This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Home to mummy, home to lovely mummy. As Christmas edges closer – and let us drop the pretence now that any of us are doing anything, at our desks, anything more than reading fun lists online and occasionally deleting emails and maybe doing one final Amazon Prime order shipped to your parents' house – Christmas edges ever closer, and into the bosom of home so many of us will flee. What a time. What a jolly, jolly time.
Sadly, one thing waiting for us all at home is the looming figure of Other People from Your Past, and they are here to remind you of what you aren't, what you could've been and what you will become. There are boys who are sat immobile in the same warm corner of the local pub you all underage drank at over a decade ago. There are gnarled and hyper-aged former schoolmates, who are ten, 15 leaps ahead of you on the adulthood ladder, and look ragged and ancient thanks to it. One of your mates has a full-on fucking toddler. This is you, or what you could've been if you stayed here: this is you, if the city you live in spits you out and sends you spinning, back here, back to mummy's house, where the heating is always on and the fridge is always full to creaking.
Here's everyone you're going to meet when you go home for Christmas this year:
THAT WEIRD DUDE WITH THE FRINGE YOU LOST YOUR VIRGINITY TO
Ah oh holy hell, did— was he always that… shape? You see him, with that big lean-over posture, walking a few paces ahead when you walk into town with your mates, and yep, there he is, that big slick greasy fringe still firmly in place, and you're pretty sure he's got the same black zip-thru hoody on that he refused to take off that time he shuddered inside of you on that balmy May day before your A-levels happened. "Oh yeah, I meant to tell you," your friend is telling you, nonchalantly. "He got fired from Games Workshop for getting too many crisp crumbs on the Space Marines display. He tried to set himself up selling NOS but his Silk Road man accidentally sent a Jiffy bag full of whip-its to the Click & Collect at ASDA and he doesn't dare go and get them in case the police arrest him." This man has put his tongue inside of you. Dip into the nearest pub and ask for three shots, instantly.
A PERSON WHO WAS, FOR ONE HEADY SUMMER, YOUR ABSOLUTE BEST FRIEND IN THE WORLD, AND THEN THEY WEREN'T
Ah yes, you remember, don't you? You met on the first day of school in Year 7 and then were best little buds, sleepovers and PlayStation, running round parks and sincere birthday presents, phone calls on the landline to go and meet at the swimming pool, every weekend falling into that easy sort of familiar what-are-we-doing-and-where, and then— well, you switched forms, obviously, to do more art-based subjects, and they— god, you didn't even say anything to them when their nan died? And then there was that whole thing, all that drama with their other best friend, and then you spent a summer playing loads of football and they spent a summer away visiting their dad in France, and then: well, time just happens like that, doesn't it? It used to be that you were two halves of the same coin, and now they are penny and you are a tin cup. Wither does the time go? How easily these unbreakable bonds become fragile and spindly! Anyway, they are working double shifts at this bar now and yes, hiya, no good to see you too thanks, but what pint do you want?
YOUR EERILY GROWN UP COUSIN
You're at a family gathering and some large boy in a polo shirt and with tank-like arms and smells overwhelmingly of aftershave comes up to you and just eases into a familiar, stand-next-to-you-and-drink-beer pose, and you are like: who is this dude, please. And then your grandma comes and says, "Can we get a photo of all the cousins?" and shit: it's your little cousin, Little Tommy, only he's… taller than you? This motherfucker has aged, like, 15 years since you last saw him? What the fuck, man? Didn't you only see him wet his pants in fear at a Timmy Mallett DVD like two summers ago? You remember, don't you? You used to call him Little Tommy Pisspants? Now he's next to you with a voice deeper than rock in the earth and is saying, "Nah, we'll go and get the beers in," and drives you both to the Big Tesco? What is happening here? Is your cousin a time traveller, or did you clonk your head and lose half a decade? None of this should be allowed.
