People hold grudges for wildly varying lengths of time: some forget slights when the anger of the moment subsides; others still aren’t talking to their closest relatives when one or other of them dies some fifty years later. But how long does it take to stop disliking someone? I don’t mean a grudge, just not liking them.
I suppose in theory if you didn’t like someone yesterday, you wouldn’t like them again today, and so ad infinitum. But even if the object of your dislike doesn’t change over a long period of time, then surely you yourself do. And if you’re absent from the object of your dislike, then each day’s remembrance of yesterday’s feelings is bound to be weaker than the one before.
I only mention this because I went to an event a few weeks ago and met one of those reputed arseholes that write code which you would find it hard to live without. And I shook his hand to say hello. I shook this man’s hand. I still can’t quite believe it. This is a man who can entirely seriously affirm on a public mailing list that your family is going to go to hell for belonging to a sect he doesn’t belong to, and then append a smiley so you don’t take offence. And I shook his hand.
Part of my apparent softening was doubtless because of the slightly sudden, awkward social situation; and it was also helped along by the fact that I still don’t think he knows how much I don’t like him, so he just said hello in that slightly concussed way he’s always had. But some of it was definitely down to the fact that the vitriol of my intense dislike for him is no longer the seething, bubbling vat that it once was. Left uncorked and sloshing around (the way that early-20s vitriol is often rather inadvisably stored) it’s simply evaporated, or has drained away.
I don’t know what this means for me as a person. There’s the pragmatism of age, of course; and the senselessness of pouring such energies into cooking up an entirely new barrel of fresh vitriol, year after year, with no extra raw materials to help keep the process going. But it did make me worry that, as I necessarily have to deal with people more and more, and in different situations, I might end up going a bit soft. So then I thought of just how much fun I still planned to have at a party when Margaret Thatcher dies; that perked me up a bit.