The real world

It will be interesting, since I am about to exchange my life in the virtual world – and by ‘life’, I don’t mean that I have been permanently stuck in it, just that I have spent a good deal of time in the close company of a screen for the last eight years – for a job which will be more social (real people! real time! real conversations!), to find out whether I have become an inner recluse, or whether I can be gregarious and social after all. It is quite seductive sitting in front of a mirror, and there is no doubt that a computer screen does have that mirror-like quality. (My grandmother – my father’s mother – was the subject of a much-retold tale, one she enjoyed telling herself, in fact – of having sat in front of a mirror with an orange, an orange which she knew she was not allowed to eat, but which she devoured. When confronted with the evidence of her misdemeanour, she said ‘It wasn’t me who ate it. It was the little girl in the mirror.’ Now (tangent coming), there is much about that story which is suspect. Would a very young girl use the phrase ‘little girl’? And was it an orange? – I can’t remember if it was an orange or a banana. So some subtle adjustments are being made even as I tell the tale again, and of course there is nobody left alive who can correct me – almost true, although actually my grandmother has two nieces still very much alive. Maybe they’d know.)

But I was using the mirror as an image of self-regard and self-absorption. It is certainly possible to spend hours in the dim space beyond the blue screen of a computer, being garrulous in one’s head. ‘talking’ to any number of others. I have, admittedly, been earning a living by doing it. And it’s not as if I will be unplugged. But I can’t wait to see what it’s like working in a real building, in real time, out of whose windows you can coincidentally see the tops of the houses in the very street where this possible apocryphal mirror story of my grandmother’s took place.

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