Believe it or not, I wasn’t always the rugged specimen of manly-man that you now know and love. I used to be quite the nerd in my youth.
Before – Nerdy After – Manly
Actually, no, I wasn’t a nerd. People just assumed I was, because I was tall and skinny, quite academic, had to wear glasses (damn you, dreadful eyesight), and wasn’t part of the ‘cool’ group. I probably had the potential to be quite popular, I think, but unfortunately my inner-Fonz had been trapped inside the frame of Screech from Saved By The Bell.
I really tried hard to distance myself from the geeky persona my body had lumbered me with, but to no avail. Even supporting Stockport County, which I felt sure would give me an edge, and win me a few admiring glances from the girls (‘look, he follows a shit football team, how cool is that?!’), turned out to be lady-repellent. Who knew?
Then, to top it all off, in my latter teenage years (and, to some extent, occasionally since then), I have had a habit of blacking out every so often. Hardly the manliest of ailments, I grant you, but equally there’s not much I can do about it. I’ve even tried to make it sound less girly, by referring to ‘blacking out’ rather than ‘fainting’ or ‘coming over all queer’, but we might as well call it what it was, to be honest.
Clearly, I’ve never been conscious through one of these episodes, so I don’t know what I look like when it happens, but I rather fear that, instead of hitting the deck like a manly plank of wood, it’s far more likely that I ‘swoon’, as my knees buckle from under me. Let’s face it, I’m just not lucky enough to pass out like a bloke.
Would you believe, in the whole of Google, that was the only decent picture I could get of someone swooning? That’s how fucking girly it is.
Thankfully, it hasn’t happened in a few years, and the last time was when my optician tried to kill me with some eye drops in 2013, so that wasn’t entirely my fault (nor his, for that matter), but certainly the first few episodes of fainting could not have come at a worse time – either due to the circumstances in which I lost consciousness, or the damage they did to my already fragile teenage reputation.
The first time I fainted, I was 16 (note to self: potential opening line for autobiography?) and, as far as maximising humiliation goes, you really need to aim for collapsing in front of all 270-odd pupils in your year at school (and by that, I mean the number is an estimate, not that they were all odd).
Let me set the scene. It was the day of our Year 11 photo, which was intended to be a memento of the five horrible years we had spent together at Poynton County High School (subsequently re-branded as ‘Poynton High School and Performing Arts College’, to make it sound more trendy), and because I was one of the tallest in the year, I was required to stand on the back row of some bleachers, which had been erected in the school hall.
As you might imagine, organising the best part of three hundred largely un-cooperative reprobates, into something resembling a symmetrical year group on some steps, was not the easiest task for the photographer, and so it was ages before the picture was ready to be taken.
Throughout this time, yours truly had been waiting patiently on the back row, resplendent in shirt, tie, and thick jumper, surrounded by equally-warm teenagers on one of the hottest days of the year, and I was beginning to feel rather woozy (or something less girly and shit-sounding), long before David-fucking-Bailey got ready to say ‘cheese’.
I distinctly remember thinking to myself at the time, that we appeared to be ready for the photograph to be taken, and if I could just hang on a few more minutes, I could then make a hasty exit for some fresh air. At this point, however, I had never fainted before, so I wasn’t quite aware of how imminent my collapse was. Turns out, it was really fucking imminent, because that’s the last thing I remember.
Subsequent reports, ranged from me collapsing onto the row in front, before being gently helped down by my peers, to the rather more dramatic ‘crowd surf’, which one person recalled me attempting (yes! I was finally cool!). Turns out, I could have leaped to the ground, commando-rolled, and then skidded to a halt right before the camera, with one hand firmly entrenched in a ‘devil-horns’ rock pose, and I still would have looked a dick.
It also matters not, that I was merely the first of a few students to faint on the day, because I was the first, and I was the only student to be absent from the photograph they ultimately ended up selecting, so I’m the one people remember.
