Column Road

Fight club

Healthy debate is a good thing. (Source:Fosa via Flickr).

I once read an article that suggested if Skins was an accurate representation of the youth that you wanted, then The Inbetweeners was an accurate representation of the adolescence that you actually had. Although my parents did buy me a truly terrible first car (although it wasn’t yellow, it was a Hyundai Amica) and there was definitely a teacher in my school similar to ‘Peado Kennedy’, I can comfortably say my teenage years were not that painful. That said, as much as I wish I could say it was as tragically glamorous, boozy and sex-filled as Skins, it was not. In fact, the best series I have found that reminds me of being a teenager in my hometown is BBC’s ‘This Country’.

‘This Country’ is refreshingly bleak. It’s a mockumentary following two cousins in the Cotswolds doing mostly, absolutely nothing. This week’s episode saw Kerry and Kurtan spend the afternoon in the kitchen, cooking turkey dinosaurs and arguing about who was most deserving of the top shelf in the oven. Awaiting the arrival of Uncle Nugget, who was returning from prison after being “wrongly incinerated for having a laugh”, they burn their pizza and find ways to force Kerry’s bedridden mother to scream the word ‘tomato’.

Somehow, this programme about two teenagers bored, fed up and causing havoc in the Cotswold’s is so absolutely relatable. Although I can’t quite see myself in Kerry, in her football shirt and tracksuit bottoms, there is something painfully familiar about her life. Living in a village, with little else to do but hijack the resident scarecrow competition and get tattoos of a “dog sniffing a bumhole” by the local loon, Kerry and Kurtan are bored senseless.

Although my hometown friendships stemmed further than avoiding the mate that is terminally ill with cancer because I “don’t want to be dragged into the bucket list” (ouch, Kerry!) their little countryside life resonated. Knowing everybody around you and enjoying the small comforts of rural life, whilst simultaneously being bored senseless and being deprived of diversity is something I can understand all too well. The most ethnic person in my primary school was from Scotland, and the poshest kid in the school was the one who brought in an M&S cake on their birthday. Alternative cultures, opinions and values were non-existent.

University however, is a cocktail of diversity, particularly in Cardiff. All at once you are surrounded by different cultures, backgrounds, values, religions, beliefs and it is magical and exiting and stimulating, particularly for those of us who are not used to the variety.

The Gair Rhydd office is no different, filled with a delicious assortment of individuals, with a variation of different core values, beliefs and upbringings. This usually makes for enthusiastic discussion, stimulating conversation and a bad-ass newspaper. This week however, we had our very own storm Doris, crashing around the Gair Rhydd office with a ferocity so severe that everybody it touched felt compelled to argue. The source of the conflict? A BuzzFeed quiz (queue dramatic music) that offered to decipher…how sexist you REALLY are.

Of course, the quiz was absolute horse shit. When the ‘recommended’ quizzes that follow are: ‘What is your inner potato?” and “are you more dumpster, fire, or dumpster-fire?” (I got dumpster-fire) you know that the results are likely to be stupid, at best. That said, the quiz still managed to cause quite the stir between the editors.

With some vaguely credible questions such as: “Why do you think there are so few women in politics? And “have you ever described a girl as slutty?” the scores of the office certainly gave us something to talk about.

With the editors weighing in everywhere between 8% and 44% sexist, a number of arguments arose surrounding each of our own fundamental beliefs, about feminism, about women and even about race. As I looked around at a room of people that I genuinely really, really like, I began asking myself what it was that glues a friendship, when your fundamental beliefs, values and principles are inherently different.

Perhaps most notably to me was a moment this week when a friend told me they advocated fox hunting. Caring immensely about animal rights, my little heart felt crushed. Standing in flip flops and shorts in mid-February and suggesting that it was absolutely necessary to fox hunt, I looked at him and wondered what it was about him that I could possibly like. In that moment, I decided he was an absolutely massive C-word and would not be afforded my friendship ever again.

Low and behold, approximately two hours later we were sat laughing and joking and as hard as I tried to keep hating, I couldn’t. I suppose ultimately it is about how much you expect of the people you choose to be friends with. If they buy you snacks when you’re hungry, make you laugh when you’re miserable and give you a cuddle when you need them, what more can you ask for?

For the most part, our individual opinions are interesting and special and are what makes us unique. The world would be dull should we all feel the same about absolutely everything. It is frustrating and exasperating when your friends disagree with you, or don’t care about the same things that you do. But what is the alternative? Remaining stuck like poor Kerry and Kurtan in the Cotswolds with only each other for company and nothing to argue about but turkey dinosaurs and oven shelves.

This week, I learned to say ‘I like you, but I don’t like your opinion, and that is okay’, and that feels really, really good.

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