“Next time I see you, remind me not to talk to you.” Groucho Marx
Goucho Marx was an American comedian, film and tv star and probably the best known brother of the Marx Brothers. And even if you have never seen any Marx Brother movies you will know him from the ever popular novelty disguise known as “Groucho-glasses” , that one-piece mask of horn-rimmed glasses, large plastic nose, bushy eyebrows and mustache. Pop that on and become the face that launched a thousand imitators as future comics attempted to mimic his rapid-fire impromptu delivery and innuendo-laden dialogue. Now while Groucho had an eclectic bunch of friends, everyone from Alice Cooper to Elton John to T.S. Elliot and Carol Sandburg we are not all of us so lucky. Somehow I don’t think he had any of these in mind when he said the above. Now presumably there were people he felt this way about but I know there are loads of people I have felt this way about from time to time.
It isn’t that they are evil people, or even particularly mean or nasty, just that they are people who after you finish talking with them you say to yourself, next time pretend you don’t see them. For me they fall roughly into two categories : a) people who make you make you feel like your life is shitty in comparison to theirs and b) people, I think the correct term is emotional vampires, who suck all joy and happiness out of everything, who see the glass as neither half full or half empty, but just empty. Folks like Dracula who drink you dry and then toss you aside as they wait in the shadows for their next unsuspecting victim. I know a few of these and at first I couldn’t understand why I felt so exhausted after our chats. I mean talking, and I talk a lot so I am well trained, shouldn’t feel like you have just run a marathon, or in today’s high-octane, adrenalin junkie parlance, some muddy, endurance-testing, all encompassing, physically demanding 50k challenge. But it does and worse, you take on their woes, their litany of wrongs, which in their mind at least are always against them. Where once you saw a blemish or two, now you see that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”, only it’s not just Denmark, its everywhere. It’s like switching from a scene from Barney to a scene from The Corpse Bride. And although I much prefer the latter and can’t stand the purple dinosaur, it can feel a little depressing all those singing skeletons and dislocated body parts. Whether intentional or not, such people are the Miss Havishams but unlike her they were not jilted by a lover, but by life itself. And if they don’t begin to see at least a drop or two in the glass I fear that they too will suffer a similar fate, although metaphorically of course, and be consumed by their negativity. And if I want to be spared and avoid the flames, I must remember to avoid them.
The other folks I also must get better at avoiding are the folks whose life is lived as one big happy, feel good technicolour movie; where everything is always wonderful and life is a bed of rose petals. They never have anything bad to report, no misfortune has befallen them and as if their life is not fabulous enough here they have a trip in a few days to a place where it will be even more fabulous. If they have kids, they are spectacular and of course top of their class, and if they are married, naturally theirs is a marriage that can make even the schmaltzist Hallmark card seem cynical. If they are single they meet only the most fascinating and charming dates and are just back from completing one of the aforementioned endurance tests and are in training for the next one that involves rappelling down the world’s tallest building. The type of people whose Facebook timeline is an endless procession of fantastic parties and events. I mean it’s enough to make you learn Photoshop so you can put yourself in photos of you at parties and Ironman Triathlons , just to make your life a little more attractive and a lot less dull than it actually is. Had they been Miss Havisham there would have been no jilting, no life of bitterness and regret, Great Expectations would have referred to the expecting of the gansey load of kids they would have in their spectacular mansion all the while maintaining their slim figures, their successful careers. No sitting around in moth eaten, decaying wedding dresses. No because they are too busy adopting orphans and setting new record times in all the hardest, toughest races out there.
So bearing in mind Groucho’s wise words , I’m beginning to wonder if I should invest in one of the ‘Groucho glasses’ disguises and then I could go about my daily business without fear of bumping into either of the above. Hmm or perhaps I should just think of another of his quotes, “I never forget a face, but in your case I’ll be glad to make an exception” and walk on by.