January is the time for resolutions, so these are my fashion promises to myself, inspired by the ever-delightful Lady Sarah’s blog:
I will not save my “good” stuff for special occasions; I will create opportunities to use and enjoy them
I will purge my wardrobe of items I don’t wear, except for things I will wear when I:
Lose those pesky pandemic pounds
I will avoid sale temptation, unless it’s something I truly need and would buy at full price
I will not kid myself that something that looks fabulous on a 20-year-old model or “influencer” will look the same on a septuagenarian
Abruptly changing topics:
Recently, friends got rid of their massage chair because it made “weird” noises. I immediately wondered: “Weird, how? Did it moan, or what?!” And can we expect similar commentary from other home items, e.g., a burping refrigerator, a computer that shrieks when it reveals our bank balance, a coffee machine that gets progressively louder if one drinks too much caffeine??
Liz Truss, the UK prime minister, has resigned after only 45 days. While she’s been roundly criticized for her policies, I believe she should be applauded for reminding us of something important: Cutting Your Losses.
Would that more politicians would quit once they’ve passed their sell-by dates, rather than clinging barnacle-like to constituencies they barely serve.
And what about those everyday jobs employing people who are totally unqualified? (I’m looking at you, nameless installer of bathroom cabinets with unevenly-spaced handles that have to be replaced.) Or truly bad cooks. Or the talentless actors who survive on bit parts hoping for the big break that never comes. Surely, those folks have other talents and would be happier and better-suited to other positions.
This also goes for bad relationships. Admit failure — or even chronic dissatisfaction — , CYL and walk away.
Whew, dear readers. After weeks of inactivity (blog-wise, that is) I have recently noticed more and more “can this be true?” events in the world.
You’ve probably seen the news story of actress Anne Heche driving out of control and hitting some unlucky woman’s house, causing it to burst into flames and destroying all of her possessions.
While Ms. Heche’s subsequent intubation and mental health issues may deserve sympathy too, here’s what has me shaking my head: WHY does the woman whose house was crashed into need a GoFundMe page to get her life back together, rather than millionaire Ms. Heche’s family immediately offering to pay what’s necessary??
And on a different note (literally), I was driving the other day and an old Eric Clapton song, “I can’t stand it” came on the radio.
My question: Who on God’s green earth would EVER cheat on Eric Clapton?!?
I hope this is not a new trend. In recent weeks, Dear Husband and I have eaten at two excellent restaurants with truly inferior bread. What gives??
First up, Toulouse — a lovely French/Creole place in Seattle, where one would expect to find good sourdough or certainly an acceptable baguette. Instead, we got flabby structure and squishy crust; mon Dieu!
Then, last week, a local place on the Oregon coast — the Bay House — which has a relaxing ambiance, superb service, and beautiful food (see below) — with this notable exception. Hey, if it’s too humid, pop the loaf in an oven to crisp it up! I’m tempted to bring my own sourdough next time. Think they’d mind?
Bread lovers of the world, unite! And what’s your pet peeve when eating out, dear readers?
All week, I’ve been trying to “find” time to write a post. And remaining unsuccessful, whether due to lack of inspiration or lack of dedication, who can say. All I know is, sometimes the things we want or need to do feel too much like homework. And, boy, do I hate that little voice in my head telling me what I’m “supposed” to be doing.
I’ve decided to consider this more as “postponement”; doesn’t that sound much more positive?! After all, all the ways I’ve been distracted have been productive, just not exactly in the same way as the task I failed to do.
I’ve paid bills. Taken lots of walks. Made blinis, to go with the smoked salmon I’m finally taking out of the fridge. I’m currently making another batch of sourdough — a great all-day postponement activity if ever there was one. I’ve happily done the laundry and other housework. Ordered holiday gifts. Answered e-mails. Called my 99-year-old cousin. Cleaned the car — or will, as soon as I finish typing.
“Writer’s block” sounds so unforgiving. Let’s call it “writer’s break” instead, shall we?
If you didn’t grow up on the US East Coast or belong to one of the ethnic groups mentioned, you may wonder why their conversational style is so different from your own.
In Real Life, Not All Interruptions Are Rude
Deborah Tannen for The New York Times 9.25.21
Ms. Tannen is a university professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and the author of many books on conversation, gender and other topics, including “You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation.”