YOUR MUM'S BEST FRIEND WHO KNOWS YOU BETTER THAN YOU EVEN KNOW YOURSELF BECAUSE, AS SHE KEEPS FIRMLY TELLING YOU, SHE CHANGED YOUR NAPPY AS A KID
Your mum's best friend, Big Dee, is a sort of extension of your mum and an amplification; she is your mum if your mum didn't have to be your mum, she is your mum on speed, she is bold and brassy and she is not afraid to tell you, every time you see her, that she wiped your little baby arsehole with a wet wipe. "Ooh, don't be shy around me, chuck," Big Dee is saying, long red talons holding up a china cup of tea. "I've seen it all!" Dee has seen you more than you've seen yourself: she saw you as a bump, hard and filled with potential; she saw you as a baby, helpless and soft and kicking; as a toddler, naughty and crying; she saw you form like ice out of water into a child, with a personality and wants and needs and loves and hates; she took you to the fair that time when your mum was sick and you had the best day of your life; she saw you, sullen and sulky, huff your way through adolescence. And now she sees you at your most disappointing and embarrassing: as a human adult, lost in the world without an anchor, too blinded by the bright lights of a big city with extortionate rents and temping jobs, trying desperately to convince anyone – but most especially yourself – that you are an artist, a resting artist; lost and burning up what they always tell you is the best decade of your life being anxious about every second of it. Dee sees all. And she's seen your pink little dick, too.
ALL YOUR MATES WHO ARE LIVING LARGE LIVES WITHOUT YOU
It's been two years since you last saw them properly, and when they sit down in the Wetherspoons you're all meeting at suddenly you need a coda to translate them. "Yeah, sorry," they say, cold from the outside, faces pink and raw. "Can't stay too long. Becca's outside with the car." Hold on: who's Becca? "We've got the house together, I met her at that Leeds Festival you didn't come with us to." Oh, right, yeah: you couldn't get the time off work. What else happened that year? What else did you miss out on? This is the first time you've seen them with such an adult, grown-up haircut. "Yeah, lost the ponytail… what, must be three years ago now?" God, has it been that long. "We're spending the Christmas up at Becca's parents this year, so I'll have to dash – we have to drive down and get a ferry." Oh, so you probably won't see them until— "New Year, yeah. Well, I've got the new job now, and that starts on the 29th, so maybe, maybe not." How did the lad you used to share sticky little joints with end up as an IT Manager in Nottingham? When did he get a car? Why won't Becca come inside? And most important: who allowed all these people to change when you left them?
ALL YOUR MATES WHO STILL THINK EVERYTHING IS THE SAME
Right, so the plan is: pints at The Tup, pints at The Castle, tins on the train, same shitty nightclub called Voodoo's you always used to get into with fake ID, share a cab back. Hold on, only: isn't this the exact night out you all had when you turned 18? That same bouncer who threatened to kick your "cunt fucking cunt head in" in 2008 is still on the door, only now he's got veneers in. Is it good that nothing changed up here, that time moves slow like jelly, that familiarity that reminds you of that so ethereal and rare a concept, Home? Or is it extremely actually bad that everything is the same as it ever was and you're pretty sure that bouncer recognises you still even though you lost all that weight? Oh, wait: you've just remembered pints only cost £2 up here. Fuck it. Fuck change.
THE KID WHO NEVER LEFT HOME AND IS GETTING MORE WEIRD WITH IT BY THE SECOND
He doesn't want to come to the pub so you go to his house and watch him click around a bit on the internet, just like you did when you were 13. "Have you seen this on YouTube?" he's saying. He can't find it. Hold on, is that it— no, can't find it. He'll send it to you. Has… has your mate gone a bit weird? Only, he's 28 and still lives at home. "Mum?" he's shouting. "Mu–u–um?" And a voice, weak from the kitchen, floats up the stairs. "Yes?" "Have we got any pop?" "What?" "POP, WOMAN!" He's definitely gone a bit weird. He's grabbing the bannister with two hands, out on the landing, yelling now. "BRING US UP SOME DR PEPPER!" Ah, Christ. Here's Lynn with a tray with a load of pop and biscuits. "Thank you, bitch," he says. When he murders her and starts wearing her scalp like hair, you'll be the first one the papers come to for a quote, you know that?
