Monday, 28 December 2009

A Very Controversial Post about Talking

As you might be able to guess from my tremendous blogging output, I talk a lot. I also talk quickly. Observations and opinions zoom through my head and, with a quick adjustment for the mot propre, out through my mouth.

One of my great joys in life is meeting up with female friends for a solid afternoon of chat. In my mind's eye I see myself in The Rosedale Diner with three of my closest friends and we are talking nineteen to the dozen. Oh, sigh. Such remembered bliss. At the time I was sketching out (->this) article; I had notes on a piece of paper and we all discussed them. It was heaven.

There is some (->debate) amongst scientists as to whether women talk more than men do. One study said that women speak an average 20,000 words a day whereas men speak only an average 7,000. However, other scientists thought this was ridiculous, for their findings were that women average 16,215 and men 15,669. But they did confirm that women tend to talk more about people and men more about things, so that stereotype turned out to be true.

The study also showed that, of course, some people talk more than others. The most taciturn man spoke only 500 words a day, and the most verbose man spoke 47,000. Maybe he was a university lecturer with a crushing schedule, or an auctioneer. Maybe he was a blogger whose computer had been taken away.

I cannot be certain, but when in good health and out in company, I might be one of the world's big talkers. I remember telling a kindly university admin I was working for that I had a date that night and she said, in a pleading kind of voice, "Let him talk!"

Well, that brought me up short. I knew my mother thought I talked too much and too quickly, but I hadn't yet got this opinion from anyone else. I forget if I remembered to let "him" talk on the date--probably. I don't like going anywhere with non-talkers, male or female: it is embarrassing having to do all the talking myself.

Now here is the super-controversial part: when I first arrived in Scotland to meet British blog friends, I was absolutely exhausted. I was much too tired to talk. After all, I had had a seven hour flight to Gatwick and then a two hour bus ride to Victoria station, and then a ten hour bus ride to Edinburgh. When I arrived at St. Andrew's Square bus terminal, it was all I could do to articulate to my funny host in the eye-popping tweed jacket, "I would like a meat pie and a glass of ale."

Off we went to a pub for this meat pie and glass of ale. B.A. (for of course it was B.A.) burbled hospitably about mutual friends, and I concentrated on my meat pie and ale, saying only "gracious!" and "how nice!" And when we took a cab to the Historical House, out of which B.A. makes his living, I was rendered speechless.

For about ten days or so, I said comparatively little. First I was too tired. Then I was too culture shocked: I mostly just gazed and listened, which is what I do around new people and in new places. Finally, I caught a really bad cold. It was while I had this cold, and was sitting up straight, listening intently to someone's anecdote about Maurice Bowra, that B.A. fell in love with me. And at the end of these quiet ten days, B.A. proposed marriage.

Shortly thereafter I went to Germany. I wasn't tired, I wasn't in a new place, and I was over my cold. Furthermore, I was in love. And my poor German friends had to hear about it. I talked and talked and talked and talked until poor Volker, with whom I was staying, begged me to call a female friend over his Skype.

I only once telephoned B.A. from Canada during our engagement. This was not because of The Rules but because it was my parents' phone, and they would have slaughtered me had I called up the U.K. more than once. So B.A. did all the telephoning and therefore initiated all conversations. And it was usually I who ended them, sometimes with a hurried, "I'm sorry. It's dinner. I have to go. Bye!"

Reader, I married him. And then, freed from exhaustion, culture shock, and reliance on the telephone, I began to talk as much as I normally do, which apparently was a shock for B.A., who, after all, is used to a quiet bachelor existence. However, it was too late. He is stuck with me. Ah ha ha ha ha ha!

But being a kindly wife, I now try to keep a lid on my natural tendency to let all my thoughts flow from my teeming brain into the outside world by mouth. Marriage entails sacrifice, after all. And meanwhile I have my writing, which is merely talking by other means.

I am sure there are controversial conclusions to be made from this story, but if I make them, Alisha is sure to dance on my head, metaphorically speaking. So I will only hint that

1. in conversations with attractive people one ought to LISTEN quite as much as one TALKS

2. men are more stimulated by visual stuff then by conversation, but women are the opposite, so clever men ask women questions about themselves and try to remember the answers while clever women make the most of their visual appearance

3. despite apparently talking as much as women do, men-in-general do not enjoy talking about love, attraction, and wedding dresses quite as much, if at all.


Dominic Mary said...

The only thing to do with anecdotes about Maurice Bowra is to listen to them ! (Was it the one about the towel over his head ?)

Talking too much is painfully easy if you have a fertile and active mind; the only things which excuses you doing it is if what you say is entertaining, or informative, or both . . . and if you talk the way you blog, then I'd say you were fairly safe !

Alisha said...

Ha ha! Nope, no metaphorical dancing - sounds quite reasonable to me: listening from both parties is awesome, men asking intelligent questions or giving intelligent questions is way more awesome than just feeling like the guy is more interested in me than the conversation (why bother talking? my brilliant insight is going out the window! lol) and as for #3, I'm rather in this camp myself so am sympathetic to that :)

The Sojourner said...

I think some people can go an entire day on 500 words and then the next day push 47,000 words. This goes for women as well as men. I don't talk much in general, but the first time I met my boyfriend I was nervous and babbling a mile a minute to cover it. His first impression: "I'd like to get to know this girl, if I could ever get a word in edgewise." Some months later, he discovered that I am very good at sitting and nodding while he pontificates.

I would also add, based on my experience with said Boyfriend, that men do not enjoy being commanded to talk. If one simply must have conversation, call up one's girlfriends.