I’ve chosen a life and career firmly based on my ability to network and thus, my bullshitting skills are almost unparalleled. Despite my overwhelming awkwardness, I can chat somebody up as good as anyone. I can talk current events, pop culture, weather, sports, literature, movies, tv and never politics or religion (I know the rules). I’m good at what I do.
In a non-professional setting, I hate small talk. I hate approaching people almost as much as I hate when people feel the need to fill a silence that simply doesn’t need to be filled. This is probably part of why I don’t smoke; bumming a cigarette of a stranger is one less random social encounter I’ll ever have to deal with. I don’t want to talk to cab drivers. I wish the nail salon ladies never spoke to me and especially never asked me what the tattoo on my foot means. Unless you are a very cute dude or my genuine friend or you are paying me a brief compliment, I have no interest in speaking to you in any scenario including but not limited to at the gym, in an elevator, in any line of any sort, at a concert, if you’re my waiter, when I’m eating, when I’m with anyone who I know/like more than you, or on a train. The only exceptions to this rule are at any live sporting event, but only in relation to sports, when asking for directions and/or help, but really, you have google on your phone too, and sometimes at a bar after I’ve had a few drinks and even then, I’d still prefer only my friends and cute dudes spoke to me. But, DO NOT ever come up to me in a loud bar and expect to strike up a conversation. I will not scream over a DJ for you, random stranger (unless you’re a cute dude). Silence is an ok thing. It’s alright for it to exist in the world. Try not saying anything. I promise. It’s not so bad.
Still, I am a very friendly and polite person. I will never, ever blatantly ignore someone because, despite all of these feelings, I still have the crippling desire to be well liked by strangers. I truly appreciate when people who work in customer service are friendly. I’ve been there. I know you’re only trying to do your job well by talking to me. For this reason, I’m a great tipper. If you speak to me, I will converse with you, but you should be aware that I’m dying on the inside.
My least favorite kind of small talk, though, even more so than talking to strangers, is when I have to talk to people who aren’t strangers but also aren’t friends or co-workers. The acquaintance small talk is the absolute worst.
If we haven’t seen each other in months, there’s probably a reason for it. I do a pretty good job of making time for people I actually want to see with very few exceptions. There are some people who my schedule just doesn’t allow me to make time for. My friend Deb, for example. She is an absolute doll and one of my favorite people at Hofstra but we’re both really busy and it just never seems to come together for us. But she is the exception, not the rule. For this reason, there’s absolutely no need for you to tell me that “we HAVE to get dinner soon!” when I run into you. No, we don’t and you don’t need to say that. A simple “how’s everything? good to see you!” would suffice just fine. You’re just forcing me to make an equally phony reply and then where are we? Awkwardsville, that’s where. Additionally, if you keep pressuring me to come out with you and I keep having a reason not to, I suggest you stop trying. I genuinely do have a lot on my plate these days so there’s the chance that I might have actual reasons not to come, but the chances are, and I’m being honest, I just don’t want to go. I value my free time more than almost anything and I already see a lot less of my actual friends than I would like to, so I don’t want to spend the evening fulfilling friendly obligations when I can instead be asleep or super drunk with the people I love most in the world.
The awkward run-in small talk is something that can’t really be avoided, though. I’ll admit that. The real absolute worst is getting a text from a person who seemingly has no reason to text you, but does anyway. We have not spoken in weeks. I’m pretty sure you have literally hundreds of other people you could bullshit last night’s hockey game with. I either need you to get to the point of why you’re texting me or stop. It’s confusing. We could be actual friends who like, watch hockey games together and then talk about them. That’d be okay. But this weird thing where we’re in some kind of friendship limbo where you just text me sporadically is not going to fly.
A random text, no matter what it says, sends the message of “hey, I was thinking of you and want to talk to you but I don’t have a real reason to cite so I’m inventing one” OR “I want/need something from you but I can’t just cut to the chase”. I KNOW THIS. Wanna know how? I’ve done this. More than once. Everyone has, whether they admit it or not. More often than I care to say, in my younger days, I would text my then ex-boyfriend-away-at-college about some RANDOM ASS THING just to make sure he didn’t forget I was alive. That would lead to a few hours, maybe days, of texting and probably an additional 2 years of us dragging out our bizarro love affair much, much longer than it needed to go on. Also, there is no comfortable way to ask someone for a favor. Easing into it seems like the natural course of action. I know. I have been there.
But ya know what? I don’t do that now! Because it’s awful and I hate when people do it to me. Either 1. Figure out why it is that you actually want to talk to me so badly and say that or 2. Get to the point. If you can do neither of those things, don’t bother. It should be a simple part of texting etiquette, much like how “ok” is very different from “ok.”. (Watch your period use, people!)
My rule of thumb is that if you’re not someone I will wish happy birthday to directly (by text or in person. I never make birthday phone calls except to children. I feel like I have to then sing and no one wants that), you’re not someone who needs to feel obligated to randomly text me and keep alive any form of relationship and the opposite should be true. You can send me a friendly email every few months if you’re simply trying not to burn bridges. The formality of email makes that a lot less awkward for me. Unless you actually have some secret motive for our communications, and then, for the love of all that is holy, figure your shit out and come clean. We will all live happier lives because of it.
(If you felt like this rant had some weird, directed, subtext, you weren’t wrong)