Dear Tell All: I recently ended a relationship with a guy who was obsessed with telling stories. He idolized Richard Pryor and studied his old routines like a scholar researching sacred texts. He sometimes retold Pryor's stories in social situations, aiming to get all the inflections right.
He prided himself on telling his own stories, too. I heard him tell the same ones dozens of times, polishing them until he had every detail just so. When he considered a certain story "done," he told it exactly the same way forever after.
He liked taking me to events put on by the Madison Storytellers group. At these performances, anyone can go up in front of the crowd to tell a story. He never did it himself, but he loved to critique the storytelling styles afterwards.
At first, I enjoyed hearing his stories and going to the storytelling nights. But eventually, boredom set in. I got tired of hearing his stories over and over. And the Madison Storytellers events featured way too many people who just like the sound of their own voices, whether they had anything worthwhile to say or not.
It finally dawned on me that people who fetishize telling stories aren't the world's greatest listeners. My boyfriend did most of the talking in our relationship, taking advantage of the fact that I'm relatively quiet. He also took advantage of the fact that I'm polite. I always gave him plenty of room for telling his stories, not letting on when I got bored. He didn't extend the same courtesy to me.
I've had mixed feelings since breaking up with him. I think it was good for my pride, but I admit that life is less exciting without him around. I did the right thing...didn't I?
Dear Violet: You did the right thing. Some relationships work perfectly well with one person who does all the talking and another person who does all the listening. But both parties have to agree to those terms, and you clearly didn't appreciate the imbalance that existed with Richard Pryor Jr.
I say: good riddance. Let your ex-boyfriend practice his shtick with somebody else while you look for a partner who's curious about what you have to say.
In the meantime, it might be therapeutic to perfect your own tale about the time you dated a storytelling freak, and to tell it at the next Madison Storytellers event.
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