What Did You Say?

Of all the skills required to maintain healthy, happy, human relationships we are by far and away the worst at communication. Should be a simple concept. You talk I listen, I talk you listen. We both understand what the other needs and are motivated to cooperate. In reality you talk, my eyes glaze over. I talk, you worry about what’s for dinner. We all talk, no one listens, everyone is confused and distinctly not cooperating.

A week after Thanksgiving I came home with a pie I found on the markdown shelf. These people had been eating homemade pie for 7 days, but I couldn’t resist the bargain basement price of $.75. Joe’s frugality is rivaled only by his sweet tooth so he was duly impressed. His only question was why I didn’t take bigger advantage of the sale. I tried several times to explain but his Uzi like diatribe blew that part of the conversation out of the water. Just when I thought I couldn’t be anymore frustrated, Tessa, who was not only in the same room during the conversation, but with me at the store when I bought it and the one to carry it in from the car took advantage of his need to reload before I could and and piped in, “We have PIE?!”

Children are a gimme. We didn’t listen to our parents before it was too late and the children are certainly not going to listen to us. According to recent research this is due to a very real lack of brain development. I don’t care what anyone says I’m not buying that one. I am much more convinced it is due to the traditional and very potent curse, “I hope you have a child just like you!” I admit, I don’t know nothin’ from brain cells, but I remember the day I ignored my Mom putting that one on me. The children are aged 10 to 22 and I didn’t have to be paying attention for that sucker to stick.

Personally, I have a bad case of Someone Says…I Hear…Disease. I hear the words that are spoken but feel obligated to put my own interpretation on them. “We missed you at church last week.” Means “Heathen!” “Are you feeling OK” translates to “Wow you look like shit!” I can’t leave out “You look great!” The women out there all know this means we looked fat the last time they saw us. The worst is if Joe should ask me if I remembered to get something done. Jeez, what does he think? I am not stupid. It’s not my fault he mumbled when he asked for dental floss.

He and I suspect, most men are afflicted with I Heard You But Can’t Be Bothered to Retain It Disorder. I know, indeed, that he hears me on some level. He acknowledges and even comments on what we are discussing. We don’t see much of my parents. They live out of state. Joe loves my parents. He considers my Dad a comedy super-genius and thinks Mom is more than a little hot. Whenever I get the news that one, the other or both are coming for a visit it is what he calls “Big-E” news. He wants to know when they will be here, how long they can they stay, can he pick them up at the airport and what the occasion is. He has never failed to be pleasantly surprised when they show up.

Our remote controls have mute buttons, our earbuds drown out the world and voicemail makes short work of the people we can’t be bothered to even pretend to listen to. The whole thing makes you wonder whom we think we are kidding by wearing our cell phones around in our ears.


Beyond Bah Humbug

One week and half before Thanksgiving, Tessa and I were driving across town. Sighing deeply, the ten-year-old shook her head and informed me she was just about fed up with people jumping the gun with the decorative lights. Not that they aren’t pretty, but a brightly-lit nativity next door to a pumpkin display was more than she could take. In case you have never met one, a child coming up on Christmas is greedier than Wall Street. This one told me things are out of control. It’s official. The world has lost its mind.

First of all Christmas has become a badly behaved guest. Purporting to be “the most wonderful time of the year” you invite him for December and he shows up in October. He kicks Halloween out of the house and steamrolls poor Thanksgiving who is quietly hanging on trying to celebrate family and contentment. If the Fourth of July puts away the cannons we might as well give up and relocate to North Pole with the elves.

Then there are the parties. We have one annual commitment that makes us all crazy. It is the usual, not optional, predictable bad chain of events that everyone hates but is too intimidated to blow off. While all these events are less than entertaining, this one is special. The invitation arrives with the expected pot luck requests and an invoice. Required to attend please don’t forget your cash fee for party hall rental and Santa sack full of mandatory gifts. PS No cocktails allowed…ho…ho…ho.

How’s the shopping working for you? Don’t lie. You waste valuable family time in front of the fire, driving like a kamikaze and maneuvering the mall like an Army Ranger all for the privilege of buying a half-priced, over-priced, stinky candle for nutty Aunt Meg, who hates to dust and doesn’t want it anyway. Her contribution to the insanity is forgetting which stinky candle you gave her last year and wrapping it up before she gives it back. On second thought she may not be so nutty after all.

The psychology of this event is so pervasive even my nephews have been caught in the net and they’re Jewish. Poor Jesus. God sacrifices divinity to live as a man. Now that was a Christmas gift. Somewhere along the line we allowed that concept to be swallowed up by obnoxious decorations, ridiculous expectations and an obligation to spend money we don’t have. The spiritual message drowned in diamonds, cell phones and video games along time ago. Bummer dude. I wish I could make it up to Him for His birthday. Maybe we should all get together and get Him that brand new car.