Suggested Audio Jukebox:
 King “Love & Pride”
 The Cure “Boys Don’t Cry”
 Kenny Loggins “Danger Zone”
 Darly Hall & John Oates “She’s Gone”
 Evelyn Champagne King “Shame”
 Hyper On Experience “Disturbance (Tango Remix)”
 Celine Dion “My Heart Will Go On (Instrumental)”
 Black Box “Ride on Time”
 UB40 “Rat in My Kitchen”
 Elton John “I’m Still Standing”
Pride and shame happen to be two contrasting feelings I have significant experience of. There have been occasions where I have been swollen by pride and, likewise, just as many instances of hanging my head in shame. Indeed, there have even been times when the two have run concurrent. Thus I have decided to cast my eye back over the past forty odd years and pinpoint cases of both. As you know, nothing pleases me more than when in memoir mode as my life has been littered with peaks and troughs and I’ve witnessed some rare shit over the years. There have been moments where I have stood on the shoulders of giants and just as many that have involved being called Short Stack by pygmies. It’s funny, I actually get more pride from recalling my many shameful exploits and feel far less poised when honking my horn. In many ways, I’m the world’s most hospitable piss-taker as I have no intention of belittling another when there’s a perfectly primed sitting duck perched right here.
That said, my self-effacing nature wouldn’t be feasible were it not for a certain degree of contentment. Should I be an absolute non entity and dead behind the eyes, then I may not be so quick to draw attention my way. It’s okay to rib oneself and, indeed, I heartily recommend it as there are few pastimes so liberating. But it can all go awry if you have no sense of self-worth. It took me a fair few years to balance the two and it wasn’t until recently that I truly became comfortable in my skin. This is why I am so quick to dismiss ego and similarly speedy not discrediting myself outright either. Like good and evil, both are required to locate any real stability. Too much impetus being placed on one inevitably creates imbalance and neither on their own are quite so appealing. I’ve encountered those with way too much pride, so much in fact that it has robbed them of any likability. Likewise, a complete lack of self-esteem is hardly a great aphrodisiac. For the record, I’d take the latter hands down as I’d much rather converse with a head that’s in the sand than one in the clouds. But the middle ground is where it’s at.
For this exercise, I have decided to root about in my childhood archives for inspiration and also tackle each emotion in turn. There will likely be some pretty shameful admissions but I’m not here to gloss anything over. Putting a spin on events is acceptable practise but I wouldn’t be Keeper if I didn’t just say it as I see it. May I suggest that any of you aspiring to become scribes consider this approach very seriously indeed as I wouldn’t be where I am now had it not been for laying all cards on the table. We all have skeletons on the closet and it’s an intoxicating feeling laying them out on page. Moreover, it frees up considerable closet space. It’s all ultimately about ownership, possession of pride and acceptance of shame. Once that happy medium has been facilitated, you can write unapologetically and, only then, can you truly locate your writing style. Veer too much in one direction or the other and you run the risk of losing any captive audience. Should I feel it necessary to honk my horn, then revealing something of great personal embarrassment directly afterwards assures equilibrium is maintained and everyone comes out smelling of roses.
noun: a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of one’s close associates, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.
I shall kick things off with pride as shame tends to feel more at home languishing in the depths than reaching for the apex. This is a particularly complex second emotion and just as regularly deemed as a vice as it is a virtue. Its negative connotation suggests one’s over-bloated sense of personal importance, cocky swagger about accomplishments, and deluded outlook on status. On the flip side, it is humility and an acute sense of attachment to our own choices and actions or those of another. We all like to be praised and, should self-reflection be practiced accordingly, pride can really help us feel like we belong. Being male, I know only too well about the shortfalls of my sex in this department. Should we be made to feel inferior, then defense mechanisms are set in place and we head straight for the offensive. To be fair, this isn’t synonymous with men but I’m better positioned to tear us alphas a new one and place any females over my knee for a delicate spanking.
