Just to set the record straight, I am not referring to people that love to have conversations. I adore an intellectually or fun conversation. I am talking about people that really seem to lack the ability or perhaps self-control to stop themselves from talking. I have known at least four of these folks very well and three are relatives. The key difference with the non-related gabbster is that, unlike family, I eventually chose to break ties with her. I have also had a few dates with men that make others suffer from their talking affliction.
I will start with a chatty guy whom I had the misfortune of spending an evening. The scene played out something along these lines. I have never been out with a man named Zeke, so I will call this fictional, representative example dude, Zeke. Zeke represents my loquacious dates from Hell.
Zeke and I agree to meet for dinner since going to a movie or other type of show would not allow for conversation and a chance to get to know one another better. The date starts normal enough with us greeting each other and he offers one of the standard compliments that men like to give to women. “You look great, or pretty or hot or some other meaningless adjective, but he is being polite and I appreciate that. As the host walks us to our table Zeke engages him or her in a brief friendly chat asking them something along the lines of if they were having a good day or if they have worked long at this location. Thoughts pop into my head that he is a friendly person that likes to be considerate to folks that work in the service industry. Zeke earns a brownie point. Initially, I don’t notice too much about how he doesn’t really wait for the host’s response but proceeds to tell them some kind of short tale about himself that lasts until after we are seated and doesn’t stop until the host finally spews out the name of our server and how they will be with us in just a moment as they make a quick escape. I write the Chatty-Cathy verbalization off to first date nervousness and even appreciate the time to calm my own first date jitters.
Zeke turns his attention to me and asks a question about something like my line of work, hobbies, interests, kids….typical get to know you inquiries that also imply genuine interest. Zeke has just earned his final brownie point. My first cue should have been that I didn’t get to finish my first sentence because Zeke’s eye’s lit up as if new synapses in his brain have just found the cure for cancer.
Before retiring I made my living as a professional counselor so I became quite adept in the art of active listening. I didn’t even have to remind myself to focus and make mental notes about the things he enjoys, his accomplishments, his kids, his ex, his car, his job, his hobbies and all of his other stuff. I briefly had thoughts of things that I could add to the conversation but would soon push those thoughts aside and return my focus to Zeke’s babble. Again, I blame part of this on my profession and training to focus on the other person. Just because this was a date rather than a therapy session switching gears doesn’t come naturally. I think it is a lot like the way judges and cops don’t like to sit with their backs to the door and chefs can’t help but identify the seasoning and herbs swirled into dishes prepared by others. Sometimes even random people at places like ball parks tell me all kinds of things that I didn’t need or want to know. My ex-husband used say I had a little neon sign over my head that I couldn’t see but the unstable of the world could clearly read as saying, “Free therapy.”
By the time the check arrives Zeke wants to make plans for a second date while all I want to do is resist the overwhelming urge to poke myself repeatedly in the temple with a fork and escape to my own, very quiet home. The best thing about Zeke is that, unlike family, I can avoid him. I have met more Zeke’s than I care to recall.
Back to relatives. I don’t remember my sister being overly loquacious as a child. But when she popped back into the family after disappearing for years (we later learned she was vacationing at “Club Fed”) she had developed a quite impressive talent for talking without the need of pause to inhale, chew, swallow or even drink. Thank the Lord she lived 60 miles away and my parents knew to not share my address. Seriously, it was that bad.
At first I would answer all her phone calls. I still had landline back then and limited cell phone minutes so the call typically ended when my cordless handset was totally drained of battery and I felt equally lifeless. All I had to say was hello and every twenty minutes or so bleat out an uh-huh or a hmm. I suppose she liked having me listen and the calls became more frequent.
Due to the inate human desire to survive I learned a few tactics to shorten the calls, My favorite was to open my own front door and ring the doorbell. I could then blurt out, “There is someone at the door, I’ll talk to you later”. She wouldn’t stop talking to say goodbye but it helped ease my guilt when I would click the off button and return the handset to it’s cradle.
That, along with a few other tricks, helped until she caught on and started returning the call just moments later. Once in desperation I answered telling her that my husband and I were trying to have sex for the first time in a very long time and asked that she not call back for several hours. She didn’t miss a beat and informed me that in twenty minutes not only would we be finished but I would be showered and making dinner while he either napped or sat like a toad in front of a football game. I sadly realized that if we had actually been about to do the deed her time frame would have been spot on. That was when I quit answering her calls and praised the Lord for whoever invented caller I.D.
About 2 months later I felt guilty for not talking to her. I reasoned that she was lonely and I needed to be more compassionate and I answered the phone. Had she asked why I had not been taking her calls I was prepared to sarcastically remind her that my husband and I were having sex. She didn’t ask and immediately started to pour her verbal vomit into the airwaves. In desperation I put the phone down on the coffee table and went on with my house cleaning.
I truly felt bad when thirty minutes later I walked back into the living room and remembered the phone. I picked it up to click it off and heard a voice. It wasn’t the Lord admonishing me for my rudeness it was my sister’s voice coming through the phone. She had not even noticed that I wasn’t listening!
I experienced an epiphany moment! I said a quick mmm and put the phone back on the coffee table. I got dressed to go to the gym, put the dishes in the dishwasher and after wiping down the countertops I again picked up the phone. She was still going strong. I interrupted her announcing, “I need to go to the gym”. When she continued on as if I had said nothing I simply put the phone back on the table, picked up my gym bag and my car keys and went on with my life. At some point while struggling on the stair climber I wondered how long she would talk before she would realize the battery on my phone had failed, or maybe she wouldn’t notice and would continue to relish the confabulation.
I wonder if this could be hereditary. An aunt from my father’s side of the family has tried to reconnect. She sent a Facebook message letting me know she wanted me to tell her about how my niece had found her biological father. This was more recent and I made the call from my cell phone while also walking my dog.
She let me say two, possibly three sentences and then she opened the flood gates that must have been holding back years, perhaps decades of words. After thirty minutes of not getting to say a word I tried to steer the conversation back to the story she had said she wanted to hear. She didn’t even acknowledge the interuption and continued. I must say her lung capacity is amazing for an over 70 woman that smoked Camels for most of her life.
I relaxed my bicep and let the hand clutching the phone glide down past my hip where it picked up the natural sway of walking. I could still make out the words she was saying and a couple of times I even raised the phone back up to my ear because I thought she was going to let me speak but that didn’t happen. Eighty-four minutes later when my pooch and I had made it back to our home I brought the phone up to my face and told her that I had go and clicked it off.
Before I retired I would occasionally find myself trapped in my office by a nonstop talker. Fortunately for me, the receptionist was amazing and usually saved me. She would call into my office or tap lightly on the door to tell me I had a call I needed to take or that my next appointment had arrived. Of course there wasn’t a call or person waiting she was just rescuing me.
I decided this must be a type of mental illness but according to the DSM V it is just a symptom most likely frequently associated with anxiety or ADD. I have a theory that it can be a symptom or indicator of narcissistic personality disorder.
How would you or do you handle family or others that just won’t stop talking? Maybe the talker should start a blog. Hmmm, uh-huh, ok.
I will hush now before you label me as I have labeled others! Have a blessed day that includes some peaceful silence.
Thanks to Jason Rosewell, Corey Hearne, Cristen Hume, Kristina flour and Wynand Van Poo from Unsplash.com for allowing the use of their photographs.