This is the first of a series of ongoing pieces – for such issues never end – with an obviously related theme. Hopefully I won’t dwell on them too much, and will intersperse them with far more interesting material.
I obviously look upon the ruins of my connection with you, and its impact on many other parts of my life, in a very conflicted way. Bewilderment, bemusement, anger, and above all pain, these are the predominant descriptors. Should I add guilt? That wouldn’t be honest, for I don’t feel any great guilt over anything that I’ve said, done or written to you. Obviously I need to be re-educated, because I honestly don’t get it.
Let me start with a quick, blunt appraisal of you, to my mind. You have energized me and drained me of energy, in turns. I’ve rarely met a more sensual and sexual person, and that is highly energizing. To describe a person as sexy, is to say something both complex and highly subjective. Dull people, for example, aren’t sexy no matter how symmetrical their features or how svelte their figures. To describe someone as sexy is to say how you in particular respond to and are invigorated by their smile, their movements, their voice, their turn of phrase, their hunger and so on. It’s almost always a response to something quite unconscious in the other, and I won’t take it any further than that.
The trouble is, whether I dwell on the positives or the negatives, I’m bound to get your back up! So I’ll just try to proceed in all honesty.
Counterbalancing this energizing – indeed endlessly energizing – quality is something about you that leaves me flat. It’s a kind of strident, and I think fake-confident opinionatedness about everything. Now, of course, I feel myself the victim of that opinionated closure, and I suppose that was inevitable.
Opinions are conclusions. They come at the end. They close discussion. If someone says ‘I hate that writer’ or ‘that building’s a piece of shit’, or ‘that guy’s an arsehole’, there doesn’t seem much more to say. The implication seems to be that the person has thought all there is to think about the subject, has come to a considered and definite conclusion, and is now merely delivering it for the edification of others. To respond with, ‘well, I’m not sure I agree with you’, just seems a deliberate act of provocation. It’s draining to even think about coming out with such a response – you can already sense the defensiveness, the brick wall that you’re about to hit. Perhaps a better response is to ask why? – and maybe get a dialogue started that way.
This is an important point. In all the years I’ve known you, I can’t recall having too many stimulating conversations with you, and this is, I think, because you’re one of the most judgmental persons I’ve met. It’s true that this judgmentalism is like a red rag to a bull for me, and that I’m tempted to goad you when confronted with it, but in the past I’ve restrained myself far more often than giving into this impulse.
This would be almost acceptable if you were a deeply informed person, steeped in the culture of whatever you happen to be dismissing, but clearly you’re not, and you’ve admitted this yourself often enough. Some years ago you were talking with pride about having read only about ‘three books in the last ten years’, and you’ve rarely evinced any interest in science, or history, or anything particularly cultural apart from rock music, comedy shows and home decorating. One would think this would engender some humility in your view of things, but it seems to me you prefer to try to humble the world to your simplifying views than to seem to appear weak by expressing uncertainty and wonder and amazement at the inordinate complexity around you.
Having said this, I’m absolutely delighted that you’ve started work this year as a political/cultural journalist with Radio Adelaide. I’ve always had a high regard for your intelligence, and I hope this job will continue to motivate you to move out of your comfort zone, leave your numerology and horoscopes behind, and explore cultural areas left barely touched in the past. I’m very envious. One day, if you ever rescind your decision to hate me, I might amuse you with my own feeble efforts, more than twenty years ago, to join the staff of Radio Adelaide – 5UV as it was then – as a volunteer.
I’ll wind up this first piece on the subject – there is so much more to say – by summarising the above a little. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed being a witness to your life – which has changed greatly in that time. From time to time, I’ve allowed myself a little commentary, and this has obviously incensed you to an extraordinary degree. Why this is so is essentially a psychological question. I’ve never wanted to spend lots of time with you, I’ve never angled for that. Your rigidity of thought, and your boredom with any ideas that can’t be grasped in less than five minutes, makes you more interesting to observe from a certain distance, and with a certain wry humour. You don’t really deserve to be taken too seriously. Which raises the question of why your treatment of me has hurt me so much. And it really really has. I might explore that next time.