By Mordechai Schmutter

 

OK, I’ll admit it: I talk to myself. I am literally talking to myself right now, as I plan this article. And why shouldn’t I? I like me! I make me laugh.

Sure, some people think it’s weird. When I tell people that I talk to myself, they give me a look, like they think I put on a trench coat, get on the bus, sit next to some nice old lady, and start mumbling.

It’s just talking to myself. It’s not like I argue with myself. (“Really? I don’t believe me!” “I’m serious.”)

Though I do sometimes yell at myself. I’m like, “What’s wrong with you?”

But I just take it. I don’t yell back.

“What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with me!”

Also, I don’t actually say, “Me.” I say, “You,” because I’m picturing myself talking to someone else. Someone who has nowhere to be but to hang out near me and constantly ask me to explain myself.

Most people who don’t talk to themselves end up hiring an assistant, but the function is the same, I think.

Don’t judge me. I mostly work at home. Except when I go teach high school in the afternoons, and then I talk to myself in front of a class, and no one thinks that’s weird.

“Well,” you’ll say, “the first step is admitting to yourself that you have a problem.”

“Um …”

But it’s not really a problem. I suspect that a lot of people talk to themselves. I’ve spoken to myself about this theory, and I agree. But the thing is, no one is going to admit it. In general, no one has any solid proof that you were talking to yourself. Who’s going to tell anyone? Yourself? If you thought you couldn’t keep a secret, you wouldn’t talk to yourself.

Though sometimes you get caught. The worst is when you’re talking to yourself, not realizing anyone can hear you, and someone says, “What?”

Actually, it’s worse when you say, “What?”

But it’s like here I am, trying to have a nice conversation with myself, and people are coming in and interrupting. Was I talking to you?

Some people are like, “Yeah, well, crazy people talk to themselves.”

Sure. But crazy people do lots of things. They’re people. Crazy people sometimes eat spaghetti. And I eat spaghetti! Does that mean I’m crazy? No. Everyone looks crazy when eating spaghetti.

Some people assume I’m talking to an imaginary friend. But to me, it was never about imaginary friends. It was about rehearsing arguments that I thought I might have later. I always won those arguments, in private, though I could never remember what I was going to say later on, when the argument actually happened.

“This is some good stuff! I should really write this down! So I can consult my notes during the argument!”

I can’t write anything down in the shower. That’s why I have a voice recorder. I guess so that if I’m ever in an argument, I can find the appropriate recording and play it back. And my opponent will have nothing to say. At most, he’ll just be like, “Why is there water running in the background?”

Why do you have to stop talking to yourself? Just because other people think it’s weird? It’s like I was saying to myself the other day: The great thing about talking to myself is that I don’t have to explain things to me. I don’t have to give myself background on whatever I’m talking about, unless I choose to.

“Since the dawn of time…”

“Whoa. I know this stuff already.”

“Pay attention. This might concern me.”

And I know I’m not the only one. When I was growing up, my mother would talk to herself, usually close enough to us that that we’d hear her. She’d be like, “I can’t believe I have to clean this whole room myself!” And magically, we’d spring to life and help her out. I’m guessing that she knew we were eavesdropping. So maybe I got it from her. Though I’ve tried it with my kids and nothing happened.

What my mother did was really a separate thing. Because as it turns out, some people do talk to themselves, but only for the benefit of others. Like if they walk out of a room but then end up coming back in, but they don’t want to explain why to the person still in there, so they narrate what they’re doing, like they’re on the phone with mission control:

“Where are my keys? I just had them. Oh, here they are. Let’s see … Get some eggs from the fridge, here’s the butter, now a frying pan … Why can’t I close this cupboard? Oh.”

Like who is he talking to? Not me. Does he have no idea what he’s about to do until he hears himself telling him this?

I understand that there are probably some people out there who genuinely do not talk to themselves. But the rest of us talked about it, mostly among ourselves, and we decided that talking to ourselves is actually pretty normal, if you think about it. We say things all the time like, “Give yourself a pep talk,” and no one bats an eye. (Not to mention, “Talk amongst yourselves.” What does everyone else do when someone says that?)

And what about the expression, “You’ll be kicking yourself tomorrow.” That’s more normal, right?

And if I can talk to my wife for a hundred years, give or take, despite not always having anything to say, and ishto k’gufo, then how is that any different from talking to myself? At least when I’m conversing with myself, I never say things like, “Uch, I already told you. But do you ever listen? No.”

I have some good news: If you talk to yourself, scientists say you’re not alone.

“Oh. Well, if I’m not alone, I’m not going to talk to myself. It’s weird.”

It turns out that it’s not actually weird to talk to yourself; it’s only weird to get caught doing it. According to recent studies, talking to yourself is a sign that you may be a genius. Which I guess means that I’m a genius? I didn’t actually think so, but this study proves it, so who am I to argue? Though I do call myself a genius from time to time. I’m like, “You forgot ‘Ya’aleh V’yavo’ again, genius.” So I guess I sort of suspected.

Speaking as a genius, I kind of already figured this out. After all, teachers spend all day talking to themselves, and who’s smarter than teachers?

But for example, they did an experiment in which subjects were told to find various items in a grocery store, but one group had to do it silently while the other had to keep repeating the items they were looking for over and over: “Bananas… Bananas… Bananas…” And they found that to the group that kept repeating it, bananas didn’t even sound like a word anymore. What are bananas? Bananas. But they did find the bananas faster.

Now before we all go patting ourselves on the back, which is even weirder, I should point out that it’s possible that it’s not being smarter that makes you talk to yourself, but it’s talking to yourself that makes you smarter. It stimulates memory, helps you focus on a task, clarifies your thoughts, and helps develop your language skills. It also helps reduce stress (“I’m not gonna calm down! You calm down!”) possibly because if you’re stressed, you can just tell yourself jokes.

“But how could you tell yourself jokes if every joke you tell yourself you’ve already heard?” you ask.

Well, I don’t know how other people do it, but my answer is that that I make the jokes up. That way, they’re new jokes that I haven’t heard before. I’m a writer, genius. I bet if you looked at any humor writer you know of and asked, “Does this person talk to himself/herself?” the answer will be yes. Also, you’ll be talking to yourself.

Not to mention that, as the research said, talking to yourself helps develop language skills. Though if the reason you’re talking to yourself is to help develop your language skills, you have to keep it up. If you don’t talk to yourself for too long, and you suddenly get back into it, you’re not going to know what to say. It’s going to be awkward silence for a while, and you’re going to end up talking to yourself about the weather and waiting for the conversation to be over. And maybe making up excuses to leave.

So what am I saying? I think I’m saying that if you walk into a room and see someone talking to themselves, don’t interrupt their conversation. If you were talking to someone and a third person came in, would you appreciate if he interrupted to ask if you were normal? And in this case, it’s worse, because he’s trying to hold both halves of the conversation.

“Where were we?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Me neither. How about we just mutter to ourselves about that guy?”

“Would that be lashon ha’ra?”

“I wouldn’t even know who to ask.”

And if you’ve never actually talked to yourself before, maybe try it! It’s the newest thing! Everyone’s talking about it! Mostly to themselves. But start off small, in a private place, such as the shower, and see what develops.

It has to be better than your singing.

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of six books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.

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