The other day a colleague unceremoniously welcomed me into her club: the group of people who "never met a word we didn't like." I'd have given her a piece of my mind, but I only had three hours. Being a quiet introvert most of my life, this chatterbox reputation is all so new. I'm guessing that my transformation happened around age 40. That's when wisdom from experience gave me the courage to share my opinion to whomever, whenever.
The way I look at it, self-confidence is a benefit of aging. It helps offset things like wrinkles, a bad back and an unhealthy obsession with sleep. Although the negatives of getting old still outweigh the positives, at least it's not a total blowout.
Note: There are some who don't call this stage "wise and self-confident," but, rather, "old and cranky." And to them I say, "Is that any way to talk to your mother?"
Most of my ear bending is inflicted on my husband. But he's a survivor, adapting to this noisier environment by harnessing an uncanny ability to tune out. I once marveled at his masterful obliviousness to his talkative mother -- he'd nod agreeably, smile knowingly and nap covertly. It's not so marvelous anymore. Here is a recent conversation:
Me: "And when she's done painting the living room in either that rust or wine color, and let's face it -- she has a tendency to lean heavily toward wine if you remember the Wii incident last Thanksgiving -- she's coming here for a visit right after she stops at Tom and Maria's because did I tell you they just bought a vacation house and can someone please tell me how people afford it? So what weekend would work?"
"Exactly" is my husband's go-to response. It usually works because the majority of my monologues end with a rhetorical, "Am I right?" As in, "I'm going to return that rug because it's too small, am I right?" and "That is probably the worst decision he could have made, am I right?"
Last summer I called him at work about ants in the kitchen. It took five minutes of not hearing his trademark "Exactly" for me to realize I wasn't talking to my husband. I had dialed the wrong number and the person who answered had a male voice, a few minutes to spare, and a speaker phone. I wasn't so much embarrassed as I was disappointed the guy had no advice about ants. In a cubicle community somewhere in the 703 area code, I am known as The Ant Woman.
Because of downtimes between speaking engagements at home, work and while standing in line, I look for new ways to celebrate my windbag club membership. It turns out a Christmas gift has provided a safe alternative to cell-phone talking while driving: GPS.
GPS lady: "In 500 yards, turn left."
Me: "Alrighty. Hey, did you see that guy in the black Honda? I think he was shaving!"
GPS lady: "Turn left. Turn left."
Me: "OK, already! No need to nag. Like I was saying, that guy was actually shaving while driving. One time I was on 495 and saw a woman putting on mascara, like she didn't have three minutes to do it at home. You gotta watch out for these nut jobs on the road, am I right?"
GPS lady: "Exactly."
[February 4, 2009]
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