Five Situations I Do Not Know How To Handle

I cannot handle generosity. I am incapable. I know it’s my failing, not that of the people around me; I’m not that self-absorbed (says the man writing a blog about the workings of his own mind, hoping against hope that some people will read it). The problem is that I don’t know what to say; I certainly don’t know where to look. Self-consciousness overtakes gratitude, and I just end up flummoxed.

Some people are just legitimately generous, but I always assume that things should be done evenly, and that I should pay my share; that I should be taking one bite, instead of taking it all. I just don’t get that people may want to treat me, may want to give me lovely things, may want to share the abundance which they have found themselves enjoying. And with me of all people. I need to learn.

People tell me to fill my boots. I blush; I mutter something cryptic about having big boots. The reality is that I am jubilant, but I do not want to seem eager to deprive someone of their provender. I have a rapacious appetite; I am most comfortable when I am able to satisfy my hungers with my own purchases. Anyone else seeing how much I can eat and drink is embarrassing. I should get over it.

A man is being manly with me. He is exuberant and slightly macho. He is an alpha male, inviting me in to his group. I mutter and I stutter, or I try to be equally loud and enthusiastic. I cannot make eye contact, and I should stop staring at his teeth. This is why I no longer leave the house. I am a rather large man, with a magnificent beard. Manly men are drawn to me, like moths to flames. Of course.

The problem is that I am effete; since my days working in the kitchens of terrible restaurants I have not done a day’s hard work. I operate a computer, upon which I carry out well thought out analysis and produce marketable insight. In the evenings I write sensitive blogs about my struggles with the real world. I should be soldering. I have the impression that the manly men can sense this about me.

In reality they have as much emotional intelligence as a stick dancing to techno, but I’m not to know that; at least not in the moment. I look like a man, but I feel like a child. Of either gender. I have no place in this world of tools and sport. Talk to me about Norwegian Folk pop music, and the figures of classical rhetoric and we’d be on safer ground. Just don’t tell my father-in-law any of that, please.

The most frustrating feeling I routinely experience is when people tell what me I think, how I feel, what I know, what I expect: yet that which is something I know I do not. They are often so fixed in their view of my perceived preferences that they will actually correct me on what it is that I like. No matter how hard I protest, the fallacious view which they hold, has set like concrete. Not so good.

My opinions are largely fluid; it’s partly my own fault, then. I feel exactly what I say at the point at which I am saying it; however, when you quote it back at me it bares no relationship at all to how I feel at that later point. My viewpoint changes according to the events of the day and the direction of the wind. This may be very frustrating to the people around me, but it is who I am; how I function.

It is not deliberate, yet I am told that it is. People assume that my past views are indicative of my future views. That may very well be the case, but they interpret them the wrong way, like a goal keeper diving in the wrong direction at a penalty kick. It is their assumption I have the problem with, not my own whimsically flexible attitudes to the business of the day. Is that so hard to grasp? No?

I cannot handle different layers of noise. Say, for instance, I am trying to listen to my partner or my daughter trying to tell me something important, but a car is driving past, or the dogs are making a noise, or some of the staff at Sainsbury’s are moving a great deal of stock from one end of the shop to another; I cannot differentiate between the sounds, and so do not hear what I am being told.

Background noise almost deafens me to the sounds close at hand; the things I am actively trying to hear. I have to ask people to repeat themselves. Repeatedly. It makes me feel inadequate; it makes me frustrated; it results in me being very angry. Being able to hear things is such a simple need, and I hate the fact that it is slipping away from me. I miss things people say to me because I don’t catch it.

Part of the issue is my slowly advancing years, and that I am comfortable with. Part of the issue is the self-inflicted nature of hearing loss: I have abused my ears for decades with increasingly extreme metal music. For the most part the people around me don’t want to hear it, so I have always had to resort to headphones. And I always turned them up too far. I’m frustrated with myself, and I know it.

I really want to go in to the bars I see when I am on holiday; I see local people eating in them, having a jolly old time. I read about them on TripAdvisor and on Facebook, and my expectation before I set off is that they will be a perfect spot for a bite to eat when I am on holiday. The problem is that I am intimidated to go in to them when the time comes. I balk and choose somewhere more generic.

I see lots of great places, with great atmosphere and decent menus, and I wish I could just walk in. Such bars are the hub of the local community and offer far more than just a pint and a pie. When we visit my partner’s father we manage it, and it is comfortable: friendly people friendlily bring drinks and snacks for us to fill ourselves upon; a bill is paid out of sight, and off we go. I am but a man-child.

The same applies to the local beer shop. I want to support local businesses very much, and I cheered loudly at the sight of a new alcohol vendor in our neighbourhood, but I have not been able to bring myself to venture past its doors. The problem is that I do not know how it works. I do not know how any of these places work. That is why I end up in the generic places, even though I wish I wouldn’t.