Real stories about dating and relationships in New York City. Truth is more interesting than fiction.

What’s Your Noise Tolerance?

I’ve written a lot about being single, and a lot about , but one thing I’ve never written about noise.

I hate noise.

I grew up with a lot of noise.  I come from a very noisy .  Lots of screaming and yelling and fighting.  Not just when people were genuinely mad/upset.  All of the time.  Screaming, in my , was the norm.  It was how people communicated.

And, in case you’re not familiar with those kinds of situations, it becomes an arms race, of sorts. Voices get higher and higher. So do the volumes on everything else.  The TVs, of which there were MANY (by the time I was a teenager we had more TVs than people in the house, but that’s SO another story) were all set to blaring. And then people screamed even louder to be heard over the TVs.

For those of you who are new here, I have a complicated relationship with my family (some members more than others). Things are much less complicated now than when I was younger, as I decided sometime in my 20s that it was important to me to make my relationships with them work.  No matter what.

Anyway, all that noise when I was a growing up affected me pretty deeply. In big ways and small ways.

The biggest way is that I avoid conflict in my relationships. Sometimes, in my attempts to avoid conflict, I accidently attract more conflict (by dodging small uncomfortable conversations for fear they might turn into fights, then having those turn into BIG fights later on).  But, if there was a way for me to remove all conflict from my life, I would.  I’ve been yelled at, and done enough yelling, for this lifetime. Yes, I know (in theory) there are people who can disagree without yelling, but I haven’t seen much evidence of that.

The fact is, I LOVE silence.  I love sitting in my quiet .  All by myself.  I love working in quiet rooms. Reading in quiet rooms. Taking long walks, alone. The quiet of solitude makes me happy, in a way that few things can/do.

And then there are the small things. Like I’ve been in my new apartment for almost a month and still haven’t plugged in the TV. And I really can’t stand being at insanely loud parties/bars.  Or around people who need noise in their life (loud TV on in the background, all of the time, or loud music in the car).

Sometimes, I wonder about all of this. And I think that maybe my love of quiet is part of why I enjoy my single life so much. Why it’s such a good fit for me.  And why, conversely, the thought of spending time with someone who isn’t a great fit fills me with dread, instead of happiness (to have someone to spend time with). I also wonder about other people. Are other people as sensitive to noise as I am? Does it elicit the same emotional response in “normal people”?

My sense is that some people dread silence and will do just about anything to fill it.

And, more importantly, should I maybe avoid dating men who are comfortable with noise/who enjoy chaos and confrontation?

I have no answers. Just questions.

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25 to “What’s Your Noise Tolerance?”

  1. KB IN NYC says:

    I am so with you about the noise thing. I didn’t grow up in a noisy family (I mean we were noisy, but there were no TVs blaring and it was mostly happy noise) but living in NYC, being constantly overwhelmed by people, and yelling, and noise? Well, I’ve come to appreciate quietness more than I ever thought I would. Besides, it’s in the silences and the quiet moments that we really get to think, and reflect and become centered (that’s the yogi in me talking by the way), right? Either way, I agree. Silence is lovely. That being said, sometimes confrontation/ chaos is good; it’s necessary. As always I’m sure there is a middle road here. And as always, it’s always easier to talk about than do.

    Great post!


    • Simone Grant says:

      Thanks, darling. I am ACTUALLY laughing now because I don’t really think of New York as a particularly loud place. Not on a daily basis. Not compared to a family dinner.

      I can find the joy in personal chaos, but not in chaos that creates noise. *sigh*

  2. Black Iris says:

    Kids would be a problem. For a guy, I think the important thing would be finding someone who can understand the need for silence. He could need noise some of the time, but he’d have to like silence, too.
    A guy who likes confrontation more might be a good thing, if he understood people who don’t.

    • Simone Grant says:

      Actually, if I wanted one, a child wouldn’t be that much of a problem. I’ve spent a massive amount of time around babies and can barely even hear them crying, if that makes sense. It’s just a sound. Like rain.

      But I don’t plan on having them, so moot point.

  3. jackie says:

    I grew up in a household full of musicians. I’d wake to my sister singing at the top of her lungs, come home to my brother practicing trumpet, and go to sleep to my Dad playing Mozart scales in the dark. When I get home at the end of the day, no one is making noise but me, and I LOVE it. Needless to say, this quiet will be abandoned for the holidays as my loud ass family converges at Mom’s to devour poultry stuffed with smoked oysters.


    • Simone Grant says:

      You know the Philip Larkin lines, “They fuck you up, your mum and dad. / They may not mean to, but they do…”. I’d imagine that only someone raised with noise can truly appreciate the silence.

      But then, I’d have traded you music for the all-out warfare of my house any day.

