Tuesday, July 17, 2007

:: How I Made My First Million ::

I’m sitting at the table in our backyard with my husband and our two new friends. We’re having a cookout and talking about all kinds of stuff: parenting, ultimate Frisbee, homemade beer. Everyone is happy and relaxed, including me. Yet somehow, every third time I go to speak, I find I can’t put five words together in a sentence. I stumble, struggling to come up with the words I need and having to work surprisingly hard to get them into their proper order. I am a freshman being asked to share my own writing for the first time in class. I am a politician caught in the act without anyone in my ear to tell me what to say. I am an amateur actor who has forgotten her lines.

This has been getting progressively worse over the last year, maybe more. It’s not anxiety, I don’t think, since I don’t feel anxious until I’ve already flubbed several words in a row. Rather, I think it’s lack of practice. Since coursework ended lo these two years ago and I’ve been out of the classroom except as a teacher, reading and studying on my own, I’ve had shockingly little social interaction. I’d estimate that I have averaged two personal playdates a month in the last two years, and most of those have been loaded into the last several months when pregnancy forced me out of my shell. There were definitely months when the only people I saw who weren’t married to me were the people I saw at the grocery store, Starbucks, the local library.

It’s getting bad, though. I feel like I’ve lost the ability to just speak without thinking. To share a funny moment from my day that remains funny in the telling.

I wonder if now, as a new mom, things will get better or worse. Will hours of talking to my sweet baby boy all day reduce my Articulate Quotient to new lows, or will my determination to make new mommy friends help me overcome my new idiocy and perhaps bring my oral scores more in line with my written ones? (After all, you’re thinking, my prose is still as dazzling as ever, right? You’re so kind).

And question number two: is there a way to hone my conversation skills? Are there practice tests I can take or flashcards to run through while Evan is napping? Can I turn on Gilmore Girls or Veronica Mars or even the quick-spoken yet vulgar Deadwood and practice my quippy remarks in tandem with the characters on screen? Maybe I should make and market a series of episodes of such shows with half the lines removed, like Karaoke songs or something, that people in Ph.D. programs like myself could use to keep their conversation skills sharp.

I might be about to become a millionaire. Will it matter then if I can’t put two words together? I think not.


Christina July 18, 2007 at 9:33 AM  

Sadly, I think it gets worse. Kids actually suck away brain cells, making it even harder to put two words together. Not to mention that you're thinking about so much all at the same time that you will sometimes stop mid-sentence, forgetting to finish your conversation.

Maybe that's why my childless friends don't call as much anymore?

That's why new moms need playdates, so we can practice our conversation on someone who is in just as much of a brainfog as ourselves.