At the end of my last post on Wednesday evening, I had reached the end of my tether and was going to an Overeaters Anonymous meeting.
I went to the meeting. And I was nervous as hell.
It was in a small meeting room in a parish hall in the city centre. The kind of meeting room that was last decorated in the 1980s, with fading religious posters and uncomfortable plastic chairs. There were seven people there besides me.
It is exactly like Alcoholics Anonymous meetings you see on TV. You say, “My name is Connor and I’m a compulsive overeater” and everyone says “Hi Connor”. And you share.
Obviously, the “anonymous” in the title means I can’t say who the people were or what they shared, but I will say it was incredible. I’ve never met people who are as overwhelmed and as fearful around food as me. But when these people shared, they were telling my story.
And many of them are in control, are in “recovery” and I was flooded with hope. I got a happy floaty feeling deep inside.
But parts of the meeting freaked me out a little. There’s a lot of religion in those 12 steps, and in many ways, the meeting reminded me of the hundreds of religious meetings I attended as a child and teenager. And at the end, we all stood in a circle holding hands and said the Our Father and the Serenity Prayer. I wanted to run at this stage, as fast as my wobbly legs would carry me.
But at the end of the praying, the member standing next to me squeezed my hand extra hard. And I felt love and I felt acceptance. Afterwards, when everyone else was gone, this member sat with me and we talked. He told me all about his incredible experiences and hope grew within me again. He could see that I was feeling a bit emotional, and he didn’t push me to say anything, but he talked for quite a while and he gave me his phone number.
I think this might be for me. They say you should go to six meetings before you decide, and I am scared, and the religion stuff does put me off, but I felt so comforted and so hopeful walking out of the door that I have to give it a try.
My name is Connor and I am a Compulsive Overeater.
I came home, a massive jumble of emotions. And I have very few tools for dealing with my emotions. Eventually, I cracked and decided to eat my emotions away. I didn’t really have much food in the flat, but I had flour, eggs and milk, so I decided to make myself some American pancakes.
The only problem was that I had no sugar to put in them, so they tasted greasy and battery, but they didn’t taste very pancakey. I had two with butter. They tasted awful. I had another with cheese, and was nearly sick at how bad it tasted. I was eating each one while frying the next one and I accidentally spilled batter on the hot ring of the cooker. My kitchen filled with smoke. I cursed myself and managed not to set off the smoke alarm. I threw away the remaining pancakes and batter and went online and ordered a pizza from Dominos, if for no other reason than to get the taste of cheesy crap pancake out of my mouth.
Food deliveries always come to reception in Hall, and I made my way out to meet the pizza man about half an hour after I’d ordered. It was a drizzly night and I wasn’t expecting to meet anyone. Unfortunately, three of the other Assistant Wardens were coming in from rounds and they stopped for a chat. I really didn’t want them to be there when the pizza arrived, especially as I was 98% sure that one of them had read my post about deciding to go to Overeaters Anonymous only a few hours earlier. I had a more awkward conversation than I usually have with my colleagues, and thankfully, after a few minutes, they left. I was breathing a sigh of relief as they walked away, when I heard someone calling my name. Two of my Boys were standing in the middle of the driveway. Crap! Thankfully, they were running for the last bus, so we only talked for a minute and I was able to collect my pizza in secret. I didn’t enjoy it.
On Thursday, I went to work, and afterwards to college. I arrived 50 minutes late. I hadn’t remembered arranging a time to meet my colleagues. But apparently I had. They were very polite about it but I suspect they had to stop themselves from putting their hands on their hips and tapping their feet. We were meeting to practise our conference presentations on each other.
We did this and then I went home to do my laundry.
There was a lot of laundry to do. I’d been planning to do it for over a week. By Thursday, I had completely run out of underpants, I was wearing anti-blister running socks because all my regular ones were dirty and my jeans had to be subjected to vigorous sniff tests each morning.
The conference I was going to was in Limerick. I was speaking in the first session on Friday morning at 9:00, so I had to get down to Limerick that night. I have no car at the moment, so I was dependent on public transport. I had originally planned to get the second-last bus at 7:45 pm, but knew, in my heart of hearts, that I was really aiming for the last bus at 8:45 pm. By the time I had done my laundry and packed my bag and updated my Facebook status about ten times, it was 8:25. I called a cab. I wouldn’t make the last bus, but I should make the last train at 9:00 pm.
