11/3/08

Small Talk

I'm not a fan of small talk. I'm not good at it. I can't just keep it simple. There's something in me that MUST give people information. And I would much rather hear what's really going on with the person I'm talking to, rather than chatting about how many leaves are piling up on the sides of the streets. I do realize most people aren't comfortable diving right into the deepest parts of themselves and their lives with a practical stranger, but I'm just saying, I don't like small talk.


Therefore, if I'm forced to small talk, I have a tendency to throw out any random tidbit of information floating through my brain, private or not.

So when we went to the city hall on Halloween for the annual bash I was bombarded with opportunities to make a fool of myself in conversation.

There were a lot of neighborhood acquaintances there. They wanted to small talk.

How did I handle this? Well, I couldn't stop myself from talking about Asher having hydrocephalus. A truck barreling toward me would not have stopped me.

I'm not someone who needs random people to know what's going on in our lives. But I am someone who needs to have something to say during a battle with small talk. So as soon as there was a moment's silence, where myself and the other person would both sigh and glance away, trying to think of something to say, instead of saying "look at the gorilla costume," I would suddenly dump medical information on the poor unsuspecting soul. (yes, I love run-on sentences. I small talk just like a run-on sentence, thank you very much.)

Here's a little moment in time with me at city hall on Friday. Come along:

There I am, standing and talking with a neighborhood acquaintance, the fifth or so of the evening, holding a small firemen's helmet in one hand and a bag of candy in the other. Can you see it?

Now picture a short pause in conversation and listen for my nervous chuckle and sigh. And then it happens:

Me - "So... Asher is going to have a shunt!" (for some reason I say it all cheery-like.)

Neighbor- "I'm sorry, what did you say?"

Me - (spews out my uncomfortable-I-can't-believe-I-just-said-that laugh) "Oh, um...there's this medical issue thingy going on with Asher, but he'll be fine." (waves hand like too much fluid on the brain is comparable to strep throat.)

Neighbor - "Oh no. What kind of medical thing?"

Me- lame explanation of hydrocephalus while thinking I have no idea why I'm sharing this with a practical stranger who appears more and more uncomfortable with private family information that should be shared with close friends and family (and the internets of course) and not practical (real life) strangers. (How's that for a run-on?)

Neighbor - (has no idea what to say to stranger/friend Heather in city hall on Halloween after being blindsided by the random "SHUNT!") Pauses. And then...a string of questions I can't answer as their natural human curiosity kicks in:

Will he have the shunt for life?
How long will he be in the hospital?
Will he be able to play sports?
Is this that thing that people used to get and doctors didn't know what it was so their heads would just grow and grow and then they would die?
How does a baby get this?

Me- repeating "I don't know" over and over.

I can throw "too much brain fluid, not draining, surgery, and shunt out there, but I really don't have any more answers until Thursday. Maybe I should wait until then to leave the house.

38 clicked right here to comment:

Sara@ Butterville said...

You should always start with the weather. Then if it's a guy ask about "the game". Ladie, ask if she has children...
You did fine when we met last month... I thought.

Keyona said...

Sometimes when you are overwhelmed you can't help the outbursts of information. Us moms understand, I'm sure I would act the same way if I were in your shoes. Keep your chin up. I'll be checking for updates.

LisAway said...

Thanks for this post. Now I know what my problem is. I, too, throw out random/strange things that are in my head in the middle of small talk, prompting a string of questions and causing me to apologize profusely because, oops, this talk isn't nearly as little as it used to be and I sense that it may possibly be my fault. I can do run-ons, too, you see.

I have this thing where I think all medical issues should be talked about with whoever will listen. I love hearing about them because I always get the sense that most things are either pretty normal, or at least it's pretty normal to have some medical issue.

If you ever get pregnant again and have issues with varicose veins, just start talking to me about the weather, and I'm sure, soon enough, I'll be going on and on about mine.

I'm really grateful to you for your openness about Asher's issues. And I'm still praying for you.

Kazzy said...

Not a huge fan of small talk either. That is why when I have a close friend I like to know them very well. My best friend and I even skip any kind of "hello" or other pleasantries on the phone and just start right in. Thanks for the post, and we are happy to hear about Asher any time you want to "talk". Really.

the MomBabe said...

Yeah, but if you kept it all to yourself you would drive yourself CRAZY. Besides, even though you were all self conscious, they probably don't care. I mean, they care about the situation, but they don't care whether or not you told them. oh geez, this is sounding all wrong. hmm. What I'm trying to say is your shouldn't be self conscious about sharing information. No one really likes "small talk" they're all dying to know what goes on in each and every home, they just don't have the balls to cut the crap. The end.

Suzie said...

Dont worry about it. You can say whatever you want when you're under stress. Its ok

Brooke said...

