When I was 10 I moved from Chicago to a little town in Northern Idaho, it was the week after Thanksgiving and I was enrolled to join the 5th-grade class at Ramsey Elementary. No one knew who I was, self-conscious, bad at math, shy, and gullible. What I was to my new classmates was new and exotic, no one had ever met a kid from Chicago. I was the kid who didn’t really talk unless I had to, and people liked me. I was mysterious, I seemed intelligent, and my slate was clean to these people. But slowly over time, I began to warm up and my peers understood who I was, and with each explanation of why my family moved to Idaho, why I was so tall, or why I got sent to the principles office eroded away my ability to keep my classmates attention. Before long I was just another one of Ms. Dumblebairds students.
I’m not so naive to think that one 10-year-old can keep an entire class of 5th graders captive forever. But there are ways in which we can maintain a level of intrigue and influence of those who surround us by simply not explaining things.
Some are more obvious than others, for example, have you ever seen a magic trick and truly been blown away by the illusion, only to have that same illusion shattered when the magician showed you how she did it? Or has your partner ever apologized for saying something nasty to you during an argument, and then squashed any chance of reconciliation when they try to explain why they said you sound like your mother? What about the times you’ve told a joke the wrong way, and now have to explain the punchline to your unimpressed friends?
The Irish figured this out years ago. When it’s time to leave dinner, a party, or the bar, there is no need to explain, because at the end of the day no one needs to know that you need to use the bathroom. No one needs to know that you’ve had one too many beers and need to crash. And no one needs to hear about why you need to go home early so that you can catch that flight, to do that thing, that no one cares about.
I’ll take it a step further, when you decline an invite to a wedding, to a work meeting, etc, you do not owe anyone an explanation. It’s hard to do at first, we think that for some reason we owe the inviter a reason why we can’t go. Most people who demand an explanation are toxic people, and you may want to put some distance between yourself and them. Next time, politely decline the invite and allow the silence that now fills the gap of your old poor explanation to do that talking. More often than not there will be zero follow-ups.
Life is a lot nicer without all the explanations.
*For each moot, we generate a cover image using DALL·E, an AI art platform that generates images using natural language processing. This image on the right was generated using the title, 'Never Explain' in the style of Maxfield Parrish, Phil's artist of choice.*