Rhetoric With No Concept:
The Smart Woman's Curse
Next time you're at Starbucks, locate the ubiquitous group of 3 to 6 women seated at a table, situate yourself nearby, and eves drop.
Nothing wrong with it. If it was a private conversation, they wouldn't be having it there.
If you have an agile mind; a reflective and analytical soul, and don't possess the neurotic need to hear your own voice just to break any horrific silence that may occur, you will be probably be bored to the point of tears within minutes.
Part of that last statement is rooted in stereotype, but a larger reason stems from having experienced it often in my life.
Call it what you will: Coffee Klatch, Tea Klatch or Klatch du Jour. Klatch is defined as: a gathering characterized usually by informal conversation. I would advance the idea that the word "informal" is sugar coating for 'self-absorbed, vapid babbling'.
This does not come from a sexist mindset. Men are equally capable of such gatherings. But to be honest, both men and women would admit to the propensity for women to do this much more than men.
When viewed by a third party, the noise brings to mind a bunch of parrots all squawking at the same time. There is a mindlessness to it that boggles my mind.
But that is not worth analyzing, as it is not new, and it is not going away.
What I have begun to notice, when I'm able to circumvent the cacophony of nothingness being spewed, is the one smart woman (never two, otherwise they would have paired off and blown that Klatch-stand). She's usually easy to spot. Pensive face, right elbow resting on the armrest, hand curled parenthesis-like around her mouth, eyes conveniently concealed behind dark glasses, leaving her free to roll them, which she does frequently. And she is more often than not single.
Usually the first to leave, she begs off with a lie, as any of her legitimate excuses would be greeted by blank stares.
Her mere presence there is a lie. She questions her own integrity after each wasted hour and wonders aloud in the car on the way home why she continues to subject herself to the dreary insipidness, the monotony of tedium, that each session envelopes her in.
Is it the need for simple human nearness? Is she in some ways like them, needing the background sound, like the comforting white noise of a TV on in the other room, for some vague succor that helps ease the loneliness of life? Is the company of her own thoughts and cavorting through the fertile playground of her mind no longer enough to sustain her?
These questions plague her, make her shudder, yet keep her coming back once a week, to sit idly by, listening but not retaining, the asepticism rolling over her like the fog that clearly inhabits the minds of her friends.
And all these women were married. Some more than once. But somehow they'd convinced another man to live with them, to share their life, for what it was worth. If you get any of these women off the subject of their children or their husband, they often can't string two intelligent sentences back to back. And an abstract concept like politics or religion? Automatic deer in the headlights, and a quick change of subject to the safety of reality TV; wicked depravity of this Desperate Housewife, or that potential America Idol.
The appalling lack of substantive discussion does more than just irk her, for she knows this stereotype lingers in many people's minds, especially men, and she fears being swept up into that net of mediocrity.
Being well-read and culturally, politically and intellectually informed, and attractive to boot can be a tough package for any man to unwrap, but she refuses to lower the bar, instead holding out for the one high hurdler in the man-pack of bottom-feeders.
She has considered not going to these weekly brain cell slaughterfests. But some of these women have been her friends since high school. She attended their weddings. She knew (and had even slept with one) their husbands and kids. There was a history, even if little of it applied to her current life or to her needs as a friend.
She resents having to be the one to compromise. It is an intellectual jail cell thinking women often find themselves peeking out from. The only other option she sees is one involving almost complete autonomy and isolation.
She was once hopeful that someone would elevate out of this group and seek her out, give her a signal, semaphore an abstract thought her way. But that was not happening. The completely insular world of these women, where their comfort zone usually required the insertion of "I" into every sentence uttered, was suffocating and stultifying.
She spent each hour on the outside looking in, like visiting a relative in jail, separated by glass, connected only by telephone, but not really connecting at all.
She often wondered if smart men ran into this conundrum. She had a friend who was the smartest person she knew. They no longer saw a lot of each other because he had a girlfriend who was completely threatened by their friendship. There had once been thoughts of a dalliance between them, but it didn't happen and he subsequently chose a women much less challenging than her to share his life.
Their friendship, always platonic, nonetheless had taken on the flavor of an affair, which seemed to make them both uncomfortable, resulting in only rare afternoons spent in a café, while his girlfriend visited her mom.
She talked with him about this dilemma, even asking him if he'd sold himself short with his current companion. He simply nodded, sipped his coffee, and said "Probably."
His sense of resignation was just enough to make her cling to her idealism about relationships, whether romantic or platonic.
It had to matter, to resonate, to light her fire, or she would not make a deep commitment.
For the time being, her weekly bull-session with her Klatch crew would have to suffice, but it usually left her wanting a shower and an exorcism.