Here’s the thing: small talk

I don’t know what has happened to me. I used to enjoy social situations. I loved to chat and meet new people and drink far more than I should and laugh and the this and the that and whathaveyou. Now, though, it takes a lot of internal motivation to get me to go anywhere, particularly somewhere that involves dressing up. And by dressing up I mean slapping on the ‘ol war paint and wearing something more put together than jeans and a t-shirt. I went to a party this weekend that was gorgeous. Everyone was dolled up, champagne was served, people were lovely. I popped a spinster’s-little-helper and put on my game face and actually had a pleasant time. As I sat in a dimly lit room under the watchful gaze of a wobbly stuffed pheasant and a torn oil painting that looked a little like I would if I were of the pretty persuasion (By the by, this party took place at a house that managed to capture the menacing allure of Venice, Italy, despite being firmly planted in the South. Bravo, I say.), I wondered where my party confidence had gone, why my lust for socializing had vanished into the ether.

This reminiscing in such odd circumstances (Again, the party was delightful…the setting was just, um, unusual. The house was like a rabbit warren where one main house had been added onto and onto and onto over the years, like layers reapplied to an onion. The questionable provenance of some of the decor also added to the intrigue. But I digress…) brought back memories of the small talk in which I used to engage.

Here’s the thing: I am an asshole.

I know this. I admit it. I usually am reminded of this fact when I start to remember the things I have done or said in my life. So in this Southern Doge’s Palace, I began to recall two specific incidences when my small talk served to illustrate just how much of an asshole I can be. I used to say things just to entertain myself, with no concern about how my comments would be received. Witness:

In my mid-twenties, I went to a party at the family home of an old college friend. Accompanied by my best friend and her boyfriend, I caught up with old pals and chatted away. In talking to one particular old friend from college, I was asked the question that bores me most: “What do you do these days? Where are you working?” I don’t ask people this because unless it’s something they are super excited about, they won’t bring it up. No one cares. And no one cared that I was working in the marketing department of a non-profit magazine. I certainly didn’t. So when asked what I was doing as a means of employ, I told this gentleman that my best friend and I had formed a management company that represented Filipino girl pop groups on mall tours across America. He was incredulous at first, but as I rattled off names of “clients” (NVizun, PartyGirlz, PopLockExplode…) and kept a straight face, he started to buy it. Of course, when said best friend was called into the conversation to verify, she played right along and even elaborated on our mall tour plans. There is a reason she is my best friend. Her boyfriend at the time even offered an explanation as to how we got into “the biz.” He claimed to be a sports agent who represented “mid-level” athletes in “C List” sports. Luge, indoor soccer, men’s gymnastics, arena football, local wrestling. He was amazing. I think he really worked in a cubicle somewhere, but he didn’t care and neither did I so I don’t think he ever mentioned it. See? Anyway, I am pretty sure the guy I was talking to knew I was full of shit, but he rolled with it and I was entertained. NB: I would later go on to be involved in a romantic relationship with the fellow from the party. And then he would dump me because his ex-girlfriend came back into town. So karma, maybe? Whatevs.

Example number two happened just after my 30th birthday. I was in Paris. Paris, France. You know the place. Once again, with the best friend. She knew some cousins of friends who lived there and we made plans to have a night on the town with them. My stars, they were amazingly brilliant Eurotrash if ever there were some. They were “students” who lived in a giant marble abode right on L’Avenue des Champs-Élysées and who picked up exorbitant tabs everywhere we went. The drink tab for 5 of us at some trendy night spot topped 400 Euros. I think I had two drinks. It was unreal. Anyway, at this nightclub, I was introduced to the girlfriend of one of the guys. I took four years of French in high school and then repeated two of those years in college (why test out of the language requirement when you can get some easy As?). My French was…not so hot. But I found that the longer I was in Paris, the better it got. And also, oddly enough, the more alcohol I consumed, the better it got. Someone smart should do some sort of scientific study about that. Anyhoo part deux, I was introduced to this girl and we started up the small talk. She was studying law at the Sorbonne and was, apparently, a genius. I was living in Scotland and writing a book. Did I tell her this? No.

When she asked me what I did for a living, I told her I was a taxidermist. En français. Oui, I conducted this whole conversation in French. She was amazed that I would pursue such a calling. Incroyable! She asked me why I became a taxidermist. What drew me to this profession? I said, “Il y a…comment dit un… une sensation quand vous tenez le corps de l’animal…c’est très spirituel.” I went on to talk about the spirits of the animals I would later stuff. It was some weird shit, even for me. Okay, maybe not.  But I was convincing. We ended the night pleading for the gents to take us back to our hotel and we had to tip-toe past their house staff who slept on the marble floors of the foyer. After a debate (again, in French) about the merits of weed from Amsterdam versus California’s own and a wild ride in a SmartCar, we made it back to the hotel. I went to mass the next day, seeing as I wanted to be able to say I’d been when there was no Pope. Later that afternoon, all the church bells in Paris began to chime at once. My friend asked me what it was and I told her with certainty that there must be a new Pope. A dash to a nearby tv confirmed this. For a moment, my Catholic guilt took hold and I thought of how debauched and deceitful I’d been. But then I thought about all the Popes through history and figured that me lying about my profession paled in comparison to the shit they’d pulled. Three Hail Marys and I’d be square. Three Hail Marys and a good thought for all the taxidermied animals and Filipino girl bands. Right as rain.

Author: elizabeth dutton

i traffic in words

2 thoughts on “Here’s the thing: small talk”

  1. I so love this. It’s like when people ask me how is it Adam is retired? And retired from what? So I launch into my awesome story of how he used to be Thunder! You know, Thunder, The Golden State Warriors mascot. Maybe I stole that from you? Anyway, I’m an asshole, too. Assholes forever, sista.


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