Respectability is seriously overrated. If I have one grumble about the stay-at-home Gap Year, it’s that I’ve missed out on a year in which I would have had total licence to mess about. No one expects someone who is backpacking through Thailand or scrubbing in the back kitchens of Paris to maintain a sober and righteous life. In fact, it seems almost obligatory to return from a Gap Year with at least one story of epic foolishness.
I mean, what happens in Thailand stays in Thailand, right? Credit: Keith Parker
But with your parents down the road, ex-teachers on practically every street, your boss on Facebook, and friends’ mums popping up regularly and inviting you in for a cup of tea, it’s a bit harder to live a life of scandal and excitement. After various jaunts, I have had a certain amount of explaining to do, particularly to parents.
The real problem is the immediacy with which news is conveyed; 6 months after the event, it is more or less possible to laugh with one’s elders about that time when you found yourself wandering naked through the streets of Bangkok. No excuse is really needed, as it is generally accepted that, 6 months older and wiser, this was a humiliating but valuable life experience.
The most versatile set of excuses that I have come across are those which blame the waywardness of the child on their particular place in the sibling hierarchy.
‘I’m the eldest – I have to make these mistakes now, otherwise my poor naïve siblings won’t have been warned. In fact, I am doing you a great service.’
‘I’m the youngest, and my siblings are much too old and respectable for this sort of thing. My foolishness is the last bastion that prevents you from being elderly. Once I’m grown up, you’ve nothing to look forward to till the grandkids start popping out.’
‘I’m the middle child – what did you expect?!’
Without siblings, parents are the only place to learn bad habits, right? Credit: Kiyo
‘As a poor isolated only child, I had no chance to learn good behaviour from my siblings. If I have faults, and I probably do, they are all directly inherited from you.’
‘With so many of us to look after, it’s little wonder some of us have turned out a little feral. Don’t you have more important things to worry about than my little dramas? Have you, for instance, checked down the back of the sofa for little Jeanie recently?’
Still, nothing – absolutely nothing – can beat this:
‘Seriously, Mum, it’s fine. It was research for my TCS column!’