Harriet Walker: No one wants to be pretentious, but no one wants to be dull, either

Related Topics

I have long been under the impression that the great age of pretension was over. I thought that nothing was original enough to be pretentious any more, and that anyone purporting to be slightly higher-minded than the rest of us was probably doing so with good reason, given that popular culture has sunk so low into the mire as to be accessible only with a snorkel.

But it's been rather a pretentious week for me, through no fault of my own. I decided to do, you know, some stuff that took me beyond either the sofa, the pub or the sofa in the pub. And suddenly it was me who needed the snorkel, at risk of getting the bends from camped-up intellectualism.

I took in an experimental music concert that made me snigger so much I almost had a panic attack. "Didn't you realise it would be like that?" asked one colleague, when I described the venerable artist walking on-stage like a cartoon zombie, dressed in a black feathered cape while the stage manager asked us not to clap or make any noise before the interval. "No," I floundered. "I thought he was supposed to be quite plinky-plonky and jolly."

Next, I went to see a foreign film that bored me to tears. Scene after scene of sexually dysfunctional people going for walks in the rain. "That means they're passionate and complex," my flatmate pointed out. "Doesn't it just mean they're tossers?" asked our rather earthier friend.

After that, I went to a fashion exhibition. "I definitely see the relevance of this stuff," my boyfriend said, pointing to a dress made of that fuzzy synthetic cotton wool you use to pad cheap teddy bears. "It's kind of fascinating really." Ten minutes later, we were watching archive footage of a naked man painted like a dalmatian flinging himself around the empty floor of a large warehouse. "I might go on ahead," said my boyfriend. "I appear to be falling asleep."

But one person's pretension is another's pease pudding. I like to think I'm about as grounded as they come, but I did after all elect to go on all these highfalutin jaunts. It's a tricky line to tread between trying too hard and not making any effort at all. It's the modern inertia – no one does anything in case they don't get it and it makes them sleepy, or they do get it, like it then hate themselves for being too complex.

I once went out with someone who described me as dull and unadventurous, and it has now become a self-imposed moniker I find hard to shake. "Maybe you are dull and unadventuruous," said my earthy friend, "but he was definitely a tosser, and which is worse?" If you need to find me, I'll be the one asleep at the back of the cinema, wearing a snorkel.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam