Of the many afflictions of the excruciating transformation from childhood into adulthood – in other words growing up – minding manners is most gruesome, one of the first things we learn to mind and how important they are and all. We yelled at our mother but when her sister was over, from eating with a fork to sleeping suits, the visitor decorum was to be maintained at all costs. What no one tells us is how hard it is to maintain it, like glowing skin. ‘Beta say hello to Cookie aunty’ sounds easier when you are 3 but when Cookie aunty insists prying on why you are still single at 30, you can choke on that hello. She is that commonly found species of society aunties who have little to invest their energies in, so the surplus goes into the lives of those around them. And trust me, she isn’t rare either.
Let’s spare poor Cookie aunty for now. How often do you feel this urge of just getting up and leaving the room away from the perfect shiny teeth and gel-back hair? How often do you wish everyone in your company was mute and dumb? And how often, you can’t say no to this one, do you wish people realized it was late and this isn’t a long weekend. I do. Often.
Social courtesy is a need that has become increasingly plastic in a time when tolerance levels are heading south. The likelihood of you disliking more than half of your acquaintances is higher than it was some time back. But you meet them still, well because the pressure of being labeled a loner is just too much when they are all meeting at CTC every other day. As a child I remember my parents meeting more people than they do now and, most importantly, in a relaxed ambiance. People said what was on their minds without being rude (which is so cool now) or offensive. Getting together at a friend’s place for an after-dinner chai was common in a middle-class household. What happened to that home-made chai? Well it turned into white mocha latte at a dingy café five miles away from where you live.
What I enjoy is what people say to each other publicly when you can tell flat out they are shameless liars who can tell the difference between courtesy and patronizing. Next time someone tells you, you lost weight read “whatever you are doing isn’t working so stop trying”; someone tells you your baby is so cute, he obviously gets it from you read “this is possible even when plain Jane hits a Fawad Khan jackpot”; when your friends asks you when your son is coming back from abroad after his hi-fi education read “where is that good-for-nothing brat, still working at Mc Donald’s I bet.”
Meeting people, going out has become more taxing, less relaxing and even less enjoyable. I am not a loner by any standard. I like meeting people as much as the next person, I just don’t like politically correct remarks and plastic smiles. I prefer people who speak their minds, who care if someone disagrees; at least you made your point. What no one likes, but is increasingly common, are the various definitions of ‘cool’ meaning hereby-public rudeness, insolent over confidence, tacky makeup, supporting PTI etc.
With the increase of going-out culture and restaurants, the ‘culture’ itself seems to be fading out. In the last one decade, everyone seems to complain about not having a good enough social life. What they don’t complain about is not having enough friends. Hence, the need to please everyone in the so-called social circle. Hence, the Cookie aunties. What I don’t see anymore are people who like to stay in and have fun. No, because if that happens who is going to ogle you eight thousand Sana Safina jora? Even with the closest of friends you find yourself sending and replying to myriads to text messages to ‘confirm’ a simple ‘plan’ “Hey, let’s meet for coffee at 6??” the reply comes “hmm..” (what does that even mean?). And before I forget, no one ever drinks coffee.
So you enter a room full of people, half of whom you’re probably meeting for the first time. The standard modus operandi is smile, nod move on, smile, nod and move on. The evening ends and you go home with an utter dissatisfaction of meaningless social interaction. Where are the people who made us feel good? (yes that species actually existed and is now found only in old Ptv plays).Social life is inevitable to retaining sanity, we are often told. So in order to remain sane, you keep connecting with people you don’t know or care about. Who they are, where theycome from, where did the money come that BMW no one questions and no one is bothered. As long as they look good on the guest list. Before you label me, I’m not just referring to a certain class. Even in an average household meeting friends and families has becomes more of a once-a-month activity – blame changing social patterns or increasing financial pressure but this alienation is seeping rapidly into our culture and before we know it, Facebook get-togethers will on everyone’s calendar.