Either I have trained my friends well, or I must have been so true to my Aquarius self of talking too much about subjects so niche and relatively obscure, that a university colleague (who is a hard science grad student) sent me a Jeff Goldblum as Michel Foucault meme with a text, “I think this looks like something right up your alley.”
He is not entirely wrong, to be honest. In fact, I enjoy more about the fact that he knows about what’s right up my alley, than this meme.
I have been thinking about the idea of small talk versus adult talk a lot lately, now that I am practically an adult myself (I turn 37 in 22 days — yikes!). In my late 20s, fresh out of a controlling relationship that was in no way intellectually stimulating, I disregarded all form of small talks and only wanted to talk about “heavy” stuff. I rediscovered (rediscovered, as in, while I was in said relationship, I had no financial freedom or agency of my own to even muster an action to get something good to read) the joy and the rewards of reading — and I was yearning to have someone to talk about the subjects that I read. In return, I often barged into conversations, flaunting my newfound knowledge as much as I could.
… as Boomer’s “Modern Love” essay illustrates, we are living in a low moment for the art of minimal social interactions. “The criteria by which one chooses what to say shift from ‘what’s true; what’s most interesting’ to ‘what lubricates the exchange; what sets people at ease,’ ” a Vox writer lamented last year. “It’s like trying to speak a foreign language.” Small talk feels phony to some, in part thanks to its embrace by salesperson types—“My motto is ‘every conversation is an opportunity for success,’ ” a networking expert (shudder) chirped to Fast Company. To others, in an era of ruthless efficiency, pleasantries of the past can come to seem like dead weight. With calendars programmed to five-minute increments, and podcasts filling every interstitial moment of silence with wit, shouldn’t conversation be economical and nutritious? Small talk looks like a fussy hors d’oeuvre in the age of Soylent. Introverts have declared war on small talk. They loathe it because they “crave meaning,” because of the “barrier it creates between people,” and because they “don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries.”
I must have sounded super obnoxious that time — if it’s any difference these days.
Fast forward a few years later, I say bosh to this. You don’t start a conversation by relaying every minutiae of Gödelian theorem. Embrace small talks. Ask about the weather. Ask them about how their journey was. Ask about their favourite pie filling. Send in the memes.
Then, talk about Gödel if it’s something you both or as a group agree to do so.