With a Flashback to the Chatty Cathy Doll
Story #1: Alec Baldwin
In October, 2021, Alec Baldwin was holding a prop gun on a movie set. The gun fired killing one person and harming another. According to an opinion column in The New York Times written by Farhad Manjoo, Baldwin told police he’d do whatever they requested. This included sitting for an interview. At the interview he talked and talked, answering questions and sharing his own theories on the incident. This was all logical to me. Something terrible happened; Baldwin wanted to help.
This case has had many twists and turns, and is not yet resolved. At the time of the opinion column, January, 2023, prosecutors in New Mexico were planning to charge Baldwin and the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, with involuntary manslaughter. The title of the opinion piece is shocking to me, but it is the lesson of the story: “Alec Baldwin Didn’t Have to Talk to the Police. Neither Do You.”
According to the article, defense lawyers tell us that if we are involved in a serious incident, it’s best not to talk to the police unless we have an attorney present. This is a part of our Miranda Rights as is the right to remain silent.
Clearly, this is an extreme case of the importance of holding your tongue, but perhaps its extreme nature will cause us to remember the concept for everyday life.
Let’s go there now.
Story #2: My dad, Morrie Kleiner
There was once a family member I wanted to tell off! My dad advised me to hold my tongue explaining I would get “one moment of satisfaction in return for a lifetime of pain.” I believed him because he was my dad. When I got divorced, I heard something similar that really made the point crystal clear. Divorce – when there are children – is not something you do once and then it’s over. It’s an ongoing situation because life is long. Telling off a family member falls in the same category.
I have some friends who do indeed tell people off. They think I should stand up for myself more often in this regard. But here’s the deal, Dad lived by this philosophy and was loved by all. Wanting a similar result for my life, I use these further concepts to help me keep my mouth shut when I am annoyed with someone.
- Today will not last forever, neither are your feelings permanent.
- Don’t make a permanent decision based on temporary emotions.
- Learn to sit back and observe. Not everything needs a reaction.
- Silence is sometimes the best action to take.
- You don’t need to attend every argument you are invited to.
- Everything you say should be true, but not everything true should be said.
- Be careful with your words. Once they are said, they can only be forgiven, not forgotten.
- Use the THINK acronym: Is it True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, Kind?
Dad died long ago, but I still think in terms of WWDD in any modern situation. And so, let me add two things here. It’s always best to think twice before hitting send on a text message or posting a comment on social media. And, if I have had any sort of alcoholic beverage, thinking three times is on tap for the day.
Bottom line: Saying something is dicey enough, putting it in writing is another matter altogether. In both cases, I have to take time to weigh the momentary satisfaction against the potential for long-term pain.
Story #3: My late boyfriend, Big Irv:
Big Irv was an engineer by education and a general contractor by trade. He was well-versed on the saying: Measure twice, cut once. He extrapolated from there to arrive at his personal philosophy: Think twice, say nothing.
Though I am sure Big Irv’s mom taught him the axiom, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all, he wasn’t looking out for the other guy when he arrived at his philosophy. He was looking out for himself. This lovable tough guy knew the less he said, the less trouble he could get himself into. This was self-preservation, which sounds awful, but which takes us back to Alec Baldwin and the right to remain silent because whatever we say can be held against us in any situation not just a court of law.
Story #4: Mattel’s Chatty Cathy doll:
Remember this doll? It was introduced in 1960, and was the first successful “talking doll.” It had a pull-string mechanism that connected to a phonograph record inside the doll’s body with eleven recorded messages that would repeat one-by-one, ad nauseam, with the pull of the string. Thanks to the doll, anyone who talked incessantly was called a chatty Cathy.
But I choose to take a different lesson from the doll. I want to have a few stock phrases built into my brain so I am prepared for times when holding my tongue is the best game plan.
- In an argument, I will try to clamp my lips between my teeth and open my mouth only to say, “Don’t take my silence to mean that I agree with you.”
- In more general situations, here’s my response: “Let me think about that and get back to you.”
- And though I’ll hope to never be in a police situation, if I am, claiming my Miranda Rights will be my stock response as opposed to blabbering on like a chatty Cathy.
In all these cases, my goal is the same – to remember there is wisdom in holding my tongue.
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