Courage and Testicles

Sometimes I’m brave and sometimes I’m a scaredy cat. Anyone who’s read this blog for any length of time will know that I tend to be a scaredy cat when it comes to matters romantic.

Last Saturday night I was at birthday drinks for a friend in town. There had apparently been a rugby match that day and there was a group of good-looking rugby-ish lads sitting two tables down from us in the pub, who were clearly celebrating. Having spent about fifteen minutes being constantly distracted from the conversation with my friends by gazing wistfully over at these rugby boys, I eventually stood up and sat myself down at the lads’ table.

“Hello” I said “I’m Connor. Myself and my friends were just talking about how good-looking you were.” Note: this was a total lie. I had been the only one at my table talking about these guys.

The rugby lads introduced themselves, made their heterosexuality clear and chatted to me for the next five or ten minutes.

So I can be brave. I just don’t do it consistently.

On Wednesday, I wasn’t feeling brave. I had got soaked wet twice in the rain. I was walking to my improv class. As I wrote in my last post, last week’s improv class exposed something emotional inside me. I got scared. Scared of performing. Of having to be emotional in front of strangers. I decided I wouldn’t go to improv. In fact, I decided I would hide from the world. I had arranged to meet a friend for a drink after improv. I cancelled that too. I bought a few packs of profiteroles and went home to be a chicken alone.

As I vegetated with my profiteroles, I decided that this wasn’t good enough. This is the year I’m turning it up to eleven.

I went to bed, head full of resolutions. Before climbing into bed, I took a thick black marker and wrote the number 11 on my hand to remind myself that being scared wasn’t an option and that 2014 is the year when I turn it up to 11.

I woke up the next morning feeling hopeful. And then I noticed something on the wall beside my mattress.

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It couldn’t figure out what it was at first. It looked like a pair of ticks. Then I realised that it was the “11” I had brandished my hand with, except it was upside down. I had sweated my resolution onto the wall.

Now I really can’t forget that I’ve turned it up to 11. I also can’t expect to get my deposit back when I leave here, between this and the holes I made in the living room wall while hanging the picture of One Direction in sailor suits and the chrome finish I scraped off the shower when I decided to do the cold shower challenge last year.

I walked into town. This has now become part of my daily routine. It’s now unusual for me not to walk to college and back. For me, that’s two hours of walking a day. I had a scared feeling in my gut as I walked in. I was about to try something new.

A number of people have recommended hot yoga to me. In fact, a little like Couch-to-5K two years ago, everyone I know seems to be doing it. And so am I.

It’s 90 minutes of yoga poses in a room heated to 40 degrees. I had been warned that it would be tough. To be honest, I dealt with the heat quite well. It’s a dry heat and it isn’t too uncomfortable.

My real problem were the poses themselves. I have a lot of bulk that makes almost all of the poses problematic. The first few just involve bending from side to side. Fine. After that, I don’t think there was a single pose I succeeded in doing fully. An awful lot of them involve touching your feet with your hands, which I can’t do without sitting down. But I tried my hardest, and I still felt the stretch. So, everyone else was bending over, touching their faces to their shins. Seriously, how do people do that? I was bending over as far forward as I could. No one thinks of the obese in these situations. My thighs are like telegraph poles. When the instructor told us to stand with our knees together and our feet together. That was difficult enough and I nearly keeled over from that alone. When you add bending over into the mix, the effect is not comfortable. I found myself hot, sweaty and with my testicles exploding. Exploding because they were being squeezed on either side by my massive thighs and being crushed from above by my gargantuan belly. It’s a miracle I made it through the class with my fertility intact, given the amount of squeezing involved throughout the 90 minutes.

After yoga, I made my way to college, where I had my best PhD day in ages, and also turned down a job offer for the summer. I didn’t want or need the job, but there was a genuine danger that I would accept it just because I had such a fear of saying no. Phew!

I walked home, had my dinner and then it was time to be brave again. One of my New Years resolutions had been to start the Couch-to-5K again in February. It’s been a year since I’ve run, but wow it was so much easier this time. My body is used to moving again. And the hot yoga helped too. I was so much bouncier and stretchier than usual.