I sat into the taxi and told him that I was in a rush to make the last train at 9:00. At this stage it was 8:35. He looked at his watch and said that he couldn’t make any promises. Then I asked if we could stop at an ATM on the way because I had no cash. This made him a little angry. Then I asked if he could leave me at the side of the station with the ticket desks as I hadn’t bought a ticket yet. This just made him laugh. He spent the rest of the journey mocking me.
I made it to the station with six minutes to spare, and was in my hotel in Limerick by midnight.
The conference in Limerick is the main education studies conference in the country. It is full of teachers and nuns and the like. I found the idea of standing up there with my silly quiff and telling stories about my Boys funny.
At first it looked as if there wouldn’t be many people at my panel. There were five panels running at once and when the first person started speaking, there were only about six people there. Then someone came in at the back of the room and took two chairs for one of the other rooms that had filled up. My self-esteem was bruised a bit.
But then the room started filling up. By the time I was due to speak, there was a good crowd. I put my memory stick into the computer to display my powerpoint slides. And the computer started automatically doing stuff. And the next thing I know, Media Player has launched and the computer is saying “Preparing to display media”.
Oh. My. God. The panic.
What videos did I have on my memory stick? I had visions of all kinds of things popping up, things no one should EVER see. I wasn’t being logical. It’s my work memory stick. Most of what’s on it is lesson plans and materials for teaching English, but as that screen said “Preparing to display media”, I had visions of a professional misconduct hearing against me in college. And in my visions, I lost. I clicked “Cancel” over and over and over again.
Luckily, it was a picture of a newborn baby. I have no idea who the baby is. I guess it’s one of my nieces or nephews, but I just laughed it off and found my powerpoint slides. My presentation went well.
And less than twelve hours after I arrived in Limerick, I was on a train back to Dublin.
It was Hall Ball night. Most of the Assistant Wardens were going. We met for quick pre-drinks. Then we loaded the students onto the buses to the hotel where the Ball was on. The buses don’t allow alcohol on, so, as usual, we confiscated any drink they were taking onto the buses. Usually, this just goes into the bin, but this time, we sat around in reception drinking the confiscated cheap beer and cider, in a sign of the night to come.
Once we arrived at the Ball, we hid from the students in the hotel bar, but once dinner was served we made our way into the ballroom. There was a lot of drunkenness, but I had been warned about mass projectile vomiting and hordes of collapsing students and really it wasn’t that bad. There was lots of wine to be had at the table. And for some reason, the wine bottle seemed to stop at my place more often than it did at anyone else’s.
I was having a lovely time when dinner ended. I stood up to talk to one of the second years. She was really quite drunk, and as the Hall awards started being announced on stage, she linked arms with me. I was perfectly comfortable with this, until I looked over at our table, where everyone looked sober and no one was companionably arm-in-arm with drunk nineteen-year-olds. I sidled back to the table, unsure as to whether I should feel guilty. As it turned out, that was relatively tame.
Once the dancing started, we moved to the side of the room. We made a brief visit to the hotel bar, but spent most of the night in the ballroom. And for most of the time, I was far from the worst-behaved of the Assistant Wardens. The bouncers tried to kick one of my colleagues out. And there was a bit of a panic when we couldn’t find another of our number, but he turned up, unsmirched.
The main act at the Ball was Tinchy Stryder. That’s an incredibly good booking for such a small group of people. I was within easy touching distance of him on a number of occasions and once he walked past me, inches away, without a shirt on. I spent a good hour just shouting “It’s Tinchy fucking Stryder” at unimpressed colleagues. All of the other Assistant Wardens were either (A) too cool, or (B) too uncool to be impressed by Tinchy. I am just the right amount of cool.
Besides saying “It’s Tinchy fucking Stryder” over and over again, the other thing I kept saying was “adorable”. I called the Warden adorable. I called all the Assistant Wardens adorable. I called the JCR adorable. I called Tinchy Stryder adorable. I called the a capella group that sang adorable. I called all of the students adorable. It was pretty much the only adjective I used all night. In fact, one of my colleagues turned to me at one stage and said that I couldn’t possibly find as many people as I claim to adorable. I think I do though. I have an awful lot of love in me sometimes.
I spent about half my time with the other Assistant Wardens, and half with the students. And I got very drunk. At about 1:30, we ordered taxis. I got distracted by one of the second-years looking a bit upset. I went to chat to him, and when my colleagues told me that the taxis had come, I left them leave. And for almost two hours, I was the only member of staff there.
