It is something I ask myself during this lock down. Will I become anti-social? Will I lose the ability to engage in “small talk”. What got me thinking about this is that a good friend who lives in Paris was comparing the North American attitude to small talk vs the French. She said that in North America just in a line up or standing at the bus stop we all engage in small talk.
In no less than ten minutes you can end up knowing more about a complete stranger than you maybe know about some of your own family. Maybe there is safety in the fact that you chat with a stranger and then you will never see them again so you can say what the hell you like. There is someting beautiful about that. Kind of like going to see a counsellor but for free.
In Paris it is apparently a different story. The only time anyone will speak to you is if, for example, you drop something on the floor. But engaging in small talk. Non monsieur! That’s not going to happen.
Now being social is a skill and it comes into its own at those business social meetings. You know what I mean. You go to a conference and it is cocktail hour so you slide into this HUGE room which is all echoey and you realise very quickly that in order to be heard you have to shout. So you scan the crowd checking it out. Little groups of shouting people clutching glasses of wine. Hmmm – don’t know them and don’t like those others. Then you spot your safe place. A small crowd of people that you know quite well and even like. Thank God, you think to yourself as you elbow your way through the crowd making your way to this haven of safety.
But alas….. you didn’t move fast enough. You get hauled into a crowd of people who don’t really know very well. OK – here we go – shoulders back, smile on – hugs ready. “HEY!!!! HOW ARE YOU?” you shout.
I don’t know if I am going to be able to do that again. I am out of practice. Months of working remotely, weeks of lockdown, no family visits, smiling through masks.
Maybe I will start practising now. Every morning when I get up I will talk to myself in the mirror.
“Hey – long time no see! How are things going?”
“Oh you know – keeping busy. Took up yoga and tried out a new youtube exercise routine.”
Hmmm, I don’t think I like small talk. Maybe it would be better if I got more social by gossiping.
“OMG – did you see what she was wearing at the mall? And the way she speaks to her kids? Vera told me that she gave the teacher a real telling off about the amount of homework and then Alice told me that in fact that is because she does all the kids’ homework anyway and all they do is lie around and eat pizza and watch tv. That’s why my kids always like to go to their house but I won’t let them. I have to keep making excuses. Last time I was caught out because I told her that they had nits. My kids were so mad with me because it got out to the other moms and they were totally shunned by all their friends. You would think Betty would have realised that my kids would never get nits so I don’t know why she passed on that information to Sarah and Rachel.”
Hmm – nope. I don’t like gossip so that won’t work.
I am sure by the time this is all over everyone will be brushing up on their social skills and small talk. At the next conference or get together there will be a lot of people feeling very strange being in a public place without a mask on. Almost like being naked in public. Now THAT should put paid to ANY small talk at all!