[Come summer heat, much of my blogging momentum melts away. Hence an experiment until Labor Day: fifty minimalist posts about whatever.]

I’ve always thought conversation was supposed to involve dialogue. One person says something, the other responds – agreeing or not, as the case may be. Doesn’t the prefix “con-“ mean “with?”

Many women, although not all, understand this. Most men I’ve met, although not all, don’t. It’s probably not a generational thing either, common only among those my age. I’ve sat listening to quite a few forty- and fifty-somethings go on and on about themselves, their children, friends, travels, politics, plans, employment (unless that’s so important and confidential it’s a no-no secret). If they pause for breath, your role is to ask a question that gets them going again. Useless to inject a comment or opinion. The torrent of monologue will roll right over it.

And when it’s time for them to leave or hang up, expressing pleasure at the visit or chat, you may realize afterwards that there’s been no expressed interest whatsoever in you and how you’re doing, beyond the pro forma preliminary “How are things?” – to which no answer beyond “Good, and how are you?” or its equivalent is required.

I no longer try to understand why this is. (Talk therapy too expensive?) What I now do is make efforts to watch it whenever I open my mouth, lest I turn into one of those old folks in need of company who go on talking about themselves and the good old days till they drive everyone away.

8 thoughts on “WRITING SHORT: 40/50

  1. Yes, spot on. Perhaps we are all so overwrought with the sadness of so much of life, that any opportunity given, we let the lava flow. We unburden, brimming over with so much.
    Of course, the art of listening is something most men never took lessons in. It always strike me that women talk and laugh while men just sit in a grey sombre isolation.
    In Australia an initiative to make men talk more is funded by the Government in an organisation called ‘men’s sheds’. They have build many sheds into which men are supposed to crawl in and ‘hopefully’ talk!
    The comfort of lots of machinery and electric saws, milling machines, hammers etc stimulates the men in talking, a word at a time.
    It could also be that Anglo societies generally are steeped in ‘privacy’ and keeping things close to the chest.
    Oh, I don’t know. I talk.
    Good piece Nina. You give hope to all of us. Thank you.

    “Useless to inject a comment or opinion. The torrent of monologue will roll right over it.”

    I sometimes feel like taking my pants off when that happens.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t men in Australia bond over spectator sports — the great conversational cement (other than work) between men in America? They really need to be herded into sheds like cattle, to maybe moo at each other once in a while?

      About the taking the pants off — what an interesting idea! If you sometimes felt like doing that, I might sometimes feel like saying, “Why don’t you?” 🙂


  2. Con in Italian means with. What about con-man?
    Yes, the art of conversation is becoming a lost art. So many of the young ones on trains are using their phones and iPads the whole way, and seldom talk to real people. I have become a listener, as once I probably talked too much, especially to my patient mother.


    • You’ve just opened up a whole new topic, Barbara: The lost art of any conversation at all. I’m still stuck in the imperfections of whatever conversation is left, usually among somewhat older folks. But what can you expect from someone who writes a “Getting Old Blog?”


  3. Jools

    My experience too. Men love to talk about themselves. I save ‘real’ conversation for my women-friends, who understand the ebb and flow, and value that whole listening and empathising thing which is so alien to our menfolk. I think, for many men, conversation is about competition – showing their feathers, squawking the loudest, doing the most colourful dance. Millennia of genetic preconditioning.


    • Ah, Julie. You’ve been watching those Richard Attenborough videos about birds, with all those gorgeous mating dances where the brown hen watches attentively while the gaudy male prances about to entice! Of course, you’re absolutely right!

      Liked by 1 person

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