HEY, LET’S MEET! NO, LET’S NOT
Socalise? Actually, I’d prefer to be scratching my cat’s ears, says Eilis O’Hanlon, who will be staying in. Alone
Being anti-social is hard work. You’re constantly having to come up with new reasons for not doing things that other people want to do. Trust me, “I’d love to, but the cat’s not feeling well” only goes so far.
I should get a T-shirt printed with a variation of those signs about credit that used to hang in shops back in the day. It could say, “Please do not ask me to go anywhere with you, as a refusal often offends”. What people don’t seem to understand is that going somewhere would mean leaving the house, and why would you want to do that, except to go for a quiet walk (by yourself ) or a long cycle (also by yourself )?
And don’t think that means I want you coming to my house instead. Because, just to be clear, I don’t. Some people have an open-door policy when it comes to their homes. They love to fill every nook and cranny of the place with friends and family. I have more of a ‘close the door and then lock it to be extra sure’ policy. If I had a drawbridge, I’d have it permanently raised.
The whole idea of a house is that it’s a refuge from the world. If you don’t make a distinction between your house and the world, then everything just becomes another public place, and where would you retreat to when all those people out there, with their noisy chatter and space-invading presence, get too much to bear?
I’m not even sure I like the idea of people knowing where I live at all. I’d rather we just communicated by text message or email, then, on the few occasions when I did agree to meet another person in the flesh, I’d just mysteriously appear, like the man who owns the costume shop in the animated series (“as if by magic, the shopkeeper appeared”), before vanishing again the moment we’d drunk our coffee.
I’ve certainly never hosted a dinner party, though I enjoy cooking. Cooking for myself, that is to say. Cooking for other people is a nuisance. Plus, I’d have to talk to them, and there’d be no guarantee when they’d leave again.
They’d still be sitting there at midnight, droning on, while I’d be mourning all the pages of the book I’m reading that I could have got through instead.
I admit it’s probably a bit weird. Some people tell me it’s a Northern Irish thing. We’re supposed to be more reticent and aloof than our southern neighbours. “Whatever you say, say nothing,” and all that.
I’m suspicious of geographical explanations for behaviour I know plenty of strange Northerners who open up their homes to all-comers, too but it’s as good an excuse as any. “Don’t mind me, I’m from Belfast” that could be another T-shirt.
Though, to be honest, knowing I’m from Belfast is still more information than I’d rather divulge. I don’t understand this need for confiding. For telling people about your private life. Surely that’s why it’s called a private life? If it was for general consumption, it would be called a public life.
I used to belong to a book club. It all went pear-shaped. Long story. But what really bothered me was that point in the evening when everyone had said all they wanted to say about that month’s book and the women in the group would start talking about their lives. This usually happened after about ten minutes. Silly me thought a book club was for discussing books. Turns out, it’s really about telling everyone how the book made you feel about your own life.
I wanted to bolt every time. First, because I’m not comfortable with this ‘touchy-feely, let it all hang out, Too Much Information’ vibe; and second, because there’s an expectation that, having been on the receiving end of their confidences, you should share something of yourself in return. “But I never asked for your life story in the first place,” I’d silently cringe.
Or else they’d bore on about their children, which is second only to other people’s dreams for maximum tedium.
This is why it’s far better to stay in. Read a book, watch a film, listen to music, scratch the cat’s ears, anything. A full social life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. What are you missing, really?
‘If my private life was for general consumption, it would be called my public life’