Last modified on 21 May 2014, at 23:33

Mignon McLaughlin

Mignon McLaughlin (19131983) was an American journalist and author.

The Complete Neurotic's Notebook (1981)Edit

  • No one has ever loved anyone the way everyone wants to be loved.
  • No matter how brilliantly an idea is stated, we will not really be moved unless we have already half thought of it ourselves.
  • Every day of our lives we are on the verge of making those changes that would make all the difference.
  • As we are human, we can't do what we can't do; as we're neurotic, we can't do what we can.
  • Don't be yourself-be someone a little nicer.
  • Love looks forward, hate looks back, anxiety has eyes all over its head.
  • Youth is not enough. And love is not enough. And success is not enough. And, if we could achieve it, enough would not be enough.
  • We are all born brave, trusting and greedy, and most of us remain greedy.
  • Loneliness, insomnia, and change: the fear of these is even worse than the reality.
  • You will turn over many a futile new leaf till you learn we must all write on scratched-out pages.
  • There are so many things that we wish we had done yesterday, so few that we feel like doing today.
  • Once you become self-conscious, there is no end to it; once you start to doubt, there is no room for anything else.
  • Our strength is often composed of the weakness we're damned if we're going to show.
  • We hear only half of what is said to us, understand only half of that, believe only half of that, and remember only half of that.
  • The fear of being laughed at makes cowards of us all.
  • Hate leaves ugly scars, love leaves beautiful ones.
  • We'd all like a reputation for generosity, and we'd all like to buy it cheap.
  • It's the most unhappy people who most fear change.
  • Despair is anger with no place to go.
  • Hope is the feeling we have that the feeling we have is not permanent.
  • For the happiest life, days should he rigorously planned, nights left open to chance.
  • The head never rules the heart, but just becomes its partner in crime.
  • Nobody really listens to anyone else, and if you try it for a while you'll see why.
  • What we forgive too freely doesn’t stay forgiven.
  • If you hate your lot but wouldn't trade it, it's not your lot you hate.
  • Others follow patterns; we alone are unpredictable.
  • If it came true, it wasn’t much of a dream.
  • A sense of humor is a major defense against minor troubles.
  • Courage can't see around corners but goes around them anyway.
  • The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next.
  • It does not undo harm to acknowledge that we have done it; but it undoes us not to acknowledge it.
  • Anything you lose automatically doubles in value.
  • What you can't get out of, get into whole-heartedly.
  • If I knew what I was so anxious about, I wouldn't be so anxious.
  • Nostalgia for what we have lost is more bearable than nostalgia for what we have never had, for the first involves knowledge and pleasure, the second only ignorance and pain.
  • In the arithmetic of love, one plus one equals everything, and two minus one equals nothing.
  • Love unlocks doors and opens windows that weren't even there before.
  • No one can understand love who has not experienced infatuation. And no one can understand infatuation, no matter how many times he has experienced it.
  • When we first fall in love, we feel that we know all there is to know about life, and perhaps we are right.
  • Love is the silent saying and saying of a single name.
  • The hardest-learned lesson: that people have only their kind of love to give, not our kind.
  • It is a feeling at once stimulating and flat, to know that someone you do not love is in love with you.
  • When we have been humiliated by someone we love, it takes all our strength to pretend to recover from it.
  • When a man comes to love a woman exactly as she had dreamed, she decides he is a weakling.
  • The excesses of love soon pass, but its insufficiencies torment us forever.
  • All love is probationary, a fact which frightens women and exhilarates men.
  • We lavish on animals the love we are afraid to show to people. They might not return it; or worse, they might.
  • "I am as I am" is another way of saying "I can do without your love."
  • Love is often gentle, desire always a rage.
  • We all dream of being the darling of everybody's darling.
  • What we love about love is the fever, which marriage puts to bed and cures.
  • Beauty often fades, but seldom so swiftly as the joy it gives us.
  • Groups of girls are pretty, or not; they are seldom mixed.
  • Men prefer brief praise, pitched high; women are satisfied with praise in a lower key, just so it goes on and on.
  • Desire is in men a hunger, in women only an appetite.
  • Few women care what a man looks like, and a good thing too.
  • Women are never landlocked: they’re always mere minutes away from the briny deep of tears.
  • An attractive woman likes feminine company until she's twenty, and after she's twenty-five.
