Saturday, May 11, 2002

I am one of life's yawner's. Some people think I'm one of life's yawns but I shall let that pass. I yawn a lot. More than most people I know. I yawn when I'm tired - natch - and when I feel alert (?), when feeling stressed, relaxed, happy or sad; I can always rustle one up from somewhere. Sometimes it's a great relief whilst I'm alone or with friends or strangers who are otherwise occupied . Mouth agape, eyes closed in a parody of ecstasy, right (invariably) hand in a concession to decorum thrown palm first to mask the offensive meeting between my tonsils and the rest of the world. Then the audible qualities - a suck rattle draught of oxygen that will hopefully slake my starved brain together with a groan otherwise only ever heard in imitation of how it is thought early man communicated.

At other times the urge is much less welcome. In mid conversation for example. Complying with the annoying convention of sensitive turn taking - and let's face it, it's always, always more fun to talk than listen - and the initiative is with the other, there's scope for yawning misinterpretations. Head forward, eyes bright and alert in an attitude of genuine interest, the tale-tale preliminaries from the nape of the neck to the top of the head to the face are being checked off. A nightmarish succession of scalp tightening, eye fizz and headblood pressure. I know what's coming. But the normal rules of etiquette forbid the yawn. You do not have that luxury. Yawn now and you're trouble. If you give in - if you yield to the urge - you'll have an enemy for life. Quickest way to upset someone without causing them physical harm? Tell them they're boring. No-one, no-one will feel less than utterly devastated if pulled up, mid utterance and told: " Say no more, you are boring me." Which unfortunately for me - congenital yawner that I am, is precisely the message I risk sending out. All the time. Because I yawn. Too, damn, often.

Or would be if over the years I hadn't devised the denial yawn. Same symptoms - head in a temporary padded clamp, grit of sand flicked into each eye by an invisible hand and gradual build up towards the overpowering urge to open trap and begin the repertoire. Then, release the denial, mouth sealed as if superglued, eyes slightly boggled ( more felt than seen I think) ears and throat in rapid deliberation followed by a head bursting fusillade of pops and crackles as the ears save the day. Result: the denial yawn, a social life saver, probably accumulating damage to my brain - but, helping keep friendships intact.

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