- I no longer blame myself for my failings. Instead, I blame the world. I realise that so much is unfair and beyond my control. Also, blaming the world makes me feel better about myself.
- At 15, I was scared of authorities and systems. They seemed eternal. But I’ve seen the generation above us abandoning the rules they once imposed. They’ve taken new lovers, embarked on trips, changed their fundamental beliefs, given up. Authorities will crumble: my children will come to realise this, too. There is no real penalty for not doing your homework.
- I know that people are self-righteous about the issues of the day, but scornful of how things were done in the past. Future generations will feel similarly towards us. We may be obsessed with gay marriage and white privilege but those who come after us will embrace something else, perhaps animal liberation. They will look upon us as cruel, barbaric and incomprehensible. We will be vilified.
- I no longer need to be similar to other people. When I was 15 I did all kinds of things I hated just to be like everyone else: going to youth camps, spending the day on Clifton, wearing my socks rolled down below my ankles. I realise that people are not like one another, even if there are some feelings we all experience.
- I now understand that the cool boys think everything comes easy. They get fat. Nerdy boys have always got something to prove. This keeps them lean and hungry.
- Women who ignore you at a dinner party, because they only want to talk to men. Men who ignore you at a dinner party, because they only want to talk to the prettiest woman.
- The way it’s fine to insult the penis, but not the vagina. Calling penises silly or ugly or gross is way more acceptable than levelling insults at the vagina. “It’s not easy to make men’s bits sound sexy,” says this Guardian article about the descriptions of Christian Grey’s manly bits in the latest EL James book. Maybe that just applies to EL James’ writing ability. Yet, there was a huge backlash online after somebody published this strange and rather insulting piece about vaginas. But penises: who is standing up for them?
- Strangers who make personal remarks about one’s facial expression. I don’t want to be told to smile. I can’t help it if my natural resting state indicates profound sadness to other people.
- Drivers who speed up after you have indicated you want to move into their lane. Okay, why don’t I just continue to Hermanus, if you’re not going to let me get into the right lane to get to my house? It wasn’t my original intention, but, well, there’s a nice – actually, what is nice in Hermanus? – besides making up rude possessive cases with the name of the place: Herm’s you-know-what.
- People who refuse to speak loudly enough or have interesting conversations when you are clearly eavesdropping on them. Come on, it’s a public duty to offer some entertainment to eavesdroppers.
What do you find rude?
Here are five things I understand.
I’ve met a lot of people like Freud – yes, less accomplished, but nevertheless just as certain in their opinions. He reminds me of various guys I knew in my late teens and twenties. One of the advantages of getting older is that you’re less excited by the brilliant – and not so brilliant – narcissists.
I asked Greg if he’d had similar experiences with women. He said not exactly, but he’d had his own problems in his twenties: he kept being attracted to women who were quirky, self-assured, fascinating and ultimately gay. Or at least that’s what they told him.
But as for the brilliant guys, look at poor Sabina Spielrein. I was browsing the library at the Jewish Museum on Sunday when I came across the book Sex Versus Survival: The Life and Ideas of Sabina Spielrein by John Launer. (I find it’s my preferred method for finding books: a random browse along any old shelf in a library.) Her surname means ‘pure play’ but her life was anything but. Unfortunately for her she fell in love with Jung, who was her therapist. He had a brief fling with her, despite his pregnant wife at home. Spielrein remained in love with him for years afterwards. She sent him lots of letters, but he only ever wrote four back to her, and some of these were harsh, anti-Semitic or anti-woman.
But in some ways the worst came later. The movie A Dangerous Method was made about her relationship with Jung. It featured bondage scenes, but there is no proof that this actually happened. It’s a horrible thought: somebody making a movie of your life and including unsubstantiated fantasies for an surely largely ignorant audience.
I suppose that’s one of the advantages of getting older. I no longer like jerks. After my library browse, I had tea with the four-year-old in the museum cafe.
‘I like your pants,’ I told him.
‘Buy your own,’ he said.
He had a point.
Rereading this piece, I feel that a Freudian might have something to say – something less than pleasant – about the degree of rationality of my thought processes. Luckily for me, I haven’t asked a Freudian for his opinion.
(The graphic comes from The Last Outdoor Fight by Chris Onstad.)