How Does it Feel to Be Old, Black, Fat or Crippled?
Feb 16 2012
I'm sure you've already seen it, but earlier this week
Voldermort Liz Jones wrote a fantastic piece for the Daily Mail in which she bravely faced her fears of growing old and went out dressed as an old lady for a few hours. Like everything in the Daily Mail, it was very well written, and not at all patronising ("If a child were out alone, cold and frightened, questions would be asked in Parliament. But when this happens to an old person, we think it’s normal.")
This is me. As a fashionable, middle-class Aryan livin' in the First World, I, like Liz, haven't felt the sting of persecution all that much. So I too decided to go out to see what it would be like to be one of you minority-types.
Below are my efforts. I know what you're thinking, but don't worry – like Liz, I enlisted the help of trained professionals at every stage in this highly important scientific process. In an attempt to get a real, quantitative handle on this topic, I also rated how difficult life is as each minority out of ten, using those uncontacted Amazonian Tribesmen as a visual rating scale.
Sadly, the results of my experiment were so brutally stereotypical that it was as if I had been taking part in some kind of parody. Or satire, even.
With the help of a special effects makeup artist who put some flour in my hair and drew some lines on my face with a pen, I magically transformed myself into a 90-year-old man. After a class on how to walk like someone whose body is about to shut down for good from acting coach Niamh McKernan (he also taught Liz Jones how to walk old), I was ready to hit the town.
I pretended to struggle with a Tesco bag in a loop around my local park for about an hour. During that time, not one person came over and offered to help me. I also tried to cross a very busy road, and no cars stopped to let me cross. I had to walk down to the pedestrian crossing, almost 100 feet away. As I neared my front door, I began to cry. Does nobody in this world care about the elderly?
Liz Jones was right. Being old sucks.
I had a professional prostheticician come over to my house with some pillows and stuff them inside the only clothes I could find that were big enough to cover my newly disgusting body. I was then taught how to stare at food like a fat person by my acting coach, before heading out into the city as a fat guy.
I went into my local shop to buy a sandwich, and was met with confused stares by everyone present. Were they judging me because I was fat? Worse, as I was walking alongside the busy main road you see in the photo above, somebody leaned out of their car window and shouted "Twat!" – with over 50 percent of the UK population now overweight or obese, this kind of persecution is truly worrying.
After dressing in some non-flashy clothes and getting a quick briefing from my acting coach on how to sit still, I tried out my next minority look: a differently-abled person.
Unfortunately, I didn't have access to a real wheelchair, but I was able to fashion a very convincing one using things I found lying around the VICE office. Once again, everywhere I went I was met with stares. Stares that seemed able to pierce my fragile outer shell and glare at my very soul itself. One person even took a picture of me with their phone.
Accessibility was a huge problem too, with me being unable to get into Pret A Manger to buy lunch. When the professional actress I hired to play my carer asked a staff member for some help, they just laughed. I can't imagine how it must feel to be trapped in one of these things all day long :(
After a few hours in the makeup chair and some tips on how to walk with "swag", I hit the streets as a black guy.
I have to say, the way I was treated was completely appalling. Everywhere I walked, people stared. And I was met with constant, unrelenting hostility. Even from other black people. When I went to my local train station to top up my Oyster, someone actually came up to me and said: "What the fuck do you think you're doing out like that?" Do black people not have a right to be out in public, too?
To make matters worse, when I went back to my house, my own dog attacked me. Is my dog a racist? This is something else that I have to deal with now, but it troubled me to think that black people might not even be safe in their own homes.
What the fuck is that about, society?
To conclude, Liz Jones and The Daily Mail were and always have been totally right: It's lonely and pointless being part of anything other than the majority. I think the world needs to be a bit more tolerant. We should all look past things like race, size, age and walking ability, and try and see people for what they really are; lorry drivers, street magicians, mums, mixologists, sons, bloggers, yoga instructors, friends...
Send Jamie abuse on Twitter: @JLCT