Being Scottish means you have a reserved spot at the top table for self-deprecation.
There is just so much material you can flagellate with that most countries simply cannot compete.
We have natives who sport the marmite-like appeal of ginger hair. We have the highest rate of heart disease in Europe. We have weather so miserable that it could drive a rainbow to suicide. Our people are synonymous with alcohol binges and our culinary dishes involve deep-frying stuff until it voluntarily joins another food group.
We are well aware of our flaws, and it makes us a hoot at parties.
It isn’t funny when someone else points them out though.
I haven’t lived in my home country for nearly twenty years now. I miss it strongly, but the values my people instilled in me still reinforce every fibre of my being. No matter where I am and how long I’m gone for, I will always be Scottish.
My penchant for hideous cuisine and even worse weather will always set me apart from the herd in my current home – England. As I saunter about sans jacket as the rain stamps its melancholy tune atop all and sundry, the eyes of all who do not suffer the rain as willingly as I, are filled with what can only be described as a mixture of incredulity and pure hatred.
The English and the Scots have beef, that much is true. It goes back a fair amount too, but the rivalry has thankfully shifted into far more diplomatic and serene waters since those blood-filled days. It now only rears its ugly visage during sporting competition or more recently – when Scotland held their Independence Referendum (IndyRef).
At my place of work, even before IndyRef, the jibes and comments were good-natured but tired. The same slurs on my country’s poor sporting record, how we apparently wear skirts, our poor record in historic battles and the most popular – rebuilding the antique wall that divided England and Scotland, Hadrians Wall, in order to chuck all us Scotsmen back over the border.
Oh, the larks. How they laughed. When Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon went on their charm offensive to assure Scotland that independence was in their best interests, the cussing and joking about my heritage did not change – it merely rose in frequency.
That Hadrians Wall joke? It wasn’t funny the first time, but when you hear it for the tenth time in the space of thirty minutes, it really does test your powers of resolve. If it was the other way around and these morons were in Scotland, the ribbing would be the same – that is how I sated my need to dislodge each of their teeth down their throats.
And it was true too. If the boot was on the other foot, the English who so gleefully mocked my country would be suffering the exact same fate if they were north of the border – perhaps with even more zeal. It is the way of things, it is also a way of letting off steam at work, which is a coping mechanism for all of us.
The tattoo on my back (a thistle intertwined with the Scottish Saltire and a lion) symbolises my love for Scotland, how proud I am to be Scottish. The thistle is Scotland’s national flower, and it is a fitting bloom. Full of colour but capable of hurting idiots who get too close. The customary sneer for English people may have been lost after living in the very land I am meant to mock, but my patriotism is still as fierce, maybe more so.
Every job I have had there has been light-natured joshing revolving around my being Scottish. I have come to cherish it a little. It sets me apart from the majority, it is the thing that is sure to spark conversation, it is the neon colours in a sea of beige. A sense of identity is vital, and everything that moulds you into you should be embraced.
That is at the crux of the epidemic of ‘banter’ that has evolved in every nook and cranny of life. Anywhere there is conversation, then there will be slings and arrows aimed at participants. These very ballistics are hewn from the things that set the target apart. Different is strange and is the enemy.
But it isn’t. It is the less-trodden paths that ensure human development. It is the uniqueness in each and every one of us that makes us human.
So it doesn’t matter that Scotland specialises in coronary blockages and failure in sport. I’m Scottish – and different to the people who surround me – and proud.
So should everyone who face raised eyebrows, hushed tones when they enter a room and laughter that follows them. Do not let this buckle your spirit nor sap your moxie. You are unique and interesting, which is what keeps dinner parties flowing and conversations alive.