“I wash my hands of those who imagine chattering to be knowledge, silence to be ignorance, and affection to be art.”

24 Oct

“It’s so nice! I don’t have to cook if I don’t want to, no one’s around for me to say “Why are YOUR bratty kids allowed to do that?” to, I come and go as I please….it’s fabulous!”

The vacancy stared around her, hovered over her blonde curls, her mid 40’s hands. Her slight friend nodded-hard, far too hard.

“It’s just so easy now! Without that push-pull, finally finding someone you click with…it’s refreshing! Ooh! that’s my coffee!”

She rises for her double mocha, her broad hips worn by children, by full time work, by the constant wearing down of a partnership that isn’t what she needed. Her smile is brittle, and careful. False. A two way mirror, even if she doesn’t know it.

We’re positive women!” her friend blurts “No one can tell!”

“Oh it’s amazing!” Curls says “Some of us just sink, while some of us just pick right up and move along. I’m up baby!” she raises her cup above her head, grinning. “Oh phooey. I’m late for work. Again.”

The walk out the door, close as close can be-closer than I’ve ever been with another woman. Conspiring. Knowing laughs. Those ovary only insights I’ve only been privy to a few times, in those rooms full with the heady air of female, the links between us built of monthly bloodletting, the fullness of child, the ache of love. I envy these women, most women, in their protective enclaves of each other. I envy even the variability of these friendships-the PMS days when everyone sucks, the slight betrayals-stolen baby names or boots bought on the sly.

I envy these close conversations in Starbucks on a Friday. Even in their thinly veiled lies, the ones told for comfort, or to stop pity. I envy them.


I never hear men speak like this. Of their children, their families, their homes. I hear sports scores, market listings, concert dates. Chuckles and jokes, the peripheral. The meaningless things that pass through our fingers-those are the conversations I hear while waiting for coffee around men. Or I hear nothing. I see tight lips, downcast eyes, thoughts…but nothing outside.

Do we over compensate for that silence? Do we over ask “What’s up?” because we know exactly, to the second, what’s up with us? Do we judge too quickly that older couple in the corner, eating in silence? Are we too quick to think they have nothing left to speak of, instead of that perhaps, just maybe, they are comfortable in a silence as warm and friendly as old socks?

I judge the women I heard talking-I heard their pain and loneliness through their words, considered them liars in my way, until I slapped myself and was reminded that how they go through the motions, the stories they tell themselves to get through the day-that isn’t mine to shatter. Maybe there are more secrets there, buried in blonde curls or alimony. Maybe her ex speaks lovingly of his children, his family, even the wife he left when he’s alone with his thoughts, or in the arms of another.

Maybe we all rise above it when given the chance, while waiting for a latte. Maybe the quiet moments where nothing is said are full up with our eyes and comfort, the solidity of silence, the space we catch our breaths.

Perhaps Curls looks out windows on clear days like today and thinks “I want more”-maybe she thinks “I need more!”

Maybe sometimes, her voice catches in her throat and she stops, aware of how little she hears and sees, how little she has stopped to be silent for, sacrificed to others, to the women around her.

Maybe sometmes, she can breathe too.

4 Responses to ““I wash my hands of those who imagine chattering to be knowledge, silence to be ignorance, and affection to be art.””

  1. crazymumma October 24, 2008 at 11:20 am #

    This was beautiful

    Lonely, and perceptive and beautiful.

  2. Gwen October 24, 2008 at 11:28 am #

    Have you read Lydia Millet’s “Oh Pure and Radiant Heart”? One of the questions the book poses is how useful intelligence and deep thinking really is from the happiness perspective. My mom is often judgy of people who seem to live in a way that is thought-lite, but I can see how it would be a relief not to think too deeply about anything. Education conditions us to believe that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” but I’d venture that the unexamined life may just be one of the most content ones.

  3. bromac October 24, 2008 at 11:48 am #

    This is fantastic. So introspective.

  4. cj October 24, 2008 at 12:05 pm #

    I love sitting by myself in busy food courts, just vanishing in the crowd and listening to the absurdity of the conversations around me. Even in small groups, the masses are stupid, but it can be quite entertaining, whether it be men or women.

    I’ve felt like an outsider most of my life. Eating alone, going for walks alone, and feeling out of place in most social settings. For the most part, I’ve made peace with it. I don’t need dozens of shallow relationships. Do I have a room and a need for more meaningful relationships? Yes, but those aren’t easy to come by and most of the people I cross paths with don’t make the grade simply because the world isn’t a very transparent place. Too many masks for my liking…

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