HOWEVER IRRITATING OTHER people are, no-one has the power to annoy you faster or more intensely than yourself. Annoying yourself comes from a temporary loss of self-control when you do something that you know is foolish, dangerous, or will have other unpleasant consequences. For example: you can have a momentary lapse in self-discipline and move your whole family to Invercargill.
Another example: when you’re going to a party you put on an outfit you know looks rubbish. You check in the mirror and the mirror says it’s rubbish. You check with your partner who says it’s wonderful, so you know it’s rubbish, but you still go out in it. You spend the whole night looking and feeling rubbish and no amount of alcohol will quench the fires of self-annoyance.
You can also annoy yourself by deciding not to answer the phone during dinner, picking it up as soon as it rings, and then getting locked into the world’s longest conversation while your cauliflower cheese turns to cold muck two feet away.
It’s frighteningly easy to annoy yourself in a restaurant. You know what you really like but you insist on having something else just to be different. Then you spend the evening watching your partner wolf down your favourite while you nudge a beetroot cake round your plate. You can also annoy yourself at home when you cross the thin dividing line between the second slice of chocolate cake, which makes you feel richly satisfied, and the third slice which makes you feel profoundly sick.
In the supermarket you can really upset yourself by deliberately and carefully managing to choose the longest, slowest queue. This, of course, is as nothing compared to when they’ve scanned your four-hundred-kilos of shopping and you realise your purse is on the couch at home. Or when you get to the car and realise you’ve forgotten the one crucial item you came for in the first place.
Most people try to stop unnecessary bitching about others some time in their mid-twenties. But then, just occasionally, you say something fantastically witty and cutting which you’re terribly pleased with until you realise that it will get back to them quicker than a twang on their knicker elastic.
Everybody has something that gives them a quick fill-up of self-loathing. Watching gardening programmes for a romance fix is a prime example. Or playing a computer game for 12 hours continuously during which you miss the arrival of your first-born is another.
People who say they haven’t regretted anything in life either have massive self-discipline and never get anything wrong, or are massively self-satisfied and think they never get anything wrong. They may not annoy themselves but they sure as hell annoy other people.
© GUY BROWNING IS AUTHOR OF ‘NEVER PUSH WHEN IT SAYS PULL’ AND CREATOR OF ‘TORTOISE IN LOVE’ (DVD) – USED BY PERMISSION.