Help, I’m still not over Paul Mescal

It’s been two months since Normal People what’s going on?

Boys from TV come and go. Whether it’s on a reality show or a Netflix film they’re all the same to me. I’ll objectify them a bit, maybe tweet something thirsty, then toss them aside for the next one, like a conveyor belt of unattainable straight men. In the past I’ve spoken more specifically about Harry from Too Hot To Handle, Harry Styles’s Watermelon Sugar video and, well, most of the boys from Love Island with a level of depravity that made the angels tut in Heaven. These obsessions faded as quickly as they arrived. However, one man has been occupying an infuriating amount of real estate in my brain since I first encountered him in April. That man’s name is Conn- I mean- Paul Mescal.

It’s been over two months since I mainlined all eight episodes of Normal People, two months since I began having existential crises about how normal it is to be that infatuated by a character unable to form coherent sentences, or a pair of O’Neils shorts. It’s become a real problem. My Instagram explore feed sates my filthy addiction with endless snaps from stan accounts. Unbidden, my hand moves to click on any article with his name in it: whether he’s reading children’s books, plugging a short film he’s going to be in, or filming a charity skit with Hot Priest from Fleabag.

But I’ve had enough of him. I’m fed up with my own obsession. I want my life back, Paul, and so do the rest of us. To absolve us of our sins and move on we must first face our horny demons and recognise them for what they are. To that end, let’s unpack exactly why the Mescal phenomenon has lasted as long as it has:

We’ll start at the beginning with Normal People itself. I liked it, sure. We all did. It tackles important issues with subtlety and nuance. But crucially “Connell being naked a lot” is a central plot point – don’t look at me like that, you know it’s true. There is a lot of shagging in Normal People and while that shouldn’t necessarily have been the main takeaway, it certainly was for the deviant who made a compilation of the sex scenes and put them on PornHub. Connell’s character is just a bunting line of green flags – he’s fit, self-aware, quietly confident, fit, smart, respectful and fit. His voice sounds like ASMR and they knew what they were doing when they dressed him in that Gaelic football kit. They knew. To be honest, Connell’s one character flaw is that he’s slightly unavailable emotionally, which – I mean – tick.

Being in Normal People propelled Paul Mescal to mainstream ubiquity straight away. Profiles in Stylist, The Guardian, and Glass showed us what he looked like in nice lighting. The Stylist piece deserves special mention because it shows him sitting in a field of flowers. It’s a bit like The Girl with the Pearl Earring painting except the girl is Paul Mescal, the earring is instead a chain, and it’s in his mouth not his ear – actually it’s nothing like the painting. It’s better.

Oh, and about that chain. It would be remiss to talk about what made Connell so attractive without talking more in depth about The Thin Silver Chain of Untold Power, an object so iconic Paul would go on to raise a whole £60 grand for charity selling it. Connell’s chain was a kind of lightning rod of desire and a lot of time was spent talking about it. Outlets rushed to publish features smushing together expert opinion and horniness in an attempt to explain why his chain was so compelling. And idk about you but it was kind of exhausting. Really it was just an attempt to avoid talking about the shallower aspects of his attractiveness, like ~his arms~. Chains are attractive, whatever, but lots of men wear chains. Ultimately you’d still cream your pants if Connell looked at you and said “I think you’re pretty” while wearing one of those candy necklaces from a party bag. That’s the tea.

Following Normal People, the visceral reaction to Connell from the horny lockdown populace was as immediate as it was wonderful: Instagram accounts began following his every move; one was even set up specifically for his chain to feed the thousands of Connell-obsessives tweeting pure filth about it.  It was revealed he lives among us and goes for runs in East London with his top off and his chain on. Paul had us in the palm of his hand and we weren’t going anywhere. We thought we were at peak Mescality, but it was all foreplay for the arrival of *that* photo.

The now famous snap of Paul sauntering through the streets carrying prawn cocktail crisps and wearing a kaleidoscope outfit, complete with the O’Neills Shorts of Destiny, quickly became a key historical artefact in Mescalology. It was our first insight into what Paul looked like in the wild when he wasn’t being Connell and we liked what we saw. VICE declared the image “the sartorial embodiment of the phrase ‘got any on ya?’, and imagined Paul “would give you a cig in the smoking area and laugh when you say ‘no thanks, actually’ because he’s offered you a straight,” if ever there were a platonic ideal for attractive men according to VICE, it was Paul Mescal, apparently. 

Whether you bought that vision of him or not isn’t the point. Paul has something for everyone, whether you imagine him as a wholesome fella who you could invite to the family roast, a softboi looking you dead in the face while he licks a rollie, or the rugby lad who broke your heart in second year. It doesn’t matter. Paul Mescal is open to interpretation and indeed projection. He is both all of these men and none of them. For those of us without a lockdown boyfriend, he was everyone’s lockdown boyfriend.

But to my fellow Mescalites, though this may be hard to swallow, we need to calm down. This has gone on long enough. Paul Mescal is not going to shag you, mate. The construct we’ve created from Instagram GIFs from Normal People is not a substitute for a boyfriend. Paul scratched an itch and that’s okay. But now it’s time to leave him be, at least before the next series he’s in.

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