When I was in my twenties I once asked someone to sum me up in one word and do you know what they said? No, not that. How rude you are. What they actually said was;
That’s not good, is it? That’s not one which you can turn around and say, “I’m pretty sure she meant that in a nice way.” It’s not like ‘oddball’ or ‘funny’ or ‘looks a bit like Kate Bush’. There is no hidden compliment in there.
But the worst thing is, she was right. I was a phony, a flake, an imposter. I wasn’t on your side. I wasn’t even on my own side. I couldn’t nail my colours to the mast if I hired someone to do it and they were like, my favourite colours ever.
I don’t know how it happened. I like people, and from a young age I wanted people to like me. So I started to mould myself around them. You like the Pixies? I LOVE those guys. Seen the latest Coen brothers movie? I haven’t, but I’m prepared to tell you that I love those guys. What’s that book you’re reading? Jane Austen? SNAP! Me too! I love those guys.
You get the picture. I wanted to fit in, but I didn’t know how. Forming my own opinions and sticking to them meant being informed and committed and frankly, I was too restless for that. Much easier to adopt someone elses position and piggyback their argument. It starts to come unstuck though when you matched two people together whose conflicting opinions you’ve previously pandered to;
Kid A; You guys see that programme on the Fur Trade last night?
Me: Yeah, over-reactive bollocks. Who cares, right?
Kid B; Hold up. A minute ago you were agreeing with me about how shitty the whole thing was.
Me: Yeah. That too.
Kid A: Well what is it?
Me: Wait…who am I again?
Me in my thirties, BEERED OUT OF MY MIND. There is a 98% chance I am asleep behind those shades.
It was an exhausting way to live, and one which didn’t make me particularly happy. Thank God then for my thirties which blasted me like a SHOTGUN into the realisation that being liked has nothing to do with how agreeable you are, or what you pretend to know.
But it isn’t just me that does this – take note of this discussion I had with a friend barely three years ago.
Me: That’s Harold Pinter’s house.
Them: He was brilliant wasn’t he?
Me; Totally, he was.
Them: What did he write again?
Me: I have literally NO IDEA.
Who were we trying to impress here? The sky? The cars? Little Moon Sheep from Venus? We were walking down the road in Worthing of all places not appearing on the Culture Show.
Lets not do this. I’m not impressed and judging by the look on your face neither are you. If you’re friends with the kind of people who are impressed with the names you’re dropping or your capacity for slavish agreement then drop them like Jenga and do it now. You won’t miss them, and imagine the freedom of having your own thoughts again. And if, like me, you find yourself manufacturing your responses in order to please then for fucks sake pull yourself up on it. Think Bigger. Flex the muscle of your brain (it’s a muscle right? I’m too lazy too Google.) and think your own thoughts. That sounds like a simple enough instruction which even a toddler could (and does) understand but you’ll be surprised how often you do it with your boss, or the stranger on the bus, or friends of friends.
In summary then the message is – don’t be a Bellend.