Written by Gráinne Maguire

Voices

Personality Holidays

There’s nothing Grainne Maguire likes better than taking a fantasy trip into the lives of people who couldn’t be on a more different page.

I’ve always been fascinated with people I completely disagree with. I don’t want to argue with them or change their mind, I just want to climb into their brain, see the world from their eyes for a bit and follow them around like a one-woman documentary crew trying to figure them out.

I never have certainties; every grandstanding opinion I reach for is always, inevitably, deflated by unknowns, punctured by pragmatism and tamed by the acknowledgement of influences outside people’s control.

I’m like a predictable well-meaning zombie, quietly retweeting the relevant Guardian column, while all my friends do the exact same thing. That’s why I love going on personality holidays, little away breaks from being me; the feminist, left wing, atheist tedious cliché that I am.

I first discovered this giddy thrill working with a woman called June. June loved Cliff Richard, I obviously didn’t, yet when I talked to her, I found myself caught up in her passion.

personality holidays

Illustration by Louise Boulter

The skipping delight I felt suddenly wanting to agree with her, dragging more Cliff anecdotes out of her, ’til I had convinced myself that I loved him just as much as her, if not more.

This wasn’t an act of snobby snarkiness, I genuinely found myself trilling about his amazing charity work and Christmas hits. It was lovely, so relaxing, like being on a personality cruise. I got to see the world from her Sir Cliff tinted sunglasses and it was magical.

Then there was Ben, the ex-public school boy at one of my first temping jobs in London. He was about 21, obsessed with the army, the royal family and convinced that political correctness was ruining the country.

I became obsessed with him; timing my tea breaks so they matched his. I siphoned off his certainty about the world, rode on the coattails of his entitlement and allowed him to carry me on his rugby-broadened shoulders of privilege.

Chatting to Ben, I took a break from fretting about the inequalities of class, I just found myself calmly agreeing with him. In his world there was nothing to get upset about, everything was how it should be, there was nothing to worry about. Life was good, amazing even, almost as brilliant as The Queen.

To really enjoy a personality holiday of course, it’s best to go long haul and it’s across the ocean I found my dream imaginary life: American right-wing, southern teenagers on Twitter.

Their feeds are an embarrassment of gaudy riches, an Aladdin’s cave of ‘did they just say that?’

They are all pro-life, pro-gun, tweet quotes from The Bible and hate feminists. These are thoughts that have never entered your brain before, like weird cereals you only see on American TV.

They all want to be stay-at-home wives, brag about going to university to get a MRS degree (just going to get a husband) and demand that men “wife them up already”.

In a world where everyone feels under pressure to be unique and interesting, they celebrate how aggressively bland and non-threatening they are. They even have a hashtag called #totalwhitegirlmove where they document all the things that make them a total white girl.

I’m terrified they’ll twig I’m not a basic girl, just loving Jesus and Garth Brooks, but an awful feminist liberal living in London.

They include wearing yoga pants, taking Instagram pictures of their Starbucks coffee and quoting Taylor Swift.

It’s like being in an American high school movie where you get to read all the notes they are passing to each other.

I daydream about moving to their life. On my way to work, squashed onto a commuter train, reading about another depressing coalition benefit cut or another news story I should really sign a petition on, I imagine my other life in some southern small town.

In that life, I’ve just dropped the kids, Taylor and Harper, at kindergarten so now I’ve nothing to do but bake and drink sweet tea on the porch till my husband gets home.

In my head I’m played by Julia Roberts, and Reece Witherspoon is the bitchy best friend I don’t trust. It is hypnotic, the certainty of their world view as exotic and alluring as sirens luring sailors onto the rocks. The simplicity is as soothing as a patchwork quilt.

I am worried it’s getting out of control. When one of the accounts I follow (America’s Belle-loves-Jesus, America and her family) started dating another Twitter account American Prep (Classy and Christian) I had to follow him too so I could follow their courtship.

But now I’m following so many of them, one or two have started following me back. I’m terrified they’ll twig I’m not a basic girl, just loving Jesus and Garth Brooks, but an awful feminist liberal living in London.

Then I know they will never ever invite me to the homecoming dance on their pop’s ranch. Or worse still, block me.

In real life I’d last five minutes in their company; they’d hate me almost as much as I’d end up loathing them, but that’s the great thing about personality holidays, they’re a nice place to visit but you don’t have to live there.

@GrainneMaguire

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Written by Gráinne Maguire

Gráinne Maguire is a comedian, comedy writer, lover and a fighter. Loves the Labour Party and Cheryl Cole in equal measures.