Oh, Mark. The stories I have of living a few doors down from this guy years ago are too many and too hilarious for this particular moment. He’s the type of guy who, as a very recent April Fool’s joke, lay butt naked on his kitchen floor with a knife in one hand and ketchup smeared all over him – all to the absolute delight of his roommates, I’m sure. He works for Turner Broadcasting in England, and was one of the minds behind this viral YouTube video! And I absolutely loved listening to his British accent for an hour as I transcribed this interview! 🙂
HMHW: What do you look for in a group of friends at this age?
Mark: I find friendships to be things that sort themselves out naturally. So I don’t go actively looking – I suppose I just warm towards people that I find interest in and enjoy being around. People who are honest, who’ve got integrity, and people who aren’t cynics. I hate people who are pessimists – I think it’s just lazy.
HMHW: Fill in the blank: I’m a closet _______ fan.
Mark: I’m a closet fan of Cocktail, the Tom Cruise movie. It’s actually very bad and I can’t defend it at all, but I really like it. And I actually like, though I’d rarely ever admit it, the first Twilight movie. I can defend that one more than I can defend Cocktail. I think Stephenie Meyer knows her vampire literature.
HMHW: Did you read the books, or just the movies?
Mark: No, so maybe I’m not qualified to make that statement. But from the concept going around in the film, I think she’s done something quite interesting.
HMHW: Do you believe in types?
Mark: Yes, in the sense that we categorize everything as human beings. But I believe that there’s a spectrum, more than there are types. You can’t put people into boxes – that’s just crude. We do it to simplify things, but everyone is different and there’s a huge spectrum.
HMHW: Do you find it difficult to be friends with people of the opposite gender?
Mark: No, not at all. I’ve got lots of friends who I’m not attracted to of the opposite gender, and I find it easy to get along with them, regardless of their gender.
HMHW: Do you have career goals? Do you see yourself remaining in the same career for the rest of your life?
Mark: Yes, I wouldn’t mind staying in this career. I really like my job. If you asked me that a year ago, I would’ve said, “Absolutely not.” But I like where I am.
HMHW: What exactly do you do?
Mark: I market TV programs and movies for Turner Broadcasting. They’re CNN, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, TNT, TCM. Yeah, so I really enjoy doing that kind of stuff. I knew that the media industry was what I wanted to get into – broadcast media or films or that kind of thing. As to your question on whether I have career goals, I’d say probably not. I think that if you just keep doing your best then you’ll keep advancing if you do it in the correct manner. I hope.
HMHW: Do you feel like you’re held to an impossible standard of perfection as a man, coming from women?
Mark: Well, I am an impossible standard of perfection. *insert laughter here* Yeah, I’m just joking. My answer would be no. I feel like that’s more of a problem for women actually.
HMHW: You think that women are held to an impossible standard of perfection?
Mark: Yeah. You see men have this thing called humor that they use to attract any woman they please. Whereas with women, it seems to be that men are a lot more shallow, at least to begin with. And there’s so much put on the looks and beauty front, where they’re told to look a certain way, and they go insane over it. And with men, it’s like, “I’m fat, but at least I can make people laugh, so I’ve got this kind of ‘get out of jail free’ card.”
HMHW: How do you make decisions about your future in this season of life? Has that changed from before?
Mark: It’s changed from when I was an early teenager. I’d say that from nineteen onwards, there’ve been many subtle, gradual changes. I try and think everything out; I try to not be naïve about anything. That’s a very British thing, though. One of the worst things you can call a Brit is naïve. But I just try and work things out and analyze everything logically in making decisions. I’ve also learned a few lessons recently like not being afraid to be bold sometimes, if you’ve thought it all out and decided that it’s the right thing to do. Don’t chicken, just go ahead and do it. Fortune favors the bold.
HMHW: Do you believe in the one? If so, do you believe that they were chosen for you since the beginning of time, or that they become the one when you choose them?
