Friday, December 09, 2011

It's no small thing

Small talk is one of my worst things.

I am 34 years old and I'm still learning things about myself. That's what I love about my 30's, because I discover things about me that are inherently true, and then I just accept them, whereas I spent my 20's stumbling on to self-discoveries and then attempting to squelch them. "What's that, self? You don't want to go to Super Saturday? Well, that just can't be right because everyone in their right mind needs an adorable, hand-painted turkey! Even if your stenciled squares ARE crooked!" I just refused to listen. But now I do. And my self has made me realize that small talk gives me anxiety.

Case in point. When I go to the school, I get into the elevator with all the other parents and kids and look down, avoiding eye contact. I focus on giving compliments to the kids on their rain boots, their Spiderman shirt, their fancy hairdo. When we get into the classroom, I smile at people and say hello, but I don't know what to say to them. I just don't. If someone starts a conversation with me, I will certainly oblige, but I often say strange things that I regret later. In the play yard after school, I hide in a corner of the playground to avoid small talk. I try to call Lisa or Rachel, or I get Mila involved in an intense conversation (it isn't difficult these days, all I have to do is say "Katniss" or "Food, Inc." and she's off.) I will sometimes approach a mom or group of moms I know and awkwardly eavesdrop on their conversation until I hear a jump-in point: "I know! Baking pies from scratch IS crazy hard!" but that's definitely only if I'm feeling brave.

I've always tried to tell people that I'm shy, but they never believe me, especially after I've just spent the last 30 minutes telling them my life story. But I know now that there's a difference between being shy and feeling comfortable with people. I just don't feel comfortable approaching someone and discussing the weather or where they grew up, or how many children I have (which is actually QUITE the icebreaker, let me tell you.) What I really want to do is to be able to walk up to someone and say, "How crazy was that episode of Walking Dead?" or "Chris kicked my butt in Zumba last night," or "I'm starving, let's go get Diet Cokes and Thai!" I crave familiarity.

I've tried getting better at it, but it's just not really my thing. Do people think I'm a snob? Well, yes. That has happened many times. Do I give negative first impressions? Indeed I do. I feel sometimes like maybe I should carry a card that says "Friend me on Facebook" and pass it to people, so we can get to know each other online first. Is that crazy? I actually have quite a few friends on Facebook that I know more online than I do in real life. Don't get me wrong. I love and value my real-life relationships. They are everything. I am so grateful for the many, many friends that I've made here in NY, that have accepted me and broken through my shell, as it were. By not opening my mouth, I guess I'm probably missing out on lots of other potential friendships. But then sometimes I get burned when I make an attempt. Like the mother of Mila's friend who indirectly reamed me for pulling my kids out of school the week before Christmas break (I'm sorry, but where else but New York do kids only get a 1 week Christmas break? Redonkulous!) That ended that pleasant conversation at Starbucks pretty dang quick.

It's funny, because I see this shyness/awkwardness in some of my kids as well. Mila just downright ignores people when they say hello to her. It's almost comical. I have to say, "Mila. Mila. MILA. So-and-so just said hi to you. Did you hear her? Oh, you did..." That's probably a little more of her dad's anti-socialness/I'm-on-another-planet-that-exists-in-my-mind, though. Ethan is the most social person in the world, so who knows where that came from, then you get to the twins, and their teachers tell me they are the quietest ones in the class. "Are they always so nice and quiet at home?" they ask. After I've finished laughing hysterically, I say, "No, no, in fact, they are anti-quiet." So, you see? It's all about who you feel comfortable with.