“How would you like to see the play downtown—that musical?” my wife asked the other day.
“That’s fine,” I said. “Whatever you want to do.”
Later in the day, she said, “I think I want to stay home tonight. I’ve got some reading to catch up on, and I’m kind of tired. Besides, you really don’t want to go, do you?”
My wife had been reading this book entitled “Cues,” which, according to the author, Vanessa Van Edwards, teaches one how to read another person’s body language, facial expressions, word choices, and vocal inflections.
“No,” I admitted, “I really didn’t want to go, but I’d go for you.”
I added later, “You need to stop reading that dang book.”
Frankly, I have nothing against musicals. In fact, some of them are fun. But on this particular day, I was thinking about kicking back in my nice, comfortable recliner and watching a ballgame on TV. Seemed better than sitting in a less-comfortable seat in a theater full of people and watching a musical I’d never heard of.
My brother, who is more blunt, would’ve said, “No, I don’t like to see a bunch of people break out in song in the middle of the street. Let’s stay home.”
You’d think after 56 years of marriage, my wife would know all of my cues without reading a book. She can read most of them, but she’s becoming more proficient all the time, mainly because she’s looking for them now.
Some people leave no doubt as to what they’re thinking. Take my late fiery grandmother, Mama Stevens, my mother’s mama. She would tell you straight out if she didn’t like something.
My brother and I were teenagers, our sister about 10, when we moved from a four-bed house to a two-bed place, the first house Daddy purchased after paying rent for 20 years. Mama Stevens was living with us. That meant our sister would sleep with Mama, making sure she didn’t touch her during the night, and my brother and I would be banished to the attic, where our “bedroom” was a lonely mattress at the end of a pull-down ladder.
For Mama Stevens, body language was redundant.
For our father, however, it was everything. His mouth seldom spoke. Everything else spoke volumes. “Watch your daddy,” our mother said one time. “You know how he is.” If he wanted you to pass the biscuits, he’d make an almost undetectable nod or gesture toward the platter and expect you to figure it out.
I guess I’m somewhere in the middle. I aspire to have my body, face, and vocal inflections to match my words, but I’m sure they sometimes betray me. When I said to my wife about the musical, “That’s fine, whatever you want to do,” I thought that said it pretty well.
But tucked discreetly in that response was something else my wife picked up on, thanks to Vanessa Van Edwards’ dadgum book.
I guess I’ll need to read it in self-defense.