Last night I sat down on the side of that new big Star Wars arcade game in Cineworld. It’s the right height for sitting down and the vent was blowing warm air onto the back of my calves. Cinemas don’t have couches in their lobbies for good enough reason, pay first relax later. I felt I’d beaten the system by finding a place to rest. My cine-buddy texted to say he’d be ten minutes late, I was twenty minutes early – I was in for some good ass sitting.
People trickled by, all ready for an enjoyable evening, I noticed the new couples, the friends and the fellow cinecard holders ready to be bored by Steve Jobs. Whilst I sat, a group of youths veered near me and slowed down, the beta male of the group walked back towards me, said nothing, and put his hands on my face, not to hurt me but in an act of “what are you going to do?” while his friends laughed. I got up and told him not to touch me and walked over to security. The group saw this and scattered, their night of hanging out indoors for free was ruined. I was delighted, as this kind of thing happens a lot, but it was the first time I was able to do something about it no matter how small. I then sat down and gave out to myself for staring into space and sitting on the side of an arcade machine and I thought, “Hozier wouldn’t stop me in the street and ask for the shift sarcastically”.
I read stories about street harassment in Dublin, I feel desperately angry for them, I read the inevitable comments underneath that say it’s not a big deal, you’re just looking for attention, you should be delighted that strangers want to tell you you’re beautiful. How are you supposed to feel when strangers want to tell you you’re not beautiful? That in fact the opposite. How do you feel when you walk across the Ha’penny Bridge and hear the words “fat bitch” whispered into your ear, you turn around to see who it was while a pile of lads walk away laughing? There’s no one else on the bridge. You keep walking and give out to yourself for forgetting to bring your headphones out with you.
It never happens when I’m with people, so I always think I’m over-reacting when a man pushes his friend in to me, or when a lad runs up to me and says “will you shift my friend? C’mon you’re gorgeous, do you think you’re too good for him?” while his friend is in fits of mortified giggles, shaking his head. I just laugh and say no as if somehow I’m in on the joke, that way I feel like we’ve made a funny little street play or I laugh because I’m scared he’ll hit me, I mean if I’m low enough to have my feelings hurt for a laugh why not? And then I walk on and I get a bit sad and I blame myself for wearing a big pink fluffy coat and a headdress. I try to rationalise it, I try to figure out what’s wrong with me, then I remember, saying something derogatory to a stranger is far more abnormal than wearing a funky animal hat from Pennys.
The gas mask accentuates my curves
This is beginning to look like an Argos catalogue of men annoying Alison in Dublin. I needed to write this, there is feck all I can do when it happens in real life, they slag me off and they walk on and go about their day. I feel I can’t go to the Gardai and say “excuse me officer but this young boy has called me big mommas house, I demands reprisals”, it’s been this way for years and fluctuates in frequency, I’ve tried different tactics, I’ve tried verbalising their behaviour back towards them or telling them to fuck off, it doesn’t prevent the outcome and I have to pull chewing gum out of my hair for the trouble. Then I think about what I can do to prevent it. Don’t be so short, don’t be so fat, don’t wear bright clothes, don’t be on your own, try not to look so happy. I wish I could wear a sign that says “hey don’t worry, I look confident because I listen to Kanye West
not because I think you want to cuddle me and tell me I’m special”.
I tweeted about the Cineworld incident as it felt like I had ruined a 14 year old prick’s night and it felt great. I only tweet about life’s victories, I was asked if this happened that often and I answered honestly, if you include nudges and sneers about twice a week. I got a bunch of tweets telling me how great I am and how they are wankers, which is nice and very true, but I knew this already. What do I want people to do? Well I want people to bow down and treat me like the goddess I am. Failing that I’d like people to cop on and have manners and talk to their loved ones that are young lads and tell them, “sometimes in life, you’re not going to want to ride someone. That’s okay. Accept it and move on”. Give them coping strategies such as breathing exercises, visualising someone they would like to ride or punching themselves in the balls.
I wear mad clothes because from an early age people would compliment me on my face and tell me how beautiful I would be if I lost weight. I was sick of people having an opinion on my appearance and telling me I have the potential to be something – I was something already. So I decided to opt out early by not giving a shit. I wore things I thought were nice looking or fun, not things that flatter or hide. I didn’t want to destroy my self esteem any more by trying to compete.
My body is what it is, just a body, a thing that walks and hugs, it’s grand. I chose to care more about being sound or funny and getting by on that.
I was never bullied in secondary school over this because I was class craic and had very attractive friends that would not give the shift to people that were anti-Alison. I thought by not playing the dress up game I’d avoid the stuff my friends went through, I was wrong. Other girls may worry that they are revealing too much flesh and this may attract unwanted attention from strange men who feel they have the right to comment on their appearance, I feel that way if I wear colourful tights.
Asking For It
I’m a stand up comedian. Being heckled is a different story. Every time I’ve been heckled it’s been by a person from the same demographic that annoy me on the street, a very drunk man in his twenties or young lad collecting pallets. When they heckle me, it’s always about how they want to fuck me and how this is laughable.
I played Forbidden Fruit to a packed tent of revellers sheltering from the rain, I was doing grand, it was like a normal set but ribbing the audience about yokes rather than their jobs. Four minutes into my set a lad in a tracksuit stood up and shouted out something that destroyed a sweet punchline that libels my mam. I couldn’t hear what he was saying as he was so drunk, but I could see him look back at his friends and laugh while he mimed riding me and laughed loads. Something inside me snapped, that gig was one of the most difficult gigs I’ve ever done and I was doing good, I was getting laughs, I was exceeding my expectations, I’m not a loud comedian, I’m not used to entertaining very drunk people but I was doing great. But it could all change so quickly like walking a tightrope. He’d never get up and say he wanted to fuck Kevin McGahern
, this wouldn’t be funny to his mates, sure Kevin is a grade A ride-bag and renowned sound lad. He did this to me because of how I look.
No amount of trying to be funny or trying to be invisible was going to change the fact that no matter what I do, I will always be judged on whether I’d be a good receptacle for his junk. I felt sad for him but most of all I felt a white hot rage that enveloped my brain.
I verbally destroyed him so badly his friends left embarrassed for him, he left only after the whole tent chanted for him to leave, for six minutes I called him every name under the sun, every comeback I thought of for those wankers who annoyed me out on the street I laid it in to him. I had gone postal with words. The whole tent cheered.
I’ve gotten so much work from people seeing me do that gig. It felt like the end of a Mighty Ducks movie – triumphant, until you realise that the sequels are just an unrelenting cycle of the Mighty Ducks getting street harassed because lads don’t want to fuck them.