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Why I Can't Pay Attention When My Wife Speaks

Updated on May 22, 2020
jimagain profile image

Jim is an accomplished writer with many great literary achievements, most of which he simply made up.


My wife is talking - not an unusual occurrence around my house. She does this frequently, especially in the last two minutes of the big game, or when I'm lost in the middle of the season finale, or engaged in some really deep cerebral exercise like staring into the fridge in a desperate attempt to remember whatever it was I went to get 30 seconds ago.

There she is. She's looking my way. Her lips are moving again. I hear ...words ...coming out of her mouth!

The moment she begins to speak, I can feel my brain slipping away from the present tense. I'm trying to pay attention but the outcome has already been decided. Struggle is noble but futile. Immediately strange things begin to happen inside my head. The last thing I remember is that I resolve one more time, I'm going to actually listen to what she's saying.

I'm lying to myself, I know.

"What are you doing," my wife interrupts?

"I am listening to you …dear!" She's making a peculiar face looking at me making a peculiar face.

"Why are you making that peculiar face?"

There is a reason why I can never pay attention when my wife is speaking. Women just don't understand all that goes on inside a guys' head during a normal conversation.

From the outside, my brain doesn't look particularly busy. You would guess that nothing is going on behind the serene facade ...the dull expression on my face, frogs croaking in the background apparent cerebral activity, but that's not the case at all.

Let me explain. The reason why it's so hard to pay attention is because there's just too much going on inside my head at one time for me to keep track of.

Too many voices inside my head

First of all the little guy pops up of impending doom and he petulantly informs me, "You know you can't pay attention long enough. You know you're going to lose track of what she saying ...and then your mind is going to wander and then she's going to get angry at you. You know it's going to happen?"

Do you see what happens now, why I have so much trouble paying attention?

I have two people I have to have a conversation with at one time; one exists outside my head in that place we call 'reality' and the one inside my head, which may or may not actually exist. At first I would argue but that only means the little guy inside my head is going to argue back and forth with me; it's best to just ignore him lest I clog up my brain like a toilet, overflowing with more pointless dialogue.

Back to the melee inside my head. One by one these little guys that resemble little versions of me pop up inside my head and begin having conversations with me - while I'm trying to pay attention to whatever my wife is saying. Suddenly everything is drowned out in a cacophony of noise and dialogue.

How many you ask?

There's 'immature Jim' which happens to be my inner 2-year old' ...remember the incident in the toy aisle at age two, the one my aunt still tells me about?

We're joined by 'paranoid Jim' who sounds suspiciously like Barney Fife, off to the side is 'anal-retentive Jim' which resembles ...Sheldon. Behind him is 'nonchalant Jim' who acts like Joey from Friends, abruptly pushed aside by 'suave-macho Jim' who speaks with a drawl steeped in baritone bravado like John Wayne - all these guys are clamoring for my attention.

It's getting crowded in here.

Joining the crowd is 'negative Jim' and 'positive Jim' and 'jovial him' with 'hysterical Jim' busily running around in frantic circles; you see how crowded it gets inside my head?

I have two people I'm forced to have a conversation with at one time; one exists outside my head in that place we call 'reality' and the one inside my head, which may or may not actually exist.

Give me a visual

Finally in frustration I say, "Guys, guys, guys ...hold it just a minute!"

- a brief pause followed by awkward silence

"One at a time I say!"

And that's when another little voice inside my head pops up to tap me on the shoulder.

"What is it?"

"Sorry to bother you but we have a message from Audio, apparently there's a loud disturbance taking place outside your head and it is only getting louder." - one eyebrow is raised

Sir ...sir?!!

"Whaa-at?! Can't you see we're having a crisis here?"

It's that pesky clerk again from the sensory department.

"Sir, I need to report a female in distress …squawk, repeat, a female in distress …hiss, more static …we have a woman appears to be agitated with menacing gestures..." - this particular version of me sounded like the metallic voice of a sanguine police dispatcher. He's not actually talking on a radio, that's just the way he sounds.

Another little voice pops up inside my head, tapping me on the shoulder.

"What now?"

"Um, sorry to bother you." I'm the emotional interpreter and I have to report someone outside your head is really starting to lose their temper."

"Really," I exclaim, as I rub my chin?

Another little voice pops up inside my head, tapping me on the shoulder to inform me. "This is a message from our sensors and someone outside your head is waving wildly her hands at you and gesticulating angrily?"

