Chapter 17 – How to Keep a Conversation Going. Conversation is an “adventure,” a “passport” to making new friends. I think they’re overdoing it a little bit, don’t you? The ability to converse with all types of people can be learned. They liken it to a recipe; just like making a cake, there are several ingredients. “Three of the most important are simple courtesy, honesty, and oddly enough, listening.” What about the eggs?
Courtesy is letting everyone have her say, and express her ideas. It’s only fair, as they just might be right! This facet of conversation is especially important when dealing with your parents, EveryTeen. Hear them out; don’t be disagreeable or fight back. They are absolutely right in barring you from dating that black boy down the hill. I don’t care how nice you say he is, no daughter of MINE . . .
Learn to listen. Know what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. And be honest, lest the “conversational cake” fall flat. (They are way too invested with this food metaphor). The best way to make friends, of course, is to be too honest. Be forthright about your institutionalized brother, even if there is no rhyme or reason to bringing it up in the course of conversation. And, if you cause the person you’re talking to to back away, well, you didn’t want to be friends with them anyway, amIright?
It’s simple to “bake a conversation cake” (ugh, enough.is.ENOUGH.with the fucking cake), but occasionally we have instances where we become tongue-tied, “when it seems that only possible thing to do is to stare out the window or up at the sky.” Are those my only options?
Why does one feel this way? One reason could be shyness. They explain shyness as “the reason why you probably feel at times that you would rather stay in your room with a book than face new people and try to think of what to talk about.” That sounds a lot more like social anxiety versus mere shyness, but this was probably not a concept that occurred to psychiatrists at the time. They were more concerned with homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder in the DSM-II era. What advice do they give? Don’t think so hard about what to say; remember, the other person might be feeling the same way about you. People are people (so why should it be you and I should get along so awfully), some one “you can become interested in if you try.” But you can’t make me! And not everyone is interesting. And some people reek, or have spinach stuck in their braces. Y’know?
So, you’re meet a person you want to talk to. What do you talk about? Oh, the things you can say! Topics for conversation are everywhere. Sports. Newspaper headlines (like grisly unsolved murders)? Perhaps you have been somewhere interesting and have a story to share. Only give the “highlight reel,” however; you don’t want to bore your person with the mundane things you did. Some guidelines: memorable meal you ate? Yes. A funny story about how you almost drove off the side of a mountain? Sure. A story about how you picked up a hooker on spring break who gave you a raging case of the clap? Save it for the locker room, fellas!
Hobbies can also be fun to discuss. Perhaps you collect things, like fingers. Or in your spare time, you enjoy using your binoculars for
watching Sal’s mom get undressed birdwatching. These little everyday things one does can be of interest to others, as well.
Compliments can be part of the conversational cake, too. Let’s call them the “frosting.” A thin coating of fudge is preferable to excessively gloopy buttercream. Eat too much of it, and you’re gonna puke. Don’t overdo the compliments, either. No matter what, be sincere. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. This never stopped anyone, however, so why should it stop you?
Don’t make jokes at others’ expense, or tell crude or off-color stories. (In mixed company, is what they really mean. I mean, hell, you’ve seen Mad Men, right)? Don’t ask questions of a really personal nature, such as “How much does your father make?” or “What’s your bra size?”
If you make a thoughtless remark, be sure to apologize. A simple “I’m sorry” fixes everything, don’cha know.
Everyone should cultivate good telephone manners. Answer the phone with “Hello.” If the call is not for you, don’t be rude and ask who is calling unless you were expressly asked to do so.
If someone calls you in error, don’t slam the phone receiver down; merely say “All right” and hang up quietly. If you’re expecting a call, be sure to stay near the phone so you can answer, but don’t automatically assume that the next call is going to be your smokin’ hot chemistry partner, Nick. Ah, to live in a time before answering machines and caller ID!
Generally, one should not make calls prior to 9AM or after 10PM. Even on weekends? And don’t tie up the line, it’s rude, and the rest of the family would like to use the one handset that is bolted to the kitchen wall. Don’t bitch, EveryTeen, just learn to condense all school gossip and project talks into three minutes. When that egg timer goes off, you better be saying your goodbyes to Sheila, or when your father gets home . . .
And now, it’s time for A Very Important Question! Should girls call boys? The short answer is . . . no. For then, the boys say, you are “pushy,” and also, their families will tease them, and no boy wants to be teased. (Oh, and girls do)? So, only call a boy if it is necessary. What is considered “necessary,” and therefore, okayed by the PenisBrigade themselves? An invitation to a party or something homework-related. And by “homework-related,” they probably mean a dumb question that will let the boy look smarter than you. Bah.
Talking to adults might seem difficult, but it’s really not much different than talking with your peers, EveryTeen. You might not think your parents understand you, but they have been down the same road as you: the ups, the downs, the dates, the backalley abortions. If you need advice, girls, the best person you could talk to is your mother. Boys can talk with their fathers, but if dear old Dad isn’t home as much, they can talk with their moms, as they know how boys should act with girls. It is not suggested that girls talk to their fathers, presumably because Dads work out of the house and have no time for this namby-pamby nonsense.
Next week we will explore dating. For girls. This should be good.