“I am watching you watch me finish my last sentence just so you can keep talking.”
A world in which I am an extrovert
who is extraordinarily good at small talk.
In this world, I am at a birthday party or a wedding
and rolling off hilarious anecdotes because I am witty and quick
and such a stimulating conversationalist, and it’s easy for me to remember
every interesting experience I’ve ever had in my entire life
that might make the other person laugh
because I am not wondering how on earth I didn’t see the stain on my pants
when I got dressed this morning,
or why my voice is suddenly several octaves higher than usual
if they can notice that I really don’t want to be here
and that I would much rather be in my bed
listening to soundtracks from 1940s musicals–
No! I am in the moment.
Because being around people doesn’t make me feel like I’m a juice box
that someone is drinking way too fast.
No, it makes me feel like I’m a water balloon
that has swelled just enough.
So I am spitting out small talk,
and I definitely do not just say, “Yeah” and then sit in screeching silence,
mushing peas with the prongs of my fork.
No, in this world you comment on the flavor of the pasta
and I comment on the flavor of the chicken
because I am extraordinarily good at small talk
and I am extraordinarily good at
not talking about anything worth talking about.
And we are extraordinarily good at not actually hearing each other
and so we may as well be under water puckering fish
with mouths opening and closing,
and I am watching you watch me finish my sentence
just so you can keep talking which is to say maybe the real reason
I don’t talk more is because you don’t listen enough.
And I may not be extraordinarily good at small talk,
but at least I can listen.
I learned that from my mother, also an introvert.
My mom knows how to listen because she, like me,
has used her butter knife to carve space in the lunch table for the extroverts
and folded her lips with her napkin.
I don’t always speak up because I’m worried that I’m not interesting enough
so I stay quiet for people who are in love with the sound of their own voice
so much that they don’t mind if it bores us.
And I collect jars full of the unsaid, every joke I worried wasn’t funny enough,
every observation I thought was stupid and empty them for my mother
because she always makes me feel interesting.
She wraps her green eyes around me like I’m in color
but the rest is black and white
and she tells me my voice is bigger than most people give it room for.
And I happen to think I’m pretty interesting
and if you stop chattering long enough for the air to settle,
you’ll discover that I’ve had the words all along,
and they’re just as rich and rounded as yours.
And even if I’m not the most interesting part of your day,
I think I deserve to feel like I am.
(applause and cheers)
Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood
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