Friday, September 28, 2007

Watching monks mass-debate*

Beautiful girls go out with beautiful boys,
And average guys go out with average girls.
That's just the way it is, Matchmaker's natural selection,
That's just the way it is, in the search for some affection.
- Rob Clarkson.

It might come as some considerable surprise to you all, given the wonderfully charming, witty, popular and very, very sexy Donkey that I am today, but once upon a time, not all that long ago, I was not quite so wonderfully charming nor witty, I was certainly not popular and as for sexy ... well, maybe a little ... kinda ... sorta ... OK, nah, not sexy at all!

In fact, the Ugly Duckling story of how I came to be this fine, equine specimen of the Blogosphere is a captivating one which I will certainly endeavour to relay to you at some time in the future, and indeed it may take a marathon sitting at the keyboard to bash-out every simmering chapter of highs and lows, love and betrayal, academic accolades and liposuction, but for now, all you need to get yer head around is that, when I was a teenager, I was not attractive at all.

I was short, fat, pimply (to the point of my doctor once showing me the reference to my condition in his dermatology manual, and proudly reading the description out loud enough for the receptionist to hear, "visible, accumulated lakes of pus" – nice!). I also had, for a staggering five years, serious voice-box issues, often breaking the land speed record as I shot from baritone to high alto in a single syllable, and I was already going bald – I think you'll agree, WHAT A CATCH!

And so it will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever set foot in a teenage social environment, or indeed perhaps anyone who has ever watched a B-Grade American High School flick, that I was, from Day 1 at High School, relegated to that social class just below common garden dirt! Every lunch time in the school yard, I would sit alone and eat my lunch, lovingly prepared by my Mother that morning (OK, perhaps it wasn't just my looks putting me in this predicament), and I would watch all the different groups hanging-out, laughing, chatting and occasionally tormenting my fellow unfortunates.

There were the so-called "cool" kids – mostly rich as all-get-out, who'd nick their parent's cars every night, wrap them around a pole every couple of months or so, and still maintain the full favour and privilege they deserved from both parents and teachers.

There were the sporty kids – all blond hair, blue eyes; cricket in summer, footy in winter. Skin as unblemished as their season stats. Muscles on their muscles – great looking kids.

There were the naughty kids –always smelling of smoke, their shirts stained and hanging out, their stories of beach-side summers pulling bongs in the morning and getting-off in the evenings with girls the likes of which you'd expect to be hanging out at the Summer Bay Diner. These guys oozed rebelliousness, anarchy and, in hindsight, and in comparison with the above, were really the incredibly cool ones.

Even the Italian kids, commonly referred to as (rather guiltily nowadays) The Wogs, who despite being more or less outcasts before the bronzed, "Aussieness" of the sporty kids, were still, in their way, pretty cool. They had their twelve o'clock shadows by 10am; they had access to their Papa's grappa; they always smoked cigars at parties and wore white scarves over their dinner jackets at formals. These guys may not have been cool in the general school yard pecking order, but they certainly had style, and style counts for quite a lot when it comes to attracting members of the opposite sex.

'Cause really, that's what this post is all about. All of the groups which I've outlined above; the rich kids, the sporty kids, the naughty, rebellious kids, The Wogs and indeed the skaters, the musos, the arties and whoever all had a certain level of style or attractiveness which corresponded to a similar group on the other side of the gender equation, to whom they would be drawn and invariably bound at the lips, like Pavlov's Dogs, whenever the bell rang to announce that class was over.

But let's get back to the Ugly Donkey. Unfortunately, just because one is ugly and has zero charisma, it doesn't mean that the desire isn't there. However, looking, sounding and smelling like one did (did I mention the body odour issue? No? Must have slipped my mind), it just wasn't as easy for us nerdy kids to meet lovely young ladies as it was for our bronzed, toned, wealthy, swarthy, talented, rebellious peers. And because one wouldn't stand a chance with any female in the presence of such he-men, one had to seek alternative activities in order to source superb cross-gender companionship. And so enters Donkey into the world of High School debating.

Basically, what High School taught me was that you have to know your place, and if young Donkey had any hope of ever hooking-up with a female companion who might have been even slightly interested in him, he was going to have to accept that he must aim nice and low, and put up with whatever he could get. The catch-22, of course, was that while debating might have been the only shot an ugly, dirty, smelly Donkey might have had at mixing with the fairer sex, it also had the result of stigmatising me as an even greater nerd than I was already reputed to be, thereby incurring further jibes and alienation from my peers for the rest of my schooling days.

