Baffled in the Peanut Gallery

One thing I like about my real-life friends of old scattered about the globe like so many seeds carried by the wind is that they post interesting news articles on a shared social media network. I never have to search for stimulating reading material myself. It simply pops up on the screen before me. Admittedly, this is not very enterprising on my part, but it works brilliantly!

I read this one this morning, entitled, How to find true friends (and love) in 45 minutes. The healthy cynic in me clicked on the link with all the arrogance of – well, a cynic. The article was written some months ago – on 8 November 2011, but it is still news to me.

Perhaps my cynicism should be explained.

My immediate reaction to the title of the piece was that it takes a lot less time to find a friend – or a lifetime lover, for that matter.

Unexpected and as unlikely as it was, I fell in love madly, deeply, immensely in an instant just over twenty-five years ago. I feel incredibly privileged to find myself in the same state of being with the same person one-quarter of a century later.

I truly wish this happened to everybody. Then there would be no need for “how to” manuals, of which the above article is a part. I have read my share of “how-to” live books, but cannot say that I ever became addicted to them. Some are great; some are just what you need at the time that you read them. None provides all the answers. And some, ironically, provide ample fodder for the peanut gallery.

I should also explain the term “peanut gallery”. I use it in the normal sense of the word. It is the place in the audience from which hecklers launch their comments designed to derail the performer, and sometimes are more entertaining than the performance itself.

I really do have so many stray thoughts at times that I felt the need to construct a Privately-owned Peanut Gallery (POPG) for myself, which worked overtime in a previous post.

Why am I so baffled? Well, my POPG did not know where to start, when it came to reading this article. As many readers would, I imagined myself participating in this experiment as one of the volunteers. I am utterly baffled, because I am not sure if I could answer half those questions.

Do I really want such structure applied to something I see as being spontaneous? Do I really want so much detail about another person all at once? How, honestly, am I supposed to cope with that?

Let’s have a look at the questions referred to as simple (Oh, boy!), and I quote the bits from the article in purple (my favourite colour, if you want to get to know me better):

– Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? – Too hard to pick just one: Samuel Becket, Oscar Wilde, Nigella Lawson, Golda Meir, Mahatma Gandhi, Whoopi Goldberg, Emma Thomson, my sister, any one of the friends I can count on the fingers of one hand, Vanessa Redgrave (the last two famous ones on the list for the timbre of their voices; they would not be allowed to eat much). I have curtailed the list for the sake of brevity.  This question is too hard. Pass.

– Would you like to be famous? In what way? –  Pass. Too hard.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why? – Rehearse, no. Plan, yes. Why? Are you a four-year-old who asks “why” every time someone says something?

– What would constitute a “perfect” day for you? – I am exhausted already! I shall simply shove in the picture of the hammock strung between two palm trees on a desert island, with a convenient cocktail waiter attending to my every need. Or say, “tomorrow”. Please, this is really difficult.

– When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else? – OK, I can answer these two: I sang to myself today; I sang to someone else yesterday, when I also sang to myself several times within the earshot of someone else, and hummed loudly to a song which betrays my age while under the influence of anaesthetic in the dentist’s chair when I was sure that nobody could hear me. None of these songs occurred in the shower.

– If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want? – Please be more specific: which 30-year-old? If it is my own body when it was 30, then forget it. I am in much better shape now. Ditto on the mind, thank you very much.

– Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die? – Presumably, this is not a religious question. Might be a trick. Next thing you know, someone will be trying to sell me life assurance. – Pass.

– Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common. At this point, as a volunteer, I would have been privy to the revelations of my “partner” in the experiment. No one has taken the importance of body language or intuition into account in this experiment so far.

– For what in your life do you feel most grateful? – Worse than the dinner question.  Easier to rephrase in the negative. Then I can answer thus: I am ungrateful for all the time spent in doctors’ waiting rooms, and filling in forms of any kind, not necessarily in doctors’ waiting rooms.

So, you can see where this is going. Nowhere. Fast. I read on with some trepidation as to what follows, then laugh out loud, because the writer tells us that the questions which follow from the ones above are “more probing and personal”. Oh? And the ones above are not? Utter silence from the POPG.

– Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible. Now, why was this question not the first one? It would save a lot of time, but may not, of course, result in the objective of getting the volunteers to like (or fall in love with) the strangers with whom they have been partnered.

The list of questions is very long, extremely complex to answer honestly and fully. I find it hard to believe that all these questions can be answered consecutively by two people in 45 minutes, unless a 30-second time limit is placed on their answers.

I have stopped commenting on these questions because I am baffled on two fronts.

Baffled, because I do not know the answers to most of the questions that follow, or have several possible responses from which I find it impossible to choose just one as valid. From which you can rightly deduce that I have a problem with a “black and white” world view.

Doubly baffled, because I have no idea whatsoever what my nearest and dearest friends would say in response to most of these questions. And I mean to keep it that way.

You’re wondering what we could possibly have talked about the night we fell in love forever, right? That’s easy: freedom and honesty, mainly. The conversation lasted a lot longer than forty-five minutes. In fact, it is still going on.


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