Ayșe can barely contain her excitement “Ha! You’re not the only president in the family now you know!”
She pauses for dramatic effect. Then clears her throat very loudly to ensure she has the attention of the entire room before proudly announcing that she is the newly elected president of the North London Turkish Cypriot Association.
I tell her that I’m very happy for her. But I’m also a little confused “What am I the president of?” She responds with “The student union of course”. I laugh then realise that she is being serious “But that was so many years ago”.
Apparently that is irrelevant. The important point for me (and everyone else) to note is that I am no longer the only one in the family who can claim that title.
I don’t have the heart to tell my insanely competitive sister that I never cared about the title. And that I only did it because I wanted an office to get stoned in with my friends.
Then I realise that I haven’t actually thought about that period of my life for years. And in retrospect, I think the presidency was responsible for more than simply getting me high. It also paved the way for a (mainly farcical) rite of passage;
I quickly realise that I need a political platform to sustain my position so I take the safe option and join the National Organisation of Labour Students. Then the manifestos for the N.U.S National Executive elections come through.
I had decided not to stand. But I open it to find my mini-skirted image staring back at me with a manifesto that I didn’t write. I am incredulous.
So I leave them and join ‘The Leninist’ instead. I read Lenin, Marx and Engels. Then it all starts to make sense. Equality is the way forward. It’s something worth fighting for. And I can finally be a rebel with a cause.
I start wearing Red Army jackets (covered in badges of Lenin and Marx) with a micro skirt (read ‘belt’) shirt and tie. I complete the look with a pair of doc marten boots. Then I smother my face with make-up, backcomb my hair to within an inch of its life and smear my lips with bright red lipstick.
Then I react aggressively when people stare at me in the street “What the hell are you looking at?” And I am absolutely furious on Comic Relief day when people keep giving me the thumbs up and saying stupid things like “Nice one!”
I am indignant when they try to give me money and tell me I’m a sport for dressing up for Comic Relief. Obviously I can see their point now but at the time I honestly didn’t think there was anything remotely amusing about the way I chose to ‘express myself’.
The sixteen year old Kitty is making me positively squirm with embarrassment. And it actually gets worse;
I start to greet people with the words "What we need is a violent revolution followed by a democratic dictatorship of the proletariat". Yes. I really spoke like that. And I really was ready to start a revolution.
I would threaten anyone who crossed me with the words “Come the day of the revolution my friend and your back will be up against that wall”.
No wonder I was considered weird. I looked like a war waging drag queen. And I spoke like an automaton.
Then I find myself sitting in a seminar entitled ‘modern art and communism’. I listen impatiently. Why are we wasting our time like this? I put my hand up and say “Comrades, when are we going to start educating the working classes so they can rise like yeast?”
They shift around uncomfortably in their seats. Comrade Stan murmurs that we have to wait until the time is right. But none of them can actually tell me when that time will be.
It’s obvious now that they were all armchair revolutionaries playing at being radicals. Comrade Stan even wore a flat cap. But I was young and naive. And I really thought we were going to change the world.
I get really excited when they tell me about the ‘summer offensive’ where we all have to raise money for the organisation. Surely that means we can start funding the revolution? Erm..no.
The money is to pay the mortgage of our ‘unofficial leader’ whose house is used as a venue to discuss such pressing issues as the aforesaid link between modern art and communism.
Apparently the poor man can’t get a job because he has been blacklisted by the government for his political beliefs. I start to lose faith. I raise five hundred pounds though street collections then I sit on my bed looking at the money.
I remember George Orwell "I look from man to pig and pig to man and can no longer tell the difference". And I wise up.
If I thought they were anything other than armchair revolutionaries, I would happily hand over the money to support the cause.
But I refuse to contribute towards the mortgage of a lazy middle class drop-out who has no more intention of starting a revolution than he does of getting a job.
I keep the money and don’t go back. A lesson learned. I go from being naively idealistic to cynically corrupt practically overnight.
I become a Goth. And decide that I can’t save the world but I can save myself. I re-write the constitution so I can stand as president for a consecutive year. I get it passed by the suits at the board of governors by slipping it in under ‘any other business’.
I had learned that they would agree to anything to end a tedious four hour meeting (I got through it by adding copious amounts of vodka to my McDonalds coke). I don’t believe I left one of those meetings sober.
I follow the rules. And put up posters calling for nominations (at 6pm when everyone has left). Then I take them down again at 8am (before anyone arrives). That means they were up for the requisite minimum of twelve hours. It also means I get in un-apposed.
I take the executive (comprising of my friends) to Amsterdam on a student union ‘cultural tour’. I put speakers in the common room and blast out music all day. The principal wants them removed.
I refuse and explain that I have had the speakers installed in such a way that if they are disconnected incorrectly it would amount to criminal damage. So they stay.
I get attacked at NUS conference by militant lesbians for “selling out to the male fantasy” because I have long hair. I say they are confused and ask them why, if they hate men so much, do they try so hard to look like them? I tell them they suffer from penis envy. Then make a run for it before they rearrange my face.
I cause chaos everywhere I go. I am full of the arrogance of youth. And dangerously aware of the power of sexuality. The militants had called me an ‘anti-feminist’. But I believed that being a feminist meant using your sexuality, not denying it.
And that belief almost certainly saved me from a criminal record; I would wear a short skirt or a low cut top whenever I needed the deputy principal to sign cheques that were slightly dubious. He was always too distracted by me leaning over him to look at what he was signing.
So when he tells me that accusations have been made against me for mismanagement of union funds, I respond with “Surely these unfounded accusations are also directed against you given that you co-signed every one of the cheques in question?”
I smile sweetly at him as his face turns puce. He is left with no choice other than to agree that the accusations are unfounded and that no further action is required.
Then my trip down memory lane is brought to an abrupt end by Ayșe elbowing me in the ribs. She is laughing so hard I’m worried she’ll wet herself “Look at the state of you!”
My mother has found evidence of my militia slut look. And is passing the album around “See what she put us through?” Her friends make sympathetic noises and shake their heads at me.
My mother sighs “Thank goodness she has changed”.
Admittedly, the way I look now is (thankfully) very different. But I’m not sure that the essence of me has changed that significantly;
I still believe in equality but acknowledge that it is an impossible ideal. I still wear red lipstick but only on special occasions. I still use my sexuality occasionally but I am much more subtle about it.
And given the right cause, I think I would still be prepared to start a revolution (of sorts)...