Mil's Mailing List Mail #35


You know what my girlfriend is? Well - yes: but I was referring to another thing she is. She's this: fractal.

I mean this in the sense that, sometimes, peering into her eyes in an attempt to see the reasoning lying on the other side of them is like zooming in on the Mandelbrot set. You just keep going deeper and deeper; falling into yet another level of bewildering complexity, without there being any chance at all of ever reaching a stable conclusion.

For example, she was telling me the other day that she's getting fat. Now, she's not remotely getting fat - she can add about 10% to her overall body weight simply by using a heavier eyeliner - but that wasn't the issue: the crucial thing was her telling me that she's getting fat, as:
a) She had to be saying something anyway - just as a shark must swim or die, so she has to talk relentlessly during all her waking hours or place her life in the most terrible peril.
b) By telling me she's getting fat, she clearly felt, my position in the matter would rapidly progress - during the course of a couple of sentences - through these three stages: Told - Implicated - Responsible.
It turns out (and I'm a fool not to have seen this on my own, really), that her imagined weight gain was due to my not spontaneously informing her what she should eat.
Margret: 'You should say to me, "Don't eat that cake".'
Me: 'Fff. Not likely. If I said, "Don't eat that cake," you'd be right back with, "Why? Are you saying I'm fat?" And then you'd go into a huff. And then you'd run around to your friends saying, "Mil has been calling me fat." And you'd all sit in the living room, drinking wine and hating me. I say, "Don't eat that cake," and, within three days, I'm the embodiment of male oppression and the Women's Soc at the uni are throwing kitchen waste over me every time I step out of the door. All because I said, "Don't eat that cake," when I couldn't care less whether you eat that cake or not, and I don't think you're fat.'
Margret: 'I shouldn't eat crisps either.'
[Hold on: crisps. I should probably clarify this for the American Listers. What are actually 'crisps', you'd call 'chips'. Um, and what are actually 'chips', you'd call 'fries'. Which, as far as I can see, leaves you with nothing to call 'fries'. I fear you rather painted yourselves into a corner with that one.]
Margret: 'I shouldn't eat crisps either.'
Me: 'So - don't.'
Margret: 'But you sit there eating them.'
Me: 'Erm, well - yes. But I've never said I felt that I shouldn't, have I? In fact, I feel that I should sit here eating them - I feel that really quite passionately. And, anyway, I'm not even vaguely fat.'
Margret: 'Which I am, is what you're saying? You swine.'
Me: 'Ugh. I didn't sa-'
Margret: 'So, you've said I'm fat.'
Me: 'I d-'
Margret: 'And it'd be a lot easier for me not to eat stuff if you didn't as well. Yet you just don't want to help, do you? Typical.'
Me: 'Look, do you think you could talk about this later, at all?'
Margret: 'When later?'
Me: 'When I'm not here.'

So, that's the background. Then, the following evening, I'm standing in the kitchen and she comes in to get something to eat. She opens the fridge and peers inside, at length. I'm under orders to point it out when she's eating needlessly, but have no doubt she'll berate me for doing so. As a compromise, I say nothing, but just flick a glance at the side of her head. Even though it lasts for only a quarter of a second, and she's looking away from me into the fridge, she spots this glance instantly and says, 'What?'
'Fff... Hmmm - celery. Celery's OK, isn't it?'
'Sure. It takes more energy to digest than you get from it. Eat enough celery and you'll actually starve to death.'
She begins to take some celery out.
'As long,' I add, 'as you don't have any dips or anything. Celery's fine, but dips are bad.'
I go into the other room and sit down in front of the TV.
A few minutes later, Margret comes in and sits beside me. She's got a plate - with no dips on it. No. It merely has two, ungarnished, sticks of celery, and a buttered pikelet with a heap of smoky bacon on top.

[Oh, right - pikelet]

Unfathomable as this kind of reasoning is, it's not really Margret at her fractal best. For that, you need to have something that - skidding past, at speed, while your attention is really elsewhere - appears unremarkable, but once you give it the tiniest amount of thought... that's it: you're plunging disorientatingly into a deforming vortex where trying to formulate a definitive theory of What The Hell Is Going On In Her Mind is like trying to put the wind in a box.

So, here's yesterday, then. Blink, and you'll miss it. Think about it, and that's the rest of your day, if not your life, gone.

Margret and I are sitting on the sofa. I get up to make a cup of tea. A moue swirls her face as I walk by. 'Fwww,' she says, looking at me and wriggling a little to convey discomfort. 'Turn the heating up, or down.'


PS. Emily is doing another book and is again looking for 'research' (i.e. anecdotes, stories, personal illustrations, etc.). If you fancy contributing, or simply like clicking links, then the info is HERE.

PPS. Now, this is fab. The Croatian translation of TMGAIHAA came out recently (HERE) - which was rather surprising, as I'd forgotten they were doing one. But then, yesterday, I came home to find a box of the Japanese editions lying in the hallway. The Japanese have clearly approached the cover with the same 'To hell with everything else - what looks cool?' attitude that drives all their artistic endeavours. There's a picture on Amazon Japan HERE, but I folded the jacket out for full effect HERE. I get the feeling that, had the artist been given the job of producing a cover for, say, John Stuart Mill's Considerations on Representative Government, then he'd still have said, "You know... I'm thinking, 'a woman wearing a tasselled, cowboy bikini shooting lipsticks at a sexually-delirious junior sales executive' yes?"

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