Two Tribes


…in which Niall falls between two stools.


Time was, we all used to be in one tribe or another. You liked Adam & the Ants or Madness. Spandau Ballet or Duran Duran. Good-natured but deadly serious playground rivalries that fulfilled one basic need to belong to something and another to hate something else with teenage ferocity. But then, as Neil Tennant so rightly pointed out, Live Aid came along and spoiled it all by putting everyone together in a sickeningly fraternal display of togetherness. Everyone started caring about everyone else, the world became a global village and Tony Hadley and Simon LeBon became BFFs. Bah.

Being me, I have to put all of this in terms of pop music, as it’s the only language I understand. However, I am aware that for most people of a certain age, pop affinity is no longer the benchmark for letting someone borrow your pencil case. Hence I found myself trying out two modern day tribes over the last week, with, I believe, personally significant results.

Now, a tribe I tend to rather admire is the yougogirl collectives who manifest en masse whenever a new Sex and the City movie comes out. Quite what these hordes of former Brosettes do in the downtime in between is beyond me, but I imagine it involves a lot of Diet Coke and fraught trips to JoJo Maman Bebe. Nevertheless, the gay man slots in quite well here. Many of us also spend disproportionate amounts of time debating whether we’re Carrie or Samantha or Charlotte or Miranda and many of us share the same easy camaraderie and lack of personal boundaries with our friends. Match made in heaven.

I imagined, therefore, that a screening of SATC2 in Brighton, for god’s sake, would be pretty much a 50/50 split between the ladies and the gays. Not the case at all – aside from a very small smattering of gays on first dates, my enclave of three was pretty much adrift in a sea of women. And we slotted in perfectly, for the most part – cooing at the fashions, spluttering our outsized one-cal beverages on the seat in front at Samantha’s latest outrageous sexploits, and heaving a collective sigh of relief when everyone decides to be true to themselves and do some more shopping. A warm sense of belonging was within reach, spoiled only by one jarring clash of cultures which unfortunately occurred very early on and put a permanent stop on my dreams of ever joining the Cath Kidston set. This lamentable parting of the ways was a result of the nuptials of the two gays – the bald one and the camp one. Individually, these two are brilliant characters, but they would never – in a million years – fall for each other. Gay men know this. Straight women, as it turns out, do not. They think it’s lovely and are inclined to go awwww and say things like “I always knew they’d end up together” and “Isn’t it sweet? How perfect.” Well it’s not perfect. As a means of shoe-horning Liza Minnelli into the plot it’s perfectly acceptable, but it’s not remotely realistic.

Sorely disappointed and still in need of a new home to lay my hat in, off I trotted to Bristol for the annual Bear Fiesta. Now, the relatively recent rise of Beardom is an interesting phenomenon and one I feel quite well suited to. For a start, I have a beard and am a bit hairy. My sources tell me I’m actually an otter because I top out at over 6 feet and am somewhat lean, but I apparently fulfil enough of the criteria to get away with it. Full of excitement, myself, the bf and two friends threw ourselves into the spirit of the event, immersing ourselves completely in bear culture for a full 48 hours. We attended a bear meet ‘n’ greet, a bear barbecue, a couple of bear discos and only avoided the Wet Fur Party because the simultaneous buffet sounded a bit unhygienic. The outcome of this immersion was an acute sense of not belonging. Principally because I realised that having facial hair and a word perfect recall of Victoria Wood As Seen On TV doesn’t necessarily bind you inextricably to people who share the same qualities. And also because bears have an unacceptably frequent habit of forcing the word ‘bear’ into sentences where it really doesn’t belong. Husbear. Bear-b-q. Ayatollah Khomeinbear – that sort of thing.

The results of my research? Apparently I’m neither fish nor flesh, neither bear nor Bradshaw. I have a horrible, somewhat frightening feeling that I might be just a little bit individual. Which, frankly,  is enough to make me renew my Duran Duran fan club membership…


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