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(Sort of) An Apology to my Husband
My husband hates it when I use examples of our life in my writing. This makes writing a bit difficult since the majority of my life is spent in his company and things happen that I want to write about. Occasionally I’ll write about it anyway and think, “to hell with his grumbling!” as I carefully edit out any reference to his existence. But it’s awkward at best.
Not this time though. I’m not going to back down from writing what is on my mind at the moment. Perhaps my defiance is simply the residue of yesterday’s anger…but I think not. It’s probably just an apology…but in a more comfortable format.
Words Du Jour
My husband has recently taken an interest in Face Book and googling planet Earth to see his childhood home. Friends from his past are popping up at an alarming rate along with the long-winded details of how they were met, what they are doing now…the inevitable walk down memory lane. In my case, it’s more like a drag down memory lane as I go kicking and screaming.
He isn’t the only one. This forum which has opened a door onto our pasts, reconnecting us with people that we might have only had to tolerate during dreaded high school reunions, seems to be drawing a lot of people into its fold. Even my oldest brother, the most cynical and cantankerous fart you could ever hope to meet, has succumbed. Just today I received an e-mail from him exclaiming over a friend he had once known nearly forty years ago contacting him via Face Book.
Despite the peer pressure I’ve been receiving to join the fun, I’ve resisted. It’s not that I’m immune to the idea of finding out whatever became of Lopsided Lydia, the girl who stuffed toilet paper into her bra in the fourth grade (and not very successfully…hence the nickname) but because I actually might. For me, memories are sacred things…and as a grown-up, Lydia might not be all that interesting which would ruin the picture I have of her in my mental photo album.
And there you have it…the basic ingredients for an all out battle between the two most pigheaded people on the planet…my husband and me.
My day had been relatively uneventful and therefore, I was in a pretty darn good mood when I arrived home. I cleaned up a bit in the kitchen, made myself a cup of coffee turned on the computer. In other words…my typical routine. As I was pouring myself a fresh cup of coffee a bit later on, rolling ideas around in my head for what I was writing, my beloved mate arrived home. A bit distracted with my own thoughts, I greeted him and began walking back to the computer.
My husband had assumed because I was standing in the kitchen at the time of his entrance, that I was available to listen to him speak. He is a multi-tasker…I am not. A part of me did hear the words and then stored them for processing at a later date, because I can give you the gist of it even if I can’t remember the particular names of the persons involved. It had to do with a friend he hadn’t seen for eons that contacted him via Face Book…and that friend knew of another friend who had disappeared and then been found in the form of bones at a later date.
The tale seemed to conclude around the same time I sat back down in front of my computer. At least, my husband concluded that it did since he retreated into a sullen but oddly palpable silence. Ironically, this silence did to me what his previous words did not. It got my attention.
According to him, it was rude of me to walk away in the middle of a conversation. At the time, I was far too angry to see things from his point of view…but I can see how if you assume we were having a conversation, my behavior could absolutely be considered rude. However, I don’t believe we were having a conversation…which started me thinking…
While I can’t claim to be an expert on conversation, relying on others to philosophize on its roots and its effect on society as a whole, I’ve participated in quite a few. My mother loved a good one…while my father demanded complete silence during a family meal, with the exception of a “please pass the potatoes” once in a while. It was interesting to see which parental force would win for the evening, for my mother thought nothing of defying my father’s irrational decree. To be fair, our conversation was more debate than discourse. My mother was very skillful at maneuvering my father into unwittingly taking the opposition in any discussion, so it was always a lively affair. If the conversation became overly heated (on my father’s side) it was quickly ended as he angrily slammed his plate down and stalked out of the room. It wasn’t quite a food fight, but there were times when I had to remove peas and carrots from my hair.
There were really only two occasions when conversation was frowned upon by my mother. One was when the television was on and the other when she was reading a book. Other than that…you were fair game. My sisters and I often laugh when recalling the number of times that we would excuse ourselves, only to find our mother following us to the bathroom…still talking. Not wanting to be rude, but really not wanting to hold a conversation while sitting on the toilet or even through the bathroom door in between grunts, we’d gently but firmly remind her of social boundaries.
My mother gave great conversation though. Even on the phone…she could talk to virtually anyone. In fact she did. I remember one afternoon she hung up the phone laughing and told me she’d just had an hour-long conversation with a man she didn’t know. They were enjoying the conversation so much that it had taken them both that long to realize he had dialed the wrong number.
Because of my mother, I know what a conversation should be…and conversely, what it isn’t.
According to some experts, the art of conversation has been dying for a long time. The Victorians blamed its impending demise on books, writing and even the invention of better home-lighting which facilitated still more reading and writing. In the somewhat recent past, fingers were pointed at radios and televisions for obvious reasons. And as if these were not enough to entertain us, we now have the computer, cell phones, Ipods, Blackberries, Wii and Xbox. So many distractions but still only the same twenty four hour period in each day to make use of them.
Something had to suffer.
What a different world we live in today than even a hundred years ago. Some of my most treasured memories are of times spent in the kitchen with my mother. The recipes were often faded and rather vague in regard to quantities and technique…which often happens after they’ve been handed down through several generations. The only way to actually learn it was to gather the information directly from a human source. To me…that is the heart of conversation…an intimacy between two or more people that no amount of texting can accomplish. I realize that nowadays, Grandma Gookins could easily slap up a website and blog her secret goulash recipe…but it’s just not the same.
So are we in danger of losing the art of conversation? I don’t think so...it’s changing, but it’s still there. Countless chat rooms have been created just so people can connect verbally in a textual format. There are talk radios and talk shows. My youngest sister spends a lot of time bantering back and forth with her friends on a pink Blackberry. Everyone still has something to say judging by the trend to blog or write on innumerable subjects.
What I believe we are in danger of losing is the human element in conversation…the intimacy of it. I know I’m guilty of what I like to call hit and run conversations where an unoccupied millisecond is all I need to blurt out something important to me before the commercial is over and the show is back on. But even that is slowly being lost thanks to TiVo and my husband’s ability to fast-forward through the commercials.
There’s so little time to communicate face to face…that when we do get the opportunity there’s a tendency to forget that a conversation requires both a speaker and a listener equally exchanging ideas. Instead, we get angry and frustrated because we feel that nobody is listening. Whether we feel unheard or simply unacknowledged, it leads to the conclusion that a person is not important enough to merit the attention of another.
In the case of my husband, this simply wasn’t true. I cannot think of anyone on this planet that is more important to me than he is. He’s also a great conversationalist….intelligent, interesting and humorous. And while I will accept full responsibility for my apparent rude behavior…I’m simply pointing out that there are mitigating circumstances. Computer technology, reality shows, books and halogen track lights are to blame. We are both victims…
What do you say we just grab a pint of Ben & Jerry’s….curl up on the couch and talk about it?