Review: Rejection

Like an impotent psychopath, rejection never gets any easier or any harder. Some are of the You’re fired/I quit school of thought, which holds that it is always better to shriek “I didn’t fancy you anyway” and try to set fire to their pubic hair than to make a dignified exit. Others understand, as singer Kristin Hersh puts it, that being a doormat is good honest work. “We have so much in common!” says the doormat. “I hate myself too!”

Some people, on being rejected, seek terrible vengeance. On principle, I approve of revenge, but I lack the organisational skills to carry it out. That bunny won't boil itself, you know.

Being rejected is a craft, but rejecting is an art form. Subtle approaches tend not to work: a sudden fierce interest in baby names or wedding dresses is deeply off-putting to the average man, but not to those who have already become morbidly attached. Another rejection red herring is attempting to stay friends: you are unlikely to have a beautiful, mutually enriching friendship with that special guy who’s taken to loitering outside your house with a camera phone in the hope of getting a picture so blurred that he can imagine it’s dirty.

The mark of a true homme/femme fatale is a finely honed disregard for the rejectee. Surveying the trail of broken hearts behind them, they might manage a thin sneer, like a general surveying the carnage of the battlefield after a decisive victory. My own technique is piss-poor in comparison, and involves expressing disbelief that anyone could be so lost to good taste and decency as to want to have sex with me. If you can’t be sophisticated, at least be kind. Failing that, a swift kick in the shins tends to work.

Rejection: Better than a kick in the teeth… oh no, wait… Very much like a kick in the teeth. 2 out of 10.


Review: Immigration

Tears sprang to my eyes this weekend as I watched yet another heart-wrenching documentary exposing the plight of immigrants desperately seeking a second home in the Loire valley, preferably for less than £120,000.

Later, on Sunday night, there was another one of those TV programmes in which a well-spoken, middle aged man wanders around the provinces asking ugly people earnest questions about immigration, in response to which they say things like, “Polish bus drivers: I won’t be having it.”

I suspect that these programmes are even cheaper than Channel 4’s interminable Top 100s.

My dad once had a lodger who was seeking asylum in the UK. He was supposed to stay two weeks and ended up staying six months, while my father and stepmother refurbished the house around him, too embarrassed to ask him to leave. He seemed happy enough amid the exposed wiring and brick dust, but then as my dad pointed out, short of simulating a miniature civil war in the living room, it would have been hard to create the kind of conditions that might compel him to leave the house.

Without immigration, this election would be the most boring since records began (although things are looking up since Charles Kennedy remembered Iraq), and we would basically have nothing to eat, as I realised the other day when trying to find an English restaurant in London. There are about two, perhaps, serving a variety of offal, and the rest are jumped-up greasy spoons serving bad pasta dishes.

Some of my best friends are immigrants, man: Americans, Canadians or Australians who came over with only a backpack to their name, fleeing parental oppression, clinging precariously to the luggage rack of a Boeing 767 as the BA air hostesses snarled nastily in their general direction. Welcome, friends, welcome!

Immigration: I demand more of it. 7 out of 10.


Review: Italian politics

What with democracy dying a slow death, and the west exporting it to increasingly bizarre places to show it a good time (very much like the Make A Wish Foundation, by whose grace, in the past, attractive 10-year-old leukemia victims would get to meet Michael Jackson), we might as well have some fun with it while it’s still here. Shake it around and make it look as if it’s waving hello; write FUCK OFF on its forehead and wee in its shoes. This is the thinking behind Italian politics.

It’s best to view Silvio Berlusconi’s entire political career as a series of practical jokes. He’s turned the Italian media into a nationwide Forza Italia fan club with added nudity; he’s shrugged off the small matter of a few Swiss bank accounts; he’s had so much plastic surgery that his face is in a permanent wince.

Now he’s refusing to resign and reform his government, despite the collapse of his coalition. Instead, he wants a confidence vote. “Don’t look at the voters, look into my eyes…” The man is a genius. And I bet he’ll be so grateful to his parliamentary supporters that he’ll give them a nice gift in a lovely brown envelope.

Italian politics: Gets better when you realise it’s supposed to be funny. 7 out of 10.


Review: Other people's expectations

Look at that poor Paula Radcliffe, having to do a press conference every time she moves her bowels. That’s what comes of allowing other people to have expectations of you.

Expectations can beset a person on all sides: good expectations; bad expectations; the expectation that every time you open your mouth, the thin, grey dust of boredom will settle on everyone in the room. The expectation, for example, that just because someone has been running a major internet reviews publication, they will necessarily update it every day. Or even every week. Or ever again. In your face, internet fame.

There is some, minimal fun to be had with challenging expectations – anyone remember the 1980s playground classic, where you held out your hand for a high five, and then withdrew it sharply, while quoting MC Hammer’s seminal You Can’t Touch This? Those were the days. In the playgrounds of north London, my eleven-year-old sister tells me, they do a variant of this where you hold out your hand, saying “Friends?”, and then whisk it away, saying “Go get some.” Try it next time you have a business meeting, or drop in to collect your JSA.

