F*** the small talk

July 6, 2023

Yeah, about the small talk …

But first: I’ve been known to drop the F bomb from time to time, but far less now than in years past. There’s so much jarring vulgarity on podcasts and in our world today and it reads to me as violence. I don’t use f***in my writing, normally, but when I saw this quote, it rang my chimes.

Small talk isn’t my thing.

I want to know what’s going on in your soul. I really do. Beneath the surface. What makes you tick? What excites you? What do you absolutely dislike?

So I’m really not cut out for superficial talk.

I found writings on friendship  by Roman politician Cicero. (Double take–who knew he was a friendship guru?)

He categorized friends in an interesting way. First,  into utility friendships, like the butcher, dry cleaner etc. I wouldn’t call those friendships, but he did.

Then there are what he calls friends of pleasure, like other soccer moms, people in. your book club or people you might go out with for a beer. No delving deep.

Finally, he calls friends who would do anything for us another self.  Which I think is a rare category. And really, for me, my preferred type.

Breaking it down

About utility relationships. They’re transactional. I’m happy to say hi and how are you, but that’s it.

And I no longer have friends who are simply friends of pleasure as he defined them. Since I didn’t have kids, I don’t have the foundation of friends among a maturing mom’s group. Because I moved around geographically, I don’t have a gang of friends from the ‘hood.  Same with career–in Silicon Valley, we all moved as we developed our careers and now, in our silver years (or are they golden?) we live all over the place.

Well, that’s not true. We have reconnected with friends from M’s law school days and have had some fantastic times with these friends of pleasure. so I guess I have a few of those, after all. But they are more than that.

My ideal friendships are some combination of friends of pleasure and another self.  I think he missed a category. Here’s what I mean.

It always comes down to Mom, doesn’t it?

My mother could talk for hours about the food she had at a wedding. In agonizing detail. It always amazed me. If you are a foodie, maybe that would be interesting but usually, food description is Zzzzz.  Back in that day, it wasn’t spectacular, “gourmet” food— just “regular” banquet food. Nothing eye-opening.

Maybe an unusual dish would interest me. MAYBE. Oh, and a discussion of how to prepare something yummy is fine, but simple descriptions of what you ate? If that’s what you want to discuss? Ok but not for me.

Then, sometimes…

A few months ago I met a new friend and at that first, long lunch, we got into all sorts of deeply personal matters. Oh, nothing horrible. Just meaningful stuff. I LOVED it!! And at each get-together since, we do only the minimum small talk. Then, on to meaty matters. Feelings. Situations. Relationships of all kinds.  We dig right in, and I think it’s because we are both writers. We deal in these matters all the time in our work.

Now, we aren’t yet at the point where we’d do anything for each other, but we are a few ticks past Cicero’s friends of pleasure.

Because I like to dig right in,  it’s no wonder that it can be hard for me to find people with whom I am simpatico. But then they appear and develop. Like my longtime friend who volunteered to be my sister. No joke! I LOVE that. I adore her. And we are very, very different. But of course, writers, both of us. Small talk is not us.

Geographically, my most valued girlfriends are usually spread out across the country–and actually, also the world. No boundaries to my affinities. Like my dear friend in the UK. And another in Italy.

Also, I’m kind of a guy at heart. So I do pretty well with platonic guy friends, bonding over our mutual interest in travel, the outdoors, cars, racing and, yes, some of the deep stuff, too. No small talk.

And they are not just friendships of pleasure. Because my guy friends can be pretty deep. At least in our friendships. Very different from a romantic relationship.

What about you? Does this inspire any thoughts you want to share?

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6 comments on “F*** the small talk
  1. Jennifer says:

    Love this. It’s good to find friends that you connect with in this way.

  2. Laurie Stone says:

    Cicero was right about the different type of friendships. Love finding those special ‘another self’ friends. Sometimes they crop up where we least expect it.

  3. As someone who is a mom, I don’t hang out with my friends from former playgroups mostly because I live on the other side of LA. now and don’t want to spend all day driving. Most of my so-called friends are on Facebook which is mostly superficial but I love seeing what they are up to.

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