One of the things people have talked about over the decades is that silence is akin to agreement. “If you didn’t stand up and oppose the Nazis you may as well have joined them.” I’m sure we’ve all heard some variation on that.
And I’m sure we’ve all met the odd person who loves to mindfuck others. I mean, I’ll admit it. Sometimes I appreciate making a loaded statement and watching how people will cope with it. It goes back to knowing so many people who will try so hard to skirt the subject that they use a lot of words to say nothing. I guess trying to be polite will produce that. With some people I really like but don’t know well I’ll try to be more careful with my phrasing, so there isn’t a misunderstanding.
But often, it seems both the lack of words or the abundance of them contribute at the very least to misunderstandings.
Emails, blog posts, comments on listservs and forums… It’s all a bit of a bitch, really. Nobody can see the twinkle in the eye, the smile tugging at the mouth. I know I’ve said the odd thing people have taken me to task for being a smartass over, when what I actually said was born out of sincere affection.
Maybe I’m just hopelessly fucked up and would be better off not talking to people at all.
I’m not trying to be melodramatic here. Just honest. I know for myself that sometimes silence from a person speaks louder than anything. At a time when you’re feeling vulnerable it might mean they don’t care, at a time others are against you it might mean they are too.
Of course, it might mean nothing at all.
If you’ve got a strong relationship you go to the person and sort it out. If you don’t, well, if you’re me you let it twist your stomach into knots and agonize over it, wonder if they don’t want to see you or talk to you.
I’m bad for that anyway. I know some people who read my blog regularly find it hard to believe that I have any private fears, or that I struggle with being shy. A big part of the reason I’ve been online, on lists posting, not just lurking, is to try to combat that. I’m one of those people that will be a complete extrovert once I find my comfort zone with a group/person – I guess that’s my twin kicking in.
Until then, I guess I can seem cold, distant, detached. Snobby. Which is not my intention.
You know the things that stay with me, to this day? We used to do the competition circuit when I was a kid. Over the summer, all those weekends, fiddle and stepdance competitions. We’d see a lot of the same kids at different venues, and there were these triplets. Three brothers, but different personalities. All I remember is we were playing some large group game, and I crawled out of my shell long enough to invite one of the triplets to join.
I just happened to pick the one who never socialized.
I don’t even remember what I said, but I remember what I was wearing. I remember the look on his face and regretting I’d ever spoken to him. Others might be inclined to have called him a jerk. Instead, I felt like a loser.
Every year at school it was the cycle of friendships that plummeted to cliques and exclusion. I remember every summer I’d think that I should just spend recess reading. Books never hurt you, people did. I actually did become a library assistant and spent three years shelving books instead of hanging around outside all the time.
Of course I know that I did my share of hurting. There was a girl a year younger than me who got it worse than most people. The year I started high school I got pink eye. I went to my old school to say hi. This girl, still there, was going to lend me a brush. I took a paper towel so that I could hold it without putting any germs on it. She thought I was doing it because I didn’t want to touch anything she’d touched, and she started to cry.
Can you imagine what it’s like to feel like a leper? She knew how that felt. To think that she would believe that’s what I’d thought of her. What sins was I guilty of, by action or by inaction, that contributed to that belief? Makes me sick to think of it.
I think this is one of the reasons I really liked Michael Connelly when I heard him speak at Harrogate. The fact that he struggled with being shy was so obvious. It made it easier for me to put my reservations aside and introduce myself to him and shake his hand. I’m a bit defensive where he’s concerned (who me?) because I’ve heard others say he comes off as snobby.
Not snobby. Shy.
And to think that someone who’s had the success that he’s had wouldn’t feel enormous confidence! It’s easy for me to sit here, thinking he should never struggle with self doubt or fear that his work won’t be liked…
Part of the reason I’ve tried being vocal online is that it gives me a basis to talk to people. When I meet blog friends I already know things about them that I can talk to them about. None of that awkward ‘find your feet’ bullshit where you make polite small-talk until you can either escape or find a mutual interest you can discuss.
There are some people I agonize over every email, every communication with. The good news is, I only worry because I actually care what they think of me. I wish to God sometimes I didn’t care, that nobody had the power to hurt me. You know what the schoolkids say… sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.
Somehow, it’s those words that ring hollow And it’s all those nasty names that you can’t get out of your mind.
And sometimes, what lingers is the numbing silence of things unsaid, which becomes a playground for your insecurities.
There’s only one thing I know. Show me someone who’s never felt insecurity and you’ve shown me someone who doesn’t know what it is to be human.
This is super-cool: Young Adults reading.