Jealousy is a particular bugbear of mine as it allows any rational thought to become clouded and, instead, we waste time and energy on precious little, when it could be far better invested elsewhere. Once that masculinity is threatened, the green-eyed monster emerges and it’s not the most gracious Gorgon when in full-on rampage mode. Moreover, we end up coming across needy and that is about as winsome as halitosis. Of course, others playing mind games doesn’t aid our cause, and sometimes insecurity is non-preventable. But stupid male pride can cause all sorts of problems and misunderstandings if encouraged too freely and often ends up getting rather ugly. While envy has never greatly appealed to me personally, I still had to learn things the hard way. There was one time in my life, when jealousy was positively running rampant, and did me less than no favors in retrospect. I was just relinquishing the reins on adolescence and embarking on my very first serious relationship.
This story may already be familiar to some but I pledge here to flesh it out a little further. Having achieved the unthinkable by snaring myself the homecoming queen (the odds of which were stacked at around 5000-1), I was understandably rather bloated with pride. Back in school, a second glance would have been a major accolade as she was completely out of my league and I damn well knew it. Presumably she took a knock to the head and this took six-years to recover from as she agreed first to date me and, within a matter of months, to take our relationship to the next level. The sense of accomplishment was all-encompassing and I commenced to roam the earth with an additional spring in my stride. This was that pride I had heard so much about and I was finally a figure of stature, albeit borrowed. However, deep down, I couldn’t shake the niggling feeling that it was an elaborate joke solely on me. Surely the bubble was destined to burst and my current altitude meant that the drop would be monumental once she located the tail on this particular donkey. I was headed for a fall and under no illusion whatsoever that it would all end in tears.
The warning signs were there pretty much from the offset as she was far less adroit at showing her feelings than I. Being one of life’s incurable romantics, I fell hard, and her pre-eminence ensured I plummeted with that much more velocity. The plinth I placed her on was so elevated that I suffered a nosebleed just kissing her toes and she took full advantage of this dynamic. Within a year we had purchased a house together and were just approaching our move in date when I threw a cat amongst the pigeons and turned the whole power struggle on its head. I’d grown tired of felling unloved and couldn’t imagine an entire lifetime of being made to feel inferior. Thus, I called time on our relationship, at a juncture that couldn’t have been more inconvenient. She took up residency with a friend while we pondered the magnitude of the financial obligation we had just undertaken. However, this shock tactic worked, as it made her realize that I was no shrinking violet after all.
A month later we were reunited after she pledged to me that things would be different from hereon in and, to begin with, we were both genuinely content. Considering we were already living together, it seemed only right to take away the sin part and start planning towards the all-important nuptials. Needless to say, the most beautiful girl in school wasn’t likely to settle for anything less than a fairytale wedding, and our special day took the best part of four years to meticulously plan. During that time, things started to take a turn for the worse a second time. I had naïvely believed that a leopard as lustrous as she would change her spots but it wasn’t long before things became true to prior form once again. With the wedding looming, there was no way she was about to bail on our plans, as this was her special day and nothing could be allowed to compromise it. Likewise, I just figured that marriage would make things better, and hung in grimly. The event was truly a success in terms of glamour and majesty, although one of us enjoyed it more than the other.
I almost felt like her sidekick and, while she was milking the adulation of the partisan crowd, couldn’t help but feel a tad like Lyle Lovett. Our vows held firm for the best part of a year but, with our first anniversary almost upon us, she decided enough was enough and stated her desire to dissolve our partnership. On one hand, I felt massively relieved while, on the other, devastated would be more accurate. Somehow I had punched above my weight and managed to go a few rounds before the inevitable T.K.O. and knew that my one title shot had slipped right through my fingers. I acted with great decorum and granted her this wish without putting up anything like a fight, as I knew deep down that I was soundly snookered. Weeks later she vacated the premises, leaving little old me to pick up the pieces of my shattered existence. I couldn’t bear the thought of her with anybody else and, while not making my jealousy known in a manner that could provoke an injunction, secretly I stewed over the notion of any man other than I ever sipping from her flavorsome font. The green-eyed monster was in town and had picked me as his personal spotter.