Interruption — the offense of stealing the floor when someone else is talking — has become the grand larceny of conversation.
It seems self-evident. Starting to speak before another has finished violates their right to the floor. In formal contexts such as political debates, it breaches the rules. In casual conversation, it is simply rude.
But it’s not so simple. As a linguist who studies the mechanics of conversation, I’ve observed and documented that beginning to talk while another is talking can be a way of showing enthusiastic engagement with what the speaker is saying. Far from silencing them, it can be encouragement to keep going. That’s a practice that I call “cooperative overlapping.”
As offices and schools reopen, and we venture into more in-person social gatherings, we’re having to relearn how to have conversations: how to start them, how to join them, how to get the floor and keep it. On screens, it’s relatively easy: Click on the raised-hand icon or signal with an actual hand, and you’ll be invited to speak when the time is right. But when talking with others in person, how do you show you have something to say without seeming rude? How do you handle it when you feel interrupted?
These challenges are emotionally loaded, because talking isn’t only about communication; it’s also about relationships. You may resent — or dislike — those who speak over you. And being accused of interrupting when you didn’t intend to feels terrible. It could come as a relief to know that what might be going on is cooperative overlapping.
The concept was recently plucked from my academic writing and thrust into public discourse when a journalist, Erin Biba, tweeted a TikTok video in which a user named Sari shared her excitement over discovering the term in my book “Conversational Style.” Many expressed their relief that the “interrupting” they had been criticized for is a recognized supportive conversational move: “Ahhhh omg it feels so validating to hear this has a name!” tweeted the entrepreneur and writer Anil Dash. “I really struggle with talking over people (I understand many experience this very negatively) but it’s an incredibly difficult pattern to change because it’s literally how I grew up communicating enthusiasm & support.”
Indeed cooperative overlapping, like all conversational habits, has cultural roots. It is learned the way language is learned: by hearing others talk while growing up. I first identified the conversational move — and its misinterpretation — while analyzing a dinner table conversation I had taken part in, along with five friends. Three, including me, were from New York City, two were from California, and one was from London.
By transcribing the two-and-a-half-hour conversation, timing pauses and noting when two voices were going at once, I saw that we New Yorkers often talked over others. When we did this with another New Yorker, the speaker kept going, undeterred or even more animated. But if we did the same thing with a non-New Yorker, the speaker stopped.
Someone overhearing the conversation or reading the transcript might think it obvious that a rude interruption had occurred: Someone began speaking while another was midsentence, and cut them off. But based on close analysis of the entire conversation, I could see that the awkwardness resulted from differing assumptions about overlap.
Cooperative overlapping is a particularly active form of what I call “participatory listenership.” All listeners must do something to show they haven’t mentally checked out of a conversation. If they don’t, the speaker will have trouble continuing — as you know if you’ve ever talked to a screen full of motionless faces, or a roomful of blank stares. Signs of listening can range from nodding or an occasional “mhm” or “uhuh” (or a shower of them); to a murmured “I would’ve done the same thing”; to repeating what the speaker just said; to interjecting briefly with a similar story, then yielding the floor back. Even true interruptions, if they’re mutual, can rev up the conversation, inspiring speakers to greater conversational heights. The adrenaline makes the mind grow sharper and the tongue more eloquent.
Anthropologists and linguists have described overlapping talk as enthusiastic participation in various cultures around the world: Karl Reisman for Antiguans; Alessandro Duranti for Samoans; Reiko Hayashi for Japanese; and Frederick Erickson for Italian Americans, for example. And people from many other backgrounds, including Poles and Russians, Indians and Pakistanis, Armenians and Greeks, tell me they recognize the practice from their own communities.
Of course, not all members of any regional or cultural group have the same style. And those who grow up in one environment then move to another can get rusty. One of the New Yorkers at the dinner I studied told me that he’d lived in California so long, he had to struggle to stay part of the conversation. But he’s still a New Yorker: His California-born-and-bred wife often accuses him of interrupting her.
