Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Small Talk

Anxious. That's probably the best word to describe how I am feeling about the upcoming weekend. I am returning "home" to spend a few days at camp with my family and will attend both a family day and a dinner-dance event for my 25th high school class reunion. I had a nice time at my 20th reunion and I am cautiously optimistic about going to this one and yes, I'm a little nervous too. I am looking forward to seeing and talking with folks I spent my childhood and teen years with, yet I am also quite aware of the fact that I've never found small talk to be easy. There's always a lot of small talk at these types of gatherings. I'm not good at it. I wish I were different.

This afternoon I ran into my friend Jo while having lunch with my husband. I was genuinely surprised and happy to see her but I stood there awkwardly, with my salad balancing on my lunch tray and with a smoothie in my hand, and found myself stammering foolishly. She told me I had something on my face too so I can just imagine what I looked like as I tried to brush it away while trying not to dump my lunch in her lap. I told my friend I was out shopping for a dress to wear to my reunion and that I'd just found one. She introduced me to her husband and I did the same introducing her to Eric, but after I walked away I thought, "Whoa. I should have told her how cool it was to hear of her recent road trip. I should have told her how I talked about her to my older sister a few days ago". Luckily I did get another brief chance to connect with her as she passed me in leaving the cafe, and I did bring up her road trip, but well, I was awkward. That's all there is to it.

I see so many people greeting one another, sometimes for the first time even, and seamlessly chatting for hours. I tell my husband that I am not sure how I come off to people at times. I just don't know. I know it sounds rather foolish to say but I honestly think I'm shy. Or maybe there's another word that would fit me better. Reserved? Introverted perhaps? Quiet? I don't know. I teach 10 months out of the year which has me "on" for 8 hours a day, talking to teachers and teens, guidance counselors, parents, and administrators. I even love to act and sing on stage, so I can't be shy, right?! I do like talking with people. I like people (most of the time). It takes me a little while to warm up. Maybe I just don't like bullshit. I suppose I want conversations to be genuine and sincere. I sometimes wish I could launch into those types of discussions at the drop of a hat. Instant heart-to-heart talks, that's what I would like.

I've never tolerated anything but honesty from those I spend time with on a daily basis. I can't stomach anything else. When someone gives me an excuse that isn't honest, I want to distance myself from them as quickly as possible. I tell my students this very early on in the year. My own children have grown up in a very honest household, for better or for worse. I tell them I am patient when it comes to most human faults, but someone not being straight with me causes me great frustration, not to mention it really ticks me off. Too much charm makes me suspicious too.

Trying to figure this out tonight I found myself asking some friends, "Do you think I'm shy or is there a similar word that would describe me?" Judi, an old high school classmate of mine, replied with the word "classic". "Classic"? I asked her. She replied saying, "Yes, like Streisand, Hepburn....you have amazing talent! I don't think of you as shy at all". (Wow. That was nice to hear. But my first thought was, "Boy. I've got HER fooled, don't I?!") Another friend, Kim, from my hometown said, "I don't think you're shy". Hmmm...was this trend going to continue? Tiffany, a former student of mine, made me smile with satisfaction when she said simply, "composed". Then arrived Binaca's comment. A new coworker and friend who has probably seen me at my worst added, "I think you're a delightful combination of reserved and warm. And classy. Very classy". (Yes, I plan to keep HER around for the ol' self esteem!)

It'll surely take me a bit longer than this discussion to figure out my own neurosis, and I suppose that's okay. The most important thing I've got going for me though besides that honesty thing is a sense of humor. When my friend Jo heard me speak tonight of all this, she said, "What piece of something on your face? I was the one with the big wad of sandwich in her cheek that made it hard to talk.... did you think I meant you? Funny. As for "awkwardly stammering," I missed that too! Now that I know you like Panera (who doesn't) we should plan to meet up there sometime this summer!" Ah, small talk mixed with plans to meet to talk again with greater substance! I love it.

So I need not have worried after all. I didn't even have something on my face! And maybe if I set my tray down next time, I'll be able to focus on something intelligent to say! I'll have to remember this trick this coming weekend when I'm at my class reunion. Wish me luck.

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