Eventually she shacked up with one of my ushers from the wedding and this stung like a bitch if I’m honest. Hindsight has long since cleared that up as the pair are actually pretty ideally suited and have now started a family together. I genuinely wish them every happiness in the world and fully accept that their union was destined. Moreover, this taught me a lot about jealousy, and just how wasteful it can be. My pride had taken a humongous knock and it took all of five years to realign myself after tragedy struck. Of course, by the time I entered the fray again, I did so with a ton of unresolved emotional baggage. However, jealousy was no longer in my inventory. There are things in life that we can have a bearing on and also many that we can’t. Making somebody love us is one of the latter. In a committed relationship, you just have to leave certain stuff up to the elements. I know that can be easier said than done but upholding dignity is critical to the whole allure thing. Should you be hoping for your partner to change, then there’s a high probability you’re barking up the wrong tree.
How we approach each association initially is of utmost importance. It’s all well and good being adaptable but that very much depends on how much of yourself you are prepared to modify. Fashioning a faux identity is a mug’s game as there is only so long you can keep up a façade and it all ultimately comes out in the wash. Short term gain far outweighs long-term in such circumstances as the thrill of the chase becomes all-encompassing and not a thought is spared for the gargantuan mess we are getting ourselves into by pulling the wool over one another’s eyes. As cliché as it may sound, honesty really is the best policy here, as it shows that we possess a little thing called pride. There’s a tendency to believe our true selves as something to be deeply ashamed of and that is only to be expected as we’re often our own worst critics. My self-confidence took a massive knock when my first love departed but reinvention just happened to be a process I was already all too familiar with after failing to make the top-tier in school.
Humility was drummed into me from a very early age and, of all the gifts donated, this one has reaped by far the greatest benefits in the long run. Through my prose, I am supplied with all manner of kind words of encouragement and recognition for my achievements and this kindness fuels my fire absolutely no end. However, you have to be able to know how to take a compliment. Many of us struggle with this and this is where it is so pivotal to have struck that balance. I believe every last word of the hype but never let self-belief manifest as arrogance. Channeling has been my thing since I stepped into my pseudonym and I need to apply this when I scribe in a manner not undermined by hesitancy or lack of certitude. Yet I will never be culpable of sucking my own dick as I’ve tried that shit already and am a fair few vertebrae away from making it happen. Humility is key and is the quality I am most proud of.
noun: a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour.
Right then, who’s up for a dash of shame? This word derives from an older one meaning “to cover”; and can be applied both figuratively or, in extreme cases, literally. It can revolve around a singular action or existence itself and the society we live in has significant say in what is deemed shambolic. Needless to say, I have suffered my fair quota of indignity, and it’s here that we shall have a little fun I feel. Fret not as it will be 100% at my expense and only one profile will be left sporting a yoke facial come the conclusion. I’m digging deep Grueheads and fully expect to reenact some decidedly mortifying scenarios in the game of group therapy. I’ve talked the talk now and declared myself all in so I guess it’s high-time we see that flop. Right now I’m cursing my lack of filter but secretly I’m downright loving it.
There can be no better place to convene than with good old-fashioned bodily functions and I believe I may have just dodged my first bullet you know. You see, despite my atrocious diet, everything is tickety boo in that area. While others are forced to engage in reconnaissance as the result of a little too forceful a flatuation, I can count the amount of occasions where cloth has been touched on a leper’s handful. That said, my bladder twice did me a disservice growing up and both instances were positively teeming with the most conclusive strain of humiliation conceivable. Moreover, LSD provided the trigger for this twain of sorry pratfalls. One involved a shopping trolley afflicted by wanderlust and, the other, a pair of Nike sneakers that sold me down the river quite literally. Don’t even ask as that is where I come in.
