It’s Christmas Day. I’m sat at the dinner table, writing. I should probs be doing something festive like playing Guess Who with a relative, but my dream is to be a writer and even Jesus’s birthday won’t stop me working on my craft. Also, Christmas is really boring; I’ve already played Guess Who? today and now there’s not much else to do that doesn’t involve drinking copious amounts of alcohol and getting my mum to update me on the interpersonal relationships of every Coronation Street character so I can follow the story.
“Mum, look, Ken Barlow’s cheating on Deirdre!”
“Deirdre died, Eric.”
“Oh, that’s sad. Fair play to Ken for moving on.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Christmas, but I always forget how much it drags. If Christmas Day was a YouTube video, I would’ve tapped my screen about 5 times by now to check how long is left. I’d have maybe even skipped to the end, accidentally ending up in Easter because it popped up as a related video. Man, it would be cool if time travel worked like that.
Although the day has gone slow, in some ways the passage of time has been rapid, like someone skipping through a YouTube video. I went out last night, and I felt it. I felt old. For some context, I’m 23, which in previous centuries was considered old, but luckily for me I live in this century, and I’ll probably live on for thousands of years, perhaps as a fully sentient meme on a future version of Facebook. I know nearly everyone reading this knows who I am and I don’t need to tell you my age, but there’s every chance this blog could become a viral piece, shared far and wide for the way it beautifully articulates the intersecting feelings of loneliness and alienation that are so common for people in their 20’s.
For my millions of new fans that need even more context, I’m from a small town called Stone, in Staffordshire. I live in Birmingham now, but I travelled back to my hometown on Christmas Eve on the train, a mode of transport that was very common in the early 21st Century, before the great global-warming-induced-floods of the 2040’s made the ground uninhabitable and everyone moved to live in giant cities in the sky. (I’ve just realised I need to appeal to the future fans who may have only discovered my work after my consciousness has been downloaded onto a meme, so I’ve had to make some fairly bankable predictions about how the middle of this century will pan out.)
When I first left home to go to uni at 18, returning home for Christmas was a game of emotional self-deception. I’d go out with my friends on Christmas Eve and we’d laugh about how awkward it was seeing all the people we used to go to school with. As we’d walk into town we’d be like, “Ooh I hope I don’t run into such-and-such” and “What if we see so-and-so in Spoons?” (Such-and-such and So-and-so were very popular baby names in the mid-90’s.) Then we’d get into Spoons and it would be hugs galore, our whole school year there, all grown up. Everyone would be dead excited and eager to catch up, people would tell me they’ve seen my stand-up videos on YouTube and that they’ve been reading my blog. They’d tell me how much they’d enjoyed them and I’d pretend to be embarrassed, but really I was loving it. I was loving the whole night – I’d always lace my feelings with irony when talking to others – but the nostalgia and the connection would make me feel giddy.
This year the build-up had felt a bit more muted, much like my new stand-up videos now that I’ve figured out how to add subtitles (there’s some great new content on my FB page, please check it out). Anyway – Christmas just crept up on me and seemingly on everyone else. There were still a group of us going out, just not as many as usual.
At the pub, there were 5 or 6 of us. That’s a small enough number for me to just think back and picture everyone who was there then tell you the actual number, but let’s just keep it vague – what does it really matter if there were 5 or 6? What’s your beef?
(Future fans – beef was a tasty meat whose production was one of the main causes of The Floods. When cool people got into arguments they’d say “What’s your beef?”)
The conversation felt different than previous years. It used to be more focused on the past: we’d reminisce about old teachers and school crushes and the time someone pooed on the floor of the girls’ toilet and we never found out who did it. Wholesome stuff like that. But now, it was much more focused on the present and the future. People were talking about their careers. One person was on the Audi graduate scheme. 45k a year apparently. And a company car. Good stuff. Good for them.
I bet he’s a Tory now, was my first thought. Well actually, my first thought was probably some sort of image or a collection of concepts that I intuited in a manner that either precedes the formation of language or is entirely separate to it. I don’t really know how thoughts work. But you know what I mean.
