As parting shots go, ‘You have my email address, right?’ won’t go down in history as the most dramatic or heart-breaking. It doesn’t really rank with the timeless classics. ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’ would have had more impact and if you had said that I would have appreciated your honesty.
You were right though. I do have your email address. You also have my email address, not to mention my street address and phone number, but you so rarely used any of them while we were going out that I can’t imagine in a million years that you would start using them now.
No matter. I have your email address and this letter has been swimming around in my head since the last time I saw you so I’m going to write it. Whether I send it or not is another thing altogether.
Our cultures collided in a dark crowded room way back in April yet I still find myself wondering: ‘What were the chances?’ Had we left our respective flats five seconds earlier or later that night we would never have bumped in to each other. We did though. I don’t believe in fate but I do keep wondering how often this kind of thing happens and whether or not it’s likely to happen again - although not, obviously, with you.
One thing's for sure, I really feel for the next guy that bumps into you in a dark crowded room.
For some reason you always made a point of highlighting the 'differences' between our cultures and I always resisted because it was always negative. I found it divisive. One always had to trump the other and lets be honest babe, it’s not like you come from some Amazonian tree tribe. You’re a white, Catholic English-speaker who values family and likes fish. Just like me. You could be from the Highlands just like me. We’re not from different planets. You just made it seem that way.
One real difference stood out though and I think it's what’s been bugging me for the past few weeks. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing or just you but in this country, we care about manners.
You could dismiss manners as an out-dated anachronism; a symptom of Britain’s stereotypical stiff upper lip but to do so is to confuse them with etiquette - a different thing altogether.
Passing port to the left, for example, is an unnecessary anachronism but manners, on the other hand, serve a purpose. They’re about respect and consideration.
Now, I’m the first to admit that my manners could use polishing but you, darling, need a beginners’ class.
Suppose, for example, you arranged to meet a friend but later realised you couldn’t make it as a more-valued friend had shown up. What would you do?:
1)Tell the original friend to beat it.
2)Ignore the original friend
3) Apologise to the original friend for changing or abandoning the arrangement, give an explanation then offer, if possible, an alternative ie: ‘Let’s meet up next Wednesday.’
Someone completely lacking in manners (you) may respond with ‘1’ or ‘2’ but in British culture, the only acceptable response is ‘3’.
You might think it’s okay, even funny, to be tactless and inconsiderate towards individuals who don’t really matter to you but this, again, is all wrong.
Manners are timeless, selfless and universal. That means paying respect to everyone; from the checkout girls to whom you are exceptionally rude to casual Summer lovers you’re trying to discard.
Applying good manners also involves not lying to friends/colleagues/family to avoid seeing them. There can be something in this new approach for you too. Appropriate application of good manners could have helped you avoid having to fake a limp for a week after you invented an imaginary leg injury to get out of a meeting.
See, I wasn’t especially hurt that we finished, just pissed off with the way you ended it. I’m not being bitter or making this up. Honestly. All this stuff is written down in our country. Sometimes it’s even taught in schools and occasionally in the family home during childhood.
I have an excellent book on the subject called The Done Thing by Simon Fanshawe. Look it up. I considered lending it to you but figured you’d never give it back and, in any case, you never gave me anything except a sore head.
Which brings me neatly to another aspect of manners. Reciprocation. When someone gives you, say, chocolates, dope, flowers, festival tickets, etc, THE DONE THING is to reciprocate in some way.
Come to think of it, for someone who always said they hated taking, you were remarkably good at it. In fact, you were really quite hypocritical in a lot of ways. You told me that actions speak stronger than words yet your words, like when you said: ‘Thanks for everything,’ the last time you walked out of my flat, often rang hollow and any kind of generous action was non-existent.
You did teach me a few valuable lessons though. Principally, that I am a poor judge of character. Also, that I should be more careful around laptops; that sometimes when women say ‘yes’ they mean ‘no’ and (I should have known this already) that falling for non-UK passport holders can only cause problems.
By leaving the way you did though, you also reminded me of something important. You reminded me that I too have dreams and ambitions and that I’m the only one that can make them happen. Despite everything, I can’t hold that against you. Good luck with yours.
PS: I originally intended to send this directly and exclusively to you but my blog’s been lying idle for a while and the last entry could use an appropriate epilogue. Anyway, I figure you’ll show it to half, or indeed all, of Malta.
Take it easy.