  • Women are good listeners, but it’s a waste of time telling your troubles to a man unless there’s something specific you want him to do.
  • Many beautiful women have been made happy by their own beauty, but no intelligent woman has ever been made happy by her own intelligence.
  • Most women would like to dress imaginatively, but they glare at any woman who does.
  • It upsets women to be, or not to be, stared at hungrily.
  • There’s nothing wrong with most men’s egos that the kowtowing of a headwaiter can’t cure.
  • Women are the right age for just a few years; men, for most of their lives.
  • A young woman can live off the folly of men; a man of any age can live off the folly of women.
  • A woman asks little of love: only that she be able to feel like a heroine.
  • All women are basically in competition with each other for a handful of eligible men.
  • Good-looking girls break hearts, and good-hearted girls mend them.
  • Any woman can talk herself into being in love with any man, for a while anyway.
  • Men feel that women somehow drag them down, and women feel that way about men. It's possible they are right.
  • Some women love only what they can hold in their arms; others, only what they can't.
  • A woman telling her true age is like a buyer confiding his final price to an Armenian rug dealer.
  • Nymphomaniac: a woman as obsessed with sex as an average man.
  • Men who don't like girls with brains don't like girls.
  • Bored with your present enemies? Make new ones! Tell two of your women friends that they look alike.
  • If you're a gifted flirt, talking about the price of eggs will do as well as any other subject.
  • Women flirt to keep their stock high, men to get somewhere.
  • Boredom is often the cause of promiscuity and always its result.
  • Women usually love what they buy, yet hate two-thirds of what is in their closets.
  • Between a man and a woman both aged fifty there are two full generations, for she might well wed a man in his seventies, and he a girl of twenty.
  • With men, as with women, the main struggle is between vanity and comfort; but with men, comfort often wins.
  • On stage and off, we care what happens to a beautiful woman, whether she can act well or not.
  • I'm afraid to win, and afraid to lose; I hate a draw and can't stop competing; otherwise I'm fine.
  • The real is very real to him, the unreal even more so.
  • No good neurotic finds it difficult to be both opinionated and indecisive.
  • The neurotic has perfect vision in one eye, but he cannot remember which.
  • The neurotic doesn't know how to cope with his emotional bills; some he keeps paying over and over, others he never pays at all.
  • Others settle for small rewards; the neurotic must always go for broke.
  • The neurotic longs to touch bottom, so at least he won't have that to worry about anymore.
  • The neurotic circles ceaselessly above a fogged-in airport.
  • The neurotic thinks himself both Hamlet and Claudius, in a world that belongs to Polonius.
  • The neurotic is always half-drowning in anxiety, and always being half-rescued.
  • Neurosis is no worse than a bad cold; you ache all over, and it's made you a mess, but you won't die from it.
  • Neurotics would like to sleep all the time, and to be awakened only when there is good news.
  • At the beginning of a love affair, not even the neurotic is neurotic.
  • There are three iron links in the neurotic's chain: unloving, unlovable, unloved.
  • The neurotic listens to weather reports about Small Craft Warnings, and he thinks: They're talking about me.
  • Naturally, the neurotic wants you to love him twice as much, for he's going to cut it in half anyway.
  • The neurotic feels as though trapped in a gas-filled room where at any moment someone, probably himself, will strike a match.
  • Neurotics dream of a good life, or a great suicide note.
  • Neurotics always feel as though they were going way up or way down, which is odd in people going sideways.
  • The neurotic usually obeys his own Golden Rule: Hate thy neighbor as thyself.
  • Being neurotic is like shooting fish in a barrel, and missing them.
  • Neurotic: someone who can go from the bottom to the top, and back again, without ever once touching the middle.
  • Neurotics are sure that no one understands them, and they wouldn't have it any other way.
  • The way the neurotic sees it: bars on his door mean that he's locked in; bars on your door mean that he's locked out.
  • The neurotic keeps minute track of his enemies; it is only his friends he is careless about.
  • The neurotic always wishes people would let him alone - until they do.
  • Neurotics make poor patriots; if you're ashamed of something as big as yourself, it's hard to be proud of something as small as your country.
  • A doctor recently described to me "benign positional vertigo": it means you get dizzy in certain positions, but you can get over it without necessarily changing the position. Change "vertigo" to "anxiety," and you've summed up the neurotic's plight.
