Thursday 23rd April 2020
Today will be a new day, a new me. Oh yes.
Threw myself and J a picnic on the lawn outside, after having taken the recycling out and noticing the surrounds -the weather nigh on perfect: cool, clear, golden. All the new leaves brilliantly green, creating wavering glades and dells.
However when we ventured out carrying everything unfeasibly, they were watering the lawns, as if nefariously seen our planning. In the end we managed to bag a spot in the corner -ours a rare gated estate, normally banned in London. Then settling down for crudités (which to us non-French mortals means raw veg and dips), followed by a spell lying in the sun, pillowed and reading. Armchair travelling: India and Russia.
All was light and blue skies, and nary a care in the world. A lot of the residents were doing the same, each in small huddles respectfully distant, occupying every patch of grass and nurturing an almost smug relaxation.
Then the call from work.
I’m being furloughed, but on full pay, and due to how crowded the museum gets we’re looking at June, possibly as late as October. A long wait though really can’t complain with so many people out there without the option, nor income. I’m free to find another job for the time being, for my new dependents.
It all coming back. The outside world, battling beyond the gates.
There’s a controversial new meme going round following another Redditt viral vid. A bunch of women castigating a respectful, patient cop for closing a park playground in the US, till he subsequently arrests one of them (she’d offered up her hands), thus birthing a new martyr for the right. Likewise, it all runs in with the militant anti-vaxxers, some of whom are now protesting outside another policeman’s house following the similar arrest of a rebellious ‘playdate party’ organiser.
So the meme is Karen. Karen has a distinctive bob haircut, and is the type of mumsy woman who complains a lot to service staff; she always wants to speak to a manager and is outraged at minor things. It basically screams entitlement and/ or bullying. It started out as a meme quite a few years ago, and was initially nameless.
However today she’s been updated -the current sideshow for Karen is subtly based on race (as is everything in the US), and age, and income. She’s White and starting out or is in her middle ages (‘right, Karen’ is the new ‘ok, Boomer’ riposte for Generation X). She’s churchgoing, anti-vax and likes to target ethnic minority servers. Also conspicuously middle class, with a predilection to sticking up that Laugh Love Life sign in her living room.
This comes on a recent rash of women caught hassling other park users (even calling the police or impersonating them) for nothing more than hanging out there and being people of colour. Although it’s happened since time immemorial, this time round people have been filming it and using the hashtags, eg #SwingsetSusan.
As a lifelong member of service personnel I can definitely attest to the existence of ‘Karens’, that there is a certain ilk of middle-aged woman (more so than other age groups and of men) who will be cause of outstanding drama and revel in it, knowing full well her rights to do so. Often setting traps (I don’t have a receipt -your staff never gave me one!), knowingly committing fraud (well that’s the pricetag right there so you have to honour it!) or demanding special treatment above others (I’m only buying one thing!), all of which are the three most common confrontations. So I do look on with a certain joy that she’s finally been called out. That the starched yet cartoonish Fox-News-presenter-look has been exposed as ridiculous rather than venerated.
However, look a bit closer and the meme is now transforming. The Redditt page is indeed drawing up sub-Redditts on people’s experiences, though it’s obvious many are just dealing with your classic narcissists and sociopaths. So why the gender specifics? It appears this meme is finding fuel from your standard misogyny -it’s not enough that you call out bad people, but increasingly their gender adds to their damnation. There is a long list of contributors who are embittered ex-partners and divorcés, and only a handful who put forward ‘he-Karens’.
Thus Karen is not just entitled, sociopathic, White, middle class and sporting a bob anymore, but also suburban, anti-vax, racist, slutty (but pretending otherwise) and divorced and lying to the judge. Some part of me thinks you gotta laugh, that some people are getting their long-neglected comeuppance. Another part thanks god I’m not called Karen.
