Deciding What to Talk About – and Not

Floor mosaïque of gladiators, Kourion, Cyprus, photo: © R. C.Morgan

Families are rarely simple.

And with Christmas fast approaching, we will all have another opportunity very soon to taste the unfortunate truth of this.

Some people – a small minority, I think – have supportive families, but for many of us, this is not the case.

So here’s a small suggestion.

Before you go back to see your parents or your parents-in-law, or your sisters and brothers or your cousins or whoever, take a moment to decide what you are willing to discuss and what you are not willing to discuss.

Sound calculating?

Maybe, but you’ll thank me for it.

It’s a question of survival, of self-care.

You don’t have to tell Mummy everything.

I’ll say it again.

You don’t have to tell Mummy everything.

This might come as a shock to some of you.

Perhaps you’ve always communicated everything with your parents, siblings etc.

This is perfectly ok if said parents are supportive and do not judge you.

If, however, you are secretly dreading another bout of sarcastic and belittling remarks, not to mention more arguments, then you owe yourself protection.

And the best way to do this is to decide what and what not to talk about.

If you are in a couple, then you must spend time with your other half making sure that you are on the same wavelength about this.

It’s no good not talking about that wonderful but expensive holiday you had in October that you haven’t told your parents about because they always complain that you go on holiday too much and anyway where do you get the money? – if your girlfriend blurts out what a wonderful time you both had in Botswana.

Get your stories straight and stick to them.

Believe me, this is a vital step towards self-preservation and if you’ve never tried it, then I urge you to do so.

It’s not a question of lying to people.

It’s a question of setting limits.

Are there things that you’d rather keep to yourself?

Then do so.

For example, perhaps you’ve recently become unemployed and need some time to get things sorted out without having confusing and unwanted careers advice from the whole family.

You don’t need to talk about it if you don’t want to.

Just be very clear about what you are going to say if Daddy asks you about work.

In my experience, many people and unfortunately many parents, take information given to them and use it to hurt you either instantly or later on.

Don’t ask me why.

I don’t have children.

And I can’t understand the point of having them if all you are going to do is judge and belittle them. It doesn’t make sense to me.

Shouldn’t you all be playing on the same team?

Instead, some parents are toxic.

So change the parameters.

Learn to say to yourself,’I don’t want to talk about that and I’m not going to.’

If you just talk about the things you feel reasonably comfortable with, then this Christmas might actually turn out to be the simplest and least fraught with friction for a long long time.

May your life never become an endurance test!



Breakfast with a butterfly, Zakynthos.
Breakfast with a butterfly, Zakynthos.

Anyone for Tennis?

I share one thing in common with my mother at least. (Well, probably a few others….)

I enjoy watching tennis.

At least for the moment.

As the game evolves though, that may change.

It used to be a rather civilized game, but it’s starting to become as barbaric as any other professional sport.

Those announcements of players.

Aren’t they confusing tennis players with boxers?

Why all this building up of players into super heroes? Why is being human no longer enough?

As super heroes, the players are something of a disappointment.

For one thing a super hero should set an example and not behave like a three year old.

Is the behaviour of players on court now an example to youngsters?

Tantrums, racquet smashing, invectives against umpire and linesmen.

The undisguised shouting of foul language.

The absurd clenching of fists after each and every point. Where did this come from? It looks completely stupid.

Even demanding more applause from the crowd when the player feels he’s played particularly well.

Interesting that you don’t see the women demand more applause from the crowd.

Something I’ve never understood though.

Why do the spectators applaud after each point?

It seems ridiculous to me.

Does a secretary receive applause after each letter typed?

Does a teacher get a pat on the back after every lesson?

Then why applaud tennis players for simply doing their job for a few seconds? Crazy.

I can understand applause for an exceptional point.

But as things stand, there’s nowhere to go when the exceptional occurs. Apart from more noise.

But don’t get me started on the behaviour of the crowd, which sometimes borders on the intolerable (2017 Australian Open for example).

Yes, we’re a long way away from cucumber sandwiches and the importance of participation.

But that, as they say, is progress.

May your life never become an endurance test.