Notebook

The Petts, on the other hand, took the view – which I heard Bill formulate openly – that to tell somebody something  is to exert a kind of dominance over him, while to be told something is to be subjected to the other person’s dominance. So they tried to avoid being told anything. The example Bill cited when he urged this course of action on me was: “You don’t want to just sit there saying nothing while he tells you all about the wonderful holiday he’s just had: you tell him about your holiday.” They applied this principle to me. As soon as I started telling them anything about what I was doing, Bill would interrupt and insist on telling me what they were doing. He was even given to telling me what people unknown to me were doing. “Oh, I know,” he would interrupt. “Our friends the So-and-so’s have a son at Highgate, which is just like Christ’s Hospital, and he…” So instead of sharing my life with them, which is what I was longing to do, I would find myself sitting there while they told me about the doings of some total stranger.

Bryan Magee, “Growing Up in a War”.

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