's just not very good. The writing is dull, and seems to perpetaully be leading up to a bi-series bizarre plot-twist that never seems to fit quite like it's supposed to. The show seems to obsess over its period setting so much that it can get away with basically anything and assign it to some divine ideology that "that's what it was like back then". What the show doesn't seem to realise is that people weren't different in the past. Ideas were different: cultural understandings were different. But people were still human, and more to the point, they were never mannequins.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Everything I Learned About Cathartic Rage I Learned From My Dog

Some of you reading this may already be familiar with my dog. For those of  you aren't, this is a picture of my dog.

The person smooching up to my dog is my sister, Jill, who is nice, but this post isn't about her. 

This post is about my dog, and the things he teaches me.

In case you haven't noticed by his finely distinguished grey hair and wise, world-weary expression, my dog is as old as balls. His name is Charlie, and we love him very, very much. Hes almost 15 now, and his years only add to his sense of regality. As dogs go, he is very handsome. I like to think of him as being the Robert Redford of the dog world.

About four months ago, Charlie became suddenly very ill and depressed-looking, so we took him to a vet. The vet was amazed at the physical specimen that lay quivering before him. As Charlie gazed in fear at the vet's gloved hand with the safe knowledge that it was going to tamper with his anus, the vet told us that Charlie, by all rights, should have been dead since 2005.

As a family, we took this information with a mixture of pride and crippling anxiety. We're not the kind of family who you'd imagine are good at keeping pets alive. We're the kind of family who forget to take their lunches with them and who perpetually have stains on their clothes. I can think of at least five electrical goods in my house right now that are only partially working or are fully broken.  One time we kept forgetting to acknowledge the clocks going forward, so I was late for school three days in a row. The fact that we managed to keep an animal alive past its natural expiration date without even realising it isn't just amazing, its a friggin' miracle.

On the other hand, however, it meant that Charlie was (and is) a ticking time-bomb. For awhile after this visit to the vet, we cherished our beloved fifth sibling with the care one usually gives a sickly Romanov. Convinced he was going to die at any minute, we wanted to make sure that he knew how we felt about him. We took turns to sit with him, resting his head on our laps while we whispered sweet nothings into his docile ear.

This was a rather limited period in Charlie's life, because he made the terrible mistake of making a full recovery. At 9am one morning we heard the sound of Charlie's regained health. The sound consisted of the metallic flap of the letter box, the thud of paper, and one very senior cocker spaniel losing the absolute plot in barking blind fury.

Charlie has two great joys in life. The first is following my mother around the house, and the second is hating the postman. I don't know if these two great joys are linked. I don't know if Charlie was abused by the postman at a young age, or is just morally opposed to the idea of post in the first place. Perhaps he finds it a dated social concept. Perhaps I'll never know. What I do know, is that ever since we adopted Charlie in 1997, his morning routine has remained consistent. He wakes up at eight and enjoys a leisurely breakfast. He follows my mother around the house for a little. He takes a brief nap, and at nine-thirty, the postman comes, and Charlie loses his shit. One time I ordered a CD off Amazon and he chewed all the way through it, presumably in an act of rebellion against the postmans reign of terror.

Actual damage from my dogs mouth

After careful analysis, I'm convinced that Charlie is being kept alive purely by his hate for the postman. His morning rage is almost a religious exercise, a ritualistic cleansing of the previous days stress. When Charlie binges on hatred with a youthful spring in his step, I can relate to it. I'm someone who keeps hatred of ambigous things very close to their heart. When I decide fitfully that I must donate ten whole minutes of my day to hating Natalie Portman, I know that I'm not wasting time. I'm keeping healthy. Hatred is like fibre for the emotional diet. It might seem trivial and boring, but it keeps your emotional movements regular and you get stressed out far less. Just ask my dog.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Jobs I Guess Would Sort-Of Be Ok

Not everyone can grow up to be an astronaut. This is something I have to habitually tell my mother during her frequent bouts of paranoia that her children are all doomed to live menial, unfulfilled lives. The fact is, if everybody grew up to realize their dreams then there'd be nobody left to dispense urinal cakes.

As I come to the end of my undergraduate degree, I must come to the realization that if it's a good idea to have dreams, it's also a good idea to have grim realities. Here are some of the grim realities that I think I'd be well suited to.

Anonymous Office Worker

There's certain things that people are fond of saying, and they always say it as if it makes them more interesting for saying it. One of these things is "I'm going to travel the world someday" and the other is "I could never work in an office." The idea your supposed to take away from this is that whoever's talking is a free-spirited bohemian who could never short-change their own creativity by working in an office of all things.
Offices simply cannot be as bad as the stigma attached to them is. When you work in an office, you get your own computer and sometimes your own chair. You have a little break room where you probably have your own coffee mug that is unique to your character. Maybe it will say "Worlds Best Dad" on it. Maybe it will say "I Hate Mondays". The possibilities are endless.

I'm so down with the idea of having my own cubicle. I could piss around on the internet all the live long day.

Alexa Chung
I'm really not sure what this woman does, apart from wear tights and not wash her hair, yet somehow she manages to be on every single page of Heat except for the page that circles your pit-stains.

Whatever the hell Alexa Chung's job actually is, I certainly wouldn't mind having it. This woman seems to have gotten a free-pass to legitimacy without actually doing anything, and that would be sort-of ok.

Journalist at a Low-Level Weekly Smut Magazine

Like all women, I get an enormous amount of pleasure from being critical of other women. (See above) However, this is by no means limited to the fashion and lifestyle choices of other women. Sometimes its fun to put aside any pretended notions of sisterhood and analyse another girls knockers. Because I spent a year living with two dudes, I'm pretty well versed in the world of weekly smut magazines. There were so many boob magazines circulating around our house that we got quite serious in our study of it. Picking up a dog-eared copy of Nuts, we'd sigh meditavely before commenting "Tina really needs to step her game up if she's going to make it to weekly coverage" or "Daisy needs to learn to arch her back more gracefully". There's a small, special kind of joy that can be derived from afternoons leisurely comparing the boobs of models with your friends. A joy that I really wouldn't mind turning into a career someday.

Talking Head on a Countdown TV Show

Top 100 TV Shows of All Time. 100 Best Toys With Johnathon Ross. I've always been a fan of things that include the terms "Top Ten Best Ever". I think it would be jolly to be one of those people who gives their supposed "expert" opinion on each of the things in the countdown.

I always get a huge amount of amusement from these people. They always have job titles that you never knew could be real job titles, like "Animation Historian" or "Lifestyle Equaliser", and they're always shown in swanky offices surrounded by books and toys. This is a future I can realistically see myself looking forward to. These shows tend to be favoured by networks like ITV who blew their seasons budget commissioning the latest Kerry Katona reality vehicle, and hence need to fill up the schedule with mindless counting shows. I feel like its only a matter of time before ITV run out of money entirely and titles like "Celebrity Wardrobe Mistress" and "Cultural Expert" eventually become "Known Blogger" and "Woman On The Internet".

This, of course, will be my time to shine.