Opening up

Crusts, queue-jumping, and letting us in slowly

Parents are familiar with children who don’t like to eat crusts.  If you cut a slice of toast in half in the normal way it has three sides with crusts and only one without.  But cut it diagonally, into triangles and it is two crusts to one without, and the un-crusted side, the hypotenuse if you will, is longer.  Cut this again, and you have four triangles, where there is only one crusted side, and two without. That’s why children like bread in triangles.

The square of the hypotenuse is equal to the squ…. mmmm cheese

When I’m stuck in a traffic jam, I reserve a special hatred for drivers who try to steal a few places.  Cutting up the inside and then needing to rejoin the queue.  You can imagine the other driver laughing at you.  But if someone is coming in from a side-road we tend to let them in, even if they have only just arrived, while we’ve inched our way to our current position.  It just seems hard to refuse someone when you can see their faces.  And when they can see yours.  A pushy arse-hole behind another wheel is, after all, just a friend we’ve never met. When we see their face, it becomes less an imposition taken for granted, and more a mutual request and favour.

*sigh* Yes, you MAY push in in front of me

I keep thinking about this in relation to dramas on television. If a character is closed and secretive, that’s OK, provided that they open up a little later.  It’s what makes Darcy such a great character in Pride and Prejudice.  And Elizabeth for that matter.  They reveal their full character in time.  It’s why Brody is such a great character in Homeland, and why we warm to him in spite of… in spite of.. THAT. We get to know him over a period.  The great novels reveal sides to characters over hundreds of pages.  On television, the faces are so close to us that we can be over-exposed too quickly. I like comedians and singers and TV presenters who keep something back. I like that I don’t know too much about Victoria Coren, or Jeremy Paxman, or Richard Osman or Mishal Husain (And can go off a celebrity on Twitter if they seem overly solicitous).  And then there’s Andy Murray.

Many years ago I went to study at Virginia Tech, and along with the other students from overseas attended an orientation session, in which the good people of Blacksburg helped us to understand Americans.  We were told that Americans are mobile people – crossing the country for work, and moving home frequently.  Because of this, Americans were quick to make friends and would open up quickly about personal information with people they hardly knew.  But in the same way, they would avoid going TOO deep, and that there was an expendable quality to their friendships.  Why get too close if you may need to move?  (this isn’t a feature I’ve noticed myself…) The British, we are sometimes told, are much more reserved and private… cold even, with strangers.  But once we open up, there’s great warmth to be found.

You just have to find a way past our crusty exterior.

But audiences too, are like that.  We are opening up in our most precious places – our homes – in a state of complete relaxation, and allowing our emotions to be entranced by people we barely know.  It’s a rare and special thing, and we get turned off if we are taken for granted, or imposed upon, or over-exposed too soon.

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