I don’t often take an instant dislike to people. But I must say that Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin filled me with loathing when I first came to France and discovered the eponymous song of this post title. It made me cringe, not out of prudishness, but because it was embarrassing and tacky. I won’t share it here, merci, but if you don’t know the reference you can google it. The song is said to have inspired Donna Summer and a whole wave of steamy eighties pop.
I’ve posted before about how the French ‘sense’ each other often by le nez and will sometimes decide, even without speaking a word, that mutual mépris (indifference or disdain) is the only emotion possible. Then they will literally never speak or even look directly at one another.
I must say this makes me uncomfortable. Even people I feel little love for are deserving of at least superficial politesse, for their sake as well as mine. I try to put my best face forward and be kind, as long as I get similar in return. Not everyone has to be your best friend but with a bit of effort you can get along with most people. Besides, nobody wins in hate wars. All that negative energy flies back in your face.
Which is not to say there aren’t people I dislike. Whether by instinct or in reaction to their behaviour (often a combination of both). And sometimes in response to the sense that they simply don’t like me. Let’s face it – life is like that. There are people we just clash with.
Currently there are one or two clients I’m not fond of. Either because they treat me like the hired help (or at least a highly expendable resource to be called upon only when urgent need arises) or because I sense a certain entitlement in their behaviour. Those who think the world revolves around their problems get minimal support from me. Even when they are paying the bills.
Some years ago when I worked in the corporate world, I learned the hard way the truth in the saying, ‘Keep your friends close and your enemies closer’. A person on our team was proving not to be an ally and, frankly, I didn’t particularly like her. But when it came down to it, we had to work together and so I pushed up my positive energy in order to play nice. Wonder of wonders, we did become friends of sorts. Not in any permanent or deep way; we were too different for that. But I learned a lot about the value in making a connection with someone who is your poles-apart opposite. And having her onside made all the difference in the project we worked on. We still keep in touch.
As for ‘Je t’aime moi non plus’ the words of the song took on their own meaning for me. As I disliked Gainsbourg and the song, I took them to mean ‘I don’t like you either’. But what they actually mean is ‘I love you me neither’. Which makes little sense to poor literal old me but to the French is a subtle statement about the impossibility of love. All against a backdrop of erotic innuendo. Go figure.
How do you handle people you don’t like? Avoid, ignore, befriend?