Little Head

Ordinarily when I see the picture, ideas start presenting themselves pretty quickly… granted, they aren’t always that good, but I normally get something that I can work with. This week, however, I got nothing.

Which isn’t entirely true. I got a whole bunch of little malformed notions, but nothing that I could take beyond the initial basic concept.

It’s because I’m too close to the subject. When I see two melons, I immediately think innuendo, and innuendo is something I’m closely acquainted with.

I was bad before, but then I met my fiancee, and now I’m worse.

But it seems that when you’re so used to thinking dirty thoughts, suddenly needing to becomes a problem. Every idea I came up with required characters who could actually speak in filthy tongues, and it just wasn’t happening.

*

The other day we were visiting with friends, and they were talking about a recent evening of movie watching that they’d done with some of their friends. Apparently, someone in a film had been faced with the dilemma of whether or not they would have sex with one of their parents to save the life of the other.

When the film was over, the question went around the group, and eventually landed up at one girl, who admitted that she would sleep with one parent, to save the other. It was unclear, as the story was recounted to us, exactly which parent she was willing to sleep with. None of us was sure which would be worse.

My feeling is, what’s the point of saving your parents if the result is that none of you can ever look each other in the eye again? And, I mean, kids are supposed to outlive their folks, aren’t they?

My stance was concreted by my uncertainty on exactly how sleeping with the one was going to save the other. Was it a one time thing? Was there a guarantee on how many years you’d get, or could you keep them alive indefinitely by repeated, you know, events?

The funny thing is, the people who know me think that I’m the weird one. But they manage to have conversations like that all by themselves.

*

In one of my ideas, a couple went from initial meeting to eventual seduction and everything they both said was a double entendre, at least until the very last moment, at which she would cut through the whole charade with a single, blunt and frank proposition.

In another, two men are in a bar, and one of them is painfully single. He’s doing okay to begin with, with girls happy to come over and talk to him, but he has an inability to talk to girls in anything other than innuendo. The thing is that the girls don’t seem to mind, but despite pretty much talking dirty from introduction, the guy can’t seem to go beyond chatting. His friend tries to advise him, but he just can’t “close the deal”.

These aren’t awesome ideas, but if I could have pulled off the dialogue, they might have worked.

But the second I started trying to come up with the actual double-talk, I realised I wasn’t going to get anywhere.

*

I met my fiancee at a work do. The place we worked laid on a lot of food and drink, and I like free food and drink, so I was happily chomping away on tiny triangular sandwiches, oily little samosas, and cute little battered king prawns.

I picked up what I was certain was a chicken nugget or something, and bit into it. What I had assumed was solid was actual full of a thick savoury cream, and the particular way in which I’d bitten into it meant that, rather than it dropping onto my own clothes – as I later realised had happened to other people, from the frantic dabbing of napkins – an arc of the off-white ooze arced away from me, and landed in some older lady’s hair.

She didn’t seem to have noticed, but I felt guilty, so tapped her on the shoulder and explained what had happened. She took it well, but I was mortified.

The way I’ve always dealt with that sort of embarrassment is to try to own it. Part of me always expects word to get around anyway, and I’d rather tell people what actually happened than have them hear a confused version of it. It’s… not a perfect coping mechanism.

So I mingled among the large group of people, most of whom I knew, and most of whom simply mocked me. Which was kind of what I expected.

Eventually I encountered a cute but only vaguely familiar girl, and true to form, I told her my story of culinary incompetence. And she, alone among a couple of dozen people, made a comment likening the savoury squirt to a particular human bodily fluid. In among my bewilderment, I hadn’t even made the obvious, hilarious connection.

And at that point a chain reaction started inside me that was almost inevitably going to end in love.

*

I was fairly certain I could get some material out of songs with sexual connotations. There’s a tradition of trying to get away with naughtiness in pop music, but I could only think back as far as George Formby, who was forever seeing dirty things in other people’s windows, or waiting on corners for ladies of questionable morality.

And then I could only really think of Kylie Minogue and her request that we put ourselves in her place.

There are definitely more. You guys can probably think of a dozen without blinking. Other people are better at this sort of thing than me.

This guy I knew, he swore blind that in the video to The Cure’s “Why Can’t I Be You?” the famously not-really-only-pretending-to-be dour Robert Smith has a dance for the chorus, which turns finger-letters out of the “Why?” and the “Be”, makes a point out of both “I” and “You”, but resorts to a naughty hand signal representing female genitalia for the final word.

