Acting Hard

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I mind back in fourth year we were doing PE. It was a wet day, so we had to play on the basketball courts instead of the pitch. Difference between muck and gravel is astonishing, which some boy learned the hard way as he fell on the tarmac and skinned his knee.

Fall took a layer of skin off, he was bleeding pretty bad. But he refused to go to the nurse. Refused to get it bandaged, or disinfected. He thought he was a hard lad, didn’t need to worry about getting an infection or taking care of his body. Thought this kind of unnecessary pain was a form of strength.

I used to be the same way. I mind one time in third year we were in PE and it was raining pretty heavily. This time though, we were inside. Me and a few other boys were in the wee gym area, taking turns on the treadmill. I was having a pretty good time of it, till some cunt put the speed up and I nearly fell off.

Nearly.

For some fucking reason I hung onto the handlebar as I was going down, knees scraping against this rubber conveyor belt that’s going at least twenty five miles an hour. It flings me off after twenty seconds. By the time I get back on my feet, there’s at least three layers of skin missing from both my knees. Bits of rubber imprinted along the side as well.

Like the wee boy above, I didn’t have the sense to go to the nurse. Instead I wrapped a pair of wet socks around both my knees to act as a bandage, keep the bloody knees from sticking to my trousers. Every day for about a month I’d wake up for school, put a fresh pair of wet socks around my knees and then head on to school. Limping, like a fucking moron.

Now, the skin is purplish around my knees, feels like leather.

Believe it or not I have an even worse story about a poorly treated injury. I had an ingrown toenail that got while bad- and I mean really bad. There was a lot of blood, lot of puss. But for some reason I ignored it and just…wrapped sellotape around it. Sellotape. Logic being “the lack of air will prevent infection” which it may have done, but it was still black with rot.

I thought that because I’d done a similar thing with my knees and that went away after a month, the toe would be the same. But it wasn’t. After about four months I started limping badly and was in damn near constant pain. Unnecessary pain.

I only got it treated cause my Ma caught a look of it when I was coming out of the bathroom. Told my Da, which just made things worse. Apparently an ingrown toenail is partly genetic and partly environmental. It occurs when your feet are in condensed, moist areas such as shoes or socks for long periods of time. My Da and my sister Katrina had it. Hers wasn’t so bad. Da’s was…well, let’s just say the local GP still has nightmares about it.

So I get it treated. It’s a minor surgery. Basically what the doctor does is remove part of the nail, cut the skin a little and then yanks out the nail growing underneath- which has been causing all the pain.

They inject you with a good few painkillers, right in the toe so you don’t feel the pain. Problem was that my toe was so infected that the painkillers didn’t work. Meaning, I felt everything.

I had this surgery a few more times cause it kept coming back. Second time the toe wasn’t infected, but right after the doctor injected me with painkillers he fucked off for half an hour and when he came back they’d worn off. That was fun.

Third and fourth time the painkillers worked, but I cried. I didn’t cry the first few times but for some reason, even though it was significantly less painful, I felt the need to cry. Weird.

Well, you’re probably thing “Des, why are you telling me about your disgusting medical history?” well, reader, the reason I’m telling you all this is to establish a case study and a series of familiar behaviours that I have noticed in people- almost exclusively in men.

Academics would refer to this type of behaviour as “Toxic Masculinity” but where I’m from, we just know it as “Acting Hard“.

Acting Hard means that a guy is acting tougher or more macho than he actually is. I prefer this term since while Toxic Masculinity is a real thing, it has a terrible name. You can’t market it.

If your prime objective is to change peoples behaviour to improve their lives, you shouldn’t go about it by asserting that a part of their identity is toxic. Even if the theory is more complex that that, the name scares people away.

This is why I fucking hate academia. They take some basic knowledge and wisdom, like what it meas to Act Hard, and then they give it a stupid title that alienates the intentionally ignorant, the uneducated and working class (because lets face it, the people writing these theories are overwhelmingly middle class). In doing so they alienate the educated from the uneducated, creating what I refer to as the inadvertent separating effect of education. I wrote a whole article about it.

The point being, if you want to change the world, you’re going to get a lot of abuse. To save you some grief, you need as many people to like you as humanly possible. To do this you must be kind, compassionate and vigilant. But of course, don’t mistake this for being a fucking pushover. Like I’ve said before, it takes a whole lot of energy to be an asshole.

