I recently realised that I am one of those people who when the conversation falls silent- I must fill it. Often I act as though I have a duty that has been bestowed on me by some celestial power to fill silence. This might sound very dramatic, but this description does not even cover the extent of my behaviour sometimes.
I just cannot deal with silence.
Silence is a scary sound. Behind all the noise and paraphernalia of life lies the truth. In many situations I feel as though silence reveals who we truly are and makes us vulnerable.
Personally, whenever I am under pressure in social situations I have realised that subconsciously I always start talking about cake. Some people when under pressure, start sweating, others speak very fast, and some revert to a more primitive state…well I just cannot stop talking about cake.
Do you like cake?
I cannot pinpoint when it started but, “do you like cake?” has become my go to question in times of difficulty. Now don’t get me wrong, if I have ever asked you a question relating to cake, I most probably have a genuine interest. This interest probably caused this problem and I now use it as a conversational safety blanket.
I remember our first and only flat dinner very clearly. It was a lovely evening with good food and most importantly it was free (as a student, you should never turn down free food. Ever.) However, we had spent so long trying to schedule it, people had deadlines and the restaurant was nearing closing time. This among other factors led to some tension and whilst waiting for the food there was sudden dip in conversation and no one was speaking.
The dreaded silence.
And naturally, I began rambling about cake and how I loved toffee cake but you can very rarely get it from supermarkets and when you do they put some chocolate cake with it and I do not really like chocolate cake because it can often be very dry and nobody likes dry cake but then my dad found an excellent place that sells a really good moist toffee cake and it is delicious but you can only have a small slice because it is very sweet and sickly but we only really have this kind of cake at Christmas and…
Do you see what I mean? I can talk for days about cake. I suppose I am filling the silence and momentarily masking the awkwardness but I am not actually saying anything meaningful.
I feel like generally people hate to be in silence. We are uncomfortable with it and cannot just be, we are a society of doers. And even whilst we are doing one thing, we are simultaneously doing another thing. There appears to be an incessant need for parallel activities and multitasking, whereby no one is really doing one thing at any one time. In my opinion this is not only destroying social interaction but has led to silence becoming even more of a threat.
Of course, this is not always the case and I am talking about a very specific type of scenario. I have many friends who I can spend hours with not doing or saying anything therefore, I fully appreciate that some silence can be comfortable and even pleasant. However, I am referring to those awkward moments. You know the ones? Those moments where the silence is deafening and you suddenly become painfully aware of the lack of conversation.
I want to be the kind of person that when I speak, I am actually saying something rather than merely filling up time. Life is too short to spend so much time focusing on the noise. For example, I read somewhere that a Mayfly can beat its wings up to 1,000 times per second. However, the average Mayfly will also die after about thirty minutes. They essentially fill their lives with only purposeful activities, not wasting even a second.
My mum always used to speak with admiration about her Father and how he never spoke more than he needed to, never raised his voice to speak unnecessarily. His silence was power and people respected what he said. I want to be like that. I want to be a Mayfly.
Or perhaps I am analysing this too deeply, perhaps I just really really like cake but just some food for thought. When you open your mouth to speak, think, are you just filling silence?
It’s just me, Dammy, and I like a good Victoria sponge.