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I have nothing to say and I am saying it: 5.10.13


Whatís weird is how age broadens your vocabulary. Not that it does, but literally how it does. Just a few weeks ago, I never thought these sickly words would drip so easily from my mouth, drawn out and absorbed without further ado into my very bloodstream of being like Iíd been hooked up to some I.V. of unwanted verbiage. EKG, diabetic shock, hypertension, stroke. These are all flowing through me now; Iíve metabolized them. Or whatever. Iím not very medically minded and itís been a fairly unwanted education so Iím not doing so well with them. All these new words. And to be fair, I guess age has done this less unpleasantly in years past. Showers, flower arrangements, bustles. Check, check, and check. And I never thought I could speak with such unbounded abandon of nursing schedules, breast pumps, or even jaundice and colicky babies. But it happens and your lexicon expands around you, in spite of you even.


So here I am, lately. With all of these new and unpleasant words and Iím unsure who to say them to. Itís not like I want to spew them into a Facebook post or text them or inject them into gossipy gab sessions with pals. So the new words, they require new conversations, new communications. They require talks. And itís hard to engineer those, at least for me. Two of my good friends have had their fathers pass away in the last two years. My dear friendís brother-in-law died suddenly two weeks ago. Two days ago, a good friend told me heís getting a divorce. I mean, Iím almost 40: Iím not totally unacquainted with talks . But theyíre delicate still. They donít always need to arrive as a gaudy centerpiece to a conversation, a flaming cocktail of showy emotion. Most of the real talking done with my friends on the shock of a sudden, unwanted change arises gently, organically. Maybe even after a few whiskeys or pours of red. But it happens, it takes over our conversation firmly but comfortingly, like an arm draped over a shoulder. So Iíve been waiting. I wait to tell the new news but more for the opening to talk more, let it take over in a slow, easy way, not in some bear hug of a wild embrace, a desperate grab for a sympathetic ear and platitudes. Timing, as they say, is everything.


Which means I am feeling caught in a strange public procrastination that rubs the wrong way against my tell-all tendencies, my overtly extroverted policy, my near lethal dread of phoniness. Even with some close friends. Itís funny because these days thereís a lot to thisóhow you Ďcurateí your external life for others. Thatís not my excellent turn of phrase; I read it a few years ago in The Atlantic in the context of their shakedown of Facebook. How it turns everyone narcissistic. Or the opposite, if youíre an introvert who canít gleefully unfurl your little paper doll chain of friends and gloat. Then you take each happy and triumphant status update (because who ever puts up the bad news?) as a new crease in your own insular origami wall, folding yourself further and further away from all that glad-handed headlining. Either way, I remember reading back then, itís a socially deconstructive force, this social media. (And obviously, this is not news. But hey, I can be as hackneyed as I want to be here, right?) But see, Facebook (or texting or tweeting or photomessaging or whatever your mode of digital disconnect happens to be) is not the crime itself: itís merely the file of evidence. We all do it, all the time, regardless of the medium.


Not to be OVERLY macabre or anything, but this month just so happens to be the 50th anniversary of the publication of ĎThe Bell Jar.í And that? That must read how-to guide for post-collegiate angst and anomie offers the best account of how your outward self is always, even at its best, just a showcase of phoninessÖor a phony case of showiness, really. Poor old Plath didnít need digital disconnectedness to facilitate her total put-on of, ĎHey, look at me, Iím doing alright!í She did it the old fashioned way. By withdrawing behind her own carefully curated faÁade of omission. Right there, in person. Come to think of it, that's also the timeless appeal of Gatsby--the quintessential American showman--who's coming back around yet again as a summer flick this week.


So thatís the public curating Iím talking about. I wish I could talk about all this all the time. Really stretch the legs of my new vocabulary and see how far these new words take me down. At work. At dinner. At the coffee shop. At the wine bar. At brunch. Standing there at the show. Browsing at the bookstore. In the car while Iím driving my friend to his birthday dinner. But no. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I have to yank back on the strings that pull my jaw to dance spasmodically, my little maniacal mental marionette that wants to blurt, ĎBut look, I canít concentrate on you or this. I canít go along with the good time fun this time. I have to tell you what I did after I ran a half-marathon last Sunday. I have to tell you about how I saw my father in the supermarket last week and didnít recognize him or didnít want to. I have to tell you how the last phone call made me feel. I still have to tell you how the first phone call made me feel. I have to tell you how worried I am now, how Iím living at a low ebbed panic. I have to tell you.í But I canít. I canít tell and you won't be able to tell. Until we talk.


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