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.