It’s an M.I.N.E.field Out There

‘M.I.N.E.’ – ‘Challenge’ – ‘Tell her’ – DECLAN CLANCY explains how three phrases can rule your life.

cesspool challenge dog Formal game Grandma Mine pride tell her

I think the line was crossed on Christmas Day. “Grandma, whose present is this?” “Mine”. My reaction, honed by months of training, is to instantly call for 10 press-ups. I mean, I know she’s 74, but she still works, and exercise does anyone good. Fortunately, I was still in my post-dinner food coma, so all that happened was that I spazzed out slightly on the couch and garbled out something incomprehensible. But alas, this is what my world has come to. If you’ve got no idea what I’m talking about (What have you been doing with your lives?) I’d half recommend not reading on. These three rules will begin to take over your life. However, they will also bring immense enjoyment and gut-wrenching embarrassment, mostly depending on how well you follow the rules. So read carefully.

Firstly, never say the word ‘m-ine’ (notice the Yahweh style break up there). If you pronounce this fatal word, you will have to do ten press-ups immediately, no matter where you are. I’ve seen it done on planes, in packed immigration queues; I even remember a Clare Formal I may have been kicked out of for it. Secondly, if you ever say you’re going to do something outlandish, such as, “I can drink eight shots in a row,” and someone says ‘Challenge’, you are bound (by British law I hear) to carry this out. But the final, and most dangerous, rule to this ongoing conversational circus is ‘Tell Her’.  Venturing an opinion about a member of the opposite sex, detrimental or complimentary, will be met with the emphatic response, “Tell Her”, upon which you will have to walk up to that person, tell them whatever you said, and wait three seconds. Then, usually, run for it. Or, if I’m back in Manchester, crawl up into a ball and play dead. The stiletto wounds should stop bleeding after a couple of weeks.

 This is no small game, confined to a concentrated set of friends, however. Some of the girls I know were surprised to see that ‘m.i.n.e.’ had made it into the 2010 Varsity Ski Trip’s ‘Do’s and Don’ts Brochure’. I wasn’t. It was just another reminder that I must always be on my toes. I’m like a really shit ninja. Conversation, a last bastion of safety in the world of laddishness that invariably becomes student life, has now fallen victim to its macho, alcohol-soaked culture of competition, punishment and humiliation. I just spend my time in a verbal game of cat and mouse where I attempt to avoid saying anything.

Some people say Cambridge breeds the next generation of politicians, and if I did have the horrific misfortune of finding myself treading the murky waters of that cesspool, my public speaking would be spot on; the only personal ‘claim’ I make is the safety word for ‘challenge’, I generally refrain from talking about myself, or claiming ownership of absolutely anything, and I devoutly abstain from making any form of controversial or provocative comment about anyone. In fact, since I was caught on a ‘Tell her,’ to tell a woman bringing her spaniel into the pub, “you have a dog”, I now abstain from making any comments about anyone.

Whilst ‘Challenge’ is definitely the most dangerous (I had a particularly unforgettable incident on a train in Germany this summer), ‘Tell her’ is definitely the meanest, especially with people who, for want of a better phrase, really don’t give a shit. On nights out with the most especially militant of my friends, I’ve seen a girl’s evening ruined in a second with one acidic ‘Tell her’. The problem is, even after we all admit that it was ‘out of order’, the game does not stop. People merely resolve, out of fear of the game, to ensure they cover themselves better in the future.

For when played religiously, one does not find oneself compelled to follow the three rules by the external forces of peer pressure, but something much more strong and dangerous: an internal sense of obligation to the game and your own pride. It’s ridiculous, but just like in a casino, as the stakes get higher, the excitement, rush and, invariably, the enjoyment of the game is heightened.

And in this environment the game and phrases become automatic, reactions unrestrained whatever the social situation. In conversations with normal people who have no idea of the games, I am still playing, forever on edge. Friends of mine (shit!*) will confirm that I play it when no one else does, even when the punishment has no chance of enforcement, and the rules of the game have not been explained to the rest of the present company. I’m scared that one day I’ll find myself with the Senior Tutor, and having doubly restrained myself  not only against playing any of the games, but also from using my everyday syntax, I’ll just be a mono-syllabic grunt who can merely offer ambiguous, non-committal nothings.

That or I go for broke and get the man to give me 10 press-ups, tell his secretary she’s got a lovely pair of melons, and masturbate in the middle of front court.

*I honestly just did 10 press ups.