By Matt Galletta
My sister likes to rant. A lot. What she rants about doesn’t really matter because we agree about most of the things she likes to rant about. (Though lately it’s been about how everyone is overreacting to threat of Ebola in the US and not concerned enough about what’s going on in Africa.) The problem is that I DO agree with her, and I feel like no matter what I say she goes off on me. It’s like she has this whole lecture planned out, and she needs someone to sit through it. There’s no room for me to talk at all. I’ve told her that if she just needs an audience she should get a blog, but she won’t. She won’t even say anything to our uncle who posts American Ebola stuff nonstop on Facebook. Lately, I’ve been finding myself avoiding her. I don’t like it, but I don’t know what else to do.
So you’ve been avoiding your sister…like the plague?
(Pause for hysterical laughter)
It’s pretty clear your sister has chosen you as her audience for these rants because you agree with her most of the time. You’re safe. You don’t question her. If she tried to deliver these same lectures to Uncle American Ebola, he’d respond with his own opposing viewpoints. A debate might break out, and that’s not what your sister is looking for. She just wants to rant.
I’m assuming you grew up together. Was she always like this? If so, then it’s going to be very hard for her to break this ranting habit, after a lifetime of considering you her captive audience. However, if the lectures are a new development, do you know what brought it on, and can that be fixed in any way?
You’ve already encouraged her to get a blog, or talk to someone else—-good ideas, all—-but it hasn’t worked. It’s time to try something new: Stop being your sister’s ideal listener. Interrupt her. Often. It may feel rude, sure, but ranting nonstop to a family member is rude, too. When you sense a rant coming on, start asking her questions completely unrelated to Ebola. Normal sister questions, like “How was work?” or “Have any plans for the weekend?” or “Remember that time we set Dad’s car on fire?” The goal here is to get out of the Hot Zone, find some neutral ground, and develop what we specialists call a “conversation” with your sister.
Again, if the ranting is something that’s been going on your whole lives, it will be hard if not impossible for her to change. In time, though, she might learn to take her Ebola lectures elsewhere. This does require being more assertive than you may have been in the past with her, but it seems like the alternative is avoiding her altogether. While I’m personally all in favor of avoiding family members as much as possible, it sounds like you don’t feel the same.
Matt Galletta lives in upstate New York with his wife and daughter. His work has appeared in Paper Tape, Falling Star,Up the River, and the anthology A Six Pack of Stories: Short Stories To Read With a Beer in Hand. His poetry collection The Ship is Sinking was published by Epic Rites Press in 2014. Find him at mattgalletta.com.
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