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you shouldn’t feel like you need to talk too much

February 17, 2009
This is a PSA for the people who have been telling me about how they have nothing interesting to say around people they don’t know, especially attractive potential romantic partners, duh.  Now I will give you some free psychiatric advice straight from my psych lady to you, “Ramona [insert own name here] what is the worst that you think might happen if you stopped trying to entertain people?”  I had just gotten done telling her how I feel like an exhausted toddler after spending all day around people.  Then she advised me that I might feel less burnt out if I stopped trying to fill the silences and just rode them out instead, and then she said, “Not everyone has to like you.”  My first reaction was “Blasphemy Dr. H,” but then I realized that she might have just earned the $150 an hour that my insurance is paying her.  
 
This may not sound like the same problem as someone who doesn’t have anything to say, but it really is just a different side of the same coin, which is the coin of putting too much pressure on conversation and thinking that everyone is analyzing your every word.  I mean half the time I like people better before they start talking.  I almost always go for the mysterious silent type in the corner, sometimes quiet does turn out to equal either mute or boring, but at least trying to figure this out gives you something to do.  
 
I recently went on a date that made me think that all first dates should be set in a place where it is either socially unacceptable or nearly impossible to speak i.e. a movie theater or bumper cars.  This way, people couldn’t let their nerves run away with their mouths and start telling you about their broken engagement to an Egyptian princess (true), the frequency with which they attend self-help seminars (true), or pretty much any story that ends with, “and then I spent a month in the bottle.”  People go out of their minds if they are given free conversational reign on a first date.  Suddenly, we have to talk about how much we love to travel and surf, without ever acknowledging the fact that having one surf lesson during a family vacation in Hawaii does not a surfer make my friend.  And of course everyone invariably wants to know your Top 5 Bands Of All Time, and your favorite things to do in your spare time, so you’re forced to start making shit up like how you write novels about a boy wizard under the pen name J.K. Rowling.  If these dates didn’t take longer than a midterm to prepare for I might actually have time to take up a hobby.  I have always wanted to try surfing.  
 
The point of this is that I am planning to become the queen of the alluring silence.  I would vie for president of the awkward silence, but Lauren Conrad of The Hills already rules that kingdom.  And let me say that if you want a lesson in the power of silence try watching The Hills because if girlfriend can slay people like she does with nothing but her signature look of disappointment/confusion/and superiority then you too can win by…shhh.
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kent McMIllan permalink
    February 17, 2009 4:34 am

    I had just gotten done telling her how I feel like an exhausted toddler after spending all day around people.

    At the risk of psychologizing, that sounds like a typical introvert . Part of the problem is that introverts are like sponges, absorbing experiences and having to process it in some way. That does take energy.

    The other element, I’ll bet, is that when introverts have to feign extroversion, the personality that appears tends to be their/our least developed side. So there are the embarassments to be processed as well.

    The flip side to that would be an extrovert who is required to sit quietly for a day working alone on some project, no telephone, no radio, just themselves. It’s painful to watch.

  2. Thomas permalink
    October 20, 2009 2:44 am

    I agree with you in principle here. Bumper cars seems like a good way to see who a person is instead of who they think they are or who they think you want them to be. Do they smile when they get bumped or do they look murderous? That’s why before a date I try to always let the girl observe me playing basketball or something with a small child. It says, “Hey, winning isn’t everything to me.” and “Look, I believe in the future.” About one percent of the time this backfires and people think that it’s my kid but I think that’s not such a bad rate. If Jay-Z can go about his life dealing with ninety-nine problems what’s one to me right?

    I think movies are the worst first date ever though. Maybe they tie with concerts. On a movie date you still have to leave the movie and talk about something. Maybe if I were a film critic that would be OK, but since I’m not that conversation basically goes something like “What did you think of it?” “I thought it was ok. You?” And now I feel like since I just sat next to that person for 90-120 minutes I should be more familiar with them. But I’m not. I’m actually right where I was in the beginning. It’s kind of like the time I got lost at Sea World and upon being asked to describe my mother to an employee I realized I had no idea what she looked like. All I could provide them with was that she was wearing blue jeans that day. I don’t even want to get into why concerts are terrible.

    What do you think of situations that offer room for talking but are constantly streaming new potential topics so that you don’t spend all the times talking about your last relationship? Obviously, if someone wanted to badly enough, they could make anything about themselves and their last relationship but I see that as a non issue in a debate over first date topic. That could happen no matter what so you might as well build the date you want (within reason and to the best of your abilities.)

    *I know you have a “thing” about people eclipsing your content with their own so to be safe I word checked our entries and you’ll be happy to know I came in a safe 200 words under*

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