Y’all, I hate small talk.
It’s facile, uncomfortable, and it makes two or more people feel responsible for keeping up a conversation that they don’t want to have, usually while waiting for more important things or people to experience.
But, like a crystal-clear brook—or Krystal and Brooke from Accounts Receivable at the office—we keep on babbling. Mostly because we don’t want the other person to think that we’re some kind of asshole for not wanting to talk. Weird, right? Have you ever thought that a quiet person was trying to dodge the consequences of being a part of the human condition? Yeah, me neither.
It would also stand to reason that your would-be partner in this exchange isn’t all that hyped up about chatting about how hot or cold the weather has been or will be with you.
But when has reason ever stopped us from acting like people? So on and on we go with our small-talking, hoping that our lives can resume before we’re asked about the existence and number of our siblings.
For a while, I tried to make my small talk count. If I asked you about your day, I really wanted to care. I wanted to help you with the problem with your VCR, or agree that waiting in line for that new OutKast CD at Media Play took way too long. I’ve been talking small for a while, so my references are old and hopefully hilarious. But let me get back to my point and get out of here.
I’ve been away from you because I didn’t want to get into small talk. Not here. I didn’t want to tell you to hang in there, or keep at it, or hope for the best. Maybe I wanted to make sure that whatever I said here, it was important to me and valuable to you.
Today, I realized that I’m trying to make a promise I can’t keep. And one that wouldn’t do either one of us any good. Sometimes we just need to talk. Sure, we need to share the lessons we learn and cry out for support. But sometimes, we just need to hear the sound of each other’s voices, and to let the rhythm of someone else’s life make us feel a little less alone.
So, I’m going to work on getting okay with small talk.
Maybe when I find myself in my next awkward pairing, I can work off the universal script of conversation until we both get comfortable with silence. Maybe one of us will go off script, and stumble into a relationship that gives us love we didn’t know we needed.
Or, yet another person learns that I have two sisters and we’re all born on the 9th day of our birth months. But whatever. Sometimes, it isn’t important what you say. You just need to say something.