Tag Archives: embarrassment

Unsplit Personalities

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Good morning!  It’s Noel Fielding’s birthday today, did you know?  On the very small off-chance that he reads this: Happy Birthday, Noel!

Over the past few days I’ve been thinking about personalities, and how very complicated they are.  We have a tendency to separate out different sections of our personalities, because we think that certain bits are anomalous to who we are, and some parts are just plain embarrassing.  It is too difficult and confusing to admit that our bad habits and secret sins are linked to our genes, our upbringings or our life styles.  Much easier to have a persona that can be summed up in three words by the people who know us best, and leave it at that.

We are encouraged to keep up this pretence of simplicity by constantly summarising and censoring ourselves: job applications, CVs, online dating profiles, Twitter biographies and more ask us to reduce ourselves into a few short sentences, and we willingly oblige.  We know that we’re complicated, but we don’t everyone else to know that.

The thing is that every aspect of your personality is linked to something else about you, and that is a really good thing.  Take the anomalies, for instance: I like watching football, which seems a bit random in terms of my other interests, but actually it does make sense.  I like watching events with a large group of people (like when I go to the theatre), I like lots of noise (because I grew up in a big family) and I like having a pint with my friends (that’s just a given).  So even though I’m not a stereotypical football fan, it makes sense for me to like football once you break it down.

When we think of certain personality aspects as anomalous we don’t embrace them for what they are: an important part of what makes us a complete person.  This comes up a lot with mental health issues.  People call depression “the black dog”, which I think is really stupid for two reasons: firstly, making the illness a separate, animalistic entity encourages people to be afraid of it and distance themselves from the issue, and secondly it kind of ruins the third Harry Potter book if you have that association in mind.

I’m not suggesting that mental health problems are a good thing (obviously), but if you have to live with them you shouldn’t have to be afraid of them, as well.  They are part of who you are, but they don’t define you.  There’s plenty of awesomeness in your personality, too, and they’re not necessarily separate qualities.  For example, living with something like depression can give you strength you never knew you had.

Everyone has aspects of their personalities that they wish they could change or get rid of, but you are who you are.  If we refuse to accept the bad things about our psyches as well as the good, we are rejecting a massive proportion of what makes us a real human being.  Think about it: if we didn’t all have bad and good things about us, we would be completely angelic and therefore entirely incapable of empathy.  We’d also be kind of boring.  And you, my friend, are definitely not boring.

Have a stupendous Wednesday.

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The Great British Nightmares

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Good morning and happy Saturday!  I hope that you drank in moderation last night, and if you didn’t, that your house mate/partner/unexpected guest has some painkillers for you.

As comedian Bill Bailey said in his show Part Troll, it’s very difficult to describe being British to someone who’s not from these blessed isles.  He came up with a pretty accurate description, though:

“We have strong prevailing south westerly winds, um…52% of our days are overcast, so as a nation we’re infused with a wistful melancholy…but we remain a relentlessly chipper population, prone to mild eccentricity, binge drinking and casual violence.”

I love that quotation, but I think that there’s another way to describe Britain – or rather, what it’s like to be British – to someone from a foreign land.  Predictably, I have chosen a method that allows me to provide you, dear reader, with a top ten list.  Here are the ten worst nightmares of British people:

1) How was your trip?

Particularly in London, people walk with purpose, direction and whenever possible, the speed with which to overtake the tourists just in front.  It is devastating, therefore, to massively stack it in the middle of a public place.  Sod’s law dictates that this will happen when you are walking past a group of threatening-looking youths, wearing supposedly flattering high heels or in a tube station during rush hour.

2) Stand clear of the closing doors

Speaking of the tube, it’s a wonderful feeling when you manage to squeeze into a crowded carriage on your commute, and if you’re the last one in there’s an Indiana Jones, just-in-the-nick-of-time element to your euphoria.  But this joy is short-lived if and when you discover that your errant coat/bag/scarf is the reason that the TFL guy on the platform keeps shouting “Stand CLEAR of the CLOSING DOORS, please!”

3) London is not your Oyster

Another London-based issue, and again this relates most strongly to the havoc of rush hour: being the person who queues up for ages to get to the ticket barrier, only to discover that your Oyster card simply does not want to play ball.  You definitely topped it up this morning, so what’s its problem?  “Seek assistance”, indeed.  I will try, but I have to apologetically shuffle back through this crowd of cross commuters waiting to use the barrier first!