"Gesticulating," I scream. "What does that mean?" Vocabulary, bring up the definition for 'gesticulating'"

Like Mr. Spock, a calm emotionless voice intones "...It means waving one's hands and arms wildly while trying to communicate on a physical level, one that accompanies the verbal for emphasis. Usually accompanied by anger and sometimes extreme range."

"OK, Got it."

"Give me a visual?" Instantly projected onto my occipital lobes is an angry woman that looks vaguely familiar... "Isn't this sort of like just before the Klingons attack on Star Trek," I think to myself?

"Hmm ...where have I seen this woman before? Computer, bring up memory banks 1 and 2; let's see if we can place her?"

ID complete. The woman in question your wife!

"Whoo-oop. Whoop! Alert ....Alert. Wife is speaking!

"Oh, no. Have I already lost track?"

The world inside my head

"Oh no!" I finally realized I've done it again. My wife has been asking me a question and apparently I didn't answer correctly, and now she's angry because she knows I wasn't paying attention to her once -again. Suddenly all the voices inside my head begin to drown out while 'The Voice' outside my head gets distinctly louder.

Strobe lights and alarms are going off.

"Warning ...Warning ...Warning. The estrogen readings have exceeded dangerous levels.... Warning ....Warning ...Warning!"

Welcome back to the world outside my head.

You see, the problem is, I live in Two Worlds; the world inside my head and the world outside my head and I often have conflict between these two. For me, this explains why I typically do stupid or mindless things like put the cat in the refrigerator. If I only had to live inside one world, I could do a better job of being what people refer to as 'normal'.

Scenes like these are a glimpse of the mayhem, the pandemonium, that goes on inside my head when trying to pay attention.

You see, the problem is, I live in Two Worlds; the world inside my head and the world outside my head, and I often have conflict between these two.

The other day, at the burger place...

It's no wonder if suddenly I'm forced to interact with the world outside my head, you might get a stray remark directed to one of those other guys cluttering up my limited cerebral real-estate. The answer you get may depend on who inside my head happens to be yelling in my ear at that moment.

Yesterday, at the burger place, I was told it went like this...

"Mustard or mayonnaise," the nice girl at the counter patiently repeats her question to that customer with the glazed look in his eyes.

"Huh? Oh," I reply. "I'll take Geography for $200, Alex."

The look on her face tells me that was not the answer she was expecting. The next random thing that came out of my brain was the answer on a test in third grade I knew but couldn't remember at the time. "Eleven," I shout out loud. "The answer is eleven!"

She hastily hands me a dozen packs of each and tells me to have a nice day. The people behind me cautiously step away while exchanging nervous glances.

When it comes to conversation, I'm playing checkers, she's playing hop-skotch! My wife ...she can change direction in a conversation, swerving and careening carelessly from one subject to another, like a roller-coaster at an amusement park.

Honey? You left the cat in the fridge -again!

In fairness to myself and other pitiful creatures of the male gender, when women 'converse' you have to put aside the normal definition on conversation, i.e., two-way communication between competent adults.

A conversation with my wife is not a simple thing as it takes place on many levels simultaneously. Think of it as having an MMA match against multiple opponents in multiple rings, all at the same time; you begin to get the idea. There is The 'logical' level and there is the 'irrational' and then there's the 'emotional' aspect; don't forget 'dredging up the past' dimension followed by the impending 'lecture' components. No matter which way I turn, I'm caught in the briar patch with no easy way out -it's like being chased by a bear through a thicket, wearing only your boxers!

So you can see I have a lot to process at one time.

First, let me say I'm a 'one-thing-at-a-time' guy so don't give me too much. I'm sipping from the water fountain, so to speak, and she's opening up the fire hydrant! I'm playing with a squirt pistol and she's got the super-soaker.


Now I'm standing there, drenched head-to-toe and dripping with verbiage. I am simply not equipped to handle the volume or the velocity in the time frame she thinks I should.

And second, when it comes to information exchange, I'm playing checkers; she's playing hop-skotch! My wife ...she can change direction in a conversation, swerving and careening carelessly like a roller-coaster at an amusement park

So when I get distracted, or just too much is going on inside my head at one time, this may explain why I can do inexplicably mindless things which may defy logic.

This may even explain why I put the cat in the refrigerator.

My wife has yet to forgive me. And now the cat holds a grudge too!

© 2020 Jim Henderson


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