Part social experiment for the scientist in me that is curious how I'm going to communicate without words and how others will communicate with me - Part art project for the artist in me that is curious to see what the emotional impact of silence will be - Part everything is too goddamn loud and fucked the fuck up right now and I just don't want to fucking talk for a fucking minute.
In the week(s) before my grand experiment, I stopped wanting to speak. Politics had come to a head and too many people were spraying stupidity like cholera-infested diarrhea all over every social media outlet. My children were talking at me, my husband was talking at me, and I just wanted to slip underwater where it was nice and quiet. Where I wasn't responsible for every little order of household and family business, where every thought and existential question didn't need a verbal affirmation, and where I didn't have to acknowledge the terrifying hordes of people who haven't the most rudimentary understanding of how our country works - or how anything works, for that matter. I needed silence.
After a week or so of planning, scheduling and dealing with everyone's grudging dissent (which eventually turned into grudging approval), I went ahead with my experiment. And this is what I learned:
The Scientist in Me
People do not fucking like it when you don't talk. I wasn't prepared for that. I guess the fun girl in me was hoping people might see it as a game and play, coming up with some kind of communication or back and forth gesturing, a little amusing, a little intriguing, maybe a little sexy?.... Yeah, no. Nope. Not at all.
I've found that people want exact answers right away. It's almost as if, instead of relaxing and flowing for a minute, they were thrust on an episode of the $10,000 Pyramid and had to wildly stab out guesses for every word, lest they lose the cash. "HAND! ...APPLE! ...DOG! ...BUTTSEX!"
By the way, I was very surprised at how many people always thought I was talking about butt sex. What the fuck is that about, people?
My husband mainly walked around the house saying, "If you want to give me a blow job right now... don't say anything!" It might have gotten old by day 5. My gym buddy kept asking me all kinds of questions and getting annoyed when I couldn't answer. "Yes," he said, "It's okay you no talk at home, but it's okay here you talk to me." (wink, wink.) My Professor said "Porra!" (with a smile, at least) and my training partners mostly went with it but I kept getting asked "When are you going to talk again?" My kids did all right, although my oldest poses her questions in obtuse ways, and my middle child kept calling from other rooms and acting like my silence meant approval for whatever she wanted to do. The only one who got me was my son, who I could click at with my tongue a few times and make a few hand gestures, and he would turn off the lights, clean up his dishes or put the pillows back on my bed. He knew. But he, too, would ask every day, "When are you going to talk again?"
I honestly was of the mindset that I talk too much and everyone is sick of my voice. Apparently, ya'll like hearing me more than I thought.
Another thing I noticed is that people get mildly panicky when you can't talk. They seem subconsciously worried there might be an emergency or a question that desperately needs an answer right the fuck now and they won't get it, then they will surely bleed out and die. So they did this weird thing, they asked unnecessarily complicated questions to test my willingness to break character and speak, and also to see if I was capable of giving a layered answer. Let me just mime this esoteric shit....
There were a few times when I spoke out of necessity. My daughter suddenly had a school project she had to go to her friend's house to work on, so I had to coordinate a pickup time. A new teammate asked me my name during an exercise, so I told him. A friend needed an affirmation that I was going to help her out on Sunday. Another kid went home sick from school and I had to briefly speak to the office lady about it. And once, for about five minutes, I had to talk to my husband because my son's birthday plans were changing, and his close family friend was coming to town on Saturday - out of the blue - so my experiment was going to have to be cut a day short. But other than that, it was emojis, pictures and grunts and gestures.
I'm walking away with two things: first, no one fucking understands you. Whether you're talking or not. Everyone is looking at you through their own lens and interpreting you through their experience. There is no such thing as a mind reader. And secondly, charades seems to work better than expressions. Meaning, you have to literally pantomime simple words instead of meeting someone's eyes with an emotional expression. No one has the key to decode your emotions. No one. Keep it monkey simple or it all goes AWOL really fast.
The Artist In Me
As I stopped speaking, I felt less of a need to make a specific statement, which was freeing in its own way. I feel like my photographs got better when they weren't staged for a particular statement, be it "flex friday" or my "feminist agenda." I became more relaxed in general, and stopped trying to explain myself. My art brain woke up a little. I spoke through my camera, like I used to (regardless if anyone understood me.) It felt fucking good.
It got easier, as the days went on, not to comment on the big things like politics, but it got harder not to comment on the little things like ETAs, or a quick check to grab some weights or equipment someone may or may not be using. I grew less annoyed by people's horseshit opinions, but more annoyed with not being able to answer a simple question about my schedule or a technique during bjj.
I suppose in the end, I was a little disappointed by people's reactions in general, how no one could understand me and how no one wanted to play. What was I looking for, anyway? Silence? Being left alone? Or being understood? I think I was attempting a different angle with people, something deeper and wordless, something besides the weather and the bum knee and the goal chasing and the rat race. Something interesting, perhaps? Maybe if I was at it longer? Or maybe they'd all move on. Either way, I'm done with boredom and apathy and being disappointed. I'm ready to move and be moved. Find my tribe and get touchy-feely-think-y-evolve-y.