Wednesday, 18 March 2009

In which the irony is so thick you can cut it with a hacksaw

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

One of the dangers of publishing a book is that it can, if you are not very careful, turn you into a monster. I realised today, to my unfathomable chagrin, that I have been in a vortex of solipsism (put that on a t-shirt) for the last couple of weeks that was so complete it was practically performance art. I spent so much time thinking about the book, and worrying about the book, and wondering what people thought of the book, that I forgot how to be a reasonably decent human being.
Even worse, I forgot how to be a good friend. One of the major themes of the book is the joy and art and vital nature of being and having a good friend. Romantic love is all very fine and thrilling, but it is your friends who will save your life. And I forgot how to be one.

So I have put myself in the corner with a big D for Dunce on my hat and have given myself a good talking to. Of course the other irony is that the book insists that perfectionism is one of the curses of that the modern female labours beneath, and that we should all step away from the impossible demands. It says: try not to lash yourself for every tiny lapse. I have indulged in a little lashing, because there is still a crazed part of me which wants to be a perfect person, although I have no idea what that person would look like, or whether anyone would actually want to spend any time with her. It’s practically post-modern.

Still, in a great leap forward in the quest to live by my own maxims, I have admitted that I was in the wrong. There is a whole section in the book about being in the wrong, and how you should own up to it at once and just apologise. I did that! And I never use exclamation marks. I hate bloody being in the wrong, it makes me stiff and cranky, like a cross old lady. But there is no question that I was far in it that I practically needed a passport to get back to good old Blighty.

It seems curious that after hours of therapy, years of pondering, a lifetime of reading, I should find myself, at the age of forty-two, getting in a fiendish twist about something so small and ephemeral as a book. It feels odd that I should get so lost in self-regard that I found myself shouting at someone I love dearly. I never shout. (This may be a slight delusion on my part.) But my friend has done just exactly what the book says that the good friends do: understood and forgiven.

I am going to stop mentioning the book in a moment, but here is one final thought. The main burden of its song is that, despite all the gleaming glossy images of womanhood hurled about in the media, in defiance of the mad stereotypes of domestic goddesses and yummy mummies, perhaps the contemporary female should just be herself, with all her flaws and frailties. Because that is the human condition, and that is sort of all right. I was all human condition today, and perhaps it is sort of all right.

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