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MANDY FLYNN: Tuning out others runs in the family

Mandy Flynn

Mandy Flynn

It wasn’t even dark outside, but I was going to bed.

“I’m going to bed,” I announced.

“But it isn’t even dark outside,” my husband answered. Well, lookee there. He can talk.

Even more amazingly, he actually heard words that had come out of my mouth.

I don’t like being ignored. Okay, so maybe ignored is a strong word. I hate being tuned out.

That’s it. I hate being tuned out. Which is what I suspect my husband and daughter were doing to me this particular evening. Totally tuning me out as I was trying to talk to them.

I am partially to blame, I will admit. Maybe they were trying to watch a baseball game. Maybe I was asking the occasional question they considered to be… how did they put it?… ignorant. I prefer ignorant over stupid. There is a difference, you know. Ignorance is lack of knowledge — when you just don’t know something. Stupidity is lack of intelligence — when you should know something but you just don’t get it.

With as much baseball as I’ve seen around our house, I’m not so sure I’m just ignorant.

Still, I hate it when they pretend like they don’t hear me, casually act as though they are deep in thought , or fake being asleep. Fact is, they are ignoring me because they don’t want to hear me talk anymore. Or just tuning me out. Oh, you know what I mean.

Actually, It may not be their fault.

Researchers from Queen’s University in Canada say we’re not to blame for tuning out our loved ones’ voices from time to time. After studying the behavior of married couples between the ages of 44 and 79, and playing recordings of each partner’s voice for the other against that of a stranger’s voice, the researchers concluded that middle-aged couples are very good at tuning out their spouses in order to hear a stranger talk.

The pattern, however, declined with age. The Calgary Herald reports that older couples found it harder to distinguish two voices apart, and were more inclined to pay attention to a familiar voice — that of a spouse. It’s simply that our spouses’ voices are so familiar to us — the pitch and sound are so distinct — that it’s easier to just tune it out.

Perhaps I should take a cue from my brother-in-law the next time my husband ignores me. I should turn the tables and ignore him back.

My mother-in-law tells the story of my husband and his younger brother when they were little boys. The youngest came to her and told her that his big brother (my husband) was picking on him.

“Just ignore him,” she told him as any good mother would.

A few seconds later she was led into the den by the yells of her eldest son. There, on the sofa, was my husband calling for help as his little brother sat on his stomach beating the stew out of him. With each punch he yelled at the top of his lungs, “’Nore! ‘Nore! ‘Nore!”

He was ignoring him in his own special way.

I may just wait it out. If I’m to believe the researchers in Canada, once we’re past middle age he may start listening to me again. We still have more than a couple of years left before we get there, but I think I can handle it until then. I may even try to keep my questions down to a minimum during important sporting events. I may be ignorant, but I’m not stupid. Or, is it the other way around?

Oh, you know what I mean.

Email Mandy Flynn at flyn1862@bellsouth.net.