There’s no feeling more horrific than breaking up with the person you’d hoped to spend the rest of your life with, particularly when you live together and everything you own is shared. I’m currently going through a break up and, as I sit here painstakingly writing this article in the notes section of my iPhone (he won the MacBook in the custody battle), I’m trying my best to focus on the fact that I’m surrounded by wonderful friends and family. At times like this, my mother always steps up to the mark. So, as she jetted off for her annual holiday, she offered her house to me. In return for feeding her godawful, homophobic cat, I would receive some much-needed time to clear my head and the chance to pretend I’m a Cheshire housewife.
I waved her off on Tuesday morning and made my way to work with a few instructions on what to feed the devil cat and how to lock the doors. Upon my return that evening, I was greeted with 86,000 notes, all with instructions ranging from which bins need taking out, to which toilet I should take a number two in. After another miserable day, my mother had managed to cheer me up again, even in her absence. Like I do with many things, I took a snap of the hilarious scene and uploaded it to Facebook.
The following day, I was contacted by a reporter from a press agency, who told me she had seen my photo and wanted to write an article about it for an online piece. I didn’t particularly think it was newsworthy, but I agreed to answer a couple of questions, imagining it would make for a cute little news item on a website somewhere that I could show to my mother. I woke the following morning to find the story had been covered by the Metro, the Mirror and, most terrifyingly, the Daily Mail. Initially, I found it hilarious, before realising that I would soon become the target of the brutal and relentless weirdos who leave comments on the site. Even if I’d have saved 500 orphan babies from a fire, the Daily Mail brigade would probably tear me to shreds.
Oh, how they did.
I’m quite a sensitive soul, so I had anticipated that I would spend the majority of the day panic-refreshing the page and crying as I read the barrage of hateful comments but, instead, I found myself uncharacteristically unaffected. If anything, it was intriguing and, at times, quite funny.
I began scrolling, and the immediate thing that jumped out at me was the number of older commenters mentioning the fact that I was 27 and claiming that I should be married with children by now. After all, when they were 18, they already had six properties, 28 children and a really bloody boring and miserable life. It seems to be a generational thing, but give me a gap year over a baby any day. I’ve always said children aren’t for me – I’d only grow to resent them for being both younger and thinner than I am.
I continued to scroll, and what came next were the attacks on my appearance. The photo chosen for the article was from the days before I had accepted the limitations that come with a receding hairline. I was in the denial period, in which I grew it as long as I could, combed it over and hair-sprayed it like there was no tomorrow. The commenters compared it to everything from an upside down bird’s nest to Shredded Wheat – all incredibly accurate comparisons, and not ones to be argued with, so I took it in my stride. What did confuse me, however, were the number of people offended by the angle at which I had placed my hat. I wasn’t aware my hat-positioning skills were so poor, and found myself thinking about it in the shower that evening. Do people look at me in the street because the angle at which I have tilted my hat is too obtuse? Are they laughing behind my back because the peak of my snapback is not central enough? All I could do was scrub the shame away and cry.
Next came those who couldn’t believe that I had a job. “PR executive? So he hands out leaflets for club nights then…” – the bane of every PR professional’s life. To the boys and girls who hand out flyers in Magaluf in return for free Apple Sourz, PLEASE stop saying you work in PR. It really is ruining our lives.
The comments I had expected most before I even opened the article were the claims that I am a fame-seeker. Having been on TV a few times for various bits, this is something I’m relatively used to and don’t particularly entertain. What did surprise me, though, was the number of people that were able to list every TV appearance of mine as though they were a walking IMDB. Whilst I found it flattering that people remembered me, I did worry about how much time they must spend in front of a television.
Following the Daily Mail article, I was contacted by Good Morning Britain to see if I would give a paid interview. Not only this, but they wanted to interview my mum via live link from Turkey. Nothing would have provided me with more joy than seeing my iconic mother being interviewed on breakfast TV with sunglasses on and a cocktail in her hand. Not only that but, given that I only hand out leaflets for a living, I really could have done with the money. Nevertheless, I turned the interview down as I felt it would be damaging to my future career as the famous boy whose photo on Facebook was on the Daily Mail once.
My favourite sub-category of commenters, however, had to be the conspiracists. An alarming number of people had accused my poor mother of being part of an elaborate plan to skyrocket me to internet superstardom. “Has nobody noticed that the handwriting is different on some of the notes?”, they cried. “Why would she not just write it all on one note?”, they shrieked. Just like that, note-gate found itself up there with Diana’s death and 9/11. After gathering up the notes that evening, my mother – not really on holiday, you understand – and I set them on fire and shared a collective cackle, before I headed to Zoella’s house to discuss my next career move.
My mother fared much better in the comment section. Aside from a comment about her having weird handwriting (she vehemently contests this), an overwhelming number of commenters applauded her eccentricity, over-efficiency and unique sense of humour. Following the publication of the article, I sent my mother a frantic WhatsApp message, promising her that my comment about throwing a house party was merely said in jest. Her response? “You’ve had a rubbish time lately. There’s vodka in the cupboard and mixer in the cellar – you enjoy your party.” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I would happily be at the mercy of the Daily Mail brigade all over again. Whilst they may think I’m a fame-hungry Shredded Wheat head, they also think my mum is amazing. And she is. And I’m happy that the entire world knows it.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got an evil cat to feed and a number two to do on the second floor toilet.