Thursday, January 17, 2008

Conversation Mine Field

It happened again.

I've written about it before, the strange effect that talking about Kirk has on people who know the story, but it happened again just yesterday and I still find it odd.

A friend was talking about a job her husband was offered with a company that did government work, a job that would have entailed (eventually) a security clearance so I mentioned that for much of our marriage Kirk had a top secret clearance - in Virginia he had a few compartmentalized clearances as well I think - and as soon as his name was spoken she reacted. Her face took on an immediate sobriety, she stiffened a little and, inevitably, she put her head to one side and looked firmly in my eyes. And the conversation came to a screeching halt because, apparently, now We Were Talking About Kirk.

But we weren't, we were talking about her husband, about her life, and I was simply bringing up my own experience.

What's really funny is that she often says things that really do flick on the nerve and yet she remains blissfully unaware. "Everything happens for a reason," she says, "I really believe that." Or "Hey! Haven't seen you in a few days - I know, I know you thought I'd gone missing or something..." And because she's well-meaning and kind, because it would hurt her to think she had inadvertently hurt me, I don't say anything I just let it go.

And I know now that I will think before talking about Kirk with her just as I do with the other friends who wince when his name comes up. Funny, isn't it? I protect them from their perception of my distress.


Anonymous said...

Have you tried disarming? It does require the appearance of a poker face of absolute sincerity. You'll need to smile sweetly and fain utter concern.

Look the person straight in the eye and say, "Oh no! I can see I've upset you. I hope you don't mind, but I really enjoy talking about Kirk. Would you rather I didn't mention his name?"

If only you could time the delivery so as to be holding a plate of freshly baked cookies...

For Kirk said...

Oh so tempting! I may just try that on the ghouls - you know, the ones who aren't friends, who just heard about the story and sort of hang around hoping for some visible agony. Only I'm not offering cookies!

Anonymous said...

I struggle about how to deal with situations like this, but I usually try to follow the lead of the person I am talking to. So, if I were talking to you and you did not get somber, I would see no reason for me to.

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