I taught myself to slam doors as a second language. I picked up a bit of it when I was a teenager, but I attained fluency after I got married.
By the time I said, “I do,” I had lived through almost thirty winters and considered myself a bona fide grown-up who dealt with problems in a calm and rational manner. Thankfully my husband thought I was calm and rational, too.
I also believed that my college education and years of reading books with big words allowed me to articulate my thoughts in a cogent and persuasive manner.
But after we each pulled tight our end of the knot at the wedding and began to live together, words failed me.
Since I was much too nice of a person to harbor ill will or feel irritated or hurt, whatever was bothering me was too petty to even mention, so I didn’t. Instead, I began to speak in slams.
One light slight slam of the cupboard or drawer meant I was chafed about something. To indicate that the problem needed more immediate attention, I slammed harder. Each slam and its intensity indicated my level of unhappiness or distress. Emergencies required a wall-shuddering large door slam.
Unlike English, door-slamming lacks subtlety. It consists mainly of nouns and adjectives: soft slam, lively bang, vigorous boom, and so on. The paucity of nouns is counterbalanced by comparative and superlative adjectives: the softest slam, a livelier bang, and the most vigorous boom of all.
In spite of these limitations, my husband learned to interpret his wife’s new language skills and use his words to coax me to use mine.
He: Is anything wrong?
Me: Headshaking and heavy snorting.
He: Do you want to talk about anything?
Me: Slam! Slam!
Eventually I would blurt out, “If you loved me, you would know what’s wrong!”
At the time, it was clear to me that if he would show common courtesy and read my mind, I wouldn’t have to speak in an unknown tongue. I was dumbstruck by what I interpreted as either obstinacy or lack of trying on his part. Clearly I was trying – very trying.
It took over two decades to realize that my thoughts were as opaque to him as his were to me, so I began to use my words and admit the things that bothered me. Big things. Small things. Trifling things that I should have been able to laugh off, but couldn’t. I married the man to be known, but my biggest fear was that he would fully know me, including my pettiness, my fears, and my insecurities.
Every door I slammed in the house mirrored a door I shut within myself to silence the words that would reveal that I am flawed and in desperate need of love and acceptance. And though my husband developed keen interpreting skills, he never attempted to speak the language.
I’ve lost my fluency in door-slamming and I think both of us are pleased about that. During the years I spoke in slams, my forceful manner of talking loosened screws, which meant both the doors and I were always in danger of coming unhinged. Having fewer loose screws is always a good thing.