Small talk

Yesterday I went to a little holiday party in my neighborhood, the kind you feel like you should go to. When I arrived, I saw a bunch of those big red sweaters decorated with sequin snowmen and santas. When I see them in the store, I always think, oh, I must be in the kindergarten teacher section (who else would dress like that?). But it turns out my neighbors dress like that. This is where the sweaters were all gathering, and there was a sweetness to the collection of them, all milling about together, each attached to a woman making small talk, and a man in a sport coat. I started feeling a bit subdued in my black shirt.

But I was struck again by how, oh, I’m not sure how to say this, but, when people gather, we tend to be boring. I know. It makes me so sad, because there’s no bigger fan of good conversation than I, but truly. I was cornered by one woman for a while who told me, in excruciating detail, about her life. I don’t mean to be unkind, but really, she managed to work in details of her commute, the filing system at her job, the grades her kids achieved this quarter, and so on, with, and this is key, very little prompting from me. Conversations went like this over and over. It made me even more of a fan of Starlee Kine, who invented “the rundown” (she starts at about 5.5 minutes in, but listen to the whole thing anyway). Her premise is that small talk is getting us nowhere, so she’s devised a system to eliminate it, and rather than talking about the mundane, she asks things like how many virgins you’ve slept with.

At any rate, I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to try just a little bit harder to be interesting.


  1. I will try harder. Sadly, this is not going to be easy as I am all about the small talk. Meaningless trivia, remember the "secret" to arm wrestling, is my life. Are there classes on 'large talk' that may help me?

  2. Oh, this is why I often voluntarily choose to be a wallflower. I find it far better to be silent and watch others than to talk and make people's eyes glaze over!

    I think you sent so many people to This American Life that their site just crashed. I can't access your Starlee Kine link.

    Love your blog! :-)


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