I do the same thing. Though, I usually talk about someone that I'm struggling with, why, and what I should be doing about it (but am not). Then, the obvious happens, and it gets back to the person. Sometimes I just wish I could shut my mouth. I am not good at small talk.

a Tonggu Momma said...

I over-share when nervous. That is why I am a better blogger than acquaintance.

Heidi Ashworth said...

Yep, you and I, separated at birth. I just HAVE to impart everything I know on a subject. And if a friend with whom I formally was on a "deepest darkest secrets" road decides to change to keeping it to just the piles of leaves alongside that road, I'm no longer interested. I know from experience (not all of it good or fun) how hard it is to moderate yourself. However, in this case, I think you had every right to talk about Asher and his situation--people really do want to know whether they know it or not. It is better than not knowing why you are suddenly not around or suspecting something is wrong and not knowing what's up--maybe taking it personally, or whatever. Plus, people are willing to help and be there for you when they know what is wrong, especially when they feel that you trusted them with that info. So, okay, now I am babbling. Sorry. (Believe it or not, I KNOW MORE, but I'm stopping now, anyway.)

RosyRose said...

I so get that! If I am carring something heavy it is so hard not to interject it into my conversations. I like to attribute it to being "real". Sounds better that way!:) I am just getting to know you but let me tell you your situation popped up in my head numerous times this weekend and I prayed for you guys...Your not alone!

Ron said...

For all the wonderful things my honey and I share in common, this is one of our fundamental differences. I tend to be a private person most of the time, except when blogging to the few hundred million random readers in the wide word of blogshere where it is different because you cannot see the horrified reation in their faces. (Yes, run-on-sentence-itis is apparently contagious.)

My wife was rasied poor. I was raised middle-class. She tells me that part of her conversation style is about that and part of it is about being southern. (She was born in KY and lived between KY and FL all of her life.) She will drop a personal bombshell to a stranger in line at Wal-mart. She will talk about things I dont mention to my brothers and sisters. She doesnt divulge family or state secrets, but, as I tell her son all the time, "Just because it is true does not make it pertinent."
I don't talk about family business. I don't talk about the skeletons in the closet. Now, be prepared, I will talk about Jesus. I will tell you how to fix that electrical problem you are having, in detail. I will talk about writing and publishing. I will talk about cooking. I will discuss politics if the subject is broached.
One other thing that bothers me, (and she and I have discussed this,) is to have a personal conversation with her when others are in eavedropping range.
(Hey you, get out of my bubble!)

Peanut said...

Again I ask, are you me? I can't do small talk either... don't really see the point...
People tend to leave conversations with me, wide-eyed and desperately seeking an exit! I rarely have the restraint not to blurt out the most personal aspects of my life.

Kristina P. said...

Next time, just talk about breasts, periods, or something else really uncomfortable. Then they'll forget all about the shunt conversation.

Becky said...

I tend to clam up and not share anything at all. Like when I was five months pregnant and in the is-she-pregnant-or-just-hitting-the-Twinkies-too-hard stage, and people would ask me what was new, I'd just shrug. Even if I knew that they didn't know I was pregnant yet. They'd glance at me, my stomach, and there would be a long pause, in which I'm sure they were thinking, okay, obviously SOMETHING is new.

Yeah. Small talk sucks.

Lara said...

Oh, i hate small talk, too. But my reaction is opposite of yours. I just don't talk and then everyone thinks I'm stuck up, when in reality I don't really know what to say.

But hey...remember, this is a big thing with Asher and of course it's on your mind! Hard not to talk about it.

Melanie J said...

Way to find the silver lining: shunt=conversatinal piece!

Kidding, of course.

I'm not much of a small talker either, and if I had to guess (and I don't but I will), I think a big reason people are drawn to you on the internets and in real life is your open nature.

I deal much better with people like you and and I think my tendency to be the same way is why I make and keep good friends.

So keep it up.

Kimberly said...

I would so be doing the exact same thing.

You should've heard me after the miscarriage. I couldn't stop talking about it and making people uncomfortable. Good thing I'm practically a hermit already, eh?

New header is up. Let me know what adjustments you'd like done and then I'll be outta here!

happygeek said...

Hey, if i had the month you've had, I'd be curled up in a ball sucking my thumb. A wee bit of over-sharing, you're doing great!

Sarah@Life in the Parsonage said...

I do it too. When something is so pressing on my mind, it makes it's way into completely everything.

Let's pretend it's normal ;)

Lisa said...

You are the kind of person I like! I really don't like small either, but I don't willy nilly dole out personal info (that's only for blogging!)

But I LOVE to get real with people and LISTEN and to hear about the joys and struggles.

Still praying for Asher and your family.

Mrs. Incredible said...

Heather,

Can you email me again? Because I lost your email address and I wanted to talk about Haiti and hydrocephalus and where the tie-in comes in. Because there IS one, believe it or not.

Corey
jcwaters2002@yahoo.com

Kim said...

