But unfortunately, my husband doesn’t see it that way.
My husband hates being interrupted. Really abhors it. Loathes it as much as he would if I, while he was speaking, screamed, “What are you rambling about, you assface?”
I have never done that, but I’m positive he would hate it if I did. Call it intuition. Yet he wouldn’t despise it any more than he does being interrupted.
I was born into a loud family. Five kids in my immediate family, five kids on my mom’s side, and six kids on my dad’s. If my troop of cousins and I were to brawl against the Duggars, we’d make them quiver—such an easy win. Our family gatherings were raucous, especially when my mom, her sisters, and their mom got together. They interrupted each other constantly, talked over one another until they were screeching. My sister and our favorite cousin and I just watched and listened, soaking it all in.
When I listen to people speak, I want to understand them fully. That’s a good thing, right? It’s good that I’ve gone above and beyond and have come up with a clarifying question. This is especially true when my husband speaks, because he will reference someone he works with and I have no idea who it is by just the name. So I need to say, “Wait, Matt who?” or, “Is that the guy you hired from Texas?” or, “Is that the guy who wears the same clothes all week?”
This annoys Nick beyond belief. He sighs, refuses to finish speaking, asks why I am so rude, and so on. I just want to know who he’s talking about while he’s talking about them. If I wait to ask, then I’ll have to go back and fill the new information into the memory of the whole conversation. I don’t have time for that. By the time I finish processing the first story, he’ll have moved on to another conversation, prohibiting me from asking follow-up questions now that I know who the freak he was talking about.
The thing is, interrupting wasn’t rude in my family. It was a sign of being interested, of actually caring about what the other person was saying. This completely non-offensive behavior in my family means a total lack of respect in other families, including Nick’s. His family is so different from mine—two kids in his immediate family, two kids on his mom’s side and three on his dad’s. They can have family reunions in one house, while my family reunions require a whole campground.
My husband also notices that I mainly interrupt him, but that’s mostly because I keep a watch over myself when talking to others. I know that others view my interrupting is a bad habit, regardless of my family’s oral history. But it’s not nearly as fun to converse with this watch on my tongue, and I’m not nearly as funny. If I have to swallow a funny interjection while someone talks for three minutes, the moment will have passed. Why must my creative humor be constantly stifled? And then of course, I often don’t understand the narrative because I can’t ask a necessary question.
I am informal at home with my own family, so of course I interrupt Nick. It’s a sign of love and of being comfortable with him! Does he want me to treat him like a stranger? Apparently. Perhaps, I should inform him that I do not welcome strangers into my bed nor do I prepare their favorite sticky cake for them nor do I rub their sore necks.
Third issue: He gets mad at me for interrupting when I thought he was done speaking. I don’t know about where you come from, but where I come from, if you insist on taking a 30-second breather between sentences, people assume you’re done speaking. Are we going to have to start saying “over and out”? Where do we draw the line? CAN WE JUST ACCEPT MY WAY AS THE NORMAL WAY AND MOVE ON?
Nick and I have four kids of our own now, and they are betraying me daily by following his point of view on this. It is so tragic. We could be my Awesomely Fun Childhood Family Part Two, but instead my children have become unfunny people who don’t think anyone can break in to ask a teeny-weeny question. My 14-year-old sometimes starts telling me a story about kids at school, but she mumbles the beginning or starts talking while I’m reading something, so I miss some of the initial details. Naturally, I ask, “Hold on … who was saying this?” and more often than not, homegirl says, “Ugh, never mind! Why are you interrupting me?”
I mean, this is clearly her fault and she should be glad I am willing to still listen. But whatever! They can just be boring like their father. I’m going to keep interrupting because I am an interesting person and a free spirit.
- The issue between the narrator and her husband is a common power struggle between married couples. What do you think Freud would say about this situation, given that he believed that women choose male partners based on narcissism—seeking in the man the ideal they wanted to possess as a child (when they were longing to be masculine), while men choose women in a dependent way, looking for a substitute mother?
- But Freud is a sick bastard who also said, “Even a marriage is not safe until a wife succeeds in making a child out of her husband as well as acting as a mother to him.” How disgusting is that?
- Do you remember “longing to be masculine” as a child? Because the narrator does not remember doing so.
- Would you be able to accept the narrator’s interrupting as a form of love and shut the hell up about her so-called rudeness, or would you be more like the character Nick, who is unable to move on in life and love because he is hung up on this petty issue?
- Would you rather be friends with the character Sarah, who is actually interested in what you have to say, or the character Nick, who will possibly just pretend to be listening because he actually doesn’t know who you are talking about and would not interrupt to ask a question to save his life?
- Can you just accept the narrator’s way as the normal way and move on?
Sarah Broussard Weaver is an essayist, freelancer, mother, wife, and interrupter living in Portland, Oregon.