And what was all this pain worth? Well, as you can imagine, not much. The debating girls tended to be short and shy, with blotchy skin, limited social skills and were seemingly ignorant about the world around them. They were devoid of physical style or flare, and they had personalities that could only be described as wrist-slashingly boring. But hey, beggars can't be choosers, and I was all for it!

To be honest, it wasn't just the girls who were boring - the whole debating scene was incredibly dull; it was run by dull teachers, with little or no social skills, who actively discouraged any creativity for fear of their being shown-up as socially inferior to the students, and it attracted a bunch of dull, unworldly, awkward kids with absolutely no concept of their own individuality, and without a coherent, logical argument amongst them. Ridiculous, one-sided attempts at flirting with the opposition rate, to this day, as some of the slowest, most boring moments of my life. With its damaging effect on social standing and its paralysing influence on the human intellect, High School debating was an increasingly steep, descending spiral into a social and emotional void.

Well, as all of us hoary, old chestnuts come to learn in time, things change as you grow older. As one moves from scene to scene, developing a personality and a sense of self, one discovers, fortunately, that those old rules don't have to apply for ever. Donkey changed, and he's reasonably happy with who he is now, but it's taken a very, very long time to get here, a point which was hit home to me this weekend when, of all places, I was wandering through an ancient Buddhist Monastery here in Tibet.

I know what you're thinking, but don't worry, Donkey's not about to go and get all spiritual and Zen on you (besides, I'd hate to be accused of mixing my schools of Buddhist theology). No, it wasn't a spiritual epiphany which caused me to reflect on my personal development, but rather a very physical activity.

As I wandered through the winding, cobbled alleyways of the old monastic colleges, the peace and tranquillity were shattered by a sudden, raucous uproar from behind a wall, and when I ducked under a low archway into a shady garden, there I was struck by the sight of perhaps a hundred crimson-robed, novice monks, sitting in groups of four and five, holding intense theological debates.

But these debates weren't a bunch of no-personality, awkward, malformed, unworldly chumps, standing stiff and stock still and mumbling ridiculously ill-informed assertions into their collars, these were good-looking young, vibrant, bare-armed warriors filled with a lively passion, jumping around excitedly as they shouted their opinions at the tops of their lungs. And perhaps the most striking feature of these debates, especially for this socially and emotionally scarred one-time High School debater, was the way that they would assume Bruce Lee-type poses as they prepared to deliver their final, clincher arguments, and as they did, they'd bring their hands together just millimetres from their opponent's face with a mighty, reverberating smack, and give a triumphant, classic Hong Kong cinema, "Haieeee-ya!"., to thunderous laughs and applause from their audience.

Now that's charisma, that's cool and, dare I say it, that's chick-pulling power! And if young, gangly Donkey had've been exposed to a bit of that kind of debating down at St Stanislaws, circa 1988, well look out girls, the world would have been a very, very different place today.

Incidentally, despite my best efforts, I never did get any action from the debating girls. Talk about one's best-laid plans going awry!

"Everybody was Kung Fu fighting" - a monk at Sera Monastery prepares for his final, fatal blow in the afternoon's theological debate. Pic: Hagas

Thanks for dropping by:

Man at the Pub and The Editor – I know you guys have been lurking, and I hope you're both well. Sorry I can't reciprocate.

* Stole that one from the late Graham Kennedy. Is pretty lame, I know, but hey, lame is Donkey's Middle name – Donkey L. Blog.


Anonymous said...

Hi Donkey,

I was a debater too. Looks like you didnt manage to evolve that much after all.


Love Mrs Donkey

sabrina said...

I wasn't a debater but i thought the debaters were really cool! Seriously....the way you guys do 'kung-fu' with your words is amazing and i always wished i could be cool enough to be a debater.

Cool kids, nerdy kids, gothic kids etc etc...i guess it's just a matter of where you're looking from

Kate S said...

It has taken me several minutes to calm down from the shudderss this induced.

See, I wasn't on the debating team--I was way too shy for that. But the scholarship team - competing against other nerds in timed tests designed to showcase our prowess in Spanish, English and Chemistry--I was all over it. Skinny, crooked-toothed, frizzy-haired, maven of academia.

We would have been friends.

DonkeyBlog said...

I dunno hw this has happened, but for some reason I can view blogs, including my own this morning -

Kate S - wow, scholarship team, new heights in nerdiness! That makes ME shudder.

Sabrina - yeah, I guess ... we all evolve and some of us are even lucky enough to like ourselvesat the end ;)

Mrs D - you'll get yours!