The Conversationalist



(Please note: I notice that overnight, I lost a couple of followers with this post. Before you read on, you need to know that it is rife with “poetic license” and mainly concerns who I was in another life.
I find Southerners charming and amiable; I love Jesus(!) and I also prize a good sense of humour and a belief system in a man. Above all, in my adulthood, I do not hold spelling OR grammar against anyone.)

I didn’t ask for much when it came to dating: a passably good-looking guy, a bit of courtesy and the ability to speak the English language were really all I wanted. Okay, maybe that’s stretching the truth just a tad, but I was never one of those, “What kind of car do you drive?” or “What are your career-goals?” or “I love your suit, is it Yves St. Laurent?” kind of girls. With me, the nitty-gritty was something like this:
Who do you listen to? What do you like to eat? What’s your favourite movie? Who are you reading? Simple. Right? Not really.

Macdrive
You would think that criteria like the aforementioned would be very easy to meet, but not so. You see, finding the passably good-looking guy, who treated a girl right – that’s right, opened the door for me, opened the car door for me, pulled out my chair in a restaurant. Wait a minute, let’s just back that up. Since I’ve pulled out that dirty word “restaurant”, let me just say, that grabbing a Big Mac and fries through the car window, or a hot dog from a street-vendor, or EVEN a gigantic carton of popcorn at the movies, is NOT going out for a meal. To quote Richard Widmark in Kiss of Death, “Ya get me, pal?”
My long-standing gripe about my dating years was that so many young men just never wanted to go out for dinner. Real dinner–service with a menu, napkins and candles kind of dinner. What was that about? They could afford to go to concerts, sporting events, ski-trips and even travel abroad, but they could not stump for a fine-dining experience.
I could overlook the absence of haute cuisine. I could ignore the forgetting to open my door, I could even take my contact lenses out and pretend a less than passable guy was God’s gift, BUT I could not condone bad grammar, lazy language and in some instances (say, in a lovely letter expressing his adoration of my person) poor spelling!
I’m not a snob, BUT when it comes to the English language, I’m a stickler for the right words, the right form and the right placement of letters of the alphabet. Blame my father! He drilled in to me the necessity of erudition and adherence to correct verbiage. Sometimes I wish I weren’t such a purist. It never went down well with anyone I met – male or female. The thing is, I’m also not the most tactful of people. I’m one to jump in with these sorts of comments: “You liked THAT movie?” Ugh! I really can’t stand so-and-so, or “That director really is awful; I haven’t seen anything of his I like!” My husband has trained me, rather like a clever parrot, to hold my tongue in these instances. He knows my preferences and fortunately can anticipate my reactions. We have developed that wonderful communication that long-standing partners have. You know, the quick, frozen-eyed glare, or a good nudge in the ribs at the dinner table? We’ve got that down to a science, thank goodness.
When it comes to English, however, I find it very difficult to hold my tongue. There are words and phrases that have become commonplace by virtue of their everyday usage (despite their corruption of the real ones) that make me cringe. I’m not going to short-list them for you, because I don’t want to offend anyone (I’m dying to put them out there, but I won’t).
In the dating life of my youth, I was not so kind, UNLESS, I was dealing with a (to my mind) gorgeous, nitwit whose mouth I wanted to shut, not with words, but with my own smackers. Then, I would overlook the frailties of his expressions for the greater good.
reject However, the average fella who could not enunciate his words and rather slovenly drawled them out (lessin’ he waz frum the South), would be packin’ his bags before the night was over. Another thing that was intolerable to me, was ignorance. Ignorance of the world of literature, or the arts or history was like a big ink-stamp on the forehead that read “FAILED” like some sort of Quality Control designation.
I had the opportunity to vet a number of men in my younger life. Not finding the man of my dreams by the time I was 27, I resorted to newspaper ads and telephone dating before I met my husband. It was like having a second job. I spent the better part of my weeknights screening calls and reading scores of responses to my ad in the local “Pennysaver”. I had letters from self-proclaimed sociopaths, Jesus-freaks look-alikes, and bikers. I would have given them a second look if only they could spell!
I also had the great good fortune to be “set up” by “friends”. It is amazing how someone you think knows you really turns out to have no idea what you are about. Take a peek at a blind date my room-mate and friend of 3 years duration coordinated for me:
I’m pacing back and forth between the two front windows of my parents’ bungalow. Waiting for the unknown “great guy” to make his appearance on my driveway. Is that him in the Camaro? Nope. Is this him in the little Honda? Nope. Is this him in the monster truck? You betcha!
I open the front door and step onto the driveway, hesitantly. (Please let him at least be the cowboy type with some good hair, I whisper under my breath). No such luck. Coming round the front of the Hemi is a rail-thin, mustachioed (think Salvador Dali) receding hair-lined gringo in stone-washed denim (not the good kind) with a matching bomber jacket. Hot, he is not, BUT I am still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Until. Until he opens his mouth and it’s just all wrong. Very basic, one-syllable sort of stuff, not conducive to a refined chat at all.
Bizet We go to a restaurant in a big mall under very bright lights that do nothing to enhance his appearance (or mine, for that matter). We attempt to have an intelligent conversation. I have to give him credit. He really tries. He puts up a valiant fight, until somehow the conversation swings around to classical music. How we get there, I’ll never know, but it really is the “kiss of death” for him. When he tells me (rather cockily, I might add) his favourite classical musician is “Bizzet”, I nearly snort my decaf right through my nostrils and onto his cheesecake. Game over. Take me home now, buddy. It’s a losing battle. You are DUN!
Do you know my girlfriend actually had the nerve to ask “How’d it go?” as if she really believed it could have gone swimmingly and we were going to pick out the rings on our next date. I have always thought I’ve been pretty good at revealing who I am to the people around me. Obviously, I was mistaken.
And so, I went back to my original checklist of criteria for the man who was good enough for me and I stuck to it. I didn’t get married until I was nigh on 33, BUT I’m pleased to report, he’s courteous, can speak, read and write and bonus: he’s a looker too.
nunstone I did have a backup plan and this time the quote is from Shakespeare: Says Hamlet to Ophelia: “Get thee to a nunnery!” (I hear those sisters are really well-read.)
Kat

