Up Front by Emma Hart

Read Post

Up Front: Casual, Shallow and Meaningless

223 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 9 Newer→ Last

  • Russell Brown,

    So all things considered, you can imagine the state of mind in which I went to my hairdresser on Saturday. Now, my hairdresser herself is lovely, but I can only really deal with that kind of environment by viewing the experience as an anthropological field trip.

    We have discussed this before, but you really need to meet my hairdresser. You can talk to him about a lot of stuff, most especially your own specialist subjects. I feel privileged.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Trouble with smalltalk and lying, eh. You loveable aspie, you.

    One of the questions I struggle to not tell the truth in reply to is, "How are you?" I've learned to say "Fine" largely because my partner is sick of seeing That Expression on the faces of checkout operators.

    Still get that one wrong from time to time. Sorry, folks.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    I'm with Hadyn (I think ?) on this one - Hairdressers ? I go to a Barber, conversation proceeds at a glacial pace. I think it took two years to get from grunt to How-ar'ya....

    In response to "how are you ?" I did try "do you really want to know ?"...won't be trying that for a while....sigh.

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 728 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    Oh I hear you! I cannot count the number of times I've said something I thought was a normal thing to say only to have the room descend into awkward silence.

    Some of the difficulty is that my humour is too dry, too specialised or too rude for many settings so I find myself stuck with the topics about which I can be terribly, terribly earnest. I don't like me when I'm terribly, terribly earnest.

    Once, a very nice woman kindly asked me if my daughter read the Color Fairies books like all the other daughters, and I got to say no, actually, she prefers Captain Underpants. We never saw those people again.

    This encounter resonates so strongly with me. By virtue of the mysterious process of certain character traits breeding true I am raising somewhat non-conformist children and I find this is often the ultimate conversation stopper. The other mothers will be sighing "boys, huh?" at some purportedly masculine trait that my boys have never displayed and venturing to point out that fact invariably makes the silence descend some more.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • JacksonP, in reply to Sacha,

    Still get that one wrong from time to time. Sorry, folks.

    Sorry for what? I almost always get this wrong. If you don't want to know how I am, then don't ask me. Otherwise I'm going to tell you about my ingrown toenail, my sciatic nerve and my... 'Yes, I'm fine. Thanks for asking'.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 2154 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Isabel Hitchings,

    Oh I hear you! I cannot count the number of times I’ve said something I thought was a normal thing to say only to have the room descend into awkward silence.

    This may have something to do with our shared socialisation context. It took me years to realise that the full-on snog was not an appropriate greeting outside of KAOS. Of course, then PAS introduced me to my Wellington friends, and I came full circle...

    This encounter resonates so strongly with me.

    My mother once said to me - only about a year ago - "Your friends who don't have children will never get it." And it's really stuck with me because, in general and particularly with sizeable-group-dynamic, I'm actually more comfortable with my childless friends because you don't wander into pits like that all the time. Also, I find it really hard dealing with people who can only talk about their kids, and I have enough purely-functional conversations about my own. I can only conclude that my mother never felt my near-constant need for two entire separate lives.

    I should say, my hair does look fabulous. But this was my first professional colour, so the first time I'd been in the salon for two hours. My tweets became increasingly desperate.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to JacksonP,

    If you don't want to know how I am, then don't ask me.

    Also, "Busy day?" "Yeah, once I get home I have some porn to write, and then a stack of reading on the politics of BDSM. You?"

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    "Oh, can't complain... Who'd listen? ;)" is a useful compromise.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart,

    I have been known to use small talk to disconcert people, but only gently.
    I know I can make some/most blokes squirm a bit if I volunteer something about my emotional state, especially if it is overwhelmingly positive.
    A late-middle-age hetero bloke actually saying things like "I really like being in your company" makes them double-take and/or reassess my suitability as a friend.
    (My friends are generally used to this by now, so not easily subverted.)

    Most blokes find any discussion of almost anything to do with (their own or one another's) emotion too uncomfortable.

    Te Ika A Maui - Waitakere… • Since Oct 2008 • 572 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    “How are you?”
    “Well, (brain clicks into gear and says, “you could leave it there” but…) a bit pissed off really, how can John Key…… …..and what about…… …..Can you believe what those bastards…. …..”
    Most people don’t ask me anymore.
    But it does give me an excuse to post this again…

    How to Win Arguments, As It Were
    by DAVE BARRY

    I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me. You too can win arguments. Simply follow these rules:

    Drink Liquor.