Everyone knows a dude whose brain is a database for sex in songs. There’s him, and there’s the guy who can explain to you why every song ever written is about drugs.

This particular dude never noticed that Louise Wener’s sung statement that every lady should love her countryside didn’t make any sense unless you looked to the dirty, though.

Then there’s “Come On Eileen”, of course.

*

My girl and I, we’re as bad as each other when it comes to checking out girls. I mean, we’re not creepy, or anything. But we’re rude.

In a lot of ways, we’ve managed to infect our whole social group. Or else we’ve managed to get to know a lot of people who are just as unsavoury as we are by coincidence.

It’s good, though. It’s good not needing to worry about saying something too shocking to your peers, and the interesting thing is that for the most part it makes communication more silly, and less spiky. We make more daft, dirty jokes than actually offensive ones.

But then, I suppose we would think that.

When given license to say anything, I’ve found that you tend not to quite so much.

*

We English have a peculiar relationship with filth, that ties into our peculiar relationship with everything. We’re very tolerant of most things, except the ostentatious. Generally, most of us have a live-and-let-live approach to the lives of others, but at the same time, we don’t like it when people get too noisy, or proud, or openly happy.

It makes for a strange brew. The rest of the world thinks we’re prudish, or slaves to restraint, but behind closed doors we can be debauched with the best of them, and we’ve always been good at finding ways to hide our naughtier instincts in plain sight, behind our language.

Our relationship with innuendo evolves, though. A few decades ago, an old lady in a situation comedy could make a comment on primetime TV about her soaking wet pussy, and it’d be funny mainly because of the double entendre. Everyone could pretend that what she was saying was perfectly innocent, because she was talking about something perfectly innocent. But time moved on, and popular entertainment became more direct in it’s approach, the skin between primary and secondary meanings eroded a little. Now, if a blue-rinsed old lady tells you about her pussy, soaking wet or otherwise, it’s no longer cheeky, it’s just dirty.

*

My brother-in-law still buys lad mags. Not the expensive ones, that have features on clothes and gadgets and proper interviews and articles. The ones with columns by people like Danny Dyer, that are basically Take A Break with tits. Like Danny Dyer. But also, you know, human, female breasts.

My first instinct is to recoil at the things, but then I realise that they’re basically as daft and harmless and pointless as pretty much every other trivial piece of pop-entertainment fluff that we’re surrounded by these days, and I relax my right-on reflex. The way I see it, nobody whose TV remote has ever wavered and clicked over onto a channel with a talent show, of any description, or a reality show, celebrity or vanilla, really gets to say what is or isn’t trash culture, or exploitative. And you don’t feel quite so much like the notion of flicking through a magazine with a few knob gags and topless bimbos in its pages is a sign that you’re somehow possessed by the devil or otherwise immersed in human detritus when you realise how universally everybody you know defaults to watching Jeremy Kyle’s parade of yuck if they happen to be stuck at home when it’s on.

Basically, I don’t like to judge.

Besides, my sister finds it funny more than anything else.

When we went to visit our six-month-old nephew, we learned that apparently he’s oddly obsessed with Mickey’s Funhouse, the giraffe toy we bought him a while back, and the girls in the magazines.

They’ve run tests – when you show him a page with naked ladies on it, his eyes widen, he grins like a maniac-baby, and he shakes, his arms at the side, like one of the Tracey brothers on his way to a mission. A car advert, or a page of screenshots and movie reviews, nothing.

The baby likes breasts.

Which is why Amy and I spent a chunk of our weekend with him on one of our laps, leafing through the pages, cooing “look at the boobies, look at the boobies!”, and discussing the relative merits of each girl as if it reading him Dr Seuss.

*

We like our convenient mistruths, is the thing, and we don’t like it when someone says something that shakes our foundations. We especially don’t like it when they seem to be telling the truth.

A well-known, successful and now quite powerful female porn star does an appearance on Tyra Banks’ show, and because her straight answers to questions about how damaged the industry must have left her all come up saying that she’s had an ultimately positive experience, she’s as good as called a liar, and the production geared to diminishing her words.

A couple of weeks back, a prominent scientist and advisor to the British Government was fired because his honest reporting of the evidence about the negative effects of drugs wasn’t negative enough. It was, apparently, irresponsible to give the impression that drugs weren’t as dangerous as the current mainstream perception of drugs would have them.

