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  • Small Talk In A Big World

    September 11, 2008

    Small talk makes the big world a smaller, cozier, more manageable place.

    I love on-line small talk. I love to chat with people on Twitter and through the comments on my blog. But in the real world, small talk makes me break out in hives. It makes me extremely nervous because, oh glory be!! What if there is a silence?! It will be awkward! And then I will have to fill it up! And oh the pressure to think of something to say! Something pithy and funny, something that makes sense outside of my own head?! (screaming inside head: aaaahh! haaaaaallllpp! Beam Me Up!)

    On-line I can just walk away and hide under the bed whereas it’s really bad form to vaporize in real life.

    I’ve noticed that senior citizens, the FDR generation, excel at small talk. I don’t know if they are just friendlier or if you just get friendlier with age. Or maybe you just have more time to be friendly. I don’t know, but I suspect it’s all of the above.

    My parents and my in-laws will talk to anyone at anytime about anything. And not just the perfunctory “Hello, how are you,” but they take time to engage strangers and swap stories and get to know them, trade colonoscopy stories.

    My mom flies out to Texas several times a year and every time I pick her up at the airport, she has made a new friend on the plane, she’s hugging them goodbye at the gate and wishing them luck, they’ve traded emails and are planning to vacation together.

    The last time I picked her up, she had met a nice young man who is getting out of the military, he is hoping to become a police officer… he was on his way to see his… he’d never been to Texas before… his wife’s name was… and she has asthma… he grew up in….

    I probably would not want to sit next to my mother on an airplane.

    One time when both of my parent’s were visiting, we went to the mall. My dad usually finds a park bench outside the store while mom and I go in and browse. When we came out he was talking to another man, also wearing Hushpuppies, a Members Only jacket and newsboy cap. It seems the other man was here visiting his daughter too… he lives in Ohio and has two boys and two girls and seven grandchildren and his wife name is… and he was in the army stationed in… and can’t play golf anymore because of his bursitis and…

    I think small talk makes the world a better place. I just prefer mine in an electronic format.

    * * * * *

    Do y’all read Bub and Pie? If I were held at gunpoint and forced to pare down my Bloglines to 10 blogs, hers would be one I couldn’t cut loose. Anyway, she posted about small talk today too, so go check out her perspective and leave her some comment love while you’re there.


    40 Comments »

    1. Antique Mommy says:

      another sue, The pain you express in your comment is not lost on me, it breaks my heart. I have an especially tender heart for the elderly. When I would go visit my Godmother in the nursing home, I always stopped and chatted with everyone along the way and made sure to touch them in some way – hold their hand or touch their arm — and such a small thing seemed to just make their whole day. That kind of small talk, to me, is something entirely different than cocktail party small talk. Although there was this one time I stopped to talk to a lady in a wheel chair at the nursing home and she told me to get the *&%$ away from her and she kicked me. I said, “Ok then, you have a nice day.” It made me laugh.

      September 11th, 2008 at 8:11 am

    2. Linda says:

      I love this AM! I think perhaps I am, at 61, sort of half-way inbetween. Sometimes I feel like I’m back in high school trying desperately to find a bit of “witty small talk” at a friend’s party when I am actually brave enough to have a conversation with a guy!(sorry about the run-on sentence – I get nervous just thinking about it!)
      Other times I’m just like your Mom. I find it much easier these days to actually talk to strangers. I do get strange looks sometimes. Hmmm….I’m probably getting older than I think 🙂

      September 11th, 2008 at 8:31 am

    3. Knighton says:

      Yes exactly. What you said.

      September 11th, 2008 at 6:57 am

    4. Heidi says:

      My husband is great at small talk. He also makes friends every place we go. One evening we were out visiting with the neighbors, and a family drove by very slowly as though they were looking for a certain house, so my husband walked to the street to help them out. He gave them directions and then stood at their car and visited for 15 minutes. My neighbors asked if he knew them and I had to say “well, he didn’t, but I assume he does now.”