Mark: Absolutely not. I do not believe in the one. That doesn’t mean that I believe in love any less, but I actually think that it’s a very toxic message that Hollywood and record companies portray. I think it’s far worse for kids to be subjected to that than violence in cinema, for example. Because people then rush into these kinds of things with their first instincts of love, and it can lead to broken homes. There’s obviously not a one; there are many ones. I think that believing in the one is oversimplifying love and making it crude. Love is just a very, very close connection between two people and that doesn’t make it any less special. It’s the fact that you met and had this connection, not the fact that you’re trying to imagine that there couldn’t have been anyone else and that it was fate, or whatever you call it. I think that it’s quite damaging, this message that’s pumped out by the media just to make money. All my favorite romance films, I like because they have this sort of message that there isn’t necessarily a “one”, but instead there’s just someone you love so much. Movies like 500 Days of Summer or Adventureland cause my hairs to stand up on the back of my neck; that doesn’t happen when I see The Notebook, for example.
HMHW: Best/worst advice you’ve ever been given on the topic of love/relationships?
Mark: The best advice was from my dad. He said, “Don’t be too eager to search for it; it’ll sort itself out. Put your concentration power into other things, like your career and your dreams.” Those are the things you need to concentrate on and actively pursue, whereas love and relationships work themselves out. They’re on autopilot. I haven’t been given much bad advice, thankfully. I think wisdom’s taken from life lessons. So even from bad experiences, you can get very good advice.
Actually, here’s another great bit of advice I got from my dad again: Don’t treat women differently. Treat them just like a friend. I think he was trying to tell me to not get nervous, but if you treat everyone like human beings, then you get on with the ones you get on with, and you don’t with the rest. And there’s no nerves or prejudices chucked in there.
HMHW: What’s your perception of the differences between masculinity and femininity? Do you think it varies by gender or by person?
Mark: I think that they do change from person to person, obviously. There’s men who view women in very different lights, from the not-very-nice to the quite sublime. And there’s women who do the same to men, probably. There are obviously gender stereotypes that all of these could funnel into. I think that the most toxic examples come from countries where women aren’t considered equal citizens. I think that’s the source of all poverty. You look at most third-world countries, and women are all second-class citizens. The emancipation of women is the key to sorting out poverty issues. So I think it changes from person to person, country to country, culture to culture.
HMHW: Are there things that challenge your own masculinity in the way you think it should be expressed?
Mark: I suppose there are. I mean, there’s probably more stuff that I should be worried about but I’m not because I’m probably too arrogant. But it’s things like not being a massive sports fan, which most men are. But that doesn’t really bother me a lot. Now and then I like to dress a little bit more flamboyantly than your average man. But if everyone started doing that, I’d probably not like it as much. So I guess what I like is going against the masculinity grain a little bit.
HMHW: Most embarrassing dating story?
Mark: I went out with a girl once – when I was a teenager – and we went to a Chinese restaurant. We sat down and I ordered my food, and she wouldn’t order anything. I said, “Don’t you wanna order anything?” And she said, “No, I’ll just have prawn crackers.” And she just ate prawn crackers the entire date, like a bird or a little hamster or something. I was like, “So what do you like doing?” And she was like, “Not much *crunch crunch crunch* yeah, not much *crunch crunch crunch*” And she wouldn’t speak either! It was like getting blood out of a stone trying to get her to talk. Don’t get her for your next interview, bloody hell.
HMHW: Do you feel a pressure, based on your age, to be thinking about/preparing for marriage? If so, is that pressure from within or without?
Mark: I don’t feel any pressure, thankfully. My parents are very free-thinking individuals, and leave it up to me to get married whenever I want to. From society – not really. I could see how some people, when their friends start getting married, think that they should start getting married too. But again, I’m very wary of rushing into things. I like to do things my own way, anyway. I’d like to do a solo album before I do a duet. And for me, personally, I’m not getting married until there’s a 3 in front of my age, at least. This is the only time in your life when you get to concentrate on you. Beause God knows when you’re married, and most especially when the kids come, that’s it. This is the only time you get to be selfish, and I’m going to use it as best as I can.
HMHW: Do you believe in the ability to be ready for marriage? Do you think you have factors that will indicate your readiness?
Mark: Again, I think that it’s about letting those things happen. There’s no rush or anything like that. I’m sure that one day I’ll be certain that I want to spend the rest of my life with a person, and at that point, I’ll have no objections to getting married. But by then, I would’ve done a lot more traveling and everything else I’d like to do.
I used to be a member of this club, and there’d be people in their forties and fifties who got married very young. And there was stuff going on there that shouldn’t have been going on, if you get my drift. And it’s because they realized that they had spent so long with these people, that they had missed out on the opportunity to be young and selfish. Obviously, this doesn’t happen in all cases, but I just don’t want to rush things. You’ve only got one shot at this life so you want to strategize it – that makes it sound clinical, but you know what I mean.
HMHW: What are your thoughts on modesty and its effects or lack thereof on daily living?
Mark: Women suffer that more, and I don’t want to sound like the cliche, but it’s because they’re given this image of perfection that they’re supposed to strive towards. So if you’re fighting with perfection, you’re always going to find flaws because you’re going to be too sensitive to them. I just go with the idea that I’ve been given what I’ve got, so might as well try and use it. Which probably wasn’t the best hand in the deck, but still, let’s see the mileage we can get out of it! Cause the other thing I remind myself of is that these years right now will be the best looking years you get. You don’t want to end up at 50 thinking, “That was the best it was getting and I wasn’t flaunting it enough!”
HMHW: What are your opinions on pursuing/being pursued with regards to gender roles?
Mark: It depends on where you are. Most times, I find that the people you tend to get involved either at a friendship or romantic level are people that you’ve met in everyday life. Because if you just treat people, again, like human beings then things just have the opportunity to organically blossom. But I can’t say that that’s been the way I’ve met everyone I’ve been on a date with. There’s always still cause to go up to a girl and talk to her, but it’s probably because you’re in an environment that doesn’t allow you to get to know them organically. Dates are a way to get to know people organically, and then you can decide whether or not you get on with this person.
HMHW: But it wouldn’t be a problem if the girl was the one who initiated the conversation?
Mark: Funny you ask this, because I’ve just been in Stockholm and I was talking to a girl who was quite a strong feminist. I said to her, “In England, if a girl asks me out, people would think that’s weird.” And she got a bit a defensive but I clarified that if a girl asks me out, I’d think that was awesome! I’d be immediately attracted to her. But society doesn’t see it like that. In Sweden, women will come over (I think I need to move there actually) and ask men out, and it’s the norm. It’s a two way system, whereas in England, it’s a one-way street. Which is a problem, you know. If you want to get anything done in the field over here, you have to initiate things as the man. In America, I found that was less of a problem.
HMHW: Well, you also had a British accent in America…
Mark: That probably helped a bit, yeah.
(Editor’s Note: And here, he proceeds to do his best imitation of an American accent. Specifically, of American girls asking him to say various words and then swooning. Haha 🙂 )
HMHW: What has been the hardest part of being a twenty-something?
Mark: Getting used to the working life, and finding something that you enjoy – which some people never do. Ever since I was like ten years old, my greatest fear more than even dying, was having a job that I hated and that I was bored at. And I think capitalism is the lesser of all the evils; it’s not a perfect system, but it’s the one that works the most. The problem with it, though, is that people have these amazing talents and gifts and nearly everyone is really good at something. But their potential is not used, and instead they spend their lives doing a job they think is dull or doesn’t bring them fulfillment.
I’ve always thought that we are just so incredibly lucky to be here. If you just think about the amount of sperm that had to beat the other ones to get to the egg, I mean, you’ve already got odds in your favor at the first stage. Then you think about all the sperm in all those generations past that had to do that, and in the millions of generations past, every ancestor of yours had to be the fittest to survive. It is just unbelievable odds that you’re here. We’re so lucky to get eighty years on this planet, and then some of us spend it doing something we’re bored at. I just could not do that. So, your twenties is the time when you’re chucked into that game and you’re told, “Sink or swim.” And learning to swim can be a tough ordeal.