  4. Sandy says:

    yes, yes, yes. i definitely feel ill-at-ease in noisy, confrontational situations. my dislike of noise affected the men i dated in subtle, unintentional ways. i didn’t consciously avoid men who are comfortable with chaos, but since i dislike crowded bars and parties, i tended not to go on more than one date with men who took me into such situations. because i knew i wouldn’t have fun on the date. regarding television, the men in my family are the kind that walk into an empty room and turn on the tv, regardless of whether they plan on sitting down and watching it. i hate that. so i noticed when guys did or didn’t do the same thing. it mattered a lot to me that the first time i went on vacation with my now-husband, the tv in the hotel room stayed off the entire time.

    • Simone Grant says:

      Oh dear lord, the TVs as background noise in hotel rooms really gets to me. WHY? Are people so afraid of hearing their own thoughts? Or perhaps its conversations with the people they’re with?

  5. LadyD says:

    Reason No. 512 why I don’t have kids and haven’t wanted them: TOO MUCH NOISE!! I grew up in the same kind of family as you – always background noise blaring, but no one would TALK!! I *hated* that sooo much!

    • Simone Grant says:

      Conversations require thought. All that’s needed for a screaming match is raw emotion. Anger and voice. My head hurts just thinking about it.

      Sorry your home was like that, too :-)

  6. Kelly says:

    Quiet is something to savor. I think many of us grew up in loud households…in fact, until you live on your own, you probably don’t know what REAL quiet is. So, don’t ask questions, just enjoy it right now, as you are. Because likely things will change and noise will wander in. :)

    • Simone Grant says:

      I’ve had noise wander in and out over the years. And now that it’s just me… I guess I’m just wondering aloud if I’m willing to ever let it back in. The quiet is so lovely.

  7. Suzanne says:

    I’m completely with you on this one! The one thing I miss being single is the the fact I could control the level of noise in my life. Husband loves TV. Let me rephrase that. LOOOOOVES the television. So, it’s on a lot. Amazingly, this has been the largest issue in our entire 5 year marriage. So, you are smart to consider its ramifications on single life or married life.

  8. Sandyvs says:

    I grew up in a ‘somewhat’ normal household with one tv and I can’t STAND to have the tv on unless I’m doing an exercise dvd. The only time I blast my music is when I’m cleaning. Where I work is a noisy environment with a lot of talking and I love that fact, but I love my quiet home. One of the things that really sold me on my latest guy is that he doesn’t own a tv.

  9. Michelle says:

    I’ve always said that my dad can not enter a room silently. And whereas I would love to find a man just like my dad, if he had that trait, I’d have to kill him. I don’t know how my mom hasn’t! I once had a boyfriend who would sleep with his mouth open. One night I screamed “For the love of God could you stop that?!” He said “What? Breathing?!” And I said yes like that was the most rational thing ever. Noise is my enemy. I would live in a bubble if I could.

  10. pups4me says:

    I think I’ve become more intolerant of noise since I’ve been single again. I hear people eating/chewing at my workplace over the cubicle wall and it drives me insane. It sounds like they are chewing gravel and I want to stand up and tell them to be quiet, but I don’t, because I don’t want to be a bitch. I can easily hear when someone is eating/chewing during a meeting and I wonder why they would do such a thing because it’s so loud and I wonder if everyone else can hear them or if it’s just me.
    I don’t remember this being an issue a few years ago…are more people eating at work or am I more sensitive?
    Either way, I’m with you on noise…I prefer quiet.

  11. Camilla says:

    Nothing better than the sound of silence.

    But don’t you think sometimes it can be too quiet? Like, hearing yourself think… or every single creak in your apartment.

  12. @femmmefatal says:

    Probably obviously, I am from a small but super loud yelling family. It is a trait I try to not portray but I do. It is filed under “working on”. I totally appreciate quiet in my house when I am around cleaning, cooking, and whatever but my family takes the cake on convos and voices. If I didn’t grow up deep in the woods it would be bad. Now that I live downtown I try to shush as much as possible since my neighbors are 5 ft lol. Do quiet men exist?

    • Simone Grant says:

      I think they exist, but(and this is a but I think you can relate to) I fear what happens when quiet man meets crazy loud family. I’ve always said that I could never get serious with a guy who couldn’t deal with my family.

  13. Jazz says:

    Silence is something I miss, more than words can describe. I had been living alone for quite some time but due to circumstances beyond my control I moved back in with the parents. Quite devastating when was making it on my own for the most part and now I’m back re-adjusting to their life. Not that they are loud, I guess its not so much silence but space my own little bubble in which I could exist happily with no one around to watch or observe what I’m doing. Not complaining that I have such wonderful parents to be generous enough to take me in and share their space, I just miss my former single life. I love silence it is where some of my most profound thoughts have come from, a lot of them self-realizations about what needs to change in my life whether it is my attitude, or my situation or whether or not to drop that guy like a bad habit. Of course silence is what lead me to change my life so drastically by moving in with my parents to re-assemble my life and start over. So I am in full agreement with you on silence. I can only take so much noise and stimulation before my head feels like it is going to explode. You are not alone in the need for peace and quiet. :-)