I’ve been accused of being a chatterbox since I was a little kid. Apparently, once I started learning to speak, I got on a roll and haven’t shut up since. I didn’t became aware of others having this view of me until I was into my early 20’s. At first I was surprised. I didn’t think I talked a lot. I mean, I answered questions that were put to me. I held conversations with friends and families about the usual mundane topics. Sometimes I picked up the telephone and called a friend for a chat and at other times they called me.
And then, one day I was sitting in a friend’s kitchen when another of her friends showed up for a brief visit. As Judy made the introductions, she followed mine up with, “Keep the conversation light or you’ll never get out of here. Terri likes to talk.”
Hmmmm….. As I said, I was surprised. I think I made a small joke about it and let the topic go. I didn’t know what to make of it. Time went on, life handed out a few hardships and a couple of laughs. I shared them all with my close circle of friends. And then it happened again. I was sitting at the kitchen table with two friends with whom I’d grown up. Missy and Micky were my closest friends, and while they weren’t real close to each other, they had me in common. We were quite able to have some good times together.
I was at the counter preparing some drinks for us, while regaling them with stories about my daughters and their latest escapades. I heard a low giggle, and then a chuckle followed by some whispers interspersed with laughter. I turned to look at them, a questioning look on my face. Maybe it was the surreptitious manner, or the tone of their whispers, I don’t know, but I knew it had something to do with me.
I guess the expression on my face was too much for them to handle but they both broke into uncontrollable laughter. After wiping their eyes and sputtering through a few half-hearted attempts at speech, they finally got themselves under control.
Crossing my arms and tapping my foot, I demanded to know what was so funny, which only brought on a renewed round of hysterics. Finally, Micky choked out, “You never shut up!” Say what?!!!
“Awww, we love you, but the truth is that you talk constantly,” she explained between snickers and chuckles.
I didn’t know what to do with a comment like that. Did I answer back with my take on the subject? Wouldn’t that be like playing into their hands? Answering would require me to talk. What if I didn’t comment back? Wouldn’t they be likely to think I was mad and my behavior was meant to punish them? What to do? I decided on sign language and flipped them off.
Years later, I was working as a General Manager for a fast food franchise. My first assistant was a bubbly girl named Kristen. She was funny and smart and very pretty, but she also liked a bit of danger in her life. She was always getting into scrapes that put her in jeopardy both legally and morally. Going against my principles of not getting personally involved with the lives of my employees, I sort of took her under my wing.
While most of our conversations centered around work related issues, we often met online, in a private chat room, for an hour or two. Eventually the conversation would turn to more personal matters and some of the issues she always seemed to be contending with. I’d give her my big sisterly advice, which she rarely ever followed, and then soon we’d be laughing and making fun of people we met day-to-day.
When Kristen left for her annual vacation to the shore, I found myself really missing our chats. She made me laugh, a lot. Her outrageous behaviors also allowed me to pass on some of my “wisdom”. I was happy when she returned, and very touched when she informed me that she had gotten me a gift. As she handed me the gift bag, I noticed she was struggling to keep from laughing. I reached in and pulled out a T-shirt with a message printed on the front: “Help me! I’m talking and I can’t shut up!”
One day, not so long ago, Micky and I were settled over a cup of tea, having a chat about nothing in particular. After so many years, I finally decided to ask her why she thinks of me as a chatterbox. She gave me this incredulous look as if I was out of my mind to be asking such a dumb question.
“Because you talk all the time!”
I was truly confused by her declaration. After all, isn’t that the purpose of conversation? I mean, we visit with each other about two or three times a month and may have two or three telephone conversations in addition to the visits. I wondered what she would do if I just sat drinking my tea and remained completely mute. Or better yet, maybe I would place a phone call to her one day and then not say a word after she answered.
My confusion must have shown because she was working furiously at maintaining her composure. After a moment, she cleared her throat and explained that no matter what the subject may be, I could always be counted on to have a thought, a fact, or an opinion.
I was thinking hard about her statement. She was right. I did have a lot of thoughts and facts and opinions tumbling around in my brain. I’m an avid reader and watcher of people. When something is brought to my attention of which I may not have information, I make a point of researching it until I can form my own thoughts and opinions based on facts or others’ ideas. I’m also one of those people where silly little fragments of fact and knowledge seem to just stick, when others would forget them within minutes of being exposed to them.
I looked at Micky sipping from her teacup and formed my response. “I can’t help I read a lot, or that my brain holds on to information. What to you want me to do? Pretend stupidity?”
“You’re taking this all wrong,” she insisted. “I didn’t say there was anything wrong with how much you talk. But it is a fact that you can talk for hours, going from one subject to the other without effort.”
Still a little wounded, I sniffed, “Well, I have a lot to say.”
Laughing again, she remarked, “Yes, you certainly do.” She winked at me. “And it sure is cheap entertainment!”