Saturday, November 04, 2006

Priming the Pipe (of Social Engagement)

Waking up this morning, wisps of social anxiety hovering in the air above my bed, I pondered the upcoming events of the day. It's Parent's Weekend at my daughter's college, a Perfect Storm for social calamities. Hooking up the Internet (IMHO, the most welcome addition in any hotel/motel in the last 10 years), I navigated over to Mr. Sgazzetti's site, Isoglossia. How encouraging a post! Perfect timing, as well. He's just gone through what I am about to enter, the awkward interactions involving small talk. (Hmm, just noticed this; can Amazon deliver in a few hours?)

I laughed at his two line interaction and read the lines to my wife, a master of the petite langue.
She didn't laugh. More of a harumph.

I: Not funny?
She: Well, it's not a surprise that you bloggers (delivered in a tone usually reserved for any current choice of badnick) have a hard time with small talk.
I: (with a look of wonder as to how she can hop out of bed and immediately start to make sense) Are you saying we (I'm standing up for the both of us here Mr. Sgazzetti!) bloggers are not smart enough for small talk?
She: Quite the contrary. You are not dumb enough.
I: Dumb enough? I'm confused; are you complimenting our mental prowess?
She: (sighs) Quite the contrary...again. For small talk, you need courage. Courage to forget about the thin line that lies between clever and stupid ("A line which you bloggers continually quote, I might add, and a line which is a general bore to the rest of us who have passed that gold mine of clever quotes and have moved on elsewhere", she added). Sometimes that courage can only come about due to pure dumb-ness. So, you are just not dumb enough.
I: (sweating, as I'm trying to give off an appearance of comprehension) So, all I need to do is to put on the cloak of dumb-ness and then small talk will leap like lemmings from the cliff of my mouth.
She: See, there you go being too clever. Small talk is not clever. It is, "So, how about those Eagles?". You have to scrape down to the lowest common denominator of verbal exchange. Small talk is the detritus of social intercourse.

As my ever-loving wife showered, I rolled and tumbled these jewels of social behaviour she had gifted me, smoothing out the edges of her pointed delievery. Aside from heavily medicating myself by visiting the local pub of choice, I had no other plan at the ready. I practiced some lines, adding some personalizing inflection to key words and stared at the mirror attempting the dissolution of my sour puss.

We arrived at one of the first functions, the traditional home football game. Parking ourselves in the lower level of the stands with my daughter and her effortlessly effusive friends, I steeled myself for an exchange of words that I knew would be fired eventually. Glancing to my right, I noticed what seemed a fellow sufferer of verklempt dialogue. We eyed each other warily. Then, suddenly, we spotted that tell we recognized could only have been influenced by one's spouse.
Our mouths opened simultaneously, "So, how about those...?"

Neither of us finished our sentences. Hollow faces exhaling wordless breaths. The school band cued up for a medley of songs. We both crossd our fingers, hoping for the din of the day to go on.

Dayja Voojee? Clare Voyence?

The Indian guy and that French gal visit me occasionally...

Now, here's where a really good slogan emblazoned sweatshirt could start a really good conversation:

Take your pick from any of these for great ice breakers:
Don't you do weather in America?
(This is the only kind of small talk I'm able to conduct, if only for a few seconds. Afterwards, it's always the economy of our neighbouring states, the Far East Peace Talks and the prices of turnips in Romania... OK OK, I made this up. Afterwards, I usually practice the holy Buddhist ritual of keeping shtum and enjoying other persons' spiritual presence)
When massive material purchases are your country's spiritual guidelines, "enjoying other persons' spiritual presence" amounts to watching commercials. 24/7
The "fine art" of "small talk"? An oxymoron if ever there was one. Why does your wife think they ("they," the people who run the place) invented blogging?

So how 'bout them Eagles? ;-)
CP, Those t-shirts. Don;t knoe if I'd call them icebreakers. More like, how-I'll-get-my-head-broken-ers.

Gwynne, not sure about that "inventing blogging" question. Any additional illumination? As far as them Eagles..Well, it was a byr week for them, so they didn't get any worse.
I can force myself to do it if I really have to. The problem is not about being smart or dumb, outgoing or introverted (all of which I can carry off if necessary). It's related to something else I mentioned not long ago:

I hate people.
Ah, Mr. Sgazzetti, you continue to set the bar of human potential ever higher. With your comment about changing one's social interaction capabilities to fit the situation, I see that you are a Social Iguana, ever aware of the color you show when reacting to the presence of people.
Any additional illumination?

That was a rhetorical question. Just sayin' that blogging provides the perfect forum for people who really detest cocktail parties and other social gatherings (or real-life people as the case may be) that require small talk, but who still need some extended form of social interaction. Blogging is like "advanced" small talk, where backspacing is allowed. Blogging allows you to go beyond small talk and use words that you don't get to use in everyday conversation without being the the "buzzkill" of the party. Nobody else has to listen if they don't want to. People can come and go without any great fanfare (yet more small talk..."Hi, how are you?" blah, blah, blah, "Well, I really must be going now.") We can keep right on talking to the walls if we want to, and nobody cares.
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