“I’m Debbie! I’m Debbie!”

Who’s Debbie? A memory that shouldn’t be taking up any of my precious ROM. From a soap opera I watched 35 years ago or so (one that my mom used to watch). As I remember it, “Debbie” was a young girl who had been rendered mute and somewhat catatonic after an accident that took her twin sister’s life. For some reason, everyone around her thought she was her twin, so kept calling her by that name and thinking she, Debbie, was the one who had died. Eventually, at a point of very high drama, she “woke up” from her trance sobbing, “I’m Debbie! I’m Debbie!” much to everyone’s delight and amazement.

So, what conjured up that odd memory last night in bed as I replayed the events of the evening? I think because the people I was “socializing” with must have thought me little better than a trance-like mute…only without the revealing wake-up call.

We were at a benefit for the community organization Mike belongs to in his hometown. After dinner, we were talking with the others at the table. Mike was sitting next to me, but was otherwise engaged in deep conversation with a friend of his. So I was drawn into the other side of the table with two very nice couples. Throughout the wide range of topics — using mnemonics (unsuccessfully) to remember people’s names, cats and dogs, education (3 of the 4 were teachers), hurricanes (one of the couples had lived through Hurricane Andrew in Florida and their house was largely destroyed) — I seemed to have nothing to contribute. I listened intently, nodded, smiled, but could think of nothing to add, even though I have the same trouble remembering names, pamper 2 cats, am somewhat educated, and watch The Weather Channel quite often.

They must have thought me an incredible dullard.

The others were 10 to 15 years older than me, and at one point, ruefully talked about the trials and tribulations of “old age” (they weren’t old by any means), and kept apologizing and saying, “You’ll see.” as if I was some young thing of 25 or so. Again, the best I could muster was a smile and (an apparently unconvincing), “I know, I know.” Oh, and at one point, I piped up with a rather defiant, “My mother’s 91!” as if to prove I really DID know about getting older.

Eventually, one of the men turned to me and said, “So what do YOU want to talk about?” as he laughingly relayed a story about being at a party where everyone was a teacher except one unfortunate soul, a truck driver, who, after enduring “tales of the classroom” for far too long, announced, “Who wants to talk about trucks?”

Again, even when directly asked, I got nothin’ to say.

I think I managed a couple goldfish-out-of-water, open-close mouth gestures and couldn’t come up with a thing — no clever retort, no news of the day, not even the never-fail “How ’bout them Stillers?”

It was so embarrassing. And odd. I can usually think of something to add to a conversation, especially when I like the people I’m conversing with. But last night, nada.

As the party broke up, the woman who had relayed the hurricane experience apologized to the rest of us for dominating the conversation with her story. I quickly said, “Oh no, it was fine. I’m a listener.” and hoped that somewhat made up for my deafening silence.

So, here I sit, wracking my brains about what I could have said and how the night should have gone.

Coulda woulda shoulda. Mike told me later the “hurricane woman” had said to him how much she enjoyed meeting me and how nice I was (in a pleasant, slow-witted way, no doubt).

Oh well. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose I could be known as a lot worse.

The dying process begins the minute we are born,
but it accelerates during dinner parties.
~ Carol Matthau


  1. Monday, January 11, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Laughing Chris. I just keep picturing you suddenly yelling “I’m Debbie.” 🙂 btw, People who say “What do YOU want to talk about?” don’t really care. If they cared, they would have asked you questions to draw you into the conversation, not put you on the spot.

  2. Facie said,

    Monday, January 11, 2010 at 12:47 pm


    I am outgoing and speak way more than I should most of the time. But every once in awhile, I just won’t feel like saying anything, which sometimes leads to people asking me what is wrong or almost forcing me into the conversation. There is a lot to be said for just listening, and people should respect that. Even those of us with a lot of crap to say sometimes find ourselves speechless (much to the delight of some, no doubt!).

  3. WritingbyEar said,

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Thanks, guys. Of course, listeners give talkers the audience they’re looking for, so we’re all useful to the conversation — even us non-flashy types.

  4. RL said,

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 7:53 am

    I agree with all comments here. Good conversation includes the skill of drawing everyone in, not just dominating the discussion with one’s own stories–these folks should have given that a try. Also, listening is the more difficult skill, one that you are especially good at, and one that your friends appreciate in you. It’s what makes you, you, and what makes you a great writer too.

    And hey, nothing to say? Ask the talkers a question about themselves, and they’ll be happy to take the reigns for another stretch.

  5. WritingbyEar said,

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Thanks, RL — I appreciate that! I’ll likely not encounter these folks again anytime soon, but if I did, it would be interesting to see what they remember. (On a side note, remember the minister who married us? She hasn’t remembered my name since, and I’ve watched her dance around it for the last 4 years when we occasionally see her in church [she knows Mike well]. She was also at the event and we both came in at the same time while our husbands parked the cars. She finally admitted she’d forgotten my name and asked me so she could “introduce” me to her husband, whom I’d met a couple times before… Pretty funny.)

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