Something struck me this week when the English National Ballet went down the route of so many others these past few soggy winter days. Twirling in a different direction entirely – like a Södertälje cop or a Borås firefighter – yes, of course, we’re talking about that frenzy of silliness known as the Harlem Shake.
What struck me was not how undignified it was of professional ballerinas to join in the globalized collective (globective?) fun, but how their participation proved to me that everyone seems to be yearning for a bit of silliness lately.
About bloody time, I say.
Sub-prime mortgages, Islamists in Timbuktu, ‘Golden Dawn’ in the Greek parliament, radiation in Japan, horsemeat in our lasagnas, the fact that you can’t find a good Dirty Martini in Stockholm for love or money… it’s frankly been a bit of a slog lately.
Well, to be truthful, the world has not been much fun since 9/11.
Many in my generation have responded to the moodiness of the era by bunkering down, literally. Two of my best friends are in what I’d term arranged marriages, it’s just that they arranged them themselves without parental input. They found a boy that was good looking enough and kind enough and just got on with it. Bought houses. Reproduced.
We grow herbs on our kitchen window sills without a hint of irony. In Stockholm, men as young as 25 are sporting mustaches – not the Williamsburg hipster lettuce slug, but bushy “don’t disturb your father when he’s in his study” facial hair.
Tweed has made a comeback. As has black coffee.
Everything is just so frigging serious. I often wonder what Freud would say if he came back from the dead.
The Harlem Shake pandemic makes utter sense given the context. We all just want to unclench our jaws and relax, be a bit silly.
I welcome this silliness with open arms, not just for the world but for hugely personal reasons. For women of a certain still fertile age, the current reinvented bourgeois solemness distorts other people’s view of us.
I am silly, but my peers are not, and their intent on being more adult than adult spells bad news for me. Everyone seems to assume I want what they want.
At 33, I feel that whenever I go on a date, people are no longer sizing up my boobs, their gaze has fallen a foot or two to my belly. What am I supposed to say?
“Yes, that’s my womb and it’s doing fine, thank you very much.”
I feel the men I date think that I must be urging for marriage and bambinos pronto. That is not the case. And I resent that others allow themselves to assume that of me.
Not only do I resent it, I think it’s idiotic. Because rather than the men thinking “Does she like me?”, these men now seem convinced that I simply MUST like them.
I must like them because I am… ready…
Other 30-something girlfriends tell me they’re facing the same attitude from boys from London to Hong Kong.
This is not only revoltingly narcissistic, it’s incorrect.
Where I would allow myself odd dalliances in the past, today I am much more picky. Not, I underscore not, because I may want to marry and I quickly rule out any unsuitable candidates. Nor because I’ve ruled out shorter romances.
It’s because all those odd dalliances were part of my romantic, moral, and sexual education. I learned from them, I know what I don’t want. That’s true for flings, it’s true for longer stuff.
There will be no cutting corners here, and that won’t change when I’m 43, 53, or even 93. EVER.
Of course whenever me being fine with waiting comes up there is always someone who gives me a “Honey, are there even any eggs left in there?” look – either laced with pity, or hinting that I’m naive or, even worse, stupid.
For me, however, waiting is about respect. Respecting myself and respecting others. I would never be so cruel and deceitful to another human being as to knowingly start a family with a person I didn’t love properly. Half-baked is not for me.
And if there are no bairns? Well, then there will be no bairns.
Lots of practice in the art of maybe one day making bairns? Yes, please. And I’ll have a Harlem and milk shake with that.
Emilia Millicent lives in Stockholm and works in finance during daylight hours.