  • Humiliation is a vast country of imprecise boundaries. If you think you're there, you are. The neurotic rule: when in doubt, go ahead and feel humiliated.
  • Neurotics are always looking for something new to overdo.
  • Of all second-class citizens, neurotics are the only ones who are so by choice.
  • Neurotics are anxiety prone, accident prone, and often just prone.
  • The mark of the neurotic: to imagine that you're the only one who cares deeply for anything.
  • The neurotic believes that life has meaning, but that his life hasn't.
  • The neurotic lies awake at night, composing letters to those he hates. He seldom thinks of dropping a line to those he loves.
  • Neurotics think of the past with resentment, and the future with dread; the present just doesn't exist.
  • Neurotics expect you to remember all the things that they tell you, and many that they don't.
  • A hypochondriac is one who has a pill for everything except what ails him.
  • My thoughts, I guess, are bitter; who but the bitter have thoughts?
  • Life marks us all down, so it's just as well that we start out by overpricing ourselves.
  • I'm always there to tell people that their life is not that bad. I wish it was easy to follow that advice.
  • It's impossible to be loyal to your family, your friends, your country, and your principles, all at the same time.
  • The know-nothings are, unfortunately, seldom the do-nothings.
  • Spring, summer, and fall fill us with hope; winter alone reminds us of the human condition.
  • There are whole years for which I hope I’ll never be cross-examined, for I could not give an alibi.
  • We are irritated by rascals, intolerant of fools, and prepared to love the rest. But where are they?
  • If the second marriage really succeeds, the first one didn't really fail.
  • A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.
  • The marriage of convenience has this to recommend it: we are better judges of convenience than we are of love.
  • We all become great explorers during our first few days in a new city, or a new love affair.
  • He's in for trouble—the man whose wife is detested by all women and desired by all men.
  • After the chills and fever of love, how nice is the 98.6 degrees of marriage!
  • How can a man marry wisely in his twenties? The girl he's going to wind up wanting hasn't even been born.
  • If he suddenly falls in love with someone else, a husband may not start wanting a divorce; but if he suddenly makes a lot of money, he usually will.
  • If you made a list of the reasons why any couple got married, and another list of the reasons for their divorce, you'd have a hell of a lot of overlapping.
  • A husband only worries about a particular Other Man; a wife distrusts her whole species.
  • Women gather together to wear silly hats, eat dainty food, and forget how unresponsive their husbands are. Men gather to talk sports, eat heavy food, and forget how demanding their wives are. Only where children gather is there any real chance of fun.
  • When a woman reaches forty, she must wait twenty years for her husband to catch up.
  • Between two married couples there are five possibilities for friendship: man to man, woman to woman, each man to the woman not his wife, and couple to couple. It's seldom that more than two of these will actually materialize.
  • The total history of almost anyone would shock almost everyone.
  • It is important to our friends to believe that we are unreservedly frank with them, and important to friendship that we are not.
  • Many are saved from sin by being so inept at it.
  • It's innocence when it charms us, ignorance when it doesn't.
  • Learning too soon our limitations, we never learn our powers.
  • Irrelevant things may happen to you, but once they have happened they all become relevant.
  • We welcome passion, for the mind is briefly let off duty.
  • The time to begin most things is ten years ago.
  • If you have to do it every day, for God’s sake learn to do it well.
  • True remorse is never just a regret over consequence; it is a regret over motive.
  • Most of us can easily do two things at once; what’s all but impossible is to do one thing at once.
  • Anything you do from the heart enriches you, but sometimes not till years later.
  • In retrospect, our triumphs could as easily have happened to someone else; but our defeats are uniquely our own.
  • When children are bored, it reflects on us all.
  • A childhood can be judged sheltered or not according to which was learned first, the four-letter word or the euphemism.
  • There are children born to be children, and others who must mark time till they can take their natural places as adults.
  • We tell our children things which we know are not so, but which we wish were so.
  • If you had an unhappy childhood, you will always want to sleep late in the morning.
  • One of life's few really reliable pleasures: to have a family you love, and to leave them for a week.
  • The family unit is man's noblest device for being bored.
  • The fault no child ever loses is the one he was most punished for.
  • Likely as not, the child you can do the least with will do the most to make you proud.
  • Children lack morality, but they also lack fake morality.
  • Your children tell you casually years later what it would have killed you with worry to know at the time.
  • Most of us become parents long before we have stopped being children.
