I’ve always loved talking. Even when a stutter held my speech hostage as a teenager, I still talked. When I was 13 years old I produced my own ‘radio show’ in an attempt to start ‘living the dream’. Okay, we’ll use the word ‘produced’ loosely. It was me, in my bedroom with an old tape recorder and any family members I could wrangle into giving me exclusive interviews.
The show was called, Phyllis’ Opinions to Family Problems (or POFP – catchy, huh?). And my show did what it said on the tin – expose truths, events and stories – all liberally flavoured with my opinions. In my mind, talking was preferable to shouting and those Hellenic histrionics I’ve come to ‘love’ over the years. I guess it was my way of trying to make sense of it all, the passion, the guilt trips, the lectures…and the love.
Ever the opportunist when I could smell a story, one lazy Sunday afternoon I cornered my grandmother mid-crochet. My parents had gone out, the coast was clear for unfettered, open chat.
The household was still simmering in the aftermath of a particularly heated argument between my mother and older step-siblings. I can’t remember what it was about. But who cared? Whether it was nutty or trivial – it was certainly worthy of a segment on POFP.
So I sidled up to Yiayia, pressed record and jumped in – stutter and all.
“Yiayia, what do you think about what happened last night. Let’s talk about it.”
“Leave me alone. I don’t want to talk about it. Go and play with your dolls.”
“Well, let me tell you what happened…” I insisted.
And then I launched into the facts as I understood them, pausing every now and then to allow Yiayia space to jump in with her opinions – which she was utterly busting to share on POFP. Talking over. Job – and show done. At the time I was just being me – desperate to talk about stuff I didn’t get, wishing for clues to familial mysteries. But looking back I see I was employing classic interview techniques.
So my talking lust started early.
My father called me ‘have-a-chat’. He’d tease me about it mercilessly. We’d be at parties and I’d be talking with people, all self-important at my teen mingling skills and he’d come up beside me, ‘Uh, hey, have-a-chat.’ I’d colour crimson and wish he’d go away – I was holding court, talking about something really important – couldn’t he see that?! I wish he was still here to tease me.
I don’t know why I’ve always loved talking – maybe it’s been my way to diffuse a potentially difficult situation or a way of finding out the truth about stuff – any stuff. My chat is also informed by a heady cocktail of curiousity and non-squeamish-ness. I’ll talk about anything and everything. Just ask me.
A few months ago, I was having sushi with a smart, charming man, discussing the merits of Foundis with him. We chatted about death, life, show topics, his daughter, my sons, men’s mental health and with my chopsticks in mid-hover over a nigri roll, we talked erectile dysfunction. More him to me, since my knowledge on this area is a little limp. Well – there has to be humour, people! When life’s big issues come and slap you in the face, hiding in the dark won’t make them go away.
So… sitting there enjoying perfect slices of sashimi, my lunch date gave me the lowdown on all things erectile dysfunction – and men. All men – from the virile gay 20-something to the graying CEO 50-something dealing with prostate cancer. It wasn’t pretty – but that wasn’t the point. It was real. It was emotional. And honest; the kind of conversation that really inspires me – and what I can’t wait to get started on Foundis.
Some people have told me I have the gift of the gab, but I don’t agree it’s a gift – more a compulsion. And I don’t think it has anything to do with the awkward, lopsided kiss I planted on the Blarney Stone in Ireland a few years ago.
I did it to ‘cure’ my stutter, actually. What a waste of a kiss.
NB: This blog post was written during the 2013 Pozible campaign for my show Foundis.