How does that song by Nina Simone go? “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me and I’m feeling…” eh. Now that Jennifer Hudson sings it in the new Weight Watchers commercials it’s kind of ruined it for me. Nothing against Ms. Hudson… at all. The girl can SANG. I just don’t want to think about Weight Watchers every time I hear that song from now on. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs, I don’t want to hear Nina Simone’s smooth voice and immediately reach for a carrot stick. But, I digress. The lyrics of the song are the important thing right now. It is a new dawn, a new day, a new year. And with every new year comes resolutions. Well, I’ve always called resolutions bullshit. I don’t like to be disappointed so I avoid letting myself down at all costs. Therefore, I don’t make resolutions. However, this year I’ve kind of changed my tune. (I wish I were IN tune like Ms. Hudson but that’s not the gift God gave me.) This year I’m focusing on being more real with myself. “Yeah, yeah” you say. That’s an easy “focus”. There’s no accountability. Unlike not dropping those 30 pounds you vowed to shed, nobody will be able to look at you come December 2011 and point out, “Gee, you’re just as deluded as you were last year. Way to fail your resolution.” But that’s where you’d be wrong. Isn’t that half of what a blog is all about? Being real? And conveniently so since you don’t actually have to look anybody in the eye when you’re doing it. Well then, let’s get started.
I have a secret I want to tell. Well, it’s not much of a secret anymore since I’ve already let the cat out of the bag to a few people. And soon, you. Truthfully, it’s not much of a secret anyway. It’s not scandalous or juicy. It won’t make the needle on the record make that horrible scratching noise and cause the room to go silent. My revelation probably won’t make people whisper behind my back or cause me to hang my head in shame as I walk through town. I don’t really walk through town anyway, so I’m safe from that if I ever DO do something particularly embarrassing in the future. Which is pretty much a given. My “revelation” isn’t even really much of a revelation to some people. When I disclosed it to one of my friends she supportively said, “Yeah… I’ve known you for how long now? I kinda figured that out, it’s not a big shock.”. So, without further ado, this is what I want to get off my chest: Hello. My name is Eileen and I’m afraid of the telephone.
Why are you snickering? It’s a real phobia. I looked it up. It’s called telephobia… or phonaphobia… or phoneafriendaphobia. Actually, that last one might be the fear of Regis Philbin. I don’t remember. It’s not important. What IS important is that I literally HATE the phone. I don’t like dialing a number, I don’t like talking on it and I definitely don’t like hearing it ring. I get nervous. I wonder what the person on the other end wants. I wonder what we’re going to talk about. I fear an uncomfortable silence. If I’m calling to ask a question of someone, I fear appearing stupid. Or them not understanding my question. I fear giving too much information. Or too little information. I fear a poor connection will make it hard for me to understand the other person. Or it will be hard for them to understand me. The phone is awkward and awkward makes me feel icky.
All of this makes my mother howl with laughter. When I was a teenager, I used to hang on the phone for HOURS. Of course, this was back in the old days when there was an actual cord attached to the receiver. I would stretch it all the way from the kitchen, around the corner into the dining room and sit on the plush, white carpet and run my hands over the old stain from the Thanksgiving years before when someone had dropped the marshmallow topped sweet potatoes on the floor. With every birthday that passed, the phone cord would become more stretched and would reach further into the dining room, away from the listening ears of my mother. I never understood why they just didn’t get a short cord to force me to talk in the kitchen so she wouldn’t have to make a big show of coming into the dining room “looking for something” when she clearly just wanted to spy on me.
The phone was always a source of entertainment in my house. I have 3 older brothers and an older sister. My mother would swear my sister’s friends had ESP because on weekends when she would come home from college the phone would start ringing for her approximately 2.5 minutes after her Maverick pulled up to the curb in front of our house. I always knew how my parents felt about the person on the other end by the way they called our family member to the phone. A lilt in their voice meant curiosity… an unfamiliar voice and name on the other end. A professional tone meant it was most likely a manager from someone’s job. Disgust? It was probably one of my brother’s friends- most likely the one who said “Man” every other word. As in, “Hey man! I’m calling you, man. Man, can you come get me, man?”. My father’s imitation of him always cracked me up. Especially since he would do it while holding the phone waiting for my brother to pick up.
The phone was also a bone of contention in our household. I frequently heard, “Didn’t you JUST see her at school?” when my best friend would call. Or, “Don’t tie up the line, someone might be trying to get through.” You see, this was back in the day before call waiting. I remember being grounded one time over the summer because a boy I had met the day before called me and we talked for three hours. I’m sure we would have talked longer but my mother walked in the door from work with her mad face on, slammed her pocketbook on the counter, pointed to the phone and told me to hang up immediately. She had apparently been trying to reach me for a while. Then there was the time she caught me on the phone long distance at 1:30 in the morning. Yes, with a boy. I was sitting in the dark in the dining room trying to be as quiet as I could be when she flipped the light on. There I sat staring up at her, much like a cockroach, trying to squeeze myself further into the corner I had been hiding in. Never did I think about the huge umbilical cord attached to my ear that would lead her right to me. “What the HELL are you doing???” she demanded to know. “Having phone sex with a guy from NY. He’ll be done in a minute.” was clearly not the answer she was looking for.
It seemed I loved the phone. It was my lifeblood. My main artery. My connection to everything and everybody. So, what happened to sour this beautiful relationship? I believe the turning point came when I got a job one summer as a telephone survey operator. It seemed like a dream to me- getting to talk on the phone all day and get PAID for it. As is the case sometimes, dreams turn to nightmares. The survey we were conducting was about health insurance. We were supposed to ask Mr. and Mrs. America all kinds of questions about the type of insurance they had and if they didn’t have any, why not. Boring! Not to mention, who’s going to take time out of their day to talk about THAT? My completed survey numbers were the worst of the bunch. Most people were either rude or condescending, or they simply hung up on me. Plus we had to sit in this giant cinder block room in the basement of the building. It was like torture. And I only lasted 2 weeks.
But even after that, my phobia didn’t kick in right away. I was still young and the phone was pretty much the only method of communication. But with the advent of e-mail, I found myself using the phone less and less. The phone would ring and instead of looking at it with excitement, I would look at it with trepidation. Who was it and why didn’t they just e-mail me? Sadly, some of my friendships have suffered because of this. I no longer wanted to hang on the phone for hours. And frequently when I didn’t answer the phone, I wouldn’t call them back at all. I fell out of touch with some of them and I feel completely at fault and ridiculous for it. It’s a phone!!
Thankfully, though, with Facebook and texting I’ve reconnected and I’ve never been happier. It’s not that I don’t like talking to people, I’m really quite a Chatty Cathy. I’m just SO much better face to face. Lots of lunch dates, play dates and girl’s nights have been set up through these electronic means and I don’t think it makes the end result any less valid. I’m not a recluse, I don’t use technology and “virtual friends” in place of the real thing. I get together with friends and family in real life quite frequently and always have. Like I told someone recently, “I love you. But I’m not going to call you.” Does that make me a horrible person?
I hope not because I don’t know how to change it. Everybody having their own personal cell phones has helped a bit. That way I can call them directly and don’t have to have any awkward small talk with whoever answers the house phone. Again, icky. Maybe I need therapy, I’m not sure. If not for this, then probably for other issues. We’ll delve into those at a later date. One deep, dark secret at a time. For now, I’m glad I shared this one. I actually feel like a weight has been lifted. It IS a new day… and I AM feeling good. Where’s my phone? I think I’ll tell someone about it. Thank God I’ve got unlimited texting.