Sunday 15 September 2019

In praise of public meltdowns

Students can have a good sob when it all gets too much
Students can have a good sob when it all gets too much
Sinéad Burke
No strings: guitars are a dinner party no-no
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

Student life can be a struggle.

To begin with, there are those lectures - seven hours a week!

Your drink of choice is Rushkinoff and MiWadi, you have to listen to PhD students droning on about thesis statements and everyone seems to prefer sitting in bean bags to ordinary armchairs.

It's hardly surprising the stress can get to you. Now, an enterprising university in Utah has installed a 'cry closet' beside its library where students can have a good sob when it all gets too much.

You just nip through the doors, take a seat, and cry your pretty little eyes out.

Of course, there are some ground rules: only one person in the crying booth at a time (to avoid any exploitative hook-ups). And you have to keep your sobbing within a 10-minute time frame.

You're also encouraged to tweet about your time in there, because these days our lived experience disappears into a mysterious black hole unless it's documented on social media.

The project was thought up by art student Nemo Miller and has made headlines around the world. Some loved it, others regarded it as a peak millennial signifier, right up there with Avoleto (that's avocado gelato), emoji translators, and fixie bikes.

Personally, I kind of like the idea, I just don't think it goes anywhere near far enough.

Any schmuck can cry in a dank old closet - where's the fun in that?

I want to see more public spaces specifically designed for the total public freak-out.

That is catharsis in its purest form: a genuine purging of all our unruly emotions.

I don't know if you've ever (temporarily) lost your mind in front of an audience. If not, I would thoroughly recommend it.

It's only happened to me once. It was summer, I was on holiday in London, and everyone was sticking together in that horrible rush hour heat.

The day had been exceptionally stressful. I don't want to bore you with details, but it involved all the following key players: my kid sister; a policeman; a phone booth; an in-house DJ in Topshop's flag-ship Oxford Street shop: and a Northern Irish five-pound note.

Having spent roughly six hours in a highly agitated state, and with dusk settling, it looked like a horror show of a day was finally coming to an end.

I could relax now, I told myself, box the afternoon off and pretend it had never happened.

But then one of the people I was travelling with had to go and spoil it all by saying something stupid. They made a throwaway remark, nothing overtly insulting, but it still triggered something primeval in me.

We were meandering along a crowded street, and I stopped in my tracks. All the skin on my head suddenly retracted, my teeth clamped together and then, dear reader, I blew a gasket. I've never really felt rage like it.

I was shaking and yelling incoherent gibberish. My hands were splayed, and I was waving them in the air as I yipped and yelped.

Basically, I went full-blown Hulk. Commuters paused and looked at me, decided I was just your run-of-the-mill head-case, took two steps to the left, and kept walking without looking back.

The people I was with stood still, and stared in horror and amazement. Soon however, my unbridled fury ended as quickly as it had begun - like a violent tropical storm. I dusted myself down, and we continued on to Pizza Express.

The episode can't have lasted for more than a minute, and my sister wondered if I had embarrassed myself. "What do you think everyone was saying?" she asked.

I couldn't care less. All my rage had been replaced by oxytocin - that most blissed out floaty hormone. It's the only time I have had a public meltdown in my entire life. These days, I try to avoid situations that would ignite one again. But if you've never done it, than add it to your bucket list (it's a good replacement for sky diving: same thrill, less fumbling about with parachute cords).

Forget cry closets, full-blown ballistic breakdown is where it's really at. Although try and orchestrate it happening while you're abroad. Preferably far, far away.

Less collateral damage that way. Not to mention less chance of your boss seeing you lose your mind.

A 101 in dinner party Dos and Don'ts

No strings: guitars are a dinner party no-no

Finally, some good news for the vol-au-vent lovers of Ireland - the dinner party is back. 

Earlier this year, socialite bible Tatler magazine reported the return of the "full frontal, full throttle, totally pumped, pimped up and banging Eighties" dinner party

This week the Etiquette School of Ireland confirmed the resurgence. "They're economical, fun, and no annoying last orders," etiquette expert Orla Brosnan said.

Being a pitch-perfect party guest is a tough nut to crack, so here are some pointers to avoid becoming a party pariah.

* No one likes to veto conversations, but read the room. If people don't seem enthused by your potted history of midget submarines, maybe drop it.

* Don't unleash your inner philosopher after four glasses of wine. It will intensify your morning-after-the-night-before fear by 200pc.

* Don't pass off a political think-piece you read online as your own inspired independent thought. You will be caught out, and it will be very embarrassing.

* Bring booze. But don't insist the host opens it straight away.

* If you are a plant-based vegan, bring snacks. Also, don't talk about being a plant-based vegan. If we wanted to know about it, we would have read your blog.

* If you have children, only tell stories about your kids being total nightmares.

* If you are married, only tell stories of your spouse being a loveable nightmare.

* If you are single, only tell stories of your nightmarish dating life. No happy endings at a dinner party, just scandal and betrayal.

* Feel free to try on the host's clothes once everyone is three sheets to the wind, but don't leave in them.

* Don't get handsy with people. Keep physical contact to a minimum.

* Laugh at other people's jokes. It's okay to laugh at your own, too, although people will hate you.

* Never bring an instrument. Unless it's the triangle or a kazoo. Definitely no guitars.


Sinéad Burke

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