And being an asshole correlates with Acting Hard. Looking back on my life, my worst moments and my worst traits were directly influenced by Acting Hard. I’ve been standoffish, creepy, obsessive, rude, arrogant, cruel, vulgar, egotistical- an all round raging asshole.

I remember when I bought my first knife. It was about two or three years ago. I wasn’t in a good place in my life. I was in emotional turmoil. Full of hate, anger, self pity and way too many bad ideas.

I got the blade from this dodgy wee shop down by Castlecourt. It’s a flipblade, rainbow tinted steel. It’s beautiful. You can see it in the short film I made a while back. Bought two more, a Swiss army knife and a cut throat razor. Latter of which I tried shaving with, didn’t end too well I’ll tell you that.

One of the most important rules that Huey Carmichael, the character from the Business Secrets of Drug Dealing, follows is that he never carries nor owns any kind of gun. When you have a gun, you start acting hard, feel you need to use it and when you do, you’ll get caught. With a knife it’s the same way, which is why I’m in favour of the UK’s extremely strict pocket knife regulations.

Having a blade like that goes to your head. Any time I’d go to a city like Derry or Belfast, I’d bring the flipblade with me. I was feared of getting mugged. Which is stupid now because at the time I’d be mostly hanging around in city centre, in the middle of the day. Even at night I never strayed too far from the Europa.

I’ve been living up here for the best part of six months and I walk home from work each night in the early hours of the morning. Nobody has even thought about trying anything because I look like, well, me.

But it wasn’t enough taking it out for trips to the city. Soon enough I had it out every time I went out to town, or went for a walk, it got so bad that I brought it to some girls’s birthday party once. Logic being there’d be something that needed cutting. But it wasn’t sound logic. At that very same party a friend asked me why I’d brought it along, I told him why and he just looked…so ashamed. He looked me in the eye and said “Des…you’re scaring people“.

I’ve never taken that knife out ever since.

I still carry around the wee Swiss army knife. I get pure weird looks when I get it out, but the blade on the thing is under three inches so it’s perfectly legal to carry. Plus it’s practically dull, you could barely peel an apple with it. I only carry it around cause I’m a film student and it’s handy to have around when you’re on film sets. Helps cut bits of masking tape when you’re taping down wires, helps screw on a tripod plate to the camera and it opens bottles- which is really handy.

But I try and only take it out when I’m certain I might need it. These kind of things bring more harm than good. The other day I was in KFC and when I was getting my wallet out to pay, the wee knife fell out. The bouncer looks at me, I look back, he says “If I didn’t know you were bar-staff, you’d be tackled right now.”

You’re better learning all this stuff when you’re young, like me. Honestly there’s nothing sadder than a man older than twenty-three trying to act hard. Especially when drink is involved.

I mind one time at work, a few months back, this one cunt near enough ruined my goddamn night. So it’s a Saturday night, it hits one o’clock in the morning and we start closing the bar. Everyone leaves and the staff start cleaning up. At some point two boys come in, friends of the shift runner. They work for another bar owned by the same guys that own this one so they get to hang around- it’s a usual thing at a lot of pubs.

These boys were on the sesh for seven hours straight. One of them claims he’d only spent eleven pound that day, had managed to charm other boys into buying his pints. A true master of Pub Talk. The other boy seemed more sober than him at the time. But in twenty minutes he had passed out face down in the beer garden.

The pub talker brought him out, intending to bring him home. One of the girls on the barstaff made a point about how men don’t know when to quit drinking. She claims that when she’s had a lot, at least one of her friends will take her aside and say “you need to go home” and then she would.

A guy wouldn’t really do that. Guys often don’t help other guys out like that unless we have to. We’ll just let our good friend wallow in the corner with their head down as we try and buck some girl that hates us. I was sympathetic to your man. I used to drink way too much on a night out. In fact, for me it was commonplace to boke at least three times a night. I stole other peoples pints. I drank till I boked, then I drank some more.

But at some point you gotta realise your limits. I learned mine the moment I boked all over my friend’s bathroom floor and spent a good part of an hour cleaning it up with toilet paper as the household slept on. When you’re that drunk at three o’clock in the morning and you’re picking up your own filth off the ground with the thinnest paper in the world, you begin to re-evaluate your values.

The pub talker comes back five minutes later, saying he lost his friend. I don’t pay any mind to it until about an hour and a half later when we’re having pints after the cleanup and one of the boys comes in to tell us the pub talker’s friend is sitting outside on the park bench, passed out. Some bastard put a pound coin on his forehead as well, for a laugh.

