Monday, 19 September 2011
other people’s lives from the outside
I realise that what I’m about to write may possibly single me out as a potential candidate for a straight jacket and a padded cell, some form of mood stabilizing medication, or more likely just cement my reputation as a weirdo worrier, but I thought I’d take a small moment of your time to have a rant about the nature of other people’s lives viewed from the perspective of the outsider.
Maybe it’s because I’m overtly insecure with constant sensations of inadequacy, maybe it’s because I go on facebook too often, but from my point of view everybody else’s life (with a few exceptions) looks better than mine. Regardless of marital status, age, location, earning capacity and education, it seems almost apparent from the outset that everyone is having a better time, going to more parties, having better sex, loving longer in more fulfilling relationships, and eating better food for cheaper than I am. I say this openly because I wish to be retorted at. I’m waiting for the paraplegic who lost his limbs under torture in Auschwitz and who lost all his friends and family in ‘Nam to wheel in to my room and tell me to stuff my insecurity up my arse, before returning to his luxury yacht with his hundred or so concubines. As you can see, my insecurity is even affecting my hypothesized counter-argument.
I’m not making much sense I fear. But in a characteristically meta-fashion I wish to explore the nature of this paranoia whilst remaining resolutely paranoid about the whole affair. Firstly, the “better time” thing: My father always used to say (he really did. A LOT.) that if you admire and are envious of someone else for a certain aspect of their life, be it a skill, talent or ability, that part of you is reflecting the thing in yourself. For example, you may not be the next Bill Gates, but perhaps you have the capacity to run a reasonably successful computer company. You might not be a Brendel or an Ashkenazy, but there’s still a chance you could bash out “Hey Jude” on the piano once in a while if you put the time in. That sort of thing. But where was I? Ah, yes. The better time thing is perhaps linked to my own wishes and capacity to have a good time once in a while, since I seem to be broke frequently.
But could I do that every night though?
God no! How is that possible unless you are of that lucky class who are financed by their forebears so that they might party constantly and are always on cocaine? Or perhaps you are an artist at scabbing all that you need? Maybe. The chances are however that facebook, and the photos that usually go there as well as the stories the scars (and maybe a stolen bottle of vodka or two that are left on the mantelpiece as mementos) are all taken from the exceptional moments in one’s life – the one or two actually GOOD parties that one has had the privilege to attend in the last year/decade/lifetime, whilst the majority of us flounder in the pointlessness of trying socialising with people we barely know in search of the ultimate night out. The majority of these mementos are perhaps taken at opportune moments at dull parties, when there was nothing to do but take photos and try to look happy. I developed a theory during one of my lucid periods that the most photographed events had to be the dullest. Otherwise said photographers would have been busy taking part in the fun. Or perhaps they had asked someone to take photos. Who knows?
As for sex and relationships, if you’re not in one or doing the other it’s always is going to seem more fun than it actually is. I’ve spent plenty of time on either side of the intersecting lines, looking back and thinking that the grass was more potent on the other side. The truth of the matter is that love and passion are tempestuous things. For every happy cuddle you see between a couple in public, you can spy a demoralising put-down later on, or can assume that there will be an argument regarding whether one of the party should be allowed to watch Dexter without the other, while the other goes to visit their mother or play tennis or go out dancing with their friends or some faff.
In addition there’s the unbearable sense of restriction one feels in entering in to a relationship, whilst those who go round sleeping with as many people as possible, generally have intimacy issues. They are regularly refreshed no doubt, but reading Ron Jeremy’s autobiography has convinced me that (unbelievable as it may sound) even sleeping with over four thousand women in a lifetime, isn’t a source of true contentment. Admittedly being single and not getting any pretty much sucks too, with the perpetual assumption that this is it for life and you had your fun, but you have the advantage of being able to get takeaway without adhering to someone else’s dietary regime, or being nagged that it’s incompatible with your five-a-day.
As for the better cheaper food... I shop at Lidl and know full well that every now and then that the cheap vegetables will occasionally go off without warning. I had such an incident with a bag of potatoes the other day, leaving behind a residue that would have even the most devout Catholic reaching for the butterknife. Ultimately the lesson I am trying to learn is that the bad things in people’s lives tend to go unreported (unless the individual is of the whiney type – I’ll put my own hand up here) and we should therefore not be intimidated by all the apparent good that is happening to people as it tends to even out. My uncle, the most content person I know in my family and a Hindu monk, once quoted The Phantom Menace as a source of inspiration: 'Your perception determines your reality'.
So on the universal percentage scale, other people’s lives from the outside gets 25% - because despite the fact that none of us should concern ourselves with how other people live their lives and should run our own races, we invariably do the more of the former and less of the latter... or at least I do :P.
P.S. For those of you who wrestle with similar insecurities, my housemate loaned me a laminated poster with this on it. I find it helps.