Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Casual, Shallow and Meaningless

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  • Jackie Clark,

    My big secret is that I can't remember peoples' names. (As Rich will testify) Or I get them mixed up. I know faces, but I can't often match them to names etc if I have met a person less than, say, 10 times. I pretend I do know people, and I'm very good at hiding my secret shame, but I do have to do better.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Blagueur plague...

    Small talk is learnable.

    Micro-blagging or micro-bragging?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7480 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Rich Lock,

    Small talk is basically filler. I have grown to favour the aspie approach of "I like you too". Much better to meet up with a friend I haven't seen for a few years, go to the pub, then spend a couple of hours talking about stuff that actually matters. Yes, we both have new hobbies. He has a new child. That's it, we've done small talk, whew! Now, is your marriage going any better? You lost 30kg, that's impressive. OMG, you can run now. No, I don't hate you for being ambivalent about gay marriage, in your situation I would be too. And so on. The best thing is that KAOS/ROI types don't even blink when I say "polyamory is much simpler than it sounds". They might argue, but they're not freaked out. My coworker on the other hand... oh dear.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1032 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    I can't remember peoples' names....I pretend I do know people, and I'm very good at hiding my secret shame

    Names only get you so far. I am similar, and usually I can place the face and give you a potted summary of the person, but not always. Sometimes I find myself having a great chat with someone who obviously knows me then afterwards going "who was that"? I find the faking it only gets me so far, partly because I'm micro-famous so people who have talked to me once, five years ago, seem to remember me while I have NFI who they are.

    Oh, which reminds me, that's one advantage of small talk - it really doesn't matter whether you know or care about the other person. Just be a little cautious about the exact questions and you're usually fine. Wait until they mention their partner/kids before asking about them sort of thing.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1032 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Stevenson, in reply to kmont,

    Try this

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich Lock,

    But there’s no easy escape from hairdressers and cabbies - they hold you hostage until their conversational demands are met.

    Hairdressers do, for sure. You don't want to offend in case they fuck your hair up. Fortunately you can choose which one you use. Cabbies, not so much. But likewise, it is always possible to ditch a cab mid-ride, and they know it. So it's quite feasible to insist on silence when you're tired.

    I tend to actually enjoy seeing what useful information I can get out of cabbies if they won't shut up. There's so many directions you can take a conversation that aren't their boring hobby horse.

    I know when you're tired it's hard work. White lies are soooo tempting. Taking a phone call from your Mum is an old favorite. Everyone knows Mums carry on even worse than cabbies.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10504 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Moz,

    Names only get you so far. I am similar, and usually I can place the face and give you a potted summary of the person, but not always. Sometimes I find myself having a great chat with someone who obviously knows me then afterwards going “who was that”? I find the faking it only gets me so far, partly because I’m micro-famous so people who have talked to me once, five years ago, seem to remember me while I have NFI who they are

    I have written a whole blog post about this in the past. I still need to work on not giving that look of bewilderment when someone who clearly knows and has previously met me starts up a conversation.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    My hairdresser gives me Tatler and Vanity Fair, doesn't trouble me with endless small talk and gives me fab haircuts. That's all I need.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • JacksonP, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    My big secret is that I can't remember peoples' names.

    That can be awkward.

    I used to have this trick when I was teaching, but it involved drawing little pictures and remembering where students were sitting when I first met them, and then making them stay in the same seat for the first week.

    Not so helpful in a broader social context. 'Hey, you're supposed to be standing over there! Look, it's on my diagram.'

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 2436 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    cabbies if they won't shut up

    honestly never had this problem, though I hear about it all the time

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19413 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Moz,

    micro-famous

    very good

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19413 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to JacksonP,

    My big secret is that I can’t remember peoples’ names.

    That can be awkward.

    I do find that most people are okay with, “I’m sorry, I can’t remember your name.” ONCE. Which is once more than they tend to be okay with “I’m sorry, I can’t remember who you are.” So, desperately letting the other person lead the conversation and hoping they drop some hint about where I’m supposed to know them from. I’m starting to wonder now what percentage of conversations are like that.

    My hairdresser gives me Tatler and Vanity Fair

    Hairdresser: Would you like a magazine?

    Me: Jesus fuck no.

    Fortunately, my brain filters whittled that down to “No thanks, I’m fine with my phone,” which meant I only had to refuse the magazine (which I very much doubt would have been Vanity Fair) four more times. I did describe the experience as being "like having Women's Day read aloud".

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4620 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Emma Hart,

    If nothing else, thank you for the reminder why I shave my own head.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12363 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

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

    Then compare them with Hitler?

