Blue Monday & The Agony of Small Talk

from The Information Man by Buddy Wakefield
…juggling predictable conversation
with folks who look like iceberg lettuce
and who believe that somehow
the flat lines of small talk will give us life.
I want them to leave…

It’s January. We’ve spent the last month taking part in festivities that were more mandatory than celebratory, blew our vacation days, “oh crapped” on our resolutions before the week was out and stepped bleary eyed into the snowy fresh start disoriented and aimless, yet again. Happy New Year, by the way. We’re still saying that, right?

You’d think we’d have the hang of this by now: we’re in vitamin D withdrawl, our friends have turned from real people to miniaturized thumbnails of themselves as we all slip into the Season of the Long Blah. Looking up on most nights, it seems even the stars are hibernating. I’m holding on to my sanity with both hands, popping vitamins like candies and spending longer than usual on my makeup in an attempt to forget that I’m in a perma-parka.

Admit it: you’re also kinda grey in complexion, underwhelmed and edgy…except for the skiers and boarders and hockey folk, of course. To make matters worse, this past Monday was Blue. Monday, the depressingest day of the year, which I only learned about because I wanted to know why people were especially edgy, confrontational, touchy and miserable. Despite the day’s shoddy scientific background, I maintain there’s merit to it, as the proof is in the tear soaked existential soup.

The straw bound to break my back in this season of social isolation and sensory deprivation is small talk. Look, I’m not much of a small talker at the best of times; I would rather trade life stories with a near stranger than platitudes with friends. From our jobs to our favorite shows, the bulk of our conversations seem to be more limited than enlightening and my hunch is that for some people this is the extent of their comfort zone and maybe even the extent of what they think about, which I’m curious about: I can’t for an instant imagine what it’s like to have a mind free of inner narrative, only affected by the stimulus at hand, physical needs and a casual to do list for future chores and pleasures. What of contemplating the abstract? Why not seriously debate the congregation of angels on the head of the pin and whether they prefer to waltz or Jersey turnpike?

Recently a friend posted on Facebook that Henri Matisse made her angry. I was thrilled to see it amid my usual newsfeed of “my cat is chasing his shadow” and “my dinner was delish.” Maybe it was because I’d just had a falling out with William Burroughs and felt a kindred knowing that I wasn’t alone in my struggles with arguably genius, though def dead folk.

I not only clicked the requisite “like” but when I next saw the gal, we *gasp* discussed Matisse, Burroughs, trashed-talked some art and lamented the rarity of these convos. We both felt better, methinks; I know I did, and now I know where to turn when I’m frustrated with dead guys.

My guess is that there’s a high percentage of people out there longing for more meaningful conversations and unsure how to get there. I do some silly things that seem to work, like asking someone their sign. Don’t get excited, it doesn’t sound dumbass unless you’re using it as a pickup line. It’s a great way to delve, though, and it gets right past the usual social defenses.

See, personal assumptions and prying questions cheese people off, and rightly so, but if they turn out to be a Scorpio, for instance, and you smile, and say that astrologically speaking, they’re probably as fantastic in bed as they are fierce in verbal assault, odds are they’ll smile back, agree to the first part (no Scorpio has ever denied it to me), and after a pause reluctantly admit that yes, they can be quite venomous, and suddenly, the distance between you has lessened.

Too much of that distance in my life makes me homesick for humanity. As a result, I’m quick to share with everyone, but I can easily relate to December babies; our universal complaint is that birthday and Christmas gifts get combined into one, while my personal gripe is that I’ve never had an ice cream cake for my b-day and won’t get to celebrate in the grass on a balmy evening while the sunset does tricks for me, and the bar-b-q blazes, unless I start celebrating my half birthday, which I may well do.

That may be babbling, endearing, or simply me, but at least it isn’t small talk.

At my day job I run into a guy who spends time thinking about the nature of soul mates and the semantics of reincarnation. He isn’t professing to have any answers and he isn’t trying to convince anyone of anything, merely gathering pieces and bouncing them off other humans. Granted, when he gets to theorizing, some people head for the nearest segue out, but some people share thoughts in return and they part ways both the richer.

Personally, I have hypothesized, philosophized and talked shit till many a sun have risen, but it’s been awhile and I fear it may be an epidemic. Let’s spend winter slaying small talk. Throw down and start an actual, meaningful conversation. Talk about things that actually mean something to you; the things you think only you notice, the things that obsess you, enliven you, scare you. While you may be surprised to find who clings to conventional convo, you’ll be warmed to your very cockles every time you manage to break through.

Tell me something meaningful in 140 characters. Dare you. @McMoxy


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