    Suppose you’re at a party and some hotshot intellectual is expounding on the economy of Peru, a subject you know nothing about. If you’re drinking some health-fanatic drink like grapefruit juice, you’ll hang back, afraid to display your ignorance, while the hotshot enthralls your date. But if you drink several large martinis, you’ll discover you have STRONG VIEWS about the Peruvian economy. You’ll be a WEALTH of information. You’ll argue forcefully, offering searing insights and possibly upsetting furniture. People will be impressed. Some may leave the room.

    Make things up.

    Suppose, in the Peruvian economy argument, you are trying to prove Peruvians are underpaid, a position you base solely on the fact that YOU are underpaid, and you’re damned if you’re going to let a bunch of Peruvians be better off. DON’T say: ``I think Peruvians are underpaid.’’ Say: ``The average Peruvian’s salary in 1981 dollars adjusted for the revised tax base is $1,452.81 per annum, which is $836.07 before the mean gross poverty level.’’

    NOTE: Always make up exact figures.

    If an opponent asks you where you got your information, make THAT up, too. Say: ``This information comes from Dr. Hovel T. Moon’s study for the Buford Commission published May 9, 1982. Didn’t you read it?’’ Say this in the same tone of voice you would use to say ``You left your soiled underwear in my bath house.’’

    Use meaningless but weightly-sounding words and phrases.

    Memorize this list:

    Let me put it this way
    In terms of
    Vis-a-vis
    Per se
    As it were
    Qua
    So to speak

    You should also memorize some Latin abbreviations such as ``Q.E.D.,’’ ``e.g.,’’ and ``i.e.’’ These are all short for ``I speak Latin, and you do not.’’

    Here’s how to use these words and phrases. Suppose you want to say: ``Peruvians would like to order appetizers more often, but they don’t have enough money.’’

    You never win arguments talking like that. But you WILL win if you say: ``Let me put it this way. In terms of appetizers vis-a-vis Peruvians qua Peruvians, they would like to order them more often, so to speak, but they do not have enough money per se, as it were. Q.E.D.’’

    Only a fool would challenge that statement.

    Use snappy and irrelevant comebacks.

    You need an arsenal of all-purpose irrelevant phrases to fire back at your opponents when they make valid points. The best are:

    You’re begging the question.
    You’re being defensive.
    Don’t compare apples and oranges.
    What are your parameters?

    This last one is especially valuable. Nobody, other than mathematicians, has the vaguest idea what ``parameters’’ means.

    Here’s how to use your comebacks:

    You say: ``As Abraham Lincoln said in 1873…’’
    Your opponent says: ``Lincoln died in 1865.’’
    You say: ``You’re begging the question.’’

    OR

    You say: ``Liberians, like most Asians…’’
    Your opponent says: ``Liberia is in Africa.’’
    You say: ``You’re being defensive.’’

    Compare your opponent to Adolf Hitler.

    This is your heavy artillery, for when your opponent is obviously right and you are spectacularly wrong. Bring Hitler up subtly. Say: ``That sounds suspiciously like something Adolf Hitler might say’’ or ``You certainly do remind me of Adolf Hitler.’’

    So that’s it: you now know how to out-argue anybody. Do not try to pull this on people who generally carry weapons.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4941 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    As I drift in increasing bouts of mental illness perhaps I can apply some identity dyslexia to the problem..

    How are you ? > Who are you ?

    Today I am Attilla the Hun and I want all the space in the office.....

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 728 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Also, I find it really hard dealing with people who can only talk about their kids, and I have enough purely-functional conversations about my own.

    I enjoy talking about my kids in the sense that I find child development really interesting and they are my main case-studies. This is not the conversation that most people who want to talk about their kids want to have. I have come close to gnawing my limbs off to avoid the competitive brag-fests about whose little darling is the bestest.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Russell Brown,

    We have discussed this before

    Yeah, but that was over a year ago. We've all forgotten about it. I'll just cut and paste my comments from pg 9 of that thread, and no-one will notice the recycling...

    Want to talk about the weather? Maybe you should talk to someone else.
    Want to talk about that local sports team? Talk to someone else.
    That TV show you watched last night? Talk to someone else.
    The lastest Hollywood celebrity shenannigans? Talk to someone else.
    Your rant about Helen Clarke? Is ignorant and distasteful.
    Your rant about the global warming conspiracy? Makes you look stupid.

