I Try To Listen, But Then I Learn Stuff That I Don’t Want To Know


Sometimes, I’m a bigmouth — dominating conversations, bragging about myself and my family, going on and on about my day to people who have long since stopped covering their yawns.

But sometimes, I’m a listener — not a good listener like my mother, but someone who comes away from a conversation knowing more about the other people than they do about themselves.

Amazingly, I eventually discovered that listening is when I learn the most. Whodathunkit? As a result, I have resolved to try to talk less and listen more.

This is not going well, in my estimation.

Last night, Mark and I were out with friends, and I was busy listening, and here’s what I discovered — our friends are old. The evening began with a rundown of aches and pains, pivoted into the replacement of various worn-out body parts, and culminated with a Google-infested search on how and where one can donate one’s body to science.

I’d like to say I was easily able to keep quiet because I had nothing to add (young whippersnapper that I am!), but that was not the case. I had plenty to add. When did this oldness happen?

Worse, I couldn’t even remember the things we used to talk about. I racked my brain on the ride home and managed to remember the topics of my younger days — vacations, mortgages, kids, lawnmowers (for those in the group who were interested in that) and who might be having an affair with whom (for those in the group who were interested in that).

And I realized that the big difference between the conversations of then and the conversations of now is primarily that we used to be in control of the things we talked about — where we would vacation, how we would lower our mortgage, who was responsible for Timmy’s bad grades. Now it’s just people doing stuff to us and whether or not we trust those people. Word-of-mouth recommendations and warnings regarding doctors run rampant among those in my age group.

So, I’ve changed my resolution from talking less to talking more — but about cheerful topics. The quandary is how to go about this when every day is a vacation, when the mortgage is paid, when Timmy has long since graduated high school (thank goodness). The nuts and bolts of life have been taken care of. The only nuts and bolts left are in our knees.

As always, I turned to mom, the best example of good living I have ever known, and asked, “What do you talk about, mom? Especially in a group of old people?”

“Oh, there’s always something,” she answered, cheerily, not being an old person herself. “Something they’re wearing, or someplace they’ve been or what they think is the best example of something-or-other. Once a topic has been established, they’re off and running. Then I just sit back and listen.”

Of course she does.

Because listening is what made her so smart in the first place.