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I'm not much good with names and faces. Not because of any mental difficulty - if required I could memorize the names of a hundred random strangers in about 10 minutes. But I don't, mostly because I don't care, and it's not required to, and I'm at a party to have fun, not to do hard mental work. To have such details at the tip of your tongue after a casual meeting could be flattering, but it could also be a bit creepy, something you'd need an excuse for. There's quite a lot of tricks for learning names and faces, again, if you care to.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10504 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Well, maybe my biggest secret is - not only do I not remember peoples' names, but I also don't know where I know them from. Case in point - and highly pertinent considering the hairdresser meme (did I use that correctly?) - is a woman who's just started coming up the mountain. Yesterday, I say to her, "look, I know I know you, and quite well, but where from". Yes, she was my hairdresser. Who I last saw 6 months ago. But who I have been going to, on and off, for maybe 18 years. You see? I am BAD.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    So much to chat about!

    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.

    Clearly, you need to meet *my* hairdresser, with whom I talk design, and cats/dogs/children, and relationships, and books. It's one of the few times that I relax and just let someone else look after me. My previous hairdresser was good too: I talked feminism with him.

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

    The Colour Fairies. Seven of them. Also, the Pet Fairies. Seven of those books too. The Holiday Fairies. Set of seven books. All written by the improbably named Daisy Meadows. At one stage we had about 50 of the damned things in the house, when our daughters first moved onto chapter books. We were contemplating writing a series of our own. The Sin Fairies. Lotta the Lust Fairy. Sally the Sloth Fairy. Gilda the Greed Fairy...

    One of the questions I struggle to not tell the truth in reply to is, “How are you?” I’ve learned to say “Fine”

    I find that "not too bad" works quite well as a response.

    I don't do small talk with strangers, or with people I have just met. I usually need some warm up time, and then I'm good. But I'm just fine with lecturing, or anything that's performance oriented. Something about shifting to a different register, I suppose.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1444 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    "Perhaps," said Darcy, "I should have judged better, had I sought an introduction, but I am ill qualified to recommend myself to strangers."

    "Shall we ask your cousin the reason of this?" said Elizabeth, still addressing Colonel Fitzwilliam. "Shall we ask him why a man of sense and education, and who has lived in the world, is ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers?"

    "I can answer your question," said Fitzwilliam, "without applying to him. It is because he will not give himself the trouble."

    "I certainly have not the talent which some people possess," said Darcy, "of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done."

    "My fingers," said Elizabeth, "do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women's do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault—because I would not take the trouble of practising. It is not that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other woman's of superior execution."

    Small talk is in some respects a learned skill, for some of us. However, I'm not sure that it's a skill worth acquiring....

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1444 posts Report Reply

  • JacksonP, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    You see? I am BAD.

    I've just thought of an awesome App. Kind of like Shazam is for music, but with facial recognition software. Facebook and Picasa both have this built in already, so not a big stretch to allow your phone to surreptitiously scan the person in front of you, and pop up their name, bio, whether they're in your 'Inner Circle', or if in fact you are married to them.

    Royalties can be sent to the account no. below.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 2436 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to JacksonP,

    Wouldn't that be great? Except I have no iPhone, so, you know, maybe not quite as workable as we first thought.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • hamishm,

    I think, little cards like they had in the old days and you can hand them to people so that they know who you are. You could write suggestions for topics on them:
    "I DO NOT wish to talk about Prince Albert's piercing!"

    Since Nov 2006 • 357 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    I'm lucky that I am in that demographic that is both mass-produced and invisible (even though I'm not a small person). I can meet people several times and they have no recollection or meeting me, or think I'm someone else. Just as well that I also have a poor memory for faces, although I can identify people by the way they walk or move, sometimes without seeing them for many decades.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3110 posts Report Reply

  • JacksonP,

    Perhaps apposite. Social phobia not shyness.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 2436 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    I am, in fact, married to my hairdresser. Or more accurately, my wife runs the clippers over my head every now and then. Mostly because I miss bits at the back if I try it solo. No problems with hairdressers, just too cheapass to pay for a number one clipper cut when I have sweatshop labour at home.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 894 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to JacksonP,

    Heh...a bit obvious, though. Voice recognition might be sneakier...the phone could buzz you when it gets the name.

    However. If you've gone to the trouble to enter their name and picture and voice into a database, it's highly likely you'll remember them anyway.

    Small talk is in some respects a learned skill, for some of us. However, I'm not sure that it's a skill worth acquiring....

    Personally, I found being socially awkward quite distressing as a young teen. It limited my ability to form relationships, particularly with the opposite sex. It's a skill I will most certainly endeavour to teach my children. It is extremely teachable, way less work than, say, a foreign language, which many people study for years and years only to get to a pathetic level of proficiency. It's more like learning a jargon.

    The hard part is not the small talk, it is overcoming the fear and pride. That's why the book is called Pride and Prejudice. I know this and I've never even read it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10504 posts Report Reply

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