  • It’s easy enough to get along with a loved and loving child–at least till you try to get him to do something.
  • There's no way to repay a mother's love, or lack of it.
  • Mama does everything for the baby, who responds by saying Dada first.
  • The ideal home: big enough for you to hear the children, but not very well.
  • It is always safe to tell people that they’re looking wonderful.
  • 'Pull yourself together' is seldom said to anyone who can.
  • One day you are an apprentice, and everybody's pet; the next, you are coldly expected to deliver. There is never sufficient warning that the second day is coming.
  • People are made of flesh and blood and a miracle fiber called courage.
  • A new wound makes all the old ones ache again.
  • Grasp your opportunities, no matter how poor your health; nothing is worse for your health than boredom.
  • We catch frightful glimpses of ourselves in the hostile eyes of others.
  • Throughout our lives, we see in the mirror the same innocent trusting face we have seen there since childhood.
  • We are all such a waste of our potential, like three-way lamps using one-way bulbs.
  • Age is a slowing down of everything except fear.
  • Failure can get to be a rather comfortable old friend.
  • The past is rich in lessons from which we would greatly profit except that the present is always so full of Special Circumstances.
  • What you were sure of yesterday, you know now to be false, but what you are sure of today is absolutely true.
  • Sooner or later, they govern who are determined to.
  • The plague of government is senile delinquency.
  • Be glad that you're greedy; the national economy would collapse if you weren't.
  • We have to call it "freedom": who'd die for "a lesser tyranny"?
  • How strange that the young should always think the world is against them when in fact that is the only time it is for them.
  • If everyone gave a tenth of his worldly goods to the person he most admired, the rich would just get richer.
  • When threatened, the first thing a democracy gives up is democracy.
  • The poor have the same basic pleasures as the rich, and the rich will always resent it.
  • Money is the best counterfeit money.
  • Money is much more exciting than anything it buys.
  • An artist is a socially unattractive person whom socially attractive people make money out of.
  • There are a handful of people whom money won't spoil, and we all count ourselves among them.
  • Cash is the one gift everyone despises and no one turns down.
  • Injure a businessman and he'll try to make you sorry; injure an artist and he'll try to make you immortal.
  • Every society honors its live conformists and its dead troublemakers.
  • There's little enough to be said for nationalism, so let's say it and have done.
  • The young are generally full of revolt, and are often pretty revolting about it.
  • Character is what emerges from all the little things you were too busy to do yesterday, but did anyway.
  • Even cowards can endure hardship; only the brave can endure suspense.
  • We come late, if at all, to wine and philosophy; whiskey and action are easier.
  • We work for praise, and dawdle once we have it.
  • The fault we admit to is seldom the fault we have, but it has a certain relationship to it, a somewhat similar shape, like that of a sleeve to an arm.
  • If you are brave too often, people will come to expect it of you.
  • The proud man can learn humility, but he will be proud of it.
  • There is always some specific moment when we become aware that our youth is gone; but, years after, we know it was much later.
  • When suffering comes, we yearn for some sign from God, forgetting we have just had one.
  • If you can tell anyone about it, it's not the worst thing you ever did.
  • Many things can make you miserable for weeks; few can bring you a whole day of happiness.
  • The chief reason for drinking is the desire to behave in a certain way, and to be able to blame it on alcohol.
  • Air that has been much quarreled in becomes very hard to breathe.
  • The best work is done with the heart breaking, or overflowing.
  • We waste a lot of time running after people we could have caught by just standing still.
  • When a stranger identifies you from a friend's description, it's just as well you didn't hear the description.
  • Charity is a good way of reminding God that if we can do it, He can.
  • In church, sacred music would make believers of us all—but preachers can be counted on to restore the balance.
  • Those who turn to God for comfort may find comfort but I do not think they will find God.
  • We climb mountains because they are there, and worship God because He is not.
  • My religious position: I think that God could do a lot better, and I'm willing to give Him the chance.
  • "Your money or your life." We know what to do when a burglar makes this demand of us, but not when God does.
  • Whatever we worship, short of God, is sure to be our undoing.
  • Whenever we safely land in a plane, we promise God a little something.
  • How tired God must be of guilt and loneliness, for that is all we ever bring to Him.
  • I often pray, though I’m not really sure Anyone’s listening; and I phrase it carefully, just in case He’s literary.
  • Most sermons sound to me like commercials — but I can't make out whether God is the Sponsor or the Product.