Surely there needs to be a male counterpart. Once again from twenty years customer service experience I can also attest -the belligerent, arrogant, dismissive male, also tending towards the upper middle class, middle aged, and a big fan of bullying young women. Who complains hoarsely, talks over anyone and if not getting his way, leaves with a barrage of insults, foiled with swearing or thrown money/ products. Also very liable to change behaviour when ‘escalated’ to another man, and transforming into a vision of studious gentility and grace, often with an aside about the atrocious young girl we employ. We can call him Jeremy. He wears a suit or Dad jeans, is plump, red in the face (casual alcoholism), greying, balding and posh speaking.
He has a small, kept woman, who is trying to divorce him first chance she gets or at least outlive the bastard (perhaps accidentally, repeatedly, reversing over him in his double garage). He drives a saloon, or tank and has three kids in private schooling, and a dominatrix mistress in Colchester. Likes shooting wildlife, Thatcherite, casually racist and a businessman. Has a cottage in France and a dog called Gravel, or Gavel.
These are perhaps the memes in life we encounter in our everyday, in certain fields. On one hand that public recognition can curb the behaviour, on the other it’s obvious everything ever could become a meme -the chav, the soccer mom, the footballer’s wife, the gangsta, the SJW, the bag lady, the A-Gay, the emo, the Guido, the hipster, the nerd, the geek, the stoner, the trailer park trash, the hillbilly, the Essex girl. The pigeon feeder.
The Chinese tourist, the Brit Abroad, the Florida Man, the WASP, the Chelsea fan, the Sloane Ranger, the Scouser, the trainspotter, the truck driver, the art student, the tree hugger, the banker, the lawyer. It’s basically an acceptable form of social stereotype.
Think of your job title. And add in your name. Now use that as an insult, like you’re in Mean Girls.
“Okay Paul, Accounts Executive.”
“Tara, you… Commercial BID WRITER.”
“Right, Louise, Retail. Manager.”
“Sure Sarah, Multinational Cee. Eee. Oh.”
“Yeah Mo, CHARITY Worker.”
“Fine Praveen, Front. Line. NURSE”
Perhaps there is truth in parts, that a certain look or upbringing follows/ imparts a certain behaviour. When wearing a smart suit and working in finance you do become that much more forward. When feeling indentured or down, those dark clothes suddenly appeal. When feeling empowered, masculated does the bob haircut -halfway house between male and female -embody your mindset? This is what makes a culture, we just got to remember it’s a sum of parts. In the same way we look at our own countries/ schools/ workplaces as having all representative personality types, it applies to every tranche. The same creatives, jokers, rebels, intellectuals, artists, nerds, hipsters, hippies, emos and jocks whether you’re Inuit or Amish. A Black feminist lesbian or a Welsh male rugby player, a tribal hunter in the Congo or a factory worker in Sichuan. Just don’t all get the same haircut.
I think of it distantly now, that other life when we were in proximity.
I am now attempting to watch I Am That Pretty Little Thing That Lives In The House.
It is like a beautiful rendition of my nightmare the other morning, slow, unsettling and domestic, with a carer spending her days in isolation. I’ve only seen the first 20 mins as Netflix has gone kaput yet again, but it’s promising, although J who’s seen it swears nothing’s gonna happen and it’s a bit shit. It is as if life is imitating art.
There perhaps should be a meme about this, us, the stay-at-homers like drones watching Netflixian propaganda, unsullied by wind or sun to give off a cold, screen-like glow. Monosyllabic, licking out jam jars, crisp packets and greasy keyboards, dressed in our all-day finery of underwear or bathrobe
We can call ourselves Dave, and/ or Emma. A heteronormative couple, childless, furloughed, avid readers of the rolling news. Trump-haters, Harry Potter/ GOT fans, iPhone subscribers and pizza lovers. We have an old cat called Tuppence, or Teapot, adore re-runs of Peep Show and The Office and worry about the mortgage, airline vouchers, Waitrose stocks of smoked salmon, our mums and when all this horridness will just blow over so we can go on holiday again. And like all memes, we wear ourselves with pride. Redditt bitches, bring it on.