I hate being misunderstood. Hate it. I despise it more than more than baby powder scented products, more than someone taking the last of something and leaving the empty container behind, more than the thought of Raisin Bran covered in mayo and topped with oysters. It’s the part about not being listened to. About someone not taking the time to figure out where I’m coming from. It’s about the connection between me and another human being breaking even for a second, a connection that I at times value more than my own bones. It’s an emotional fuck you that makes me five years old again, banging on my parents’ bedroom door only to be met with silence. Please open up. That’s not what I meant. Why. won’t. you. listen.
My nuclear foursome has never understood why I have a penchant for raising my voice to that end. In any argument, I’ll be the one thrashing about in an attempt to get a point across, given that neither rational thought nor courtesy prevails in their home. When I was a little Kris, they’d attribute these explosions to an excess of Red Dye #6, a wheat allergy, or the preferred and likely explanation of me just being a ginormous pain in the ass. For as many years, my family has thought my head explosions have been about me being heard, about regurgitating the words just spoken as evidence of their higher order processing. Surely being able to say what Kris just said and in the tone in which Kris said it means we’re simpatico!
It never did. It still doesn’t. After all, the mimes and the chimps and even Flipper can mimic. The conversion of these recited words was never quite right, either, as if no literal translations exist in Familyspeak. Yes, Kris. I get it. You need a lot of attention.
Really? That’s what you took from me asking if we could turn off the television when I visit so we can spend more time talking to each other? Cue flailing arms, fourth-grade tantrum, me shrieking like a cat in the bathtub while my undisturbed mother drinks a mint julip and pats her brow. It ends with her raised palm – stop
– and some form of me begging. You are missing the point. It's me. I need you to listen.
Friends and lovers do this too, although given that most of my cronies and bedmates weren’t born in the ‘40s and therefore missed reading Ms. Passive Aggressive Manners, misinterpretations grow into much stronger fuck yous. The initial miscommunication and resulting misunderstandings are much less civil than with family, what with the EXCESSIVE USE OF CAPITALS – which really should be reserved for cat and child custody disputes, don’t you think? – and the F bombs and complete and utter absence of e-tone. All of us can throw emotional grenades safely from behind our electronic devices, including the phone, doing little to help already compromised communication. Before you know it, your in box is a Jackson Pollack full of RE:s. Neither of you stopped to ask what that turn of phrase meant, to clarify a response that made the stomach drop. The outcome changes little.
I get it already.
I thought I knew you better than this.
It's both an exercise in experience and frustration. Yes, I knew better but I thought you knew me better, too.
I find myself banging on the door again, although this time it’s usually by hated cell phone or email. It's trying to get someone to face me without being allowed to touch them. Please open up. That’s not what I meant. Why. won’t. you. listen.
My mind automatically interprets the underlying message. I must not mean enough if they won’t take the time to figure out what I’m trying to say.
As a little one, there’s not much else to think. We know love, but we can’t make sense of people giving and pulling it away simply because of trappings and judgments. It’s never being given the benefit of the doubt simply because you are a known and loved entity. An I know her better.
Kids screw up, but aren’t their intentions relatively pure until they steal your Stratus and plow it into a snowbank while snorting coke off the dash? In adulthood, the identical message simply shifts sender. Responses are still reactionary, irrational, built on neuronal firing rather than a shared history and experience. And it gets me every time, this baggage, sucking me into a whirlpool of self-doubt. You know me. And if you aren’t understanding me, you aren’t listening. If you cared, you’d take the time to figure this out.
In a head that can’t make sense of the shift, the blame resides entirely with me. I'm unable to differentiate things I'd do differently from the pain of not being understood. Screw their bullshit, how their past friendships or shitty day color our interaction. I’m falling short.
WHY. WON'T. YOU. LISTEN.
And suddenly I’m a fourth grader again, one who’s more glad than ever that the Internet doesn’t allow you a glimpse of all that flailing.