I’m not a strong conversationalist. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m particularly bad with strangers (by the way, I classify anyone who I have not known and spoken to every day for at least five years as a stranger). This leads to some fabulously awkward encounters, particularly when I’m a co-host of an event and trying to hide from the guests because I’m not-so-secretly terrified that I’ll actually have to speak to them. I’ve thought about classes. I’ve thought about going out more so that I can practice encounters with strangers (obviously, I nixed that idea as ludicrous). I even tried that experiment where I interviewed people before certain events as a groundbreaker (and oddly enough, I met 3 of my business partners that way– though that had more to do with them trapping me in a parking garage). Regardless, I remain in awe of people who mix and mingle with ease (or at least without nausea).
Given my own difficulties, I try to give other people some leeway when they deal with me because I know that they might be working hard to come up with conversation that will not make me step further behind a tree (or a tripod). Weather is a strong starter with me. I’m still a weather junkie (and yes, I get the irony of me living in an area without actual weather for most of the year). Also, men who appear on CNN weather or the weather channel are guaranteed to bring a smile to my face. Earthquakes make me nervous and raising the specter of an earthquake while standing with me in an elevator isn’t the best idea; but even then I will usually play along. Everyone in Los Angeles complains about the traffic, so that seems to be a fairly safe topic as well.
Assuming that I have children based on my age and asking me whether or not “the little ones” did something nice for me for Mother’s Day is not an approach I’d recommend. Also, “maybe next year” is not an appropriate follow-up to get out of the awkward silence as I’m now not sure if you wished unwed motherhood on me, or for someone else’s divorce (complete with potential step-children). When this happens once in a day—eh, I can shake my head and move on to the next social torture. When it happens three times, I begin to wonder if they know something that I don’t know.
When I get home and flip through the mail to discover that a charity has included a free notepad in their mailing that reads “From the Family of…” I throw in the towel, grab a shovel and embrace the ice cream.
Oh, universe, I’ve missed you.