Feb 5, 2020

Talkin’ to myself and feelin’ fine…

By Ed Goldman

“Talkin’ to myself and feelin’ old/
Sometimes I’d like to quit/.
Nothing ever seems to fit…”
—  Written by Paul Williams, sung by Karen Carpenter

I started talking to myself a few years ago. Okay, let’s get the snarky jokes out of the way. I can think of three offhand, but your mileage may vary: 

1. I don’t mean the columns I’ve written for various magazines and newspapers for decades have been examples of my talking to myself. I’ve received too many responses to make me think I was expostulating into the wind—unless, of course, there was only one, very prolific reader who wrote all of the nasty replies and all of the positive ones. And frankly, if one person was responsible for all of that output, he or she is wasting his or her time on letter crafting and should instead take a course in creative writing—or teach one.

On the other hand, if that person “hears” all of these reactions in his or her head before committing them to correspondence, psychologists may want to chip in to house and study him or her or (schizophrenia alert!), them.

(As an aside, using the word “them” would have made this entire section easier to write instead of all those “him and her”s. But as a throwback—and not just on Throwback Thursdays, the one day of the week the Internet has ordained you may wax nostalgic—I refuse to refer to an individual as “them,” unless, as I say, he or she has multiple personae.

(Continuing my aside, and hoping God is on it, I’ve always found it odd that in Britain, whose language foreran our own, they’ll say something like, “The crowd were angry.” Even if there are thousands of people in it, and all of them are angry, a crowd is still a single entity. And perhaps my obsession with this explains why I, too, remain a single entity.)

2. I don’t think talking to oneself is necessarily a sign of insanity, genius, affluence or loneliness. Or all four—which, as you know, are pre-requisites for those who wish to write country-western or emo-pop songs.

3. I don’t bore myself to sleep each night by talking to me. I rely on the people I call Facebook Fillosophers to do that. You know who I mean: the ones who write every day about their weight loss and hair color and head colds as well as their having learned to love being alone—and missing the cause-and-effect, which is to say, the former (their egotistical over-sharing) may have something to do with the latter (their insights into the joy of going to rock concerts, movies, restaurants and foreign countries by themselves).

Futile observation: avoid spending time with people who tell you they’ve learned to love themselves. Whether they’re self-deceiving or sincere, the friendship will leave you screwed. You’ll always be the Other Man/Woman. To paraphrase the great Charles Schulz, it’s okay to play second fiddle but it’s bad to not even be asked to join the orchestra. End of snark.

I don’t think talking to oneself is necessarily a sign of insanity, genius, affluence or loneliness.

—I think I always talked to myself, even when there was another humanoid on the premises. I just didn’t do it in her presence, which would have resulted in exchanges like this:

OTHER HUMANOID: How do you feel about having a dinner party here next weekend?

ME (in an aside to ME): Wait! The toaster isn’t broken! I just remembered there’s a reset button on the electrical outlet. I have to call and cancel the electrician.

OTHER HUMANOID: I’m sorry? Are you menu planning? Because I don’t think our serving toast for dinner will satisfy—

ME (to the other HUMANOID): Oh, sorry. I was just thinking out loud.

Yes, that’s what we like to call it when we get caught: thinking out loud. Some people haven’t quite stumbled onto this and will say, “Oh, sorry. I was just talking out loud.”

Well, that’s what talking is. Saying stuff out loud—though sometimes, the actual intended listener is closer than we think.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).