The delightfully witty Ms Musings tagged me ages ago for a meme in which I had to list seven personality traits. I thought about this for a while but never could seem to come up with seven, and I wasn’t all that sure about the authenticity of the ones I did identify. So finally I decided on a variation on a theme. Below you’ll find seven representative snippets from my life, and you can judge my character for yourselves.

1.  From a job interview, which was nearly over before it began:

Him: How do you do, I’m the master, and here on my right is the tutor for modern languages. We’re both astrophysicists.
Me: Oh how lovely. You’re practically in the arts.

2. From an email from my academic publisher:

‘It is quite extraordinary how much your emails are representative of you (the you that you represent when you meet others, or … this could be protracted).’

3. From reviews of an academic book:

‘An empathetic teacher, she frequently introduces a ‘difficult’ movement or work by adopting what she imagines to be the perspective of her audience, injecting a dose of humour that may amuse some readers (while irritating others).’

‘Written in a witty, incisive style which punctuates first-rate research with amusing asides, this book is far too enjoyable (I read it on holiday around Italy) to seem like serious academic reading.’

4. From an aborted attempt at cognitive behavioural therapy, which I loathed, but which remained archived on cassette tapes (I threw them out when I moved college room):

Him: This fear you say you have. Well you don’t have it. If you found yourself broken down in the middle of a traffic jam, you’d be fine.’
Me: No I wouldn’t.
Him: Yes you would. You’d go and sit on the side of the road until the AA came.
Me: I might do what I needed to, but I wouldn’t feel fine exactly. I’d be overwhelmed with anxiety.
Him: No you wouldn’t.
Me: Yes I would.

5. From a conversation with my son:

Me: Would you say we were a critical family?
Him: Ha! You? I don’t think I’ve ever heard you criticize me, not even when I deserve it.
Me: Oh, but. Well, I suppose I don’t think you ever do things that deserve criticism. Apart maybe from French, I think you try at whatever you do.
Him: Well you’re right about the French.

6. From a conversation with my husband at 10.45pm one evening as my son and his two friends walk out the door:

Me: So they’re going to spend the night at Stefan’s?
Him: I know, I thought they were going to Fergus’s.
Me: And what did Stefan say as they left?
Him: I asked him if it was okay with his parents and he said he was sure it would be fine. This is when I’m glad we didn’t have a girl.
Me: Oh no. Unless there are boys involved, girls make sensible decisions. I can imagine this lot being turned away by Stefan’s parents and then thinking that the park looks good.
Him: [Brightening] They’ve got their sleeping bags. They’d be okay.
Me:  One of my old school friends used to tell me about the evenings he spent down on the railway lines with his mates. They discovered a hollow under one of the tracks, dug it out deeper, and then lay in it while trains thundered by overhead. I told him, “If you ever tell that story to my son in a way that makes it look attractive, I will kill you.”

7. From a friend’s email:

‘I have to say you have a very catching way of giving tantalizing snapshots of your life in your blog. It’s not full-on revelation – it’s like the occasional emergence of real life, which meshes intriguingly with the insight into who you are via your book reviews. It reminds me of that Colette quote about playing cache-cache with the reader.’

Update: I don’t know where my head is at the moment; let’s be charitable and put it down to late summer madness. The charming John Ray at Bookflap interviewed me last week and if there is anything at all that you don’t know about me after this meme, I’m pretty sure it’s answered here.  Meant to add a link to this the first time around….sorry!


25 thoughts on “Overheard

  1. I might do what I needed to, but I wouldn’t feel fine exactly. I’d be overwhelmed with anxiety.

    Oh, how I know how you feel! I honestly can’t believe “his” remarks. Don’t think I could have kept very calm during that conversation.

  2. Were those things actually said about your book in #3? (While irritating others)??? Who would ever say that? (Or write that)! And I think that second one was meant kindly but does sound pretty bad actually….

  3. Okay, you had me giggling with the snippet from the taped therapy session, laughing out loud with the conversation with your son…thank you, you’ve made my day! By the way, my son is taking Mandarin Chinese for his foreign language, and it drives me crazy, because it’s hard for him, and he doesn’t like it, which makes him not try very hard at it AND there is absolutely no way I can help him or even follow along with how he’s doing. So annoying, and so revealing of my parenting issues!

  4. Your interview quote reminds me of a job I was offered with the comment,’We’re offering you the chance to become one of us rather than one of them.’ I needed that job, but thank goodness I had the strength to turn it down!

