Monday, November 15, 2010

Are you carrying a weapon? I know a lot of you are.

When I was 15 I was suspended from school for being a little bollix. It had manifested itself in various ways, such as shoplifting on a school tour, but had culminated in me and a mate getting busted for our 'convo book'. Bored as every other student, wary of getting caught passing notes, before the advent of teenagers and texting, we took to writing down our every waking thought in a copy book and then sliding it across the desk to the other. This meant that teachers were not inclined to notice anything, and merely assumed we were doing our work. Fancying ourselves as devastatingly witty we prided ourselves on the collection of stuff we wrote, even fancying that one day someone might want to publish our observations. Like Adrian Mole.
But, inevitably, we got caught by a teacher. Who confiscated the copy. And read some of its content. And looked horrified. And passed it on to the principal.
He was not amused. Our book was filled with the usual teenage complaints about school and parents, sometimes fairly bile-flecked. And, of course, lustlorn paeans to female classmates and teachers we fancied. Far from depraved, it was, but it was honest enough and it probably looked mildly deranged in accumulation. My defence, when confronted with the disgust of principal and parents, is that there was nothing there any worse than what everyone else was saying. That everyone had these complaints, these turns-of-phrase, these desires. They did, and much worse, but I learnt the painful lesson then that what you say and what you write down are two very different things. The written word can be taken vastly out of context and can be augmented in a tone that was never intended. And it's there for posterity, not blown in a breeze down the corridor. My mate and I had never intended to offend anyone, but we did, and we came to regret it badly. He wanted to keep hold of our other convo books that he had squirrelled away at home but I insisted that he burn them. As a pretty accurate record of teenage selves that slip further and further away they would probably crack us up to look back over now, but I still feel the right call was made.
I think of that situation, now half a world away from me, when I see stories like the PricewaterhouseCooper one, the Twitter joke trial, and the stupid Tory tit who thought it was merely 'glib' to tweet about stoning someone. As we choose increasingly to replace conversation with online interaction and to inscribe our every brainfart, people are going to have to realise that this kind of shit can't be unsaid, that words are still potent and that they go a fuck of a lot further these days than they used to.

12 comment(s):

Tessa said...

You're really lucky your 'convo book' episode took place pre-Columbine High School massacre, or you'd have felt more than the sharp edge of your parents' and teachers' tongues ...

There's nothing quite so cringe-inducing as having one's puerile wit subjected to the jaundiced gaze of an adult. Been there, still have the scars.

Rosie said...

There's nothing quite so cringe-inducing as having one's puerile wit subjected to the jaundiced gaze of an adult.

i'll see your cringe, and raise you. there's nothing quite so libido-dampening as your mother finding the letters your teenage boyfriend sent you, reading them to discover that you are now what doctors term "sexually active" and then calling a meeting with his parents.

oh, the memories.

Conan Drumm said...

I've always thought juvenalia and genitalia are closely related and, similarly, best kept under wraps.

KFS said...

This ones for Rosie: Ha aha ha aha ha ha, ad infinitum.
Thats a classic.

Ellie said...

I had an english teacher who always said 'never put in writing what you wouldn't want your granny to read'. Solid advice, I'd say.

Andrew said...

Tessa - There was a third party in the whole episode who escaped with a lesser punishment because he was really only a sporadic 'guest convo-er'. The principal simply made him read aloud a silly wee poem he'd written about wanking instead. I'm glad I just got three days' suspension instead of that kind of humiliation.

Rosie - Jaysis, you never told me that before. What KFS said.

Conan - You're perhaps right, though I sometimes wonder if most people's juvenalia is much more nauseating than the scutter they post on blogs, facebook and twiiter every day.

KFS - Yes. Quite.

Ellie - Sage advice. Though I'm inclined to think that you haven't really lived if you've never written so much as one text message that would make at least half the people you know's hair fall out in horror.

Rosie said...

there's a lot i've still to let you in on, my love.

Anonymous said...

next time I see you remind me to tell you about how the written word in my own blog got me into a ridiculous twist after a job interview. Having a great time catching up on your blog. Love it!

Andrew said...

Cheers, Conor, you're very kind. I look forward to hearing that story next time you hit these shores.

Jo said...

Oh Rosie!

Andrew, that's a pretty cool thing to get suspended for.

My german freind writes erotica, lots of it BDSM type stuff. His granny is a genteel 83 and announced one day that she'd bought his books and had a list of vocab that she didn't understand and hoped he would explain to her.

She had hithertofore assumed that the dirty content of his stories consisted of people having sex before marriage.

The first word on her list was 'cunnilingus', which she'd never heard of, and after hearing about it she put the list away and chose not to hear any more.

I asked him had he at least confiscated the books so she wouldn't keep reading, but he said he couldn't as she'd lent them to her friends!!

Jo said...

I wrote a story! Where'd it go?

Andrew said...

Sorry about that, Jo, I have my comments set so that any comments on a post older than a week have to be moderated. It was nothing to do with the presence of 'cunnilingus' in the comment, honestly.

I wish I got more comments that mentioned cunnilingus.