I think a lot of things about a lot of people that do not make it here. Much of what I do in psych profiling involves reconstructing narratives -- of events, of lives, of motivations. It is experience, and intuition, and guesswork, much of which I can never check. And quite often, I am guessing about things of which most people do not speak. They fall into that curious chasm between things that are only for intimates, and things that are fair game for public observation. Things which are visible, but almost always politely glossed over.

The terminally socially-anxious bite their nails over these things, so important and so impossible to ask about. The relatively normal are often flustered to hear them spoken of aloud. Curiously, I find that compliments are more startling than criticism. People who have consciously steeled themselves against bitter comments can be the most taken aback by praise.

I air a lot of these observations to friends, but do not post them here. Private gossip is one thing; a public newsletter is quite another. I feel very strongly that most of the stories I piece together are not mine to tell. I envy a lot of the people who run fan sites, to be honest -- those who feel they have the freedom to be unabashedly devoted to their hobby, safe in the knowledge that they see more or less what everyone else sees, and that whatever they post, at least a few people will nod their heads happily in agreement. I don't even have the consolation of just figuring I see more than other people, like I do with languages and puzzles. I'm remarkably blind to a lot of very ordinary social camouflage, and often quite late in picking up hints that I should stop talking about the things under it. I just see things weird.

I write this one up only because the people involved have shown every willingness to talk about it, at arbitrarily great length, with anyone who cares to ask nicely. And because I'm having one of those days again, and I would prefer to sit down and think about something sweet for a while.

One thousand percent of the following is partly-founded intuitive speculation on my part. It probably won't ever matter if I'm wrong, but I might be.


Sometimes, it is not enough for the right people to run into each other at the right time. Sometimes, you also have to say something.

I would love to point to the proper version of this article, but it turns out the the Independent is lying about having an online archive. A link to the message board post where I found it will have to do. Barratt and Fielding have told the story of how they met before, maybe every third interview, or thereabouts. Live, it tends to go out in a rather haphazard, tag-team style. That's the first time I've ever seen Barratt get past the crack about discovering that Fielding was rather good at stand-up and being vaguely annoyed that he had to go on after that -- they inevitably get distracted around that point, and end up talking about something else entirely before the subject gets changed again. I don't think they mind sharing; they just get bored.


There is a lot in those two short pieces that is not explicitly stated. The importance of the subject matter, for one thing. One assumes that the level of detail stems from them having been asked about the story, and sitting down to think about it for a bit before writing, but it doesn't seem to. Fielding can't consistently remember where, down to the specific continent, his little brother was at the time of the radio show that prevented him from being in the cast, but he does remember, apparently accurately, the first thing Barratt ever said to him. And Barratt seems to remember the moment he realized that his other, terribly strange person was sincerely interested in being part of his life.

There is also much they don't say about how things were before they met. Fielding, I have to say, appears to pretty much have always been strange in roughly the same fashion he is now, if somewhat blonder and convinced that flare-cut trousers were mankind's greatest invention. His solo work tends to be narrative, mostly the kind of unrepentantly dreamlike stories you'd get out of a child by presenting them with an absurd jumping-off point and then continually asking them what happens next. It's obvious where a lot of the Boosh things come from, and Luxury Comedy, although back then he was apparently easier to intimidate into buying normal(-ish) shirts and consciously trying not to look a bit pigeon-toed as he roamed around the stage.

Barratt is nearly unrecognizable. He's quick, he's loud, he's ticcy -- not altogether unlike a touretteur whose willpower and clonidine are wearing off with equal rapidity. He is normally quiet and very reserved; this is a substantial effort he's putting forth, in an attempt to get some kind of reaction out of the audience. Much of the rapid-fire quality of his routine comes from hairpin-turns of phrase and non sequiturs.

I watch this, and I think: This man has given up on trying to explain himself. He will settle for an audience that is thoroughly bewildered, as long as they are also laughing. Which goes, I think, quite a long way towards explaining the quiet and the reservation and the aloofness. There are only so many times a person can try unsuccessfully to convey the things they think before they are forced to conclude, for their own protection, that it just isn't that important.

At some point, Fielding caught this act, and decided that he wanted to know this person. Very, very badly -- to the point of taking a second stab at introducing himself in a slightly less insane context after the first go seemed to startle Barratt a bit. Truth be told, I think Fielding is a bit fascinated with people in the same way I am. It's not uncommon for reporters to note that he has his nose stuck in a book when they arrive on set to interrupt his breaks, and every time I've seen a title given, it's been a biography. He does sometimes mention things about these other people whose lives he has developed an interest in -- he speaks in observations, not facts, as if he knows them, if only a little.

