A Lad Goes Bogan in Bali
I was thinking about the word “lad” the other day, because that’s the kind of thing I like to do in my spare time. In America they call them a “bro”. In Brazil you might call them “tizao”. In the UK, being a lad basically means you fart, drink beer, fall over and shout a lot.
I am, for all intents and purposes, a lad.
But then I came to Bali, which seems to be the Australian equivalent of Ibiza, i.e. where young people to go get fucking pissed and collect STIs, and was told there was no such thing as a “lad” here, even though it seemed like the exact kind of place that Australian lads would visit if they existed, in the same way that Ibiza is the exact place that actual real life UK lads go, because they do in fact already, sadly, exist. Sure, Bali had blokes, legends, dudes and bogans, but no lads. But apparently bogan was the closest definition to what I just described myself as.
Now, in the UK we’re hyper sensitive about class, and I was also informed that the term bogan could easily equate to “chav” in UK parlance, which in the UK is a pejorative way of describing a working class person, a move that if you tried in most pubs nationwide in Blighty would likely get you dutifully thrown out of said establishment and/or respectfully glassed in the process.
But surely Australian men can’t either be deemed bogans or hipsters without there being a middle ground that I could relate to? What does it even mean to be a lad anyway, what are the universal traits, their hopes, their dreams? Surely a lad by any other name would still smell as much of BO and stale Sambuca?
To find out, I tested the most typically “lad on tour” activities I could, to see if I could connect with the universal ladness that runs through us all.
Now, on the left, you can see a classic example of British lad on tour aesthetique. Trainers, even in the scorching heat, yes, because I have pale goblin feet. Shorts that are too short? Yes, but I don’t really know why this happens, lads just like short shorts. Polo shirt done up to the top button? Of course, I need to look smart for fuck’s sake. A face that is permanently primed to shout “WHEEEEEEEEYYYYYY!” at the drop of a hat? Yes, because I might want to look smart but I am not actually going to behave in any way smart for one second.
Now, on the right is apparently how the Australian bros in Bali dress. I have no idea what I’m wearing, but I noticed I fitted right in, especially on the busy high streets of Kuta, so felt ready to hit the Bintang beers and do some classic lad on tour activities.
Now, drinking is obviously a major part of what constitutes a lad’s holiday. You wake up, you drink. You have breakfast, and Ryan’s piped up about how funny it would be if you had shots. So you do shots. Then you have lunch, and after your terrible bloating has died down, you have afternoon beers. Then you have a huge dinner to stave off an irrevocable alcoholic collapse, then drink even more to get over how bloated you feel, again. By then, you’re pretty pissed, and in Bali, the two-for-one cocktails and banter was flowing in the many nightclubs I visited. They even had these cages I saw loads of men doing a kind of “ironic but also kind of wanting to draw attention to myself” dance in. So I danced, with my two-for-one cocktails that looked somewhat fittingly like they were in protein shakers, yes I danced up a fucking storm to the synthetic, chest-beating EDM concerto. This activity made me feel right at home, on a lads holiday.
After a few quiet drinks, I, like many of my fellow Commonwealth brethren, was ripe for pickings from the many tourist traps along a swelteringly busy road. Stalls, restaurants, bars, clubs and tattoo parlours were all vying for the drunkenly malleable attention and impressionable wallets of me and all the other dudes on the street, and were seemingly targeting them via the means of an age old lad icebreaker: sports teams. “Collingwood!” they’d cry, “Hey Collingwood, nice shorts!” and so on. Apparently, I learned that Collingwood is a footy team? But like, Australian footy, because what we call footy they call soccer, and what they call footy we call rugby. So like, they’re a rugby team.
I myself was approached by a very polite old man, who instantly whispered, “Hello sir, would you like to buy some psuedoephedrine?” in what was the most courteous drug dealing I’d ever experienced. I’d heard that pseudoephedrine was all the rage with big, beefy Australian blokes looking to get “cooked” before a long night of swinging their vests over their heads and downing beers in an overpriced club, so I thought I’d better try it out, for cultural exchange reasons.
HOLY SHIT, WHAT THE FUCK WAS IN THAT INCREDIBLY POLITE MAN’S DRUGS THAT I BOUGHT FOR ROUGHLY £2 QUID IN A DARK ALLEYWAY, BECAUSE I’M FEELING CHARGED AS FUCK AND READY TO HIGHLIGHT THE MINUTIAE OF HOW MALE CULTURE DIFFERENTIATES ACROSS COUNTRIES.
Now that these shady pharmaceuticals were internally mixing with alcohol in a way that, from how my heart was feeling, seemed to indicate calamity and potential death, I thought about potential death for a bit. All men love a bit of potential death, especially on holiday. Literally any journey that requires a man to use his own basic motor skills runs an incredible risk of potential tragedy after a few beers. I’d noticed out here that a lot of the dudes seemed to give absolutely minus zero fucks about health and safety, in that they were all careering around the breathlessly frantic streets of Bali without any helmets, shirts, or even shoes on most the time, and at speeds that probably made their mothers shudder involuntarily in telepathic disapproval. So, half because I was rushing off prescription drugs and half because I wanted to delve into the essence of masculinity at large, I tried it out, and let me tell you, it made me feel extremely, as the local tourists say, “ripper”.
Another staple male behaviour that kind of ties in with being reckless, and perhaps also with the scars you get from performing said recklessness, is getting tattoos. I noticed from the sheer tidal wave of obsidian skin, tribal-themed legs and motivational quote-filled arms attached to people that said the word “cunt” seemingly as a term of affection that I couldn’t be a real lad unless I got some ink myself, and the bigger, the better. So to commemorate this sweaty and impulsive feeling coursing through my veins, I decided to get a tattoo of a phrase that is really meaningful to me personally, yet can also handily be found on loads of signs and posters in faux spiritual locations throughout Bali: the phrase “Live, Laugh, Love”. Here look, look at my unbridled joy at the beauty of being able to permanently paint my skin with such pure wisdom, look at how well I was ingratiating myself into manhood, look at how sweaty and ham like my face is.
By now, I was running out of ways to get into the spirit of the universal lad, yet my treatise on whether there was in fact some innate form of objective ladness was far from complete. From what I could see, men here seemed to act just as obnoxiously and entitled as us Brits do abroad, but they just didn’t call themselves “lads”, and defined how they behave as “lad culture”. So is that it, or is there a way of life hidden in these bottles of cheap local beer?
I was about to give up when I ran into these experienced looking dudes, and thought they might provide some sage wisdom.
“We just came here to have a laugh,” said the guy in the dress. “We don’t get to spend much time together, so it’s great to unwind with your mates.”
“Yeah, it’s just a bit of harmless fun; we’re not hurting anybody, just having a few bevvies with the fellas,” said the guy doing the thumbs up.
Things began to become clearer in my mind now. Thoughts, words, ideas around the universal qualities of what makes a lad all began to coagulate in my brain.
Maybe, like Brits abroad, all men just like the simple act of having fun with their pals, even if that fun is usually unbearable for anyone within a 10-metre physical and 75-metre audio radius of them. I guess masculinity is going through a bit of a crisis at the moment, with some traditional male characteristics now losing relevance and looking more and more archaic every day. Maybe being a lad, getting together with your mates and just being boorish is the male way of rebelling against that, a way of asserting that certain elements of their masculinity, however asinine, are still alive and well. Or, maybe men just love to act like dickheads, I dunno.
Either way, I felt like I’d come a bit closer to understanding the comprehensive laws of being lad. Which was a great thing to ponder when I woke up in a pool in a stranger’s house the next day with the most banging hangover ever.