One of my most frequently used linguistic devices is to say "I shouldn't complain" before complaining about something. But recently I've begun to question why "I shouldn't complain". Mild dissatisfaction is often the only thing that drives me forward. Moaning about things beyond my control is my raison d'être. And if you consider this an unattractive trait, derive some solace from the fact that high blood pressure will deduct five years from my life expectancy.
This guilt I experience over complaining must be related to being a hand-wringing, left-leaning liberal. Thinking about those less fortunate than myself overshadows everything I do. I feel the opposite of entitlement. A deep sense of unentitlement, which isn't a word, but should be. A constant, nagging feeling that I've taken too much from the table and my right to complain has therefore been forfeited. The other day I got my Sennheiser headphone cable tangled around the neck of a small wooden duck protruding from the handbag of a lady on Oxford Street, causing a minor altercation. It was annoying. But children were starving in Africa.
If you search Twitter for #middleclasswoes you'll find other people wrestling with the same stuff. "I need to leave a note for the cleaner, but I've forgotten her name," reads one. "Arguing with husband about who's going to walk 100m to the farm shop to buy organic ice cream," says another. Anyone revealing their #middleclass woes is having a similar internal battle surrounding their right to complain, where every good piece of fortune must somehow be balanced by something rubbish. Or, as my friend Sarah put it, a "dumbed-down fatalistic pound-shop version of karma".
Her personal solution is to recall the various appalling things she has endured in the past, figure that she's been punished enough, and then carry on complaining with impunity. This has now become my strategy. The time in 2008 when I broke with tradition by attempting to put on my jacket with the left arm first, and ended up looking like a needy contortionist in front of important people? That gives me carte blanche to voice displeasure at my underperforming dishwasher.I shouldn't not complain. So I won't.