Who are you: somebody who happily participates in an activity involving a five-point harness (reverse bungee, the Apollo programme, the Dakar Rally), or somebody who shies away from anything to do with being strapped down for safety?
Ahh. Nothing is more dull, fascinating, and intimidating than sharing a common space with beautiful young people. Bonus points if that space is the upper deck of a boat party where the playlist reads like a brazen suggestion to have inconsequential sex. I order a gin and tonic to steady my nerves (beautiful people make me nervous), and to silently reassure the PBR-wielding horde that no, I am not as cool or good-looking as you.
At events where a disproportionate amount of beautiful people congregate, my crestfallen self-esteem goes to DEFCON 1 to ensure I do not make an absolute tit out of myself. This defense mechanism limits my activities to swirling the ice in my cup and impersonating someone staring disdainfully into the distance.
When I scour enough personality to initiate conversation with a friend of a friend serving in the Air Force, I wonder if anyone else is discussing F-22s and Eurofighters. “Probably not,” my friend of a friend speculates, tilting his head towards the couple dry-humping on the dance floor to a vaguely familiar Jay-Z tune.
I have a list of qualities I want to see in my ideal cetacean, but I don’t have a list of qualities I want in an ideal life partner. Between these two lists, which one is my mother (bless her heart) more concerned with?
Hint: She does not want me to marry a sperm whale.
My cohorts and I find ourselves in the Loge Outfield Box of Miller Park with frozen margaritas and the same burning assumptions that come naturally to people not farmed in an environment conducive to the appreciation of baseball: football is our sport, and the Champions League our turf. We buy a pretzel bigger than our heads to disguise our fraudulence.
Everything in the stadium was built, it seems, to distract from the game. Walking vendors in neon yellow shirts. A creamy-voiced announcer over the speakers. A jumbotron advertising something I don’t need (or do I?). Everything is vying for my attention. Where the fuck am I supposed to look?
One row ahead of us, a man buys his grandchildren cotton candy. One row behind us, a man screams profanities at an umpire. He accidentally whacks me in the back of my head and apologises. He whacks the back of my sister’s head several innings later and apologises to her, but he has mistaken her for me. “Oh, I’m so sorry. That’s twice I’ve hit you now, I’m sorry.” It’s okay (it wasn’t).
We leave in the middle of the seventh inning, our senses exhausted by the Speaker Systems And Giant LED Displays From Hell. We are walking away when something exciting happens on the grass. The crowds behind us rise from their seats and cheer to reward a successful run; a large man at the baked potato stand gives a halfhearted whoop.
"She was beautiful and I loved her," he croaks in an unfamiliar baritone. A sigh, a slumping of the shoulders.
"Voice like hot asphalt and face like a bullet through the heart. I could—I could wrap two fingers around her wrist, like this."
He slides his own wrist between his index and middle fingers, but he cannot close the space between his fingertips. His parts are too old, too arthritic. He was master of his body once, but that was so long ago! He wants to bellow, to roar, to scream, but all he does is coordinate the facial muscles necessary for a smile.
A sigh, a slumping of the shoulders.
"She was beautiful and I loved her."
A shallow intake of air, an angry memory.
"And then that goddamned KFC opened across the street."
"One of the entertaining things about World Cups is that they allow us to query/confirm the national stereotypes we all carry about with us. Brazil plays “the beautiful game.” Argentina tries to do the same, but also has a darker side. Italian players foul and dive. African teams can’t defend. Team U.S.A. runs around with much enthusiasm but little purpose. Germany delivers. England disappoints. So do Spain and Portugal."
The National football team = National Stereotype formula was an allegory I frequently used for presentations in Political Science classes to make sweeping generalisations about economic situations in South East Asian countries (e.g. Indonesia marked by mismanagement of resources, Singaporean success aided by the enthusiastic import of foreign talents, etc.).
I was in the company of drunken allies several moons ago when I had the brilliant idea of testing the National XY = National Stereotype formula, where XY = Porn.
So! We huddled around some poor bastard’s laptop and—IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE—watched pornographic films shot in different languages. All we found was that about five films into the study, the ladies of the research team terminated their participation (we are so delicate), but the young men continue to file their findings under Ongoing Projects (they are so vulgar).
Concert-going young people everywhere are the same: the same patches of sweat, the same damp tickets crumpled in back pockets, the same insect-like chatter when the houselights are (regrettably) turned on at the end of a show.
The chatter is always about the same thing (That was so good), and it is always accompanied by an unspoken, sometimes unacknowledged sentiment (It is so good to be young). And then, the mother of all first-world problems: I’m hungry. Are you in the mood for Mexican or Chinese?
Some countries force their young men (and sometimes their young women) to spend a few years of their lives in military service. When I run into someone who has spent time in the military under this circumstance, I wring them for thoughts on their time in fatigues.
Pair the following statements to the correct resentful serviceman! Your choices are: Israel, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland.
i. “Most of the time we marched. Lots of marching. I can’t kill you in hand to hand combat, but I can probably out-march you.”
ii. “The rifles we trained with were so shitty that I had to hold the magazine in place when I was shooting because it kept falling out.”
iii. “My country asks me to defend my home, what can I do?”
iv. “I was really skinny before the army, but look at me now! If they never forced me to join the army, I don’t think you could love me.”
I’ve just realised that for what must have been at least the last thirty minutes, someone or something outside has subjected the entire neighbourhood to a very loud, very constant droning of indeterminate origin. It sounds like a leafblower making love to a vuvuzela, an idea that is less disturbing in words than in imagery.