My latest Facebook status update reads: “Latest google search: “how to dry laundry in oven”. Now my flat smells of Lenor and toast and the kitchen’s all steamy. And the irony of it is, I’m partly responsible for the fire safety of 1000 young lives here.” As you can presumably guess, I haven’t gained any significant life skills since taking Project Connor offline.
It broke my heart to take the blog down. It was surprisingly quick, maybe two mouse clicks, but it was sore and it felt like I was lopping one of my own limbs off.
People have been lovely about it. There have basically been two reactions. Some people have said “Noooooo” and others, in motherly/Yoda-like voices, have said, “It’s time.”
The night I announced I was taking the blog down, I had an online argument with a girl I’ve never met, who pleaded with me to ignore the Warden, to keep the blog up and to not change anything. I’ve received messages from all kinds of people, some of whom had never before acknowledged they had been readers. I got a postcard from Luxembourg wishing me luck post-blog. And last week, as I was walking through the Arts Block in college, I passed one of the rugby guys who lived in 87.01 last year (who drunkenly revealed to me on the last night in Hall last year that they had been avid readers of Project Connor). This was a guy who barely ever acknowledged me when he was sober last year, but as I walked past him last week he started chanting, “Damn the Warden! Save the Project!” And, of course, I loved it.
And also, as if to prove that it was the right decision to take it down, last Thursday night, I climbed into a lift with a very drunk first year who I’d never seem before. He asked me, “Wassurname?” “Connor”, I said. “You’re the one with the blog. I know about you.” Sigh.
Other than the blog, life has been going well. With no scholarship at the start of this year, I’m really struggling financially. I’ve borrowed money from everyone I know. I’ve emptied my piggy bank and paid for lunches and for bus fares with stacks of coppers. ATMs tell me “There are insufficient funds in your account” unlike the machines in Istanbul, which told me “Your balance is inconvenient.”
One leisure activity I can do for free is exercise. I’ve made my return to the swimming pool. I’m still going to
the Markievicz Pool, where I’m a member and where lessons are free, rather than the college pool with its intimidatingly young and hot clientele and expensive lessons.
I’ve been three times in the last few weeks and I love it. I genuinely feel better about my body when it’s naked than when it’s clothed. After some time to adjust, I start carrying myself like a foreigner. Irish men who are fat tend to slouch. We roll our shoulders down and hide and look sad. But it’s not that way everywhere. In many parts of the world, only women seem to be victims of body shame. This summer, in both Russia and in Turkey, I saw that fat men don’t try to hide. They carry their bellies before them like great prizes. And after a while of being “exposed” at the swimming pool I begin to do the same. I start to puff up like a peacock. And I carry myself more proudly and I feel ten times better about being me. And I feel at one with my body, which is rare for me.
And it relieves pain. I have constant pains in my shoulders, wrists, hips, knees and ankles. Joint pain the first sensation I feel in the morning when I wake and it stays with me all day every day. But when I’m in the pool and the sauna, the pain begins to fade and I feel wonderful.
And, finally, I can swim again. I’ve written before about my swimming lessons here, about a year and a half ago where I let go of the floats and swam a few strokes without artificial aides. I had success in two lessons. And then I stopped going and the next time I went to the pool I clung on to the floats for dear life. This time, I’ve found the bravery to let go again. And now, I can splash about without floats. I’m very proud of this.
There are lots of things I can’t do: I can’t float on my back, I can’t swim when I’m out of reach of the side of the pool, I can’t go in the deep end, I can’t lift my head out of the water to breathe while swimming, I can’t co-ordinate my arms and legs, I can’t go comfortably from a horizontal to a vertical position without panicking. But I can float on my tummy without any aides, I can kick my legs and splash my arms and propel myself forward for about three strokes and I am proud.
And other things are going well. I’m enjoying meeting all my undergraduates at the ridiculous wine and cheese parties we have to throw for them. This year’s gang in Hall are “high-spirited”, more parties than last year, more noise than last year, more trouble than last year, so probably more fun than last year. The new assistant wardens are bonding very well and I love Hall as much as ever.
But I’m glad it’s my last year here. I’m looking to the future. I’ve applied for a permanent job in Los Angeles starting next summer. Is there a better place on Earth to reinvent yourself than Southern California?
My PhD continues to move on. And it’s going much better than it was, although there are days when I go into college solely to hear about my PhD colleague’s sex life so that I can live vicariously through him and his penis. And I, against all my expectations, managed to get a scholarship for the next year.
In other good news, actual Linda Martin, gay icon, Eurovision winner and all-round goddess favourited one of my tweets. Not quite as exciting as when Dan Savage tweeted a link to this blog. Or as when Margaret Attwood tweeted me. But it was still epic.
On top of all this good stuff, I managed to slay a devil that had been on my back for a year.
This time last year, I went to a big gay birthday party. For the first time in my life I was with a group of camp and witty beautiful young gay men just like I’d dreamt of all my life. And it had gone wonderfully. I saw my future. Maybe I, too, could be a Glamorous Gay. And then, at the end of the night, one of the gays had turned to me and pointed out that I was fat and that some guys are into that. It was exactly what I’d feared all night and it destroyed me. I’d failed totally at fitting in with the beautiful gays.
This time, I was going to the birthday party of the same guy. The same gays would be there, only this time it would be an even smaller crowd and this year the Queen of Gays who had made me feel like the smallest person in the world would be there.
I spent weeks trying to think of an excuse for not going. And I spent the early part of the party trying to think of an excuse to leave. But then, I started having a good time. And then I went to the club. Pathetic as it sounds, I’ve never been to a gay club with “proper” gays. I’ve gone with straight guys. Or girls. Or alone. Or with a mixed group. Or with an older gay. But never with a group of young good-looking camp gay guys who are totally at home in a gay club. This was big for me.
I stayed till I’d proved my point to myself (about 1:30) and I went home, proud.
Of course, among all the good and all the proud, not everything’s perfect. And food is still a fight. I’m feeling incredibly unhealthy. I even fainted in Spar the other day.
So I’m in a good place, but I still need to make it better. And I will.