  5. *Drumming heels with delight* over all of them…(but especially the job interview, and the Lit-Son anecdotes, Boy Wonder that he is. Oh and the CBT…yup, all of them).

  6. I started laughing at number one and it’s a good thing I wasn’t sipping coffee at the time or I’d have sprayed it all over the computer screen! Two – seven kept me giggling and will last me the day I’m sure. 😀

  7. Good interview by the way. And these snippets are entertaining and elusive at the same time. I like the fact that they evade easy categorisation in terms of personality traits. And that CBT was not good at all. I’m all for CBT in the right context, but when it becomes bullying then it’s pointless.

  8. Oh, I love these snippets. Those who know me in real life often accuse me of leaving things out on my blog, but really, what choice is there? I believe I represent the good majority of my personality, without the solid dose of crazy I inherited. I do have to say your son’s comment about the French had me laugh out loud…

  9. love the academic stuff and comments. But especially the bits of conversation. No, you wouldn’t be all right at the side of the road with a vehicle “en panne.”

    So your son studies French? I don’t know; do we indulge our boys while they’re standing in front of us and then go worrying about them to our husbands? YES!!!! did the same thing just tonight. He turns 21 tomorrow and is going out at midnight with his friends for a birthday party. Oh that sounds exciting, I said. And be careful. And then to my husband later this evening: I am going to be absolutely sick to my stomach worrying about him tonight.
    Those fellas.

    You’ve made me terribly curious about your writing but I can only imagine that regardless of genre, your humor-reality shines through.
    This was great fun! (thanks for sharing)

  10. Funny! I think this was very funny (No, you didn’t…Yes, I did…No, you did not…I said YES-I-DID!…No, I know better than you and you did not..)
    Litlove, I think I’d have ripped the guy a new one! But loved this piece.

  11. nicole – thank you for the empathy! I recall feeling just extremely frustrated with him; I liked nothing about his room from the moment I walked in, and should have gone with that gut feeling!

    Jenny – I’m very glad to hear it. This man came recommended quite highly, so I was astonished and put it down to the kind of therapy. I’m really glad if that is not the case!

    Danielle – that’s about the nicest thing she said in the review. That particular reviewer really hated it – I mean really, really hated it. If I’m always gentle in my criticism of books it’s because I’ve been on the receiving end of harsh criticism and know it’s not pleasant. The other quote just makes me laugh! 🙂

    ds – thank you! May you never need CBT in the first place…

    Gentle reader – I don’t think I have the words to convey the horror that strikes my heart at the thought of my own son learning Mandarin Chinese. Oh my goodness. That’s one way for schools not to give parents a chance! 🙂 So glad I gave you a laugh. It’s all that can be done in the face of a 14-year-old’s homework phobia!

    Ann – lol! Isn’t it amazing what people say? Glad you found a job that was just right for you in the end (and the right course now).

    Harriet – aw, thank you! 🙂

    Verbivore – thank you too! 🙂

    Fugitive – it always gives me immense pleasure to entertain you to the point of some heel drumming. You’re one of the few people who can fill in the gaps! 😉

    Stefanie – so pleased to have given you a laugh (and without damage to the electrics!). I miss you – will you be blogging again soon?

    Lilian – you’re more than welcome. Do hope you are feeling a little better.

    Pete – I was thinking a lot about personality traits before I wrote this, and thinking how elusive and transient they are. There may be patterns of responses hardwired into a person’s character, but would you be able to call them qualities? Do a person’s qualities depend on context more than we think? Anyway, I digress. Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for checking out the interview, too.

    Courtney – know just what you mean. I try to leave the crazy to one side too. It’s enough to inflict it on my family, rather than the virtual world at large! And it’s important to hang onto your mystique. 😉

    oh – thank you! You sound like a very good mom to me, to allow your son all the pleasure of heading out into his life without the burden of your worry. I sort of feel that we carry anxiety along behind children, to lighten their load. Tough work, but someone’s got to do it. And it’s always nice to have solidarity in these matters! The book in question is called An Introduction to Twentieth Century French Literature, and is an easy student guide. I did enjoy writing it, but it divided the reviewers somewhat!

  12. Grad – your comment came in while I was replying to the others! And it did make me laugh. I only wish I could have pushed you into that room and said, here’s my friend Grad come to talk to you…. That would have been entertaining!

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