listening

My daughter is now talking, more and more every day. New words splurge out of her little face hole on a daily basis, seemingly without end. Or reason.

Wifey and I are of course as proud as any good parents would be. Should be. We smile inanely at each other, wrinkling our noses, as our beautiful baby girl inarticulates simple words and phrases in a goo-goo-ga-ga kind of way. We are indeed truly blessed. I suppose.

I have a problem with all of this.

I am now forced to pretend to listen to another person. There are already two people in the house that I have to give the impression of listening to, and now there is a third. Bugger.

It’s exhausting, not really listening. If you do it properly, that is. I’m not talking about plain old not-listening; that’s easy. You just don’t listen. The problem with not-listening is that everyone knows you’re not listening, because generally you don’t:

a) respond to them
b) look at them
c) even know they are in the room

In my experience, not-listening is simply a recipe for having to listen even more than you would have if you’d listened in the first place. This is a foolhardy mistake made by the inexperienced. Furthermore, this tack usually necessitates the need for talking, and nobody wants to go down that road. So not-listening — don’t do it. No sir, your better option is the pretend-listen.

Pretend-listening is both an art form and exhausting. The experienced pretend-listener can, when a person (who should know better) attempts to engage them:

a) respond to them
b) look at them
c) even know they are in the room

Let’s break each those down further, to better pick apart the skill of the pretend-listening artiste.

1. Uh-huh responding 
The experienced pretend-listener can indeed respond to a person who’s over-waffling their piehole, and in a timely and seemingly attentive manner. But listen carefully, and the responses of the pretend-listener are two-dimensional. Were you to engage them for long enough, you would realize that the pretend-listener’s responses are on a loop. Even the most experienced of pretend-listeners only has, on average, 11 primed fake-listening responses. (Generally because they can’t be bothered to learn any more.) They are:

1. Uh-huh.
2. OK.
3. Oh!
4. *tsk*
5. Really?
6. Wow!
7. *fake laugh*
8. Mmmmm.
9. Yes.
10. No.
11. *nod*

Now, the skill of the pretend-listener is knowing exactly where in the loop to start the pretend-listening responses and how long to leave it before the next response is required, making sure of course that the chosen response is an appropriate one for the point of time in the pretend-listen. All while not really listening. EXHAUSTING. Why, oh why, oh why people force other people into this on a daily basis is beyond me. Why don’t we all just shaddup?

2. Uh-huh looking 
A pretend-listener worth their salt will always look at you. Always. What’s more, they will often look you directly in the eye. For extended periods of time. But look again. Look closely. Closer. See it? Their eyes are glazed over. Because? THEY ARE NOT REALLY LISTENING TO YOU.

The person you are now selfishly blah-blah-blahing to has diverted their very essence into stasis and is absentmindedly thinking about having sex with their partner, a celebrity or you. (Of course, the first option is ludicrous, but Wifey may be reading this.)

You can test out this theory if you don’t believe me. The next time you’re talking to someone you think may be pretend-listening to you, midway through your pointless ear-waffle raise both your eyebrows in a sexy, “How about it?” kind of way. A real-listener will stumble over their words, lose their train of thought and possibly blush. The pretend-listener won’t flinch and will only respond if they have an appropriate verbal response in the pre-banked loop.

(It should be noted that if you attempt the pretend-listener-sexy-eyebrow-raise-detector [patent pending] you do so at your own risk. I know of a gentleman who incurred the unwarranted solicitations of a repairman while attempting to determine whether he was paying attention.)

3. Uh-huh even knowing they are in the room 
If the pretend-listener has adequately performed the first two parts (1 and 2), then (3) is a mere formality, requiring little more than perhaps passing something, picking something up, shuffling up a bit, or heavy petting and possibly foreplay. While (3) is described as a formality, the skill of simultaneously pretend-listening, responding and moving—whether up, down, in or out—is still extremely challenging for the uninitiated and should not be entered into lightly. In my youth, when I was overconfident in my pretend-listening abilities, I once narrowly escaped arrest while attempting to respond and react while pretend-listening in an intimate situation. The police officer issued me no more than a verbal warning. I think. I wasn’t really listening. I do remember that he had piercing blue eyes, though . . .

Uh-huh moving forward.

So I shall induct my daughter in my pretend-listening. She is already well-versed but doesn’t know it. Her still-forming baby brain is far too emergent to notice the nuances of the responses she gets from me. To her, running to the door and shouting “It’s Daddy!” and walking around the house looking for me shouting, “Daddy need poo!” are one in the same.

Of course, for the former, I am standing on the threshold, weary and encapsulated by the sight of her. The latter, I am hiding behind the sofa, softly whispering ,”Find Mommy—Mommy do it,” attempting to surreptitiously engage her subconscious, sending her wayward in search of Wifey.

See, that’s my new thing, I’ve decided: Surreptitiously engaging your subconscious for my dastardly ends.

So. When you think I’m listening, I’m not. Not really. I am pretending. I am either thinking about boinking you, or Darren-Browning you into doing my evil bidding. Or just not listening.

Take my advice: DO NOT TALK TO ME.

It’s better for all of us.

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