How to become a BNOC

This is 100% pure spite.


In light of The Tab’s hit “100 Biggest BNOCs”, I thought it might be something of a public service to detail exactly how I rose through the ranks of sized names on campus – I mean, I don’t want to show off, but people know me.

I tell people my name in the Cindies smoking area and they’re like “hey yeah, I think I’ve heard that before somewhere, I think. Do you work at the Union?” Someone once made me a business card.

For sure, the life of a Grade D BNOC* – whose minimal notoriety comes from no longer editing a trashy newspaper – is one I’d advise for anyone. Here’s how I went about it:

1) Develop an unhealthy desire to prove yourself

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Look, I know a man who used to be TV. VALIDATE ME

Motivation has to come from somewhere, and what better place than your crippling feelings of inadequacy? Overcome the soul-crushing experience of no longer being the best nerd by simply shifting the focus of your self-esteem to popularity and success. After that there is quite literally no going back.

2) Redefine ‘popularity’ and ‘success’

Let’s face it, as a BNOC you are going to be a busy person – you don’t have time for ‘friends’ in the conventional sense. I for one now understand popularity as being able to walk around Life on a Sunday night and know at least four people well enough to embrace them, tell them we should hang out more and promptly move away, saying you’ve got to down some j-bombs with the head of The Cool Society.

The Head of The Cool Society may or may not also be called Dave

The Head of The Cool Society may or may not also be called Dave.

Likewise, your ideas about success are going to have to change. I long ago gave up that dream of getting a First – at least until third term of final year, when I promise I’ll give it all up and cram like hell. Instead, success must be measured by your ability to be able to pin down the roles of President of the Socks society, Publicity Officer for the Cambridge Beekeepers and get 80 likes whenever you change your profile picture.

3) Redefine what constitutes an ‘interesting conversation’

If you’re going to become a Big Name on Campus, your expectations of the art of confabulation are going to have to change rather drastically. Here are a few examples:

Society stuff

Ah, society politics, what a blessing you are for us awkward types who want to prove we’ve got social skills. I could talk for hours about how that thing we organised was really good or how we both think Jenny is nice but ultimately incompetent in her role as Editor of Things.

We are all dead inside

We are all dead inside.

How many other people you know

What better way to bond than by having a conversation the Facebook ‘mutual friend’ feature essentially rendered obsolete? You go to a college? I know Alan from that college – do you know Alan?

Let me tell you about how Alan and I are really good mates and he’s actually a really lovely guy (despite what you might have heard about his views on abolishing the poor) once you get to know him. Which, by the way, I do. Very well. What a lovely guy.

Is Alan Dave? Maybe

Is Alan “Dave”? Maybe.

Unless you don’t think he’s a lovely guy. I mean, he is actually a bit of a bellend. He talks about abolishing the poor, for Christ’s sake. Free speech.

How stressed and busy you are all the time

Gee these pictures of people looking stressed and busy have paid for themselves

Gee these pictures of people looking stressed and busy have paid for themselves. Fucking Cambridge, amirite?

This one is key – it’s a great way to excuse yourself for only having spoken to this person once this term while still acting to be one of their closest friends without having to come to terms with the fact you’re utterly forgetful and crushingly alone. It definitely makes people feel sorry for you. You definitely didn’t make your own bed and now have to sleep in it.

Jokes about how much of a BNOC you are

I mean, if you’re self-aware it doesn’t count, right? If you make light of it, nobody will notice how seriously you actually take yourself. Even if not, you just got them into the club for free so they have to be your friend. Suck it.

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There is no reason to put this image here, except to prove that I took part in Best Bums. I came eighth. Suck it, “George” (Dave?).

4) Become very, very flexible with your principles

The issue of political allegiance is probably one best avoided – you wouldn’t want somebody disliking you over something as silly as an opinion, now would you?

But sometimes necessity dictates and you are forced to state what you actually believe in. When selecting the principles you want to stand by, you are going to need to read the room very carefully: something like “Free Speech” is usually a safe option if they are a) male or b) from the South; while your longstanding commitment to “Equality” and “Opportunity” will need to be thrown in if they are c) neither of the above. Don’t bring up the fact you may or may not have voted for Jeremy Corbyn.

This can be our little secret

This can be our little secret

5) Develop a sense of superiority

With any luck, your deeply unstable drive for short-term success and popularity have worked. You are now going to need to develop a sense of superiority to ward off the encroaching self-doubt.

Tell yourself you are special, that you were pre-determined to achieve everything you have achieved because you’re just not like everyone else: lovely as they are in their own special way, but unadventurous; lacking in self-belief; narrow-minded. That’s why you didn’t get invited to college predrinks, and why you haven’t posted on the “Football and general banter” thread for three months, and why the only thing people ask you about is the thing everyone knows you do.

You are A Big Fish. You have A Big Fish card. You are A Big Fish. A Big, Lonely Fish.

*I’m on the 100 biggest BNOCS – that’s objective proof, not just pure ego.