Is yours the skin of a rhinoceros through which no harsh words can penetrate? Are you clad in waterproof feathers, the ones that adorn a duck’s back, so that criticism rolls from you, leaving you unaffected, rather than disaffected? Do you have a certain kinship with that thin film of Teflon on my frying pan, so that disparagement slips from you with the ease of an omelette onto the plate? Lucky you, and well done! You are one of life’s navigators (not one of life’s alligators). I wish we were all a bit more like you. I’m going to run contrary to what has become the perceived wisdom of the day by suggesting that we ought to be better at letting things go. It’s time to adopt a more, ‘so what?’ attitude and give up trying to fix/report/shout down the transgressions of others (whilst ignoring our own). After all, maybe all that bad behaviour is just the result of someone having a good old-fashioned ‘bad day’. I’m all for practicing that exaggerated Gallic shrug, the one that matches the highly imitable French word/sound, ‘bof!’; the one that pre-dates the rather less attractive millennial catch-all expression, ‘whatever!’
These days there seems to be a proliferation of reports of people saying not very nice things to or about one another; trading insults in person, hurling invectives online. We’ve even reached the level of judging each other’s thoughts (if we are foolish enough to share them). Thoughts from the far distant past that one has since reflected upon as erroneous, and come to realise that (like all of us) they are flawed and imperfect.
I read, somewhere, an inventive list of name-calls compiled by someone who named their list, ‘insults from the seashore.’ Their verbal sticks and stones were inspired by some of the more interestingly named specimens to be found on the rocks, beaches and shallow coastal waters of these islands. Here goes: stinking iris; yellow plumed sea slug; thick-lipped dog whelk; fan-bristled robber fly; calcareous tube worm. How’s that for a catalogue of withering put-downs? I like these – and will retain them for judicious use – because they are so colourful that the insult almost (?) disappears beneath the vibrancy of the description, diverting it into the realm of comedy. Indeed, sometimes we would be better served by quietly having a good laugh at daft tirades and bad behaviour, removing the oxygen of attention by letting it go. When we were young, my little brother’s most fiery term of sibling derision was to call one of us an ‘illiot’ (he was probably right). Crumpling in laughter at his baby-speak only served to make things a whole lot worse. I am not suggesting, therefore, that we laugh in each other’s faces and mock those who dole in disrespect, but surely it is time to be less of a po-faced and pouty wet mackerel. Keep it sweet, keep it kind, laugh it off!
Bitter your acts, bitter am I,
Kindness your deeds, kindness am I,
Pleasant and gentle, so you are,
Fine honeyed lips and sweet talker.