I often have diarrhea of the mouth too. It happens to the best of us non small talkers.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I'm the same way, too. Hate small talk. So funny, because in Minnesota, EVERYONE wants to talk about the weather.

Erin said...

I am the same way. Maybe all of us bloggers hate small talk. I also hate it when someone asks how I am doing, and doesn't actually want an answer. Don't ask it then!!

*MARY* said...

I am the complete oppostie. I never let anyone in, I don't like people knowing what's really going on, even family members, and it's caused a lot of problems in the past. I wish I had your gift of opening up, it really is a gift, don't be ashamed to use it.

Abra said...

I totally am awkward in real life - I spew out random things like: "Did you know babies are born without kneecaps?" It's horrible... not only do I get strange looks, but I'm sure it's because they're wondering what Babies kneecaps have to do with Iginlia's game play on Saturday night.

On the flipside, you now have a list of perfectly sane questions to ask on Thursday, so it was a productive conversation right?

minnesotamom said...

I didn't find you to annoyingly spew when we met in person. Then again, I'm much the same way...weather and the like makes me feel awkward, and I probably tend to ask too probing of questions. I'm not one to offer much information without being asked, but I question and question, which probably annoys people.

zana said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog, I do feel a bit more validated! Are you liking the Twilight books? I was surprised that I enjoyed them so!
I have to agree about the small talk. I usually try to avoid those kinds of situations like the plague. :)

Debbie said...

I do that too! I find myself spouting out things to people even though I know I shouldn't. Don't feel alone.

Muthering Heights said...

LOL, oh no! I have to opposite problem...I can't think of ANYTHING to say to people! It's equally awkward!

jodilee0123 said...

Ha! If we ever meet in person--we will probably know each other's deepest darkest secrets within minutes! I have been known to silence many a folk in my day--like the time I insisted on telling the cashier why I needed to use their restroom (I found a gentleman I was care taking for after he had died and he was in the bathroom and we were waiting for the funeral home to come and I had to go potty!! --but I think I could only eeek out "I just found a dead body, can I use your bathroom?") It times of great stress, we just need to tell somebody. Get it out there so you don't have to keep it all bottled up anymore. I am keeping your family in my prayers!

Kate Coveny Hood said...

This is totally me. I got a lot better about it as an adult, but as a teenager? The boys did not know what to make of me...

I actually love it when people suddenly tell me something real about their life. If it's something creepy, I try not to judge - but if it's something like what you described I would want to know more. I would assume that you were bringing it up because you need to talk about it, that it's always there, and that you don't feel like you can stand around talking about the weather when there is this very important thing in your life screaming to be acknowleged. I don't know that I would have bombarded you with questions, but I would have continued the conversation with interest and empathy.

E-mail me anytime you want to chat about hydrocephalus. I'm all ears.

Mommy Madness said...

I'm a great listener. I love to talk but if someone needs to say something I'm there to listen.

Marivic_Little GrumpyAngel said...

I hate small talk, too. I actually feel relieved when someone tells me something "big" about them then I can ask tons of questions because I am now honestly interested and concerned rather than just polite. Also I think considering what you're dealing with you should have lots of "small talks" so you don't have to carry all of it inside you, and maybe you will find people who may know things that are helpful, or maybe just know the right things to say to a Mama who's dealing with something overwhelming. Ojay that was a giant run-on sentence wasn't it? :-)

radioactive girl said...

Oh goodness! If you put the two of us together and made us make small talk it could be the most incredibly awkward conversation ever. I too throw out random personal things that would be best kept to myself.

I am thinking good thoughts for your whole family. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know. I realize I am a random interent stranger, but I would be willing to help if I could!

Kristen said...

I feel you. I am horrible at chit-chat. It seems silly to talk about the trivial. Go big or go home, I always say.

T and T Livesay said...

I can do small talk ... but I really LIKE real talk. It soothes my soul to be real with someone and have them be real in return ...

and yes, what Kristen H. says too.

I think talking about the shunt will help you process all the thoughts and fears and talking to anyone who will listen is great ... maybe try to stick to adults for better responses.

Just to help you feel better ... I once met an older woman who told me in the first five minutes of ever laying eyes on one another that she and her husband had not had sex the last 15 of their 20 year marriage. She told him no one night and he punished her by refusing it for the next 15 years until they divorced (or so her story goes) --- I was sort of without an appropriate response that time -- I think I said, "ooohhh. wow. okay. hmmmm. not good."

And - to top that ... Paige had a REALLY old lady tell her that she lost her virginity at 13 and that her son was gay. Paige had just met the woman and Paige was 11 years old.

We meet some weird ones down here.

You ARE SO SO SO NORMAL.

love! Love to you and yours ...
t.

Anonymous said...

Heather - its the ktown genes that are in your blood. You always tell everyone everything!

Pam

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