SMALL TALK.

Monday, February 27, 2017



The older I get, the better I am at talking, but the worse I am at opening up. I’ve learned how to talk circles and squiggles, round and round into infinite replication until all my sentences resemble one another in meaning. I can talk arrows, but only when they point away from me and only when they’re with rounded tips. I can share the trivialities of my life with others--the amount of homework I have, my favorite color, the car I drive--but the personal stuff is harder. In other words, I wish I could say I hated small talk, but I’m too good at it to say that.


“How are you?” we say out of politeness, seventeen- and eighteen-year-old kids who’ve learned how to disguise who and how we really are. We’ve perfected the art of being friendly without being friends, and as I sit by my classmates in school, for every word I drop that lacks meaning, I get a little more lonely.


“I’m good,” we say, when we really aren’t. “And you?”


“I’m doing well,” they respond. “Just a little stressed out.”


Because stress is something we all have in common, isn’t it? We’re bonded by common experiences in shallow relationships, and bonded by our differences in deeper ones. But it’s hard to get past the uniformity of it all, because many of us--myself included--lack the courage to rip the curtain and see people more clearly for who they are, and not who they are in relation to us.


I felt this kind of loneliness when I recently attended my school’s winter formal. It’s senior year. The friend groups and circles are clearly defined; people know who hangs out with whom, and it’s pretty set. But at the same time, I felt suspended between different worlds, a part of some and a part of others, with a large chunk of me that didn’t feel like I should even be at the dance at all. Big social gatherings aren’t my thing, and since my group was composed of thirteen (!!) people, it was all a little overwhelming. And if truth be told, I probably would’ve had more fun by myself at home. It sounds kind of sad, but it’s the truth.


But to stay at home would have meant continuing to exist in the little personal bubble I’ve created for myself, and besides, it’s senior year: I’m supposed to go out and be social and have fun, right?


I would say that three or four times, I walked out of the dance room itself because I felt like I didn’t belong. I wanted to go to the bathroom and cry, but that would’ve been a wimpy and cowardly thing to do. So I just sat around and then went back to the dance floor, again and again, to try again and again.


Because those people I was surrounded with? They didn’t look like the people I took classes with. They weren’t wearing jeans and T-shirts. They were wearing dresses and dress pants, and they were with groups of people I didn’t even know they were friends with, and they were laughing and talking about things outside of the context of school, and I--didn’t--know--how--to--talk--to--them, and I--didn’t--know--how--to--say--hi to them, and I felt awkward, and I’m sure I looked awkward, and I feel bad because I could’ve--should’ve--said hi first.


And I’m just so bad at it. I’m so bad at seeing people for who they are, not who I thought them to be; after knowing--or thinking you know someone for four years--it’s hard to change your opinions of them, especially when your initial opinions were out of a judgmental spirit. It’s so hard to come out of the turtle shell to talk to people and try to get to know them. And it’s so hard to break the system.


I wish I could say I hate small talk, but I can’t say I honestly do. I’m too good at it now; it’s an art. I dislike it for what it is, but oftentimes, it’s easier for me to hide behind walls of “How are you?” than really mean what I say when I ask, “How are you?”

19 comments

  1. This is such an interesting and REAL post. The whole concept of growing up with someone and still not seeing them for themselves is such a real thing. I struggle with this too and struggled with it in highschool. When it comes to people things are always more complex than they seem. I'll admit it too I don't hate small talk(:

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  2. Wow I totally get what you mean. My prom night was almost two years ago and I can count on one hand the amount of people from high school I still talk to often enough to know what they're up to - and since I'm not big on small talk, it's still very sporadic and rare. And I remember the amount of people I used to smile to, talk to, joke with in my last year of hs and I feel so ridiculous. Like, back then I was so proud of myself for not only hanging out with my little clique, and to actually be able to bond with my classmates. (Weirdly enough though, it's not awkward to randomly meet them at their job or in the bus. We catch up and bring up the high school years with big smiles on our faces, and we part knowing we won't see them until the high school reunion)

    I guess what I'm trying to say is: small talk is great for classmates, because you can easily just wrap your arms around them when you find them weeping at their locker one morning without being inappropriate. Deep conversations can happen with random people as well, but don't neglect your real friendships for people that are meant to be there for a season.

    Personally I hate small talk because I'm not good at it. When I'm able to converse with someone I'm not the closest to, I'm actually proud of myself (and my mother too XD). Another way I could say it is, better small talk than not talk

    (Oh God, this is getting so long for no reason) I don't really know how this rant is gonna look like, so feel free to correct me if I lost a screw somewhere up there.

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    1. true! i guess the opportunities to converse on a deeper level show up. i mean, we don't ALWAYS have to have serious conversations

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  3. wow this post made me think so hard about this topic. small talk is something that i don't really like but i know how to do. but you're right, it's important to get deeper than that too. surface level friendships aren't the true ones.

    loved hearing your thoughts!!

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  4. Rachel, this is honestly the most beautiful and real thing I've read in a while. I know the feeling, though, I can relate. Small talk is super aggravating, but some people learn to be professionals because it's hard to open up and show someone you're deeper than that. It feels vulnerable, you know? I know I've definitely struggled with this and it makes me happy to see I'm not alone :) You are such a great writer.

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  5. I legit don't even know how to respond to this cause it's like my freaking soul laid bare in front of me on a computer screen. your words are so eloquent and so stripped down to the bone real I can't even handle it. wherever you end up you're going to do incredible things. privileged to know you tbh. thanks for sharing this. <333333333333333333333333333333333333 askdfj.

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  6. This is literally the most relatable thing that I've read in forever. I'm really good at small talk too, but I hate it so much. But yet..it's so easy. And it's so hard not to just be judgmental and put people in their little boxes and leave them there. It's all so hard. You put it perfectly. I love you so much and you are so freaking talented and you're gonna do amazing things. <3

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  7. I sooo get this post. I used to be really bad at small talk, which I thought made me awkward, so I worked really hard to get better at it. Now I can talk about nothing with people for ages. But it means nothing. And recently I've been wondering why I bother having those conversations when it doesn't add anything to their or my life. So I've been working harder of really talking to others, and taking an interest in them.

    And learning small talk didn't make me less "awkward" either, because I really didn't fit in to high school as much as I wanted to. I mean, I had friends and everything, but at events I felt like I was kind of on the outside and and I wanted to go to the bathroom as cry about it. This post is so real.

    But good news! I don't know about american colleges, but at university I feel like I can find my own space to fit into, and others don't define it. So good things await for you as well, I hope!! <3

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    1. that's awesome! very much looking forward to college--I'm so glad you're having fun!

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  8. I never much liked small talk. But nowadays, I understand where you're coming from. There's certaintly something comforting about hiding behind common phrases and euphemisms and questions with answers that lead nowhere. And you're right; even if we don't like it, we like to hide within it.

    I really love what you said about being suspended from all the groups. Sometimes I wonder just how many of us feel this way. What if it was the majority of us? How did we become so good at pretending? Beautiful post, my absolute favourite of this year so far. <3

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    1. thank you so much, jo. really means a lot to me :)

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  9. Just...what everyone else said. Does that work?

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  10. haha yeah!! thanks so much for commenting, maggie :)

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  11. Oh my, I just read this post now thanks to Jo. I relate, I relate. I don't know what else to say! Thanks for being real, Rachel. xx

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