It’s not me, it’s them.
Who’s them? My family! We’re spending a lot of time together thanks to the whole social distancing, global pandemic, nobody-knows-what’s-safe-thing happening in the world, and while working from home isn’t new to me, working from home with constant interruptions is something I haven’t had to deal with since the kids were little.
Even now, as teenagers, they have the power to disrupt my focus, as does my husband. I suppose it’s a sign of their love, and I don’t want to chase them away because of that, but all day I get visits from each of the three of them, eager to tell me about something that just happened to them. The problem is, we’ve all had our allotment of “something that just happened” dramatically reduced in the last six months or so, and that means that the reports being delivered while I’m right in the middle of writing a sentence are… not very exciting.
My 13-year-old daughter needs to tell me her thoughts on the unfair relationships in Glee—Blaine cheated on Kurt TOO, you know. She also has a dozen online friends that are no less drama-filled than the kids at school always were, and the ups & downs and twists & turns in their lives are even less interesting than the Glee kids, who at least burst into song a couple of times an episode.
My 16-year-old son shows up at my office door with detailed descriptions of some batshit crazy Reddit conversation about specific historical eras, details of battles from countries I couldn’t find on a map without Googling, and the latest on his Dungeons & Dragons escapades.
And my husband got a new keyboard this summer—he’s a musician as well as a computer programmer—and finds every little software update and every new sound he can upload into it so thrilling that he has to tell me all about it… slowly and painstakingly, in case “and I can make THIS sound” just isn’t enough. And he writes software, so there’s that too. Things I take for granted—like “forgot your password” links and sorted columns—take a lot of effort to create from scratch, and he likes to walk me through every step. Sigh.
I do have my own work to do, but nobody takes much notice of that while they’re giving me regular updates on their day except my son, who at least makes a point of asking if I’m busy first.
But as I sat in my office, smug in my judgment of my beloved family as a bunch of sweet but often boring companions riding out 2020 with me, I was struck by a dismaying bolt of lightning: I might be as boring as they are.
No, really! That glazed look in my husband’s eyes isn’t because he’s been coding for too long, it’s because I’m talking about celebrities again, or worse (for him), Star Trek. (I co-host a weekly Trek podcast, so it’s sort of an occupational hazard, but it’s also been part of my DNA since I was ten.) He’s also not that interested in the emotional nuances of my friends’ relationships with each other, a topic I could explore endlessly. And does he care that Barry Jenkins liked my Tweet about Moonlight? I’m afraid to ask, because the inevitable response is going to be, “Who’s Barry Jenkins?” (I get the same reply no matter which celebrity it is, from Marlo Thomas to Lizzo).
My son is able to muster up some Star Trek enthusiasm, my daughter is interested in a handful of the same celebrities I am, but honestly? They don’t really find my obsessions sustainable beyond a sentence or two. I’ve been listening to a lot of celebrity-hosted podcasts lately and apparently Rob Lowe talking to Nick Offerman is just not as exciting to them as it is to me, even though three of us are huge Parks and Recreation fans. They’re teenagers, so their entire sense of Rob Lowe is exclusive to that show, meaning that story he told on Conan’s podcast about meeting Cary Grant when he was 15 does not amuse them.
I guess it’s spending so much more time together that put a spotlight on this. “How was your day?” isn’t about things that HAPPENED anymore so much as a mish-mosh of what we’ve seen on the internet or TV combined with our various favorite obsessions swirling around our heads. So here I was, ready with my wry commentary on how I politely tolerate all their talk of subjects I can’t relate to, and boom! I came face-to-face with the undeniable truth: It’s not that I live with three lovable people who tell boring stories, it’s that I AM ONE OF THEM! Guilty as charged.
A transplanted Canadian living in New York, Laurie Ulster is a freelance writer and a TV producer who somehow survived her very confusing adolescence as the lone female Star Trek fan in middle school. She writes about pop culture, lifestyle topics, feminism, food, and other topics for print, digital, podcasts, and TV.