“Those are nice shoes” the Baby Lawyer said to me today. I looked at him suspiciously. He was smiling at me in his usual open way with a lot of clean, white teeth.
“What do you mean these are nice shoes?” I asked defensively “these are the kind of shoes that Maggie Thatcher would wear“. For a split second I wondered whether or not he was old enough to know who Maggie Thatcher was. Then I put it to the back of my mind because we were in the midst, I was sure, of what is known in the West of Scotland as a Slagging and I had to prepare for a fight.
For those unfamiliar with Scottish culture a Slagging is a prolonged verbal evisceration, involving thinly veiled insults masquerading as humour. Since your ability to dish out as well as take the insults is judged closely by your peers, Slagging is a spectator sport. It is generally taught in Primary Schools, passed down by osmosis from teacher to pupil to fellow pupil. Now looking back on it I see it as a venomous activity designed to strip people of dignity – it is bullying wrapped up in sarcastic humour.
For example, a Slagging would start with someone saying “That’s a nice dress you’re almost wearing“. You are then on the back foot and have to come back with something equally abusive but semi-humorous line like “It’s deconstructionist chic, a bit like your haircut…and your face” and so on. The first person to descend into actually insulting the other person or who resorts in door slamming or physical violence loses.
Slagging can also be non-verbal. If someone wolf-whistles at you it might be a stranger showing appreciation for your good looks/tight jeans or it might be one of your friends taking the piss out of you. You won’t know until you turn round and smile to find someone laughing at you, so you learn to glower when people give you a compliment. Eventually you become very loathe to accept compliments at all or you rebuff them at source. I think that the Australia expression for a Slagging is sledging which is part and parcel of the Tall Poppy Syndrome. Sledging and Slagging and the Tall Poppy Syndrome take years to recover from.
Now if I was in Scotland, no doubt I would cop a really good Slagging for writing this blog. In fact, if I was in Scotland I would probably not have bothered starting a blog to avoid the inevitability of such a Slagging. Thankfully, I have almost deconditioned myself from expecting a Slagging for daring to draw attention to myself. Almost but not quite.
As I mentioned yesterday, while I feel physically comfortable wearing low heeled shoes, I don’t feel mentally confident. So, the Baby Lawyer inadvertently set off my internal Slagging radar which I tried to squash by saying: “What’s so nice about them thne? They are flat, they look like school shoes, they are boring and conventional“. He looked straight at me and said, “Exactly, they are so different from your usual shoes that you look sort of rebellious in them” with only the faintest trace of a cheeky grin.
I’ll take that compliment. In fact, I felt so rebellious that I decided to climb a tree in them. For which I copped a bumful of itchy sap and ants. Way to go Baby Lawyer.