04 August 2010

I'm not going to apologize

Dinner at Panera's was pretty quiet this evening. Well, our table was. I was eating with a husband and wife; she rarely lets anyone get a word in. Just a half hour previously, she was monopolizing the conversation as usual.

Without her streaming chatter, I realized just how quiet it could be. I asked the husband a couple of questions and he gave simple answers. I asked the wife a couple of things, but all I got were curt single word replies or nonverbal nods or head shakes.

I couldn't think of anything I'd done to offend her, so I thought, I wonder if her throat's sore. ... Maybe she's just really hungry?

I gave up on trying to maintain the conversation and decided to enjoy the silence for what it was, an unusual respite.

When we were back in the car, the banter picked up a bit, and I tried to ask a question for clarification.

"Don't speak for me, Claire," she said with a snotty inflection as we turned out of the lot.

So that's what this is about. I was dismayed because it meant she was angry with me and her quietness at dinner was some sort of sulking or intended punishment for me.

On the way to dinner, we'd been talking about portable phones. I asked, "Does it make a difference how far away from its base it is?" I was trying to troubleshoot a recent problem I'd had with the phone from the basement while I'd been using it on the second floor.

The husband said, "No, the only base that matters is the main one in the kitchen."

"We know that already," chastised the wife.

"I was just trying to clarify," he said.

The wife was saying something else, but I interrupted to say, "That is what I was asking. I didn't know that. Don't speak for me." My tone was not snotty, but I'm sure it sounded abrupt because I was trying to get a frakkin' word in. She did not seem in the least to notice that she had criticized him sharply over something trivial. I did not want to be lumped in with her in that instance.

As we continued the ride back, I discerned her other complaint. It really annoys her when I ask her to explain pieces of her stories. She has a habit of launching in without segue or context. At any moment, she could be relaying the plot of a novel, an article from the newspaper or CNN, or tales about individuals I may or may not know. Add to this her excessive use of unidentified pronouns and perhaps you understand my dilemma.

To make matters worse, sometimes I just don't clearly hear her first sentence. No matter how I ask her to repeat it, she says something different or launches into a lengthy explanation when all I want is to know 3 or 4 words I missed. That's probably frustrating for her in part because she may not recall what those initial words are.

What I've surmised at this point is that there are an awful lot of assumptions her husband must be making during her stories, if he's paying attention to them at all, because his hearing and listening skills are poor.

The irony is how often the wife goes on about her sister not listening to her or delivering monologues to her that cannot be interrupted. "She has in mind what she wanted to tell me, and it doesn't matter if I already know it."

Sigh. Pot, Kettle, Kettle, Pot.

Though it's counterintuitive, the solution seems to be: have less concern for understanding what she's saying. She does not appear to have any interest in dialogue anyway. Less questions, less details. More time for me to think about other things, I suppose.

Because I'm not going to apologize for standing up for my voice when it's attributed to words or actions I do not condone. And I'm not going to apologize for asking questions so that I can understand something better. Not going to happen.

It may be quiet for a while.

3 years ago on TTaT: It doesn't seem right, but it's true


  1. Yikes. Why are you friends with this couple?!

  2. Um, I may or may not be related to them, lol. It's gotten better since thankfully. Just keeping a low profile for now.