Let’s start with Trolley-Gate shall we? It was a humid summer evening and a group of us had dropped acid together around thirty minutes previous. The point of insertion was the darkest recess of a multi-storey car park, around one hundred yards from our local multiplex. We had every attention of grabbing ourselves a movie to celebrate our elevation but were not prepared to join the queue and facilitate our last fraying nerve endings whittled being down any further. Things were now beginning to get rather trippy and laughter really is the great enabler in such circumstances. When my male co-pilot suggested mounting a discarded shopping trolley, I accepted his challenge instantaneously and with only a vague feeling of trepidation. There were two females present, one of whom I crushed on right through my teens, so there was no chance I was going to let a chance like this go begging. My very own chariot, this was a monumental moment, and I took my pew with chest puffed out and head held high. Not to mention one piss satchel fast approaching capacity.
For a few precious moments, I milked the adulation, and truly felt like the king of the world. Just like Jack Dawson, I felt free of society’s shackles and at-ease with my elected trajectory. However, just like Jack, I was destined to sink to the seabed with my dreams shattered mere seconds later, and before I could create some steamy windows with my own personal Rose. As with the whole Titanic debacle, if you’re going to point the finger then may I suggest the vessel’s captain as a good place to start as it can’t be that difficult swerving a stupendous iceberg right? Unlike Captain Edward John Smith, my master and commander became overcome with mutinous glee and steered me directly into choppy waters intentionally before relinquishing his grip at a full rate of knots and saluting the sinking ship as I hurtled down a reasonably acute gradient frozen in terror. My destination was clear as I was headed straight into full view of the baying crowd and a couple of them were already aware of my brisk descent. Well the others were about to join that particular elite as I trundled into their cone of vision with all the poise of an epileptic emu beneath strobe.
Word travels fast in a cinema queue and, by the time I ground to a halt (not before performing a 360 pirouette under my closing spotlight), all eyes were on me. We’re not talking a dozen peepers either, try two-hundred switched-on sentinels plus change. Once the wheels stopped turning, a few seconds of uncomfortable silence ensued, during which a machete couldn’t have cut through the dense atmosphere. Something had to give or else this moment would last forever and, with acid now in the ascendancy, I’m not even fucking kidding. Thus I decided to take matters into my own hands. Actually, I did nothing of the sort, this was potentially the funniest spoiled excursion ever in the history of mankind and I just so happened to look rather fetching in my new role as dick with ears. If only they knew that this dick had ears long before the current cataclysm. Not seeing the funny side here just wasn’t an option as it was the only side visible from where I was seated. Seldom have I laughed so heartily and never so much that my bladder has slackened its ordinarily sturdy grip entirely.
Look! Here comes Richard Charles Stevens. Hey, isn’t he the cock smudge who pissed his pants in a shopping trolley in front of the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves opening night audience? Uh huh, the one and only. Just for added comedy value, my garish yellow sweatpants were perhaps two sizes too large for my gangly legs and actually resembled ship masts. The moment of splashdown was devastating and sufficient to have me clutching frantically for slabs of discarded drift wood. Alas, no dice, there was only one way out of this predicament and it entailed embarking on the longest walk of shame ever recorded. The laughter hadn’t subsided and the only mystery remaining was that not a solitary spectator saw fit to share in my amusement. LSD or no LSD, I’ll never understand that one. Should I be queuing at the multiplex when some fetal thumb head comes rattling past in a fucking shopping trolley of all things (never the most straight-faced vehicle) resembling a wantaway banana, then I’d be the very first to piss my pants again. Yet all I discerned were poker faces.
This quick jabbing shame was then replaced by that of the arduous, painfully protracted variety as the majority vote was against wasting our pre-purchased tickets. Allow me to place this in perspective, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves clocked in at an excruciating 143 minutes and all 143 were spent in a row which was mysteriously threadbare of inhabitants. To put it plain, I reeked like a geriatric vagrant in a heat wave, and there wasn’t a sucker present up for the punishment. I was even banished by my own entourage and, to my dying day, will not find them in contempt in the slightest. I believe they more than earned themselves a “well-played” and, while my pilot seemed to misunderstand the term kamikaze, I would have done precisely the same shit in his position. Over twenty-years on, I feel blessed to have taken that historic maiden voyage, and showed my leadership skills by sinking with my ship. Regrettably, while floundering with my good friends the algae, some other guy swooped in and swept my Rose away. You see I’m no stranger to that sinking feeling.
