Saturday, 17 May 2008


Way back in 1993, I realized that Americans and the English don't use the word "jaded" in the same way.

"I feel so jaded," said an English friend of mine, and since we were feeling exceptionally fragile from a late night (you may infer that excessive amounts of rich food and alcohol were involved), I realized that she was using "jaded" to refer to her physical state of being. Worn-out; weary; fatigued. At the time, I didn't realize that jaded could mean physical weariness -- so I assumed that she had used the word incorrectly. However, after many years of consorting with hung-over English persons, I began to realize that this is standard usage.

Americans, however, tend to use "jaded" as a way of referring to their mental or emotional state. We feel "jaded" when we are world-weary. It can take two forms, really -- one being cynicism, and the other being a sort of dullness or insensitivity brought on by a surfeit of indulgent experience. They are slightly different meanings, actually, but they tend go together -- or at least they both reside on the same side of the emotional spectrum, directly opposite of optimism and innocence. F. Scott Fitzgerald's fictional world always comes to mind when I think of the word "jaded." He was the master when it came to describing the brittle world of "been there, done that, yawn."

Today I am feeling like both kinds of jaded.

Last night was a late one, as I had driven up north of London to attend the annual awards dinner for Sigmund's company. I find these occasions incredibly wearing: all of the polite small talk with total strangers, exacerbated by the need to be charming lest my husband be judged by his work colleagues (not to mention his boss) as having a boring wife. It is a personal sickness of mine to feel that I singlehandedly have to keep the conversation going and draw out the wallflowers. (When I "overheard" a series of sickly silences at a neighboring table, it was all I could do to restrain myself from immediately going over to them and trying to kickstart the conversation.) Perhaps because of my inability to just "chill" in social situations, I get quite worn out if we've been out too much. Throw in the drinks, the lack of sleep, and the early morning dash across four counties to collect my daughter from Saturday school, and it all adds up to me feeling much the worse for wear.

When I am feeling listless and headachy, as I was this afternoon, I like to do a bit of reading. Cookbooks, rose catalogs or magazines are usually the best thing for me when I am under the weather; unfortunately, rather than choosing any of these lighter options, I decided to catch up with some "hard" news. In retrospect, I would say that reading the Saturday newspaper when you are physically jaded is bound to make you feel mentally jaded as well. There are a lot of sad, depressing, anxiety-making things going on in the world, and I think that it is probably better to confront these challenges when one is in robust health.

Last night I was sitting by a Nigerian man, and he felt moved to defend his country to me -- although I certainly wouldn't have dreamed of criticizing it to him! He spoke passionately about the intelligence, determination, and resilience of his people -- and also of their many accomplishments. He claimed that Nigeria's only real problem was that it was governed by bad, corrupt people. The thought of his country's leaders, with their personal greed and their callous disregard of the needs of their people, caused him to shake his head morosely. What could he say to that? And what could I say to him? Why can't human beings seem to make any moral advancements? We couldn't answer this question.

There are so many examples of truly vile leadership in the world that it is difficult to not feel jaded about any equation that includes people, money and power.

I don't often talk of the wider world in this blog, but I am feeling really down about the tragic chaos going on in Burma and China. The sheer numbers involved in the horror almost make it more difficult to conceive. Of course, what is so depressing about both tragedies is that they are being made so much worse by various forms of cupidity and stupidity. Burma's rulers, in particular, are acting so inhumanely to their people that it beggars belief.

As I read the newspaper, it was impossible to ignore the pleas of various aid agencies to donate money toward the relief effort. Should I send money? I am in two minds about it. Because although I feel compassion for the people afflicted, I can't help but feel cynical about pouring my money into that endlessly needy maw. How little of our money ever gets to the people who need it, and how much of it is either wasted in bureaucracy or used to line the pockets of various profiteers?

It is so difficult to figure out how to be a decent citizen of this world. It isn't surprising, I suppose, that most people just opt for self-interest -- or the concerns and needs of their own little patch. Hopefully it won't last long, but I'm feeling awfully jaded right now.


Bad Bunni said...

First of all, I'm still sick so I hope this makes sense.

You are correct to be leery of donating money. There are some fabulous charities out there doing amazing work, and there are others that use your money in ways that you might not be too thrilled with.

To make sure charities are above board, you can do some research online OR you can donate things other than money. I've crocheted baby hats for certain charities. Other places would rather have food, clothes, old backpacks, etc than money. You can donate items without actually spending a dime (except maybe postage.)

But really doll, sometimes you just need to lie on the couch with a martini and get a good night sleep.

Lucy said...

Oh Bee, what a delight your blog is, and how I've missed it! It really is better than a Sunday paper, and I get such a good dose of English, or shall we say, British, life from you, with your one foot in and one foot out observations, much more so than from any British born and based blog. You really should have a column somewhere, you know.

I'm sure your presence at the business dinners are much improved for your presence, however tiring that is for you!

I think 'jaded' was originally used more in the mental, emotional state you say Americans use it, and the physically 'liverish' sense was something of a bleed of its meaning, if that's a proper expression. I have thrown away the appeals for aid to Burma that have come from our regular charities, while the rulers there are acting as they are, I don't feel inclined.

Love the foody occasion post too, and the How Green Are You one.

What a treat altogether. I think I shall make a point of always coming here on Sunday mornings. And thank you for looking in at Out with Mol so faithfully too.

JaneyV said...