Fielding lives to get under other people's skin, but kindly. He's insanely good at it. You cannot get that spark! of connection he seems to want from others without giving it in return, and his ability to pick out who might be receptive to the idea verges on the ridiculous. It's like the opposite of that hypervigilant danger sense people pick up from being stuck in emotionally-abusive relationships. It helps that he has several high-grade fine-mesh filters installed between his brain and his mouth, but virtually none on his body language. More honest than words, that.

Barratt was probably rather surprised the first time Fielding finished a thought for him. I doubt he thought anyone even wanted to get into his head, much less stood any chance of succeeding.

More reading between the lines: "We drove to his house afterwards..." Barratt drives; Fielding is one of those native city-boys who doesn't. (Also evidently can't navigate worth a damn, either, which means that while they're on tour he basically serves as the in-flight entertainment.) Either Fielding asked for a lift, or Barratt offered. Then, "...he said I could come in but I'd never be allowed to leave." It might have been a wisecrack, and Barratt's answer was at least a little flip, but there is a lot of truth in comedy -- you can't joke about something that hasn't crossed your mind, after all. And there is much to be said for being secure enough to say, essentially, 'I want to know what's in your head. If you want to know what's in mine, here it is. No qualms.' Especially to someone who is intentionally being very guarded. People who are like that are usually like that for a reason.

There are some things that even I can't piece together on my own. I've no idea how Fielding managed to find out that it was in fact perfectly all right to loll all over Barratt like a puppy dog. It is not a thing you would expect, from watching Barratt interact with other people -- even in cast photos, involving people he's perfectly comfortable with and really quite fond of, he tends to stand to one side with his arms crossed, while Fielding is center stage trying to figure out how to sit on everybody else at the same time. It might have been a process of testing boundaries, until eventually he worked out there weren't any; I know 'boundary testing' is a phrase mostly used when speaking of people who are trying to figure out what you'll tolerate before you start threatening to use the pepper spray, but when used properly between two people who've already established communication, it goes more like a non-verbal dialogue. Usually it starts as a touch on the hand, or the arm ('is this okay?'), and then again, less tentative, or a withdrawal, depending on the response. Or there were just a significant number of beers involved and Fielding forgot he hadn't flung himself at his new friend yet, and was lucky.

But my best guess on that, honestly, is that at some point, Fielding just decided to hug him like he does nearly everybody else, and instead of getting the traditional dude-hug response of 'indeed! I confirm that we are friends!' with some casual yet manly pats on the back, got something more along the lines of 'yes. thank you.' Because something else hovering between the lines there says to me that Barratt was discovering that he was getting quite lonely on stage by himself, and the isolation of having no one to properly talk to was beginning to creep in on him.

It sounds very much like a requited... crush may be the wrong connotation, but I have no idea what the platonic equivalent of that might be. (Infatuation?) Then again, Fielding seems to have few if any borders between "people who are my friends" and "people I might wind up making out with at the afterparty, if it happens to strike both of us as a good idea," so there may not be much practical difference. There's a running gag in the Boosh shows that involves the two of them getting "caught" snogging by curtain calls; their stated reason for this is, "we thought it would be funny" -- which, in context and in character, it generally is -- and I expect there are still people out there who find it edgy, but mostly how it reads to me is intimate, and sweet. There is a great deal of genuine affection behind it. Neither Barratt nor Fielding are terribly good at giving non-wiseass responses to things, but they can both stay serious long enough to answer the inevitable question "doesn't that get awkward?" with a flat "No."

Fielding tends to be tactile with people, extremely so with people he cares about, and it will never cease to amaze me how very many people give him permission to do it. I've no idea if he gets a properly sexual frisson out of snogging his co-star -- everyone else just seems to assume whatever they want, and no one feels it's appropriate to ask -- but having someone he quite clearly adores not only let him get as arbitrarily close as he wants, but sometimes reach out to pull him in, thrills him to death. It's difficult to keep from catching how happy he is, just to be leaning on Barratt's shoulder, and I don't think I want to. There are too many people who are perpetually a little bit ashamed of enjoying anything as it is.

...after this, my impressions are mostly ramble -- not to imply they haven't been ramble up to this point. Scattered moments, that either confirm earlier impressions or lead me to re-examine conclusions. I do this with quite a lot of people, but mostly keep it to myself, as I suspect I'm meant to.

Comments

  1. "It sounds very much like a requited... crush may be the wrong connotation, but I have no idea what the platonic equivalent of that might be."

    The old-fashioned phrase 'bosom beaus' comes to mind. At least maybe in the same neighborhood?

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    1. I'd actually never heard that one before, although I've run into the slightly more modern 'bosom buddies'. Back before we were so damn paranoid, of course, this was just known as "being dear friends", and the ability to bond with other humans was celebrated as one of the things that elevated us above the mere animals.

      It just makes me sad and angry when something so fundamentally human as love goes so vehemently out of fashion. And it makes me happy when people buck the trend and acknowledge it anyway.

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