"Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness." -Margaret Millar
Small Talk: Hate it.
There are a few cultural phenomena which escape my personal realm of understanding. I do not understand dog sweaters, throw pillows, brunch, or small talk. Of the four, small talk ranks highest on my list of things I'd destroy if given a cultural hand grenade. There is no worse feeling then being a part of a conversation comprised of only small talk and no worse excuse for dialogue then that of the cookie cutter conversation. Tell you how I really feel? Ok, I will.
We've all experienced the awkward conversation or prelude to a real conversation that our culture defines as small talk. I'm assuming it's called "small" because "unimportant", "annoying", and "pointless" were far too accurate. These snidbits of conversation are almost always shared with a person with whom we have no real relationship, otherwise there'd be no need. If I have to explain where I live, what I do, and how I'm related to the birthday boy then chances are I'm never going to speak to Joe Shmo again. And if i'm never going to speak to Joe again then why bother telling him my fun facts? My guess is that we fill the void of silence with small talk because we don't yet feel comfortable enough to have real conversation but we recognize the need to communicate.
I think it's important to distinguish between the types of small talk. First there is party talk. Party talk consists of the conversation held between individuals who don't know each other at social functions. It starts with an observation. For instance, "oh wow, this is good cake." or "Ken is such a great guy." These observations are always surface level and painfully obvious. Cake is always good. It's Ken's birthday, today he's mother Teresa. This observation serves as a middle ground for two individuals. After the initial observation, the dialogue usually turns into a sort of cause and affect reactionary sequence all classically trained humans must endure. To go into detail would be a waste of time. This is why I hate parties, or at least those kind of parties. No part of standing around a bunch of strangers eating small portions of dessert, awkwardly waiting for someone to talk to me sounds even somewhat enjoyable (hey look, this is a run-on sentence!) I would rather sit home and stare at the cat I don't have then go to another awkward social gathering. But if you invite me, I'll probably go because I'm a submissive sheep.
The next type of small talk really isn't small talk at all, it's gossip. This is the degree of conversation that older women, younger women, and well... most women i guess, seem to love. I think that this type of dialogue is given cute names because it's anything but cute. "Chit-chat," "girl talk," and "shooting the breeze" come to mind. To be fair, men love it too, they just don't come up with cute words for it. We all gossip, so why do we dress it up?
Now the worst type of small talk is the type that proceeds conversation between even close friends. The reason that this blog ever came about is because I was recently talking to a friend on the internet when we asked each other the same old tired questions.
"how are you?"
"Good, how was your weekend?"
"what'd you do?"
It seems to me that most conversations I have initiate with this same formula. So I had a crazy thought. I chose to bypass the bullshit and say quite simply, "how are you really?" Now I can't say that I do this with everyone because honestly the comfort level just isn't there sometimes but my question is, why. Why do we as humans feel the need to test the waters before venturing into a conversation that's actually worth having? What are we so afraid of? I'm not angry because I think that my time is ill spent on people whom I don't know, but rather that if I'm going to take the time to dialogue with someone I would like to learn about them. Better yet, I would love to get to a point where I wasn't constantly surrounded by such dense layers of self preservation. What if when asked how you were doing, you really told someone. Can you imagine your sudo-friends' reactions if they gave you the traditional, "hey, how's it going?" and you replied with..
Oh what a world where we would say how we felt. I strongly dislike small talk because it represents the level of sterility in basic human interaction. Don't ask me how I'm doing unless you really want to know because I will really tell you, and I will do the same for you. I almost promise.
"To speak and to speak well are two things. A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks."