The Episode: Season 5, Episode 2. (Yeah, we’re plodding on nicely, aren’t we?)
The Question: Is cynicism something we slap on like moisturiser after we’re 30? Have we outgrown hope?
Ok, so I’m not over 30. But damn, I’m cynical. Have been since as far back as I can remember. I have always regarded the world around with a kind of eagle-eyed skepticism. When I was around 12 my cousin’s girlfriend, who was 22, described me as ‘pragmatic’. ‘Is that bad or good?’ I demanded. She wasn’t sure.
I have now realised that my cynicism is a defense mechanism. It is the refuge of those who are hurt. I have not yet been able to figure what it is I had to protect myself against so fervently at such a young age. But it is a cloak I have wielded around myself and it has largely served me well.
Because of my habit of dabbling in ‘the other side’, I once briefly threw of, somewhat, this garb of distrust. At least socially, I decided to not be such a prick. I decided to empathise. To do away with the polite chatter I abhored by getting to the heart of the matter and starting with me. It worked. I was able to make idle chatter easily.
It also led me to, briefly, make a huge leap of faith and be happy, pure and simple, without disbelief. Unfortunately, everything I had been protecting myself and let down my guard against actually proved to be out there.
Part of my appeal to men has been that I see through their bullshit from the start. Even ‘I love you’ has begun sounding like a parody. It’s a sort of vicious circle in which I am thoroughly mistrustful, the said man outdoes himself in his desire to convince me of his superlative intentions to heights hitherto unimagined (such as carrying me up and down stairs for no apparent rhyme or reason), ultimately I concede and then obviously man cannot sustain said superlative intentions or is just too bored to once the chase has been exhausted and I am devastated having let down my guard.
Because I keep everyone in my life at arms length, there’s just that small distance that will prevent me from having expectations of people because to expect is to be let down. Only the one man in my life, after much trial, is allowed to hop across that divide and see me in all my vulnerability. And quite possibly, these shoes are too big for anyone to fill so they are doomed from the start. Yes, I do agree that I bring it upon myself.
But is it too much to hope that the person you’re with will be all they profess to be? Sigh, I guess it is.
And yet, even in me, the original cynic – the Miranda of the gang – hope lives on. Every time that love of my life let me down (and yes, other people let you down to but in my case, nobody except my lovers – not in the carnal sense necessarily – get the chance to), I seriously believe I will never trust again. But I do.
Except every time, I think, it’s just that bit less. The view outside the window is just a little less rosy each time. I am able to deal with the blows much better because I was always steeling myself for them, letting myself relax my guard just a little bit less.
The short answer to that question is (for me) yes we will continue to hope – because otherwise, as our famous English Lit prof in college said, ‘how would you get out of bed in the morning?’ – but with every year as we wallow through the detritus that life flings our way, we will be just a little more jaded.
But I’m a Miranda. And there are the Charlottes – who always believe, who are just looking for that excuse to believe. I have to admit optimistic people scare me a little bit. But I am charmed by naivite. My favourite naive person was my elder sister. She always trusted and believed. And while I was the very opposite, I guarded her innocence jealously.
The biggest tragedy in my life was not the loss of my innocence but the loss of hers. Because we all want to believe that even if we can’t believe, someone else does.