I was relatively well-behaved. At one stage, my laser card got declined and a first year offered to pay for my drink, and I got very embarrassed. Luckily, it was a problem with their machine and not my card, and I continued to be able to pay for my drinks myself. As the night wore on though, students were buying me whiskeys and beers, and I have a feeling that the last pint I drank that night was stolen for me, but I’m not going to look a gift pint in the mouth.
I hugged a lot of students. An awful lot. I interrogated people as to who was kissing who, and who should be kissing who. I heard some things I probably shouldn’t have. I made a point of approaching the student who was runner-up in the race to be King of Hall and telling him that he would always be king to me. I have no idea why I did that. I talked to the student who won “Shifter of the Year” and asked him whether the award was for the quality or the quantity of his shifting. As I embraced another student, I told him about how a friend of his makes “my ovaries want to burst”. And when a young Erasmus student got water spilled all down the front of his shirt, I have a distinct recollection of saying “You certainly do have nipples”.
In my defence, I was a bit more measured around first years than second years. I think of the second years as a separate entity from the freshers in many ways. After all, I lived with them as an equal last year.
I talked about serious things too, but I was only once on the verge of tears. However, that tender moment was ruined by a tiny Danish girl shouting in my face.
As I left, I gave one of my Boys a big hug and he was determined to give me the best hug he could. He asked me if it was as good as a certain one of the Boys whose hugs I was addicted to last year. And by the time he’d hugged me seven times, it certainly was.
I got on the bus home with fifty drunk students feeling fairly wary. I witnessed the flirtation techniques of drunk young men and was mildly traumatised. When we got off the bus at Hall, I scampered off to my own block before security noticed me.
The Assistant Wardens were still drinking in one of my colleagues’ flats when we got back. I joined them. It had a wonderfully student-y feeling, with vodka and Ribena in mugs. One of the others photographed us all in close-up about six thousand times. Another was wearing a striking clingy dress and I think I complimented her bum more times than is strictly polite. Eventually, one of my colleagues landed on the floor less gracefully than he planned and in the process got a lot of beer on my jeans. I left soon after.
As I went to sleep at 4:30 (ish??) I set my alarm for 9:30. I had planned to go to another Overeaters Anonymous meeting at 11:00 that morning. I want to find out more, and how their eating plans and their version of abstinence works. It didn’t happen. I’ll go again on Wednesday. And in the meantime, I’ve made contact with the guy who gave me his phone number.
When my alarm rang, I reset it for 12:00. I lay there, not asleep or awake for hours and hours. At about ten to one, I woke up properly. My head felt like there was a geological fault in it, creaking and banging, about to set off an earthquake or a volcanic eruption at any moment.
My mouth tasted of whiskey and my body stank of beer.
I had a wedding at 2:00 in Howth. The bride is a good friend of mine from my college days. She is one those rare people who makes me laugh every time I meet her and I usually have cheeks that hurt from laughter when I leave her company. But, as happens, with ten years since I finished my degree, I don’t see her as much as I used to, and I didn’t hear about the wedding until Thursday, when she invited me to the Afters. I couldn’t make them, because I had another party, so she said to come to the church at 2:00. And I do love this girl, so I had every intention of going.
I dragged myself out of bed at 1:00. I had an hour to wash myself and find my way to Howth. Somehow, with the way my brain was, it took me about 45 minutes to shower and dress. Everything was hard.
I stumbled out of my flat at about 1:55 and made my way to the shop and bought something salty and began to feel alive. It may have been 2:00, but if I made it to the church for 3:00, I’d see her coming out of the church and it would all be fine.
I stood on the side of the road, trying to hail a cab. But there were no taxis to be had. As I was standing there, three different groups of Hall residents passed me by – all of them from 87, “my” house, all of whom had seen me the worse for wear the previous night. I had dressed for the wedding in the same shirt I had worn the previous night. It’s a little too big for me, but it’s the only shirt I own that fits me. I was wearing a different tie (bright orange instead of bright pink) but I did sort of look like I was wearing the same clothes as the previous night, and the students would be forgiven if they thought I was doing the walk of shame. They cheered as they walked by.
