Warn­ing signs

Em­i­lie Mcmeekan & Annabel Rivkin

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - CONTENTS -

There are al­ways warn­ing signs. They say that the thing that wor­ries you within the first half an hour of meet­ing a new per­son will be the thing that mad­dens you about them in the end. Might be friend­ship. Might be love. ei­ther way, never, they say, get se­ri­ous about any­one you can’t imag­ine be­ing ‘hap­pily di­vorced’ from.

But warn­ing signs aren’t al­ways as sim­ple as be­ing rude to waiters, sulk­ing or tak­ing bizarrely in­tense of­fence at a flu-fu­elled can­cel­la­tion. They are of­ten de­liv­ered via a self-con­scious dec­la­ra­tion of qual­i­ties de­signed to make the speaker sound more ap­peal­ing – in­deed, in­trigu­ing. Be­ware…

‘I’m very com­pli­cated’

This can be eas­ily un­rav­elled to mean, ‘Deal­ings with me will quickly get dif­fi­cult, prob­a­bly rather tir­ing and pos­si­bly mad­den­ing.’ Peo­ple who an­nouce they are com­pli­cated fre­quently know that they are a mon­u­men­tal pain in the a rse but t hey a re suga rcoat ing. The ques­tion is, are they proud to be dif­fi­cult or a re t hey gen­uinely t rou­bled? Com­pli­cated means im­pos­si­ble. Which means there had bet­ter be a sen­sa­tional up­side to com­pen­sate.

‘I’m so spir­i­tual’

Is t here an el­e­ment of myth-mak­ing about this? a shal­low self-in­volve­ment? a con­stant con­cern with one’s po­si­tion in t he uni­verse and t he ever-present pos­si­bil­ity that they might say, ‘This is bad karma. Your an­gry aura is mess­ing with my chakras,’ and leave? Or they might bore you to deat h. Plus t hey might make you do yoga, to­gether. Do t r uly spir it ual peo­ple shout about it over din­ner? Just ask­ing…

‘I don’t take life too se­ri­ously’

This is the lis­tener’s cue to think, ‘Well done you. Oh, how I ad­mire your lighthea r ted­ness and good hu­mour.’ But what if this is less a sign of sweett em­per–Fun! Fun! Fun !– and more a clear in­di­ca­tion of lack of ac­count­abil­ity? Fast-for­ward a month or two (this one is skewed to­wards dat­ing, but if you are mis­er­ably mar­ried to some­one who used this as an open­ing gam­bit – sorry) and there you are, let down, con­fused. But there is no re­course be­cause, guess what? They don’t take life too se­ri­ously. What this per­son is re­ally telling you is that he( or she, though prob­a­bly he) will al­ways have the last word in a painful sit­u­a­tion. Or the last words. and they will be, ‘I told you so.’ ‘I’m a good per­son’ Where to beg in… *sighs and makes fourth cup of cof­fee de­spite pound­ing heart*. The self-de­clared good guy (or gal) is not re­veal­ing pu­rity of soul but an un­will­ing­ness – in ex­treme cases a re­fusal – to be the bad guy. If your brain can’t ac­cept when you a re at fault, if you can’t com­pute that you are blessed with hu­man frailty and the po­ten­tial to bug­ger stuff up, then you be­come dan­ger­ous. Not to men­tion in­fu­ri­at­ing.

‘I’m very loyal’

Im­me­di­ate back­stab­ber alert. Loy­alty does rather than says. It feels sus­pect when we shout about it. Just as ‘this is hi­lar­i­ous’ kills the joke and ‘this is sexy’ kills the mood. Be loyal, be funny, be sex y… If you a re com­pli­cated, work to­wards beau­ti­ful sim­plic­ity. If you are sweet-tem­pered, share the mir­a­cle of your mood. Be it. Don’t de­clare it. This is the law of the Midult jun­gle. We are pre­pared to be wrong on all of the above. Maybe they are lovely and re­as­sur ing sig ns of emo­tional t ranspa rency and self-knowl­edge. Maybe we are nasty women. Maybe. Over to you… themidult.com

‘I’m very loyal’ is an im­me­di­ate back­stab­ber alert

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