I once read that the people deemed “most interesting” in everyday life only say about 10% of what passes through their brains. All of that silence gives them an air of mystery, so we think WOW! Silent Jim is so wise. I wonder what he’s going to say next. Let’s invite Silent Jim to our next party and make him our Best Friend Forever.
Reading this made me kind of mute for awhile. Because hey, I want to be interesting! I want to be invited to parties and be everyone’s Best Friend Forever! But I’m the kind of person who basically narrates her way through the day. Just ask my coworkers. Or just ask my husband about how I am compelled to read out loud every partially-dead neon sign we drive past. “Hey, look! Chin Kin! (China King). Hey, Niks Gros! (Nikos Gyros). Let’s not eat there, because Nik’s Gross! Get it? Do ya? Nik is Gross! Hahahahaha!”
I’m a 70 percenter. But put me in an unfamiliar social setting (especially with people who are the Velvet Underground of Wit & Smarts to my Billy Squier) and it’s as if someone has stapled my mouth shut. (Unless I’ve had a few glasses of wine. Then I’m looking for the lampshade and doing the Running Man on the dance floor at a loved one’s wedding reception.) So if you ever meet me for the first time and I’m sober and you’ve just had a margarita, you might think, “Hmm. This Jess character seems pretty interesting.” Later though, not so much.
I also once read about an editor who wrote this at the bottom of a writer’s story: “You make the mistake of thinking that everything in your life is interesting.” Or maybe it was a teacher who said this to a student. Who later committed suicide. Anyway, all of this is a lot of pressure to perform. Which only leads to a land where the only adjectives are limp, flaccid, flabby, slack, and sad. Some people (like Finslippy and Dooce and Lucinda and on and on) can make the mundane details in life fascinating. And funny! Especially when diarrhea is involved. But in my world, mundane is a place to aspire to. A magical place I’d maybe like to vacation. Funny things can happen when your life is mundane, but my life is SUB-mundane. The highlight of many of my days is eating a ball of fresh mozzarella over the sink, reviewing insurance paperwork, and watching the dog shed.
Which reminds me. I’ve got to take my insurance provider’s health assessment online so I get the $25 incentive.
This is the part where I talk about James Frey. He led an interesting life—interesting enough to write about it, get it published, and go on to win the Holy Grail of Literature (ahem get on Oprah). But wait. Hark. Lo. Jlo—what’s this? Mr. Frey exaggerated? His memoir was … embellished?
Okay. Still with me? Here’s where I come full circle and bring this bitch home (sorry for mixing my metaphors). I have learned these things in life:
A) I am unable to write if I’m in a volatile relationship. When dangerous or exciting things are happening to me I’m trying to find the next exit to Mundane Land. But when exciting and dangerous things are happening to others … ah, this is when my muse perches on my shoulder and things start to get interesting. This is why I love fiction. This is also why you may want to take memoirs with a grain of salt. Because when you’re drunk enough to spew vomit or speak in tongues every time you open your mouth, you won’t remember it later. Also, kids don’t walk around with pencils and notepads. No way. They’re going to write about your parenting skills later ... from memory. Which is a fairly frightening idea, actually.
B) People DO find you fascinating if you don’t say much! Try it sometime. You know why? Because we love. To talk. About. Ourselves. And when someone appears to be hanging on our every word, nodding and laughing at our stupid jokes, we want to take them home with us and love them forever and feed them organic grapes and hot chocolate made from scratch. Hey, they’re smart enough to understand how fricking cool we really are! Which makes them fascinating.
Or maybe that’s just me.