With no taxis stopping for me, I eventually got a bus. It was practically 3:00 when I got to the city centre. I ran to Connolly Station and got on the first train to Howth. Unfortunately, I knew when I was getting on the train that I’d missed the wedding. I arrived in Howth at 4:00. They’d be well gone from the church. I hummed and hawed in the train station. I didn’t want to wander onto the main street and be seen by the wedding party as they drove to the reception. I did the only thing I could. I sat into the train back to town without having left the station.
I felt crappy. I was hungover. I had missed one of my favourite people’s weddings. I was on my way to another of my favourite people’s going away parties. And as I was sitting on the train, a gang of teenagers passed me and shouted at me, calling me a “Fat Fuck in an Orange Tie”. It didn’t look like Saturday would be my day.
Last night was the going away party for my cousin. I’ve written about him here before. He’s the only one of my relatives who I know well. We were in school and in college together. The two of us were a debating team for three years. We’ve both been living in Dublin for years, but with the way things go, I haven’t seen him anything like as often as I’d like to. And now he’s moving to California. Probably forever.
This makes me sad. And it makes me regret not seeing him more often since I moved to Dublin seven years ago.
The party was a lads’ night. Five of the debaters from UCC back in the day. I was on time. But only because I hadn’t gone home after missing the wedding and had loitered in town ever since.
Debaters are loud, argumentative people. At the start of the night, we started talking about the Cyprus banking situation and my heart sank. We were starting at 6:00 pm. I couldn’t survive six hours of bank talk. I can do politics. I can do justice, education, health, but I cannot talk finance.
Thankfully, we moved on from Cyprus. And we spent the next few hours being filthy.
We talked foreskins and pubic hair, porn and erections. Far better than talking finance. At one stage, on their request, I ranked my four companions in order of how attractive they were to me at that moment and it got a bit competitive. I had had a major crush on one of them back when we were in college together. This was common knowledge and I had fed him whiskey in my bedroom in the hopes of seducing him when I was twenty-one. He’s now married with a daughter. But he was still disappointed when I ranked him second last night.
So he and “Number One” had an “Ass-Off”. They both “accidentally” dropped something and I looked at their arses as they bent over and I had to adjudicate which arse I preferred. “Number Two” was wearing crappy jeans that didn’t do anything good for his ass, so he insisted I have a bit of a feel, which I did. I love drunk straight boys.
When I was in primary school, back when Ireland was monotonous and everyone was a local, everyone in my school was Catholic, except for two Protestant brothers, one in my class and one in my sister’s. In an effort to include them, our teacher would have us all say the Our Father together, then we would all stop and the Protestant boy would have to continue on his own saying the extra line that the Protestants have at the end of the prayer “For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory”. In a well-meaning effort to include the boy, the teacher simply highlighted his difference.
“Number One” was quite similar last night. We were talking about sex, and he would say, “When you’re with a girl” then he’d nod to me and say “or a guy”, or he’d say “a vagina” and turn to me and say “or an anus”. It was lovely and it made me laugh every time.
I was drinking a lot. I had beer, wine, amaretto, a cocktail and five Bailey’s. But I didn’t get very drunk. The main effect of the drink was to cure my hangover from the Ball.
I was having a great time, but was tired. And then somehow, we found ourselves in Flannery’s. With everyone else in Dublin. I don’t usually go to “meat-market” type pubs and this was a shock to the system. In fact, the last time I was in Flannery’s, I was there with my boyfriend in December 2007.
It hasn’t changed.
I have written before that I often feel uncomfortable in clubs. And one of my friends, “Number One” was a bit taken aback at how quiet I was. He knows me better from my blog than from real life. So he knows my funny worldly wise side. He probably also remembers me from when I was a “big man on campus” back in UCC, back when I knew everyone. So I understand his surprise.
And I still have that side. I’m still the man who walked up to an English stag party in Vilnius, asked which one was the groom and offered him a blowjob. I’m still the man who was walking past a house party in Dublin and decided to crash it alone, for the simple reason that there were a lot of French accents to be heard and I love Frenchmen. I’m still the man who has no problem with public speaking, still the man who tried to start his own business at 28, still the man who believes that he is destined for glory.
I have a fabulous, confident, flamboyant side. I want to be drawn down Grafton Street by a white horse while wearing a sparkly ballgown and a massive tiara, sticking two middle fingers up to the world.
And yet, many, many times, I crush my confident, fabulous self and let myself be a wallflower, frightened of everything that moves. “Number One” has promised to take me out clubbing, take me out of my shell and get me laid. And I need to promise myself that too.