I just got back from a wedding. The last one of these I went to was in September, AKA the month without blog posts. I am determined not to let that happen again, so here goes
Much of this week’s conversation was the smallest of talk. How’s the family? Going to school? Have you moved? That sort of thing. Elephants were left in the room, sleeping dogs lay in peace, Hornets churned merrily about their nests. It felt like wading through Marshmallow most of the time.
Talking about anything interesting was perilous, as it was doubtful that the person I was talking to would be interested in the same things as me. Highly doubtful, actually. The first time my relatives asked me to tell a joke, I told them a one liner so deep from the bowels of transportation planning and history that it cemented my preeminence as head obtuse geek. A role I wore like an old flannel shirt the rest of the week.
I’m pretty sensitive to when people are bored, which is why I write such short paragraphs. I got to witness a couple of my cousins get bored on two separate occasions, cocktail in hand. Once at a common interlocutor, once at me.
So much of the week I spent silent. I tried asking people about what interested them, but there is a fine line between dilettante and sycophant. I had the most fun when there were things to do; things to help with.
I suppose the internet has ruined me in the same way phones ruined my great-grandparents. On yonder internet, there is no small talk as we speak it today. If you are not interesting, you are ignored. If our day is without incident or revelation, we keep silent. Often this silence is a sign of life, not witlessness. When we post here, on the internet, we screw on our game face and post things that we think others will find interesting. Because the internet connects to a fifth or so of humanity, somebody usually does find what we say interesting, and replies in kind. We build relationships this way, through our baubles and achievements, without any need for a clumsy face, stutter, spilling martini, or misremembering which nephew goes with which uncle. No wonder the internet can be so intimidating. Everyone is a celebrity here.
Small talk is an entirely different trade than this, and one that I have never excelled at. It serves when people want to relax and feel safe, but make and build connections nevertheless. Weddings, out of town, are like more hospitable elevators. Don’t make too many conversational waves, or do it very adroitly if you do. Beyond small talk there is medium talk, where people figure out what they have in common and chat about that. That’s what I’m resolving to get better at in 2014.