      And he’s only 42; I wonder what he’ll be like in twenty years.

      September 11th, 2008 at 6:58 am

    5. Jean says:

      I think there is a “small talk” gene that you either inherit or you don’t. People tell me I can talk to anybody, but I still find small talk difficult at times with some people. My dad was good at “small talk”, hence my gene theory. I must have gotten it.

      Either that or I’ve just spent far too many years at home with only 3 children to talk to most of the time. After that, you’ll talk to a wall, so strangers who actually respond are a treat!!

      September 11th, 2008 at 7:04 am

    6. Antique Mommy says:

      I wish I could blame it on the internet, but I’ve been like this before Al Gore even invented it.

      September 11th, 2008 at 10:40 am

    7. Cyndi says:

      Holy cow, your mom must be a clone of mine. She will talk to ANYONE at ANYTIME, ANYWHERE about ANYTHING!

      And yes, she has, on occasion, spoken about her colonoscopy.

      September 11th, 2008 at 7:17 am

    8. Janna says:

      I excel at small talk. Just ask my husband. He says that I am the only person he knows that can get a life story out of someone, whether on a bus at Disney World or having my teeth cleaned! (It really bothers Mr. Anti-social when I do this in his presence!)
      I enjoy people’s life stories and experiences, even if it’s for a brief moment in time, It sure makes the time pass!
      As far as a “small talk” gene, I have to admit that I am also the daughter of a small talker – well, actually, a talker PERIOD.
      Love your blog!

      September 11th, 2008 at 7:21 am

    9. chrissy says:

      I’m horrible at small talk in real life. I just can’t think of what to say. And I could never get to know someone out in public like that. I can only just smile and nod. I do that a lot on blogs, too, but people can’t tell.

      September 11th, 2008 at 7:32 am

    10. aggiema says:

      Funny but true!

      September 11th, 2008 at 7:46 am

    11. Lysa TerKeurst says:

      If I’ve said it once, I’ll probably wind up saying it a thousand times…I love the way you write.

      Who cares if you’re not that great at small talk sister when you write and do photography with world class excellence~

      September 11th, 2008 at 7:47 am

    12. Mrs. Brownstone @ XBOX Wife says:

      I can make and fake it through small talk better now than I used to could, but it is a fierce inner battle to find a comfort level.

      Your mom and my grandma need to meet!

      September 11th, 2008 at 7:55 am

    13. another sue says:

      Some of them are lonely. And the rest may be storing up stories against future loneliness. As a society, we keep people alive beyond their natural lifespans with apparent ease, but then we disregard their very human very real needs for human interaction. Just sayin’. I am watching my mother die a slow, lingering, uncomfortable death, and I am angry. At all the people who stop me on the street to ask how she is and tell me how much her letters have meant to them over the years, and yet, yet. . . I don’t find their letters to her when I go to her room, and I don’t see their names in her guest book. Is small talk so hard to pull off in nursing homes? Must be.

      September 11th, 2008 at 7:56 am

    14. amyB says:

      That’s what I LOVE about your blog. You always try and respond to the comments, and as a reader…I really appreciate it! I hold all other bloggers up to this regard, but they fail! 🙂

      September 11th, 2008 at 8:33 am

    15. Gwendolyn says:

      I hate small talk, too. But my mother is possiibly worse at it than I am. I think maybe she just doesn’t like anyone outside of her family. LOL

      So maybe you only get friendlier with age if you have a friendly gene pool. I hope that doesn’t mean that I am doomed.

      September 11th, 2008 at 8:47 am

    16. Common Mom says:

      I’m soooo NOT good at small talk! It scares me to death!

      I think it gets easier as you get older because you have more life experience . . . more to talk about . . . more that you CAN talk about . . . and what grandparent type DOESN’T want to “help” the “young kid” next to them 🙂

      September 11th, 2008 at 8:51 am

    17. Jeni says:

      Apparently it’s true in other countries, too. We were on a tour of Ruby Falls with a guy from Peru. Even though I only speak High School Spanish, he talked to us during the whole tour, complete with big guestures, and fnishes with a story about how he was shot at by the Peruvian mob. Interesting guy!!

      September 11th, 2008 at 9:00 am

    18. MrsNehemiah says:

      its hard to find someone who understands the give and take nature of small talk. I’m always get the impression that if I wait for them to say something I’m boring them and If I speak too long I’m boring them. maybe people are just easily bored. or maybe I’m just paranoid.

      Mrs N

      PS I’m “spittin mad” too (about your MIL’s incident) but my comment got devoured.

      September 11th, 2008 at 9:03 am

    19. Julie at Elisharose says:

      We’ll put your mom and my son in a room together. He must be a throw back. That kid can talk to anyone anywhere. He knows everyone in the neighborhood. He’s 13 now, but he has always been that way. We adopted him at birth. The courts made it legal when he was about 6 months old. He flirted with the judge so much that the judge announced that he was going to have to hold that baby when we were done. We have pictures of them. He’s something else.

      September 11th, 2008 at 9:06 am

    20. Quirky says:

      I’m lousy at small talk. I’ll make an effort to engage if someone else (like your Mom) seems determined to talk, but I never start it. I can’t seem to get off of the weather, and unless the city is being devoured by locusts or something, you can only milk the weather for 2 or 3 sentences max.

      I agree with the small talk gene. My Dad and sister could talk to walls.

      September 11th, 2008 at 9:26 am

    21. Wendy says:

      I’m not good at small talk, either. Even on-line. My mother-in-law excels at it…it is an amazing thing to behold.

      September 11th, 2008 at 10:02 am

    22. bea says:

      I just posted about small talk too!

      And I know what you mean about that generation. There are a lot of retirees in my new Small Town, and there’s just something so gracious about the way they can chat away to each other about absolutely nothing with no sign of impatience or embarrassment.

      September 11th, 2008 at 10:19 am

    23. Steffj89 says:

      You know I hate to admit this but in someways it is as a result of our electronic abilities that we dont have the same abilities as our parents to have small talk…its easier to talk with the anonimity(sp) of the net and text message. My mom used to embarrass me with her ability to tell and recieve someones life story in line at Target, but the truth is sometimes now I envy that ability.
      I am afraid the technology that is allowing us all this worldwide interaction is starting to cause us to lose the ability for face to face human interaction and it is actually among our most basic of human needs.
      Interesting post
      Steff

      September 11th, 2008 at 10:35 am

    24. Joni says:

      email me please. I think I lost MOM my cousin’s email address. I haven’t heard and she always replies.

      September 11th, 2008 at 10:58 am

    25. Stephanie says:

      My husband is one of those folks who will start a conversation with anyone, anywhere. He even talks in ELEVATORS! Horrors!

      Not me. I feel dumb.

      September 11th, 2008 at 11:50 am

    26. Lindsey says:

      The first link to Bub & Pie is misspelled in the link (bupandpie). De-lurking to let you know.

      September 11th, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    27. Vintage Mommy says:

      My mom and I are both small-talkers. Sometimes I think I’m compulsively friendly (or just nosey). But people like to tell me things and I like to listen!

      September 11th, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    28. Brigitte says:

      It’s one reason I have a tough time with my MIL – she can get some stranger’s life story out of them in about 3 minutes, while I was raised not to “pry”, if someone wants me to know something, they’ll tell me. I think we came from two different planets!

      September 11th, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    29. HarryJack'sMom says:

      Just like that, my beloved Gramma “never met a stranger” – thanx as always for the happy reminder! (and a link to another great blog)

      September 11th, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    30. Susan says:

      I’ve always said I was born 40 years too late (1968). Maybe because I was raised by antique parents (born in the early 1920’s), I seem to have inherited their ability to make small talk. I talk to everyone everywhere! (Usually not people my own age, though, because they tend to not want to make small talk as much.) My kids are always walking away with me saying, “Mom, did you KNOW that person?” You’d think they’d realize by now that I don’t need to know anyone to talk to them. Sometimes incessantly. *ahem* I think your parents and I would get along great!

      September 11th, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    31. Beck says:

      My dad talks to people EVERYWHERE. He MUCH prefers chatting with people to talking to people he already knows. It’s ANNOYING.

      September 11th, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    32. Melissa says:

      I’m such a bad small-talker. I’ll avoid the kitchen at work until I know no-one is in there, so I don’t have to small talk them, or even worse, do the awkward dance of one person leaving and one person entering the kitchen simultaneously.

      How are y’all doing with the storm? Is it going to hit you? Are you safe and huddled in at home?

      September 11th, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    33. Susan J. says:

      I am not a small talk person either. My husband fills that void for both of us. He will talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime. I cannot tell you how many times he has told me about “this perosn he met on the plane.”
      On the other hand, I hate an awkward silence. For example, in Ladies Bible class, if the leader asks a question, I feel bad if no one says anything. There is another mom there who does not have a problem with that. At all. I don’t think she gets the concept of awkward silence.
      And that makes me a little crazy.

      September 11th, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    34. Dawn @ My Home Sweet Home says:

      I think you have lovely social skills! You ask questions in a way that shows you care about the answers (as opposed to meaningless small talk).

      I can carry on an easy conversation with people in lines, etc., but I avoid the airplane-like stuff so you don’t get stuck in a 3 hour conversation when you really want to read.

      I have such a sense of boundaries and “personal space” that I often don’t ask the questions that would really let me get to know someone. I admire people who are able to do that, and you are one of them.

      September 11th, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    35. lylah ledner says:

      great post – i love coffee with a friend and time to chat and converse and cry and i love the twitter touches to connect quickly across the miles.

      thanks to you for giving your advice over at the lylah blog. i’m ‘fix’n’ to post some update pics.

      just need to make some drapes…loved the suggestions.

      September 11th, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    36. gunky says:

      is it coincedence that you both posted about small talk on the same day?

      do you think maybe people spend more time alone, so they are worse at small talk/social niceties than generations past?

      there is nothing more blog-flattering than having a popular blogger comment back on a not-popular blogger’s site. you are special that way.

      September 11th, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    37. Happy Geek says:

      Something about being raised around the FDR generation (we practically lived at the retirement home my dad ran) has allowed me to chit chat it up with anyone.
      VERY helpful skill for a pastors wife. Just don’t ask me to initiate it. But if you start, we can go all day.

      September 11th, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    38. Lisa @ put-it-on-the-list says:

      I used to envy people who moved at ease through a room full of people while I watched my toes.

      Then, strangely, I grew a small talk gene. No idea how it happened. Sometimes shyness hits again and I feel the familiar horror around people I don’t know well. (“What do I say? Everyone else is talking to someone.”) But usually I’m at ease with people now.

      How? No idea. If I could fix it for other people, I would — I’ve been there. I did wait tables for several years, which will bring you out of your shell pretty quickly, but it’s not like you want to start that anytime past age 20.

      My hubby would tell you I could talk to a wall (though he’s just as bad). We have to drag each other out of social situations because they’re so much fun for both of us. Silly extroverts.

      September 11th, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    39. Joanna says:

      Small talk = chance to stick foot in mouth. I know this too well as I’ve developed a taste for my foot.

      Internet – behold the power of the delete button. It’s like cheese only better. 🙂

      September 12th, 2008 at 5:59 am

    40. Beverlydru says:

      In describing your mother, you also described mine. I fear that I am becoming my mother. The comfort is in the fact that everybody loves her.

      September 12th, 2008 at 1:33 pm

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