Masking our two faces – are we all guilty of it?

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive!

This time I’m not talking about the tangled web of betrayal. It’s true that I had a rather addictive habit of droning on and on about betrayal some time ago, when I was in the thick of it. And it’s also true that betrayal has got to be the most tangled and ugly web of all. But no, I’m not talking about that. No smutty lies and dicks falling into brains. Sorry, I meant brains falling into dicks. Although actually, is there any difference?

What I’m talking about is duplicity. Nice word, that. Sounds very elegant and neat, even though the act of it is far from elegant and neat. I’m talking about two-facedness, underhandedness, dishonesty, falsity, sucking up at the same time as backbiting … all that sort of thing. You know, the sort of thing that some of us start practising right from our school days (not I, said the fly!), when we learn to suck up to the teacher yet make fun of her behind her back (not I!), or act all nice and smiley to a bullied classmate but then avidly join in with the mean jibes that another, cooler classmate is dishing out (not I!) … and so it goes on, all our lives. Very ugly and tangled and cobwebby indeed.

Of course some of us manage to stay clean, so to speak – develop a sense of integrity and not join in with the backbiting and jibes behind people’s backs. But most of us don’t.

I’m thinking of a particular sequence of events that happened to me very recently. All to do with advertising. Yes, advertising. How exciting – and how untangled, right? Wrong!

Okay, so here it is. These last few weeks I’ve been in contact with a guy from the advertisements department of a UK newspaper. Right from the beginning of our email correspondence I found him rather frustrating, to say the least. Long gaps before responding to my queries, and when his replies did finally materialise, invariably inconclusive. Corrections or amendments that I’d requested ignored. Frequent repeat-messages from me politely asking, Did you receive my last email? and the standard excuses: Sorry, I’ve been sick, or It‘s been really busy here, etc. etc.

However, just a few days ago I thought we were at last getting somewhere! The advert was finally going to appear on a given date, and the wording I had chosen was to be as follows:

Wendy Skorupski’s latest novel has been described as: “Jane Austen with a suitcase of vibrators”.

I smiled to myself while proofreading the quote, inwardly thanking the reviewer who had written it. And yes, the advert in question was for my recently published novel, Once Upon a Thousand Hills.

And then – horror upon horror – I got the following email from the aforementioned advertisements guy:

I’m really sorry but we can’t run the ad as it stands as the reference is too overtly sexual. The rest of the copy is fine, just the ‘Jane Austen’ quote bit.

No! I silently yelled to myself. That quote was the best bit! And why only tell me now, the day before the ad was finally due to appear? Surely he could have found this out beforehand and saved me the last-minute scramble to replace the racy quote with a tamer one?

While trying to regain my composure, I started scrolling further down our email exchange over the last few weeks to find out how long ago this whole frustrating dialogue had been going on between Adverts Man and me. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that messages to another employee had accidentally been included – and all about me. My surprise flared into shock when I read the following message:

Are you going to phone the crazy woman about payment?

And then this one:

So sorry about the last-minute changes, but this woman is an absolute nightmare!

Who, me? A nightmare? Crazy? Last-minute changes? Those last-minute bloody changes were because of his incompetence, not mine! And how dare he say such mean, disparaging things about me to his work mates while writing perfectly nice, friendly messages to me at the same time! Is that what business communication is all about? Two-facedness, like we first acquired in the school playground and classroom? Be polite and charming to your clients and then say horrible things about them behind their backs? Untrue things, at that? Crazy indeed!

My daughter, taking pity on me, said “Why don’t you write him a sarcastic email back, signing yourself as the crazy woman?”

But no, I thought. At the end of the day, what’s the point? What would it achieve? Okay, he’d squirm in embarrassment and perhaps be more careful in forwarding emails in future, so that would at least be a good lesson to learn. But to be honest, I just couldn’t be bothered. So I changed the wording for my advert, and this time it was accepted by the censorship police. Being the forgiving person that I am, I let it rest at that and merely wrote back:

Okay, thanks. Look forward to seeing the advert in print.

Which meant he was none the wiser. And I, as usual, had done the forgiving – whether it’s of two-timing husbands or two-timing press workers, who cares? Just like dicks and brains, there isn’t much difference at the end of the day.

Um … I’m not really an absolute nightmare, am I?





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