Talking men: Don't marry a Silent Type

This is not a Hurricane Isabel story, although it starts like one. Two days after the hurricane, my entire county was still without electricity except for one small area, an intersection near the expressway with a fast food restaurant and gas station on each corner. Everyone in the county descended.

McDonald's was under siege, and Burger King was only marginally better, so we went that way. The line for the drive-through wrapped around the building twice. My husband directed our car to the end of that line, and I began squawking.

"Why are we getting in the drive-through? The line will be shorter inside. I even see empty tables!"

"I don't like to eat inside."

"Why? Why? It has air conditioning. And lights. Things we don't have at home."

That should have settled the argument right there, but he was still balking. So I spelled out more reasons for eating in.

You get to eat the food while it's still warm.

If they make a mistake in the order, you can correct it on the spot.

After you eat, your garbage is their garbage.

And I can enjoy a meal with chicken without four cats breathing down my neck, purring, "Bird? Bird? Is that hot, dead bird? Give me bird!"

My husband passively listened to all this, then, with great reluctance, began circling for a parking space. I graciously offered him equal time.

"Why do you always want to take it home?"

"I can watch TV at home."

Ordinarily I might have given him a point or two on the Marriage Scoreboard for that, but on this particular day, the television he was so eager to get home to was a very small, black and white, battery-operated one that was picking up a single local channel.

Then it dawned on me it wasn't the television at all. He wouldn't be expected to make conversation if we were eating in front of the television.

I suppose there are men who are both good conversationalists and heterosexual, but I've encountered very few, if any. I think they must all get jobs as talk show hosts, the skill is so rare and unique.

The last time I persuaded him to actually enter the Burger King, I spent the entire meal performing my favorite monologue, "My Very Stressful and Horrible Day at Work." He said nothing, no matter how hair-raising and incredible the events of My Very Stressful and Horrible Day at Work became. So I switched to a topic guaranteed to get a response, "My Last Boyfriend Was an Excellent Conversationalist, Unlike You."

"He was a great listener," I concluded.

"I was listening," my husband finally spoke.

"But you weren't responding. You didn't participate. You don't comment on my comments. It wasn't a ping-pong game of thoughts and ideas. It was hitting golf balls off a tee."

"I was listening," my husband said. And that was, if nothing else, an improvement over silence in front of a television, so I grudgingly awarded him a point on the Marriage Scoreboard.

But it got me to really think about that last boyfriend who was the excellent conversationalist because, in actuality, he was only an excellent conversationalist on the phone. He called when I got home from work and talked until 9:30 at night. I thought we were having the most incredible relationship of sharing, only to find out after it ended that the bands start playing in the clubs at 10pm, and he was only killing time with me until he could go out and rub elbows with some happening babes.

He was a master of the art of the ping-pong conversation, showing interest in a woman's comments, responding, contributing, encouraging, just to keep the phone call going until it had served his purpose of passing the duller part of the evening. When we did go out, it was always to a movie, which is like television only bigger and louder.

And to my horror, I remembered that we never ate in fast food restaurants, either. Even though the nearest Wendy's was 20 minutes from his apartment, he always ordered out. I'd finish my meal in the car while it was still hot. (When a relationship is in the fragile beginning stage, you can't really squawk about wanting to eat inside.)

He, however, patiently waited until he got home, unpacked everything, and rearranged it on his own plates before settling down in front of the television (not only creating garbage, but dirty dishes). And there I sat, with no food, since I had eaten it already, and no conversation, since we were now in television-mode. This was hardcore anti-conversation! I had been deceived.

Good conversation is such a precious commodity, sometimes even a man craves it. That would totally explain the mystery of why Wilbur spent all his time in the barn with Mr. Ed when he had hot babe like Carol in the house. (Did you ever notice the body on Carol?) But Mr. Ed talked.

It's been a long, slow learning process. I'm reporting this discovery to womankind as a warning. If you hear of an impending hurricane, gas up the car, fill up the bathtub, pack a cooler with ice, stock plenty of batteries, and marry a man who talks.


PULL QUOTE: I suppose there are men who are both good conversationalists and heterosexual, but I've encountered very few.