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Daily Opinion

To be boring or not to be boring

If there’s one thing I’ve never completely understood, it’s being “boring”. This isn’t to say that I don’t understand people whom some would term “boring”. Rather, I don’t completely understand what boring is. No one has ever defined it, although people bandy the word around with alarming alacrity.

All I know for certain is that you definitely don’t want to be called it. Boring, that is. To be called boring might be one of the greatest insults you can bestow a person. More than ugliness or stupidity. To say that somebody is boring is to say that their very existence strikes you as so tedious that they would rather forget about you than spend a second longer in your company. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have somebody insult my voluminous thighs or less-than-stellar mathematical abilities than receive that write-up from anybody. 

The problem is that there are so many different ideas as to what boring is. For some, anyone that isn’t spending their weekends alternating between inebriation and morning-after illness, is boring. Yes, for these people, wit is measured out in 35cl shot glasses. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are some who would regard those unwilling to snort cocaine at the drop of the hat on a night out, as irreparably dull.

To these people, I suppose, it is your social calendar that defines whether or not you are dull. It is the things you are doing – the social engagements you attend, the money that you have to spend at them, and the disdain which you hold both your own and other peoples’ personal safety whilst at them – that determines the level of interest people have in you. 

At the other end of the spectrum, there are some who see those unable to hold a conversation about matters as diffuse as ancient Greece and post-war foreign cinema, as the true dullards. For these people, it is the breadth of a persons’ interests that determine their relative dullness.

For example, how widely do you read; have you an interest in the arts, or are you more taken by the sciences; do you have any diverting hobbies; do you frequent galleries; how much do you know about the French revolution; how politically engaged are you… These people consider a persons’ opinions and viewpoints as the guiding authority when determining how boring somebody is or is not. Not how many times they’ve pulled an all-nighter before work. 

I don’t know about you, but both of these disparate measures of one’s dullness strike me as truly terrifying. I suppose I am expected to hold a view of the world that takes account of a persons’ intellect over their ability to drink straight whiskey. However, the truth is far from it. I cannot relate to either of the hypothetical standards by which we determine one’s dullness.

Both types of people seem incredibly intimidating to me, and if I were in a situation where I was required to get along with either of them, I would probably buckle under the stress. The thing is, I am neither a party animal nor an intellectual heavyweight. I am somewhere in the middle. Far from being the best of both worlds, I actually end up not being quite committed enough to either group. Instead of feeling as though I could get along with anybody, I feel as though I am lagging far behind from both. 


I think the problem is that our thinking is too binary. It’s often seen as a case of either one or the other. You can’t be seen to be the type of person who enjoys drinking nine pints of Birra Moretti on a Thursday, and then fancies a trip around the Saatchi Gallery on a Saturday afternoon. But that’s exactly the kind of person I am – except I’d probably go for a nice Chianti over Birra Moretti, but you see my point. Coronavirus has laid bare our binary thinking, in a way. Suddenly, those who would consider it social suicide to be doing naff all on a Friday night, have been unable to do anything else.

Equally, those who are in their element whilst wandering around the Tate Britain with a hardback on Gainsborough in hand, have also had to find other means of entertainment. For those of us somewhere in between these poles, lockdown was a glorious respite from the endless uncertainty as to whether our lifestyle is interesting enough to post on Instagram. I know that one should not spend significant time worrying about how we may be judged online, and for the most part, I don’t. But you must admit that the freedom to be boring over lockdown, to not have to worry about whether or not your life is dull, has been utterly delicious. 

Maybe I don’t go out as often as those we see every day on our Instagram stories. And maybe I don’t possess a comprehensive knowledge of the works of Gertrude Stein that people assume comes along with a lack of the ‘party’ gene. But is there really anybody out there that would honestly choose a day wandering around the Imperial War Museum over a lie-in and a couple of wines down the pub?

Equally, is there anybody out there that is genuinely going out three nights a week, and wouldn’t prefer a Friday night in front of the tele watching Drag Race UK with a massive bar of Dairy Milk? I mean, of course there are. Everybody is different. We’ve all had that message drilled into us since pre-school. 

However, I have had enough of these extremes. It is time to embrace tedium for what it is – a glorious interval from the seemingly endless Depop-and-Shoreditch brigade. Now is not the time to be interesting; now is the time to chill out. Life is not split into boring and not boring people.

Most often, people are a little of both. Life can be boring sometimes – we should be able to admit to that. When people say that they cannot stand boring people, I want to say that there’s a lot worse in life than being boring. In fact, sometimes I would even prefer it. I shall embrace my quirks, even if they are far more middle-of-the-road than whatever you interesting people are doing. 


  • Rebecca Clayton

    Rebecca Clayton is a writer and essayist, an alumnus of both King's College London and University College London. Rebecca is most interested in the myriad ways cultural theory can unlock new meanings within classic and contemporary works of literature. Other interests include stand-up comedy, classic rock, and cats (all alliteration is purely coincidental - Rebecca doesn't only like things beginning with 'c').