This one is kinda bleak, but it’s also true. I’ll admit that the title is a little over the top, but hear me out: People mostly talk to throw their own voice into the mix. Maybe they just love the sound of it, maybe they have something important to tell (according to themselves), maybe something really funny happened or maybe they just need to get something off their chest. Either way, they aren’t doing for your benefit; they’re doing it for their own.
We all know the old adage, and like many, I’ve grown sick and tired of having conversations where people just talk to hear their own voice. Couldn’t we rather enjoy the silence for once, huh? On certain days, this gets so bad that I just decide to keep my mouth shut. And people don’t really seem to notice it, because they’re all busy talking about their own things. But then suddenly someone sees me, and feel the need to tell me that I’ve been quiet lately. ‘Well, you know what? It sounds like you people pretty much got this covered. I’ll be over here with my thoughts . . . they ones you just interrupted to tell me that I’m being quiet.’ I’ll admit once again that I’m being bit of a negative Nelly here. People talk to one another (or past one another); it’s how we pass the time. If the conversations are boring, I can either try to contribute or I can leave. Sometimes, I kinda feel like the angsty teenager that wants to get invited to the party just so he can decline the invitation. But there is more to this. I can endure boring small-talk as well as the next person, but when people make the conversation about me when I’m not participating, I get pissy! And you wouldn’t find me nearly as complacent and non-threatening when I’m pissy! (Working on a punchline for a superhero . . . how’s that one?) I’ll try to explain:
This topic is the very reason it’s been so long since my last post. I’ve been working on an explanation for quite some time, trying not to come off as some anti-social, too-intelligent-to-have-a-normal-conversation, hater. (First time for everything, right?) I think the most neutral thing I can boil it down to is this:
The world has already been perceived one way, and most people aren’t looking to change that view; they’re looking to reinforce it. And that goes doubly for their view of you. (Or other people in general.) We’re all desperate to fit those around us into neat little boxes, like some cheap-ass fucking IKEA-display. And just like IKEA, these boxes are one size. We don’t bother with bigger boxes, we just force people into those we already have.
Take me, for instance. It has been decided for me, that I’m a ‘cat-man’ (not a superhero, just interested in cats). This happened because I showed a few pictures of our cat to my colleagues when I started here. It wasn’t spontaneous or unprompted; the others were talking about cats, and I joined in the conversation. Now, whenever someone saw a picture or video of a fucking cat on the internet, they have to shove their damn cellphones in my face at lunch. ‘Look at this, Robert! Since you have a cat, you’ll obviously enjoy this picture of a random kitten taken in 2009!’ (Also, put your fucking cellphones away during lunch break!) It’s also been decided for me – and my wife, I suppose – that soon I’ll have 3 kids and an ugly minivan. This is usually followed by raw laughter, and punctuated with, ‘Just you wait!’ What the fuck is that supposed to mean? And when I don’t have an eloquent response to this, the follow up is usually, ‘Oh, you’re sweating now, aren’t you?’ No I’m fucking not! I’m trying to ignore you people blatantly meddling in affairs you know nothing about. (This will be covered more in a later post.) Things including my wife or parents bother me even more, because people have already decided what wives and husbands and parents are like as well. Someone will be leafing through a magazine for some supermarket, and suddenly go; ‘Oh! Maybe you should get one of these, Robert!’ And it’ll be a fucking expensive drill or a jackhammer or something, and that’s supposed to be funny because I’m a guy, huh, huh. When I don’t respond, the conversation usually carries on without me. ‘What would the missus say? Huh, huh.’ The worst part is that when I say something along the lines of, ‘That’s not very funny.’ or, ‘You know what? I’m not that interested in cats!’ You can practically see the damn blinds go down!
And that’s the part that made me write this. Those fucking blinds, when their eyes just fade and lose focus. They’re simply not interested anymore, all because you didn’t reply like they fucking wanted you to! What kinda piece of shit way is that to carry a conversation?
‘Hey! Here’s a statement mocking a trait you don’t have!’
‘That’s not funny.’
‘Oh! Haha!’ *curtain goes down* ‘Let me turn to this person instead and say something similar.’
‘. . .’
We are human beings sitting in the same room talking about stuff. If you’re going to attempt a conversation with me, at least let it actually be one! Don’t interrupt me for a one sided joke that’s inaccurate as all hell! Are you really so obsessed with hearing your own voice that you have to invent some psycho inside joke, based on a version of me that never existed?
And what about me? Am I any better? No, probably not. Like I said, I’ve been trying to shut up more, but eventually someone drags me into a conversation, or I, myself, start gabbing off about something important to me. My wife has observed that I can be pretty condescending and mean-spirited when talking to people, but when they ask about my stuff (my book, in particular), I light up like a goddamn Christmas tree. We all want to talk about ourselves . . . it’s who we are most interested in, I’m afraid. In my own narcissism and self-obsession, it can also be difficult to see what kind of picture I present of myself. Maybe I’ve talked more about my cat than I think. Maybe I will buy an ugly minivan at some point. The really, really bitter downside here is that I find myself wanting to be left alone, rather than try to engage in conversation. I don’t want a mundane and shallow exchange, I want to talk about real things with people that know me and understand what the hell I’m saying!
Ending on a brighter note, there are exceptions to this. Many conversations you have throughout the day will be meaningful, and most of the ones you participate in willingly will at least give you something if you let them. The people who pull stunts like this might also have some words of wisdom for you during the next lunch break, and likewise; those who always share meaningful stuff might sometimes slip and fall into the, ‘Hey! You fit into these parameters,’ trap. Just try to avoid the pitfalls, and shut up once in a while!
Stay strong out there, folks. It’s a doggy dog world, and I’m a cat person! (Apparently)