Continuing on from my hatred of self-describing, I’d like to talk about hobbies. I am very wary both of hobbies and of people with them, being of the firm opinion that hobbies are an entirely invented phenomena, created by GCSE French oral exams. Recently, I have had the displeasure of meeting several people who seem to disagree.
There’s a new cat cafe in town.
I know this, because I made the mistake of having drinks with someone in a crowded bar. I sat next to him, and when he said something I didn’t hear, I did what everybody does, and smiled, hoping desperately that it wasn’t a question. Apparently, this politeness was misinterpreted as interest, because I spent the next 10 minutes being shown photos of random body parts (the odd leg, or discombobulated arm) next to cats. ‘What is the purpose of this?’ I asked finally, when it became clear that simply nodding wasn’t going to pass muster. ‘It’s a cat cafe,’ he explained. ‘It’s for people like me.’ There were several things I could think of to say in reply to this, but didn’t. Instead, I downed my drink and hoped he wasn’t going to tell me anything else about himself. (Sometimes my social prowess astounds even me). ‘So,’ he said eventually, while I tried desperately to catch the waitress’s eye. ‘What do you like to do?’
‘What do you like to do?’ ranks alongside ‘What music do you like?’ as one of the worst questions a person can ask you. A friend of mine was at a dinner party recently. ‘So what do you like to do,’ someone asked her. ‘When you’re not at work?’ My friend, who is as multi-talented and interesting as everyone I know, stared at this person in growing horror. ‘I felt as though I did absolutely nothing,’ she told me. ‘Apart from go to the office.’
At the time, I nodded sympathetically, and made the kinds of murmuring noises that are meant to convey empathy. (Writing this, I realise that a great deal of my time is spent making non-verbal sounds. It is possible that I could avoid a great deal of unnecessary confusion and upset by simply ‘using my words’). Now, however, I would be able to reassure her vigorously, simply by pointing out that saying nothing in this case was the best possible course of action. Followed swiftly by ‘avoiding cat cafes’, which is what I now tell everyone who asks me about my ‘hobbies’.