THAT GIRL WHO HAD LOADS OF KIDS WITH YOUR PE TEACHER
How many kids have you got now? "Four kids," she's saying. "Tell a lie: eight." She just forgot about four entire children. How's your PE teacher doing? "Still doing PE," she says. Three small boys called Sean are playing with your iPhone. Have… oh god, they're on the App Store. "Always doing that, they are," she's saying. "Was in the local paper actually, when they did £800 on Angry Birds." This is the life you could be living, if only you took up that offer to help him put the netballs away.
PEOPLE WHO ARE ODDLY FASCINATED WITH YOUR MUNDANE AND UNGLAMOUROUS LIFE
Your mum's friend's husband has come to pick her up in the big Vauxhall, and he's asking you how work is. "Good, yeah," you're saying. "How long you been there, now?" he's asking. Oh, god: almost two years. "Wow! Two years." Has it been that long? Yeah: you started as a temp, and then the day before they were legally required to employ you full time or let you go they offered you a contract on identical terms, only… no, you haven't had a raise since. Have you? You asked for one. You're pretty sure you asked for one. "So how's London?" Yeah, it's good. I mean it's essentially a Venn diagram of FOMO and poverty, now, pinned to the grey skeleton of a sort-of-effective public transport system and propped up by oligarchs, so— "But there's so much to do down there, isn't there?" Yeah, yeah. You thought about going to a gallery thing, once, but then it was raining, and you were tired, so just got pizza delivered instead. But you're really going to try and do stuff more in the new year. Do photography, and that. "Do you go to lots of gigs?" No. "I used to love the music scene down there." You have friends who you've heard say it's good. "I'm so envious of you," he says, arms folded and in his twentieth minute of waiting for his wife to finally say goodbye to your mum. "Living the life!" Yeah. Are you? Yeah. You are. Are you?
YOUR UNCLE WHO WANTS EVERYONE TO DO THE MANNEQUIN CHALLENGE
Ah yes, well, the problem here is your uncle thinks, sadly – this is the "hip and with it" uncle, just grazing the edges of his forties, beer belly not quite kicked in enough for him to go up a jeans size yet, resisting the need to wear glasses but very much needs to wear glasses, his daughters keep him young but he's reined in the haircut a little bit, he has a cool car but never drives it over 40; but sadly he is actually an "audible sense of prostate disease about him" uncle, and so is necessarily uncool. Is that going to stop him from getting everyone up at the dinner table to do "the Rogers family mannequin challenge? Come on, I've seen it all over Facebook!"? It is not. Your nan needs a 15-minute tutorial before she can work the iPhone camera and your uncle's pose of choice turns out to be "locked in a rigid and unyielding dab". This is your Christmas, now, forever.
THE SMALLTOWN ENTREPRENEUR WHO WANTS TO KNOW IF YOU CAN HELP HIM IN ANY WAY POSSIBLE
He's set his profile picture on Facebook to a photo of him very clearly wearing a suit jacket but no trousers sitting rigid-backed in a dining chair in the middle of his mum's front room, and he's invited you to become the seventh "like" on the page "Dean Rimmer Recruitment (DRR)" and he's printed up a batch of VistaPrint business cards using that coupon that came in a local paper and here he is: in the pub, roughly shaking your hand, asking if you'd mind "telling recruitment companies in London about him". How many jobs have you actually found people, mate? He'll be honest, mate, right mate, look: he mainly spends his time eating Pot Noodles alone in his suit trousers and playing GTA Online. "It's dead round here," he's saying, as if he's the first person to ever realise that. "Like me on Facebook, go on. Get your phone out, now. I know you've got the app." Fine. Fine.
