I hate small talk.
It’s not that I’m not good at it, in fact I think I can fake it with the best of them. I just don’t get it. It’s a waste of my time and yours. I like to talk about substantial things, mind-blowing things.
I will begin tutoring with a company in Bethesda this summer, and the hiring process involved a four-hour extravaganza of teaching, interviewing, and testing. It turned out to be very enjoyable (and I got the job), but I went in dreading the small-talk I would have to use to fill four hours of my time.
During the actual “interview” portion of my interview, I got some of the usual questions that I answered appropriately, but I was happy to find that my potential co-workers and employers were more interested in the oddball things I list on my resume: coffee, animals, and running. Thankfully (not surprisingly?) no one asked me about the running, since I look and feel out-of-shape right now, but the other two topics made for bearable small-talk.
After a few minutes of back-and-forth with one interviewer with whom I spoke with easily, I heard myself saying, “When you’re driving, do you ever look around and realize all the people around you have the same complexity of thoughts and emotions that you do? They are living their lives, just like we are living ours.”
I don’t remember what led me to say this, but it was somewhat relevant. Thankfully I had read the interviewer correctly, and she excitedly responded that she had thought of that before, and also thought it was pretty mind-blowing.
I like to think of my honesty as charming rather than socially awkward. It’s perhaps also disarming, as it was for my coworker on a midday trip to Tyson’s Corner. Surrounded by a sea of mall-walkers, I made a similar comment as I had to the interviewer. She laughed it off and said “that’s really random,” but I pressed her for a response. It led to a brief but interesting conversation about our place in our world and in the world of others.
Why would I give that up for innumerable conversations about the weather? If you talk to me about the weather, you’re going to get a lot more than you bargained for. Every conversation is a learning opportunity. It’s probably to the point that I am such a pain to make small talk with that most people no longer even start.
Ah, but isn’t that the point?
So next time you ask me if I’m excited about my upcoming (or “impending,” as one guy accidentally said to me) wedding, don’t be surprised when I reply with a cursory “yup!.” What do you expect me to say? I understand that you are giving me an opener to talk about all the emotions I’m feeling or plans that I have made, but just because you offered me the opening doesn’t mean I have to take it. I’m really not trying to be rude, but I’d rather talk about something with a less-obvious answer.
“All done planning?”
“Nope, I’m looking forward to it.”
“You don’t sound like you’re looking forward to it….”
What is someone that is looking forward to their wedding supposed to sound like, exactly? Why does Matt not get the same constant barrage of wedding questions that I do? Just because I’m the female in the relationship does not mean that I’m automatically covering myself in bridal magazines and imagining white lace and Tiffany blue table settings.
It’s going to be great, honestly. I’m really excited to publicly declare my love for Matt in front of most of our friends and family and have a wonderful celebration of our relationship. We’ve really personalized the ceremony and reception, and our families have put in a lot of time and effort to make the day awesome as well. I’m sure we will both cry, and I think that’s really awesome too.
But that doesn’t mean that the rest of my life is on hold until the wedding. I’m still scooping litter boxes, doing laundry, editing documents, and debating what to eat for three meals a day. Living in the future–be it tomorrow or five years from now–does a serious disservice to the present. And to the future as well, as it will never live up to the expectations you’ve set for it.