‘That’s the Catalan,’ he said to his friend, and I felt something I had never felt before: prejudged.
This is one of my first summertime memories. One could point out it doesn’t say much about my childhood summers, but I think it probably has to do with how I felt about the heat back then. I just couldn’t stand it, so it makes sense I associate Mediterranean summers with sad memories.
As a kid, I spent part of my summers in my mum’s village in Spain. I’d been born in Barcelona and that made — and it still does — a Catalan. By the time of this first summer memory, I had no idea what that meant, or that it meant anything at all. So far my childhood had been free of politics.
There I was, though, by the swimming pool, expecting a friend to introduce me to other local kids, when my nationality suddenly defined who I was. Not only that, but it was obvious from the tone and the expressions in the other children’s faces that being a Catalan wasn’t a particularly good thing over there.
Now, I must confess I have a rather stubborn character. I do believe it has got much better with the years, but back then — I must have been eight — I knew as much about temperament control as I did about politics.
This is an impactful memory because it changed how I spent my summers in my mum’s village. It was the moment I realised I had no friends there. I didn’t decide it. I realised it. That’s heavy stuff for a kid!
Over the years, I’ve wondered much about this. My reaction was, well, childish. At the same time, I fear it was instinctively right. It took me years to understand why I was so cutthroat when it came to friendships. When I finally did, I also realised my ruthlessness had provided me with an existence almost free of toxic relationships.
I’m not going to get into the details of what it means to be a Catalan in Spain. It’s not important at all for the argument I’m making. Just swap Catalan for Irish or Jewish or Arab or Japanese or black or any other collective that may have been unwelcome sometime somewhere. Also, I’m not comparing the hardships endured by…