I hate small talk.
In fact, I despise it. I have often been misjudged as everything from shy to aloof because of my desire to stay away from talking about my day and the weather.
I have absolutely no qualms about asking someone about their relationship with their father or what they really feel about their childhood while I’m still shaking their hand for the first time. I understand that doing that is off-putting and makes most people clam up, so I can’t. But I don’t understand why it takes so long to find out what someone does for a living (although this topic is ripe with small talk, navigating it can be tricky), where they grew up, if their parents are still married, what clique were they in while attending high school, favorite thing to cook, favorite movie to watch when feeling sick, closest they’ve ever gotten to hitting their child.
That is all normal shit. All of us have that shit to talk about. All of that shit is some form of interesting, none of it is painful, none of it is embarrassing. Why can’t I ask that shit right out of the gate?
The things I really want to know are, who was your first crush and why? Or who was the last person you dated before your spouse and why did you move on? These always lead to incredible conversations, I know because I have had them.
Sports, pop-culture, music, movies, these can all be interesting and very telling and very personal. These things can lead people to bond together and are great supplementary conversation.
But I really like to dig deep. Tell me about your sex life, tell me about your education, tell me about your passion. Lecture me about cellular biology, or why you should never split 7’s in Blackjack, or how long it took you to memorize the Dorian on A scale in the first position. I’m all ears even if I have no knowledge of my own. I want to learn. I want to learn why you learned it.
I love to hear about travel! Tell me about your semester abroad in London, or the summer you spent in Asia, or that pilgrimage to Tel Aviv. Tell me about the food, the types of street performers, how people beg for money, and how you felt as an American in a strange place, how out of place you felt when you returned.
Let’s swap drinking stories! No need to keep our noses in the air regarding the topics in here. I want to hear about how you pissed off a balcony or your buddy fell down some stairs. I’m dying to laugh with you about things you barely recall the details of. Dumb injuries, embarrassing sports stories, that time you farted in class, offer it up, let’s roll.
When I look at a person I am amazed at the infinite number of possibilities that created them. Anything from why they are wearing those shoes to who passed down his or her eye color. I live to hear those stories; I want to know those details.
There is nothing more distracting to me then when someone has to interrupt a story to fill in the background info that you would know if you knew them well, “I was walking her over to Frank’s house; ok Frank is my cousin, well my dad’s cousin’s son, but I grew up with him, and for this story to make sense you have to know that he collects model train engines”. Blah, now the punchline will never work because the cadence is ruined. I want to have already known Frank and have seen his trains.
I cannot be the only one out there like this. Small talk is a rather commonly berated subject, stand-up comedy and sitcoms are full of jokes about it. So why do we do it? We are all pretty interesting people with at least one interesting conversation in us.
Let’s have it!