Today, while looking at fashion history at the MAK, I got into a conversation with a dubliner. We were comparing notes about hot fashion items through the centuries, and we chuckled over parallels between hot fashions and all the political rides on both sides of the Atlantic.
About a decade my senior, he pointed out that referenda tend to be funny things because, insofar as they are the most direct voice of the populace, how they are pitched by their proponents makes all the difference.
“Take last year’s same sex marriage referendum,” he exhorted. “Because someone told my fiercely religious country to think of our gay and lesbian siblings as ‘god’s children,’ the gay marriage referendum passed. By a landslide! Is there lashback? Do some people have second thoughts?
“Sure they do! But because the initial thrust was one of inclusion, those who are insecure enough to go against the tide are shamed, even by conservatives, because now they’re questioning god’s love. You don’t have to believe in God to think that’s clever.
“But,” he went on, I can’t figure out your trump, and I can’t figure out Farage. I’m worried about May. With the Brexit results and the groundswell for that mad man you’ve got, it beggars belief!
“Your man will have walls around everything, while Theresa May will have us all Agitating for a wall to keep the republic safe from the Six Counties. I thought Boris was touched in the head, but she’s going to be trouble.”
And we talked for a good half hour before I realized the museum was closing and I hadn’t seen the carpets yet. I made my excuses and left. He wasn’t altogether gracious as I left, principally because he could tell I needed to flee his torrent of speech.
As I took the ornate steps down, I wondered if that’s how people felt talking to me or, more accurately, trying to get a word in edgewise. That’s when it hit me. My idea of a vacation, of necessity, entails hardly ever speaking to anyone for more than, “can I get a Diet Coke and the lamb vindaloo? Yes, very spicy, thank you.”
I get exhausted taking nonstop, but when I’m in my hometown, surrounded by folks I know, I feel this compulsion to talk. To talk at length. To talk about a number of topics. To talk aggressively and to entertain or become the center of attention wherever i am.
And it drains me. It drains those around me. It exhausts me trying to keep entertaining, and it enervates me trying to think up fresh stories, topics, or ideas.
When you go to a country where you don’t speak or understand the language, these issues fade into nothingness. Your conversations become blissfully brief and utilitarian. You keep yourself to yourself. You don’t interpose your conversation or opinions on those around you — not in restaurants, hotels, the subway, or in museums. Because you can’t understand them, and they can’t understand you.
Now, that’s a true vacation of the body and soul. And when you come back home? People actually seem happy to talk or listen to you again! It’s a win-win.