We head out ten minutes later. Your man has disappeared, again. It’s just me and the restaurant boy standing out there, he’s arguing with this random woman wearing a flat-cap that was previously owned by the guy who had currently gone missing. The restaurant boy damn near started a scrap with this woman, but he got the stupid hat back.

Good timing too. Cause right then the pub talker’s friend showed up. I tell him to stop, go back inside and stay with his friend. This motherfucker pushes me aside and declares “No- FUCK OFF! I’m going home!” and then  proceeds to hail for a taxi in ongoing traffic.

Me and the restaurant boy follow him for a wee bit. The boy hands me the cap and says “Here, keep an eye on him, I’m gonna get his friend” and then runs off. So I keep an eye on him. Problem is, this cunt won’t stay still. So I’ve got to run after him. Every time I catch up to him he keeps telling me to fuck off and pushes me away.

It get’s to the point where after following him down five streets and dodging speeding cars, he turns the corner and starts sprinting. I catch up to him and at this point, I’ve lost my temper. I’d had three pints in me and this dumb cunt made me run after him. I start screaming at him; “HAY. WHAT’RE YOU DOING?!” he responds “Just- leave me alone- Go!

I’m yelling all kinds of things at him. Holding him steady. He keeps saying “Don’t touch me! Swear to God, if you don’t fuck off- I’ll knock ye out!” at this point, the little ball of lead that contains all the hate in my heart burst open and I unleashed a fury I hadn’t seen in years.

I grab this cunt by the collars of his coat, pin him right up against the wall and say “You even try that lad and I’ll fucking rape you to death.

…Now, disclaimer;

I’m not a rapist. I don’t like rape, I don’t endorse rape. It’s an appalling act that should be punished accordingly. The reason I said this was because it was the most fucked up thing I could have possibly said to anyone- especially a man. If a boy comes at you and you threaten him with rape, he’ll reconsider the fight.

But there was no fight going on this night. I was too paranoid about police. Plus this boy was bigger than me and was stronger than I would have liked. Even in his state he could have hurt me and I couldn’t be bothered with that. After a few pleas of “G-Get off me!” I let him go.

I lie and say we’re both in a bad place. I hand him back his stupid hat. My mission is done. I couldn’t give a flying fuck if that cunt got hit by a car. I head on home, by the time I get to bar everyone’s gone. Meaning even if I had got the boy to turn around, it would have all been in vain. I was while fucking angry, I’ll tell you that.

I was almost that angry on St. Patrick’s day, which was a complete cunt of a holiday.

I’d been working three days straight. Hands were burnt to fuck from the scalding water on the glasses straight out of the dish washer. Got bruises on both my knees and hip. On top of that everything hurts and I’m tired. Day had been going pretty grim, like a Green Christmas.

At around half nine I head into the beer garden to do the rounds. The ginger boy’s on bar, I’d gone out with him that Monday and even wrote an article about it. With him was the pub manager, who had finished work for the day and the restaurant manager, who’d been on the sesh for hours at this point.

As I head by the bar the restaurant manager calls me back towards her. Picture Ruby Rose meets Peaky Blinders. I come over to her and she tells me that they’ve been talking about my blog, specifically the article I’d just written. She was very complementary about it, said her favourite line was “An abortion from God” which is probably one of my favourite lines as well. It’s up there withThe house was quiet, like a dead whore.”

We’d a nice chat afterwards about the shit that goes on in my head and how I’m pure serious and quiet all the time. How I oughta unwind and how I have permission to just come up to her at any point and just say what I’m thinking. No matter how crazy. Latter bit is a bad idea, in my opinion. My head is like a train, a train I can’t start or stop, sometimes it takes me great places and sometimes it takes me to bad places. In those bad places there’s some things that I see that I have to take to the grave.

But it’s really nice to have the support of your peers and those you respect a great deal. Honestly felt pretty great at that moment. But the thing about a bad day is that at some point there is a brief respite of joy and relief, however brief. It’s a false hope that you can turn this day around. That the things you see won’t make you want to punch a wall when you get home at night.

About an hour after this lovely chat, I return to the beer garden. Ginger boy is nowhere to be seen and there is some guy who’s pinning someone else to the ground. I rush in, thinking it’s a fight. I come up to them and I see that the guy is pinning this terrified woman to the ground, which is so much worse than a fight.

