HEY...LISTEN UP!!




            As my resolution this year I vowed to talk more.  I asked my significant other what he thought and after my beloved partner got up off the floor where he fell down while laughing hysterically, he said he thought that perhaps I'd made a mistake.  There was no mistake.  I knew exactly what I said, and I tried to explain, but decided I'd have more luck after he had his hiccups and giggles under control.

            What I meant was that I've spent most of my life concentrating on becoming a good listener.  That perhaps I'd overlooked the need for being able to speak up when I should.  You see, when I was growing up the virtue of being a "good listener" could not be over stated.  This, we were assured was the ultimate road to being the perfect friend, wise counselor, popular date and top of the list to be invited to parties.  It was also touted as the ideal way to stay out of trouble, gain knowledge, impress superiors, and achieve career goals.  Somewhere in its list of assets may have been its use as a cure for the common cold and the way to lasting peace in the world - I'm not sure.  One thing I am sure of, I'm sorry to report, is that I had even less trouble swallowing all of that than a dish of pudding.

            Look, you may develop patience, compassion, and a sense of selflessness, being a good listener (not to mention a complete disregard for stuffy social mores - as evidenced by the way you dive under furniture and marine crawl toward the door when you spot that legendary, droning bore charging at you from across the room), but nobody ever mentioned what could happen to you if you run into a fellow listening devotee!

            If you happen to be total strangers it's not so bad.  After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, maybe a few inane remarks, you both tend to develop an uncontrollable urge to use the bathroom.  End of conversation.  However, Steven King could get an entire novel, and maybe a mini-series, out of an encounter between two good listeners who are acquaintances or - worse yet - who are in constant contact with one another.

            I have a gentleman in my life who is both a friend and, because of the work I do, someone I need to be in contact with on a regular basis.

            How did we get to be friends then?  Well, there were always lots of other people around.  We tended to laugh at the same jokes, enjoyed the same snacks, approved of the same kinds of things.  We seemed to have similar temperaments and tastes.  I liked him, he liked me.  Then it happened.

            One day, there we were, alone in a room together.  We stood there grinning moronically at each other for a few minutes.  Then it turned into a twisted version of a classic mirror skit.  We nervously cleared our throats.  Then we both did one of those shaky laugh/coughs.  In unison we passed a hand across the backs of our necks while searching the ceiling with our averted eyes (hoping a script would appear there, I guess).  From there we started to develop the weirdest bunch of body tics you can imagine - digging holes in the carpet with our toes, shrugging our shoulders, cracking knuckles, scratching, checking for dirt under our nails...finally, after an eternity of this (30-45 seconds max.) a poor unsuspecting third party wandered in.  We pounced on that poor soul like it was the second coming!

            Since then, we've made it a point to have a few others around when we are together (O.K. he gets an expression of panic and tackles anyone within 50 ft to drag them over.  I am much more tactful - I fake an allergy attack and start sneezing like crazy).  But we still frequently must speak over the phone.  You can just imagine the scintillating repartee and witty bon mot that come out of our exchanges.
            Oh, I'm not going to give up being a good listener entirely.  I know that my friends appreciate

that I am here for them when they need a sympathetic ear.  My darling tells me everything about his

day - every day!  And my children are forever following me around the house to tell me stories and

secrets and just to babble.  I know they all do it because I have a track record of being willing to

listen to anything!  And I don't mind really. I've got to tell you though, I have two more kids who

haven't gone through the knock-knock joke phase yet, and after having had two who already have, I

can't promise I won't dive under the furniture and crawl for the door when they do

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