Saturday, December 11, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Christmas Party Small Talk

We are in the midst of holiday small talk season, so hopefully you have your game on. The key is to ask plenty of timely questions in subject matters that couldn't concern you less. You have to keep these things moving, and let people answer questions they feel comfortable with answering. Despite my vow to avoid all seasonal gatherings of any kind, I know I will get lassoed into at least one event that will have a snack table of mini meatballs, cheese cubes (swiss/cheddar/pepper cheese), veggies and dip (no one touches the cauliflower), and the ubiquitous chicken wing. I will have confidence at this gathering as I swig my overrated Great Lakes Christmas Ale, because in my back pocket I will have these surefire conversation starters...

Ready for the holidays? This is a great opener. It allows the other person to talk about whatever private hell they are going through involving one of the Big 3 of the holidays. 1) Shopping woes 2) Setting up the tree/lights 3) Relatives. While the person you are talking to drones on, you can tune them out and carefully consider the Bears v Patriots line this weekend. I sometimes nod my head knowingly every once in a while to give the appearance I am especially interested at various points in the story. Generally I am not listening at all.

Get much snow out your way? People love to talk about the weather, and I am all for it. If I have to choose over commenting on someone's photos of their dopey kids or the two inches of snow that fell on Wednesday, I am going weather every single time. I particularly like to get into comparing how long a commuting drive took in this weather. "It took my seven and a half hours to get home in what is usually a four minute drive. I saw frozen corpses stacked up like firewood by the side of the road. I may live to be a hundred, but I'll tell you this... I will never forget some of the things I saw driving home that night." Despite the fact that everyone's "drive home story" is almost exactly the same (short drive took long time/weather bad), everyone usually hangs on every word like it is a just discovered Hemingway novel. This is a great transitional statement after you have thoroughly mined the "Ready for the holidays?" topic.

So, do you go to your family's house for Christmas? Despite the obvious answer to this question (it's either "yes", or "no, we go to..."), this one is gold. People love to tell you about how various Aunts and Uncles you have never met, and never will meet, will be coming from towns you have never heard of to have some turkey/ham, and unwrap an electric back scratcher at their home. While you continue to assess if the Bears are actually a top quality football team and can hope to hang with New England, your conversationalist will say something like, "Now normally we go to my Mom's, but this year we're having the whole family over at our place. Now, I'm not sure if Jenny and the boys will make it from Wakeman, but it definitely looks like my cousin Jim and his wife Melissa are going to drive in from Harborcreek. My Mom isn't going to host this year, what with her rickets and all." This will continue for usually 5 minutes or so. Once again, I don't care. Usually the person telling you the information loses interest about halfway through as well. It does help to fill the uncomfortable silences though.

Do you have your shopping done? Yet another old holiday favorite that is an absolute winner. I don't know if anyone honestly cares about the actual answer to this, yet we all feel compelled to ask it. I ask you, how does this answer impact you in any way? "What? You don't have your shopping done? Hold on.. hold on... I am going to call my personal shopper Tiffany and get this knocked out for you. Your wife is a size 4, right? I'm thinking an Emanuel Ungaro dress with a Prada bag and shoe combo. I'll put it on my Amex and ship it on over to your office. Gift wrapped, right?"

So what are you doing for New Year's? This is a great wrap up question. Now that everything else is covered, it's time to fish and see if someone else has a better New Year's Eve planned than you do. Everyone likes to keep their New Year's uncommitted until the biter end, as everyone is worried that they might miss The Greatest Party Ever. Like yourself, they will probably wind up in a small house party eating the cheese cubes and chicken wings, and watching the almost life-like corpse of Dick Clark attempt to count down from ten. The other fate may even be worse, making out with some stranger at midnight at a half full dance club, and ending up in their filthy apartment. Early in the morning you will slink out, leaving used condoms on the floor, and wondering why you ever thought this unattractive person with bad breath was worth exchanging body fluids with in the first place. This night will be your badge of shame for years to come, and may make you swear off alcohol and drugs for 6-8 weeks.

It is unfortunate that Christmas turns out to be the way it is as an adult. In childhood Christmas is a Magical Season of Miracles. Now Christmas is talking to strangers that bore you while you eat food you don't like. You used to get fired up over that new toy train. Now all you have to look forward to is an ill fitting sweater that is left to gather dust in your closet. The key is to set your expectations low, and go into these social events prepared. So when I see you, please let me know if you are Ready For the Holidays. I care. I really do.

Oh, and by the way, take New England -3 and St Louis +8.5 on Sunday. Not that I wasn't listening to you...


At December 11, 2010 at 5:54:00 PM EST , Blogger earldaley said...

Boy howdy, Greg, you nailed it on the dopey kids vs. weather conversation. I'm almost 40 with no kids, and words can't describe how little I want to discuss other people's offspring. It is a pervasive annoyance in my life, and I think it's gonna get exponentially worse as the people in my life start becoming grandparents.

At December 11, 2010 at 5:54:00 PM EST , Blogger earldaley said...

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