On Authorised Nosiness Objects

Anyone who keeps their ears open in the public space is condemned to hear astonishingly mean and selfish things said by parents to their allegedly beloved offspring. A social worker I once knew reported that the middle-class mother actually answered questions while the underclass mother generally replied to them with a “Shaddup or I’ll belt ya one”, and that this might have something to do with child intelligence.

But it is not all about threats of violence. Parents complain about adolescents mumbling “Nuffink” or “Dunno” to intrusive questions that no adult would accept from another. In particular adults ask “Why?” questions to which no actual explanation of reasons why is solicited or listened to, as the question form is merely a disguise for a “You’re not-OK” demarche. The other day, for instance, I heard a mother ask, for this special value of the verb, her teenage daughter, “Why must you wear a hood?” (The language of “must” rather than “do”, by the way, is a giveaway to gamy nastiness, and is closely related to the overuse of “always”.)

It suddenly occurred to me that here was a new item for the list of bad reasons for having children that was always at the back of my mind. The desire for unreasonable control over the minutiae of others’ behaviour is not necessarily a response to having a teenager who can get herself into trouble unless intrusive questions are asked. Rather, it may be one of the motivations for embarking on reproduction in the first place. Because only then are you assigned a designated victim who has to suck down whatever you hand out.

Posted on August 3, 2009 at 17:50 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink

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