This week, a famous blogger, who had kept herself anonymous because she was blogging about being an escort, outed herself, rather than have a disgruntled ex do it. Previously, commentators had complained that she probably wasn’t genuine, and that it was some male or female author who was glorifying prostitution. When it became clear that she actually was a woman, and a true-to-life whore, the commentary changed tone, but the message was clear – by telling the truth she is still irresponsibly glorifying prostitution, and by claiming she’s been left relatively undamaged by the experience, she’s also probably either deluded or lying.

The woman now works in medical research. She is an honest-to-god scientist, examining links between exposure of children to pesticides, and cancer. There are three media buzz-words in there that should make her a fucking hero of the right and left wing press, but instead they’re after blood.

The funny thing is – and I don’t think it’s all that funny – it’s going to escape the media that her years of prostitution, a matter of frank public record, are going to turn out to be pain, torment, scrutiny and exploitation free, in comparison to the nightmare that the commentary is going to put her through.

*

The genius of the English language, which is also apparently one of the difficult things about it, is how context sensitive it is. One word can mean many things, and it can be stretched and forced by intonation to mean many others, and quite often it’s the intonation and the stretching that brings the meaning, and not the word itself.

Prostitution can mean a lot of different things. Anyone wondering about that should think about all of the time they’ve spent doing something that they would rather not be doing, because they were getting something out of it. It’s a lesson our parents teach us, when they want the car cleaned or our room tidied, and it sticks with us.

The lad mags operate in a linguistic phantom zone where any word or term, made plural, on the same page as a picture of a particularly endowed lady, can mean “breasts”. This isn’t a unique phenomena – if the context of the containing statement suggests it, you can pull the same trick with testicles, too. Any large or rounded item can be swapped out for a bottom or a beer-gut, with instant comprehension.

It’s a school of language that you can see back through comedy and music and even actual, real sex, if you go looking for it, and it informs our way of processing the world around us. For my purposes, I suppose, it’s tied closely into our relationship with sex, our attitudes to sex, how we have it, and how we don’t. It’s powerful, too – pushed too far in one direction, it can encourage puritanical behaviour, and too far in the other, license. Not really license to do anything particularly evil or mean-spirited, but most likely to become boring. The interesting thing to do, when you realise you can get away with saying pretty much anything, is to pick and choose when to do it, and when to keep your gob shut.

*

So, when I see two melons, I think breasts. Of course I do. It’s hardwired. You see melons, breasts. Walnuts, you see, you think testicles. A person – male or female – holding two melons at anything like chest height, boobies. Works with bowling balls, too. That same person takes a couple of walnuts, or plums, or anything that sort of shape and size, and rolls them in their hand, crushing them together, their meaning is pretty clear, too.

*

I record, with three other people, a weekly comic podcast – the Monkey On My Back podcast, or MOMBcast. It’s always pretty profane, and there’s lots of swearing, and rude jokes at each other and the world’s expense.

During this week’s recording, my apparent and sudden innuendo-blindness, as caused by this week’s Elephant Image, reached a critical point.

For some reason, a recurring theme of the show was oral sex – specifically, the storied art of fellatio. It didn’t happen deliberately, it just kept, you know, coming up?

After realising that this was going to be a persistent theme, I started desperately trying to work some line about “a little head”, or there being “no such thing as bad head”. Yes, I know how that makes me sound, but what can I say – I thought I was onto something really special with that particular gag, and the “blow-job episode” of the podcast seemed like an ideal place to kick-start my skills using it.

I totally failed to slip it in.

*

The melon/walnut visual innuendo is also context sensitive, though. It relates to size, and conditions, and moods. But mainly size.

For example, if you see a squirrel – or chipmunk… I’m not trying to be definitive here – struggling with a melon, or two, all you’re going to be doing is worrying about the poor chipmunk. Or Squirrel.

(In case you’re struggling with the thought process, things like “Oooh, that poor little thing’s going to put it’s back out!” or “It’ll never get that up it’s tree” etcetera.)

Give that same small rodent those walnuts we were talking about, and hey presto – thanks to the relative size ration, we’re back at boobies!

See how this works?

*

If I’m honest, you know, I probably spend almost every conversation I ever have trying to find the perfect point to deliver that “a little head” line.

Hasn’t happened yet.

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Nicolas Papaconstantinou
Nicolas Papaconstantinou is an enthusiastic amateur creative type, and the chap behind Elephant Words. Be nice to him. He growed up kinda wrong.

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