Ross O’Carroll- Kelly
‘ Looking back, I have to say that my year in UCD was possibly the happiest three months of my life’
Oisinn rubs his two hands together. “I’m looking forward to this,” he goes. And I tell him – yeah, no – I am, too? The annual Iron Stomach Contest is as much a part of UCD life as wearing your schools rugby jersey for the first 10 weeks of first year and experimenting with your sexuality by getting off with people who didn’t go to fee- paying secondary schools. The rules of the game are pretty straightforward. Ten volunteers sit in a line and eat course after course of the most disgusting combinations of food you can imagine. Weetabix with ketchup. Strawberry ice cream with peas. Dog food on sour dough, slathered with toothpaste.
Now, so- called foodies who are reading this will no doubt be thinking, ‘ We ate worse things than that when we ordered the tasting menu at Heston Blumenthal’s.’
But in this case, each course has to be devoured within a strict, 60- second time limit, while washed down with beer that’s two years past its expiry date. Contestants are eliminated as they spew. The one who holds everything down the longest is declared the winner.
As a former champion, Oisinn is invited to attend every year – a bit like The X Factor when they bring back the likes of Alexandra Burke to tell everyone how great things are going for them today ( she’s doing Strictly now).
“As soon as the summer ends,” Oisinn goes, “I stort thinking about this day. It’s so exciting to see all the new talent coming through.”
I’m there, “Looking back, I have to say that my year in UCD was possibly the happiest three months of my life.”
But as we approach the Orts Block, there’s a shock waiting for the Big O and me. The place is, like, deserted. I’m like, “What the basic-? Where is everyone?”
Oisinn goes, “We didn’t get the date wrong, did we?”
I’m like, “The 24th of October. Yeah, no, I was talking to Ro about it two nights ago,” and at the same time I whip out my phone to find out where he is. He answers by going, “Rosser, I caddent thalk.” I’m like, “Dude, what’s the deal? It’s 11 o’clock in the morning! Why aren’t there drunk people in front of the Orts block eating survival rations for our amusement?” “It’s off, Rosser.” I’m like, “Off?” and I watch a look of concern spread across Oisinn’s face. “The Iron Stomach Contest has been held every year for the last 40 years.”
Ronan goes, “Come to Theatre L, Rosser, and I’ll explayun it to you.”
We end up having to ask for directions, of course. The last time I was in a theatre, I was shouting, “Behind you!” at Maureen Potter.
Theatre L turns out to be this, like, humungous lecture hall and this morning it’s rammers – we’re talking standing room only?
Ronan meets us at the door and tells us what’s happening. “They’re throying to impeach the President of the Freshers Soshiddle and Entherthainmint Commithee,” he goes. “A girl Ine sort of seeing called Bealtaine Moorphy.”
I’m like, “Bealtaine Murphy?” and I look down and see a girl in her late teens standing at a podium, wearing gold chains of office, similar to the ones my old dear wore when she was the Lady Mayor of Foxrock. Standing a few feet to her left is another girl at another podium. The atmosphere in the theatre is electric.
Oisinn goes, “Why are they trying to impeach her?”
Ronan’s there, “Well, Ine koyunt of involfed. Here, I bethor go. Ine actually a witness.”
Me and Oisinn lean against the wall at the back of the theatre and we just watch. It ends being something similar to a trial. It turns out that Bealtaine Murphy has been chorged with a thing called microaggression, which – yeah, no – is a new one on me as well.
The student who’s doing the actual impeaching is called Lisa Snyder and she storts asking Bealtaine the hord questions.
She goes, “One week ago, Madam President, two witnesses, in the cor pork, overheard you asking a fellow student from a socially disadvantaged area to tell you where he was from?”
I immediately realise that she’s talking about my son.
Bealtaine’s there, “Yes, that’s true, I did ask him where he lived.” Everyone storts booing and hissing. “Well,” Lisa goes, “is that not the dictionary definition of microaggression – the casual degradation of a socially marginalised or economically oppressed people through the careless use of language by those of privilege?”
“You’re a focking disgrace,” someone shouts and loud cheers follow.
“I’m saying it wasn’t microaggression,” Bealtaine goes. “I offered him a lift home and it was in that context that I asked him where he lived.”
“That’s reet,” Ronan shouts. “She was going howum to Portmeernock and Finglas was on her way in addyhow.”
Lisa goes, “I would point out to the witness that the oppressed person is not always the best judge of whether they’ve been oppressed or not. That’s what makes microaggression such a pernicious form of injustice. I put it to you, Madam President, that this slight – which caused deep offence to those who heard it and those who have heard it repeated subsequently – is part of a larger conspiracy of victimisation against those whose voices are unheard.”
Oisinn looks at me and just shakes his head. He’s there, “Are you telling me that this is what passes for student entertainment these days?”
I’m there, “What a waste. Could they not be, I don’t know, eating stuff while they’re shiteing on? Earwig sandwiches. Bonjella on a cream cracker. Blah, blah, blah.”
Ronan ends up suddenly losing it. “This is all a load of ast- me- bleaten- boddicks,” he goes. “The geerl just oppered me a lift howum is all.”
And that’s when Lisa suddenly turns her anger on him. “A girl?” she goes. “Why are you referring to her as a girl?”
Ro’s there, “Er, cos she is a geerl?” and he has a big stupid smile on his face, which tells me he’s definitely slept with her.
Lisa goes, “But why are you choosing to define her in purely gender terms? Do you not think that’s a bit anti- intersectionalist? Or should I say man- ti- sectionalist?”
The boos ring out around the lecture hall.
Poor Oisinn’s hort is broken. “Come on,” he goes. “We don’t belong here anymore.”
ILLUSTRATION: ALAN CLARKE