Silence says so much, sometimes too much.
So many times have I walked into places and said hello in my “spunky-chipper-I-just-raged-up-all-my energy-for-this-very-moment—and I’m not sure why they haven’t said a damn thing back to me—voice, and then in return I’ve gotten, silence.
At that point I can tell this is gonna be fun. You see, I was raised by an introvert, and an extrovert.
My mother—a wildly popular extrovert from Baton Rouge, Louisiana threw big parties and in the midst of them raised me on common southern and sometimes just plain ole “old folks” rules. What were they:
- Speak when spoken to
- Stay outta “grown folks business” (“grown folks business” being any words the people taller than you were saying)
- No talkin’ back
The rules were so real to me, that just last year (I’m now almost 29 years old-mind you) when she visited me, I snappily responded to something she said and she flashed an eye at me, and my reply was,
“Ouh, sorry, I forgot who I was talking to,” yes, like that. Respect your elders. Respect people, period.
And my Dad, o my Daddie (the introvert) he spoiled me rotten with conversation and attention (when he could manage to escape work) and because as a young girl, I craved it, I find it odd when people don’t say shit. Because when we had our quiet time, it was very quiet. He’d go hours not speaking sitting next to me. He taught me to value my time to myself. If I tried to interrupt him, he didn’t shoot off at the mouth like my Mom, he just simply ignored me until he got good n’ ready. From that point forward I’ve always taken silence when you’ve spoken to someone, or non-responsive behavior, very seriously. Like, no response, seriously? That is very intentional. For me, at least.
I don’t see a person’s non-response as accidental. I mean sure, there’s a head space a person can be zoned into, but when they come up for air, (I’m an artist I know) they remember those they need to reach out to, and they do so. Those that do not, well it’s a blatant ignore.
Words are like sugar for me—just a bit sweetens, too much causes cavities, but right in the middle… it’s like mixing warm sunshine with a bubble bath… It’s like speaking magic “Let’s stay up all night discussing Didion? Rap music’s influence on society? Care Bears or Smurfs? Legos or Transformers?” MmMm yummy sweet conversation.
My Dad read books and newspapers every morning when I was a child, by his lonesome, before the birds woke, at the round kitchen island table—and still to this very day, clips out things he thinks I have time to read, and I do, at least I try. But what I find most respectable about him is his careful attention to the words he uses when he speaks to me. I attribute this to him having lived in different countries and that he speaks different languages, but still. He’s careful what he says, and also, what he does not say.
It’s often that because I’m a communicator (and usually an over-[shameful downward head]-communicator) that silence blares violently loud to me. Because so many times it’s been that small effort to explain, or the few seconds it takes to say “this is why this happened”— that has changed not just perspectives for me, but changed my mind entirely and caused me to take action.
I thought an old boss of mine hated me for four years simply because she didn’t speak to me in the mornings. She spoke to everyone else that passed, but me, despite my “heys!” or “good mornings!” she stared off disregarding my presence. There is a difference between someone who ignores someone, but this girl, would altogether NOT see me. The afternoons she was fine, seemingly unphased by me, and strongly and rather completely indifferent toward me. Finally, she gave me a very high review at the end of a quarter once and I commented, (I was young)
“All this time I’d thought you didn’t “like” me, you never speak in the mornings when I say hello.” Her response was simple:
“Liking you is not my job, you do good work, and I don’t speak to anyone I don’t have to speak to before I have my second cup of coffee.”
That bitch got me two (very tiny) raises and I learned a lot from her. I was just apparently not on her priority list of people she had to speak to on any morning.
A simple “hello,” navigates differently reaching the more ridiculous synapses in my brain and it says to me a whole lot more than silence does. Just like a look can say more than hello, an ity gesture can shout crescendos.
Few people have reduced me to silence. Being a writer I’ve always found more luck in sharing my stance, than the abysmal whist. The huff n puff never got me anywhere, but a professional letter—I turn into Wonder Woman! If I am ever quiet there are a few things going on, please allow me:
Because I’ve probably realized that When We Talk, Nothing Changes, So I Have Chosen Silence. Which is again, very intentional.
My old friend used to have a problem shopping in places where when you walked into their store, the workers didn’t speak to you. A while back I was in Visuals (I did lights, aesthetics, and dressed mannequins) at Abercrombie & Fitch and know first hand how that store wasn’t always peppy, at least not my location. Basically the models stood there and didn’t speak. I don’t think I’d fully realized the affect silence had until I was standing around with them—not speaking, it’s like the environment follows suit.
Today, I second my friend. If I walk into a store and the employees don’t speak—or worse, I speak and get no response, they will get extra negative zero dollars from my pocketbook, I promise. Matter fact, I’m turning around and shopping somewhere around friendly people who will acknowledge me. I’m a human, I deserve human interactions.
If words are rock candy for me, good conversation is an excuse to get a stomach ache. It’s the subtleties that matter. I don’t need any grandiose gallivanting or enormous bouquets, but a nod or a text hello every now and now (!) … is the sweetest thing a person can do.
Picture of Rock Candy from my favorite gal XOXO Jessica XOXO over at SuchPrettyThings
I regret “spooning,” I regret his over-excitedness about daily regurgitating tasks, I regret the handholding—the squeezing, I regret all the big dreams about French doors and ponytails. I regret going along with it all by thinking I’d grow into it.
