Friday, 3 June 2011

To err is human

The excellent Miss Scarlet says she is aiming to be elegant and sophist-icated. That's a tall order. Two qualities that are hard to carry off successfully. Only a rare few have the knack.

I'm certainly not one of them. Elegant and sophisticated I am not. The very idea is laughable. At any social event, I'm the one who's sure to walk into a cupboard instead of the toilet, say the wrong thing, not know the correct way to eat spaghetti, demolish a priceless vase, forget everyone's names and not notice the hostess is six months pregnant.

But those people who really are effortlessly sophisticated - aren't they impressive (and infuriating)? She (and it's usually a she) glides into a room like a fish into a lake, completely in her element, nonchalantly greeting one person after another (remembering all their names instantly), saying just the right thing to put them at their ease, tossing off a deft witticism or two, avoiding all the awkward moments that lie in wait for the rest of us (she handles her spaghetti as nimbly as a Sicilian) and drawing constant gasps of admiration and envy as she proceeds.

I exaggerate of course. Nobody is that perfect. Everyone fluffs their lines from time to time,even the Belle of the Ball. And personally, while always admiring Ms Effortlessly Sophisticated, the people I actually warm to are the ones who do fluff their lines, the ones who try so hard to be suave but still manage to tread on the dog or spill tomato sauce on their pants. They're the ones I actually want to get to know, because they're so clumsily and endearingly human. And much more fun.

To err is human, to forgive divine - Alexander Pope

29 comments:

speccy said...

Nick, I think we'd get on well. I'm the scruffy embarrassing one hiding in the kitchen

Nick said...

Speccy - Ah yes, hiding in the kitchen. A lot of people try that one. Well, after the meal's over, that is. Hiding in the toilet's popular too.

Baino said...

Well I'm no glider that's for sure. I earned the monica "Basher Bainbridge" with my inability to retain glassware for more than a couple of months! I console myself with "People who don't make mistakes don't make anything!" hehehehe

Nick said...

Baino - I remember you mentioning your glass-smashing tendency previously. If my social outings present me with any fragile, delicate looking tableware, I get very nervous. I handle them as if they're rare archaeological artefacts about to crumble into dust.

Grannymar said...

I've learned not to go in the kitchen any more, since it usually leads to me doing the clearing up!

Eryl said...

It must be quite fun to be able to command a room full of people. I'd quite like to try it, just once.

nursemyra said...

Better not to notice the hostess is 6 months pregnant than to ask someone who's merely overweight when their baby is due

Nick said...

Grannymar - Ah, you just have to pretend you're so drunk you'll probably smash everything. Then you'll be shooed out of the kitchen forthwith.

Eryl - It would be quite a sensation, wouldn't it? But in my case about as likely as a month of Sundays.

Myra - Indeed, I was thinking just that. I wouldn't want to be stumbling out of the house with black eyes and a broken jaw.

Miss Scarlet said...

I wish I could manage a deft tossing off.
Sx

I didn't write that. Did I?

Macy said...

Walking into a cupboard, thinking it's a toilet is OK Nick - as long as you immediately walk out without, ahem, further ado.. so to speak..

Rummuser said...

Nick, you and I will hit it off very well when we meet. You just have to remember that my son and heir calls me the bull in the China shop! I would just change that to mean Bull Elephant in a China shop. I leave the rest to your imagination.

Nick said...

Scarlet - I'm sure you're more than capable of a deft tossing-off.

Macy - Goodness yes, without further ado. Though you'd have to be pretty pissed to think further ado was possible.

Ramana - A bull in a china shop is not a pretty sight. Or so I imagine, not having actually seen one. Luckily I don't enter china shops very often, we have quite enough china as it is.

Wisewebwoman said...

Oh gawd, never, I've got no aspirations in that direction whatsoever, always been a bit klutzy and terrified of the crystal and going mental from trying to remember your name and then getting you mixed up with the peculiar exnun and her cats who live in that smelly house up the hill.
See what I mean?
You're in excellent company, my good chap.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

W3 - I don't know why people have such valuable bits and pieces in their houses, the guests must always be nervous they're going to destroy something worth a packet.

wendy house said...

'Sophisitcated' implies some things I'm not comfortable aspiring to. I like going to places where I don't know the local social ettiquette so accidentally break the common behavioural norm (inelegant, unsophisticated?). I like being me and people who are good hearted enough to see beyond ettiquette

Liz said...

You'd like me then, nick!

Nick said...

Liz - Oh yes, I know what you're like! You just want to enjoy yourself, and you don't care if you look a bit of a twit in the process. Elegance be damned!

Nick said...

Wendy - Etiquette's something else altogether, I think. Most etiquette is just a load of rather pointless artificial rules, designed to make those who're in the know feel haughtily superior. I read somewhere that Princess Diana often flouted convention by eating with her fingers.

wendy house said...

What is your understanding of 'sophisticated'?

Nick said...

Wendy - Tricky one. Simple answer, the opposite of vulgar (defined by someone or other as always being too obvious). Sophisticated answer, I would say a mixture of experience, intelligence, sensitivity and subtlety. How's that?

wendy house said...

yep, that helps me understand your previous comment :-)

Nick said...

Wendy - Always good to know I've explained something in a way that makes sense!

secret agent woman said...

I feel fortunate not to have as friends any of these elegant and sophisticated people of which you speak.

Roses said...

I'm happy to say my social functions do not include 'elegant'. But, I'm a bit coarse that way.

My dad used to quote: you're never lonely eating spaghetti.

He was right.

Nick said...

Secret Agent - Me too. As I say, they may be admirable but I can't warm to them.

Roses - Never heard that quote. Apparently from Christopher Morley, the full version being "No man is lonely eating spaghetti; it requires so much attention." Very true. If you're absorbed in something, you don't need other people. Loneliness just means boredom.

Val said...

I'm one of the scruffiest most accident prone people going, Nick. Recently I got a really nice jacket, found the sleeves were too long, cut them off, hemmed it badly and now spend my time trying to pretend that my arms are different lengths to take attention away from the sleeve lengths!

Now... will this comment post, I wonder...

Nick said...

Val - Yes, I've done a few unsuccessful alterations like that. I always envy those people whose clothes fit them perfectly. Where do they find them?

blackwatertown said...

Walking into a cupboard. Yes.
I managed to do something like that in front of hundreds - well dozens of people anyway.
It was the highlight of my acting career. I was killed off in Macbeth at the Lyric theatre in Belfast. The lights went down. I slipped offstage as planned, but went through the wrong curtain. Almost immediately my nose touched the fire escape. I turned to nip back on stage and round to the actual wings. Too late! Lights were up and action ongoing again. I couldn't step out without distracting from the action on stage. Nor could I go through the exit door without setting off the fire alarm. So I stood, and waited. And waited and stood. Till the end of the play. Back stage they hadn't a clue where I'd got to.
I'm still looking for the wages of sin, but I can tell you what the wages of acting are - misery, five pounds and a bottle of coke. well I was only only wee at the time.

Nick said...

Blackwater - Quite a contretemps! I guess it was the fear of humiliation that gave you the patience to stand there for so long! I think the wages of acting are poor for most jobbing actors. And the backstage conditions at the old Lyric used to be horrendous.