I realised that many of my current peeves with people are because they are not over stuff, or even acquainted with stuff, that I got over a long time ago.
At one level, this is intellectual. In the past, in the spirit of nice person-ness and high levels of patience, when people were clueless about stuff I had discovered and worked through in my teens, I would gently try and explain the different perspectives to them. For example, questioning the existence of God and the function of religion. I am quite surprised that people seem to be doing this in their 40s. Shouldn’t this been teenage angst territory?
In the past, I would try to offer perspectives such as Foucault’s response to Barth’s Death of the Author essay (in layman’s terms) or Durkeim’s theory of religion as community but nowadays, I’m like blah, if you are too lazy to Google and read then I am too lazy to open my mouth and engage you in conversation and while I’m nodding to your earth-shattering discoveries (not) I am really having a far more interesting conversation with myself in my head. (Okay, I started this post ages ago and since then, I have actually written a post on my thoughts on religion and so maybe I am getting over my intellectual impatience though I don’t know if that will extend to the real world of actual people in a drawing room).
Put simply, I don’t have the appetite for layman conversation anymore (or as MinCat put it “to open your eyes”). I know I run the risk of arrogance because if I don’t put my opinions out there, they remain unchallenged, and therefore I might never learn anything. Except that I do put my opinions out here (where you may feel free to challenge them), and I read. I am increasingly feeling like books are better than conversation. Which is what I felt when I was 12 and hence, in a way, I’m regressing, but I always thought I was very wise (if not socially secure) at 12 so maybe that’s not a bad thing.
At one level, I remain a person that tries to gain something out of every conversation. So while many of my peers would very quickly dismiss something as boring, I could normally gain something from it. Now, though, I do something like the fast forward version of it. I tune in and out of what people are saying, hoping they will say something I don’t know or which is interesting. But normally, they don’t. It’s just banal mostly.
At the less intellectual level, though, a lot of behaviours elicit eye-rolls from me and now I realise that that’s simply because I am over that phase in life. For example:
1) People obsessing about how much they drink. Okay, admittedly, I always found that boring and I went through only a very short phase of indulging in that conversational meme myself, but I am now so over it that anyone that does it gets stamped with a big BORING in my head. Not so much that I am over drinking, I go through ons and offs with that, but that I am over talking about it.
2) People obsessing about getting the details of their upcoming marriage. A couple of people’s posts on Facebook whereby they countdown to D-day have made me cringe and then I reminded myself that I had a whole blog dedicated to my own wedding angst but somehow I feel that doing it on FB is worse because then people are forced to listen to you, though I’m not entirely sure that’s a fair distinction to make.
3) People slipping into jargon or referring to bigwigs in their industry with people outside their bubble. I’m not sure if I ever did this in quite such an insufferable way – though I am guilty of referring to written text as “copy” because I find the word “article” not always appropriate.
4) People saying they love dogs and don’t want to have children, as if the two are linked. See, I love dogs. I raised one of the most difficult dogs, a dog more like a child than most, one that cannot be left alone in the house, ever. And I have had children. They are entirely different. The main thing in common is that they are both alive. But other than that, it’s like apples and oranges. Also they are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to have a dog and have a child, even a baby. It is even possible to like dogs more than babies and have a baby. A lot of combinations are possible, is what I am saying.
But mainly I object to this “I don’t like children” or “I don’t want to have children” as a grandiose statement. It is perfectly fine to not want children. But why is it a declaration that always seems accompanied by a little fanfare as if the utterer expects you to either gasp at the audacity of it all and/or start clapping.
Moreover, a lot of these people who don’t want children have just not reached the stage of their lives when they want children. Because if I could suddenly want children, I have come to believe, it is eminently possibly that lots of people who were less indifferent to the little ones than me are going to want children one day. And frankly I see it happening every day. I feel like an adult listening to adolescents rebel.
5) Ditto to people who say they don’t want to have children because they want to travel. Or do any kind of hobby. Very few of these things are mutually exclusive things.
6) People saying they are commitment phobic. Most of the time they just haven’t found the right person. Not being able to commit to people who are not suited to you does not equal commitment phobia. It is just good sense. And a little sad, maybe, because you haven’t found the right person yet. But commitment phobia sounds so much better than “I haven’t found the right person” because then you’re in control. Yeah, I’m calling that bluff, especially since 90% of these self-declared commitment phobics very quickly commit when someone suitable comes along as we all knew they would.
7) People going on about much sex they are having. I question how much they really need and want all this sex per se, and how much sex is tied up to other things. This could be entirely because I am not that into sex right now. However, even before my drastic sexual slowdown, I had begun to reflect on the amount of sex I had in my wild days and early married life and to examine whether I really needed or wanted all the sex that I had when I was, ahem, sowing my oats. And I have come to the conclusion that while I definitely enjoyed some of it, there was a good deal I could have done without and that I was indulging in it for other reasons.
During my twenties, a woman having sex like a man, claiming the right to have a surfeit of sex casually, was an empowering idea, at once a challenge to the notion that women did not really enjoy sex and a taking on of one more masculine characteristic. Older and wiser, I now longer see the adoption of masculine traits as necessarily the best way, though specific traits might work for some. I did feel empowered by all the sex I was having at that time so it served some purpose. It also helped me connect (very literally) to certain people and that was nice. I don’t regret it majorly because having lots of sex did no lasting damage but I do regret the time and effort wasted. I could have spent that time and energy… sleeping! I’m not joking here; I actually value sleep highly, even more so after working night shifts and now, motherhood.
And I am not just referring to pre-marital sex. When I was first married and in my geisha stage, where I decided I was going to look and act the part of the perfect consort (yes, I go through these extremes), I felt obliged to have sex once every day. I remember a conversation with my mother and sister where my mother said “who has sex every day anyway?” and I said “me” and I think they both hated me a little then and there. My mother responded with a strangled: “That’s very good.” Oh, how the mighty have fallen! More harridan than geisha these days, I think back to my former self and wonder why I honestly made such an effort, and frankly set such an unliveable precedent for myself to live up to.
So basically, when I hear about women having sex left right and centre, I am a bit cynical. I’m like, I know where you are, I’ve been there, and although this is something you probably need to go through, I just don’t want to hear all these stories because it is just a phase not your personality. (Be warned that I have a whole post on sex coming up so stop your ears now)
8) And on the subject of machismo, people who feel the need to act all emotionally independent and detached from the world, but their spouses in particular. So women who would never admit on pain of death that they miss their husband when he travels although once in a moment of conversational candor they let slip that they do. Why does everyone want to pretend that spouses don’t love each other?
Before you rant at me, please be reminded that I am fully aware that many of these things are things that I have done myself and realised in the wise light of old age were entirely stupid.