‘The art of conversation is dead’.
Usually what people mean when they say this is that because most interactions are done digitally these days, people don’t seem to be able to hold a halfway decent conversation anymore. Everything is abbreviated, people don’t converse; they just say ‘k’ or ‘lol’ and tag each other in memes that are ‘so us’. Whilst I tend to agree with the sentiment behind the phrase, I think what constitutes a decent conversation is subjective and massively open to interpretation. When it comes to meeting new people, I do most of my interacting online and the problem, for me especially, is that I cannot be arsed with ‘small talk’ and that is all the majority of new people I speak to seem to want to do. At a guess, I reckon I probably hold 90% of my interactions through writing, even with my friends and family. There are maybe 4 people in the entire world that I will speak on the phone to for more than 30 seconds, and even then I don’t really want to do it. There isn’t anything so important that you can’t text it to me and the only time my phone really leaves my hand is when it starts ringing. I can easily go a whole day without speaking a single word to anyone and quite often do, save from the occasional grunt at my son of a morning. I’m not really sure why I’m like that, to be honest. I’m not terrible at talking. I’m just a sucker for the written word I guess.
I spend a lot of time on Tinder (yes, I’m a Tinder wanker) and when I match with someone, I immediately judge their conversation and whether I can be arsed talking to them or not based on the first few messages. My limit when it comes to ‘small talk’ is, well, limited. I get bored and I’ll start throwing random things into the conversation to see how they respond. Their answers determine how much effort I’ll put into the interaction. Dudes who just send ‘hey’ usually get fucked off immediately (how unfair is that though? I’ve probably fucked my soulmate off by doing this). ‘How are you?’ and ‘What are you up to?’ whilst utterly dull, will probably get normal responses. After that though, I become completely disengaged from the conversation. Any questions they ask me from that point onwards will get outrageous answers. My inner sarcastic twat emerges like the bird from The Ring out of a telly. So, if someone asks me what I like doing, for example, I’ll respond with something like ‘My hobby at the moment is kicking toddlers. I’m currently working on finding the right trajectory so that they land far enough away and I don’t have to hear them crying’. I mean, come on! Or I’ll throw some offbeat questions at them like, ‘What’s your favourite triangle?’ or ‘How come people from Spain are Spanish, but people from Germany aren’t Germish?’. If they put thought into their answers, then I’ll put effort into talking to them. If, however, they respond with something like ‘I don’t know’ or ‘Why are you asking me that?’ then that usually signals the end of the conversation for me. I’m not judging them as people based on this though, I’d like to point that out. They’re probably really sound, they’re just not who I want to spend my time talking to.
I like to think that I’m pretty easy to talk to. I’m more than happy to ‘go with the flow’ when it comes to conversations, insomuch as I’ll discuss any topic that comes up. My favourite kinds of people are those that you can say anything to and they will run with it, no matter how weird it gets. Meeting people with this quality is amazing and there are one or two people like this that I have met over the years who I am no longer in contact with, which always makes me a bit sad. Luckily, all of my friends are exactly like this (it’s probably a big factor in why we’re friends, tbh) and some of the conversations we have had over the years can only be described as fucking strange to say the least, to the point where we’d probably have been sectioned if any sort of mental health professional happened to be within earshot. Whole conversations carried out in rhymes, hours spent talking about how nothing is what it seems; everything is just wearing something else’s suit – ‘I’m fast asleep really, I’m just wearing my awake suit’. ‘What’s the weather like outside?’ ‘Well, it’s sunny, but it’s wearing a rain suit’. I mean, what the fuck? We used to love making up nonsense poetry. Here’s one we made:
Eyes on streets,
Scars on fences.
There’s nothing better
than fifty pences.
Well, it didn’t do Edward Lear* any harm now, did it? I love puns and wordplay and people who can appreciate and throw back a good pun are literally solid gold. I’m already halfway to being in love with any guy that has this ability. I do wonder sometimes though, am I missing out? Am I ruining the chance to potentially meet someone decent just because they don’t respond the way I want them to when I ask them if they think the Queen likes cheeseburgers or they don’t appreciate it when I make a pun about cows. Why don’t they though? What’s their beef?
*for those who don’t know who Edward Lear is, you should check him out. He’s a 19th century English poet, who specialised in ‘nonsense poetry’ (yes, it’s actually a recognised genre). His most famous poem probably being – ‘As I was going up the stairs, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today; I wish, I wish he’d go away’.