I couldn't agree more BB. Take a day and be nice to yourself Bee. The situation in Burma is maddening especially with all those supplies sitting there waiting to be taken. I've donated money following disasters to The Red Cross (who do fantastic work - I know) but I just got so pissed off with being bombarded by junk mail from them. I'm talking weekly shiny, glossy junk with freebee pens. I began to wonder how much of my cash was getting to the people who needed it. It just made me mad.

When I'm feeling jaded I watch a funny movie. Laughter is always best medicine. ;0)

Sarah Laurence Blog said...

The problems in Burma go way beyond the latest cyclone catastrophe. I'd highly recommend Rachel Conelly's The Lizard Cage. It's fiction but based on her time in Burma and interviews with student activists and refugees on the Thai border. I'll be blogging more about it later, but it is a hard book to discuss because it is so disturbing. That's why people need to read it. It's also beautifully written - a compelling story.

On China Jung Chang's Wild Swans is a beautiful memoir about the cultural revolution. It is based on her family's experience but reads like a novel. It's one of my favorite books. She has a long book out now on Mao that my teenaged son was reading that was banned in China. He stopped reading it because it was too heavy to take to England!

It's a western condition to have the luxury to feel jaded. Sorry, Bee, I'm probably not cheering you up much. I too am very saddened by the news. My husband studies Asian politics and teaches human rights among other topics. Hopefully the latest press attention will bring much needed aid and political pressure for change.

Brave Sir Robin said...

Well, by all rights I should feel jaded this morning, (in the British sense), but as I knew I had to work this Sunday morning I was a pretty good boy last night. Come over in a little while and I'll try to have a brief post up.

Bee - I love the way you juxtapose the two meaning of the word throughout the post. I completely agree with Lucy, you should have a column! Across The Pond or something such.

btw - remember our conversation about Cloud Atlas a few days ago? -
Why can't human beings seem to make any moral advancements?

You just nailed it!! There is the rub, as we advance technologically, we can't seem to do the same on a moral or humanitarian level.

I agree with the others, sending money to Burma just seems to be lining the pockets of the rulers.

As for the Chinese, the endemic corruption and shoddy building practices, (along with cultural differences in population density) have made the human cost of this tragedy astronomical, but one could argue that their Government is actually doing a much better job of rescue and recovery than our Government did after Katrina.

Don't be jaded in the American sense! Your voice is too refreshing and your keen observations are far too
delightful to allow that to get you down. You keep the rest of us from being jaded!!

Anil P said...

Almost all of it stems from insecurity of the 'leadership'.

I suspect such insecurity can stem from a fear of your own people, maybe from not knowing them, or worse still from 'knowing them'- difficult to say which!

Bee said...

Funnily enough, a good night's sleep did restore my equilibrium a bit!

Thank you for you kind words! They made my day. I, too, like blog-reading on a Sunday morning. I feel better able to concentrate then . . . and I can read with a sense of leisure.
How is the poetry reading going?

Yes, the re-investment (of one's own money) to ask for more money is a gripe of mine, too.

A funny movie can definitely pull me back from the jaded edge.

I will look forward to hearing more about The Lizard Cage. As for Wild Swans, I join your voice in recommending it to anyone who hasn't read it.
Does your husband think we are making progress on human rights issues -- or just sliding backwards?

"There is the rub, as we advance technologically, we can't seem to do the same on a moral or humanitarian level."

YES!! That is EXACTLY what I was thinking when I wrote that sentence.

I'm pretty much despairing over everyone's leadership at the moment. Getting to the top of the political pile is such a brutal process that it seems to morally compromise all of the would-be leaders.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Oh Bee, I know what you mean. Sometimes I just have to turn off the news.

It's supposed to be pretty good weather this week. Hope you can get out an enjoy it :-)

Anne said...

I wearily second your feelings about Burma, China, and so on. Especially about Burma: I can't understand how a government could be so callous toward its own people. Then again, I suppose it's been pretty clear for a long time now that the Junta isn't concerned with the well-being of the Burmese people. Part of me wants to donate something--money, goods, anything--to the relief efforts, but another part of me feels that it won't do any good if the Junta won't allow it to be distributed. I'm not quite sure what to think.

Either way, I think a cup of tea and a cashew cookie are in order.

Alyson said...

I know how you feel. I generally have felt that each time I mulled over the decision to have another baby. I begin wondering, should I bring another baby into this world? Thankfully, my faith has sustained and given me hope.

I also love seeing the differences in the definition of words between the two countries. I thought it was hilarious when I found out what "fanny" meant in England. It gives a whole new meaning to spanking someone's fanny!! :-)

Bee said...

Yes, it's difficult to find the right balance between being tuned into the wider world (and caring about it) and self-preservation.

It's so depressing that a few brutal despots can wreak so much havoc.
But I do feel grateful for my own cozy patch -- and the luxury of a cup of tea and a cookie (wholewheat apple ginger, at the moment.)

Population control and other demographic issues are another interesting topic!

And yes, you can get yourself in trouble by not understanding the difference between American English and English English. I just cannot adjust to saying "trousers" instead of "pants." Unfortunately, "pants" mean "underwear" -- a verbal faux pas which is always embarrassing my children . . . just as it used to embarrass me when my mother would use the word "crotch." I don't know why, but "crotch" really makes me squirm. BTW, something that is "pants" is also something which is lame or pathetic. The language is always evolving.!

Alyson said...

I don't remember them using the word "pants" that way when I was there in '92-'93. I mean they used it to mean underwear, but not lame. How bizaree! I wonder how that got started.

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