Above is a picture of the best pen in the world, the PaperMate Nylon Tip, Black. For the last 5 years, we have had exactly two of them in the house, a house that contains something on the order of 800 pens, I'm not kidding, and keeping track of My Two Pens has been a constant source of enjoyment.

So last week, while I was placing an order online at the office supply store, which I never do, Mara usually does, I had what they call an a-ha moment. I wish you could have seen my face. I looked up from the laptop with my eyes open wide, sparkling, my mouth opened in a bashful, toothy smile, and I turned towards the window.

The sun came out from behind the clouds at that moment and shone through my drawn curtains (not sure how), and glinted off of my one large tooth there in the front (embellishment), and I said aloud in a wonder-filled and slightly lispy whisper: "Pens. I'm going to buy more pens. More PaperMate Nylon Tip, Black pens. The best pen in the world."

And so, I did. I now have 14 in total, same as my teeth. Life is Good!!!


Been a couple days since we talked about blogging personas and TMI...ehhh, what's this topic actually called? Someone must know. That's one of the problems with only having 8 readers, your resources are pretty limited when you just shout out a question like that. Answers don't come quick.


I talked to my mom on Wednesday or something, and during our phone call I re-recognized something that I knew already (English word for this please? Silence again. OK, suit yourselves) but it made a new sense in the context of this week's discussions.

Also in that context, I thought I'd point out that this post is already making me uncomfortable, alarms are already going off: "Perimeter breach! VDuck is going outside the lines!" In this case, not because I'm revealing something about myself, but about her. Several things, even. And, you know...we don't normally do that!

I probably should have warned her. Luckily, she's one of the 8 loyal readers, so she can have her legal team stuff a big toxic malware spider up my Outbox almost immediately if she thinks there's improposity afoot (not a word).

But yes, I'm talking about her because her ultimate answer to my question about how to proceed was to "write about the truth" (but said in a better way than that, I just can't remember what she said, because I was so high on sobriety and detoxification).


My mother is what they call "a good listener", but, yeah, significantly better than that. I've seen it in action hundreds of times. You don't have to be around her long. Almost every day, her cellphone rings 30 minutes after she's awake, 30 minutes before she closes her eyes at night, and probably 10 times in-between, with family members, friends, acquaintances, people she likes, people she hates...all calling to (mostly) talk about their problems.

They call her because when they talk to her, she listens: she's not just half-listening, nodding yeah, uh-huh, and waiting for a chance to talk about herself ("Oh, that's too bad, yeah those are tough, mm-hmm, you poor thing. But listen, at least it wasn't like my surgery, you remember my surgery, right? I told you about it, right? Oh God, listen, when I had mine, I told the doctor I told him, I said look I don't wanna etc.")

Well, my mom might be half-listening, especially if she's driving, but when the speaker stops and it's obviously time for her to say something, she'll say something truly empathetic, or ask a relevant diagnostic question, or if she feels like she has enough information to give some probably good advice she'll give it (if she sounds like a pro, it's not irrelevant to note that she's been a nurse for the last 40-something years).

The last time I saw her do this listening thing, late last year, I realized that I am pretty much exactly like this, or I would be if I ever answered my phone. Or, no, I actually realized it when I was on the phone: a few months ago I somehow ended up on the phone with a friend, and they had something they really needed to talk about.

If you're not someone who has my phone number, you don't have any idea what a fantastic-sounding scenario this is. "Yeah, right," you'd scoff. "Mark. On the phone. Really. (Pause). On the phone phone?"

But yeah, I was really on the phone phone. At 6am or something I got a text that said "call me when you get this," a sentence that can be innocuous, but not usually at 6am. Especially since this person knows that I don't use the phone casually. So we talked, for about an hour, and at some point I understood exactly why this person called me...and it's because I am an expert listener. And I thought about my mom.

The thing about this listening business is that people will take advantage of it. You know this. You've known or met someone who will talk ceaselessly and repetitively about every last little scrap of minutiae of their problems, with utter disregard for your interest level, location, safety, schedule, health status, etc.

This is usually a co-worker, or a seatmate on a transatlantic flight, someone that you're absolutely forced to be around. It can also be a family member, same deal. But for me, at least, I know that it cannot be one of my friends: my friends are super-carefully screened for this tendency. So if you're reading this and you know me? I'm not talking about you (see disclaimer below for additional asskicking).


So, Wednesday or whenever. Let's say it was today because I have coarse salt in my keyboard and today is easier to type than that W-word. My mom's been having crappy health problems for the last, oh....40 years? (cut to uproarious laughter from she and I) OK, well, this time she's been diagnosed with diabetes. So I was asking her some probing questions about her recently diagnosed diabetes and generally crumbling health status.

Before that, she'd been asking me questions, on the offensive, totally in excellent listener mode, sounding like the wise and woolly expert advisor that she is. But when I switched into my excellent listener mode and started asking her about her treatment, all of the sudden she couldn't talk any more, like she'd been hit with a tranquillizer dart. Nothing but big pauses and "Yeah, um," and "Ah, you know," and, one of my favorites, "So, yeah...you know...(trails off)."

And I suddenly had this kind of Fight Club moment where the camera started spinning around and around, faster and faster, and then it freezes on my face, and we suddenly see that I've been talking to myself on the phone this whole time.

We're good listeners in part because we hate talking about our own problems (I don't mean little complaints, I love to complain: I mean our seriously serious shit). I'd like to know how much of it is because we've just listened to too many co-workers and other random interlopers prattle on and on about their problems and thought, "Fuck, do I never want to be that person."

(EDIT/DISCLAIMER: Let me reiterate: I like listening to friends talk, that's why they're my friends. I like problem solving, a lot. So I like listening to friends and and I like problem solving, they both come very naturally to me, and if I like you, then yis everything is great: something is wrong, we talk about whatever's bothering you until we make some progress. Thees I also get from mother.

What I'm saying is: if you're a friend of mine reading this, I don't want you going all freaky freaky from now on about talking to me at length about shit, I'm serious, or I will fuck you up. And then YOU will be the reason we go back to only talking about kohlrabi and tamales out here. That's right: you'll be ruining it for everyone. And also don't start asking me a bunch of probing questions about my feelings either, or I'll cut you motherfucker).

So I pointed this mother/son similarity thing out to her and we said haha and laughed, and then we talked about isolationism, you know, purposely avoiding contact with people, and how isolationists don't live as long, true scientific fact, haha, more laughter, and then we had a little chat about the "blogging realness" issue that's been discussed this week. And about what it means to talk transparently about shit you really care about, especially when you can't tailor the delivery to a specific audience. She said she couldn't do it.

But she said I should, and not to worry about offending or scaring or otherwise turning people off. For her, she said, the less of the whole story I tell her, the more her nurse/mother imagination assumes the worst.

And...I? I still don't know, it's complicated. The more I think about it, the more I think I'm going to have to open the curtains at least a little bit here, but it's possible that what might seem like curtain-opening to me will be barely detectable by you. Old habits do die hard, and I'm pretty incapable of giving TMI on a regular basis (though I'm sure I'll slip occasionally).



Anonymous said...

great! i can't wait for your auto-diagnose...
get started; i will listen better i promise.

MEM said...

please see edit/disclaimer i just inserted into post. xoxoxo mem

Zora said...

Great post, from micro (pen rec) to macro (listening issues). I'm relating on many levels. Sorry I can't help on the word for re-recognizing. I don't think there is one...