    I simply have no interest in ‘playing the game’. Needless to say, cab rides and visits to the barber are usually a fairly agonising experience.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Rich Lock,

    We have discussed this before

    Yeah, but that was over a year ago.

    This perfectly-serviceable point aside, Russell meant he and I have had this conversation, re hairdressers, a couple of weeks ago. In private, once the topic of conversation became unsuitable for public consumption.

    However. I do have a sterling couple of examples of awkward conversation between me and David recently, which I probably shouldn't mention.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Small talk is learnable. The only real question is: Can you be bothered? If it causes you discomfort and embarrassment to be unable to small talk, it's actually pretty damned simple. So that first question is important. If you don't want to learn it, then you surely won't.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8615 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Once, a very nice woman kindly asked me if my daughter read the Color Fairies books like all the other daughters

    Is this were you furrow your brow enigmatically, and say that you have issues with Andrew Lang's Anglocentric bias and cultural insenitivity?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12046 posts Report Reply

  • kowhai montgomery, in reply to Isabel Hitchings,

    I know what you mean, I often dislike myself when I am terribly, terribly earnest.

    But it is probably worse when I am feeling bored with myself, think I probably project an arrogant uninterested vibe, when what I really want is for SOMEONE ELSE TO TALK.

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 485 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Stewart,

    Most blokes find any discussion of almost anything to do with (their own or one another's) emotion too uncomfortable.

    Yes, men don't expose their privates so easily. Some of that is possibly because they're far more easy to tear clean off than a woman's.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8615 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to kowhai montgomery,

    when what I really want is for SOMEONE ELSE TO TALK.

    Simplest tactic in that situation: Ask a question. It's one of the best tools in the small-talker's arsenal.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8615 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Sexed on Blake...

    The evolution of the detective novel in the Victorian Period.

    What the Dickens, with Bleak House,
    Jack 'n' Moriarty and those
    ugly Rue Morgue events
    - who'd be a Vic dick?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5092 posts Report Reply

  • kowhai montgomery, in reply to BenWilson,

    Oh I do, I do, I am actually an excellent small talker, black belt in small talk even when I am in the mood but from time to time I just want to be an awkward wallflower and I think it is odd for people who don't know me well to see the contrast. Kind of need a T Shirt 'I am out in public because I am trying to achieve xyz but do not actually want to interact, talk to me but let me passively sit there while you do all of the conversational heavy lifting.'

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 485 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Wilde Thing...

    I don’t like me when I’m terribly, terribly earnest.

    Have you tried being Lady Bracknell instead?
    :- )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5092 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to BenWilson,

    Yes, men don’t expose their privates so easily. Some of that is possibly because they’re far more easy to tear clean off than a woman’s.

    Oh, I’ve got the fine art of over-sharing to an intimidating degree while revealing absolutely nothing of value. Much finger food and a faint air of bemused fascination also help those unavoidable bouts of social intercourse pass on fleet feet. Funny how people don't notice if you're mute, when you actually find what other say much more interesting than the sound of your own voice.

    (I do enjoy Christmas parties though – wee fruit mince pies and an intense discharge of social obligations? Wizard.)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12046 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to BenWilson,

    Small talk is learnable.

    Yes, and like you mentioned in another thread, I’ve learned enough vague detail to be able to deflect awkwardness when, for example, sport comes up. Enough to be able to hold my own politely while planning a swift exit for a drink or pit stop.

    But there’s no easy escape from hairdressers and cabbies - they hold you hostage until their conversational demands are met. When we returned from the UK last year, we got stuck with a cab driver on our trip back from the airport who would. Not. Shut. The fuck. Up. Had a conversational style that involved asking a lot of questions, and then telling you he knew a bloke who could come round and fix that for us. Just what I wanted after 24 hours on a plane with a 6-month old.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Emma Hart,

    PAS introduced me to my Wellington friends, and I came full circle...

    Surely that's pushing it even for fairly close friends?

    At least on PA there's no danger that it will go all quiet.

    That Expression on the faces of checkout operators.

    I found myself doing that the other day. The guy in front of me in the queue (express lane, even) decided that "how are you" deserved a full examination of his medical, social and legal situation. With a bit of wiggling I managed to push him around to the end of the checkout so the checkout chick could process my stuff. No offence, I came here to shop.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 497 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 9 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.