Tag Archives: sympathy

Save it for Newsnight

It’s a special kind of privilege that allows you to announce that your most hated aspect of modern society is something genuinely trivial. I am aware of this and of the air of twattishness that it confers upon me and, frankly, I don’t care.

Not caring is what got me in this position in the first place. It is an excellent position to be in and I hope people join me in it. For the record, by choosing to not be annoyed by homophobia, sexism, racism and the rest of the gamut of hate, I am not saying that they aren’t shit things. They are shit, all of them, and you won’t hear me saying otherwise. It’s just that they’re huge problems and, frankly, I don’t have much faith in my ability to do anything about them.

I’m generally of the opinion that if you ignore differences they’ll probably stop being issues and as an example I am a shit feminist for precisely this reason. I’d rather we stopped empowering women in particular and started just generally being evenly tolerant and fair to all people, both twats and people with them, because it has the same result and means I don’t have to burn any bras, which are expensive and necessary.

Anyway, the end result of this even-handed apathy is that I have a lot of hate-time left over for unimportant stuff. Anyone who likes a good argument will tell you that it is far more enjoyable to debate this pointless shit than, say, the effect of discrepancies between the recycling policies of neighbouring councils on overall waste targets. Save it for Newsnight. If you’re anything like me you’ll have realised this at school, when the thought finally occurred that the day of the exam is not the day to worry about the exam, and that a handed-in essay is very literally out of your hands – don’t worry about things you can’t change, basically, when there’s some day-to-day stuff out there that’s really annoying.

So: my bĂȘte noire, my chief bugbear, the bane of my existence. I will illustrate it with an exchange typical of the sort that pisses me off:

‘Friend’: My dog just died.
Me: Oh, I’m sorry.
‘Friend’: Don’t be, not your fault.

There. Do you see? He deserves a dead dog. The dog probably died of exasperation. My ‘Friend’ has interpreted my ‘Oh, I’m sorry’ as an expression of guilt rather than sympathy, and is telling me that he’s aware that I’m not directly to blame for the demise of his pet.

Think about this – as far as the friend is apparently concerned, I have admitted that I murdered his canine. He dismisses this instantly, and says so. Who does that? Who has so much of a persecution complex and so little in the way of a brain-mouth barrier that he doesn’t rethink what I’d just said, consider that he’s aware that little Rex died of cancer and not at my hands, and accept what is obviously an attempt at compassion?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t give a shit about his dog. I’ve never met it and I don’t like them and anyway I made it up for this example. But is it not blindingly obvious that I’m not taking the fall here? Social convention says I express some kind of sympathetic bullshit at that point in the conversation. It says I don’t ask what gruesome end was involved, don’t consider whether or not ‘Friend’ is actually a bit of a knob and deserving of comfort at all, and just mutter three very comprehensible words that means my end of the conversation is kept up and we can move on to less depressing things.

The struggle is real, and the problem is rife. Listen for it, don’t do it yourself, and smile politely at those who fob your grief off in the same way. Moreover, accept your platitude with good grace and I’ll have one less entry on my hitlist. You being less of a twat means I’ll eventually get around to being motivated to be annoyed about genocide. Sort it out. You’ll be sorry if you don’t, and this time there’ll actually be blame involved.