Monday, April 8, 2019

Small Talk

I know it's not anything special or revolutionary to say you hate small talk, but man, I hate small talk.

Truthfully I don't mind it THAT much if it's something you don't have much choice about. It's pleasant sometimes to exchange observations about the weather, or to talk about where's a good restaurant or where someone is from originally.

But when you have a choice? A completely free, open choice to talk about whatever you want? AND YOU CHOOSE SMALL TALK?

Come on, just spare me.

On the one hand, I want people to be basically polite to me and not assume too much about my comfort level. So I do appreciate people being cautious about touchy or personal subjects (especially since a lot of my online presence is about asexuality or associated with it). But even introductory conversations about these things can be both non-intrusive AND "deep" or thought-provoking. I don't want to talk about polite incidentals as a way of easing into chat. I want to talk to you if you have something to talk to me about.

Yes, it's different if you're around people you don't necessarily need to form a deep or lasting relationship with, like the person sitting next to you at the bus stop or people at work with whom you keep your personal life private. But as part of a getting-to-know-you process, I'm really, really tired of "nothing" conversations that feel like pulling teeth.

I love to make friends on social networking sites, specifically OKCupid (which of course is primarily used as a dating site, but allows other uses through "here-for" categories that encompass more than dating). I have successfully used it to make friends for more than ten years. But like most good things, it has its down sides. And just as often as I encounter people who think it's fine to get TOO personal immediately (read: they ask me for sex or ask me intensely personal questions about my sexual habits), I get people who just don't know how to start a good conversation.

Just the other day I gave up on a conversation with someone who was basically polite but didn't seem to have a damn thing to talk about. His first contact claimed he'd connected with my "story," and he had a high match percentage, so I matched him and accepted the chat, encouraging him to discuss what part of my "story" he connected with. 

He did not do that. He instead asked me where I'm from originally.

Uh. Okay. Well, I told him, and elaborated a little about cold weather. He sidestepped the opportunity to elaborate on that himself and just asked me another nothing question about where I went to college.

I told him. Elaborating less this time, but trying to leave the conversation open.

And then he did it again, only this time he hit one of my pet peeves. He asked me if one of the stats I'd put on my profile--my height, 4'11"--was actually how tall I really am.

So. We've gone back and forth three times and now he's asking me if I'm lying about myself.

I confirmed I'm really 4'11" and asked why he seemed so baffled by that. He said he thought I "looked tall" in my pictures. What. So I asked what he meant, at which point he opined that my being thin indicated to him that I was tall. When I hit him with how absolutely ridiculous that sounds to me and that he HAD to know there are short people who are not fat and tall people who are not thin, he then began doing the thing I hate.

He told me it was just a question, to not get offended, and that he is JUST TRYING TO START A CONVERSATION.

You know what, buddy?

No, you're not trying to start a conversation.

You're apparently not connecting with anything in my "story" because there's not a single thing in this conversation you couldn't have asked any other stranger, and then the only personalized content is about my photographs. Whose authenticity you questioned, slapping them thoughtlessly with a truly bizarre misconception about how body type is likely to indicate height.

You don't need to manufacture conversation with me.

It isn't hard at ALL to find something to talk about with me. I am willing. I am full of interesting conversation handles to grab onto that I carefully installed all over my profile. I even give instructions on how to talk to me--that I want some meat here. That I want something real to reply to.

It doesn't have to be deep. It doesn't have to be lengthy. It just has to be a real thought based on something you noticed about me or something my profile inspires you to want to talk about, and it has to actually be for me. I don't start relationships with people based on an empty questionnaire, and I don't regard the task of getting to know a person as a gauntlet of empty questions we answer before we start really talking about anything.

What's funny is I generally don't have this problem at all with people who become my friends. We jump right in with the fun stuff, the intense stuff, the enjoyable stuff, the deep stuff, the connections. Maybe I talk to them for a month before I find out what their last name is or what their job is. I might literally not know a person's gender or age at first because it's that unimportant to me to fill out a demographics form. These are no longer the foundation of getting to know another person. You connect with the real stuff first, the soul of a reason to communicate, and then eventually some of that other stuff will fill itself in in the background.

You don't need to "make" conversation with me by asking a series of boring, safe questions. Especially if it goes nowhere due to jumping around trying to give me one-liners to answer. My conversations with the people I want to talk to immediately get lengthy because we have so much to say to each other. It's not a chore. It's a joy.

And it really is easy. The hardest part for some of these dudes appears to be realizing that I am a person whose thoughts are unusually available to anyone who wants to take a peek. You should have NO problem at all finding something to talk about if we're similar people.

And if you read through that whole profile and nothing inspires you? If you read through it all and you still can't think of anything to say to me?

Then don't.

Really, don't.

And if you can't think of much to say about yourself? If you have nothing you're bursting to share?


Just don't.

Don't bother me. I am not going to stand over you painfully extracting a dialogue. Speak to me if you have something you're excited to say. If you have nothing to say, just shut up.

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