What else can’t you do?

Tonight we went into the studio to record Chapter Two of the secret project. At one point, the narration refers to one of the characters whistling. When we paused, Rob said, “Are you going to whistle?”

“No. I can’t whistle,” I replied.

A moment of silence passed with Rob’s mouth hanging slightly open. “Are you my wife?”

“Yes. But I can’t whistle.”

“Really? How did I not know that? Not at all?” He then whistled a scale. Bastard.

“Not reliably. I can make a sound, but not with any consistency. Inhaling. I can whistle on the inhale, but not blowing”

This seemed to fascinate Rob, while I felt a sort of delighted dread. Then I tried to show him what little whistling I could do, which tonight amounted to the sound of wind on the moor. Not a whistle, but not simply breath. I have no idea why whistling would have come up before, but Rob is apparently quite excited by the fact that I’m incapable of whistling. When we finished recording the chapter, he leapt up and came into the booth to ask more questions. This is the source of the delight and the dread. I have intrigued my husband by revealing a new aspect of myself, and new aspects are a precious commodity when you have known someone for seven years, but it’s something I’m bad at.

How about you? Is there something about you that your significant other learned after you’d been together long enough that it seemed as if the surprises were mostly over? Or, for that matter, what surprising thing are you bad at?

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17 Responses

  1. -d-

    I’ve known you all of your life and I didn’t know that you couldn’t whistle. But I’m glad you don’t even if you could.

  2. Kathy

    i dislocated my shoulder a few weeks ago and am wearing my hair in a braid so it doesn’t need brushing as often. My 16yo daughter usually braids in for me after a shower. She was off at a sleepover, the last time this needed doing and I asked my husband to do it. He said he didn’t know how. I talked to my 19yo daughter off at college and it turns out she can’t braid hair either, though she can braid challah.

  3. Brian Dolton

    Re. Kathy’s point – I have to admit, I think there are very few guys out there who could braid hair. It’s just not something many of us have call to do… my wife did try to get me to help with hers a while back, but I lack the manual dexterity to control that quantity of hair without tugging it painfully.

    There are far too many things I can’t do because I never learned how to do them as a kid – I couldn’t swim until last year (I’m still taking lessons; at least I’m now a lot more confident in the water) and I never really learned to ride a bike (I had a go in my late teens but it didn’t take). And while I probably CAN drink tea and coffee, I don’t, the former of which in particular constantly surprises people (because I’m a Brit, and thus contractually obliged to).

  4. momk

    When Rob was a little boy (before HE learned to whitle). He would simulate the sound by saying: “Pheeo-Wheat”. Would tht fool anyone?

  5. momk

    Here is a caution which I learned as a little girl. “Whistling women and crowing hens
    Come to no good ends!”

  6. Mary Robinette Kowal

    Chris: phew, I’m glad I’m not alone.

    Dad: clearly this is one of the few areas where you fell down on your parenting duties.

    Kathy: Oh, man, I know how much shoulder injuries suck. I hope you mend quickly; meanwhile, be patient and gentle with yourself. Also–can’t braid hair but can braid other things? How does that happen?

    momk: Rob told me about the “Pheoo-wheat” noise and still seems convinced that in his “little boy voice” it sounded like a real whistle. Don’t spoil it for him.

  7. fabulousgirl

    Umm, I knew you couldn’t whistle.

    I am surprisingly bad at a number of things, but my technique over the years has been to just stop doing them, and so I don’t actually know what I’m not good at until the occasion presents itself. Calculating the tip (just a small part of that whole MATH thing I’ve been ignoring since age 7) is one that I’m being forced to revisit, now that I live in the City.

  8. -d-

    Did I really fall down on my parenting duties?
    See momk’s comment about
    Whistling girls and crowing hens
    always come to some bad end.

  9. Brad

    Hmmm. Well, I have difficulty saying “needed”. Literally. My tongue just trips over it and it sounds like I’m drunk. Needud is what it sounds like more often than not, unless I slow way down.

    What else… I’m horribly bad at art. I can’t draw worth a damn, even though I wish I could. I like art, and I’d like to think I have a certain eye for design, fashion, etc. But drawing of any kind? Nope.

  10. Chris BIllett

    My friend does something similar! He *always* says pacifically instead of specifically, and even if you correct him he’ll do it again straight after… even if he’s deliberately trying. It’s almost funny, but it feels a bit wrong laughing about it… may be a dyslexia thing?

  11. Mary Robinette Kowal

    Brian: Sorry, you got caught by the spam filters. Y’know, I have another friend who doesn’t drink coffee because he never has. At this point it’s become a sort of point of honor for him.

    Chris: Oh, this reminds me of Iceland. For some reason “continuity” was very difficult for some of the Icelanders to say. We were constantly getting, “contiunity” or “continudity.” I heard it wrong so many times that “contiunity” is comes naturally right now.

  12. Chris BIllett

    Yuh! I guess if they spoke in a germanic language (I’m right in assuming Icelandic isn’t, aren’t I?) then it might be less common… I have some good friends from Norway, and even when one lived in London for a few years, he couldn’t say mortgage. He used to say something like Malt Gauge, seperated. Very funny! 😀