I’m 28 years old and I’ve never been in love. I’ve only been in regret.
I can explain. You meet someone and you fall impeccably, dancing around lampposts “in love” with them, their smell, the habits they have that you initially think are cute. Wait for it…
You meet their Mom and you’re sold. She’s nice, which is the best word to use about any man’s mother you just met. You meet his kid(s). I once fell in regret with a man who had two little girls. Prettiest peaches ever. No, I mean impossibly, selflessly, itching under my skin to be around him and his kids. It wasn’t as hard as some claim to get children to “like” you, but again, this was only one experience, and only my experience. I was pushing the four year old on the swing and the seven year old was coloring with me at the park in no time. Cake. The issue is, the moments you remember most—like a movie, those moments that incessantly replay, aren’t the moments of fancy dinners or dotes, but are the moments you had to catch your breath with overwhelm, the moments you’ve said to yourself “I want this.”
Thing is, when you fall, you fall hard for their families too. I recently watched “How to Lose Your Lover” on Netflix. A funny chic fling movie about a writer convinced he’s over LA life, so he does everything he can to rid himself of excess LA baggage, including women. He goes off about pissing everyone in his corner off. He shoves his love interest into uncomfortable positions such as meeting her parents and his friends on the first and second dates. An interesting concept indeed. I think this way now. I’ve realized that so many people wait the three months, six months or years before they meet the friends and family of their significant others only to find it plops. People don’t realize that when you date a person (for the most part) you date their loud ass mom, their overprotective dad, their sneaky sister, their ignorant ass friends, and their horribly annoying children.
If you think you can handle it, you should know sooner rather than later about the people you might love regret.
Case in point: when you love, you love the bad about a person sometimes even more than the good. This wanes and regrets once it’s over, often while it still is. Gretchen Rubin says in “The Happiness project” a book I’m currently reading “I knew that my combativeness and pedantry in this conversation came not from petty irritation but from a desire to protect myself against false hopes.” I completely agree with her. False hopes.
I regret not learning how to “fight right,” as in, pick my battles. I regret not loving myself enough to love anyone else. I regret having to admit that I went crazy before I got this half-right. Only half. I regret the growing up process and all the short sticks I give and get. I regret the shit out of not getting to know a person enough not to regret the whole damn thing.
I’ve never been in love, only regret. Funny what you regret is what could be what you’ve loved the most. Funny what you regret is what you’ve learned the most from.
I tend to read out loud. Now, whether or not you’ve heard me or not is a different story.
I’ll say a “subconscious-unconsciousness of” — too damn much. For instance if the person in front of me says he doesn’t like women who shop… all of a sudden I’m a thriftily shopping mo-fo. He doesn’t like tea? O, I only dabble in tea sipping, pinky finger flailing, honey sticks, and lattés, just dabble, lol. Similar to Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride when it was all she could do to match her counterparts, she forgot herself.
I read, a lot. I read people. I speed read. I read attachments. I read magazines, marketing material, interviews, the internet, but mostly, I read out loud. I tell a person what’s wrong, generally, like most of us do — before telling them what’s right. I’m proud to recognize this, and acknowledge myself as a work in progress.
I write my toot off. I stay up wee hours of the night reading. Studying. I put it first when at times it should come second to some things like taking a few minutes to make the people I love happy. Ma calls me up the other day, exhibit #1:
“Where da hell you beeennnnnnnn?” Her southern accent, a cheerily bit ghetto. She asks of why I haven’t called her.
I go on explaining and rambling off about deadlines, genre workshops, reading group, and submissions and halfway through my summary of absence, this broad is not listening. At all. I’m talking about not only not listening, but in full conversation with my niece in the background.
“Maaaaam, did you hear me???? You not listening! You never listen, how you gon’ ask me a question then go all off talkin’ to someone else?!” I shriek.
“Awhl, shiiiiiiiit, leme call ya later honey, these children are on my nerves.” She hangs up. I laugh and shake my head. Like I said, I read out loud, no one listens.
Example 2: an ex of mine came over about nine maybe ten one night o clock a few weeks back to listen as I read a few pages to him for proofing. After all, I can credit him for catching a lot of my run-on sentences, verb tense issues, and grammar ridiculousness. He also fully believes in my work and I love that. This particular time no sooner than shortly after his arrival did I read into about the fourth page, and I found that he had apparently took the drug opposite of No-Doze. He was full-on asleep, light snore and all. Naturally, I’m human, I was hurt.
He exclaimed that he was tired, which I believe he was, and that if he’d only had the pages in front of him (like his own copy) he would have stayed up. The issue is, when someone gives an über quick reason for falling short, the explanation loses its weight. A simple “I’m sorry, it won’t happen again” would have sufficed. Practice with me: “I’m sorry it, won’t happen again,“ the most important words in language, since “I love you” is overrated and everyone loves everybody. I’m really sorry, I won’t read a damn thing to you, ever again. HAhahaha!
Him actually using those words might have gotten us on the same page. Simple acknowledgement and reassurance that it (hopefully) won’t happen again. Although Ma still hasn’t said a word about her tangents of rudeness, and my ex and I no longer talk, I still feel I’m learning how to better express myself, and I continue reading out loud. I just wish the right people would listen.