What Katie did next: 'In which I resist taking to the podium'


Katie Byrne

'Prepare for the worst; hope for the safe return of my handbag,' was my morning-after-the-night-before mantra when I used to take a drink.

Mornings were spent circumnavigating the empty chambers of my mind trying to ascertain in which bar/club/late-night chipper I might have left my handbag, and what exactly I uttered or actioned in those establishments.

When you have a completely blank sheet of paper, the tendency is to paint an elaborate picture. 'Oh dear God, did I tell Paddy that his mother's new haircut makes her look like a llama?' 'Did I try to get the taxi man to do a doughnut (again)?' 'Did I karate chop a bouncer?' 'Did I kiss the rickshaw driver?'

Every possible calamity was considered, processed and reconciled. Well, all except one. There was one vision that I couldn't even contemplate for the implications were so abominable:

Did I get up on the podium to dance?

Without fail, this particular vision would make me scrunch up my eyes, pull up my duvet and pray to Saint Paul, St John and all the Corinthians that I may be granted the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to consider imminent emigration.

I hasten to add that I have never got up on a podium, platform - or indeed any raised surface - to dance. I've since realised that it was all part of the post-drinking self-flagellation process and I've since wondered how it was that I allowed myself to fabricate such cruel possibilities.


How did I think I was capable of climbing on to a podium to join the motley crew of posers and peacocks; the egotists and exhibitionists? You know the people I'm talking about, right? It is not enough for them to work it on the dancefloor. Oh no, they have to elevate themselves above the masses; they have to transcend above and beyond.

Self-appointed cheerleaders, shameless self-promoters and exquisite self parodies for those who are dancing beneath them.

The women who get up on podiums are generally wearing pink glittery Stetsons (and probably have the chorus of "don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?" on loop in their heads). The men who get up on podiums have a tendency to remove their shirts (and are probably the same men that think it's appropriate to send penis selfies).

And here's the fascinating rub: they can't dance. They can pose and preen for sure, but they are utterly devoid of rhythm, vibrancy or anything even resembling charisma.

When I visit a techno club, as I did in London over the weekend, I can't help but observe my surroundings as though I'm a primatologist. I'm fascinated by the neotribalism of rave culture and the feet stomping, fist pumping, chest thumping posturing of it all. The ways DJs are worshipped as though they are supernatural deities; the way territory is marked by mounds of coats. It's the missing link between monkey and man and I'm surprised more learned types haven't studied the rave scene to better understand social hierarchies.


They might be able to tell us where it is that podium dancers figure in the social strata. To the untrained eye they are the silverback gorillas, the kings and queens of the club, observing their kingdom from their lofty perch. The reality is rather different.

They are in fact a shining example of the greatest paradox of all: the Dunning-Kruger effect, named after the Nobel Prize-winning psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University.

They asked a group of participants to perform a series of tests and estimate where they thought they ranked before they were given the results.

Those that ranked poorly tended to overestimate their results; those that ranked highly tended to underestimate their results. It revealed a groundbreaking cognitive bias: the superior have illusory inferiority complexes while the inferior have illusory superiority complexes.

That's how the spectacularly untalented end up standing in front of Simon Cowell; that's why there is a raggle taggle crew of supreme knobs convinced that they are running Dublin and it's also the very reason why the worst movers in a club make their way straight to the podium.

If you are in any doubt as to who these people are, allow me to give you a quick guide: They describe who they are and what they believe in prefabricated statements and maxims; they feel the need to walk ahead of people at all times; they tap furiously on their laptops as though they are decoding the Higgs Boson.

They extol their own virtues and self-mythologise: you can see this in the biographies on their websites. Granted these are always auto-biographies, but most of us have mastered the art of modesty and self-effacement when we are required to pen them.

The podium dancer, on the other hand, has no self-restraint and no shame in describing himself as a legend/hero/genius/icon.

I remember I had a job interview with one of these twats. When she finally looked up from her laptop, she barked "Coffee - I need a coffee. Coffee?".

I didn't get the job but I left feeling thoroughly inspired. If this eejit could run a company then so could bloody I.

Besides, even primatologists would tell you that dominance and self-interest doesn't reap dividends.

It's the quietly confident, diplomatic monkeys that end up leading the pecking order, while those that believe they are the king of the swingers - or the queen of the nightclub podium - eventually get found out.