Photo by Emily Long
I hate getting my hair cut. I hate getting my nails done. I hate walking into stores with helpful sales associates. I hate chatty waiters and waitresses.
I also hate dating. And I’m finally realizing there’s a connection.
I just hate small talk, and I think it’s because I have this powerful fear of boring people.
I don’t believe that the person doing my nails, who knows nothing about me, actually wants to hear about my job while she’s rubbing my feet or clipping my nails. I don’t think the person cutting my hair really cares where I went to school or what my plans are for Christmas. They don’t know me, so why should they care? I don’t have any desire to know those superficial details about their lives either. I barely have the energy to talk to my friends and family, and as an introvert, I don’t want to waste my time talking on that superficial level.
A part of me knows that’s how you meet people. You start off with those conversations, and sometimes, they blossom into things worth talking about.
I’m also realizing, though, that making friends was so much easier when we were younger because those awkward conversations were few and far between. At school, you already had so much in common with your classmates. You could talk about the same teacher and the same assignments and the same after-school activities. In college, my closest friends were made first because of a common experience, whether that was cross-country, sorority council meetings, or writing center appointments.
Now the people I talk to the most are my co-workers. We’re all teachers. We have a common struggle. We know the same kids and the same adults. It is the rare teacher who I can talk to about something OTHER than our kids.
It’s also the rare friend from high school or college who I can talk to about my life now. I fear boring them with details of my day-to-day existence because they have no connection to it. And I totally get that, because I don’t always want to hear about what happens at a job I don’t understand that deals with people who I don’t know.
That was part (and, admittedly, only a small part) of why my first relationship fell apart. When he went to college and I stayed in high school, we no longer had as many shared friends, and we had far fewer shared experiences. The conversations became forced. Instead of having that instant connection, we fell into polite patterns of “How was your day? What did you do?” We didn’t have enough depth to transcend the lack of common experiences anymore.
And that’s why I fear and hate dating. It’s just SO MUCH small talk. I know the point is to find those commonalities that can push you past that boundary, but knowing that might not happen and that I would be wasting precious free time and energy on small talk is enough to deter me for now.
So what have I learned from this realization? To treasure the few friends and family members who don’t require small talk, for sure.
But more than that, maybe that the problem is me. Maybe I need to take more risks, to push past that fear of boring someone else, and let them in. They might get bored. They might not. But I can’t escape this vortex of “How was your weekend?”, “Where did you go to school?”, and “What do you do?” unless I try.