I did tell my wife, when she was in the early days of being pregnant with our daughter: “you don’t really even look pregnant, you just look a little bit fat.”
I did say to my wife: “let me pull the car up and away from the bushes so you don’t get wet getting in” and then proceeded to pull 7’ into the middle of the driveway.
I did tell my daughter: “I think you can squeeze through there.”
And of course, as recently made famous in Faith’s blog, I observed that she is not short.
I’m guilty. I have received curious looks, complaints and periods of silence, not to mention a rather hefty bill for maternity clothes to which my wife added: “now I look pregnant.” I have shared these stories of good-intentions-gone-off-the-rails with friends and coworkers (looking for sympathy). One coworker tagged me with the question “why do you speak?”
However, the incident that lurks behind the first half of the title was not my fault. Still, I have been convicted in a “shoot the messenger” moment. I can’t remember the source, but I either watched or read an explanation as to why many things in life are shaped like my favorite travel mug. The author/speaker said: “among other things, it’s the shape women aspire to.” I did NOT say that. I did repeat it to my wife and she informed me that it was a dumb thing to say. Of course, I said it to my coworker, in reference to the conversation that I had with my wife. Again, I was looking for sympathy. Again “why do you speak?”
On another occasion, a woman in my office looked at my travel mug as I was rinsing it out and mentioned that she liked the shape. I said “do you know why that is?” I tried to distance myself from the person who first made the statement and I tried to make sure that she understood that I wasn’t referring to her or her shape.
Afterwards, I thought – why DO I speak?
As for the second half of the title, I was reminded by a blog friend that October 16th was the 52nd anniversary of the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was also the 52nd anniversary of an early “why-do-I-speak?” moment.
Being born in 1954 meant experiencing Duck and Cover drills, visiting Air Raid shelters and preparing for a nuclear war as if we really could survive under our school desk. During these drills we were supposed to:
- Remain calm
- Follow instructions
- Shut up
Teachers didn’t use the expression “shut up” but some did use the expression “shut up Dan.”
I wasn’t a quiet kind of kid. I followed instructions, but I always found it hard to stay focused. My mind would wander. My report cards often included the comment “Dan daydreams” (as if that was a bad thing). I am so glad that I was born before ADD diagnoses and Ritalin became popular, because I would have been one drugged-up little kid.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, we had a drill where we all gathered in the gym/auditorium. The idea was to stand quietly for a short period, and then listen to the 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Kocher. Mrs. Kocher was in charge. She had been in charge forever; she had actually taught my father when he was in 2nd grade.
There was very little to do during these drills, but some of us had “jobs!” I was assigned to roll down the black-out curtains. Well, I was more like a black-out curtain understudy. A 6th grader was in charge of the task, I was supposed to be learning – succession planning I suppose. In any case, while rolling down the curtain, I asked a teacher how rolling down the black-out curtains during the middle of the day was going to help. I got the look that I now recognize as an early form of “why do you speak?” followed by:
“This is a drill. You’re doing this so that in the event of a real attack, you will know how to roll down the curtains.”
That almost made sense. I should have stopped and thought about that, but that
wasn’t isn’t my nature. I blurted out:
“But they are firing missiles at us. Missiles aren’t looking for buildings on the ground, there’s no one in there to see us; they just go up and come down.”
“Go. Sit. In the corner.”
And, of course, I had to take a note home and explain the incident to my parents. Luckily, my dad handled that one. Dad wasn’t all that good with that kind of discipline because he had been like me in school. Still, he wanted his kids to do better. He would yell at us but he didn’t yell this time, he explained. When I told him my side of the story, he looked at me and said:
“Did it ever occur to you that the reason they give you these jobs is so you have something to do? They have you clean the erasers because you fidget in class at the end of the day. This is the same kind of thing. If you don’t want to have to crank the curtains down, go into the room and be quiet.”
Pictures – Dunkin Donuts stopped making my original travel mug. I lost several and I was down to one slightly damaged one when they reintroduced the mug that represents the shape women aspire to. I bought 4. The lower picture is the park that sits where my elementary school used to be. No longer a target of the cold war or a training ground for curtain handlers.