Last night’s gig was really good. It turns out that the reason it was called a Celtic Country night was because there was a band on before us who played Country. It seems as if in Canada and America, the word Celtic is used as a very broad term simply to encompass the none country side of folk.
The Country act was a duo, which included a man who went by the name Fat Man. This seemed an odd choice of name because he wasn’t at all fat, in fact he was rather thin. When I asked him why he was called Fat Man, he said that it was because he was thin. There was a pause while I waited for the rest of the explanation, but none came, so I made what I thought would come across as a puzzled face.
Given that I’ve never seen a puzzled face before, I’m not sure what one looks like and so I’m not really sure how to make one. I assume that if I am puzzled then my face will probably make the gesture automatically, without the need for any thought or effort on my part, but I can’t be sure. Obviously my face will automatically form into a smile when I’m happy, even though I’ve never seen a smile, or at least I’ve never been conscious of seeing one – perhaps my brain has somehow registered it subconsciously. This suggests that smiling is an automatic thing that happens, rather than it being a learnt thing from seeing it and then mirroring it. I know how to smile regardless of having never received that information from the external world. It’s presumably an automatic, instinctive, in-built thing, hardwired into us from birth.
I think the thing that gets me the most about being blind is not being able to communicate visually. It’s frustrating whenever I hear phrases like, “our eyes met across the crowded room,” or “I knew by her eyes what she was thinking.” Really? I have to rely on people telling me what they’re thinking to know what they’re thinking. “Her eyes said it all.” No they bloody didn’t, if you want to say it all, I’m afraid you’re going to have to say it all, or at the very least, say some of it. I’ve heard loads of stories of how two people met and fell in love because they saw each other from across the room and smiled. Then they’ll say something like, “it took us ages to finally get the courage to talk to each other.” Yet when they do speak to each other, they are not strangers. They have a history, a connection. They are talking to each other long before they talk to each other. But this is completely alien and impossible for me.
I think that this makes relationships really difficult for me, because where do you start? On a few occasions I’ve been in a bar and a friend has said that a girl is smiling at me from across the room. Brilliant, but what am I meant to do with that information? I can’t smile back at her because I don’t know who she is. If I did ask my friend to turn me in the direction of where she is so that I could try a smile at her, then I’m doubtful that this would have positive results. I’d constantly need a commentary on what was going on. This would mean that my friend would also have to be looking at her which might make her feel a bit anxious. She’s just smiled at me, and now the man next to me is swivelling my head around, pointing and whispering in my ear every time she smiles. I think it’s safe to say that the smiling wouldn’t last for long. Plus, how do I know how long to smile for? What kind of smile to do? I don’t know how to smile? It just happens automatically. But I need the right smile. I don’t want to grin at her, or smirk; it needs to just be a little smile of acknowledgement, a friendly “hello” smile, a smile that says just enough. And that can’t be learnt, because it involves interacting with what the other person is communicating. I ccan’t do a smile of acknowledgement, because I haven’t acknowledged.
“There’s a girl across the room who’s just smiled at you.”
“Right, OK, position my head to where she is and tell me when she’s looking.”
“OK, keep your head there mate. OK, she’s looking, quick, smile!”
“Shh, keep your voice down. She’ll hear you. What kind of smile?”
“You missed your chance. She’s talking to her friends again now. That would have been the perfect moment.”
“But I don’t know what kind of smile to do. Let me try a few on you and you can let me know which is best. I want a smile that basically says a casual, friendly hello. Nothing over-the-top or arrogant, just a friendly hello.”
“OK, face me and try some out.”
“OK, how about this one.”
“No, you look like you’re constipated.”
“OK, what about this?”
“No, you look like a psycho killer.”
“OK, how about this?”
“That’s more like it.”
“How long should I do that for, do you think?”
“Well it depends on her response. I’ll look over your shoulder at her to see how she reacts, and we’ll judge it from there.”
“Won’t that look a bit weird? You looking over my shoulder?”
“Well, what choice do we have. OK, now this is going to be fast-moving. Eye contact is very quick-paced and involves instinctive responses based on what the other person is doing. I’ll be shouting out instructions to you as we go. Ready?”
“Right, tilt your head up and to he left, right a bit, left a bit, right, stop, OK, she’s looking, quick, smile, stop smiling, look down, she’s looking down at the ground coyly, do the same, now, head up again and smile, a slightly wider smile, stop, look down again.”
“What’s happening now?”
“Er, she’s just walked out of the pub very quickly. What smile did you do?”
“Er, I don’t know, it was all so fast. I think I did this.”
“Bloody hell mate, you look like a constipated psycho killer.”
I suppose the only other option is to get my friend to smile at her on my behalf, a smile via proxy, but I’m not sure that would really help. And I can’t go up to her and say, “hi, I’m sorry, apparently you were smiling at me. But I can’t see you smiling at me, so I thought maybe we could cut out the whole smiling at each other from across the room bit, and just skip straight to a conversation. Oh, and by the way, if you are interested in me then would you please make it clear to me with words, because I won’t be able to read your subtle facial expressions. In fact I won’t even be able to read your unsubtle facial expressions. So rather than your eyes saying it all, if you could just say it with your voice instead, that would be great. So, now we’ve got that established, let’s have a conversation and see where it goes. HI, I’m David …”
I’m doubtful how effective that would prove.
Anyway, as I was saying, before that lengthy inadvertent sidetrack, apparently Fat Man is called that because he is actually thin. I made a puzzled face, and then he said, “are you OK? You look constipated.” No, he didn’t, I was just being hilarious there. He said that it was an ironic name, like when people say “bad” to mean good, he was called Fat Man because he was actually a thin man. I pretended to understand out of politeness. So I didn’t point out his misuse of the word ironic. The Canadians seem to have difficulty understanding the word ironic. Alanis Morissette is a prime example.
“It’s like rain on your wedding day.”
“No it’s not. It was raining the day before when it wasn’t your wedding day. It’s annoying, but it’s not ironic. It’s just the weather.”
“It’s a no smoking sign on your cigarette break.”
“No it’s not, Alanis. If the no smoking sign only materialised whenever you had a cigarette break, then you might have a point. But that no smoking sign was there when you didn’t have a cigarette break. Just walk a little further and then you’ll be fine to smoke. That’s called mild inconvenience, not irony.”
“It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid.”
“Well, not really. That’s just weird. I mean, You paid for something that’s free, then surely you just ask for the money back. After all, it’s a free ride. Or maybe you just say that they can keep the money as a donation towards the fuel. I suppose you could argue that the concept of a free ride that you’ve paid for is a good definition of an oxymoron. But let’s not add another linguistic term to the mix, given that you seem to be still struggling with the notion of irony. If you’d written a song called, Isn’t It An Oxymoron, then a free ride when you’ve already paid might be a good lyric.”
“It’s like meeting the man of your dreams, and then meeting his beautiful wife.”
“No it’s not. Because if he’s the man of your dreams, then chances are he’s the man of someone else’s dreams, and it’s highly likely that lots of other people will also find him attractive, and it’s very likely that he’ll therefore have a beautiful wife. It’s not ironic, it’s basic probability. If you’d written a song called, Isn’t It Just Basic Probability, then you you could use that lyric and it would make sense.”
After the show, I went up to Fat Man to congratulate him on a really good performance.
“That was awful,” I happily told him.
“Oh, really. I thought it went OK.” he sounded a bit upset with my praise. This whole Canadian irony thing is very confusing.