Small Talk

A facebook friend felt ranty and posted this:

“You know what? Small talk can just fuck off and go away forever. Why do we do this shit? We all have the same issues, why can’t we share them? Why can’t we connect on a deeper level, like… a fundamental animalistic level? I want to know why you have a strained relationship with your father. I want to what hurts you and what helps you get though the day. I want to know your preferred masturbation techniques. I want to know exactly what you think when you look at the stars. I want to know what makes you feel betrayed. I want to know all your doubts and fears. I want to know everything about you. I want us to all celebrate each other. I don’t want to stare through each other and fearfully talk about the weather because that’s what we’re fucking supposed to do. I don’t want you to ask me what I do for a living so I can stare at you and say “Really? Do people still ask questions like that?” Let’s share. Put all your fears on the table and remove the power they have by talking about them. Just like why black people have used the word “nigger” for generations. It removes the power that shitty word has. And you know what? It’s genius. Why do we have to pay psychiatrists to listen to us. We PAY them, like it’s a service that has a fiscal value attached to it. Even as I am typing this, I feel like a gushing Pisces asshole, but why? Why isn’t this completely innate? I just want us all to connect on a human level and have it NOT be some social taboo to think of such things.”

I could tell you about my relationship with my father or my favorite way to wank, but I won’t unless I trust you. If I tell you the whole truth about what’s going on in my head right now, you might get it, and love me more for it. Or, you might look at me in silence fora few seconds too many and say “Um, okay.” And end the conversation. I’ll know that I can never trust you again. That’s the end of our friendship. You might think that it’s best to get that out of the way quick, but I argue that there’s still value in people who aren’t close friends, but are acquaintances who have some knowledge or interest you might share at some point in the future, that might develop into friendship once they and you grow into yourselves a little more. I don’t want to throw them away too soon.

So this is why we start with small talk. I ask you about the weather, you say “sure is hot.” I say, “yeah you are, but what about the weather?” If you laugh, we’re closer. I’ll drop my walls alittle more next time. And a little more the time after that, until we’re naked in bed talking about the second grade bully that stole my pogs, that I never really got over.

If you stare at me blankly, I’ll go “sorry, just kidding” and continue talking about the weather.

If we’re drunk we can streamline the process – alcohol doesn’t really drop my guard at all, but I can say that it did, and claim to not remember the vulnerable things I said, or say that it was the drink talking, not me.

You can get past the walls faster without drinking. You have to lower yours first. Take your skin off and show people what’s inside. Feel the rejection you get from most people. Find out how bad it feels and determine to keep on taking your skin off and showing the inside. It hurts, it’s fatiguing, and you have to do it 9 times to get one good result. Or, who knows, maybe you’ll get 9 good results for every 10 tries, but that last one is a killer. The answer, as always, is hard work. You don’t get to connect with people and avoid the tedium of small talk unless you put in the effort. So start doing it. Nothing’s going to change unless you do the work.

Incidentally, I’ve never bothered small talking with the friend who posted the original rant. We always started with the weird stuff.

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Shannon Graham

Shannon has been writing brief essays and occasional how-to articles at Rocketships, Unaffiliated (.ca) whenever inspiration strikes, since 2012.

She is interested in your opinion.

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