4) Turn around (every now and then I drop my drink)

Assuming that you manage to navigate your way through the streets and train networks, you might make your way to a pub to see some friends and enjoy a nice, cold drink.  On a weekend night in particular, the inevitable queueing process at a bar is arduous (but it will not defeat you – you’re British after all, and you know how this works).  So once you’ve finally got your drink in hand, the next task is simply to turn away from the bar, carry your drink through the crowd of soon-to-be-sozzled people and find your table.  Easier said than done.  One errant elbow from an inattentive stranger and your pint/wine glass/soda and lime can go hurtling onto the floor.  Back of the queue.

5) Decaf soya latte with sugar free hazelnut syrup, thanks

The beverage-related nightmare doesn’t end there: as a nation we are globally renowned for our love of hot beverages, and it’s always alarming when you come across somebody who doesn’t drink tea or coffee.  (Honestly, it gives me the heebie jeebies just typing those words.)  Worse than that is to be a coffee or tea lover, but to be very particular about how you take your drink.  We live in a world where syrups, soya milk and cinnamon topping (why?) are available in coffee shops all over the country, but if you’re at someone’s house and they offer you a hot drink, it’s excruciating to have to say “er…do you have any brown sugar?”, or make a similarly difficult request.  I come up against this embarrassing situation quite often, because I’m allergic to dairy stuff and I don’t like black coffee.  It’s not  really my fault, but I’m English, ergo I am embarrassed by being honest about my preferences.

6) Well, gosh, I suppose, um…well, yes, actually, I do think you’re rather…I mean to say I think you’re very…no, silly me, forget I said anything

Being honest in general is not something that this country is good at.  We love a good moan as much as the next nation (by the way that’s not a dig at France, who are technically the next nation), but when it comes to being open and frank we are petrified.  I had coffee with a friend yesterday who advised me to be honest with someone about my feelings – Christ, can you imagine?!  One shudders at the very thought.  Getting a British person to be communicative on an emotional level is like teaching Keira Knightley how to act.  It really should be done at some point, but heaven knows how difficult and painful it would be.

7) The sneezing spree

Speaking of painful, sneezing several times in a row (for NO APPARENT REASON) is horrendously embarrassing, and it provokes most people to adopt a furious, baffled “what on earth is wrong with my sinuses?!” expression, in order to demonstrate to their companions that this is a completely unintentional display of violent noise.  The same applies to coughing fits, even if you’re ill and you’ve forewarned people of the fact.

8) Please leave a message after the person you’re calling has scrambled around in their bag, desperately trying to turn their phone off

Making any unintentional noise in public is excruciating to a British person.  Last night I genuinely had a nightmare that this happened to me: I had forgotten to turn my phone off, and someone called me in the middle of a theatre performance.  I go to the theatre most weeks and my memory for small tasks is terrible, so this event is a very real possibility, but only a British woman would wake up in terror at four in the morning because she subconsciously imagined her phone ringing during a production of A Streetcar Named Desire.  Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry were playing Blanche and Stella, as I recall.  Sterling performances.

9) Shall we dance?

You’re walking along.  Someone is walking in the opposite direction.  You’re on a collision course.  Panic stations: you edge left, and they move to their right.  You go the other way, and so do they.  CRISIS.  Instead of apologising and running across the road in blind terror, I think that we should all use the opportunity to have an impromptu boogie.  The next time this happens, take the other person’s hands and launch into a spirited impersonation of the ballroom dancing scene in The King and I.

10) Always take the weather with you

Last but not least, that great and faithful ally of awkward conversations: the British weather.  In this instance, it can create a nightmare scenario by simply changing halfway through the day.  When a gloriously sunny morning fools you into thinking that an umbrella won’t be necessary and then a downpour strikes as you leave the office; when a brisk morning leads you to don a jumper, only to find that the day has become a record-breaking scorcher by lunchtime; when the weather forecasters scoff in the face of a possible snowstorm, and within an hour of you leaving home the world looks like a Christmas card.  This is why many British people carry sun cream, an umbrella and gloves with them at all times.  (I’m not joking.  You should see my hand bag.)  Better to be overloaded with stuff than to let the weather lull you into a false sense of security.

Have a stupendously wonderful day, everyone.

Wise Words, Walt

Good morning, reader!  How was your weekend?

