I am feeling so blah. Really. The weather here is grey and dreary and oppressive, I can’t work up any enthusiasm for any of the projects I have on the go and what’s worse than that, I don’t even have anything to blog about. Well, that’s not strictly true: I could write about any of the books I’ve finished but not yet reviewed, including the brilliant Josipovici’s In A Hotel Garden, and the extremely entertaining The Importance of Being Kennedy by Laurie Graham. I said to a fellow blogger I’d write about the French Algerian writer Assia Djebar who is just fascinating on the troubled place of the woman in a post-colonial Islamic culture. I’ve also promised myself I’ll embark on a series of more personal posts about mothering as I need the writing practice (although I might post them at What We Said rather than here). But they all seem to require energy I don’t possess. What do you people do when you are in a slump? I thought once I had my results and could be assured of good health I would skip away into the bright, sunshiny future without a care on my shoulders, full of vim and verve for my chosen occupations. And instead here I am beached on the sofa without the merest flicker of desire to even fill in a meme about my favourite authors. What’s going on?
Anyway, whilst I was trying to dream up something to write about, I found one of those online personality tests and had a go. I answered all the questions, reached the end and was told that for the princely sum of twenty quid I could have a 100-page report. Well, no thanks. So I thought no more about it, but when I checked my email I had been sent a brief sample and it rather tickled me. Apparently the idea is to measure my personality against the ‘average’ whatever that may mean, and I had numerical results for the qualities of extroversion and emotionality. It will come to no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am not exactly an extrovert. ‘You are somewhat less outgoing than the average female is,’ the report declared. ‘Most females like to keep themselves busy with continuous interaction, conversations, and the company of others. You also enjoy these things, but having some time on your own is equally important to you. This is one of the guiding parts of your personality.’ It was the figures that cracked me up. Out of a hundred on the extrovert scale, the average female scores 67, the average male 51, and the average me? 10. My husband crowed when he heard that. ‘They got that bit right!’ he said. I’m not sure; I think they may have overestimated it.
The results for emotionality were more of a surprise. ‘You are more relaxed and calm than the average female and male are when it comes to stress and feeling intense emotions. The average female and male are more reactive to their feelings and mood swings than you are. Your balanced way of dealing with emotions is a guiding part of your personality.’ As to the numbers, average female 76, average male, 74 and me, 59. My first response was: YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING! I mean, I’ve hardly felt like a relaxed and calm individual over the past few months and feeling intense emotions is generally something I’ve done a couple of times before breakfast. I related this part of the test to my husband. ‘I’m sorry, you?’ he said. ‘I thought we must have moved on to talking about somebody else.’ When I got to the bit about having a balanced way of dealing with emotions, however, his eyes narrowed. ‘Wait a minute. You answered that test as an academic, didn’t you? Not as a normal person.’ ‘No I didn’t!’ I said, defensively, trying to replay the questions in my mind, and remembering that my husband’s score, on a day when he was feeling particularly emotionally incontinent, might just about climb up to minus ten. But it did occur to me that whilst I do feel at prey to intense emotions, I also make an effort to deal with them philosophically. If I didn’t try to steer a middle course, I’d be having mood swings left, right and center and confusing myself. And given that I do like to spend as much time as possible on my own, can you imagine how irritating that would be?
Well, the basis for my results in both parts of the test could well be found in my response to just about any situation, which is to pick up a book. I’ve just finished one and so I do have the ever-pleasing job of picking something new. I may even treat myself to one fiction and one non-fiction. Heading the list of possibles at the moment:
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee – Rebecca Miller
Constance – Rosie Thomas
Cleopatra’s Sister – Penelope Lively
The Mathematics of Love – Emma Darwin
Alfred and Emily – Doris Lessing
Nothing To Be Frightened Of – Julian Barnes
Bad Blood – Lorna Sage
The Yellow House – Martin Gayford
And I’m at the stage where I would like to start them all. Enough pointless wittering – I’m going to get some reading done.