Thursday, 11 December 2008

"About me"

Work.

Morning, how are you?

Not too bad thanks, how's yourself?

Oh, you know, hanging on in there...

...and so on and so forth, ad nauseum, ad infinitum, and other such latin phrases. Or, as well we know, how to commit to expressing absolutely nothing - at least in a verbal sense - about how one is actually feeling.

Sometimes of course, it's a case of time and place: it would be awkward or inconvenient all round, in certain situations, to express anything more meaningful, honest or open than the above, ultimately coded language.

Other times, it's more a case of habit, politeness, unwillingness, whatever.

Well, I grew bored with that.

Morning trousers, how are you?

Brutalized. How's yourself?

Fine, thanks...what? Brutalized?

- after which there may be a frown, a pause, a laugh, or all three. Or all four if you can't count. There may also be further questions: brutalized? Really?

It just happens to be one of my favourite words, and I decided I would rather use it than come out with something which says absolutely nothing, at least nothing in a direct sense. It does seem to throw people off guard a little, not that my intention is to make anyone feel awkward - but one would hardly expect such an answer to an everyday question: said casually, according to the context of the conversation, it does admittedly tend to jar a little.

It just seems a little more honest sometimes, to say something so obviously, preposterously over the top, in such a context - it does at least have the potential to invite further discussion. In the end it can also serve to put people at ease, when the result is that it's clear that we've opened up a space in which we don't have to follow the usual codes. Namely those codes which allow us to make a habit of ultimately saying nothing with any real meaning.

Of course, I don't really mean that I'm brutalized: the prospect that I might throw such a word into the first conversational greeting of the morning as though I've got the thousand-yard stare thanks to all those inhuman scenes of suffering, mayhem and brutality that I've seen first-hand in some zone of combat, is ever-so-slightly far-fetched. It's not hard though to go from such silly extremes, to somewhere much more reasonable on that particular spectrum, namely what genuine stresses, annoyances or worries may be on one's mind (if indeed such is the case).

It also served as its own form of coded language when things were at their most Kafkaesque, masking certain realities with a veil of humour.

Certain individuals now respond to me in kind, which I think is brilliant - there's an understanding there - but I wonder if it's already reaching the point of having come full circle: brutalized being a convenient shorthand for avoiding any commitment towards expressing anything in particular.

8 comments:

Fire Byrd said...

Living as I do with the youngest, who still thinks you are so cool.
Language has taken off in many new directions as the words he uses to describe things make no sense to me and my original understanding of them. I think we get too precious about language and it has to evolve and it therefore you want it to evolve in a more open dialogue than polite nicitites then you should. people use it to hide behind and sometimes we need to be more upfront about how are worlds are.
Rant over.
xx

Lady in red said...

I get caught up in the 'I'm fine' scenario and that sad thing is that mostly when I say that I really am just fine.... no extremes to mention.

perhaps I should follow your example but somehow I think if I went around saying I was brutalised my friends and colleagues would assume I had been upto something kinky

Leigh said...

Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
In the midst of my current strife, I've been completely unable to lie, and say "fine thanks." And so (knowing that they don't actually want to know that I'm brutalised, and nor do I want to tell them), I've kept my eyes down, and avoided the issue.

I had a similar issue when my first daughter was born. Everyone was so distracted by the baby, that they missed the horror in my eyes: my mother had died the previous day, but because of everyone's delight, I couldn't bring myself to tell any one.

Honesty is, of course, the best policy, when one is feeling strong enough to face it.

p.s. there's an award for you over at mine.

DJ Kirkby said...

I'm with you and Leigh on this one. People haves topped asking me how I am as they are often uncomfortable with the answer...plus I rarely ask how they are.

trousers said...

Yes indeed fire byrd, I know what you mean about the way it's gone in different directions. Confusing as hell at times, but the positive side is that it's elastic.
Polite niceties are, at times, quite depressing too.

Well it's fine to say you're fine if you are fine, lady in red, and I'm certainly not recommending you tell people you're brutalized! But really it's not even about the extremes - just even the slightest of deviations from fine as much as anything else.

My word, leigh, that must have been a difficult one. Very difficult. At times it's safer to keep such things to yourself, for a very short time anyway - as you say, until you're feeling strong enough. Wishing you much strength regarding your current strife.

Many thanks for the award - I'll pop over and see!

deej, it's a real shame that if someone asks how you are, they're only comfortable if the answer is expected to be within certain perameters.

zola a social thing said...

Indeed English has never been good as a language for opera.
Much too brutal.

Mei Del said...

well here's to another brutalizing weekend - i love it, i might steal it and try it out this week, should anyone ask me how 'm feeling

trousers said...

Good point zola - I'm hardly an opera buff anyway, but hearing it in English! No way.

Hi mei and Happy Birthday (again)! If you do try it, let me know how you get on :)