Now, I am not what could be considered an unsociable person. I’m fairly certain I have some friends, even if they all manage to beat a hasty retreat every time the bin bag breaks and leaks bin juice all over my leg as I’m lugging it down the stairs. In fact, I’m certain I have some friends because they were the ones who
a) bullied me into eating meat again after nine years of ostentatious vegetarianism, by reminding me I don’t actually like animals, or at least not as much as I like a rare steak with lots of nice blood to dip my chips in,
b) had no qualms in announcing after my summer dyeing misadventure that my hair looked like an old sofa, and
c) enjoy reminding me, each time I mention feeling even vaguely ill, of the times I thought I had consumption, heart disease and colon cancer that all turned out to be mild viruses.
Yes, I definitely have friends. I also have plenty of casual acquaintances, I think. I definitely spend at least one bus journey a week in awkward conversation with someone I hoped wouldn’t spot me as they got on, and every birthday I get at least three facebook wall posts from people I don’t remember ever meeting. So I must have acquaintances. What’s more, I’m not averse to making new ones every now and then. There are several Spitalfields stallholders with whom I’ve surpassed the usual pleasantries required by the customer/seller relationship, and sometimes I even talk to strangers at bus stops, just for the heck of it. So there, I’m sociable.
Why then, and I’m ashamed to admit this for fear future employers might see it and write me off as an empty shell of a person, have I not joined a single society the entire time I’ve been at uni? I’ll say that again more slowly, in case its magnitude escaped you the first time. Not – a – single - society. Nothing. No clubs, no organisations, no campaigns, no plays, no rallies, no trips, nothing involving special hoodies or wearing ‘wacky’ costumes, nothing I can write on my CV to show what a well-rounded individual I am, nothing I can be treasurer or vice-president or mascot of, nothing.
For the first year I convinced myself it was enough to have put my name down on a few sign up sheets at the Freshers Fayre (coincidentally my interest was directly proportional to the calibre of free goodies being handed out by the particular table. Morris Dancing for Beginners? Free Milky Way? Sign me up baby!), upon which I received emails once every 2.3 minutes telling me what the salsa/drama/judo/rugby/ monopoly/extreme ironing society were up to without me.
Then in second year I didn’t have the ‘time’. How will I ever fit in meetings and rehearsals around my epic, energy-draining seven hours of lectures a week? Not to mention doing my Morrisons shopping, and keeping up with my extensive ebaying, and the obligatory 12 hours of weekly pub time I have to put in to keep the breweries afloat? Plus there’s doing the washing up, the time invested each day in holding the TV aerial in different positions until the reception stops fuzzing, and molding blu-tack into novelty shapes while waiting for the kettle to boil. There’s no way I could jam extra-curricular activities into that already full-to-bursting schedule.
And so now third year’s in full swing, and my social calendar is not. Because now, I’m reasoning, if I started turning up to societies I’d have to invent some story about being a transfer student from Sweden to explain my conspicuous absence from everything for the past six terms. The only consolation for the fact I’ll never appear in a uni play (selfish really, knowing what a fantastic second-tree-from-the-left I would have made) or captain a squad of some kind, is that I seem to have managed to find as my friends all the other social outcasts on campus.
So in a way, we have our own anti-society society, based on the noble virtues of laziness, cynicism and aversion to matching t-shirts. At meetings we largely eat bloody meat, strike up conversations with strangers at bus stops, and take it turns to hold the TV aerial. Future employers, take note.