I Don’t Think You Get It

I find it annoying when someone seems to be deliberately unaware of what is said in a conversation in which they are participating. Sometimes, they can even be the person making nonsensical comments with little relation to reality. Are they being deliberately obtuse? Is it just a distorted self-image? Perhaps a form of self-preservation. Whatever the cause, it can definitely be amusing as well as annoying.

Recently, I was leaving work for the day. I left the office I share with three other people, one of whom is female. As I walked out the door, I said, “Well, I’ll see you dudes later.”

My female coworker replied, “That’s sexist.”

“What?”

“That’s sexist.”

“Fine. I’ll see you guys later.”

“Much better.”

How is that better? Aren’t both words considered masculine (regardless of how I use them). I don’t think she got that one wasn’t much different from the other. Of course, she could have been joking (I certainly hope she was).

I also experienced this in high school. I was interested in a girl who was not interested in me, though we spent a bit of time together, often alone (I guess she liked me like a friend, not liked me liked me according to the Semantics of Relationship). We sat together talking as she lamented the state of her recent relationship.

“Why can’t I find a decent guy?”

“Maybe you’re just looking in the wrong place.”

“But I look everywhere!”

“Are you sure? I mean, someone could be, uh, right beside you.”

At this point, the conversation paused for a moment. Just a beat as the import of my words sunk in. She looked at me as if considering the implications of what I said.

“You know, I would love to find a guy like you.”

“Really?” Was this really working?

“Yeah. I feel safe with you. You always make me smile, you’re sweet, and I just like being around you.”

“Well, what do you say then?”

“About what?”

“About me. Um, us. You could date me.”

“Oh, don’t be so silly.” I wonder if she knew how much the laughter hurt.

“But you said you wanted a guy like me. I am a guy like me.”

“Right, but you’re you. I want a guy just like you who isn’t you.”

“That makes no sense.”

I didn’t think she got what she was saying or understood the contradictory nature of her words. The sad thing (or funny thing, depending on your perspective) is, I had a similar conversation with a different girl the next year. We sat and talked, but this girl was actually laying across two chairs with her head in my lap, making it nearly impossible to avoid eye contact.

“Why can’t I find a decent guy?”

“Maybe you’re just looking in the wrong place.”

“But I look everywhere!” Déjà vu!

“Are you sure? Someone could be close. Someone like me.” I thought it was better to assert myself as a suitor earlier on this time.

“You know, I would like to date a guy like you.”

“So how about me.”

“Oh, I could never date you.”

“Why not?”

“It wouldn’t work out.”

“But you said you wanted to date a guy like me.”

“Yeah. I would date a guy like you.”

“So, you want to date someone exactly like me, except that he isn’t me.”

“Exactly.” I was as perplexed as the year before.

Sometimes “not getting it” comes though observation of someone else not getting it. I once sat at a table during lunch at Austin Peay and had a conversation with a woman who clearly needed medication to find balance. We spoke for quite some time, or rather, she spoke while I listened and nodded my head or said “Hmm.” as seemed appropriate. When she finally had to go to class, a friend of mine who watched the exchange came over.

“That was amazing,” he said.

“What?”

“She thought you were actually interested in what she was saying. She didn’t get it that you weren’t interested at all. How did you do that.”

“Well, mostly, I just listened and asked a few questions. I think that’s all she needed. Someone to listen to her for a while.”

“But you seemed so in to it and she never caught on that you were just humoring her.”

“Why should she? You never catch on.” He laughed because he thought I was joking.

These are all good examples, but my absolute favorite comes by way of a professor I had who was the opposite of self-aware. He taught Psychology and on the first day of class he asked us to give examples of annoying professor habits. As we said the usual things (such as calling on the one person without a raised hand), he wrote them on the board. When he got to the bottom, he started a second column. Everyone kind of ran out of ideas (or interest), but he wanted one more.

“OK, these are all good, but we have five in the left column and four in the right. How about one more to balance this out?”

I couldn’t resist and raised my hand. He pointed to be, so I said, “Professors who are anal retentive.”

“Oh, good one!” He put it on the list then added bullets to each line. The class snickered and looked at me. I just shrugged. I couldn’t believe he didn’t get that I was talking about him.

The level of cluelessness he exhibited still amuses me. Of course, it also frightens me because I wonder how often I do the same thing. How often I don’t get that I’m contradicting myself or that someone is referring to me. At least he didn’t talk about himself in the third person. Leighton hates people who do that.

© Leighton Brown and Stories Now Told, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Leighton Brown is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leighton Brown and Stories Now Told with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information, please see the Copyright page.
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About leighton

I could be considered a true Renaissance Man after having a long and storied (seriously, people actually tell stories about it) college experience and varied careers. I am also a shameless self-promoter (who did you think was writing this anyway?) who is prone to flights of fancy, an abundance of passion on any given subject, ,obsessive behavior, spontaneous storytelling (whether anyone listens or not), and making parenthetical references. I would also be thrilled if I heard someone use the word "raconteur" to describe me.
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4 Responses to I Don’t Think You Get It

  1. Terry says:

    Haha. I miss my talking in the third-person days. I don’t see what people have against it, lol. The only downside to it is when someone is talking about someone else of the same name, lol. Now second-person, that would be interesting.

  2. I knew a guy just like that says:

    What should have been said but as a young person dealing with all the changes in her thoughts, opinions, body and the way she views the world around herself – she doesn’t even know exactly what to say. How can you explain in words when you haven’t figured it out yet, figuring it out comes many years later as an adult when you sit down and reflect… You think it is hard being a teenage guy, just try being a teenage girl!
    Girl says, “Why can’t I find a great guy?” Guy says, “Someone like me?” Girl says, “Exactly!” Guy says, “What about me?” Girl says, “Yeah, right!”
    Guy hears, jeez… What is about me? They say I’m great but not THE one?
    Girl’s thoughts, he’s the cutest guy that has ever talked to me, he is the smartest guy that understands what I am saying even when I don’t know what I’m saying, he makes me feel good about myself when I’m around him and he’s the best friend all rolled into one. I’m not good enough for him. I wouldn’t want to let him down so I’ll play it safe and just be his friend and that girl hopes he grows up to be the amazing man she knows he can be and that he finds the one amazing, wonderful woman that he deserves because we all deserve happiness – especially him for making a young girl happy with just his friendship…

    • leighton says:

      Wow. I guess I never thought of it that way. Or more precisely, I didn’t have the perspective to think of it that way. We are all clueless to some extent (usually in thinking we are worth less than we truly are). I can at least say that in the two instances I wrote about, they definitely were not interested in me. One even admitted that she used me to feel good about herself before (more than once) going back to her popular boyfriend.

      Hmm. I think I just depressed myself. If it’s OK, I’m going to pretend your comment was about me so I can feel better. 🙂

  3. Barbara Brown says:

    Once upon a time a girl named Christi was praying for a boy like Brandon. It eventually dawned upon her that she didn’t need a boy LIKE Brandon when she had him!

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