Writing about writing for a writing social at which I had to read my writing.
People Deciding is a form of extended people watching. If I’m honest, I would much rather be writing about people I know and changing the names and calling it fiction, BUT sometimes it is safer to take a step back. People Deciding is the space between ‘I want to know you’ and ‘I want to write about you’. It must not be obvious: stereotypes feel broad and basic and boring. People Deciding is personal. No one, I have found, decides the same person could be the same person - on first sight.
So now I’m thinking about you. Who I decided you are, who you decided I am. We like it when we and they decide good things. Nice things, flattering things. We call this ‘feeling seen’. If they decide you are someone that you have adamantly decided you are not, you get defensive, you say things like ‘you don’t know me’ and ‘you’ve got that wrong’. But that is the point of People Deciding: no one knows anyone, anything, and never will. You cannot get it wrong.
If everyone is a character then everything is a story. The surface is the most boring part, so we make things up. We like just enough stimulus to inspire an idea. We like it less when what we thought and felt and decided does not match the person we are watching.
I am writing this from the back of the beer garden at the Fat Walrus in New Cross. It is eight minutes past five on a Tuesday in September; people are beginning to sit down with pints in their work clothes. Opposite me are two men in high vis vests (I have decided they are builders) drinking pints (I have decided this is Amstel, even though I don’t think it is, but I like the idea that it is, so it is) and one turns to the other and asks him what’s going on with ‘his girl’ (I have decided she wears boots and hair extensions). The man replies that she is ‘still just fuckin’ around’, then launches into a rant which, roughly transcribed, sounds like:
“You want the muscle man, all the girls want the muscle man, he knows he’s wanted because he’s the muscle man. So go for it, have him, I ain’t your muscle man. But I don’t see your muscle man. He ain’t gonna be there for you, he always got other places to be first.”
Two more men join, cigarettes are lit. One makes eye contact with me and I realise I am staring. I leave it there, otherwise I would be breaking the rule of People Deciding: they must not know you are writing about them. And actually, they’re not wearing high vis, they’re in hoodies. Actually, they’re in t shirts. Actually, it’s a polo shirt with a logo. And again, I have seen it, changed it, and now I can call it fiction.
I’m thinking about you, again. You, who I am writing to, or for, or about. Maybe I want your attention. Maybe I really don't want your attention. Maybe I made you up. So, really, ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ is always right; it’s never been you, it was always me. But, you know, maybe you know more about this than me. Depends on who you are. Depends on who 'you' is.