High maintenance? I won’t fiddle with your knobs.

Thanks to Baggage Girl for asking the question: “Is high maintenance off-putting in a girl?”

When I was at school my friends and I would occasionally sneak out at lunchtime, buy a pie, and go to one of their homes for a cup of tea.

Well, I say “buy a pie”, but the truth is that my school had a tradition which might be unique: the meat and potato pie sandwich.

Is there are more gruesome description in the whole of gastronomy than non-specific “meat”? Even ignoring the horrors disguised by that blandishment, the meat and potato pie sandwich was a monstrosity. You bought a microwaved Holland’s pie, sprinkled Beef Monster Munch on top of it, drizzled it with brown sauce, and stuck the whole thing into an oven-bottom muffin. It was about 5 inches thick, and at least 3 inches of that was fat.

Well, the blood had been simply racing through our arteries, we had to take measures to slow it down.

One one occasion we scarfed down our heart-attack butty, and went to a friend’s house to watch the only Australian soap opera shown back then: The Flying Doctors. It was phantasmagorically weird: everybody was orange, the furniture was yellow, and the interiors of the aeroplanes appeared to be made out of Papiermâché and twice the size of the exterior. People wore far too many hats considering it was 1985, and hats had died out 30 years previously in the rest of the world. And it moved even slower than our blood after the pie sandwich. In fact, the scenery seemed to move more than the plot did.

The first time I saw it, it featured the following priceless dialogue.

Ocker child: Aw daad, can I go to the ball in long traaazers?

Ocker dad: Yer too yang son, yer too yang.

Ocker child: Aw daaaaad, can I? Can I?

Ocker dad: No son, yer too yang. Yer just too yang.

A month later I saw it again, and the same conversation was still going on. By the time the ball happened, I’m sure the child was asking his dad if he could go on his walking frame. Maybe my sense of humour is a bit Royal Tenenbaums, but I found the “stately” pace and non-plot incredibly funny.

Having said that, I don’t think I’m a natural soap opera fan. The Flying Doctors might not be the greatest example of a soap, but even the (supposedly) good ones make me want to pull my bottom lip over my face and suffocate on my own gums. It’s the “drama”. The endless, endless “drama”.

I should explain that there’s a difference between drama and “drama”. The former appears in quality programme such as The Wire, Mad Men or The Sopranos. Drama, without quote marks, indicates actual characters, realistic behaviour, and a sense that it’s telling you something important about the way we live today.

Whereas “drama” is just a lot of noise. It’s weddings on Christmas day. It’s transsexual farmers falling off the roof onto their own ex-wife, who should have known better than to be there, because the whole thing was previewed in the Daily Mirror. It’s a man with a head like a boiled sweet wheezing his way through a dalliance with homosexuality, and then “getting better” in time to marry his own long-lost sister, while negotiating for the purchase of the newsagent under which he buried his grandmother’s rapist after toppling a bookcase on him during one of Manchester’s many earthquakes and plane crashes.

It’s gibberish. It fills up your life with bullshit, which is religion’s job thank you very much. And I don’t want a life full of bullshit. I don’t like it. I don’t like it on my TV, and I certainly don’t like it in my life.

And that’s why I’m not a fan of high maintenance people. They’re like living with a soap opera. There’s so much “drama”, and it is, to quote the Bard, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I have a friend who loves high maintenance girls, and actively seeks out people who “generate sparks”. He likes it because it means they bang heads all the time, and constantly have scraps, and slam doors, and squabble, and live like they’re in a particularly ratings-chasing episode of EastEnders. He says it’s good because eventually they make up and have passionate, angry sex.

He’s been divorced 3 times. He hasn’t learned yet.

Me, I can drum up some passionate, angry sex without all the passion and anger. In fact, if there’s too much passion and anger outside of the bedroom, I just feel tired and a bit headachey in the bedroom, and I’d rather just go to sleep, thank you.

And if you are high maintenance, don’t expect somebody else to fix you.  The human body is what’s called a “homeostatic system”. This means that it attempts to revert to its proper state when you tinker with it. Cuts mend. Bruises heal.

If you have too much sugar, your body will try to gather it up, turn it into a soft brown soup, and try to make it slither down the back of your leg before you get to the toilet. If you rub caffeine-enhanced creams onto your face to fight off the sag, your body will hoover up that caffeine and throw it away so it can restore the natural chemical balance, and you will have wasted your money on more of Laboratoire Garnier’s exciting made-up science. (In fact as far as I know, caffeine can’t be ingested via the skin anyway, so you really are wasting your money).

Any attempt to change the chemical constituents of your body will be resisted. Because, as the name implies, a homeostatic system is static. It wants to remain as nature intended.

And it’s the same with your personality. If you need maintaining, don’t expect an outside agent to do it for you. Happiness can’t be found in another person, it can only be reflected. I can come along and twiddle with your knobs (so to speak), and improve your mood – but only temporarily. You’ll return to your own mood unless you make an effort to change it yourself. And that’s not easy, but is always worth the effort.

For a while I thought I had once managed to change. Like a lot of people I was pretty depressed during my teens, but one day I woke up, realised I was really annoying myself, and decided not to be sad any more. And that was it. I was totally cured.

For a long time I thought that was how to fix depression: just decide not to be depressed. But I was naive, and having lived with a sufferer I know now that depression is a lot more complex. My determination not to be sad probably coincided with my hormones balancing out, and my “just say no” theory is a load of blather.

But I earnestly believe you can change yourself from a high maintenance person. You just have to stop thinking about yourself so much, and think about somebody else instead. You can do this with a little practice, I’m sure of it. And when you do, you’ll be happier about yourself, and will find it easier to meet somebody who is happy with you.

If I care about you, and you care about me, that’s everyone covered, everyone loved, and nobody needs maintaining any more. I’m not Gandhi, but I think that’s a pretty good philosophy for life.

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