Recent publishings in the Irish Times from Laura Kennedy: Freelance writer, doctor in philosophy, columnist @IrishTimes and beauty columnist @IrishTimesMag
I wonder, not for the first time, how it is that many of the changes in my life have been punctuated by sitting on some park bench or other, listening to the faint trilling of children in a playground, and to the birds, if the season has them inclined to sing.
This may sound like something a philosopher shouldn’t say, and I hope I’m not booted from the club for suggesting it, but time is a concept that doesn’t bear thinking about all that much.
Sometimes, events occur in our lives which can prompt a reassessment of the things we think we know about ourselves…
Such examples as I have witnessed include a man at a friend’s wedding who chose to become so drunk that while other guests were dancing to Rock the Boat, he thought it a good idea to simulate making love to the (already cut) wedding cake, which naturally was unable to proffer its consent.
Suddenly, Jules leaned forward from his window seat and addressed the woman, who was sitting between me and the aisle. “Just so you know…,” he said calmly and with a benign smile on his face, ‘I am going to go the bathroom one hundred times during this flight’. Knowing that he would never actually do such a thing, I stifled a small chuckle as the plane began to ascend.
Suddenly, a key worries in the front door lock, and himself trundles through, loud and large as always, holding a hurley and a paper bag. “I BROUGHT YOU A MUFFIN,” he shouts, waving the bag and totally unfazed to see me sitting on the floor. “IT’S BLUEBERRY.” I take the muffin from him gratefully. Home does not have to be a place.
I Finished my doctorate because I had sacrificed and slowed progress in other areas of my life to sit in rooms with excellent dead guys such as Spinoza and William James, and I felt as though I deserved the piece of paper which certified the knowledge I had worked so hard to gain. After all, such pieces of paper represent leverage in the social and working world.
The women I am having brunch with (brunch is a “notions” meal observed by notions Dublin types, and Aisling would strongly favour a sandwich with chips on the side) tell stories of Aislings they know or work with, or tell stories about themselves in an attempt to prove they are “actually a complete Aisling really”.
My friend’s snippiness expresses itself as a sort of unfriendly absence of joy in someone else’s achievement, or the odd disparaging comment seemingly out of the blue.
Recently, when a mutual acquaintance told my friend and I about someone we both know and like sadly getting a divorce, my snippy friend looked positively smug. The woman whose marriage is coming to an end had what most people would think of as an ideal marriage – financial comfort, a good job and a baby with almost unbelievably squeezable cheeks. I thought of that baby and felt terribly sad. My friend said, almost merrily “She’ll be less full of herself now anyway!”, before bouncing off to the bathroom. My companion and I stared after her, mouths slightlYagape, then looked at one another, unsure of what to say. It is difficult to attribute such meanness to anything other than resentment.
An individual act that would improve all humankind: whenever you knock/ring on/at a front door, presume that the person inside is on the loo, and calculate how long it would take them to get off the loo before you knock/ring a second time. It’s what Kant should have done. The job of a beauty writer simply could not be nicer. Beauty products are not just frivolity; in many ways they are a sort of soundtrack to our lives.
I know it is taboo as an adult to say you don’t have a lot of friends, if only because it is embarrassing to admit. If you have not developed a sturdy net of social connections by your 30s, there is a sort of taint on you; a kind of maudlin aspect that suggests there might be something wrong with you.
Perhaps you had friends once, but you murdered them all and they are stuffed and arranged in your garden shed in an exact replica of Leonardo’s Last Supper, or maybe you’re just a crap friend. The sort of person who borrows
money and never pays it back, or who puts their shoed feet on other people’s cream sofas while remarking on the asymmetry of their children’s faces.
I was in my mid-20s when I found Narciso Eau de Parfum by Narciso Rodriguez (2; from €55 for 30mls), recommended to me by fellow beauty writer and friend Laura Bermingham while we were tearing through a French airport (there’s always time to stop to look at perfume).