Were You Talking to Me?

December 2, 2009 at 7:31 am (Uncategorized)

Another job came in this afternoon, so I really should be transcribing the interview so that tomorrow morning isn’t a COMPLETE nightmare, but I’d so much rather chat with all of you… okay, yes, technically I’m talking to myself right now, but do we really need to focus on that? I don’t think so. And okay, true, I’m totally transparent, I won’t deny it, I am using you all as a procrastination party, but hey, think of it this way: everyone’s invited.

So, I’ve got a story for you. I was walking to the ferry with Llew this morning because I had an IVF appointment in town at 8 am. He asked me what was going to happen at the clinic, and as I started to explain it to him, we came across a bunch of guys unloading a truck behind one of the pubs. They were rolling kegs of beer, opening trap doors, fiddling with equipment. I glanced over at Llew. His mouth was slightly open, his eyes were hungrily following the progress of the kegs, and he looked like he was going into some kind of trance. At that moment, I knew, without any doubt at all, that he was no longer listening to me. We passed the hub of activity and I cast him another sidelong.

“So anyway,” I said casually, “did you catch any of that, or were you too distracted by all the pretty lights?”

Llew instantly snapped out of it, only to nearly fall into the gutter laughing, one of those, ‘How did you know?’ fits of laughter that overtake him whenever we both know I’ve caught him out on the full.

“But… but…it was a really big truck,” he said, and then it all came out in a rush, “and, you know, there was beer involved, and there was all this activity, it was action stations, and I bet there was going to be a forklift, any second they were going to bring out that forklift, and… and…”

“And it was just all too exciting for you, wasn’t it?”

This happens a lot, hence my comprehending his lost attention in the actual second of its demise. I think these days Llew probably hears about 15 percent of what I say, even when he’s trying really, really hard to concentrate. He’s like those cartoons you see of what dogs hear: “Blah blah blah ROVER…. blah blah blah blah ROVER…. blah blah…” – that’s my husband, pretty much in a nutshell. At least when I’m talking – maybe some people do better and hold his attention longer, but I think my own averages get lower year on year. It’s like I’m losing 5 percentage points of attention paid every year we’re together. At this rate, he won’t even be responding to his own name by the time he’s 42.

So you see, I’m perfectly used to talking to myself – this blog is almost exactly like home!



  1. litlove said,

    Yup, my husband does that too. And the television holds him in a trance state, so I have to bark his name if I need his attention. His best one is to repeat things I’ve told him as if he’s giving me fresh information from a third party. There must be a neurological explanation to all this, surely, it can’t just be cultural conditioning… can it? Really scary, if so. 😀

    • doctordi said,

      That’s why we don’t have a TV, LL, because Llew would just sit and drool in front of it the whole time. Anytime a TV is on anywhere in his periphery, that’s it, he’s gone. Oh, and that’s one of Llew’s favourite tricks too – I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve stared at him and said, “But I told YOU that.” He’ll argue the point, too, until I want to kill him.

      The other popular one is flat-out denying he’s ever heard a word of something we’ve discussed previously and I’m now reminding him about, like people coming over for dinner. I have to quote him back to himself before he gets that sheepish look and admits that, oh yeah, maybe it DOES ring a bell… I agree with you, LL. I think there’s something neurological in this. I don’t believe it’s simply conditioning.

  2. Lilian Nattel said,

    It’s just practise. Kids are like that too.

  3. doctordi said,

    I don’t know, Lilian… it seems to be something more than simply practise to me… I know most little boys stop and stare at trucks and building sites from such a young age, and I’m not sure that interest isn’t innate. Girls certainly don’t seem to share it. I’ve watched them, looking for this, trying to understand what’s nature and what’s nurture. Llew is just absolutely unable to multitask and pretty much unable to multi-sense too, unless we’re talking shovelling fistfuls of popcorn while watching a movie.

  4. woo said,

    oh my, this post made me laugh so hard I just snorted tea all over my keyboard.

    My theory is that men only pay attention to parts of conversation which will require action from them: thus, telling them that people are coming over for dinner, or that you’re going to an IVF appointment to presumably be stuck full of needles, are both conversations that they ignore, under the assumption that you’ll be handling both situations. They just don’t share information for the joy of it – just to keep everyone in the loop. No, they need to be given specific tasks: “People coming to dinner. I need you to be clean and dressed and with a chilled bottle of wine open at 7.30pm sharp on Thursday evening.”


    • doctordi said,

      That’s the nicest thing anyone’s said to me all week.

      I think that’s so true, Woo. It extends to trying to talk about problems, I think – sometimes I just want to unload, but Llew interprets it as a problem solving exercise and always wants to offer solutions. It’s very much in line with the whole ‘call to action’ thing. Curiously skillful, the partial listening; sometimes his filter is positively wizard.

  5. davidrochester said,

    I think it’s charming that he was distracted by kegs of beer, rather than by, for example, random women passing on the street. Things could *always* be worse.

  6. kate4samh said,

    I’m with David!

  7. doctordi said,

    Um, guys? That’s only because there WEREN’T ANY. Believe me, one of these days, he’s going to give himself whiplash.

  8. Pete said,

    Mmm, yes, sorry, what were you saying? Pretty women AND beer? Where?

    Well one theory here would be that men listen in proportion to the amount of information that’s being delivered. If your wife is not talking to you, for example, then you will listen when she does say something. But get lots and lots of information all the time? Filter, filter, filter.

    I’m interested to know what happens to men when they listen too much. Do they lose some of their maleness? Or their ability to function effectively in their more task-oriented jobs?

  9. Lady P said,

    I know what you mean Di. The frightening thing is that it is happening with my three-year old daughter. I thought perhaps she was losing her hearing but at parent’s evening her nursery teacher said she is a good listener so it must just be me. At this rate she won’t listen to a word I say by the time she is a teenager. How odd!

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