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Speechless? Stick out your tongue
Scripps Howard News Service


June 30, 2005

This time of year, when children are out of school and the long, hot summer days stretch before us like asphalt parking lots, many housebound parents find themselves going mildly insane.

Isolation, a hunger for intellectual stimulation and the all-day demands of parenting merge into a deadly combination called Adult Conversation Starvation.

This syndrome, which strikes one in three adults who work at home, is most prevalent during the summer months. Symptoms include loneliness, neediness, feelings of being trapped by the children, random muttering, twitches and tics, uncontrollable flinching, inappropriate social behavior and, in extreme cases, thoughts of suicide (or homicide if the kids are being especially rowdy).

As with so many psychological conditions, it's difficult for the afflicted to recognize their own condition. They might try to laugh it off or deny they need adult interaction. They might even resort to artificial stimulants such as soap operas.

Let's look at some typical scenarios. You may have Adult Conversation Starvation if:

You pounce on your spouse as soon as s/he comes in the door in the evening, asking about everything that happened during the workday and demanding that entire dialogues be repeated in detail.

Delivery people ring the bell and sprint away rather than risk getting caught in a conversation with you.

You notice during chats with neighbors that they're always looking at their wristwatches.

You find yourself talking at length with telemarketers or people who reached you by dialing a wrong number.

You go shopping because there are other adults at the mall. Yes, they all want to sell you something, but at least they're adults.

You frequently phone friends or other loved ones to sit and talk with you, and you're willing to overlook their sighing and eye-rolling in exchange for a few minutes of semi-coherent conversation.

You find yourself conducting long conversations in baby talk. "Yes, you do, don't you? You do! Peek-a-BOO! Hahahahaha."

You start to believe that the virtual people you meet online are your "real friends."

Recognize yourself in any of those scenarios? Then you may have Adult Conversation Starvation. What should you do to combat this condition? Here are some remedies.

Take a "people bath." Get out of the house and go someplace where adults congregate. Maybe you'll run into a friend. Maybe you'll strike up a conversation with a new acquaintance. Maybe you'll get arrested for accosting strangers, but, hey, police officers are often good conversationalists.

Go out to lunch. Take the kids along if you must, but go to a restaurant or a coffeehouse. You get a change of scenery, and cafes are good places to eavesdrop on adults who have real lives.

Consult friends who might be in the same boat. If you know other adults who work at home, call them up. They'll sympathize with your neediness, and they'll understand when you have to put them on hold to go take that butcher knife away from little Tommy who's chasing the cat. They might even still be on the line when you get back.

Stand at a busy intersection and hold up a handmade sign that says: "Will Work for Chitchat."

Try hitchhiking. Yes, it can be dangerous to get in cars with strangers, but even roaming serial killers know how to talk about something other than Pokemon. And begging for your life counts as conversation, right?

Right? Answer me! Come on, say something. Please!


Redding, Calif., author Steve Brewer's latest book is called "Boost."
Contact him a ABQBrewer(at)

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