Friday, July 22, 2011

"Let it ring."

I'm going to share something, that I find pretty embarrassing.  Actually, it's downright humiliating, and leads to even further awkward situations down the road. 

My telephone freaks me out.

Not in a "boogie man" sort of way, but in a "jeezus, that fucking thing is ringing again, and the thought of picking it up and actually talking to the person on the other end, is making my heart sink into my stomach," way. 
I'm not sure, exactly, what freaks me out about it.  Maybe I'm afraid I'll hear bad news.  Maybe I'm afraid the person wants something from me that I don't have to give.  Maybe I'm worried that I'll get "stuck" on the phone with them for an extended period of time, and won't have an excuse to hang up. 

When my mother still called, it was impossible to get her off the line.  She literally chattered on for up to three hours sometimes, about nothing but herself.  My least favorite subject.  And nothing shut her up.  "Oh, look, one of the kids is on fire...gotta go," would still leave me on the phone with her for another half hour, while she explained in great detail why she hated fire. 
Ok, maybe it's not that extreme.  But that's how it felt
That is, when we weren't screaming incoherently at one another.  Which was often. 

My father has been calling for weeks, and every time he does, a knot swells inside my throat.  "He's either shit-his-pants drunk and wants to ramble on for an hour about aliens, or he's sober, and won't have anything to say to me at all."  Both are equally unnerving.  His messages fill me with panic and guilt, and remind me what an asshole I am for not answering my phone when he calls. 

My friends call, and my husband looks at me as if I've done something terrible when I say, "let it ring." 
"But, why don't you want to talk to them?" 
The short answer is, I don't know.


In high school, most of my hours were spent on the phone.  With a boyfriend.  With a best friend.  With wrong numbers, even.  Several times, I literally spent the entire night on the phone, only to be surprised by my 6am alarm.  I would wander thru the day exhausted, nap after school, and wake in time for dinner and phone.  The thought of that now makes my insides twist. 

Talking on the phone with my husband is not particularly a problem.  I think I could talk to him all day, and feel comfortable.   I can even handle making "professional" phone calls, to deal with our personal business, because I have an agenda, I can say my peace, and I can hang up when it's over. 

But the thought of an unsolicited phone call from a friend, relative, or otherwise, leaves me feeling a weird, anxious and embarrassing feeling.

I feel as if I'm well-spoken, thoughtful, and thought-full in text.  I can read an email, take a few minutes to think on it, compose a response, re-read the response, and delete or reword what doesn't come across the way I wish.  I can double-check myself for anything that I might wish to take back.  I can triple-check for anything that seems insensitive.  I can be sure.  Very, very sure.  And then, send. 
There is no "undo" over the phone.  Once I say it, I can't un-say it.  It's out there in the universe, and I can't take it back.  It's done. 

More than once, this has lead to friends feeling alienated.  Ignored.  Left behind.  It has led to an angry father, frustrated loved-ones, and a very confused, and embarrassed me. 
I'm happy that they want to talk to me.  I'm happy that someone loves me enough that they want to hear my voice over the phone.  And I feel ridiculous that I can't (or don't) reciprocate.  I'm anxious when they do call, and scared to death that one day, they won't.  My fear is that one day, the phone will finally fall silent, and no one will bother with me anymore. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree. The phone weirds me out. Even with caller ID, I still cringe the second I hear it ring. I have to change my ringer every few months because whatever sound I've selected starts to haunt my brain. Two of the most rewarding relationships in my life are at this point almost completely text-based. This gives me the happies, because it means I don't have to dread hearing from at least two people that I like a great deal. The phone. Ick.