Thursday, June 9, 2011

Are we arguing or just talking loudly?

Lord knows I have my shortcomings, but a lack of self-awareness isn't one of them. I am fully aware that at times, I can be endlessly annoying, and patience is not a virtue with which I've been blessed. I've been told (by my mother) that I give up on people too easily, (by my brother) that my standards and expectations of people are too high, and (by myself) that I don't know when to shut up.

Those who know me well might agree with my mother and brother (I do), and those who regularly read my blogs, might concur that sometimes I might be better off zipping it. Yet I never seem to know just when to stop. I'm a typical Taurus: headstrong and opinionated. I think first and talk later.

My friends love and loathe me for all of those strong qualities (or perhaps it's my loyalty, another quintessential Taurean trait), but most importantly, they accept me as is because, you know, that's what friends do. Friendship with me is not for those who don't like to be contradicted or those who prefer their conversations to remain at volume 5 and below. An ex once asked me why I have so much invested in always being right, and I asked, "Well, if I don't think I'm right, who will?" Why open your mouth if you think what you're saying is possibly wrong?

But talking about the passion, if I have a point of view (which, in the strictest sense of the term, are neither right nor wrong, just informed or misguided), I feel compelled to share it, especially when the wheel of fortunate conversation topics lands on a subject I really care about. Racism and homophobia will rile me up, but nothing gets me going like music and pop culture.

I once interviewed Sharleen Spiteri from the band Texas, and she told me that the night she met her then-boyfriend and the future father of her daughter, they were arguing about rock & roll. It was love at first fight. I recently clicked with someone while debating the pros and cons of Lady Gaga. It's so much better than talking about the weather!

So when does a conversation or discussion go from being heated and turn into an argument? Probably when tempers flare, but not all arguments are created equal. An argument doesn't become negative until it gets personal. We strike nerves, say things we can't take back but later wish we could. Sometimes a slap is thrown in, or a drink gets tossed in someone's face.

It usually begins with a personal observation: Why do you always leave the cap off the toothpaste and/or the toilet seat up? Must you always be at least a half hour late? Who is he and what is he to you? If you tell me you love Lady Gaga (which pretty much everybody does these days), and I tell you I don't (what a broken record I've become), we aren't really arguing until I blurt out (loudly) that you're a fool for being taken in by Born This Way and all its hype.

But I'd never ever do that.

The other day I had a heated discussion with someone about a subject very near and dear to me. (I won't reveal the topic lest he read this and know I'm talking about him.) Voices (well, mine) were raised, spit flew (again, probably mine) and opinions were expressed. As far as I recall, there were no insults, no threatening looks, no ill will (at least not on my part), until I was mid-retort and he announced, "I don't want to argue about this anymore."

Wrong answer!

I think he was just tired, or maybe it was that time of the month, but if we weren't arguing before, we were about to now. I understand that some people don't like confrontation. They'd much rather watch a boxing match or a good old cat fight between two spunky divas on TV than get their hands dirty disagreeing with someone in real life. I get that raised voices turn some people off. But we all disagree sometimes, and sometimes when we do, we talk above a whisper. If you hold it in now, there's always the danger that it will come out in a more inconvenient time and place. And like No. 2s, expression comes in all shapes, sizes and volumes. (I know, gross!)

Passion has its place outside of the bedroom, too. But regardless of where you stand on the touchy subject of whether it's polite to raise one's voice in the presence of company, one thing's for certain: It's worse to interrupt someone mid-sentence, especially to announce that the conversation is over.

Unfortunately, I never got around to saying any of this because my friend shut down, which, of course, made me angrier and resulted in a full-blown argument. The irony? There were no insults traded, no raised voices. In fact, barely a word was spoken. But we were having a full-blown argument for sure, and it couldn't have been more personal. I was infuriated by the dead silence when there was so much more I wanted to say -- about the subject that had been at hand, about him and his lousy attitude, about '70s TV stars whose hair never moved. I hate screaming matches, but surely shouting must be better than this!

It wasn't the end of the world, or the friendship. I eventually finished the thought that he so rudely interrupted, though I'm not sure that he was even listening. The next time I feel the spark of passion igniting inside of me, I'll try to keep it down, but I'll probably fail. There's a time and place for loud eruptions of passion, and for me, it doesn't have to be when I'm horizontal.

I know that's annoying, but fortunately, the people who really love me wouldn't have me any other way.

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