Humans are a social animal. That trite phrase is trotted out by psychologists to describe almost any aspect of interaction. Which, unless you are currently dressed in a loincloth and balanced on a tall pole thinking deep thoughts, covers pretty much all of us.
Yesterday the internet was ablaze with Twin Peaks excitement. After 25 years, the cult TV series is set to return, and lo there was rejoicing and verily did we tweet. I’ve never seen Twin Peaks. Nobody sees everything, but yesterday I began to wonder how and why I’d missed what was clearly an important part of many people’s shared past. And as the day progressed, I wondered about how we all want to join in. To be at the party where everyone seems to be having so much fun, rather than pressing our nose against the window from a dark garden. But enough of my stalking days.
We all remember the desperation of wanting to fit in when we hit our teenage years, and I’m sure we all pounced with equal ferocity on anyone who was different. I can’t extrapolate how I feel about missing one telly series 25 years ago into a full anthropological thesis on how society organises itself. This is just a meander through what seemed to fall out from yesterday’s hype.
I am more hermit than social animal. I guess a lot of writers are. For a few years I didn’t have a telly connected to the outside at all (my mother used to send me weekly videos which usually consisted of what she liked, so I tended to be up to date with Monarch of the Glen and opera documentaries). But when I had a baby, I did connect. I remember how visceral the memories can be when you talk about programmes you grew up with: they are like music you get to know with your friends at school. It is laying down future nostalgia, which is a powerful slow-burn. I wasn’t going to forbid my son from having those kind of memories, or marking him out at nursery as the only one who didn’t know who the Teletubbies were. Confidence can come later, at a time of our own choosing. Confidence usually emerges from a thoroughly grounded sense of belonging and safety.
Once you’re there, of course, you can do anything. The British eccentric is renowned for not caring a jot about what other people think. Fueled on tea and seventeen ways to discuss the weather, we stride about making the world a bit funnier, which I have always found to be inspirational. But then I like funny.
Comedy hinges on flawed characters who often stand outside their social groups. It is where the humour comes from: we laugh at difference as a way to convince ourselves that we are ‘in’ and they are ‘out’. It makes us feel safe. Niles in Frasier is a wonderful example. Frasier is so far out along the awkward spectrum that he fulfilled this role himself in the earlier sitcom Cheers, but even Frasier regards his brother Niles as odd and socially inept.
Martin is writing a letter, and Niles cannot help proofreading it over his shoulder
Niles: It’s best not to end a sentence with a preposition.
Martin writes something on a piece of paper and hands it to Niles
Niles: Not to be technical, but “off” is a preposition too.
I suppose what I’m saying is that it’s ok not to have watched Twin Peaks. If people shun me for it, that says more about their reliance on shibboleths than anything else, and I don’t have much time for people like that. But if enough people I trust recommend it, then I’ll watch. Because sharing things is what it’s all about.
Part-time hermiting. That’s what I do best.