Well, I Never
They have a cute dinner-table game going over at the London Daily Telegraph, in which you just confess out loud to things you have never done. Charles Moore covers the basics here.
The trick is that the things you confess to never having done are things that — and this is of course highly life-context-dependent — you ought to have done, or feel you ought to have; or things of which the omission is surprising in some other way — e.g. lived your whole life in London but never seen the Thames. Things that hardly anyone does ("never been on safari") don't count.
As a chronic lifetime underachiever, I thought this would be a no-brainer for me, but I had forgotten why I am an underachiever: because I'm a dilettante, who has to try every damn thing once. That'll make you a rolling stone all right, and exclude you from any serious moss-gathering, but it cuts down severely on your nevers.
And I started my adult life never-deficient anyway, having attended one of those strenuous English boys' schools, so that by the time I got to college I had sampled most physical activities, from boxing to target shooting, from long-distance running to rock climbing.
I think I'm short on nevers in the life-negatives department, too, for reasons I'd rather not think about. I have been beaten up, knocked out (three times I can recall*), drowned (to semi-unconsciousness), robbed, swindled, fired, unemployed, broke, flunked, jilted, and bereaved.**
Yet still I find I am rich in nevers. Here's a sample. All of them are things that either I regret never having done, or things that, it seems to me, based on the general tenor of my life, it is surprising I have never done.
I have never, as an adult:
- shot an animal.
- spent a night in jail.
- drunk champagne from a lady's slipper.
- worn a thong, cape, top hat, lederhosen, edible underwear, toe socks, "bus conductor" gloves (the ones with no fingers), or sneakers that cost more than $100.
- passed one year without consuming a tobacco product of some kind.
- passed one three-month period without drinking alcohol to excess at least once.
- purchased an antique.
- played a complete tune of any kind on a musical instrument of any kind.
- made a killing (i.e. a large sum of money all at once) in any commercial, real estate, or financial-markets transaction.
- written a decent poem.
- read more than 50 pages into any novel by Saul Bellow, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Virginia Woolf, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, J.D. Salinger, or William Faulkner.
- won or lost more than $100 in one sitting at any game of chance.
- acted as principal in any stage performance.
- led men in battle, nor even been under fire.
- used an ax in any effective way for any purpose.
- permanently joined any two pieces of metal together by welding or soldering.***
- used, for any practical purpose, more than two decimal places of π.
- extracted, for any practical purpose, a cube root.
- said: "It's not you, it's me."
- exclaimed: "Cowabunga!"
- asked myself: "What shall I do to be saved?"
- opened a conversation with a doctor by saying: "I have this friend …"
- responded to one of William F. Buckley, Jr.'s spoken opinions with: "I'm afraid you're totally out to lunch on this one, Bill."
- seen a complete episode of "The Simpsons," or a complete between-ad-breaks segment of "Larry King Live," or more than fifteen seconds of "American Idol."
- cheated on my wife.
- intentionally humiliated either of my children in front of their peers.
- been socially active in any church or other religious organization.
- recited the Nicene Creed with conviction.
- used Microsoft WordPad.
- involuntarily fallen from any significant height.
- sustained, for more than a month, any exercise regimen I was not either (a) paying for, or (b) being forced through by some educational or military authority.
- set foot in Africa, Australasia, Oceania, Central or South America (Caribbean not counted), or Antarctica; in fact, been north of latitude 60°N or south of 5°N.
- had any part of my body pierced for cosmetic or decorative purposes, or been tattooed.
- referred to anyone as a "bigot" (to my recollection).
- been referred to as a "bleeding heart" (to my knowledge).
- lost a moment's sleep over the miseries of foreigners unknown to me in distant countries.
- taken any formal instruction in writing, the trade at which I have made a living and supported my family for the past five and a half years.
- said or written of any epic poem, Neal Stephenson novel, Robin Williams movie, televised showbiz awards ceremony, or production ofBoris Godunov: "It was too short."
- refused to eat any foodstuff offered to me, for any reason other than that I had a full stomach.
- owned or used a Blackberry or an iPod.
- lived beyond my means.
- financed a car purchase, or acquired a car by lease.
- dwelt in, as my primary domicile, any house or apartment with more than one TV set.****
- made any plan for my retirement, or given it a moment's thought in any other way.
- (seasonal addendum) shopped till I dropped.
* (1) playing rugby; (2) carelessly walking at speed into a large, solid, immobile object; (3) car crash.
** Careful here, Derb. "Depend upon it that if a man talks of his misfortunes there is something in them that is not disagreeable to him." — Dr. Johnson.
*** And in fact I am not sure I really believe this can be done without recourse to occult arts.
**** Borderline: I can watch TV on the computer in my study. Still, it's not a TV set.