Someone else had plans to move to Bristol with their girlfriend. Another was doing a PhD. Everyone’s achievements were making me feel anxious. It felt like I was reading my Facebook newsfeed. They all seemed like real adults doing real things. I’m still spending my days trying to think of funny ways to express how bad my life is, so I can talk about it to strangers in social clubs that have been poorly adapted for stand-up gigs. Maybe I should try to work for Audi and develop a view sympathetic to benefit cuts and the decimation of public services. Maybe I need to grow up. People still asked me about comedy, but instead of asking about it in the enthusiastic way they used to, it was more like, “Are you still doing the comedy then, Eric?”
The supporting cast was different as well. The pub wasn’t filled with our whole school year. Sure, they were dotted about here and there, but the main crowd of people were from a few years below, doing the hugging-thing, the pretending-to-not-enjoy-the-nostalgia-thing. I got the feeling of it having all passed me by, of being stuck between two phases of life. If this was a giant game of Guess Who?, I felt like you could isolate me with one question: Does this person belong anywhere?
A little bit after midnight, we went to the C&A, Stone’s closest thing to a nightclub (it’s basically another pub, but with a dancefloor). There were strong rumours flying around earlier in the night that it was £10 admission to get in, but then we discovered it was only £5 and so decided to give it a try. I had a vodka and coke and tried my best to get into it, as by this time it was technically Christmas Day and I felt I had a duty not to be a miserable prick. On the dancefloor, a girl from the year below came up to me and said she saw my show in Leicester this year. I said “oh cool” and then she said something else, but I couldn’t hear her so I leaned in and I accidentally head-butted her really hard. It was horrible. Then after that I thought her friend might have liked me because she smiled, so I danced more enthusiastically in her direction and she immediately left the dance floor. Pretty humiliating.
I sent the girl I head-butted a message on Facebook today but she hasn’t replied.
I spent the rest of the night feeling very physically self-conscious on the dancefloor. Whether it was true or not, I looked at everyone else and felt they were more attractive than me. That made me sad. Then I thought about how I’ve never been someone who goes out and gets off with strangers in clubs, and felt sad about that and how that phase of life has probably gone now anyway. I did kiss a girl in a nightclub in Edinburgh this year, which was a win, but then she commented on my receding hairline, so overall it ended up as a draw.
I walked home, pretty drunk at this point, and fell asleep on the sofa. I woke up today and I didn’t feel too sad, just kind of confused and empty. It’s just been alright, I suppose. Nothing special. Like I said the day has gone slowly in a way that is matched by how fast the last few years have flown by. I’ve had time to think about things. A wave of sentimentality surged through me earlier and I sent a nice message to one of my friends in comedy.
His response made me think that maybe he’s not quite in the same emotional-space today.
I think it will all probably be fine. In a few years maybe I’ll have figured it all out a bit more, the ground I’m standing on will feel a bit firmer, the past slipping away won’t bother me as much. I’m not sure what my life will be like. Maybe I’ll have given up on being a famous writer and I’ll be working for Audi too. Who knows? Does it even really matter what I do?
I was watching the Gavin & Stacey Christmas special earlier with my mum. I thought it was great. It’s been 9 years since it’s been on the telly, but the characters felt pretty much the same. The same mannerisms, the same sorts of values, the same drawbacks. I don’t know how realistic that is, but it was comforting. All the characters on that show know who they are and they’re comfortable with each other. I wondered if, with the people in my life, it’s just not been long enough yet for us to stop pretending we’ve changed. In a few years maybe it’ll all go back to normal and it’ll be like it was when I was 18. Probably not though.
At the very end of the special, Nessa tells Smithy that he’s alright how he is. That he doesn’t need to change. She says, “You’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but at the end of the day, when all’s said and done, you’re tidy.”
Maybe I just want someone to say that to me.
Anyway, that’s about it.
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