Kathleen Mortensen©2009

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28 thoughts on “The Conversationalist

  1. Kat – My number one requirement was wit. If he didn't have it, I couldn't date him. I'm not saying that I wanted a comedian, but I did and do appreciate someone who can turn a phrase just the right way to make me smile – or laugh out loud if he's really good. Fortunately, I married him. Happily ever after. Really.

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  2. This was a fun read! It sure got me thinking about my choices.There was a lot I could relate to, as my parents are both academics and I was raised with, well, proper grammar and clear enunciation. It didn't go over too well with the local crowd so I learned to slur a bit, drop those final Ts etc., and one female friend even taught me how to swear in high school.I have to admit I've never had a taste for academic types. They are nice enough, but they just don't turn my crank. And when they get going on their thesis topic? Ho, hum. (Yawn) As for spelling, I really don't care if a fella can spell or not, so long as he can think critically and hold an engaging conversation on social and environmental topics. Music? Anything but C&W or pop, and we're good. Yeah, I was raised on classical, but I'm not picky. 🙂

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  3. Kat – the reason why they didn't want to go to a proper restaurant was probably because they couldn't afford to eat like they wanted to. At McD's at least they can stuff 3 Big Mac's into their gullet for under $5.Thanks for the word: eruditionThat's a new one for me. Sorry to say I'm not a book learner. I have to “do it” to “learn it”.

