Talking in groups is like a Jane Austen Novel. The poorly punctuated ones. Where there are words words words and you have to match each one to the character and figure out the difference between dialogue and description because the editor (at least of my edition) didn’t believe in full quotation marks.
You have to follow all the words at once and they are mixed in with everything going on.
You have to fit all the words to the people.
It’s a struggle.
Especially because you don’t get the helpful he said, she saids that are in the book. And remember, names are not too helpful, because even if I was introduced to people at the beginning of an event of even a conversation, if they move at all or switch places at all, there is a large chance I won’t remember. Or if I didn’t have a chance to repeat names back at once or if they were all said at once, they are all probably jumbled uselessly in my head.
And I wish my collection were larger for your benefit and my own credit; but I am an idle fellow, and though I have not many, I have more than I ever look into.
Elizabeth assured him that she could suit herself perfectly with those in the room.
I am astonished,
said Miss Bingley, that my father should have left so small a collection of books. — What a delightful library you have at Pemberley, Mr. Darcy!
It ought to be good,
he replied, it has been the work of many generations.
And then you have added so much to it yourself, you are always buying books.
I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these.
Neglect! I am sure you neglect nothing that can add to the beauties of that noble place.
Charles, when you build your house, I wish it may be half as delightful as Pemberley.
I wish it may.
But I would really advise you to make your purchase in that neighbourhood, and take Pemberley for a kind of model. There is not a finer county in England than Derbyshire.
With all my heart; I will buy Pemberley itself if Darcy will sell it.
I am talking of possibilities, Charles.
Upon my word, Caroline, I should think it more possible to get Pemberley by purchase than by imitation.
Elizabeth was so much caught by what passed, as to leave her very little attention for her book; and soon laying it wholly aside, she drew near the card-table, and stationed herself between Mr. Bingley and his eldest sister to observe the game.
Pride and Prejudice, ch. 8, Jane Austen
And then imagine all the other sounds and things going on around you.* People walking. Lights and shadows everywhere. People breathing. A lot of the time, conversations happen when there are groups of people. So there are multiple conversations to keep track of or to shut out to pay attention to the one you are interested in. The sound of talking and words and syllables and laughter everywhere. Noise noise noise. And then there are all the bodies around you. Maybe walking behind you. Accidentally bumping into you. Keeping track of eye contact in a group or looking at faces at least (how do you do this in a group! Who do you look at?)
And before the story makes sense, you have to match up who said what with each body. You have to match up each person with their words to figure out their part in the story, so that each story makes sense.
Except if you are reading a novel, you can pause and go back over the pages and figure out who said what. With a conversation, you can’t pause it. It keeps going.** But it’s worth it (most of the time) because I want to hear the stories. I want to know the stories. I want to know the people. I want to hear their stories.***
P.S. I generally enjoy Jane Austen novels, especially when I buy properly punctuated ones.
P.P.S. Sorry for the weird fonts. I wrote this on a couple of different devices and it keeps switching back to the original everytime I try to change it. I think I fixed it now!
*Jane Austen doesn’t actually like to mix up her conversations and her descriptions. Well, really, she likes to if at all possible, leave nothing to describe. Just have it be books full of conversations. Between groups of people. Which can make the stories difficult to follow.
**Although actually if I’m talking to my friends and I hear something I want to respond to, I’ll raise my hand, and they will stop and say “Yes, Alana” and then that gives me time to catch up and figure out the conversation and then add up things I was going to say, especially since I don’t have to watch my words nearly as well. But I have awesome friends.
***Really, I love when people tell me random stories about their day. Or about their life. Yes, talk to me about what you had for breakfast. Breakfast is a safe topic. I can tell you what I had for breakfast, what my favorite breakfast foods are. But really, I would rather if you just talked. And told me stories all about you so that I could hear your stories and I could learn your stories.