Saturday, November 27, 2010

Girl, Interrupted


In my teen years I remember confronting my family about the issue of interrupting.  To be more specific, I confronted them about their tendency to interrupt me, almost everytime I opened my mouth.  In the car, at the dinner table, playing games, watching television; as long as we were in a group I couldn't get a word in edgewise. 

My stories would go something like this:

"Oh! That reminds me."  Everyone looks at me, as they should look at someone who is adding to the conversation.  "Today at school, I was at my locker and Myranda came up to me--"

Brother:  "Hey mom, did you know that frogs are amphibians?"

Mom:  "I did know that.  Hold on, your sister was talking."

Me:  "Okay, I'll make this quick....anyway, Myranda walked--"

Brother 2: "We learned about amphibians in Kindergarten.  You are just now learning about amphibians?"

Brother 1: "No.  Just more about them....we learned about them years ago."

This usually went on endlessly.  I would try focusing my story on a person in particular, making eye contact with a member of my family and finishing the story.  That member would usually get pulled into another conversation or would get up from wherever we were sitting to multi-task...

Member of my family:  "uh huh....I'm listening.  Keep talking."

So I would.  I would follow people around the house and try to tell a story.  It was very overstimulating.

Back to the confrontation.  I remember sitting at the bar area in the kitchen.  My mom was sitting near me, my dad was going back and forth from the kitchen to the living room.  There were probably 4 of 5 brothers in the dining room....a lot was going on.  I had been sharing a story or a comment or something with everyone during a conversation and people were dispersing or starting up new conversations and I felt my chest tighten.  I blurted out, "Do you people realize that I can't finish one thing I say?  You are rude! I'm adding to YOUR conversation.  You interrupt me everytime I talk--and I don't even talk that much!  I'm like the quietest girl on the planet!"


Then, laughter.  My brothers: "Ha ha ha!  Whatever! We do not!"  My parents: "What?  No, we are trying to listen to all of we really interrupt/ignore you?"

I learned growing up that if I wanted to say something I had to make it quick and to the point. Wasn't it Pavlov who eventually trained a dog to salivate just by hearing a bell ring?  Well, I'm that dog.  I learned to be quiet when in group settings.  My bosses love my presentation method- quick and to the point; my dates think I'm lame because I don't do well with small talk.  I blame my family (and I say this half-heartedly--at this point, they truly did not realize how much they interrupted me).  I am this way with even my best friends, extended family, etc.  You know this, if you've ever had me over for dinner.  I don't say much, not because I haven't anything to say, but because I fear being tuned out.

After I explained my family member's behavior to them, they started noticing over the course of a week or so that it was true.  Then, it became a fun game for them. They would watch and wait for my mouth to open and the quickly, they would say something as loud as they could over me.  It was funny for about 1 minute and then I usually just went to my room to listen to music.

The positive result of the confrontation was that I could, when interupption was occuring, put my hand up and say, "Please.  Just listen; you are interrupting me again."  I would finish my story and then we would all move on.  Sometimes, I would preface a statement or story by saying, "okay, this is important.  Just don't talk until I finish.  I will make it quick."

On Thursday, my eldest brother and his wife had my parents and brothers over for a more intimare Thanksgiving celebration.  We had already had one with extended family members.  It's been nearly 10 years since we all lived at home together and probably 12 years since the confrontation.  My conversations with my immediate family have been one on one or in smaller groups since then since we all live far apart.

The topic of conversation suddenly sparked a really funny story about something that happened at work, so I waited my turn and then started telling it.  About 1/4 of the way through, my nephew started running around the table, being cute.  Then, one brother started talking across the table to another.  My sister-in-law got up from the table and went to the kitchen.  There was noise and commotion everywhere and me trying very calmly to talk over it....and then.....I just stopped.  I just quit talking and went back to eating and no one noticed.  About 5 minutes later, my brother Roger said, "Hey, weren't you telling a story?"

"Yeah.  But no one was listening."

Roger: "Finish it, it sounded funny..."

I perked up, "Okay!  Well, anyway, my boss was walking out and he said--"

Brother 2:  "You told me this story on the phone..."

"I know I told YOU....but I didn't tell them and it's funny, right?"

"Yeah it was funny.  Go ahead."

And by then, I was so freakishly exhausted from trying to converse with my family that I decided not to finish my story.  I would just eat pie.

The moral of the story is:  Just eat pie.

1 comment:

  1. Are you serious!?!?!?! That stinks! I know in my family we'll usually have 2 or 3 conversations going at once, and the weird thing is that we can all listen to and absorb them all at once it seems! Every once in a while though, one of us will say, "HEY! I was talking first! Save it!"