Background: Early on in our relationship, many of the fights
B and I engaged in in which B and I engaged were over his expectation that I could successfully navigate social interactions with strangers. I still remember his gentle suggestion that my pulling out a kindle to read at the table during our friend’s wedding reception could possibly be perceived–by some people–as slightly rude. But in my defense, I was really bored.
Small talk just isn’t a thing that I do very well. The topics that I like to discuss most are religion and politics, which are apparently the two things that Miss Manners says we must never, ever bring up with strangers. This has the effect of making strangers some of my least favorite things.
Strangers and spiders and ignorant opinions,
Driving in snowstorms and having no minions,
Birds with their pointy beaks, claws, molting wings
These are a few of my least favorite things.
All this to say that my reluctance, and sometimes downright refusal to play nicely with others has been a small but persistent bone of contention between me and B, whose tendency it is to be charming toward man and beast and beloved by all. Seriously. If I didn’t love him so much I would probably try to think two or three bad thoughts about him just out of spite.
B: Jess, you know nobody likes small talk. It’s something people have to work at. It’s a skill you can learn.
Me: I don’t want to learn it. It’s too hard. I have such terrible ADD, you should really think of me as handicapped, and there ought to be laws against…hey squirrel!
B: I promise, it gets easier with practice.
Me: Maybe I can just be an eccentric instead. I’ll start quizzing people about their political philosophies right off the bat.
B: That’s not a bad idea. People love meeting someone who is a little weird. They’ll definitely think you’re interesting. (Aside: he really believes this, and for that I adore him)
Me: Okay, I think I have my next conversation starter: How about those menstrual impurity laws? Is Leviticus whack or what?
B: You should totally use that. But we won’t tell people you’re my wife; we’ll tell them you’re my…
B: No, no. Too closely related.
I never really closed in on what would be an acceptable degree of separation for him. Maybe he’ll tell people I’m his garbage man…whom he likes to take to parties, kind of like a trained monkey. Well, he’d better think of something and fast because this is so going to happen.
On a more serious note, here’s a nice video about how everyone is neurotic. I find it very comforting.