Monday, February 14, 2005

Talking Points.

I have never gotten high on marijuana. I don’t say this out of some desire to eventually run for Congress (although I would appreciate your vote), or because I think that pot is from the Devil’s terrarium. Statistics prove that alcohol is a far more dangerous drug, both to the user and to bystanders, and I have been known to partake of that. No, the reason that I didn’t take up pot was that I kept hearing stories from peers and friends about being high. Specifically, about being high and obsessing over whether you were talking enough, or too much, or saying out loud what was meant to stay in your brain, or whether you were making any sense at all. And I thought, other people need drugs for that?

Let me describe myself as an introvert who talks loudly. I know I don’t appear to be the shy sort, but take my word for it. The socially awkward can hide nicely among their normal brethren, with nary a pocket-protector to clue you in. If I go to a party (and that is assuming that I haven’t feigned food poisoning), and you were to walk up to me and ask a question, I would answer it, comfortably and easily. Then I would then stand there, quietly freaking out because I would know now is the part where I ask you a question, and I just can’t do it. It seems intrusive. I’m not talking “Wow, you’re tall for a woman. You weren’t born male, were you?” I’m talking “So, how do you know the host?”

So what do I do with this toxic silence? I start blathering about myself, because talking about me isn’t intrusive; it’s just mind-bogglingly self-involved. Luckily, I live in Los Angeles. You’d have to set someone’s head on fire to light your own cigarette before your self-involvement was really noticeable. All the same, it’s irritating. I start jabbering to someone about myself, and since I have heard these stories a thousand times, not to mention lived them, my mind drifts. I come back a bit later and find that I am still talking. I am then filled with horror and remorse for having held this blameless person hostage to my five-part story of why I haven’t had my teeth bleached yet, and go buzzing away with only a mumbled “Yeah, um, excuse me”. I then hide in the guest bedroom until I've spent enough time at the party so I can leave.

Even when the situation requires nothing more than the least possible human interaction, I can find a way to extract a maladroit moment. Today, I was at the grocery store (side note-why do I end up going there every day? Am I the only one?), and the bagger asked me whether I wanted paper or plastic.

“Well, let’s see. I’m eating the salad here, and reading the magazine, but the fruit is heavy and I do have that salmon, so…plastic”.

Look, I’ve become an annoying elderly aunt! You know her, the one who is so starved for humanity she has taken to dressing her cat in doll clothes. The one who pays in pennies at the Piggly Wiggly, just to make the conversation with the check-out girl last a minute or two longer. I’d be less bothered if this were the first time I dragged some stranger into the minutiae of how I choose things. Sadly, it is not. I appear to be losing the ability to weigh decisions without hearing my voice.

But if I had to pick a favorite conversational peculiarity of mine, it would be the Stupid Question. Every living thing in my house has benefited from this talent. More than once, I have asked my daughter “Do you feel like throwing up?” when she was clearly unwell. Stupid Question. You either throw up or you don’t, and having the image of vomiting injected into your brain helps neither outcome. The only information that question has ever gotten me is that my daughter can scream “NO!” while nauseated.

I have said to the dog “Oh God, what are you eating?”, and actually waited a second for a response. Maybe someday she will look up and say “A little cat shit and half a dead bird”, but for now, Stupid Question. I ask Consort “Have you read these magazines?”, when any idiot knows that magazines aren’t for reading. They are for piling next to the bed, to create a shield in case of terrorist attack. Eventually, they are tall enough so that they can be used to build that home gym that I have always wanted. But, reading? Stupid Question.

The nice thing is, we’re aging as a culture. I am hopeless, but no one in my demographic is gaining brain cells. Soon, there will be millions of me.

They might have to give us our own grocery stores.


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