Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Pretentious, moi?

Funny how many of us are never quite happy with ourselves as we are. We feel it's not enough just to be us, we need a little extra something to make an impression, to stand out from the crowd.

It's hard to resist those familiar gambits that supposedly give us a little extra je-ne-sais-quoi but in practice make us look like pretentious, insecure gits. You think you're going down a treat when in reality everyone's wincing at your desperate attention-seeking. But it's so tempting, isn't it?

How about a bit of name-dropping? That famous actor you met last week. That bestselling author who sent you a letter. That prominent politician you had a go at.

Or maybe some place-dropping? You're just back from San Francisco. Which wasn't as cool as Chicago. And not nearly as glamorous as Sydney. And did I tell you about Los Angeles?

Or some obscure literary references? A pithy quote from Jane Austen. Or J D Salinger. Or Mary Wollstonecraft. Or The Diary Of A Nobody.

Or your visit to the trendiest restaurant in town? How you managed to get a table at Chez Rousseau when all your friends were told there was a six-month waiting list? And the champagne was on the house?

Well, no, actually I don't do any of that, though I'm probably pretentious in less obvious ways. I want to have the driest witticisms, the most original arguments, the slickest turn of phrase, the sharpest put-downs. Just saying what I think isn't enough, there has to be something more, something unexpected. I'm not just Mr Ordinary, Mr Average, I'm Mr How-about-that?

Come on, admit it, we're all trying to make an impression, aren't we? None of us wants to be bland and unforgettable, none of us wants to be an also-ran. We all want to make a mark of some kind, we all have ways of putting icing on the cake.

19 comments:

Grannymar said...

Nick, you really got me wrong this time. As Eartha Mae Kitt sang:

I'm just an old fashioned girl with an old fashioned mind
Not sophisticated, I'm the sweet and simple kind.
I want an old fashioned house, with an old fashioned fence
And an old fashioned millionaire.

Do you know where I might find one??

John Gray said...

We all want to fit in
Xxxx

Secret Agent Woman said...

While I'm unimpressed with name-dropping (celebrities bore me to tears), I think talking about travel and restaurants and so on can make for interesting conversation. Not every mention of something you've done is a desperate bid for attention.

Nick said...

Grannymar: Oh yes, just sweet and simple, huh? No pretentions of any kind? That must be why the millionaires keep overlooking you.

John: Ha, if there's anyone who stands out from the crowd, it's you! One of the highly visible Trelawnyd "characters"!

Nick said...

Agent: Sure, you can talk about the same things in a matter-of-fact, unassuming way. I was only referring to the deliberate show-offs. As usual, I didn't make myself clear enough!

Rummuser said...

My latest foray into the world outside my comfort zone is my alumni association's local chapter initiatives. I am the second oldest member there and the youngest is just about young enough to qualify to being my grand son. Can you imagine my trying to impress that bunch of modern high tech crowd? While they defer to me, I generally sit back and listen and believe me their trying to impress me works for them. I do get impressed and learn a lot of new things too. It is nice to play the role of an elder statesman.

Bijoux said...

My experience with people you describe is limited. I found it to be more of an issue in high school and my 20's, when people are more likely to be less confident about who they are.

Nick said...

Ramana: Well, nobody so far admits to trying to impress! Of course like you we can all BE impressed, and I'm impressed by lots of people,even if they're visibly working at it!

Bijoux: Ah, we must move in different circles. I regularly come across people who're trying to impress (mainly at work) and very tedious it is. My friends are more down-to-earth.

Ursula said...

Slightly irritating subject, Nick.

It's not my fault I once had lunch with Denis Healey at Locanda Cirpriani (Torcello) shared a jetty (back to Venice) with him, the lovely Edna giving me a knowing smile - her husband is something else, that's for sure. An absolute hoot. Next time you meet John Julian Norwich ask him about the time we shared a Bellini (champage with peach puree) at the Gritti Palace (or was it the Cipriani?), Venice. Then there was Ted Heath. Not to forget the rather unamusing Felicity Kendal (circa mid Eighties. She swept into the hairdresser we shared - Michael John, just off Bond Street) with a lot of dahlings (as actors do, they can't remember names, too many lines to learn). We sat next to each other till she was taken downstairs to have her dye. And then and then and then ... there was... Want me to go on? It's not name dropping. It's my bloody life. Can't see anything wrong with the odd anecdote if judiciously applied and of possible interest to the rest of the table.

U

Ursula said...

PS And yes, I have eaten at the Manoir and nearly fainted, so in awe I am of the man, when Raymond Blanc greeted me at the door, shook my hand - indeed kissed it - and later inquired if everything was to Madam's perfection. Which reminds me: It is awesome how some rather short men can make a HUGE impression. Size is not everything. Presence is.

Sorbet greetings (cleanses the palate),

U

Nick said...

Ursula: I'm sure such anecdotes would interest your companions. Most of us like to hear about personal encounters with celebs. My point is that people trot out these anecdotes simply to impress.

Ah, Felicity. We used to be bosom pals at one time, until the dreadful cockroach-in-the-soup incident. She never spoke to me again after that.

Nick said...

So, Ursula, why are you telling me all these anecdotes anyway? Because you're trying to impress me, obviously....

Unknown said...

I take it back - I can see now how very obnoxious it can sound!

Secret Agent Woman said...

Oops - that was me logged into the wrong account!

Nick said...

Agent: Nothing to worry about, I didn't think you were being obnoxious! As I said, you can talk about such things in an unassuming way or in a show-off way, and therein lies the difference.

In fact, you often talk about travel and restaurants in a very unassuming way in your own blog.

bonsaimum said...

I personally try to fly under the radar. I am genuinely interested in people but wannabe's bore me to tears. I love genuine down to earth people.

blackwatertown said...

Kapow Ursula!

Ramana - I'm sometimes the same. To learn, listening is required. Constant blether deprives one of the opportunity. I enjoy dishing it out, but also getting it back.

Nick said...

Bonsaimum: Wannabes indeed. There's nothing more excruciating than somebody trying feverishly to be something they'll never be.

Paul: True, constant puffed-up blethering can have the opposite effect to that intended. Totally unimpressed, you just turn off and talk to someone else instead.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I wasn't talking about me.