The list. Useful aide-memoire or depressing reminder? Declaration of achievement or shameful inclusion? Lists are all around. Shopping lists, lists of chores, the top ten selling musical artists of all-time list, the list of stock and shares available to trade, the list of places you have visited, the list of places you wish to visit, the list of past lovers, the bucket list of desired activities to complete before you shuffle off this mortal coil.
“Give me a list of what you need and I will get those things for you. “
“Yes, you are on the list, come on in.”
“Your company is now listed on the stock exchange.”
“Congratulations, you are on the shortlist.”
“I am afraid we are full for the next three months, shall I put you on the waiting list?”
“The injury list is growing longer, I’m not sure what we should do.”
“The list of missing children is of considerable concern.”
The list is a powerful device. Astonishing really when you think that it is just words placed one after the other, or number, or a combination of both. As you would expect, such a powerful tool will not go unnoticed by our kind. We use the list with considerable effect in three distinct ways.
- The Magic List
You will know this list but you have never seen it. In fact, do not hold out any hope that you will ever see it. You are not allowed to look upon it because it does not exist to you, but that does not stop us having considerable reliance upon it. This is the list which we seem to have remarkably memorised and we can produce at a moment’s notice to use against you. It is a compendium of all the things which you have done wrong, the things you have failed to do correctly and is used to deflect attention away from our shortcomings. You accuse me of flirting with someone of the opposite sex at a party, guess what? I can reel off ten instances of you flirting, giving people the come on, behaving like a tart and flashing “come hither” looks at people. I will list occasions and names as you flap and flail seeking to deny them. Deny them you might because invariably they are invented or at best they have been subjected to a different interpretation applied by us. When we accuse you of flirting with someone else what we really mean is that you were not paying attention to us. If we suggest you had eyes only for the party’s host, we mean we were sick of not being the centre of attention. No matter. This invisible list is good for all occasions and its subject matter is wide and varied. Blame us for the meal burning. Here’s ten culinary disasters caused by you. Accuse us of not getting home on time, have a dozen instances of you being a dirty stop out. Anything you can say, I can list longer.
- The Vanishing List
This is the cousin of the magic list. The Vanishing List is any list which you attempt to use against us. Should you ever attempt to apply a litany of transgressions against us then each and every instance never happened, has not been remembered correctly and is out and out fabrication. This is so extensive that the list you can apparently recall vanishes in an instant and has no standing. Everything on your list does not apply to us. If you have the bare-faced cheek of actually writing down a charge sheet to level at us, then the vanishing doctrine is still applicable. The physical list remains but any validity or applicability that it has automatically vanishes as soon as the words are spoken. You cannot make anything stick to us. The accusations disappear in a puff of smoke and your list either vanishes or its intended effect does. Either way, we can continue our blameless existence. Now, as for you, well, trying to impose a list on you means that we will produce the Magic List or opt for the controlling application of the Commanding List.
- The Commanding List
You are in trouble now. The Magic List is usually produced as a defensive measure which is used to deflect your attacks against us, wind you up and ensure we remain unaccountable. The Commanding List is pre-meditated. It is used in an offensive capacity and because it is written down, it is extremely important. We will tell you that we need to talk or that there is something that needs to be discussed. We will appear serious and lecturing in our manner, reinforcing our general view that we are superior to you. We will sit you down and sit opposite as we produce the piece of paper and carefully unfold it, smooth it out and then read a list of things that we command you to do. These are not accusations. Those usually reside on the Magical List. The Commanding List is a compilation of things we deem necessary for you to do. It is a hurtful reminder of how we regard you; subservient and subject to our demands. This list must be obeyed otherwise sanctions will follow. Sometimes those sanctions are expressed, sometimes they are insinuated and other times they are not even mentioned but they will happen. The purpose of this list is to make you feel like a criminal with a sentence being read out. They are not charges. These are not accusations. These are based on (our) solid facts and this, in our patronising and paternalistic approach, is what we have decided what is best for you. There is no discussion and no negotiation. We are telling you. The content of the Commanding List varies but here are ten items I like to include when it is used.
- You will seek therapy for your addiction to men. Your flirting, sluttish ways and overall embarrassing behaviour is being talked about by other people. It must be addressed.
- You will see a doctor about your attention-seeking behaviour. Too often events are spoiled by you making a show of yourself.
- All financial matters are to be handled by me. You profligate spending is out of control
- You are to obey a curfew for a one-month period to establish trust. You are to remain at the house between 6pm and 6am.
- You will no longer have anything to do with Sarah and Paula. They are a bad influence on you.
- You will provide me with all passwords to all electronic devices so I can monitor your activity for signs of infidelity.
- You will ensure the house is cleaned and tidied each day so that when I return I feel like I am walking into a show home. You have let things slide.
- You will not drink for a period of three months in order for you to accept you have a problem with alcohol.
- All house visitors must be cleared with me at least 48 hours in advance to ensure my down time is not unnecessarily uninterrupted.
- When I am in the study I am not to be disturbed for any reason.
A selection of these dictats and others enables a clear message to be sent out and when you are the middle of the devaluation, exhausted and disorientated, these demands will often be met in order to try to achieve some respite from the ongoing campaign of horrible treatment.
Accordingly, lists play a useful role in the exercise and maintenance of our power. Now, you must excuse me, I need to make another list. This one is headed Prospective Targets, I am going to the study to compose this list as it requires some thought, remember number ten.