Vehement dislike went out of fashion with Britpop

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.

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4 Responses to Vehement dislike went out of fashion with Britpop

  1. looby says:

    A couple of my strongest antipathies have fizzled out because they have that cluelessness about social life that renders them incapbable of feeling the extent of one’s bile. It doesn’t solve the situation. I feel like taking them in for a one-to-one and explaining to them slowly and patiently exactly why and how I dislike them, and make sure they understand it, and agree henceforth to show the usual signs of mutual resentment.

  2. looby says:

    Drat – “because the people involved have that cluelessness…”

  3. smallbeds says:

    Living in the sticks – further out then when you came to say hello – is a disadvantage in many ways, and we miss close contact with our friends terribly. But one advantage is that you can so much more easily avoid people who are so persistent in their ignorance of your dislike that they’re all the more unlikeable for it. You can just take a rain check on any social event they might dominate.

    Which is maybe my way of excusing the fact that I’m soft enough these days to dismiss the suggestion of such one-to-ones, secretly to achieve a quieter life with less confrontation.

  4. Silk says:

    Catching up on blogs.

    I had a beer with Harlan Watson and he’s the Prince of Evil. In fact, I’ve had a beer with him at least twice. In Accra I was already drunk when he arrived in the bar. I can’t remember a damm thing I said, but he, and the rest of the American delegation, thought it was hilarious.

    Bonn was worse. I’d been speaking to a delegate from Tuvalu, and next thing I’m laughing at something funny Harlan said, and I can feel the guy from Tuvalu looking at me thinking … well, dark thoughts. Probably all in my mind.

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