The Toddler and the Teenagers
Since moving our studio to the Herengracht, we feel socially obligated to hold a party for Konigsnacht and this year’s was nice. The weather did not permit opening up the terrace, but the indoor office handles a crowd of 30 people without getting…too gezellig.
For Konigsdag we hired a very nice boat and hosted an open bar for friends of The Artificial. It was a good time.
One second-degree guest did provide a parable. He was “that guy” who positioned both his cigarette and his crotch with wanton disregard for the faces of those sitting alongside. Talking loudly about himself but learning little about others, he elicited eyerolls from nearly everybody, especially when our too-agreeable captain docked so he could buy more tobacco.
Finally, he started the traditional complaints about how something or other could be better for him at this party, and Shannon finally snapped. While we were temporarily docked (for what was planned to be the end of the trip), she told him to disembark. Only after others clarified that she was the one paying for his not-quite-perfect-enough time, not just some offended girl, did he step ashore.
But then he came back aboard for the last hour! And later followed a subset of us to the office, cornering Shannon and I with the sort of “I’m sorry you’re upset” pseudo-apology that manages to avoid remorse and yet remains centered on his own feelings. Notably, when Shannon offered only a cold shoulder, he explained to me that he thought I was upset at him because she was. Clearly the woman was being too emotional.
This particular personality type is one I’m running across more often lately. Not really a psychopath or a solipsist, and it’s probably going too far to armchair-diagnose narcissism. But they seem to have somehow become adults without moving past the self-centeredness of childhood.
I want to emulate Piaget and see if they’d pass the three-mountain test. Somehow, a majority of these people I’ve encountered here have spent their young adulthood in Berlin, so it should be easy to go find some subjects.
I’d like to think that no one I keep in touch with is a toddler, but some of them can’t suppress an adolescent instinct. They search for what I’m up to these days and find evidence that our agency is comprised of young attractive women.
Too often, this observation leads to some sort of “wink, wink, nudge” comment about how good I have it. As if we’re in school and these are the girls I’ve talked into coming back to my room.
I usually respond along the lines of “we’re like a family here, so what are you trying to say about my sisters?” Without exception so far, they have taken this as permission to grow up and start an adult conversation.
I don’t get this sort of innuendo in person, which I find fascinating. Even when we walk into a nightclub as a group, other men are respectful if they even comment on us as a group. Maybe it’s the context, maybe it’s something about our presence in person, or maybe it’s the detachment of online discourse?
It’s not really that common, so I should probably be glad for the occasional reminder, by contrast, that most people are civilized most of the time.