Let me paint the scene for you; there’s four people in the beer garden. Two men and two women. One man and one woman are standing one other side of this moron doing fuck all. The other woman is pinned to the ground, the man is holding her arms down and sitting on top of her hips.

That last bit is important. If someone’s sitting on top of your hips, they’re putting their entire weight on you in such a way that you are effectively stuck. You can’t push them off, can’t trip them up, you have no strength to do anything- you’re helpless. My bitch of a sister used to pin me down like this when we were kids just so she could spit in my face. She used to laugh, like this cunt was laughing now.

I grab him by the arm and get him off of her. Telling him to stop this craic. The boy next to him is like “he was only messing about” the woman gets back up, quickly. The cunt who’d pinned her down was laughing. Saying “Mate, we were only joking” and then tried to hug me. I pushed him away.

He got while offended at my hostility. Asked me “What’s wrong with you?” cause I probably had this look in my eye. Type of look I get when I want to castrate a cunt. “What’s wrong with me?” I think to myself. Coming from the cunt who’d just pinned a woman to the fucking ground.

At this point, the ginger boy comes back in and deescalates the situation. They’re all laughing it off, I pick up the glasses and head on out to leave. The cunt follows me out and tries saying something to me; “Seriously, are you alright lad?” how considerate. “I’m fine,” I say “get out of my way.

Last bit was a mistake. I’d been in such a mood that I forgot to be polite. You should never be impolite to a customer. A customer is full of entitlement, they feel like they’re a king when they’re actually just a sack of meat with a debit card.

What do you mean get out of my way?!” he says. I’ve my back to him at this point. Thinking there’s a forty percent chance of a scrap happening. I play it out in my head. If he’s coming at me, I’d have to drop the glasses in my hands. Music is blaring, nobody would hear it. Bouncer is downstairs- it’s just me.

If the fight is gonna happen, he needs to be the one who throws the first punch. That way I have the self defence position when the police show up to check the tapes. Even if he just grabs me in the wrong way, I have the moral and legal high ground. Only thing I’m thinking now is whether or not I can dodge a punch- especially if he’s coming from behind. Boy is pretty bulky too. If I can’t dodge, he could hurt me a great deal. The attack plan is to dodge, grab his head and throw him down the few steps down to the main bar. Floor was clear at that point so no one is hurt but him. Everyone would see though, especially the barstaff which I’m counting on. By the time I come down the steps he’d be on his feet. Fall would have done some damage, but not enough. Ideally he’d be a wee bit disorientated. Again, he needs to be the one who throws the punch. Only question is if I can block it. Next move is either a headbutt or a kick to the balls. Followed by a few punches to the face and then I push him against the wall. Lethal blows are out of the question, so I can’t slam his head against the corner of a table to crush his temple- even though I really wanted to. The boy had a good bit of drink in him. He’s slow, if I land a good few shots and keep close he’ll get winded out. Probably won’t even have to knock him out. Only problem I’m thinking now is his friend, who is a good bit bigger than me. Can’t exactly fight on two fronts which is why at that point I’d be hoping for other barstaff to come on out, stop the fight and kick these people out. Ideally I wouldn’t get hurt too badly.

Fortunately, I wouldn’t have to find out. The fight didn’t happen. His girl told him to leave it and he did. Soon after that he left. But I was angry for the rest of the night, looked moodier than usual too. Which earned me a few concerned looks from the barstaff.

Truth is I’ve never been in a fight. I play out these little scenes in my head, best to worst case scenario. But I’m too feared. I’ve only hit four men in my entire life, all of them either deserving it or deserving a lot worse. One time I grabbed a boys head and slammed it against the wall- twice– all cause he was being a cunt. I’m not keen on fighting. Any boy with a lick of sense knows there’s no sense in it. You can really fuck yourself up doing it, really fuck up your life too.

I’m not afraid of getting hurt or hurting other people. I’m afraid I’d like it.

Speaking of getting hurt, there was one dodgy boy in last Saturday. It was the day before St. Paddy’s, the day had been exceedingly quiet. Especially for a Saturday. By eleven o’clock the place is half empty. Kitchen is closed so both the restaurant boy and manager are in one corner having the craic with their friends. Table next to them features two boys and two girls. One boy in particular is dodgy.

I’d been hearing complaints about him all night. One of the boys comes up to me and says “here, keep an eye on that boy- might need you in a second” as he’d been threatening to fight the other boy all night, screaming in his face and all that. Some of the barstaff jokingly refer to me as like a surrogate bouncer.

