At the meal last night:
She: Who are you here with, Andrew?
Me: Just Mum and Dad.
She: No girlfriend?
Me: Nope, afraid not.
She: Why not? You had one, didn’t you?
Me: Well, she left me.
She: Ah well. You should be playing the field at your age. Until you’re 24 or so, anyway. Go and have some fun.
Me: Ummm, I’ll try.
She: You’re not gay, are you?
She: Phew. Just wanted to check I hadn’t put my foot in it.
It was an interesting experience. The meal was with a company I’ve done some work for via Mum & Dad, and I figured it’d just be people I knew. There turned out to be a fair few more, and when we walked in it was much posher than I’d expected. Although there were a few ‘youngsters’ there, I was the youngest by a conservative 15 years, and most were much older. As you may know I’m not very good with people I don’t know terribly well – I get all insecure and decide that everybody would be better off not meeting me. It was the kind of meal where there’s a pre-arranged seating plan, too, and I was away from Mum and Dad so couldn’t just keep my head down. We also shared our initial meeting room with another group, which contained various attractive young women. Bear in mind that this is the person who, when somebody pretty sat down next to him at Paris airport on Monday, stood up and left in anticipation of the unlikely event that she tried to talk to him and he made a fool of himself. So this didn’t help very much – it was just nerves all round from the start.
You know something strange? I’ve mentioned to three different people recently that I’m studying maths and physics, and this has provoked them to tell me at length how awful they were at those subjects. But it’s more than just a brief ‘I could never get my head around it’. They’ve really spent time laying into themselves and their mathematical abilities. I can almost understand the societal impulse to be modest, but it’s quite stunningly awkward, as well as unnecessary, I think. For starters, I don’t actually believe it. They may have lacked interest, but I doubt they were actually as atrocious as they claim. It’s also quite tricky for me as I generally sit there, smile and nod without wanting to seem like I’m agreeing too vociferously. I think it’s perfectly possible in conversation to be proud of achievements without appearing egotistical. It’s a bizarre thing.
I also had a few conversations with people about future prospects, which was equally interesting from an anthropological standpoint. Most people’s advice centred around the financial aspects of jobs. I was told of relatives who are making loads of money and have company cars etc. I was told of professions that reap large financial rewards. I didn’t really pick up on this until somebody said that I should do whatever I enjoy, as long as I can make ends meet. That’s entirely my attitide, and I wonder whether most people don’t really think that too. Obviously money is extremely important – hell, I’m more materialistic than most – but I really couldn’t do something I wasn’t enjoying. In fact I haven’t – twice. I wonder whether people think that I should concentrate on money until I can afford to do what I want, or whether they don’t want to open themselves up to criticism by saying something that may be construed as bad advice in some circles, or whether they genuinely think that money is the most important thing. It’s fascinating.
They were all very pleasant people (although extremely Conservative 🙂 ) and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind my comments above. I remained pretty nervous and didn’t do a great job at socialising, but also didn’t do or say anything tremendously stupid. Hopefully.