When I was eighteen I spent a giddy summer temping at various offices throughout the Thames Valley region. Very much like Anne Hathaway’s character in The Devil Wears Prada, it was a summer of answering demanding bosses’ requests whilst maintaining an unnervingly chic wardrobe and tight fringe. Think more Dairy Crest than Vogue House, though, and a uniform of slightly armpitty black polo necks with a pair of slacks from C&A and you get the general picture.
One job involved me answering phones, waiting for faxes (it was the late 90s) and printing out addresses onto labels at an engineering firm called Logica. The “g” of Logica is not a true g but something akin to an infinity symbol pivoted 90 degrees which is demonstrative of the sheer brain power that existed within the Leatherhead offices. And yet, and yet, these brilliant men who were so clever and talented had no real social skill set. Like embarrassed teens they blushed at direct eye contact, mumbled in response to questions about life outside of work and scuffed their shoe into the floor if asked to name their favourite member of All Saints (see late 90s comment earlier).
In many ways these men with their huge IQs and equally massive foreheads remind me of my husband. His IQ far out eclipses my own and yet has a social void that beggars belief. I put it down to a lack of TV in his childhood as well as a general refusal to lazily consume pulp crap and life’s guilty pleasures. He always claims to “prefer” to read the newspaper or watch Question Time.
I refer to it affectionately as his Cultural Vortex. It is exemplified thus:
No idea who Ant and Dec are
Has never watched an entire episode of what I would consider “bread and butter” TV; The Simpsons, Eastenders, Dallas, The Golden Girls
While he can recite Pi to at least six integers, would not see a connection between the following names; Daphne and Des, Jim Robinson, Madge Bishop and Bouncer the Dog. In fact has no cognisance of the entire early to mid 90s obsession with Australia
Could not perform a quick “up dog, down dog” even if his own life depended on it
The acronyms ROFL, YOLO, NSFW mean nothing to him
He has never seen what I consider to be the great trilogies; Godfather, Star Wars, Back to The Future
“I carried a watermelon” is an empty, meaningless sentence to him
He never watched the following as a child; Grange Hill, Byker Grove or Press Gang
A general lack of knowledge about the mother of all culture, America. The Village, SOHO and Chateau Marmont are all an enigma to him. But it’s not just a question of geography he would not have a clue about the backbone of America’s culture – its STUFF in all its capitalist glory. He does not get how wonderful and aspirational and just how American these products and brands are. He would never drool over a pastrami on rye or a pudding from Rice to Riches or pick up a bottle of Mountain Dew and get a swell of excitement. He would never say neck tie and suspenders like some Brooklyn bearded hipster working in Rag & Bone. Or imagine a life of endless shopping in J Crew and picking up some supplies, a box of Advil and a bag of peanut M&Ms from the Drugstore one block away. Or having Halloween themed face wash from Bath and Body Works. Why would he, when, as he says, you can get everything you want at Waitrose? Good point.
He genuinely thinks that Roger Moore is the best James Bond.
He does not understand why Countdown is a both a national treasure and tragedy all at the same time. There is that moment in About a Boy when Will (Hugh Grant) and Marcus (weird eyebrow child) are sitting on the sofa together watching Countdown in a “we’ve discovered an odd fish out of water friendship despite all the other shit in our lives” kind of way AND THEY LAUGH while watching Countdown. In fact, you can tell it’s not a clip from the Countdown archives but a new clip that they must have recorded purposefully for the film because even Richard Whitely and Carol Voderman laugh in a sideways to camera kind of “we know we are just loveable dorks” way and the cinema going audience laughed and I laughed and my husband just sat there totally unmoved. So I whispered over and said, “do you get the joke? It’s about Countdown being funny and a bit nerdy and, like, cult TV and so totally British and Middle Class and all that”, to which my husband said (and I kid you not); “WHAT IS COUNTDOWN?” Where, o where, does one begin? It’s too long and arduous a journey to get him from that question – What is countdown – to a place where he is laughing with Hugh Grant and Marcus on the sofa. Too long.
But maybe he has got the right idea. Nothing gives him greater pleasure than watching a five day international while eating a family sized Pavlova. He is free of the treasure trove mind I seem to possess that is always collecting, gathering, digesting, rating and applying. He doesn’t care what the Kardashians Christmas card 2013 looked like because he just doesn’t care. He doesn’t worry about the thrill of nostalgia you get thinking about the summer of 1984 complete with ghostbusters, BMX bikes and a funny feet ice lolly as he is perfectly content as he is. And, as he says, you can always google it, which has a sort of poetry all of its own.
Do you know someone with a Cultural Vortex? And if so, what are their blind spots?