Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tête-à-Tête

I'm good at a lot of things.  Like a lot a lot.  Reading fast, making egg salad sandwiches, using my turn signals.  You know, I'm a grade "A" citizen.
With all my accomplishments stacking up there is an area of my life in which I am... lacking.

Conversation.
 I'm a pro at listening and encouraging (or criticizing others on a personal level OBVIOUSLY).  I'm funny.  I'm smart.  I'm educated.  I've traveled.  I read the news and I'm up to date on all my current events both locally and globally. I marinate for hours in celebrity gossip and pop culture.  I've been living with the weather since my earthly debut. I'm not a sport extremist but I can certainly hold my coffee.  I should be a specialist.  I should be able to write a how-to article.
My small talk is cheese cake.  Smooth and sweet (sometimes fruity) and goes down easy.  But after that...
I panic.
When the small talk takes that slippery slope into Talking Township it's all downhill.  (That's a bit redundant.)  I can't converse.  Discussion is simply not in my repertoire.
Let's take tonight.  I had a dinner party at my neighbor's house. I've lived here for 5 years.  I know these people.  I've seen them cut their grass, shovel their snow, go to and return from vacations, get the mail in their robes.  Can you see how connected I am with them?  We've partied before.  It was the same old deck of cards- same characters.  This should have been effortless.
But it wasn't.
I choked.
I was even set up for the perfect spike and ended up face down on the gym floor.
Someone might ask: "Does Kole sleep all night?"  Simple.  Easy.  Perfect segway for me to open up and go on and on and on.  What do I say?  "Yes."  Not even "Yes, he does."  I can't get out three words.  All I say is "yes."  I smile and then there is immeasurable silence.  I don't elaborate on his other habits, his age, my favorite things about him, things I have learned, questions about their children or lives.  Just yes. Then another set up "So, Patty, how is the house-selling coming?" And I say, "It's coming."  *crickets*  Hopeful smiling at me, they nod as they wait for more details and slowly the smiles begin the fade and the nods slow down and the person looks away wishing there will be someone there to save them.  I am the one who needs saving.  The person walks away. I'm not offended.  It's not the first time I've been shunned for my condition.  
I think of what I could have said.  "We've had some interest."  That's not bad. I'll say that.  It's a step up.  So, the next victim comes along/I approach someone else eager to try my line.  After we exchange hellos I knew it was coming.  I was all ready.  I was repeating the line over and over in my head.  My knees were clanking.  My smile was anxious. "So," they begin.  This is it.  This is it! "How's the house-selling going?"  And I said... nothing for about 5 seconds...I felt the heat in my cheeks.  What was I gonna say?What was I gonna say?  What was the question?  "Patty?"  "Oh, yeah, the house, is really nice and interesting."
I did not use my lame line.
I did not even answer the question.
This happens to me over and over.
I suffocate in social situations.
After the small talk- I should just go home.

5 comments:

Dylan said...

Aw, dang it! After all of your practicing! Take comfort in this - I think that, once you get to know someone on a deeper level, you are a very easy conversationalist. I never feel weird when I talk to you. Maybe it's just with acquaintances that things are hard. Which is fine, really - do you REALLY want to get any closer to your neighbors? (I don't.)

Julia said...

You are ALWAYS the life of our family parties. But, I really wanted to comment on the title. It's so familiar. A vocabulary word for a short story in high school? Please help me!? All I can see is Mrs. Susynski.

Patty Cakes said...

tete-a-tete means conversation, jules a bug

DoublClik said...

I couldn't even pronounce that title. I'm not a fan of small talk either, I hate it when I'm parking in the morning at the same time as a co-worker because its a looong walk to the timeclock check-in. I panic too, sometimes I walk super fast. If I hold the door for someone, you're just inviting them to walk with you up all the stairs. Sharing an office with 2 other people has forrrrced me to speak up and make conversation, and though I dread it, I'm getting better at talking about nothing and acting like I care.

Holli Fuhriman said...

I have the same problem. Probably about 20 times worse though. That's why visiting teaching is so hard for me. Thanks for talking to me the other day outside the church. And I'm glad to hear there's been some interest in your house. I didn't even know it was for sale.