This mad cunt does some weird dancing later on in the night, getting cheered on by the restaurant staff. Who would later engage in a bit of pub talk with him and his friends. I tell the bar manager that we ought to cut that boy off. He looks at him and is like “…nah, we’ll be grand.

Twenty minutes later my colleague comes back up to us, with another complaint. This mad cunt is holding this girl pure weird. Like he’s gripping the V of her shirt and not letting go. While abusive. Bar manager heads on over to see if everything is alright, he has enough sense to let go.

Forty minutes go by, all his friends leave him. He heads on up to these boys and engages in a bit of craic.

There’s four types of people in this world. There’s people who are dull. There are people who are just alright. There are people who are fun crazy. But then there are people who are “forgot” to take their meds crazy.

I’ve met a good few people who are dull as dirt, kind of people you resent knowing. I’ve known people who are just alright, meaning you get along with them but they’re ultimately forgettable. I’ve met a handful of people who are fun crazy, people who got that fire inside them that just dances gloriously. But then I’ve met a few people who are “forgot” to take their meds crazy. They’re not so fun.

This crazy cunt was the latter. I knew he was dodgy the minute I laid eyes on him. Crazy can smell crazy. Only this poor boy was having a rough time at things. Well, rough time is putting it mildly. His life had become God’s cum bucket.

So much so that he thought it wise to head butt a table. Spilling over a pint of Clommel. Everyone’s looking at him. Stunned. I mean, what exactly do you do when someone headbutts a table? At first you question whether or not he slipped and banged his head. Then you’re like “nope, that cunt literally just slammed his face against a slab of wood for the craic” and you just…look at this guy.

First person to speak was the restaurant manager, who’d been making her way out, “Get the doorman,” she said “this boy just headbutted a fucking table“.Didn’t need the doorman, as it ended up with the bar manager going over and asking him to leave. He went quietly, I think he was as stunned as everyone else. Maybe even ashamed. Head stinging like hell.

Fifteen minutes later the bar was closing. I’d cleaned up the mess the mad cunt had left. Everyone had spent the last fifteen minutes shit talking him. Which I partly resented because the thing most people have to understand about crazy is this; don’t think about it. You’ll never be able to wrap your head around what the hell is in that guy’s mind, so just shut the fuck up and move on.

I was the probably the only cunt in that bar who could remotely understand that crazy asshole. I’d been crazy like that once. I got drunk one night at a party and thought it was a good idea to text some girl and ask her to the formal. When I sent the text, I lost the reception on my phone. I was so angry I started punching the ground- hard. Every time I hit the ground, I thought it would help with the reception, like if I just kept punching those four wee bars would just suddenly reappear. I ended up with a swollen hand and a no. Which, you know, is understandable.

You get into bad places some times. You’re like a wolf trapped in a pen. Each day the pen gets longer, thicker and narrower. You howl, scratch and bite, but that pen still remains. You been trudging around the dirt so much that your paws bleed. You’re so angry all the time and when you look up into the night sky- you see no stars.

This crazy asshole was fermented in an even crazier environment, stoked by other crazy assholes. If he were to free himself from these people, if he were to seek help, talk to good people and get healthier then maybe- just maybe- he could be ok. Just like how I turned out ok.

But probably not. By the time he got outside he nearly got in a scrap with some boy. The group of men whose table he had headbutted had agreed upon themselves that they’d keep an eye on him. Make sure he stayed away from that girl he was with.

The whole thing was…well, shameful. But the worst thing for me was that the restaurant manager had to see it. Like she was finished work, having the craic and all of a sudden this cunt just fucking headbutts a table. She was probably concerned about him all night as well which just irks me. I don’t know, in the same way I don’t have to pick up glasses the minute I’m done work, a manager shouldn’t have to worry about this kind of shit off the clock.

Acting Hard doesn’t just affect you, it affects the people around you. I write this article as both a warning and to implore lads like this to change, to be better. It isn’t hard to figure out what you are and what you are not.

You think you’re hard cause you drink too much and push people away when they try and help you, then how hard do you think the poor bastard who runs over you will be? You think you’re hard cause you’re acting the lad in front of your friends, but how hard do you think that woman you pinned to the fucking ground is? You think you’re hard cause you play fights out in your head, but how hard are you really?

You think you’re hard cause you’re life is gone down the shitter and everyone hates you. But trust me buddy, you ain’t as hard as that fucking table.

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