Weird: The way our external appearances, background and speaking voices influence the assumptions – and, indeed, stir the prejudices – of whole swathes of the World’s Population.
Take me, for example (Pause for cries of, ‘God, I wish someone would – and as far away as possible!’): Born in the UK, with a voice often described as posh*; girls’ grammar school survivor; military background; family tree going back to the days when Caveman A first took exception to, and clubbed to death, Caveman B. In other words, someone who triggers thoughts of an insular, cucumber-sandwich-nibbling snob who only makes friends with the products of a public school education and associates exclusively with the well-heeled, the stately-home-dwelling, the top echelon job possessing upper classes…
You would be dead wrong! I am, and have been from an early age, universal in my reach and appeal (or lack thereof!). It is people who matter to me, not what they sound like, where they come from, what they do for a living and how many GCSEs, A’levels and degrees they have.
Same goes for my sense of humour. Even I used to think it was typically British! But it isn’t! It may have been honed by some of the finest English writers ever to scratch quill over papyrus (P.G Wodehouse, Terry Pratchett, Evelyn Waugh…), but, given my upbringing, it was always destined to be touched by other cultures and countries – and, like my musical taste, has a strong streak of the eclectic about it!
Brief note on said upbringing: Visitors poured through our Headington home in the sixties – from all over the world. Ghana, Russia, Cambodia, Yugoslavia (as it was then), Greece, America, Australia, Japan, Israel… I could go on, but am sure you get the point!
So, for a few months during 1967, I had a best friend, Michal, from Tel Aviv; later on in the Lower Sixth (now year 12), my best buddy was Nancy, a lovely girl from Minnesota.
My mother introduced us all to the local Irish community through her links with the Catholic Church; my father brought visiting academics (over on Sabbatical for a year) from all over the Globe into the Browning home.
This, for me, was normal life.
So, the patchwork robe of my personality has been stitched together with scraps from most continents and all the social classes.
I cannot think of anything more tedious, and limiting, than befriending only those who belong to one’s own class/colour/faith/country!
Ye gods, there’s a whole wonderful world out there, and millions of individuals to meet and befriend. It is people’s spirits that matter, and I make friends on that basis.
To those who expect a certain level of income, a good job, the right school/university/accent/skin tone/class/home from their friends, I would say this: You are missing out. Big time!
*Click on this link…
…if you want to hear my actual speaking voice!