Archive for July, 2011

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In which we discuss the voice in my head, and its tendency to yell at me

I don’t know what goes on in other peoples’ heads.
I mean, I’ve read articles on brain science, but I still feel like I don’t understand what’s going on in a person’s head when I’m talking to him/her.

Imagine a robot, who is taught human interaction solely by watching reruns of “I Love Lucy” and Adam Sandler movies.

I would make that robot uncomfortable.

Basically, when I’m talking to someone, it’s a three-way conversation, between me, the person I’m talking to, and the voice in my head, which is coaching me on how not to make a complete fool of myself.  However, that voice is also me.  You can see how this might cause problems.  A simple example:

Me: Hey, what’s up?
Voice: Good.  Nice, solid opening.  Neutral, but not boring.
Friend: Not much, and you?
Me: Not much.  Life is good.
Voice: Oh no!  This conversation is drab and unimportant.  Make it a meaningful interaction!  Say something interesting!
Me: I can fit my whole fist in my mouth.1
Friend: (awkwardly silent.)

And it doesn’t get much better from there.  There’s a reason I started a comic called “why I shouldn’t date.”  I was always shocked when girls agreed to a second date.  Part of me wanted to say, “You know that the awkward nervous thing isn’t a first date thing, right?  It’s a me thing.  This ain’t going away, honey.  It’s just going to get worse as we date more.”  It’s to my credit that I never came out and said that, but I think they got it.

Yes, I am now happily married, and marginally more at ease with my wife of 2+ years, but there’s a world of people out there, just waiting to be made uncomfortable by me.  The dialogue above was an example of how a conversation  with very little at stake goes awry.  When the topic is heavier, it only compounds the problem.  For instance:

Me: Hey, how’s it going?
Voice: Good.  You’ll get this one right.  Just avoid mentioning your fist. Or your mouth.  You know, just avoid mention of any and all orifices, ok?
Friend:  Not great.  I think I just failed my final in a very important course.
Voice: Ok, we know this script. This is where you commiserate.  Let him know that you understand him.
Me: Yeah, I’ve been there.
Friend: Oh?
Voice: Ok, now drive it home…
Me: 
 I failed all my courses in college, and set fire to the Registrar’s office.  Once, I cut a man, just to watch him bleed.
Friend: WHAT?
Voice:
No! No!  Overkill!  Make yourself look good!  Say something positive!
Me: I love puppies and marshmallows and jellybeans!
Friend: To eat?
Voice: Oooh, this is a tricky one.  Tread carefully. Say you don’t eat puppies.  Be very clear on that point.
Me: No, I only eat the puppies.
Voice: Damnit.
Me: Jellybeans and marshmallows!  Ha ha!  I mean, I only eat jellybeans and marshmallows.  Well, I eat other things.  But not puppies.  I eat other animals.  Um, dead ones.  Only the normal-to-eat dead animals, prepared in a normal fashion.
Voice: I think you just barely squeezed by that one.
Friend:
Riiight.  Um, what does this have to do with my test?
Voice: I have no idea.
Me: I have no idea.
Friend: Yeah, well this whole thing has got me pretty depressed.
Voice: Ok, here’s our chance. Cheer him up!  Say something happy!
Me: I can fit my whole fist in my mouth.
Voice: (sighs).

And that’s par for the course.  Welcome to my life.

  1. Truth is, I can fit my whole fist in my mouth. But that’s a story for another time.^