Today ‘s blog is about some unexpected sources of wisdom: Disney characters.  Those of you who have read this post will already know that I reckon Disney heroes are actually pretty similar to modern men, but the relevance to contemporary (and indeed real) life doesn’t end there.  Disney movies are, in general, liberally sprinkled with cute quotations and heart-warming characters.  Since Frozen came out at the end of last year, I have been asked the question “do you wanna build a snowman?”  dozens of times, and fans of Despicable Me will be very familiar with the cry “IT’S SO FLUFFY I’M GONNA DIE!!”  These are both lovely and amusing, but they don’t really mean anything if you haven’t seen the films.

However, there are some quotations from Disney movies which, when taken slightly out of context, are very good advice for those of us who are not animated and/or living in an enchanted castle.  Here are my favourites:

1) “I’m afraid being famous isn’t the same as being a true hero.” – Zeus, Hercules

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YES.  Tell that to every reality television star who thinks that their very  existence warrants an enormous pay cheque and unquestioning adoration from the public.  Particularly in a day and age when you can become famous for doing nothing except stand on a stage in front of Simon Cowell and do something – anything – atrociously, people should remember that being famous doesn’t make you superior to anyone else.  In many cases, the people who get fame and fortune don’t deserve it.  Do you remember when J. K. Rowling made the news for donating so much of her wealth to charity that she lost her billionaire status?  That’s a wonderful thing for her to have done, BUT it should be the norm, not newsworthy.

2) “Maleficent doesn’t know anything about love, or kindness, or the joy of helping others. You know, sometimes I don’t think she’s really very happy.” – Fauna, Sleeping Beauty

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It is easy to dismiss people who seem a bit moody/miserable/prone to casting evil spells as simply bad human beings, but it’s worth stopping to think about why they are that way inclined.  Happy people don’t hate the world around them, and even though it’s not an easy thing to do, it’s probably a good idea to try to relate to them.  Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes (especially when you don’t like them very much) can be a massive eye-opener.

3) “The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.” – Emperor, Mulan

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If you can achieve success, happiness and other lovely things without really having to struggle for them, they are not devalued as such, but they are less satisfying.  It’s a very British thing to begrudge people a public school education, because we think that they have been handed the tools to obtain their ambitions without having to earn them.  We love the rags-to-riches stories of poor people making their dreams come true, and we went crazy for the Paralympics because the athletes were achieving greatness from a disadvantaged starting position.  It’s not a bad thing to respect people who can make lemonade out of lemons (although I would have gone for a lemon drizzle cake, myself), but the important thing is to remember to apply it to your own life when necessary.  Making successes out of failures and opportunities out of crises, however small they might be, is a good way to grow.  Or bloom, as His Excellency would have it.

4) “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or… learn from it.” – Rafiki, The Lion King

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It’s one of the most universal experiences known to humanity: the involuntary groan and uncomfortable squirm when you remember something embarrassing you did months or even years ago.  These memories can come back to bite you when you are falling asleep, walking along perfectly happily or operating heavy machinery (which is obviously not ideal for safety reasons as well as emotional ones).  Like most people, I get pretty bogged down by those unhappy thoughts, and usually fairly indignant: WHY did I just remember that?  What the hell does my brain think it’s doing?!  It’s a very uncomfortable process, but for the sake of our sanity we should probably try to look at the memory, work out why we behaved the way we did, and go about fixing the problem.  The other thing is (and I owe a huge thank you to friends of mine who have reiterated this next bit for me), the chances of anyone else remembering the incident with as much displeasure as you do is unlikely.  You remember it so vividly because you’re still beating yourself up about it, but anyone else who was there won’t have thought about it nearly as much, if at all.  Think about it: do you lie awake at night thinking about embarrassing things your loved ones have done, and despising them?  Of course not.  So logically, they’re not going to be doing the same thing about your misdemeanours.

5) “Life’s not a spectator sport. If watching is all you’re gonna do, then you’re gonna watch your life go by without you.” – Laverne, The Hunchback of Notre Dame

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Get involved.  Go and talk to that attractive person at the bar.  Take up a hobby.  Go on adventures.  If you don’t ask you don’t get, and you lose one hundred percent of the Monopoly games you don’t play.  Sure, you might end up embarrassing yourself some more, but we’ve already covered how to cope with that.

And last but not least:

6) “Some people are worth melting for.” – Olaf, Frozen

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Some, not all.  Use your common sense.

Have a spectacular day, everyone.