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Saturday 20 September 2014

Brendan O'Connor: We need a rule book on the kissy kissy

Mid-life crisis

Published 17/02/2014 | 02:30

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BREAKING THE RULES: Patsy from ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ is an extreme example of someone who needs guiding in the right direction

You often hear people who were/are alcoholics or addicts of some kind complaining that they feel they were born without the rule book. This leaves them adrift in life, unsure of how to respond to the kind of normal stuff the rest of us take for granted. They feel that everyone else has been given this implicit rule book which allows us to glide easily through life, with an inbuilt rule for every situation.

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This leads me to believe that I am possibly an addict, or else that the rest of us are just faking it a bit better than the addicts. I actually think the former could be the issue. I think I could very easily have been an addict of some kind, and who knows, maybe I am or I could become one yet. I kind of think everyone is potentially an addict. It's just a question of what you get addicted to. We all need crutches and distractions and escapes, but I suppose the trick is to try and find crutches that aren't going to ruin your life, and to try and convince yourself that these crutches work for you.

I go through phases when I rely on extreme routine and constant work, for example. My addictions vary according to the seasons and the workload at any particular time and the age of the children. All around me, I see men in certain phases of life who have tailored addictions that do not destroy them. Some of them cycle up mountains every weekend or burn themselves out in spinning classes. Some of them watch sport all the time and would bet on two flies going up a wall but manage to keep it in check.

Most people agree that drinking is not a great crutch in life when you have small children. Presumably when they grow up, drink can come back into the frame more as a crutch and a way to shut off the constant knowledge that we are going to die and that there isn't a huge point to what we do between now and then, no matter what difference we make to the world.

Apart from my extreme appetite for more, the other clear sign that I could be an addict is that I certainly wasn't handed the rule book when I was born. Let me give you three small examples.

We seem to have decided that in certain circles we all do two kisses when we meet people of the opposite sex. This is particularly rampant in showbusiness and D4 media circles. I'm not sure at what point it became de rigueur to offer this peace sign when you meet people, but it has grown out of control completely. It's one thing to exchange a kiss of affection with a friend of the opposite sex, but nowadays everyone is doing kissy kissy, often with casual acquaintances and even, in extreme cases, on first meeting.

As long as you don't think too much about this, you are fine. But sometimes you find yourself stopping yourself and thinking: "This is daft." Recently I bumped into a very senior female politician whom I have met before. I wouldn't say I know this person but we are acquainted professionally. However, we met in a kind of kissy kissy environment. So when we came face to face we shook hands. And then of course I nearly, out of habit, went for the kissy kissy. Luckily I stopped myself, thinking "you daft idiot". But then I wondered did I seem a bit cold, given there was plenty of kissy kissy going on around us. Someone needs a rule book on the kissy kissy.

I also don't know what to say when people ask me if I have been away because I have a colour on my face. I am probably naturally fairly sallow anyway, and I walk around a lot so I have a bit of a ruddy windburn on the face. But when people say it to me, I get freaked out that they are suggesting I am using the fake tan or the sunbeds, so I explain to them that I am not, and it's probably just blood pressure.

Sometimes, you say that, and a look of concern crosses their face, and you realise that as far as they are concerned you have just admitted to having a life-threatening illness at a very young age. And they didn't know you were just being breezy. And they think you must be using sunbeds and fake tan too and feeling guilty about it. Someone please, give me the rule book.

Then there's: "Oh you've lost so much weight," and rather than bore other people and myself by explaining that no, I am not really on a diet etc etc I have taken to saying, "Yes. I'm convinced I have some undiagnosed disease" – which in fairness, does cross my mind now and then.

Again, the slightly concerned look from them and the silent wish from me that I had been born with the rule book.

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