Enough delays - let us begin.
When I was younger, a girl (a "young woman"?) asked me to her year 10 formal. No girl had ever even asked for so much as a potato chip from me, so I said yes. The day arrived, I showered, dressed, stuck on my cummerbund, and applied generous amounts of Brut 33. Before we were to depart she said she needed to "use the bathroom." D. disappeared behind the bathroom door while I chatted awkwardly to her parents, most likely about the rain and school and where I was going to find a park. Then without warning, a noise came from behind the door reminiscent of the one that a tennis player makes while serving - an "effort noise" if you will. I'm not sure if I grimaced, but her parents continued on as if everything was just the same as it had been only moments before. It wasn't. I'm ashamed to admit that I no longer wanted to go to the formal with her any more. I'm not proud of my reaction; I'm not even sure I quite understand it. My son can go to the toilet and carry on a full conversation about Batman through the whole process, with his voice wavering at various stages of the process. (OK - I warned you. There's still time to stop.)
But things were different in 1986. D. even looked different coming out of that bathroom - and I don't just mean lighter. I didn't "fancy" her, and yet she was a different woman emerging from that bathroom to the one that entered it. Did I want something more radical perhaps? A friend's mother once managed to somehow sustain a fart all the while walking through a large-sized room: a textbook rasberry, the blast began before she entered the room and was still hissing and flapping wildly at us as she left; what's more, she even managed to chastise G. about his room on the way through, just for good measure. An original multitasker. If anything, G. and I were shocked and awed - and perhaps even had more respect for her after this display of virtuosity and chutzpah. But with respect to D. I wanted to go home.
What is it about certain small things in certain places that destroy everything for us? I recall once arguing with a school friend about religion while he had a piece of beetroot stuck to his cheek. The small piece of vegetable matter somehow managed to destroy his credibility for me in ways that, even now, I find difficult to account for. Part of this is surely just a matter of attention. I couldn't put the little purple sliver out of my mind; and yet it was more than simply a matter of being distracted. Something that reframed his whole personality - sort of like a negation at the end of a sentence that inverts the whole meaning of what preceded it - like "I think that of all the people I know you have to be the greatest [long pause] at stupidity." Beetroot isn't a phoneme and faces aren't, strictly speaking, syntactic - but the analogy at least reassures me that there's some meaning to my prejudice, even if I can't quite articulate it myself.