One day I will regret posting this

When finding your voice leaves you longing for silence

Words & images © Paul Ransom

Express yourself, they said. So I did, and now look. Millions of words down the line and still wondering. Did anyone listen; and if so, what did they hear? Was it me, or merely a version of themselves? I ‘express’ these doubts not so much to wallow in self-pity, nor elicit yours, but to make these words earn their keep. If indeed this is my voice, is it worth the price of speaking?

NB: Inherent contradiction duly noted – along with meta-ironic posturing and self-mocking elitist scorn.

Oh no, I hate myself and I want to shut up!!!

Firstly, let me acknowledge that there are many who are either denied their voice or who lack the means of expression. Countless others do not have the confidence to speak out. Still others speak at their peril. For them, silence is less option, more sentence. In contrast, I am fortunate to have both the tools and the self-belief. That I have lurched too often into over-sharing and the drama of blurting may be taken as symptomatic of an obese sense of self-importance.

But let me be clear, I am not acting out of shame or First World guilt here. Rather, I am quietly (ha-ha) rueing ruined friendships. Missed opportunities. Mainly with women. You see, I have spoken my truth, opened my heart, been transparent and…promptly been kicked to the kerb. Not once or twice, but multiple times. It’s a pattern and I’m the common denominator.

I was 10 when I first told a girl that I liked her. She laughed. I was the spectacled brain box, she was the blonde Jan Brady look-a-like. Later, when dark rimmed glasses had been replaced by invisible contact lenses, I tried again, and Lisa became my first ‘real’ kiss. (Those eyes, that mouth.)

It was a false dawn. As gauche adolescent outpourings followed, my tragi-comic failures morphed into a bloated righteous determination. Once the girls in my class began to regale me with tales of mistreatment and abuse, I was impelled to be anything but one of the boys. When a girl I was ‘going out’ with was raped, my impotent rage turned inward. The model of working class masculinity I had grown up with was firmly and finally trashed.

Fuck that shit, I was gonna express how I felt. Open, honest, vulnerable. Tender, complex, communicative. Lay it out there. Love letters, emotional declarations, intimacies poetically shared. Why be silent? Why lie? Risk it all for love and deeper connection.

Fast forward through adulthood – a 14 year marriage and a handful of shorter relationships – and here I am expressing myself still, not having been anywhere near a woman for over a decade. Indeed, since the aforementioned marriage dissolved, my voice has served mainly to explode friendships and send several women spinning off into a silent distance. Speaking my emotional truth has left me loveless.

In fact, being honest and expressive has also killed off a few professional opportunities and put the brakes on a couple of developing male friendships. All told, speaking up has let me down.

Though this may say more about my clumsy articulation and dreadful timing, it also raises questions about the limits of expression. In a culture of relentless noise, (of which this post is a part), the last thing we need is yet another voice exhausting us with its tiresome, self-proclaimed truth. On a personal level, however, it may be true that the truth is too much. The trouble with true feelings is that they can be confronting. Too easily misunderstood.

  • Recent example: I said that I sensed an opportunity for a rare intimacy growing between us. What she heard was that I wanted to fuck her. In a blink I went from trusted friend to someone whose very presence caused her anxiety. In hindsight, for both our sakes, I should have kept my truth gushing gob shut. To speak of intimacy can sometimes end it. In all likelihood, she will never talk to me again. Opportunity lost.

While true that the above was driven by complex private details I will not reveal here, it also served to underline an oft overlooked aspect of our culture’s addiction to voicing. Speech is a not a free lunch. It has effects, some of them counterproductive.

Classic microphone.
Speaker beware.

If I were to adopt a strictly evidence based practise I would make silence my default. As an artist and compulsive expresser of feelings, this would represent a stark departure. That said, taking a more taciturn approach to intimacy and/or romance – should there ever be an occasion for such – might just be the ‘deal sealer’ I have so loudly misplaced.

Sure, silence is also a risk, but it’s less time consuming. I could have spent the hours used writing this to quietly pleasure myself or do something easy on the brain, like watching Premier League highlights or scoffing cheese sandwiches. At least that way you wouldn’t get the wrong end of the stick or cancel me for my flagrantly post-modern over analysis.           

Actually, if you do now feel moved to voice an opinion in the comment section – or worse, to reach out and express your concern for my psycho-emotional wellbeing – may I suggest instead a dose of judicious silence. Just hit like & share. Far harder for me to misinterpret that.

Please note:

Faux silence as self-promotional mechanism. Genius!

(Oops, I probably shouldn’t have said that.)

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