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Rhubarb Rhubarb

“You never told me.”

“Of course I did! Don’t you remember?”

“Unh unh, you never told me.”

“Are you kidding? I was making your breakfast (which I might add is a granola concoction that takes me almost twenty minutes to prepare) and… Wait a minute. Look, I even wrote it in my blog.”

“You may have written it in your blog, but you never told me.” His voice becoming peevish.

“Okay, so here’s the thing. We have two options. Either one or both of us has memory problems or you weren’t listening.”

“There is a third option.”

“And what is that?”

“You never told me.”

So, given that I did tell him. The obvious answer is, he wasn’t listening. Even though he was looking at me, head slightly cocked as if he were attending to my every word, his mind was elsewhere. And I wonder: What was he thinking about? What profound thoughts disturbed his mind? What weighty philosophical musings, what matters of state?

Of course he’s accused me of the same thing. True, I can be standing there, actually looking at him. I can see his mouth moving, hands gesticulating…. But spiritually I’m at the supermarket deciding what to cook for dinner.… or questioning whether I can get away with wearing my good jeans tonight instead of a dress. I’ll admit the inner workings of my mind are not exactly poetry, more like the prose of life. I used to wonder what my cat was thinking while he sat looking out the window, a sagacious look on his face. In fact, I suspect his musings, while not exactly Leibniz, were more interesting than mine.

On a film set when you want to the extras to seem like they’re chatting to one another you tell them to keep repeating “Rhubarb, rhubarb.” It looks like genuine conversation but of course it means nothing. Is that what my husband and I are hearing? Just a dial tone?

I guess that’s what happens with habit. Truth is, after a while you don’t even hear the rhubarb, rhubarb, you block out the whole pitch. There is one exception however. When I’m muttering something disagreeable under my breath. This my husband can hear from a block away.

I suppose there are disadvantages to this selective hearing. For example if he was yelling, “Fire!” Or offering to cook dinner. Or asking if I want a new iPhone. Even so I’m thinking the advantages of selective hearing far outweigh the disadvantages. In fact it’s likely no relationship could exist without it.

First off, there are 470,000 words in the English dictionary and, not even counting all the “ands” and “buts,” we have spoken all of them several times over. Long ago people suggested we bought helmets with an intercom so we could talk to one another while we were on the motorcycle. I totally nixed it saying: “What? So that I can listen to his constant running commentary: ‘Did you see that? Did you see that nincompoop just cut me off?’ Or ‘When I was a kid this is where Aunt Sylvia had her first corset shop…’” Let me point out, he is indicating Aunt Sylvia’s first corset shop. There were five others. Not to mention the barber shop he went to as a child and the building that has now replaced the shop where his mother bought chickens. All this on repeat, for the four hundredth time. On the other hand, I now realize, what’s the difference how often he says this? I won’t be listening anyway.

But here’s the best part, if you’re not listening, there’s a good chance you’ll miss out on the nagging. Remember the song, Yakity Yak? “Take out the papers and the trash….” Yep. I’m afraid that sounds familiar. I suppose he nags too. But of course, I wouldn’t know. Because I’m not listening.

And yet thinking it over, I have the feeling there’s a flaw in my logic. Perhaps ignoring the Rhubarb doesn’t make sense. After all, a lifetime of listening to oneself can be more than enough. As I pointed out, my internal monologue is not quite the calibre of Molly Bloom’s in ‘Ulysses.’ It’s much more like a constant reel of outrages at the supermarket, the closed exercise rings, the salmon or sea bream. Worse. There are the regrets. The ‘should have’s’ the ‘why did I’s’. The incessant mousey-wheel inside one’s head. Sigh.

So in the end, maybe there is a reason to listen to the constant: ‘Did you see that nincompoop just cut me off’ or the ‘this is where Aunt Silvia had her first corset shop.’ Even listening to a joke for two hundredth time does make a certain amount of sense. In fact this time it might even make me laugh.

Or better yet. Maybe he is asking if I would like a new iPhone,

TURNING POINTS from Crowd-Writing

a book by Shelley Katz

Out Now


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