It’s when conversational styles clash that problems arise. Those who aren’t used to cooperative overlapping can end up feeling interrupted, silenced, maybe even attacked — which clouds their minds and ties their tongues. The Californians and the Londoner in my study felt that the New Yorkers had “dominated” the conversation. In a way, we did, but not because we meant to. From our perspective, the others chose not to join in. Cooperative overlapping is part of a conversational ethic that regards perceptible pauses as awkward silence, to be avoided by keeping pauses short — or nonexistent. Those of us who converse this way often don’t realize that someone who wants to speak might be waiting for a pause to join in.
Once, when I was talking about this study on a radio talk show, a listener called to say she identified: After she and her husband had hosted a great dinner party, he would accuse her of hogging the floor and shutting him out. “He’s a big boy,” she said. “He can speak up just like me or anyone else.” In the background, her husband’s voice explained why he couldn’t: “You need a crowbar to get into those conversations!” His metaphor was perfect: If the pause you expect between speaking turns doesn’t come, you really can’t figure out a way to break in.
Not all overlapping is cooperative. It can really be intended to dominate the conversation, steal the floor or even to undermine the speaker. But understanding that talking along may be cooperative can make our conversations better, as we return to in-person socializing and work. If you notice someone has been silent, you might count to seven before beginning to speak again, or invite them to speak. If you’ve been waiting in vain for a pause, you might push yourself to jump in. And if you feel interrupted, try continuing to talk, instead of stopping.
If “Don’t interrupt me” is sometimes a reasonable request, so is “Don’t just sit there! Please overlap — cooperatively!”
Another adventure in the ongoing saga,Tales of Covid. Despite all the perky reassurances that our initial Pfizer shots were still “highly” effective, whatever that means, Dear Husband and I were eager to get a third shot as soon as possible.
Breaking news Friday was that the Oregon Health Authority would follow the CDC’s Thursday booster recommendation for us 65+-ers as well as the immunocompromised and workers in potentially perilous industries.
Actually finding somewhere to do it was a bit more challenging. The first stop was a nearby RiteAid drugstore, where the apologetic youngster at the prescription drop-off told us they were waiting for the OR pharmacy board to also get on board so nothing was likely to happen any time soon.
Next stop: the Internet, to check availabilty through our local healthcare system. Although phone calls and attempting an online appointment proved futile, the walk-in urgent care clinic seemed poised to administer boosters, so off I went first thing Saturday morning while DH stayed behind to watch football and await my report. I expected long lines of eager seniors brandishing canes and face masks, but the clinic looked quite deserted.
I wasn’t optimistic, since the receptionist chirpily showed me a now-out-of-date notification that only mentioned the immunocomprised with an eight-month timeline for eligibility. But, to her credit, when I pointed out the smaller line reading “some people who received the Pfizer vaccine may get a booster six months after their second dose”, she allowed me to sign in. One of the few times that vagueness has been a benefit!
While waiting to be called back, I was happy to see two pairs of 20-somethings arriving for their second shots. The message is finally trickling down that the vaccine is a) effective and b) necessary if we’re ever going to beat this thing.
One quick jab, one sore arm, and several headaches later, I feel poised to rejoin the world with a bit less anxiety. DH, who received his booster Saturday afternoon, had more severe side effects — fatigue, soreness, headache, and feeling “flu-ish”– but is on the mend.
With some of my favorite people about to move out of the neighborhood, I’ve been realizing that friendship is largely situational.
In childhood, we make friends through chance commonalities. We may live on the same street. Go to the same school — where we often become friends with the person who sits next to us because their name starts with the same letter — or play the same sport. Or fidget through the same religious services.
As adults, we might meet because our children know each other. Become friends with our co-workers. Live near each other. Volunteer for the same causes; attend the same church, mosque or synagogue; chat on a trip; or detest a common enemy.
Many connections fade without the proximity that is friendship’s oxygen. And that’s ok: they enriched our lives while we shared common experiences.
But if we’re lucky, a special few survive geographical separation because our deeper interests and affection forge a long-term bond.
So, in honor of all our besties, some wise quotes:
“An old friend will help you move. A good friend will help you move a dead body.” Jim Hayes
“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The holy passion of Friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last through a whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money.” Mark Twain
“There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends.” Sylvia Plath
“Friends give you a shoulder to cry on. But best friends are ready with a shovel to hurt the person who made you cry.” Unknown
“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like ‘What about lunch?’” A. A. Milne