Guest Column by Judith Seid
SHE NODS her head. “No,” she says emphatically.
This makes me crazy.
“Did you just nod your head and say ‘no’ at the same time?” I inquire chillingly.
“Yes,” she says, nodding again. This further enrages me. I am a person with very little tolerance for ambiguity and none at all for internal contradictions.
“Did you just nod your head and say ‘Yes’ at the same time?”
“Uh-huh,” she replies, this time, thankfully, holding her head still. “I always nod,” she explains in an aggressively reasonable tone, as if I have no grounds for waving my arms around and shouting. “It’s very self-affirming.”
I apparently exhibit my disbelief well enough to merit further explanation.
“Remember when you were in school?” she begins. I settle down for what is obviously going to be a long and boring story. “Remember all those times the teacher would say something stupid or something too weird to understand and you were the only one who spoke up and asked a question or challenged what got said?” I am starting, in spite of myself, to be interested. Yes, I remember this very well.
“And remember how after class three or four other people would come up and thank you for asking or for saying something? And remember how they’d always say they were thinking the same thing and remember how you always thought, ‘Well, thanks a lot for speaking up and backing me up in class when it counted!’ And how you kind of had to be nice even though you were mad at them?” Okay, now she has me completely on her side. All those people always nodded at the teacher in class, as if they understood and agreed and then came out of class and said told me didn’t. More internal inconsistency.
“See!” she demands. I didn’t quite.
“Sure,” she continues, nodding again. “Nobody agrees with you, right? So you just agree with yourself. Whatever you say, you nod your head in agreement. It’s affirming! It’s great! You feel so much less alone!”
I try it. “Yes,” I say, nodding. “No,” I say, nodding again. I like it. In fact, I like it a lot.
Now I always nod, no matter whether I’m saying yes or no. It doesn’t feel a bit ambiguous.