04 April 2007

8 and... [silence]

on many a drunken night in college and after, as i held drunken hands and steadied drunken steps, loquacious drunks said to somber, sober me: ooooooooline, I was the LIFE of the PARTY. why can't YOU be like that? why do YOU have to be SO QUIET? it's a question that has not gone away.

and the answer?

in the first grade, i talked nonstop. i hadn't yet learned to read. i hadn't yet discovered the value of slowing down and taking things in and working thoughts through before committing them to speech. i was actually told to be quiet, wasn't quiet, and was marched to the principal's office and forced to call my grandmother to tell her to make me be quiet.

because i am not quiet. i can command anyone's attention on paper and in certain crowds i whip out Chatty Caro without a second thought. because in certain crowds there is no need to hold back, to edit one's self. with certain people, i am at home and i am really me and the real me likes to talk.

it's all about context. you shape your speech to the situation. you contribute when you know you will be heard. you open your mouth when the words aren't going to be hitting a brick wall and when the person you're speaking to can look you in the eye.

and, admittedly, it is, to some extent, an act. i know when i've gone quiet and conversationally shut down. this is not something one does unaware, but an emotional armor that surfaces because in silence is safety. it's nearly as effective as the dumb girl routine and is often mistaken as such, which is perhaps why, when i do let go and open my mouth, smart girl comes flying back in response from stupid boys. i know, in some ways, i am to blame.

but here is my frustration. i have never once shouted at someone: you are too loud. you really just need to shut up. don't say anything. just be quiet. what is wrong with you, you stupid loud person? i would never dream of doing this because this would be obnoxious.

and yet, i am constantly judged by people who are louder than i. it is demanded that i fill conversational black-holes. that i say shit just for the sake of saying shit and carrying a conversation. that i speak up, be boisterous, be loud, be like them. if i am none of those things- either because of willful refusal or emotional defense- then they will not hesitate to tell me how i have failed.

and though i want to scream shut the fuck up, and go off and found a commune for people who won't judge others if they speak less than the chatterers deem permissible, i can't help but wonder if perhaps this is simply the natural dynamic that exists between the two conflicting personalities. the "loud" can't enjoy the silence and make conversational demands, leaving the "quiet" to rebel against the clamor and forever fall short.

and i don't know how we're supposed to get beyond that. because i don't think they're going to stop judging, and i'm not about to scream shut the fuck up.

at least not yet.


Bombsy said...

this is funny to me, because i don't see you as a quiet person...at all. i find you to be quite animated. the things you are saying often carry you right off the ground. i remember thinking you were awfully quite when first we met, but girl, it has been a long time since then.
i think youre dead on. as a loud(ish) person, i have had the opposite experience as you, starting out quiet and getting louder ever since. but it is easier for a loude person to shut up than it is for a quiet person to blaze forth. and what do we need all that boisterousness for anyway? what is this, a grade school talent show? when someone cannot shut up, it is very telling.

Bombsy said...


Unknown said...

to me there is and always will be something very sexy? sensual? alluring...yes, alluring about the quiet girl in the corner, the one lost in her observations with that knowing smile etched across her face.

i can't imagine ever asking her to speak up. rather, i want to only nod in her direction, have her nod back, accepting that me as that loud boy, me accepting her as that quiet girl that knows too much...and knows to keep it her secret.

oline said...

your comments always make me want to read your novels, prof. j.

bombsy, i think the minute mean allison dissed cleo and i knew you had people that sealed our fate. if someone's got people, there's no stopping the conversation- it's effortlessly epic and monumental and quite literally lifts you off your feet. and seriously, your "sprawling thoughts" get my post of the year award. L(NF).

Les Savy Ferd said...

things get MUCH trickier when you are the quiet boy. Because (stereotypically) boys are supposed to seek out and distract/entertain/bamboozle/make an ass out of themselves in front of girls (stereotypically), and many of these actions demand verbal pyrotechnics the likes of which I am incapable of. I can remember many a college party when I had not yet cultivated any sort of savoir faire, when instead of being (somewhat) pleasantly aloof and quiet I was merely awkward and painfully quiet, when instead of being able to talk about things, especially those things that interest me, if prompted and encouraged I would say the most ridiculous things, things sometimes the exact opposite of what i actually felt/meant/beliefed. As the slahes rain down upon these blogments I will now run for cover lest i get impaled/wounded/killed/skewered/defenestrated.

Les Savy Ferd said...

thats slashes, for those of you who don't spell it with a silent second 's'. heathens

Meggie said...

Maybe it's 'cause we've known each other for like 14 years but Caro, you are so not a quiet girl to me... That's like calling me quiet.

Oh, and I'm pretty sure you've told me once or twice that I'm too loud. *LOL* But more in a volume way.

oline said...

i figured that was probably the case, pirate. it's funny though because you were such a good friend during maph precisely because you were a guaranteed good convo at every event. no one else had that going for them.

meggie, i think it's because we came into each others lives at such an unfortunate hair time. i can't hold back with someone who stood by me during that.