small talk

It can be hard to do the kind of casual chatter which you (I) feel people expect, when your head is crammed full of The Big Stuff.  There are days (weeks, months) when your Issues, whatever they may be, can take over to such an overwhelming extent that there is nothing else to say.  I worry that sounds dangerously like competitive woe (It’s all about me!  My life is so much more tragic than yours!)  I don’t think misery counts for more, but it’s undeniably so much more all-consuming than happyness.  And far harder to share, particularly in a casual-exchange-of-pleasantries kind of way.

Casual griping (preferably about school, or your partner, providing you make it clear you’d never do anything to rock the boat), local gossip and, of course, absolutely anything to do with The Weather are all socially acceptable.  Admitting that you’ve been wrestling all day with thoughts of hurting yourself, or that you’re worried sick about That Person You Love who has the life-threatening illness, and the treatment which is supposed to cure her, if it doesn’t kill her first, or that you’re tearing yourself apart pondering whether doing The Thing which you believe would make you all happier in the end can be justified if it hurts someone else now… decidedly not so good as conversational gambits.

Sometimes I think I’ve forgotten how to talk.  Words spin round and round my head, but don’t find a way out.  I realise there’s a small helping of arrogance in here (nobody could ever understand me!), but I also know how much it hurts if you accidentally do give an honest answer to the ubiquitous How Are You? and the questioner turns away, out of fear or embarassment.  I also hate(hatehate) the idea of being labelled: the mad one, the domestic violence victim, the only lesbian* in the village.   I loathe the idea of labels even more for my children, but fear they might have to learn to live with them.

This is the blessing of working with small children.  They don’t care if you’re a bit silent, so long as you listen to what they have to say, and respond to their needs.

I know I don’t want all my conversations to be heavy ones.  I love it when people distract me, amuse me, entertain me.  Depression doesn’t require a sombre face all the time; it definitely doesn’t remove your ability to scream with laughter, in the right company.  But I also appreciate it when someone  takes time to call up, come round, cross over the playground, and ask how things really are, how me and my children are doing.

Mostly, we’re doing all right.  I am strangely reassured by their school reports.  Somehow, despite enduring a long winter of a mother sunk too far inside her own head to help anyone else, despite witnessing my father’s violence, despite the fact that I’m moving inexorably towards ripping their little world apart, they seem to be doing pretty well.  They all three appear to be maturing into confident caring balanced human beings.  I’m more grateful for this than I can express.

This is my small(er) girl.  She is the Queen of Small Talk.  If you ever find yourself in a tricky social situation, she’s the one you want by your side.  Long lost relatives are invariably charmed by her.  Those who have to spend more time in her company may wilt with exhaustion, as the conversation never ceases.  She is so very like her late paternal grandmother, right down to the sudden irrational rages, followed just as swiftly by sunny charm, that I am boggled they never actually met.

*Oops, accidental coming out post.  I hadn’t planned on that, but ne’er mind, if you didn’t know by now, you’ll probably get over it.  If it bothers you, don’t read.  And bi might be a more accurate label, because I’m sure attractive men do exist, it’s just been a while…

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “small talk

  1. I think the little people have it right. Talking is good, big and little, but sometimes not talking is also good.

    Maybe you’ve just explained why I always feel useless at small talk.

  2. You have just summed up what I have never been able to put into words about my reasons for vanishing for most of the last year, I do not think I would have been good company or could have managed to put on a face that everything was ok, and was far too worried that it would come across as competitive woe to try

  3. Catriona

    Nicola, those who know and love you will never label you. They will just know you as their friend (and as a fantastic mother).

  4. Nicola I have never had the joy of conversation with smaller girl (she mostly just threw up on me, but she did it so nicely I remember even that fondly) so hope I will do one day soon. Your daughters are beautiful! How about a photo of B too – or is he too shy?
    Perhaps someone should write a book called ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Talk’? At least you might be past the days of mums and toddlers and inane conversations about poo!

  5. Gem

    I, too, suck at small talk – and have the same tendency of disappearing when I can’t find small talk. Faking happiness is just so damn exhausting and it’s easier not to try. The little people have it right. Your children are fantastic, and they are the confident caring human beings that they are because of you.

    I agree with Catriona that those who know and love you will never label you.

    Also, congratulations on your coming out post, accidental or not xxx

  6. Nell

    Thank you for this. I am I realise that I’m the opposite I cover up the big things, the things I’m avoiding talking about, the hurts and worries and not quite good enough feelings and I shelter behind inane drivel and ‘small talk’ and conversation and information and did you knows. So I shall continue to distract and possibly entertain but shall also try to ask the real questions and be prepared to answer them too.

    Love without labels or conditions and particularly over the accidental coming out.

  7. Heather

    I don’t know what to say but then you’d know that because when it really matters to me or other pople I usually find I’ve no words at all. It’s easier to witter on about jam or books. And oh right now how I can sympathise about all consuming woe driving everything else out of your mind.

  8. Little people are spectacularly good when you can’t cope with small talk as they really don’t do it and mostly want you to listen. It’s a good balance to have so long as you’ve got some people you can talk about the big stuff with too.

    (and congrats on the (accidental) coming out ❤

  9. Liz

    Please may I give you the labels of awesome friend and fabulous knitter?

    Here to listen whenever you want to talk *hugs*

  10. I hate the small talk too. I tend to babble on like a fool about nothing, or just have nothing to say. I run away a lot too (there’s a reason why teacher’s have cupboards IMHO hiding). Congratulations on coming out too, however accidental it may have been, I bet it feels wonderful to have done it! xx

  11. *hug* *hug* *HUG* it’s hard when you pass the tipping-point between small talk and no talk, though both are to avoid Big Talk.

    QoST is an awesome title! As for labels, eventually people stop labelling you beyond “label-less” when you refuse to accept them an carry on with a “fuck them” attitude. OTOH some labels I’d apply to you are: mother, blogger, crafter, calming (“calmer” sounds wrong when I mean “one who calms”), listener, walker.

    xxx

  12. Stella

    I feel like that about quite a lot of small talk, even when things are good. If it in anyway affects my life, school, weather etc. then I can just about drag myself out of the worst pit and engage for a few moments. However, I can be on top of the world and be rendered silent by a conversation about the X-factor etc*

    I’m not one for turning away when someone wants to offload the big stuff, though I may appear a little glazed over as my wooly brain ponders how best to answer. Enough people turned away from me when I most needed them, and I wouldn’t do that to anyone else.

    Anyway, it has been far too long since we have got together, and even longer since our broods played together. Now I know when we are actually going to be away I can plan our social lives for the holidays. Bring wellies and we can throw the (not so) little people in the river, then we are free to catch up on gossip, bitch about schools, or open up about the really shitty stuff, whatever you feel like.

    A big hug to all of you, it’s a lot to deal with. That goes for hubbie too, even though he’d be totally freaked out if I really did give him a hug!

    xxx
    *I have just realised I have given away the secret of how to shut me up!

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