I still have the photo at home (not sure why, when I’m not even on it), and a lad called Ric – who followed me out of the hall just a few minutes later, but still managed to narrowly make the final cut – can be best described as a shade somewhere between ‘Dijon mustard’ and ‘What the fuck did you feed the dog this time?’, yet no one cares, because he’s still on the bloody photo.
I had hoped that, once I left school, and ditched the people who had not been terribly kind to me during my time there, the incident might have been forgotten, but then some dickhead posted a copy on Facebook not so long ago, tagging a few of my friends, and the inevitable comments of ‘oh yeah, who was the tall lad who passed out from the back row?’ appeared shortly afterwards.
Rather than let them work it out for themselves, and ridicule me in my absence, I decided to step up and admit my role as pioneer of ‘The Great Lemming Photo of 1996’, so I commented on the picture, and tried to laugh it off in a ‘ha, yeah guys, wasn’t it funny?!’ kind of way, as if the incident didn’t still haunt my dreams sometimes. I even briefly contemplated adding a ‘lol’, against my better judgment and everything I stand for, but opted against it at the last second.
I did, however, change my profile picture to one of me with our two boys, before posting the comment, so that my former classmates could see I had clearly had sex – at least twice – since we were last acquainted. That’s right, ladies, I’ve turned into quite the stud.
Unfortunately, on the few other occasions I have passed out since that ill-fated day, the embarrassment factor has not really subsided. Despite the photograph incident being towards the end of Year 11, I managed to faint twice more before leaving sixth form just a couple of years later: once during a whole-school assembly at the end of term (although, this time, I recognised the symptoms in advance, and managed to make it out of the sports hall before hitting the deck) and once whilst stood at the front of a chemistry class, which resulted in me falling backwards into a large dustbin. I mean, you really couldn’t make this shit up.
Then, I thankfully left school, and moved to University. A fresh start, where virtually no one knew of my previous light-headed escapades.
Until my 20th birthday.
In my defence, I had been particularly unwell in the days leading up to my celebratory night out, and was in two minds about whether to cancel, but I forced myself to go (nothing should stand between a student and a drinking binge), and struggled through the meal we had booked at a nearby pub.
Half-way through eating, I felt decidedly sick, hot, and faint, so I made my excuses and headed towards the bathrooms I had spotted on the way in. As I staggered down the corridor, the familiar clamminess and tunnel vision descended, and I knew I was about to be decidedly more horizontal than I would have liked. The last thing I remembered, was putting my hand out to push open the swirling toilet door.
As I regained consciousness, and my vision slowly returned, it dawned on me that I had only partially made it into the bathroom, as my top half appeared to be very firmly on tiles (with my head keeping the door propped open), but my legs were splayed out into the carpeted corridor.
I was faintly (awful pun) aware of voices asking if I was ok, and began to feel very embarrassed at yet again making a scene whilst passing out. It was only then, however, as my eyesight fully returned, I noticed the ‘lady products’ machine directly above my head, and I was struck by the grim realisation that I had apparently dived head-first into the ladies’ toilet, rather than the gents.
Fortunately, it hasn’t really happened since then (the fainting, rather than the uninvited entry into female bathrooms – although that hasn’t happened either, I might add), but I’m not entirely sure what has changed. I don’t know whether it is something I have subconsciously altered in my life, or whether I’ve simply grown out of it. Either way, I’m not complaining.
At first, I thought it might be down to low blood sugar, but my diet hasn’t really altered as I’ve grown older, so that probably isn’t the cause. I’m also roughly the same height as I was in my teens too, so that surely rules out ‘lack of blood to the brain’.
Unless, of course, I spent most of my formative years with an erection, and that’s where all the blood was going, but I feel certain I would remember if I had been constantly walking around with my dangle at an angle. Besides which, surely my peers would have ridiculed me for that, rather than for treating our school photo like my own personal rock festival?
In any event, I recall that the ladies who were frequenting the pub bathroom on my 20th birthday, were actually very concerned about me, as I rudely interrupted their ablutions by bursting through the door and collapsing before them.
I imagine they would have been slightly less accommodating, had I been saluting them from the front of my trousers at the time.