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  4. Doug – you made me laugh out loud! I'm thinking of that character on “Friends” – Chandler's ex. What was her name?Rachel – Oh yeah! Thesis-writers can be pretty dull. You don't like C&W? What? No Garth Brooks or Dolly Parton? Ha ha.Shazza – You're right about the McDonald's, but they could afford everything else, right?Jeannelle – the nunnery wouldn't be so bad – peace and quiet, lots of like-minded friends, good food. Still, I'm glad I didn't either.Neetzy – Being selective about boys is a good thing. It will pay off in the long run.BK – We could go head-to-head on the blind date score. I would trounce you!John – I know. It still cracks me up (and my mother too)!Kat

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  5. That was a fun read. But, if asked where I would like to eat, nine times out of ten, I will say McDonald's. I am one of the few people that chooses McDonald's as my favorite place to eat. I love McDonald's!

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  6. Now how could anything there be offensive? People that thin-skinned need to move on anyway. (Hope that's good grammer.) :o) That was very enjoyable!I went for the wit too. I have to have humor and good-naturedness around me. I can't be serious all the time or you'd be visiting me in the booby hatch. ha ha ♥ ∞

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  7. Gramma Ann – I love McDonald's breakfast and their coffee is pretty good too, but I'm not “luvin it” like some folks do. Glad you enjoyed the piece.Deb – that is very true; I am far more tolerant of things beyond my control and I tend to just live and let live (within reason).Sparky – I'm glad you're not in the “booby hatch”. Sometimes I think blogging keeps me sane because I can just let it all out!Kat

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  8. Yes Kat, another winning anecdote you've chalked up here. (Aren't you glad I didn't write “chocked” up here?)The other day in the newspaper there was a caption to a photo of huge ice floes on a river. The caption read, “Ice flows on river”. I just gritted my teeth. The one that gets me is flair and flare. No one seems to know or care about the difference!You know, before the advent of email, one could go a long time in total ignorance about how bad a speller somebody was. I could never tolerate anyone who mangled the English language either.Laughed my way through reading your post!

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  9. I think I liked bad boys….. not real bad just kinda cool bad!Now what I considered cool in my youth is a long way from what I would be comfortable with now!Great post…. it was a fun read.best wishesPS sometimes people just can't follow anymore for a variety of reasons. Don't take it to heart:-)Plenty more fish in the sea!

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  10. Good one, Rachel! I haven't heard that line in years. I have to admit, I do like Johnny Cash and I went through a C&W phase in my twenties.Ribbon – Thank goodness we don't end up with our “Bad Boys”. That would be like a really bad movie.Thanks for your encouraging words. I guess I'm just too sensitive.Kat

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  11. Great post Kat, and blogger is really messing up lately. It may not be the followers themselves. Another blog I visit said the same thing, that some followers dropped off. Going to read the other posts I didn't get to of yours.

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  12. I'm not certain why you've lost readers with this post. I didn't find it offensive.I went out on a date with a preacher's son once. He told me I could have one item on my pizza and one thing to drink, preferably not alcoholic in nature. After what seemed like forever, he drove me home and expected a good night kiss. “I don't think so,” I told him. “For that, I need at least pepperoni and onions to go on my pie.”Yes my dear, I kissed a lot of frogs before I found my very funny prince.

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  13. Hi Rudee! Thanks for dropping in. I laughed so loud at your pizza comment that my husband called down from upstairs wondering if there was something wrong.Frogs? I know about frogs – I think we all do, don't we?Kat

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  14. Kat, since we had the same problem [and I can't see either of us being viewed as offensive] I'm gonna claim Blogger was doing spring cleaning early and got carried away!;)It was witty and made me glad I married the guy I did. 🙂

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  15. I know what you mean about good grammar and spelling. My daughter and I call ourselves Grammar Nazis cuz we can't stand it when people use poor grammar or can't spell. It drives us nuts. How hard is it to know how to speak and write properly? I especially hate it when words that are improper grammar become acceptable. For example, 'funner.' Apparently that has become a valid word now when it should be 'more fun.' We should not evolve to embrace ignorance. Great post!

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  16. Jane – My pet peeves are “nuclear” and “nucular” and using “impact” as a verb. Oh, and “irregardless” (which negates itself). Of course, now that I've claimed to be put off by poor grammar and spelling, watch me mess up and people starting to point it out to me! Ha ha.Kat

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