Social Silence


Photo by Madeline Colclasure

Alexis Burch, Writer

My father sat across from me, his crossed arms dirtied from a day’s worth of welding. His stern yet melancholy voice spoke up, “We can get you books, you know, to make you outgoing.”

We had been here before. It was a plea from a concerned parent; the compromise that was to end my social problems. I did not believe a book would alleviate the lump in my throat, but I was only in fifth grade, so I was willing to try.

The books never came, and the problems took on a more physical presence.

My face turned red when I realized people could comprehend what I said. My blood vessels would open wide and the red washed over the surface of my face.  

I did not participate, I did not offer my opinion and I never, under any circumstances, “put myself out there.”

By seventh grade, even my closest friends could recognize how “awkward” I was. I would meet siblings and parents and they’d make the same comment: “She seems nice, but she doesn’t really talk.”

I was old enough to order for myself at restaurants. It was daunting to have the responsibility. It was my own duty to say exactly what I wanted instead of passively accepting of what my parents gave me.

Ninth grade came, and so did new friendships. For a month, I could not eat in front of them or talk to more than one person at a time. But months passed, and we grew closer, and they became family.

I slowly began to open up when I entered my sophomore year and started interviewing strangers for newspaper. It gave me the power to make seniors nervous because they couldn’t predict my planned questions.

I still sit in class and get nervous sometimes. A series of different phrases will whirl around in my mind. I often can’t decide which words makes me sound the most intelligent, so I accidentally blurt them all out in a frenzy.

But now, I can confront people. I can tell people what I think.  My face is a soft pink, and I only feel slightly humiliated. I make sure to raise my voice so that others can recognize my suggestion. I no longer fear how people might reply. Come at me with a conversation, I am ready.