8/26/2007 at 23:16
This is RIDICULOUS. Or I am.
Because either I have a cardinal and massive character flaw, or almost every person I know has a very specific area of complete imbecility.
I have had problems- many, many, many, many problems, especially of late- with people who try to read hidden meanings in what I say. This, despite peremptory, early, and repeated warnings that this approach does not work with me. Has never worked with me.
I almost never do subtext- I say, literally, exactly what I mean. I even have problems understanding things other people say, because I take them at their word- at the literal meaning of their word.
I say What. I. Mean.
Word. For. Word.
And I tend to expect others to do the same, especially since most people say that they do.
The conversation that brought my Uncle Justin to the decision, when I was 15, that he actually liked me as a person- and to beginning a friendship with me rather than just treating me as a niece (for an Indian man of his generation, that last word might as well read 'beloved pet')- went like this:
"So sweetheart, are you still seeing that Michael guy?"
"No- good grief. Mom told you he dumped me, didn't she?"
"Oh. [Pause, pause, pause.] Yes. She did. Are you all right? Breakups can be..."
"You mean being dumped."
"Yes. That. It can be hard."
"Yeah. He's a jerk. I'd love to conk him on the head. But I'll get over it. [Pause.] So what're you having for dinner? -Or are you skipping again?"
He started laughing. He laughed for a long time.
And told my mother later, "That girl doesn't mince words about anything, does she? I hope she stays like that." We've been friends ever since.
Incidentally, the 'almost' in 'almost never' is always a negative subtext. It's possible for those close to me to read in to what I don't say, though it's rare- very rare. But if I refuse to discuss a topic- and usually my refusal will be explicitly stated- there will be a reason behind the fact that I don't wish to discuss it with that person or at that time.
But what I do say? Precisely what I mean.
And I've had multifarious and complex and longstanding problems with people 'reading in' to what I say. It's broken up relationships of all kinds, both friendly and romantic. And I've been discussing this with two of my good friends for some time now, and was hanging out with one of them this weekend when I got a phone call from my mother. And picked it up.
"Hey, Sum. I just wanted to tell you that I know that we're going to Rome."
"Cool. So Uncle J told you."
"Yes. And he said you knew!" [This in an outraged, accusatory tone.]
"Mom. Of course I knew. I told you, quote- 'Yeah, I know where you guys're going. And I'm not gonna tell you.'"
"Yes- but- I didn't think that actually meant you knew!"
"But, Mom, I-"
"And you didn't tell me!"
"But I told you that I knew and wouldn't tell you! Of course that meant I knew and wouldn't tell you! If I hadn't meant that I knew and wouldn't tell you, I'd've said something else! After all this time you should've known that I meant exactly what I said!"
My friend was, of course, roaring with laughter by this time. I congratulated my mother once more, told her I'd call her later, and got off the phone. And got- "I told you! I TOLD you! People don't expect literal statements! If even your own mother can't always get that about you, how d'you expect other people who don't know you anywhere near as well to?"
And the answer is, of course, that I can't.
So I either treat people like they aren't equals worthy of honesty from me- in other words, like morons- and talk around them rather than to them, or resign myself to being nearly constantly misunderstood.
Sweet bloody monkey. Perpetually misunderstood because I say exactly what I mean. My name should've been Κασσάνδρα.
This is an absurdist's dream of nirvana. Kafka, Camus, and Beckett are wriggling in their graves in sheer delight.
Sometimes I really wish I weren't a human.
Is it bad, Scientiae, that I laughed at this? My apologies!
But I think that you and Immanuel Kant would have been easy friends because it seems you speak in categorical imperatives.
I'm obviously not so good at saying exactly what I mean. I've always believed that Tact was defined as the ability to tell someone to go to heck in such a way that they are thankful for the directions.
Perhaps I was overly influenced by reading, over and over, those stories about Tom and Huck by Mark Twain.
Cal, of course it's not bad. *looks mildly disgruntled* Though of course I hadn't intended that to be the overall impression... Yeah, I know the definition of diplomacy.
And I suck at it.
While I love Tom's blandishments, I more closely resemble Huck. Blunt, sometimes gormless... ah, hell. Like you needed me to actually say that.
But I'm glad this brightened someone's day.
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