I don’t know where the hell my head is at, but I can’t seem to stay on a single track. There is rant, love, sadness and confusion in equal measure. I fear, therefore, that this will be a vomiting of words rather than a structured effort (yes, I do think my usual posts are structured – which only shows what a fragmented festival of weird my mind is.)
Teeny Bikini read my first award response (which was also the last time my nominator read any of my stuff – which shows at least that I do as I am about to say – and when in my lonely old age I re-read my posts because I have no friends I will know how I came to such a sad pass!)
Teeny left a comment which I spent five minutes staring at (not thinking or anything, I’ve just had a change in medication 😉 – that comment was dancing and singing and I was convinced for a while that it was actually a gherkin trying to tell me the meaning of lifts (they have their up’s and downs)).
In the end I realised I had too many things to say to just make a comment – so here we are. Oh lucky you.
The background for those who can’t be arsed to read my old post – and why would you, clearly I’m just prostituting forgotten work in the hope of improving my stats – is this: I got an award. I ranted about the general crapness of awards and fake ‘likers’. Teeny responded:Thank you for this. I hate that I feel so conflicted when I get those. I feel like I am blowing someone off who is being really sincere, and that sucks. But I don’t want to do any of what is “required” ’cause I am lazy. And the idea picking/excluding blogs that I like makes me a little queasy too. That said, I like your approach and candor, of course. Cheers.
The thing is I went on to do a lot of piss-taking posts (see the blogging tips category), which people found funny (yay me), but which I may have gone too far with at times (boo me!).
I have an auto-destruct mechanism which flares up when something good happens and wants to stamp on it and throw poo at it until it goes away and I can declare that the world is a mean and excremental place once again because I lost my good thing, boo hoo. Hopefully I got a grip in time, because I like blogging, and the peculiar brand of friendships it has brought.
It still means though, that I haven’t found the balance again – how far to push the ranting spleen – because I can be an unbelievably insensitive bastard. As the descendant of a German-jewish refugee, having lost ancestors to the camps, with a childhood full of abuse, having descended into drink and drugs and fornication in my youth and clinical depression after that, then working with people who attempted suicide, self-harmed in extreme ways or who crumbled into mental breakdowns and institutionalisation, I sometimes feel entitled to say what the hell I want about things. Living with and around pain gives your heart callouses – it has to, because you can’t rescue someone from self-harm by getting upset and crying about it.
If I want to make a joke about the anal-gazing tedium of the kind of crap depressed people bore us with – I’m taking the piss out of myself – so why shouldn’t I? Jewish jokes? German jokes? Do I not have the right? What about abuse? How far does experience entitle one to go? This far?
Or is that too much?
But I have to have some sensitivity to other people’s feelings, or I will be very lonely!
Which is what Teeny’s comment did to me. It brought up this question, which I don’t think has an answer – I don’t think there can even be an answer. Like most of life there is no right way, no one truth, only a constant balancing game which can feel both liberating (I have choices) and terrifying (there’s no manual, no ‘right’, only – ultimately – absolute self-responsibility.)
The question is – how do we have friends ‘properly’?
There are, it seems, two essential ways of making and keeping friends.
One is to be or do what will make you ‘friend’ material. This is our ‘young mode’. As children we don’t know who we are, and spend a great deal of time imitating or pleasing others in an effort to make friends. We adopt fashions, listen to popular music and watch the latest ‘trending’ movies, because we want to be part of something, some clique or group. If someone asks us what we like, we respond not from our heart, but from a menu of current ‘acceptable’ things.
The second way is the hard way, the scary way, and the way that can go terribly wrong. While ‘trendships’ can leave us unhappy because we are not being authentic, at least we will have a group, some friends, things will ‘appear’ as if we are okay. These ‘trendships’ also avoid conflict because you just have to agree with everyone – although the endless fretting about how to appease everyone can get pretty tiring.
The second way is to be yourself, and accept that a lot of people will not like it. But this can ultimately leave us very isolated.
It doesn’t mean you must be a bastard – that’s just my way ;). It does mean that you don’t do things, say things or adopt things just because that’s what other people expect of you. If you want to be a writer, and all around you say you must not – you have to be brave and leave those around you – start your friendships fresh.
This mature, authentic way will inevitably leave you with fewer friends, but they will be better, more genuine friends whom you can be real around, who will help you grow, not keep you in place.
It’s complicated, involves conflict and can be treacherous. For example, when I said “bollocks” to awards, I think I cemented some ‘Blog-friendships’, but I also upset and annoyed some people. I’m okay with this, in the end, because I know I’d rather be me than be popular (trust me, I can’t be both!). But even so it is not without price. The loss of those blog-followers was sad and upset me.
What is true of blogs is true also of ‘real’ friends.
What Teeny triggered in me was a kind of ‘vision’ of people all tremulously and desperately trying to do the right thing (I’m not saying Teeny does this, only that she triggered the thought).
I wrote recently about what has come to be called ‘gesture politics‘. The tories turn real people into statistics so that they can be persecuted without anyone protesting. They then persecute them because this LOOKS like they are addressing a bigger political issue. They cut welfare so that the public believe they are addressing the budget deficit. What most people don’t see is that the cut in welfare will have no real effect on a £2trillion debt. It is all just gesture – fakery – a politics of appearance. The suffering it brings to the poor is the only real part of it.
In this same way we seem to have developed a society of the gesture. Friendships and relationships are so public, so broadcast, so analysed that they have become all about everybody trying to validate themselves by asking “am I real for you?”
We read magazine articles on what love is, watch films about what friendships mean, read cod-psychology in the press and pick up a thousand messages every day about what is ‘real’ or ‘right’. Then we go into the world and try to appear to everyone else as if we are ‘normal’ or happy, or this kind of person.
Christmas is a great example. So few of us want to do the shopping, presents, debt crap that Christmas has turned into – but we don’t want to look like humbugs either. The pressure to “appear” to be doing Xmas “properly” is so great that we find ourselves making all the right “gestures”, despite not wanting to. I watch people doing so much that makes them unhappy, in the name of the “season of joy” – it’s tragic.
Do friendships have to be so difficult? Must we have so much ‘personal-politics’, such a morass of etiquette? How much should we account for other people’s feelings, and how much should we say “I’m me, if you don’t like it, fuck off!”
If I crap all over awards from a great height, should I care that it upsets people? Should I feel bad because there are others getting all excited over the same awards? Should they care about what I’ve said? Should my dismissal lessen their own pleasure in awards?
As I say, I don’t think there is just one answer – and I imagine most people stopped reading this hours ago and began stabling themselves in the eye with a fork as a more pleasurable alternative. But I’d love to hear what you who have held on this far think!
Have we made everything too public? Has our obsession with therapy, magazine psychology and media morality turned us into self-obsessed “gesture-puppets”. Or am I just going quietly mad alone!