LAD IN THE PUB WHO ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT YOUR JOB IS
"Social media?" he's saying, same pint of bitter he's been drinking for 15 straight years, suspended in awe halfway between the table and his mouth, "what's that?" For the purposes of this bit, you work in social media. Everyone works in social media now. Anyone who doesn't flies drones. Those are the only two jobs in the world, as we ascend from 2016 into 2017. He is being serious. "Uhh," you're saying. "Um, well: I manage the Twitter accounts for a lot of brands," and you look at him, because you've never seen a blank expression somehow go blanker, a jaw somehow go slacker. "What's a brand?" he's saying. Does he really not get this, or is he choosing to not get this? This lad has been doing the same carpentry foundation course for over a decade, somehow. He doesn't like change. He doesn't like new things. He doesn't like this world of yours, with its social media and its brands. Not for him, thanks. He last tweeted in 2013, something about Bristol City briefly going top. That's it. He lives a life in complete isolation to yours. You could just as easily be different species, a lion and a lamb. "It's… listen, it's just a very good opportunity, so—" and he holds up a single finger, sinks his pint, burps, and says, "I just bought a house for £80,000, no mortgage." He's won this one. He's fucking won this one.
ANOTHER LAD, A DIFFERENT LAD, A LAD WHO MIGHT HAVE A POINT, ACTUALLY
"Oh you think you're so good, don't you?" he's yelling. "Coming back here, from 'London', with your 'London life', looking down your noses at us!" Everyone in the pub is looking at you, now. "ISN'T IT!" he's saying. "JUST BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE, FUCKING, 'THE TUBE' AND 'CAFÉS WHERE AUSTRALIANS WORK', YEAH? 'OOH, LOOK AT ME, I'M SO GOOD, I'VE GOT AN OYSTER CARD AND LOADS OF STUDENT DEBT.' COME BACK HERE AND THINK YOU OWN THE PLACE, YEAH? JUST BECAUSE YOU'VE GOT A HISTORY DEGREE AND PAY £700 A MONTH TO RENT ONE ROOM IN A FLAT. HEY, LOOK WHAT I CAN DO: I CAN PAINT THE WALLS IN MY FLAT BECAUSE I DON'T HAVE A LANDLORD, YEAH? THE ONLY DECORATION YOU HAVE IN YOUR ROOM IS THE SAME WEAK STRING OF FAIRY LIGHTS YOU'VE BEEN WRAPPING AROUND VARIOUS HEADBOARDS SINCE YOU WERE IN UNI. SO YES, COME BACK HERE, WHERE YOU CAN WALK FROM ONE SIDE OF THE TOWN TO THE OTHER, AND PINTS COST LESS THAN FIVE POUNDS, AND THE ECONOMY IS HARDY ENOUGH, AND EVERYONE IS SETTLED HERE, AND LIVES A SMALLTOWN LIFE SHUTTLING BETWEEN COMFORTABLE SQUIDGY SOFAS WITH SKY TV IN FRONT OF THEM AND THEN DRINKS IN THE SAME THREE PUBS AD INFINITUM, BECAUSE IS WHAT YOU'RE DOING ANY BETTER? LOOK DOWN ON ME, BECAUSE I HAVE ONE KID AND AM EXPECTING ANOTHER, WHEN YOU KEEP RUNNING OUT OF SUPER LIKES BECAUSE YOU CAN'T EVEN AFFORD PROPER TINDER? COME BACK HERE, TO A FAMILY THAT LOVES YOU BUT YOU THINK YOU'RE TOO GOOD FOR, BECAUSE YOUR SISTER LIVES ON THE SAME ROAD AS YOUR MUM, AND YOU, WITH YOUR VICE LISTICLES, YOU THINK THAT'S TOO LAME, DON'T YOU?" And then they stand up – everyone is cheering, at this point, and singing ancient commuter town songs – "YOU'RE NOT WELCOME IN THIS PUB AND YOU'RE NOT WELCOME IN MY TOWN. GO BACK TO LONDON, WHERE YOU'LL NEVER BUY ANYTHING AND YOU'LL NEVER BE SETTLED. GO BACK TO LONDON, A CITY SO GREY AND GLAMOROUS THAT IT CAN NEVER LOVE YOU."
Merry Christmas, anyway. Kiss your mum for me.
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