It's daring to confess your sins, but uncool to have regrets. Yet I'm teeming with them. Why, for instance, did I turn down the offer to be the lead singer of the Krautrock band Can?by Duncan Fallowell / March 28, 2008 / Leave a comment
There are plenty of things I’m happy to admit: I loathe Beethoven’s 9th symphony; that the spectacle of the disability Olympics makes me feel ill; that I wish I had a foreskin (consequently I’ve spent a lot of my adult life seeking the foreskins of others); that I am ashamed of my back—which is bowed, not flat. I should be happy to extend the list except that it would begin to involve other people (I’ve written somewhere that maturity is the growing capacity for candour, but that’s not the same as unnecessary betrayal of those close to us).
But the one thing it remains uncool to do is to have regrets. To the “do your own thing” generation, this was inconceivable. You could confess to the most appalling sins, but regret was another matter. It was a denial of selfhood; it was emotional suicide. For waverers there was propaganda: Edith Piaf’s song “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien,” or Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”: “Regrets, I’ve had a few/ But then again, too few to mention.”
For years I followed that path, but a few months ago I seemed to fly right into an asteroid belt of, well, regrets. I don’t actually wish I were another person—I simply can’t get my head round a question like “If you weren’t you, who would you want to be?” But I’m also a man for whom life and work, life and art indeed, form a seamless continuum. And that, it struck me, has been my big mistake.
It began quietly. I was lying in bed one night and thought—I wish I’d joined the Groucho Club when it asked me to become a founder member all those years ago. If I had, maybe I wouldn’t be battling for every damned book I write. From here, it wasn’t far to an orgy of cold sweat and self-pity. Why have I never had any recognition? Why am I still a struggling author? Why have I never been shortlisted for anything or even longlisted? Then it swerved back to—why didn’t I say yes when Mark Boxer asked me to become features editor of Tatler? Why did I refuse when Emma Soames asked me to be a restaurant critic? Pitiful, isn’t it. These weren’t regrets about people—only about work, career, worldly success.
Then the regrets about people arrived—and it got worse. People as a resource. Why…