When I was an undergraduate I spent my weekends fending off aggressive winos as I worked behind the counter in an edge-of-Oxford corner shop. A lot of my contemporaries would spend theirs flitting down to London to party with their pals. Ten years after graduation I started to earn enough money to live that kind of lifestyle, though I couldn’t afford the drugs.
Coming back from The Smoke this evening I sat on a near-empty train listening to two female undergraduates of the best university in the country talk about themselves and the torment that is their lives.
In a mixture of baby-speak, tortured grammar, Valley Girl and psycho-babble—
And I was like “I just feel this emptiness all the time“
—they swapped tales of the misery of “having parents that won’t set boundaries”, parents who, likelier than not, spent more than my gross income from my first job respectively each year having their daughters educated in the vain hope that they would learn the distinction between “amount” and “number” or the definition of “pretentiousness”. I choose this word because, at one wonderful point, the one wearing the “Stop the War” badge described the moment under psychological supervision when she had her life-defining “breakthrough” . (I, likelier than not, paid for the therapy that led to her recounted afflatus out of my taxes.) This breakthrough was the moment when she finally stopped “repressing her true emotions” and gave in to her first panic attack:
“I shed all these years of pretentiousness and truly felt at last”
It’ll be a long time before the pretentiousness is gone, love, but you keep working on it.
Once I got onto the platform I had to steer around two young white people with dreadlocks snogging each other in greeting. The detour was necessary because they were holding their right arms outstretched to avoid igniting each other’s rat’s-tails with their lit cigarettes. First-degree burns to the scalp would have been too good for the spoilt little inverted snobs and their “we wish we was black” spray-on poverty chic. Roll on top-up fees.