Tuesday 5 March 2013

Small Talk

I'm not really sure I understand humans at all. I mean, what’s the point anyway when as soon as you get to know one it grows old and dies, taking your secrets with it to the grave. Or is that pets? I get confused.

Take food. I used to marvel at the way people would eulogise over a new type of processed cheese slice, gushing out their praise and drooling at the thought, longing for their next encounter. I’d try said cheese, find it, well, a bit cheese-like, shrug and get on with my life. People, eh? What a bunch of tossers. 

But that isn't it. It isn't that I am out of step with other people’s aspirations and lifestyle choices at all, I seem to be out of step with their perceptions of others’ perceptions. Which sounds a bit mad, so I’d better try to explain. An example here from my past, from the days when I cared: 

I’m on the edge of a conversation; a bunch of people I know (let’s call them ‘friends’ for want of any better term) went out last night. They went to a new pub and it was abso-fucking-lutely brilliant; the best night of their lives to behold such wonders, “You MUST go!”. So, a few weeks later I have the opportunity to try out this Nirvanic experience for myself. I go. It turns out to be just another pub and – just as with all other pubs – it’s a big, noisy, uncomfortable place where wankers try to outshout each other and strangers spill drinks in my path. Are my ‘friends’ mad? Were they on drugs? Why was, well, that, the best thing they’d ever done? 

I harbour feelings of enmity and feelings of separateness. I am not like other people – they thought this was brilliant, I know it’s shit. But, of course, because I’m different, I keep my observations to myself... until the day I reveal my utter confoundedness to one of these ‘friends’. They seem somewhat taken aback at my impression of their impressions of the place. “It’s just a pub,” they say, “I don’t see what the fuss is about.”

And I’m stunned; but you were one of the ones saying it was the best night of your life, that you could have happily died, having experienced the full extent of what it means to be human. “Oh, I think you’re exaggerating,” they say and change the subject. The fuck? 

It’s taken years of this kind of bullshit for me to finally work out what’s wrong. It's not you, it's me; I'm too emotionally honest about these things. I go out, I get drunk, I have a reasonable time and in the morning I say so. It was, you know, it was okay. Really, it was fun… and then I got drunk and went home – JUST LIKE YOU ALL DID! The bit I never understood was how shallow and meaningless that next-day small talk is meant to be. 

Lazy orators use superlatives as punctuation. ‘It was an okay night.’ does not make for a conversation, apparently. For a conversation – this isn't a debate, dummy! – you have to lie, exaggerate, outdo each others’ tittle tattle, banter, grunts, etc. THAT’s where I got it wrong. Nobody ever taught me this. And so I'm going to tell you the truth. Like I was brung up to do. 

Small talk is exactly that; it is meaningless. It’s small. It means nothing, it's so small. Nothing. There, got it? This means you can exaggerate until your arse falls off. You can exaggerate a million times until; you are blue in the face, until you quite literally die and it’s all right. It’s not only acceptable, it’s the way things are. 

So, that’s the bit I've had wrong for fifty-odd years. It’s not that people are so easily wowed by the mundane, not that they crave squeezy cheese at all. But to admit all this would be to face up to the mundanity of existence, which, let’s face it, would be downright depressing. So, to pretend it’s all better than it is, everybody else – hear that? everybody but me – simply lies about their life and everybody else colludes with that lie and then forgets all about it. 

But what about the BIG talk? This morning you should be talking about economics and Europe and immigration and welfare. You should be getting angry about the government passing bills that extend the powers to enact justice in secret. You should be working out what you will do to help get us avert economic Armageddon. Wait! Where are you going? What are you laughing at now? Eh? Eh? Tell me!! 

Great party, dude!

Sod it. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. We had a party on Twitter last night – it was, well it was just, wow, you know, I mean it was just BRILLIANT!!


  1. That post was... Ok.

    Nothing special mind.

  2. Interesting perspective on disconnectedness that I totally understand. You're not alone. Think different.

  3. The thing is that in so many people's lives not only must everything, even a visit to the local pub, be the best thing ever but they all adore the fact that they are all 'having a laugh.'

    You may recall laughing because something was genuinely funny but most of the people who I have met in pubs and so on are hell-bent on having a laugh at any expense. There will be the odd dirty joke, most of which have been heard before, and at every statement someone will laugh out loud or more likely cackle. But the biggest 'laugh' will be at someone else's expense. That includes insult or gesture or even, in some cases, physical intervention in other's lives.

    'Having a laugh' may involve damage to property, assaulting someone, behaving inappropriately, getting so drunk you soil yourself, or being a complete and utter prat.

    'Having a laugh' now governs all social interactions. You want to talk about the inefficiency of government, the rise of the state's non-elected agencies and their failure to meet the needs of people, or even the decay of educational standards? Tough. That isn't 'having a laugh.' And it comes nowhere near even 'having a fucking good laugh.'

    If you want to say that Rome fell because the barbarians were at the gates and wanted to draw a parallel with us today having barbarians both at the gates and inside the city, you would now need to say that the barbarians 'were having a laugh' at the gates.