The second flunked trip wasn’t quite as humorous an excursion and actually led to some reasonably intensive paranoia which ultimately wound-up my five-year flirtation with LSD. This time I was flying solo and commencing my ten-minute sanctuary pilgrimage after a hard night on the trip. Alas, the rain had come, and waited until around the halfway checkpoint beacon before proceeding into torrential territory. Until this point, my first and only pair of Nike Air Max had served me well but, one burst air bubble later, they were approximately as water-resistant as open-toe man sandals (mandals?), something I’m not the biggest fan of at the best of times. This wasn’t even faintly close to being one of those times. With my prised open pumps letting in the tide at an astonishing speed, my stupid drug-addled mind couldn’t help but put two and two together and fail the math. I’d evidently pissed myself a second time or, worse still, perhaps my bladder had capitulated entirely. These are ill-advised considerations for one whose hinges are already slacker than a hooker’s haunch hammock. There was no doubt whatsoever in my contorted mind and the agony was only in its infancy.
Given that nobody else witnessed this tragedy, you would be well within your rights to expect the trauma to conclude the moment Benji made it home or, at least, by the time the drug’s effects had worn off. Maybe they did but I had unwittingly entered into a tryst with nobody’s best buddy bad acid and fully intended on failing to see that this was never again to be anything but traumatic. The following week I dropped again as was customary and psychosis once again reared its ugly head. Until recently, cleanliness has been pretty much godly to me, and a large part of this is down to this fateful night and numerous others that duly followed. I was convinced that I exuded the scent of urine, so much so, that I could even smell it myself. Considering acid was a communal affair, this led to some decidedly agonizing group dynamics. Others would smile and be jovial while I cowered away in the corner like an advertisement for bogus panty liners. Looking back, my Waterloo did me a fair few favors, as I could eventually no longer partake in MDMA or Amphetamines without the paranoia bleeding in uninvited. I needed a reason to stop and being adamant that drug taking makes you smell like piss is all the encouragement to quit a twenty-one-year-old in his prime could ever need. Thank the heavens above for shame.
My mother never captured me in the midst of spanking my monkey and I take considerable pride in this statistic. I played the timer game and did so well, although my clean sweep was only upheld on account of being perched against the door frame for one particular close shave. I’ve never leaned so hard or crammed so much dick skin into so little zipper than in this ultimate slo-mo snap shot moment. While never caught purple handed (a snake shade which I’m relieved not to possess), the time when she unearthed my secret porn stash was securely steeped in shame. You see, O.C.D. has always been a weakness of mine, and I tend to take thing to excess in the name of unhealthy obsession with regards to prized possessions. What began with two or three editions of Playboy now accommodated Reader’s Wives publications, lowest-grade grunge, and a bi-monthly Over 50’s Food Fight misstep. For the record, the lattermost was little more than experimentation and there was nothing even faintly erotic about some shabby slapper swimming about in spaghetti sludge. The fact remains however that it is still something of a doozy to explain.
Mercifully, my mother knew well of my compulsions, and bought my line about thorough research. At last count, I believe I owned around 300 gentlemen’s magazines and made the mistake of lending one of them to a friend. It doesn’t take a genius to spot that 140 pages had fused into four by its return to the fold. My bounty of porn had actually served dual purposes as my bed frame had broken a year previous and I hadn’t fancied enlightening her as to its shivering timber. The less a mother knows about certain events the better; particularly when you have already amassed a fairly burly stockpile of smut. My shame was admittedly rather immense but her mortification trumped it effortlessly, so we never had to speak of it again. There were no orders to destroy all evidence and the only casualty was that sole copy of Over 50’s Food Fight. Truth is, I was glad to see the back of that one. Perhaps that is where my illogical fear of mushrooms stems from.
