Lately, I’m trying to be quiet.
Not quiet in the sense of turning the volume way down on NOW That’s What I Call Music vol. 3 and halting my boot-stomping, pot-lid-banging parade around the house. No, I mean quiet in the sense of not talking so damn much.
You see, while I tend to be reserved around strangers, around close friends and lovers I tend to behave like a raving lunatic. I crack bad jokes faster than I can come up with them, I voluntarily disclose embarrassing facts about myself, and I generally do everything within my feeble power for a laugh. And with the beau it’s exponentially worse, because I am around him all the time. I mean, even when we’re busy with separate extracurricular activities — which is often — I can bet that at some point during the day I’ll step into the bathroom and find him brushing his teeth. Or I’ll wander into the kitchen and find him rummaging in the pantry. Or maybe he’ll be standing by the dryer, pantsless, waiting for the creases to get tumbled out of his work khakis. Oh, you. There you are. So we meet again.
When you see the same person every day until the end of time (read: MARRIAGE), it becomes difficult to consistently come up with fresh material. It doesn’t help that my daily life is not interesting enough to reliably generate fascinating topics of conversation. So when I’m with the beau I often resort to simply making shit up. My go-to methods of engagement are:
- Threatening him with divorce
- Threatening to punch him in the face
- Chasing him around the house in an attempt to punch and/or tickle him
- Repeatedly asking him irritating questions to which I already know the answers, like “So, what’s your name?” and “How does it feel to be a Beau Lastname?”1
- Pretending I don’t know him and ordering him out of my house
- Accusing him of contracting a venereal disease
- Replacing the lyrics to popular songs with his name and singing it over and over
- Performing complicated interpretive dances set to aforementioned songs
While all of the above is done entirely in jest, I can bet that when I start to get sick of my jokes, the beau has probably already been fantasizing about pushing me out of the nearest window for a considerable length of time.2
So, I decided to shut up. Outside of normal bounds of communication (i.e.; “Yes,” “No,” and “So, were you just planning on leaving this shit here on the counter for me to clean up?”), I tried to avoid saying anything that wasn’t actually worth saying. I focused solely on bringing up things that would make for meaningful conversation fodder. Which is to say that most of the time I was silent.
For a couple of days, the experiment went pretty spectacularly. One night, the beau even talked for upwards of half an hour about what he lad learned at a work conference, which is remarkable when you consider the fact that he doesn’t talk about anything, ever. I started to wonder if it was just because he’d never been able to get a word in edgewise around my perpetual caterwauling and wacky antics. But then it kind of dropped off from there. I gradually began forgetting about my vow to be quiet, and would sometimes get more than two minutes through making up an inane song about the beau before remembering that I wasn’t supposed to be doing that anymore. Then the beau would take hold of my shoulders and earnestly implore, “No! Don’t stop! I like it when you make up songs about me!” And I would go to punch him, and then we would chase each other around the house as I menaced him with murder.
Seriously, you guys. Fake murder. Stop looking at me like that.
So in the end it all fell apart. I’m not sure there is room in my personality to be sincere, purposeful, and thoughtful all the time. But the test did serve as a strong reminder that I could be better at communicating with my spouse in general. For example, when broaching the subject of household cleanliness in a confrontational and accusatory manner, I learned that it’s helpful to be specific:
WRONG: “So, were you just planning on leaving this shit here on the counter for me to clean up?”
RIGHT: “So, were you just planning on leaving this shit here on the kitchen counter for me to clean up?”
Take notes, friends.
The other thing I’ve been trying to do is be a better listener. I’ve developed a terrible habit of tuning people out when they talk. I first observed it with my mother, which is honestly a little too easy to do. Not that I don’t love and respect the woman, but dear god, she has a knack for getting unnecessarily descriptive about her home decoration plans during our weekly phone calls:
Mom: “So I had a coupon for Kohl’s and I used it to buy towels that were already on sale. I’m going to put them in the powder room. I ended up getting them almost half off, and they are very cute.”
Mom: “I’m thinking about moving the old powder room towels to the basement bathroom, because you know your Dad only uses that one. Of course, I am going to need new towels for the upstairs bathroom, but I’m also thinking of replacing the curtains in there.”
Me [eyes going unfocused]: “Mmm-hmm.”
Mom: “Those curtains are just so old, they were already there when we moved in, and you know I’ve tried to wash them but they’re just at the point where they’re gross. Oh, and I also finally found a mirror to put over that table in the hall, but I’m concerned that the wood color doesn’t really match ….”
Several minutes go by in which I check some work emails, scan my Twitter feed, and occasionally interject an Uh-huh, Oh really, Ah, or Oh yeah? whenever the tone of her voice deems it appropriate. That is, until my brain scans a particular word amongst the chatter that abruptly sends me crashing back into the conversation mid-topic:
Mom: “… The doctor said he had arthritis, and that it probably came from an old dirt bike injury. So your poor dad can’t really use his knee right now. But he’s got another appointment next month, so we’ll see what they say then.”
Me: ARTHRITIS INJURY WHUT!!?!?1/12323402p0ypoqjof~!?
And then I am left frantically backpedaling for more information in a way that somehow does not alert her to the fact that I have not at all been paying attention.
Okay. So I’m not the best daughter sometimes. But I gradually began noticing this not listening trend branching out to my friends. I completely forgot my best lady had a job interview, and then I was surprised to learn she is apparently going on a trip soon to visit my other best lady. What? Huh? This is a person I chat with in Gmail nearly every single day.
And then it started happening with my husband:
Beau: [standing in doorway, staring intently]
Me [looking up from laptop]: “What?”
Beau: “Aren’t you coming?”
Me: “Me? Where?”
Beau: “We have to leave soon.”
Me: “Leave… ?”
Beau: “For the luncheon?”
Me: “… Luncheon?”
Beau [through gritted teeth]: “The luncheon ceremony? The ceremony in which I’m accepting a Pulitzer Prize?”
Me: “You’re… being awarded a Pulitzer Prize?”
I’m bad. Really bad.
But, hey. At least I’m trying?
What’s new with you? What are you trying to do?
1 See why I decided to keep my name? Can you imagine the endless Who’s-On-First?-type hilarity that would ensue if I took “Lastname” as my last name?
Faceless Drone at Government Bureau: “First name?”
FDaGB: “Last name?”
FDaGB (narrows eyes expectantly): “Yes?”
FDaGB (sternly): “Your last name, please?”
Me: “I told you, Lastname.”
I mean, I’m a fan of alliteration and all (“Lyn Lastname” is super cute!), but damn, son.
2 And this is precisely why I insisted upon renting a one-story home.