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Pamela Fagan Hutchins | The Whispering Hutchins

What's that, Ethel? Speak up, I can't hear you.

You know how people describe sounds only a dog can hear, like police whistles?  Well, at our house, the dogs can’t even hear the voices of my husband Eric and my step-daughter Liz.  Seriously.  Even the Bionic Woman could not hear them, y’all.  I call them the Whispering Hutchins.

At first, I thought it was just me.  Worse, I thought they only whispered around me.  Did they secretly mock my distraught face and complete lack of comprehension?  “Ha, she has no idea what we’re saying,” might they say, and slap a conspiratorial high five.  Surely not?  It reminded me of a nasty little game my ex-husband used to play, a nasty and immature game.  He would mumble inaudibly to someone, and when they asked him to repeat himself, he would hyper-enunciate in a bellow, “DOES SUCKING D*CKS MAKE YOU DEAF?!?!?”  The listener usually felt pretty stupid, if not offended.  Oh, he got laughs, but…uncomfortable ones.  With my husband and step-daughter, I felt stupid at best and like the butt of a bad joke at worst.

But I can hear my husband if it is just the two of us nose to nose.  He thinks I crave intimacy when I rub my face against his.  Hell, all I want is to understand one damn thing he’s saying.  And I can’t rub noses with Liz, so while I have found a way to hear Eric, I’m out of luck with that girl.

For several years, I would say one of a couple of things in the wake of the “hrmplkeja mhrisyaoiijh” under their breath:

  • What?
  • Can you repeat that?
  • I’m sorry, but I can’t understand you.

It annoyed me to say it, and I suspected it annoyed them worse to hear it and repeat every single word to me.  Hence, my conclusion that, in order for them to endure this, years on end, it had to be intentional.

Except that I’ve noticed no one else can hear them either, and I can’t tell you how much it delights me when someone like my mom will ask me if I understand a word either of them are saying, as she smiles brightly and nods with a blank look in her eyes.  I nod sympathetically when Liz’s friend confides he can’t hear her most of the time.  I chortle when Eric’s co-workers bemoan the same issue.  I am positively giddy when the waiter at the Flying Dutchman in Kemah asks Liz to repeat her order three times, and then looks up blankly until one of us takes pity and “translates” it for him.

It’s not just me.

Still, I worried.  The “what, huh?” repetitions weighed on me.  I felt guilty.

I gave up.  I quit asking for do-overs.  I reasoned that if the issue bore repeating or explanation, they’d find a way to get their point across.  If I couldn’t understand them, I smiled and ignored them.

Well, Eric didn’t like this solution.  Liz, a teenager, didn’t notice.  But Eric did.  We went back to the game of say it-ask for a repeat-say it again.  But I’d played one too many hands of this game, and it was time for a big change or 52 card pick up.

So, I got my &&*)&*(&%#$% hearing checked.  First, I did a number of different types of hearing tests online.  Check some of them out, here.  Next, I evaluated my ability to hear others.  I spent a few weeks writing down any time I could not hear people well enough to understand them, other than the Whispering Hutchins.  (Nada, folks, nada)  Then, I conducted an official test with my primary care physician.  And what did she say?

She said my hearing was completely normal.  That it’s not me.  No problems at all.

She’s wrong though.

I do have hearing problems.

TWO OF THEM.  And there ain’t no hearing aid, bull horn to the ears, or cattle prod to the behind that will solve them.


But I love them anyway.  And I’m getting a whole lot better at reading lips.  In fact, I think I can read Eric’s now…


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29 Responses to The Whispering Hutchins

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by PamelaFaganHutchins, PamelaFaganHutchins. PamelaFaganHutchins said: The Whispering Hutchins […]

  2. Reminds me of both sons when they were teenagers. Mumble mumble. And then they would swear I gave them permission for something I’d never heard in the first place. Little heathens.

  3. Ally says:

    I have one of those husbands!! He is the worst mumbler in the world, and I hate having to say what? huh? repeat that? over and over again. Makes me feel like a nag. I thought it was me until his mom spent quite a bit of time with us – she’d look at me and say, “What did he say?” and “Is he mumbling?”
    Oh yes, he is most definitely mumbling.

  4. Heidi M says:

    Isn’t that interesting (and frustrating?). Sometimes El Pres will mumble in ow tones, but it’s usually something that I don’t really WANT to hear. I know this because when asked, he’ll refuse to repeat it. :)

  5. LBDDiaries says:

    Alpha Hubby is constantly asking me, “Are you ignoring me? You are, aren’t you!? You’re ignoring me” because I quit asking “huh?” when I couldn’t hear him. I always act like, “Who me? Why would I ignore you? You’re the love of my life! I live to hear the words of wisdom dripping from your lips!” He’ll either learn to speak louder or I will continue to ignore him (but don’t tell him that’s what I’m doing – I’m having too much fun driving him crazy).

  6. Sandy says:

    I always had the opposite problem with my husband. He worked construction and was used to yelling over the sound of generators and such so when he spoke to me at home in the quiet it always seemed like he was yelling at me…LOL. So, in turn I was always saying “Stop yelling!!” Frankly, a whisper sounds like a welcome change.

  7. That is hilarious. My mother had the same problem with me as a teenager and now she can hear me no prob. 😉

    P to the S, my Granny’s name was Ethel!

  8. Heidi Dorey says:

    My husband rarely mumbles, thank God,
    because I have a very low tolerance for that.
    But what he does do is answer a yes or no question, “Nyeah.”
    If it’s no, then what I should have heard was “nah.”
    If it was yes, then I should have heard, “Yeah.”

    So when I’m forced to “interpret”, I pick the answer I like most.

  9. Jenny says:

    Can they hear you when you whisper?

  10. Mom says:

    I gotta admit I love the emails that I get from Eric and Michelle because I know what they are saying!!!! Don’t have to guess at what I think I hear. I love them both but they DO whisper!

  11. Eric Hutchins says:


  12. Heidi Dorey says:

    Just do what Willy Wonka does…

  13. I swear Izzy has a hearing problem. She automatically asks, “What, Mommy?” after everything I say, and then will start to answer me before I’ve even finished repeating the question. So really? Maybe it’s a selective hearing problem. Or just a habit where she enjoys irritating me.

    So funny you actually got your hearing checked.

    • Pamela says:

      I think I tweeted you on this about Abby, and I just re-read and saw it was the Izster. I suspect that they learn to irritate us very early in life and perfect it until they become teenage girls.

  14. […] Sami swam two swim meets (and won the 500 free in one of them) and sang in her first choir concert, Michelle celebrated fall break with the season’s first snow and a bear on campus, Steven visited us […]

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