I felt younger than I have in years. As I got back to the side gate of Hall, I reached down to my shorts pocket. I had my key card in my pocket and I’d zipped it in safely. I pulled at the zip. It wouldn’t budge. I yanked harder. My key card was inaccessible. Oh no!

I have been very self-conscious while in Hall since I read on twitter that one of the residents thinks I’m a creep. I’ve been trying to be purer than pure. In fact, I’ve been avoiding the students most of the time. I couldn’t get my key card, but a student came up in front of me and I sneaked in the gate behind him. Not at all creepy.

Now I just had to get into my building and my flat. I continued tugging at my zip. I had a vision of two things happening. I would tug so hard that I’d rip my shorts apart. Otherwise I would have to ask a student if they could help me get my key card out of my pocket. Neither of these made me feel any less creepy.

Eventually, after nearly tearing my thumb off, the zip moved and I got my card out. I succeeded in getting home without exposing myself and without asking anyone to put their hand in my pocket.

As I wrote in my last post, one of my Boys was running in the student union election in college. The last time one of my Boys ran in an election was two years ago, when I let myself get totally emotionally involved in it. And here was the same Boy running again. I felt the whole campaign.

The count was taking place in a hotel. I considered not going. I didn’t know how I’d react if he lost. I was also nervous at spending a night out with young people. You’d think I’d have got over that by now. Some of my favourite people were there. There would also be first years there. And I was afraid of the creep factor.

I went anyway. And it was fun. I didn’t really speak to any first years and restricted myself to second and third years. And I was generally appropriate. Although there was one conversation about the grey hairs I had found growing on my belly. Which isn’t that inappropriate.

Eventually, after about two hours, the result of the election was announced. And he lost. He lost by about 70 votes out of 4000. I didn’t really process the news immediately. Then I realised I was going to get upset and I left before it got ugly. Before I got ugly. I hugged two people and rushed away.

I walked down Nassau Street, uncertain how to feel, and I was passed by four young drunk guys. They turned as they saw me and one said, “It’s Connor from Halls”. Another said “How’s Project Connor?” I smiled. I barely recognised them. They had lived in Hall last year but I had never had any responsibility for them or had any dealings that I remember with them. I said “Project Connor is fine, but it’s secret now.” One of them said, “Yeah. I’d heard that”. They said a friendly goodbye, wished me good luck “with everything” and ran on.

I was emotional anyway, after the election loss. And this interaction made me feel weird. I felt touched and special and a no-one all at once.

And I turned onto Grafton Street and there was a busker playing Leonard Cohen/Jeff Buckley/Alexandra Burke’s Hallelujah. One of the worst songs you can hear if you’re feeling emotional. I cried my way to Camden Street. That song always reminds me of the scene in The O.C. where Ryan leaves the Cohens’ house and Marissa stands on her driveway crying. I’m always amazed at how many of my emotions are bound up in teen dramas.

I pulled myself together and put out my hand to hail a taxi. I climbed in. What song was on the radio, only Halle-bloody-lujah. Again. Ridiculous.

I had my Feelings. A lot of them. And I went to sleep. The next day, I got a few messages asking if I was alright. I’d left the hotel the previous night in quite a rush and people were worried. One of the messages was from the candidate himself. He wanted to know if I was alright. He really is an amazing guy. And I am alright.

I’ve been busy being brave. I went for another run last night. I’m still not brave enough to run in the daylight but I’m still doing it. And last night, it felt even easier than Thursday.

It was about half past midnight. Two teenage boys emerged from a side road while I was jogging along. My natural instinct around teenage boys is to try to be invisible. I’m too used to them calling me names. My instinct was to slow down and start walking behind them, unseen. But that’s not ElevenConnor. So I ran straight past them, head held (relatively) high. An excellent run.

And it’s working. I’ve been afraid to weigh myself. Eating hasn’t been perfect. And I was worried that I’d gained weight.

I got the courage to go to Boots and climb onto the scales. Yay! I’m down another three pounds. I’m now 24 stone 12 pounds, down from 27 stone 1 pound on New Years Eve. Yay!

And I can see the difference too. My manboobs have shrunk. They have literally become perter. My nipples are about half an inch higher than they were. I keep reaching down to verify this. Probably not a great move for someone who doesn’t want to appear creepy.

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