The durability of ‘I don’t do’

October 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

The one phrase that is more durable than any is, ‘I don’t do…’ I can go back to 1996 when an American girl said, ‘I don’t do pudgy.’ She did not date pudgy men.  Usually when people state ‘I don’t do…’ it is suggestive of an attitude or a policy they have adopted.

‘I don’t do show houses.’ An actor replied, when I remarked on the homeliness (an ordered homeliness) of her house. A few weeks later, autumn 2011, a teacher told me, ‘I don’t do dairy.’  In February 2012 one Saturday issue of the Guardian’s magazine, such part as I read, contained two examples. A celebrity’s daughter didn’t ‘do pink’. (Her daughter did not wear pink.) As the child was a baby, it seemed unlikely that she exhibited a distaste for the colour: the attitude was her mother’s not hers. Another woman (Blind Date section) was asked  whether she would bring her date to meet her parents, she replied: ‘I don’t do parents.’

The phrase is elastic. But perhaps it is in danger of snapping when someone says, ‘I don’t do dairy’ when she has an allergy to dairy products. The fact is she cannot ‘do dairy’ unless she wants to feel sick.  She had no ‘attitude’ about dairy; for example, she is not a vegan.

Is people’s vanity flattered when they say, ‘I don’t do…’ ? Do they feel they are asserting themselves, taking a stand against something, or distinguishing themselves from others?  Is ‘I don’t do…’ going to fall out of favour soon? Or is it too useful a phrase to discard?

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