The violence of silence
No, you know what? Make that the savagery of silence.
Silence is the sharpest, meanest weapon in the arsenal of socially acceptable behaviour. It’s the one you really shouldn’t use unless there’s nothing else available. It’s mean. It’s EVIL. And it fucks with poor innocent people’s minds.
Yet silence is the “get out of jail free” card – it’s the most bombastic of ways to exert power, yet it does not get the derision that, say, stalking, hounding or hurling obscenities does. It should, and more. Like: “Ewww, he didn’t reply? That’s sooo lame! Gross. What a loser. More unappealing than someone who farts uncontrollably on the first date.” Instead, it’s “Oooohhhh! No reply! Why? What have I done? What was he thinking? What does it mean? Am I ugly? What is the key to the mystery? Boo hooooo”. Followed by endless thoughts of the variety described in the previous post.
And why, you ask, is a meditation on silence following so hotly on from a meditation on the, well, the SILENCE, of a gentleman guest of mine that I’d rather hoped would get in touch?
I suppose – really thinking hard – that it’s obvious.
But with each day that passes, with the minor sizzle of mental electricity that accompanies a text message alert or email inbox check fading into a lumpen acceptance of reality, I have had cause to reflect on the nature of this silence. This is not, let me be clear, the first time I’ve been rejected or “not that into you’d”. I know the drill. But never have I encountered first of all silence after a (good, yes, good) night spent together and THEN a refusal to reply to that cautious “anybody there?” message-in-a-bottle-style email dispatched days later.
There are numerous easy alternatives to silence. “Hey, was nice to meet you the other night. Have a good Christmas and take care” suffices as a brush-off and we go on our merry way, don’t we? Same result. Instead, when the savage silent route is chosen, you’re left with a void which – although it probably isn’t – FEELS inscrutable. Into silence’s paucity – its lack of generosity, its bloody rudeness – one jumps, cramming it with replays and analysis and “what did I do wrong?”
Before you know it, you’re going over everything he could have seen that would have put him off, everything you said, did and wore. To make matters worse, you go over everything HE said trying hard to fill in the blanks on a mystery that probably isn’t a mystery. Yet the man who was in your bed just the other day was a person then, and rather animated too, and is now nothing, just a formless notion of rejection somewhere across the city. That DOES have an essence of mystery to it.
I have a friend called Tom, who is happily ensconced in a relationship. But even HE remembers a woman he met 3 years ago in Rome and who vanished into thin air after a promising and enjoyable (surely on both sides!) encounter, and still battles the urge to look her up, to find out what/WHO she is. To discover the reason for that befuddling choice not to communicate (she ignored text, phone call and two emails) when everything else suggests it would be the right or normal or even enjoyable thing to do.
People tell you not to dignify rude words with a come-back. They advise you to offer silence instead. But when it comes to dignifying or not dignifying silence, you have little choice. Once that weapon has been put into use, it’s always ruthless, and it exerts a power that it is very difficult, perhaps impossible, to ignore.
For now, the Man wins. But I’m contemplating battering at his walls of silence with the most taboo thing of all: words and more words. (Don’t worry. I won’t. I’m not mad!).