Bring back skiting 28 Aug 2012
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It’s a verb – I skite, she skites, they skited – and also a noun – “you’re a big skite”.
In my book, it’s like boasting but more innocent. It is taking pure joy in something, and inviting others in.
Health warning: in these definitions, I am out of sync with the urban dictionary available online, which has ten different definitions of the word skite, none of them very positive, and several of them distinctly unpleasant.
I’m thinking about skiting for two reasons – the Olympics and exam results season.
Usain Bolt, now officially the fastest human being on the planet, says that yes, he does get genuine pleasure out of looking at other people on the street and thinking, “yep, I could beat you. And you. And you, I could definitely beat”.
Wouldn’t it be disappointing if he didn’t? What is the point of all that hard work if you don’t feel good at the end of it?
Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson has put a lot of work into defining what we mean by feeling good. She says that negative emotions, like fear, close down our ability to function, while positive emotions give us a greater ability to move forward.
She identifies the ten most common positive emotions as joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love.
Usain gives us nearly all of these in one package. Unusually for someone who performs in less than ten seconds he even manages to give us serenity and amusement.
Nearly all of these are emotions of connection, feelings that give us a sense of being closer to other people, not withdrawing into our own heads, or even worse trying to put on a happy face (what Fredrickson calls “toxic insincerity”).
So, this is my explanation for why the Olympics have been such a powerful feel-good factor for the British. Awe, inspiration, hope and pride, all of it rooted in reality not pretence – that’s before we get on to the unprecedented levels of interest in arcane subjects like pole vaulting and how you make a horse dance in time to music.
Then, in this little bit of time between the Olympics and Paralympics, we have Julian Assange, the Australian founder of Wikileaks, holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy to claim asylum on charges of rape within the Swedish legal system, and even doing a balcony scene. Somehow this story is a lot more amusing and diverting than it has any right to be. The plot synopsis sounds like a Gilbert and Sullivan opera.
But in real life, all that any British parent of a teenager is thinking about is exam results. I don’t recall this being such a big deal in my youth. The brown envelopes drifted into people’s homes at some point – and into my home usually at a later point because we were a “Rural Delivery”.
Here it’s all front-page news, newspaper leader articles and political point scoring. I’m now in my third year of participation, with another six to go. Both GCSE exams and A levels spread themselves over two years, so when there are four assorted youths under your roof…. You do the maths.
Even in amongst the genuine pride, and the odd genuine tragedy, there’s time for amusement. A teenage boy at the school gate says glumly “I got a D in Italian, and I am Italian. Wait til my grandparents find out. You should have seen how it went down when I said I didn’t want more spaghetti.”
I can only hope, for his sake, that he’s got something else to skite about.
Barbara Fredrickson on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ds_9Df6dK7c&feature=relmfu
Photo credit: Hammersmith and Fulham.
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