Anyhoots, I’m pretty much assured that it wasn’t an isolated instance of dear old mom spotting my junk and the next one is rather hazy, leaving its case perpetually unsolved. I know I had reached the age where bathing me was no longer an option to mom and also recall that puberty had not yet been initiated. I was at that uncomfortable in-between stage where erections still came without instructions and it may actually have been my first recorded boner. Guess why it stands head and shoulders above the rest and I request that you picture the scene for a moment. It is early doors, too premature for a young boy’s cognizance, but right about time for a pile of freshly pressed linen to be delivered. Her attendance is vaguely registered from my loose state of slumber and, as far as I’m aware, she’s going about her business without a hitch. Suddenly she stops in her tracks for a handful of seconds before eventually relaying that the time to rise is nigh. I think nothing of it as I’ve still got one foot in la-la land, the moment passes, and she vacates the same way she came. No harm, no foul then?
This wasn’t so much about foul as it was harm. You see, once I finally came to and glanced down at my usually shackled morningwood, I cursed ever being encouraged to trust pajamas. There at the frontline, for ease of access and not for times like these, was a gaping hole and you’ll never guess who popped out for a breath of fresh air. I’m fully aware that, not only will you guess, but you have already. Mimicking its crowing counterpart, my cock had fled its coop and was pointing skyward like a length of mutton flag. I mentioned hindsight earlier and this time it wasn’t appreciated in the slightest as I replayed the scene in my head time and again and the only logical conclusion was that my Johnson’s cover had been well and truly blown. Needless to say, breakfast was a discomfiting affair.
Indeed, my hapless mother has been present for many of my most shameful moments although the next one she kind of had coming and came out far worse from. Along with her sister and my own siblings, she took it upon herself to give the attic a much-needed spring clean. This was no easy task, given my tendency for hoarding, and the almighty mess took all of two hours to wade through. I no longer lived at home so my presence had not been called for. However, had I been privy to this sort through, then I would have warned her not to poke her nose into places that no mother ever should. After happening across one of my old journals, she became overwhelmed with curiosity and we all know how that turned out for the cat. If it seemed a harmless enough proposal reciting a few entries to her audience, then perhaps she should have chosen her days better as she thumbed straight to one that involved an hour-long stint of cunnilingus in blow-for-blow detail. Turns out that I’d really licked the bowl clean too.
Horrified doesn’t even cut it and said diary was disposed of by way of the nearest refuse point with immediate effect. Alas, things were only set to get worse as one of my sisters breached the subject with me weeks later and I shrugged my shoulders with indifference. To be honest, I felt more perturbed than culpable, as she had no right to destroy the only written evidence I had of the year I turned eighteen. Feeling not a dash of shame on account of what were my own personal effects, I promptly raised the topic with the guilty party and came out victorious in this particular one-way scuffle. The bottom line was this: big noses smell farts quicker. I was in the clear and it was her in the dock for such heinous crimes against fully legitimate privacy. Of course, I still shuddered when her back was turned, as my almost photographic memory had no problem with pinpointing the occasion and it was admittedly some slathering.
That is about all the shame I can muster for one sitting but have rather enjoyed reliving each humiliation for the purpose of light amusement. I’ve got my pride and use it every day of my life to remain vertical but I’m also no stranger to shame and wouldn’t change that for the world. Fuck taking everything so seriously when there are so many reminders not to. Like I said, it’s all about striking that balance. Take this memoir for example, I have been in my element building myself up only to knock myself down and feel more than deserving of my encore for services rendered. Dagnabbit I may even break out into dance and, needless to say, it will be more than faintly ridiculous and entirely bereft of rhythm. I can dance by the way but that isn’t reserved for moments such as these. Just can’t get enough of that shame can I? For the record, only one shopping trolley was harmed in this memoir.