On Realising You’re a Fuckwit
I realised recently that I had spent a large proportion of my young adult life as a fuckwit.
Let me define a fuckwit:
Someone who keeps a religious count of how many “chicks” they’ve pulled and uses this number to gain social status. Someone who refers to going out with their male friends exclusively as “hanging with da boiz”. Someone who plays a relatively low level of weekend sport, but behaves like they’re just waiting for the call up to the international side. Someone who brags about fucking a Tinder date bareback, but because of their ego, won’t admit to themselves they’re petrified they’ve contracted an STI. Someone who complains about how many “slags” there are on the dance floor, then proceeds to attempt to go home with at least one of them.
You get the idea.
I think the decline from relatively innocent high school student into total fuckwittery began with University Games. It was advertised to me as “schoolies, but you play sport during the day”. 17-year-old me may have literally frothed at the proposition of schoolies with sport. I can’t quite remember; the four years of excessive drinking and occasional drug use have probably affected my memory.
When at my first uni games I was named “Team Slut”, a role that required me to hook up with as many girls as possible, I felt pride at my selection. But I also couldn’t help but feel sorry for the girls I was going to try and drunkenly mash faces with, because I knew they would be remembered as numbers on a list, and nothing more.
When I was the second of three guys a girl slept with in one night, I knew I would take part in the slut-shaming to follow. Despite knowing how wrong that was, I did it anyway.
When I crossed a red-head off my list on the couch of a hostel common room, I knew she had a boyfriend. I knew how shit he would feel when he found out, but I delighted in the act all the same.
Regrettably, the behaviour described above honestly isn’t that abnormal for many Australian 16-to-20-something-year-olds. Toxic masculinity is gladly embraced by young men such as myself out of fear of being ostracised from the pack.
As someone who was raised on good old country values, this kind of behaviour was a fair stretch from what was expected of me. I could try to justify it by labelling this part of my life as just a rebellious phase. But that would be a cop-out. And it doesn’t excuse shit, especially considering I knew what I was doing was hurting people.
A lot of people talk about the ascent from this stage of their life beginning with some big event, or a definitive “click” moment. I don’t remember ever having that lightbulb moment. At some stage I just asked myself, “What the fuck have you done?” And I couldn’t give a good enough answer. The ritualistic university experience of sex, parties, and hangovers that I had craved so badly in my teens now felt hollow, empty and rather banal.
I think maybe the first tingles of realisation, or at least the first I listened to, manifested during my fifth University Games, which I went to with my girlfriend. Having her there meant the chase was off and I could just observe. I observed how uncomfortable women look when random guys try to grind them on the D-floor. I observed how scared an 18-year-old girl can look when surrounded by people peer-pressuring her into kissing a guy she doesn’t want to kiss. “Sober pash! Sober pash!” they chant, like some kind of pathetic ritual.
I observed how fucked up my behaviour had been.
So, I finished my degree and did what most people do. I planned a big overseas adventure. Four weeks through Cambodia and Thailand with my girlfriend, then a month volunteering in the Maldives with a group of people I’d never met before.
Travel helped define my realisation. Which came about like those fluorescent lights in school classrooms. It flickered and flashed, made some weird noises, and just as it looked like it had finally broken, came on. Casting a dull light that slowly and steadily grew in brightness and brilliance. It sometimes still flickers and makes a weird noise though.
While the old “go travelling after your degree” act is in itself fairly typical, two months abroad made change possible. Seeing the bones of the victims of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia made me realise that the number of girls I’d slept with really doesn’t matter. Laughing through the tears after eating a chilli in a mountain village in Thailand showed me that not all good stories need to begin with, “So I was with this chick, right…”. Living with nine girls for a month taught me the value of making friends and not trying to sleep with them.
Further change came in the months following, when my parents no longer supported me, and I discovered just how expensive the cost of living is. When I realised I hated what I studied, but still needed a job, so sold-out to the 9-5. When I had to value my weekends, and wasting them on worrying whether I’d sexually assaulted anyone last night because I couldn’t remember past 9pm just didn’t appeal anymore.
It was through these times that the full extent of my fuckwittery became clear to me.
I had spent the first 22 years of my life letting other people guide my actions based on what they thought I “should” do. And because of that, I was an absolute (if typical) fuckwit, because we live in a society where, to an un-worldly 17-year-old boy, that is the cool thing to become.
Cover by margot pandone