One of my favourite ways of managing expectations is to say things like, "Well, sometimes I think I'm a psychopath" during the early stages of a friendship, so that, should any psychopathy arise at a later date, you can say "But I told you I was a psychopath!" in an aggrieved tone of voice.

Other people’s expectations: Better than when they can't remember your name. 6 out of 10.


Review: Lying

Like George Washington, I am crap at lying. Not for moral reasons, but for reasons of incompetence. Still, this enables me to lord it over my morally dubious friends, who merrily lie away unhindered by guilt or helpless shiftiness while I loll about on the green grass of the moral high ground, eating the ice cream of righteousness.

I used to be better at lying: between the ages of 13 and 17, I spent a lot of my time impersonating an 18-year-old. At the time, I thought this was a brilliant success, but looking back I wonder if the city’s bouncers and barmen were more impressed by our fake IDs (constructed using a photocopier, Tippex and someone’s older brother’s driving license, and resembling nothing so much as a Blue Peter-inspired arts and crafts project gone horribly awry) or our Baby Slapper outfits. Those were the days, when a miniskirt and blue mascara seemed to scream maturity.

On a related note, I saw Abi Titmuss in a bar on Saturday, dancing among Sharon Osbourne impersonators. “Abi,” I said, “I really admire your work.” No I didn’t. See: a lie! Or a joke. Is a joke a lie?

In any case, my teens were my lying glory days. Now I just can’t do it. I can’t act either. I told an acting student this the other day, and he said, “It’s really easy. Just pretend you want this glass of water.” “But I don’t want it,” I said, baffled.

Back in the day, I had a mercifully brief “friendship” with a young man with an unhealthy fondness for Samuel Beckett, The Smiths and women’s clothing. I once told him he had hurt my feelings (by being a mental, but I didn’t mention that part). “That’s basically a lie,” he said. At the time, I found this monstrous, but looking back it seems quite funny.

Lying: An important social skill, but just not one I happen to be very good at. 4 out of 10.


Science review: Chaos

Chaos theory is where, if a butterfly flaps its wings in Somalia, I am 20 minutes late for work. An excellent excuse for when you next stagger into a meeting half an hour behind schedule and everyone's heads swivel around to judge you as a waster: it was the butterfly. Be careful, though: Pope John Paul II once said that excuses are worse than lies, as they are lies in disguise. I bet he was never late for meetings. Although now he is the late Pope.

I have welcomed chaos into my life. Right now, for example, I am hoping that writing this review will trigger a chain of events that will lead inexorably to my room packing itself up into boxes and transfering itself up Haverstock Hill by osmosis. (Osmosis is another popular scientific activity, fact fans.) And why not? Once you let go of your bourgeois expectations of causality, anything is possible.

To the irritation of efficient people, us chaotic people like to make a big fuss of our inability to do anything right or on time. Some people even go so far as to buy fridge magnets that say things like A Tidy Mind Is A Deranged Mind or You Don't Have To Be Incompetent To Work Here, But It Will Help You Make Friends Around The Office. I can see why this upsets organised people, but they should watch out: if they get too upset, they could become unbalanced and suddenly find themselves staring vacantly out of the window, thinking "It probably only takes about ten minutes to get from one side of London to the other... Oh, a squirrel".

Chaos: Scientists beware. 7 out of 10.

Review: Jeans

A good pair of jeans can bring dignity and honour to even the most threadbare of lives. A good pair of jeans can make you understand that the world is essentially benign, despite the human race’s fondness for whooping it up with bombs and instruments of torture. The search for decent jeans, as pointed out by an Australian I once knew, is a kind of lifelong grail quest, with moments of dizzy success (Miss Sixty Supertommy jeans, the Diesel shop in Covent Garden) alternating with tragedy (rips in the crotch).

Even the denim power suit (jeans and jeans jacket) can be made beautiful. If worn in the right way, it says to the world: “I am so crazily, disturbingly attractive that I can get away with wearing denim and denim. I could probably even get away with the beige culottes that Eskimo bought in a spirit of experimentation in Urban Outfitters, and now can’t bring herself to wear – that’s how beautiful I am.”

On the other hand, realising that you can only just squeeze into a pair of jeans that used to fit you perfectly is pretty high up the list of Worst Things (Trivial). It’s climbed up the charts since a close Eskimo affiliate introduced me to the phrase muffin tops, to describe the roll of fat that curves over the top of a girl’s too-tight jeans. Is that sexy hot? No it is not. But has the unexpected benefit of making it harder to sit around navelgazing.

Life trivia alert! I ordered a beautiful pair of jeans from Ebay a couple of weeks ago, at a fraction of their retail price of £130, and they are currently languishing in the post office, perhaps irretrievably. This is an excellent example of hubris, literature fans.

Jeans: Their slow progress towards world domination is hampered only by the equal and opposite force of the muffin top. 7 out of 10.