Sunday, July 05, 2015

The appearance of things

This morning, I’m working against the clatter of back ground voices as my husband convenes a business meeting of sorts in our kitchen with friends/clients whom he helps out from time to time. 

Last night he told me they wanted a nine o’clock start. 

Nine in the morning.  On a Sunday. 

It was okay, he said.  I could just get about as I normally do on a Sunday morning without interruption, only the presence of strangers in the house meant I was not comfortable staying in my dressing gown for hours. 

It meant I needed to take a fast shower and dress enough to be respectable. Not that my dressing gown is not respectable.  It’s a little on the eccentric side or so my daughters tell me.  Black and white swirls.  It makes me look like a cartoon character, especially when set off against my pale pink and white striped bed socks. 

I made my tea before these people arrived and now it’s already cold and I’m struck by the effect of such an intrusion on my writing time.

It chases away my memory of last night’s dreams, and shifts the immediacy of the moment into my head. 

The voices in the kitchen are silent for a few minutes and I find I am distracted once more. 

During the quiet moments my husband will be reading some document or other and the others around the table will wait in silence for the verdict, his interpretation of what to them is otherwise double Dutch. 

My husband is knowledgeable on the nature of contracts, those legal arrangements that people make with one another with all sorts of conditions and caveats to protect both parties. 

My husband is a stickler for fair and reasonable contracts wherein the needs of both parties are met.  It applies to property and wills and all matters related to births, deaths and marriages.

We made a contract with one another last night.

I promised him I would leave him to get himself organised in the morning.  I would not set the alarm, as is my custom, not on Sunday morning, the one day of the week where we sleep in. 

He said that was fine.  I could hide away and behave as usual.  He would deal with his visitors.

I opened my eyes to the day at twenty to nine and woke him, because I realised if he did not get a move on, he would be greeting his guests in his dressing gown and although it’s not as garish as mine, I think he’d prefer he were ready for such visitors. 

This is another thing we do; we break our contracts as the need arises.  They are, after all, not necessarily set in stone. 

If I had been able to fall back to sleep there and then, I might have done, but instead I was awake, enough to get myself into readiness to write and this ideally involves the absence of all distractions; like those voices from the kitchen. 

The clothes I put on this morning do not match.  Dark blue jeans with a flecked pattern, a hand me down from one of my daughters. 

She discards her clothes before they’re worn out and I can’t bear to see them go to waste and so I wear them on weekends when it does not matter that I wear trousers chosen by someone else for someone else. 

They clash with the orange top I chose as a contrast.  Too much of a contrast, I fear and as I type and look down to my middle I’m assaulted by this clash. 

And because it’s cold, cold beyond my usual expectations of winter cold, I chose my cable knit cardigan, a cardigan I only wear when the temperatures drop below ten degrees Celsius. 

My body is inclined to cook inside this cardigan and the visible clash worsens.

I spend a lot of time travelling through Facebook and the number of times I see posts that emphasize appearance is alarming. 

The appearance of things. 

People visit this house and they say it’s lovely, but immediately my thoughts streak back to the underlying disorder of this house, the fact there are cracks in walls, it needs a repaint inside and out and there are places in the parquetry where the dog has dug up tiles. 

My husband never quite finished lining all the floorboards and over time, over thirty years or so, we've grown used to the gaps, but they’re obvious if you look below the surface. 

The way Sherlock Holmes of the recent TV series can greet a person for the first time and instantly from his perceptive eye pick up all sorts of minor details about this person such that he can even know what he’s had for breakfast. 

Most of us do not have such perceptive vision, and yet we all see below the surface.  We see things that are not there, too.  We reverberate against one another.

I decide almost instantly on whether or not I like a person, whether I want to spend more time with that person, whether that person is simpatico. 

Most of my decision is based, not only on the appearance of things, but also on that unspoken thing called ‘transference’, the degree to which I superimpose my experience of significant others from my life, especially from my childhood, onto them and they do likewise to me. 

And so it goes, we make up stories about other people in the back of our minds and we may be completely off in real terms, but it fits our expectations, and can influence our behaviour. 

There’s a problem here, not just in the business of ‘love at first sight’ but also, its opposite, ‘hate at first sight’, which most often sprouts from prejudice, from all the ’isms: racism, ageism, and our tendency to stereotype. 

Best to reserve judgment, therefore whenever we meet new people.  Maybe get to know them a little before we decide.  

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