  • Everybody can write; writers can't do anything else.
  • A critic can only review the book he has read, not the one which the writer wrote.
  • An old racetrack joke reminds you that your program contains all the winners' names. I stare at my typewriter keys with the same thought.
  • There's only one person who needs a glass of water oftener than a small child tucked in for the night, and that's a writer sitting down to write.
  • We sometimes feel that we have been really understood, but it was always long ago, by someone now dead.
  • In every group of intimidated people, each thinks "I will rebel," but each waits for the others.
  • Every group of six or more has its inner circle, its outer circle, and its hangers-on.
  • Every group feels strong once it has found a scapegoat.
  • Albert Einstein when asked what he considered to be the most powerful force in the universe answered: Compound interest!
  • What you have become is the price you paid to get what you used to want.
  • Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to weave.
  • If the pain wanders, do not waste your time with doctors.
  • Every now and then you run across radiantly attractive people and you're delighted to find they adore you, till you realize that they adore just about everybody- and that's what's made them radiantly attractive.
  • Forget about calories - everything makes thin people thinner, and fat people fatter.
  • Did that leave an undesirable taste in your mouth? Let’s take a swig.
  • In the theatre, as in life, we prefer a villain with a sense of humor to a hero without one.
  • Luck: when your burst of energy doesn't run afoul of someone else's.
  • Confession is good for the conscience, but it usually bypasses the soul.
  • Revenge leads to an empty fullness, like eating dirt.
  • To smoke or not to smoke: I can make of either a life work.
  • The soul may sleep and the body still be happy, but only in youth.
  • Life is a mixed blessing, which we vainly try to unmix.
  • Life's most painful condition: to be almost a celebrity.
  • Young lovers and young nations face the same problem: after orgasm, what?
  • Mumps, measles, and puppy love are terrible after twenty.
  • We wake in the night, to stereophonic silence.
  • My doctor is nice; every time I see him, I’m ashamed of what I think of doctors in general.
  • There’s an awful lot of blood around that water is thicker than.
  • If you must reread old love letters, better pick a room without mirrors.
  • Insult, not flattery, is the great aphrodisiac.
  • Most of us would rather risk catastrophe than read the directions.
  • Good food, good sex, good digestion, good sleep: to these basic animal pleasures, man has added nothing but the good cigarette.
  • Family quarrels have a total bitterness unmatched by others. Yet it sometimes happens that they also have a kind of tang, a pleasantness beneath the unpleasantness, based on the tacit understanding that this is not for keeps; that any limb you climb out on will still be there later for you to climb back.
  • I do not trust those who are above name-dropping. The suppression of small vices always exacts too high a toll.
  • I have seen messed-up people of forty who still seemed salvageable, and children of six or seven who almost surely were not.
  • You never realize how tacky your furniture is till you try to give it to the Salvation Army and they won't take it.
  • There are now electrical appliances with the main unit so sealed in that it cannot be got at for repair. There have always been human beings like that.
  • Broadway audiences are dependably square. "Well, I'll be a son of a bitch" always gets a laugh; spoken by a little old lady, it brings down the house.
  • What a shame that allowances have to stop with the teens: both those that are paid to us and those that are made for us.
  • Many of us go through life feeling as an actor might feel who does not like his part, and does not believe in the play.
  • Few novels or plays could exist without at least one troublemaker in the group, and perhaps life couldn’t either.
  • The woman just ahead of you at the supermarket checkout has all the delectable groceries you didn't even know they carried.
  • Theatre audiences can't be made to think and cry: at best, they can be made to think and laugh, or to feel and cry.
  • Being Irish is, no matter how real, a pose.
  • A car is useless in New York, essential everywhere else. The same with good manners.
  • Whether or not you love television, you've got to admit that it certainly loves itself.
  • If an article is attractive, or useful, or inexpensive, they'll stop making it tomorrow; if it's all three, they stopped making it yesterday.
  • I'm glad I don't have to explain to a man from Mars why each day I set fire to dozens of little pieces of paper, and then put them in my mouth.
  • It took man thousands of years to put words down on paper, and his lawyers still wish he wouldn't.
  • People who won't have a TV set in their house get more pleasure from their refusal than most of us get from TV.
  • Tough and funny and a little bit kind: that is as near to perfection as a human being can be.
  • Love one another and you will be happy. It’s as simple and difficult as that.

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