The phrase that could curdle any success
Published 19/07/2015 | 00:00
A friend reminded us of The Phrase, and our hearts plummeted at the same speed and to the same depth as they had all those years ago when The Phrase was at the peak of its power. It was the bane of our young years, the one thing that could turn a good day bad, a success into a failure, to make your lovely new shoes horrible and your new haircut a cause for shame. It was the phrase, "You think you're it. Don't you?"
There were other variations, "Don't think much of yourself, do ya?" or "You think you're the cheese, but you're not even the cow on the box." You didn't have to do much to have one of them flung at you, you just had to have been deemed to have committed that cardinal Irish sin of yesteryear: thinking well of yourself. It could have been that you won a race, that you got praised in class, that your parents got a new car or simply that someone said your new dress was lovely and you didn't appear to protest enough that, no, it was in fact disgusting, you found it in a skip and use it for cleaning tyres.
"You think you're it, don't you?" was awful, because as well as highlighting you as a committer of this whopper sin there was no possible riposte, apart from, "No I don't," which was clearly a bit crap. It was one of the certainties of the Ireland in which I grew up that if you were anything less than self-loathing there was always some fecker, and for some poor folks that fecker was a parent, to take the shine off your delight. There was some weird horror that anyone might get above their station, whatever those stations were, and needed a swift clobber back down to earth.
That awful weirdness is almost gone. People are allowed to be pleased with themselves now, encouraged even. You tell someone they look nice and they don't wrestle you to the ground to make you take it back and agree they're ugly instead. Self-loathing is no longer considered healthy. To me, it's another bit of proof that the world is not getting worse.