Friday, June 15, 2007


There are two types of 'friends.' The VIP ones, who get immediately whisked past the velvet ropes of reserve and small-talk, and are allowed access to the Champagne Room of the Real You. The sort you can be yourself with in a small-talk free zone. Then there are the other friends. The ones who have to queue up outside, and sometimes never make it past the bouncer. I'm very exclusive, you know.

You can tell which is which, by how one reacts to seeing someone on the street. Do you go up to them straight away, grab their arm, and start chatting like one shares an ongoing conversation, that occasionally has breaks, but can be immediately picked up on every time you meet? That's a VIP.

Or when you see them, do you rather hope to avoid their attention? If avoidance is not possible, the conversation will generally start off with the usual social script of "How are you?" and various other polite noises... Very dull.

Thus – avoidance is a carefully crafted work of art. If one is to pass an acquaintance in the street without appearing rude, it has to be quite convincing that one has not seen them. Turning one's head the opposite direction, or staring at the ground with a studied fervour will not work. Much too obvious. One needs to acquire a look of 'distance;' this is where one can actually look straight past the acquaintance, as if one is thinking of something quite engrossing. Shorten your gaze for a moment and the illusion is gone. Rather like those 'Magic-Eye' pictures, when I think about it. Hard to do, and takes practice.

It's not as rude as it might sound. It's a viable time-saving strategy.

However, some people don't get it. Mrs F is a very nice person I suppose, but much older than I, and we have nothing in common. We crossed paths in the supermarket yesterday. I focussed on the meat department over her shoulder, but she cornered me with her trolley.

"Hello! How are you?"

I made the appropriate social noises, yet Mrs F looked twitchy, like she was in a hurry to be somewhere. This annoyed me, as if one is in a hurry – that is the perfect time to engage the Magic-Eye Avoidance manoeuvre. Don’t bloody well stop and talk if one is going to look annoyed at the obligation of doing so.

I stared at her hair. She had obviously just had it done. It was a huge, greying -blonde candy-floss halo around her head. Huge. I am guessing her hey-day was in the '80s, and she can’t get over the idea that one’s hair is not ‘done’ unless it is big enough to frighten children and small animals.

"I better go," she said, "I think I'm blocking the aisle." Yeah. With your hair.

"Fuck off then," I said, cheerfully. No. Not really. But I felt like saying it. Sometimes it is more polite to ignore someone, than to stop and ask how they are.

1 comment:

ex-expat said...

though strictly the domain of the great unwashed masses, I have to say the 'raised eyebrow acknowledgment' is a great device. We've acknowledged that we know each other, but we don't have to have that annoying conversation.