Are You Deaf?

It is my understanding that most men would rather be lost and let their cars steer them in the direction of Raqqa than stop to ask for directions. I think good hearing is embroiled in machismo too—even more than physical strength, temerity or virility.

I’ve found that my husband often asks me—especially now that he’s at a certain age—to repeat a word. It happens frequently enough that I worry. One day, when I said “school” he wondered if I meant “fool.” Another day, I said something about “mood,” he took it to mean “food.” This morning he thought I meant “New York” when I said “MIOT.”

Naturally, I offered to make him an appointment at the famous California Ear Institute. People fly in from Reykajavik and Ougadougou to be treated at the CAE. But he declined my offer in a sort of a vehement brush-off. He stalked out of the room.

Most women, on the contrary, deal with any slight loss of hearing as if it were a virtue. A woman can bear a child in her uterus and so the ability to hear is merely a secondary capability. I have no doubt that women will agree when I say that selective hearing needs to be added to the list of virtues, besides chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility.

Consider what happened to me yesterday. The old woman at the counter of the used books place I frequent was trying to talk to me as I struggled to turn off my iPod player.

“Are you deaf?” she asked, concern creasing her face, as she handed me my Dostoyevsky novel.

“No,” I said, with a quick laugh. “Although the truth is I have lost a fair amount of hearing in my left ear.” I pointed to the white wires snaking into my ears and the iPod inside my sweatshirt. “Right now, I was listening to a podcast when you tried talking to me. These are just my speakers.”

The old woman apologized profusely for her thoughtlessness while I waved it all off congenially, even though a small, vitriolic cell inside me wanted to tell her that given her age she was hurtling towards deafness at the velocity of a NASA Rocket.