Silence disturbs me. I grew up attached to the hip of a mother who chattered incessantly. Mostly to me, sometimes to herself, often into the phone. Dishing out the gossip while stirring a big pot of spaghetti sauce, thick links of sausage bobbing beneath the surface. When she was silent, she was sullen, moody, brooding – disappointed in someone, something, life in general. She had her ups and downs. I like to pretend I’m nothing like my mother, but lately it’s become apparent that I am undeniably hers.
People joke about how talkative I am – sometimes kindly, other times unkindly. It is a harmless thing to joke about, mundane (if not terribly clever). Some contend that I need to be the center of attention, desperate for it even. In actuality, my own identity doesn’t even factor into it. I feel an incredible obligation to fill silences, like it’s my responsibility. I feel like I need to keep people getting along with one another, entertained, comfortable.
As a small child, my chatter was encouraged (I hear I could be highly amusing) but not my honesty. The first lies I ever told were at the instruction of other adults. Tact, decency, discretion. It was important to be opaque. Naked honesty was a form of obscenity. I have pretty much always lived a double life.
Sure, I was publicly weird. Always have been. Came up with strange ideas, some quite laughable, others ingenious (but always met with the label “queer” from my peers). I took risks. Spoke my mind. Did things on my terms. But it was an illusion.
I am much weirder than most people realize – which is hard to believe since I’m so publicly weird. The duplicity of keeping my two lives separate has been such a major burden that many times I wondered how I would even go on with the facade of being “me.”