Communication Kills

I was in high school when I first heard the term “prairie dogging” in a movie. A girl shouted it while sticking her head out the car window. I assumed it meant the act of sticking your head out a car window. I used to think oral sex was talking about sex. Given that oral reports are spoken reports, I still don’t think I’m wrong.

I used “ad nauseum” in conversation the other day — correctly, but when confronted about what it meant all I could think was “it’s the right word for the context”. On the other hand, I’ve been using “non sequitur” wrong for years.¬†Once in high school I ruined an entire ski weekend by holding onto a joke for too long. One friend wouldn’t speak to me for the entire next year.

I’ve chronicled my misadventures with “Netflix and chill” before, so now I’m beginning to wonder: how many things out there are things I don’t properly understand?

This past week I did laundry at a friend’s house and accidentally left my bra there. I texted asking, “did I leave my bra there?” and got a response back of, “yes, I’m wearing it.” I told this story to four different women who all enjoyed the implied punchline. When I told this story to two men their response was “ew gross” and when I explained she was kidding they responded with “well women wear each other’s clothes all the time”.

Speaking is hazardous because speaking implies understanding of your audience, their situation, and your relationship to them. Speaking, at the least, implies you have a good valid reason to be opening your food hole. I’ve heard we get better at this with age. As yet, I’m no walking advertisement for it.

At least twice a week I urge myself to shut up and let other people talk. I realize that my overabundance of words creates an atmosphere of expectation. Now I am EXPECTED to always talk. It is ASSUMED. If there’s something to be said, I will say it, don’t worry. If I DON’T say anything, there’s probably something wrong with me. A glitch in the constant stream of words finding an outlet from brain to lips — hopefully from brain to lips.

If I had to lose a native ability, I wouldn’t mind losing speech. i’d mind losing my ability to hear and my ability to see, my ability to touch, but I wouldn’t mind a tremendous amount about a loss of speech. I think it’d be good from me. I’m definitely someone that should get a severe case of laryngitis at least once a year just to let the people around me have a chance.

And yet. talking is how I relate. It’s even sometimes how I pay attention. If I finish your sentence for you it’s not because I want you to stop talking, I just want to make sure I’m paying attention and keeping up with you. If I crack jokes before meetings it’s to help make the meeting go more smoothly. If you share a sad story, I’ll share one in return — not to make comparisons, but to encourage, to plumb deeper into what’s happening in your life.

Those moments when I say something rude, tactless, inappropriate, awkward, offensive, sarcastic, stupid… I don’t know what to tell you about those. I could blame genetics for some of it. I could blame a sheltered upbringing, if I was really reaching for a reason, or I could blame a dirty mind. But there’s something in me that’s intrigued by the idea of abruptly ending a conversation and ruining the atmosphere for everyone. Well, something must enjoy it. I ruin too many conversations for it to be anything other than deliberate intent.

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