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Being unforgettable and other perks that come with the right quirk

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I LOVE a good quirk. You know, someone pushing their glasses further up their nose every minute or so while you’re talking together, people who bat their eyelids at you, even snorting as a form of verbal punctuation.

Sometimes, if I’m feeling mischievous, I copy it for the course of our interaction, and the response is about evenly divided between seemingly oblivious and surprise that anyone would have such an odd mannerism. This mimicking depends on whether I can, and one I’d love to mirror but physically cannot is the batting or quivering of eyelids.

As much as I enjoy talking with someone, anyone, who bats their eyelids I’m never sure what they mean to convey by that batting at the end of a statement. What is clear is that it is meant to convey something, and it seems to me that the most likely message is that the batter sees her point as too sophisticated for me to understand or that her high breeding prevents her being more explicit.

Almost all eyelid batters are women, and the batting is always performed while eyes are lowered or averted, and while I know that the batting is often portrayed as seductive, that is never the case when it’s directed at me. Of course.

It was while watching video clips on how to do a few upgrades to our caravan a month ago that I realised I needed a quirk.

The DIY presenter would make a smacking noise with his lips whenever he paused between sentences, and by that smacking noise he was announcing that he had finished giving the viewer everything he or she needed to know for that small segment of instruction and that he was moving onto the next segment. And perhaps he was buying time while he thought about what to say next.

The smacking noise was the kissing noise people used to make before they took to saying moi, probably better spelt as mmmwah, and in some inexplicable way it did seem to lend authority to the DIY presenter and what he had to say.

The stamp of authority would be nice, but the reason I need a quirk is that it makes the exhibitor memorable, and we all want to be memorable.

I can, for example, remember at least most of the people who have batted eyelids at me, and while I can remember not one thing the DIY presenter said I can remember him clearly. So I’ve been practising lip smacking.

I can, too, remember the fellow who belched every few minutes when he was briefly in my circle of friends 15 years ago. If he hadn’t belched every few minutes I wouldn’t remember a thing about him, and as memorable as he is I’ll keep practising the lip smacking. I think, by the way, that it’s because she’s fed up with the lip smacking that my wife says I have more than enough quirks already.

The quirks I have in mind are interesting mannerisms, not necessarily pleasant mannerisms. Some seem to be driven by something other than habit, perhaps by a force as compelling as that which drives women to squeeze spots and whatever else on the back of the man in her life. If you’ve watched a few David Attenborough African documentaries you’ll know the origins of that particular peculiarity.

One of my favourite quirks is another expression of that peculiarity. That is women who peck at other people’s clothes. It may be that the woman will with laughing apologies straighten your collar or some such, but my favourite is the picking lint and specks from your shirt or coat while you’re talking. I haven’t encountered one of these women for a decade or so and I wonder if they reserve their grooming for younger people.

Another favourite is the use of finger quote marks, two fingers on each hand raised to shoulder level and tweaked as the person says something. Perhaps it is meant to suggest that the speaker is taking liberties with language or that the statement is the proof of his argument, but whatever it means it is wonderful. A great quirk to mimic too.

Other treasures are people who deliver confidences through the corner of their mouth, who intersperse their conversation with snippets issued in a lowered voice and with a warning that it is not to be repeated, who repeat the last few words of everything you say, who snort as a laugh, who giggle, and who quote movie lines or song lyrics in response to something you say.

And don’t you just love a funny walk! My wife warns me not to bother because, she says, I have one already.

Unkind, eh, so I’ll share with you her quirky game. She likes to spot men adjusting the contents of their shorts, be it on television or in public, and if he’s a prominent person or a celebrity or her husband so much the better. It’s not so much a quirk as a physical need, I explain. Dreadful, she says.

Can’t she, I ask, try to spot people chewing the inside of their cheek or cracking their knuckles? She won’t have any trouble spotting someone making a lip-smacking noise.

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