From the Loser
By Tim Drugan-Eppich
I enjoy trying new things. When you try new things, there is the opportunity to discover a new talent. One that, until the new experience is had, laid dormant just waiting to be exposed. Think of a natural artist who blows away his teacher on the first day of class.
For me, it seems that instead of finding new gifts to bestow upon society, I unearth holes in my social aptitude that would be better left undiscovered. I came upon one of these holes when I first began attending parties. I don’t know how to have a conversation at a party.
I am going to address what is expected of people in party situations, but seeing as I don’t follow these rules myself, take it with a grain of salt. Parties are meant to be fun, lighthearted situations where people can unwind, “let their hair down” so to speak, and take a break from their stressful lives. So it is seen as rude to bring up any topic that might take away from that utopian feel. This is meant to be a time where men and women can mingle, flirt, and avoid the drudgery of everyday life.
So what do I do? Bring in the drudgery, of course!
I can recall clear as day the first encounter I messed up at a party. It was the first party I had been to, and I was wearing a stupid shirt, at least that is what the first girl who came up to me said. She then followed up commenting on my dumb shirt with asking how tall I was.
This inquiry frazzled me. I am average height, so why would she be asking me about that? How do I continue the conversation that had such a horrific beginning? After responding to her question, my confused brain thought “well, if she’s asking about a numerical value, you should respond with a question of the same caliber.” So I blurted out, “How much do you weigh?” I wish I could have taken a picture of her face, because if I had, I would have documented true hatred.
I decided to chalk that initial party experience up to a rookie fluke. Nothing to worry about, I would be dynamite the next opportunity I had to show my smooth conversational skills. At my second party, I found myself talking to a girl who was steering the discussion towards how much she enjoyed sunshine. I decided a good response would be commenting on the deteriorating situation in Iraq. She quickly said she was going to the bathroom and never came back.
When you want to learn something new, you observe the best to learn from the best. I watched smooth guys who have the craft perfected to try and take away some tips. What I absorbed is there is a lot of laughing at bad jokes, commenting on weather-related topics, and having an odd obsession with the local sports teams.
Putting these new tools to use, I found myself standing next to an attractive young woman with bright strawberry colored hair and freckles on her face that were so crowded they kept bumping into each other. While I did my best to follow the rules I had picked up, referencing the interesting low-pressure system over the Atlantic, as well as the pattern cut into the grass at Fenway, she insisted on addressing feminism. Terrified I would mess up this interaction as well, I tip-toed my way through the conversation, slowly gaining confidence in my ability to not make a fool of myself. Unfortunately, my self-assurance was misplaced. For when she said equality was a necessity, I pointed out the irony that often the most feminist schools are all women, therefore not having an equal representation of each sex. She and her freckles left me standing by myself, sipping my warm beer.
Once I started my slide down the slope of inappropriate conversational topics, it was nearly impossible to stop. I have found myself speaking on everything from public urination (well, what else am I supposed to do when there isn’t a bathroom and it’s an emergency?), to why politicians are corrupt (they get free stuff for services rendered, and who doesn’t love free stuff?).
On my most recent outing I found myself amongst a group of males and females who were playfully arguing about the proper way to wash and condition hair. The women were insisting that first you shampoo and then, and only then, do you apply the conditioner. The guys were suggesting it saves a considerable amount of time to simply mush both together and rub vigorously onto the scalp. During a lull in the debate, I decided it was a good time to ask one of the girls in the group, who was wearing a cross, if she really believed in the Bible story. I then proceeded, to everyone’s astonishment, to wonder out loud about God’s tactics. I mean, isn’t it odd that he would make the earth, make mistakes that result in evil and catastrophe, send himself to fix it, and then demand everybody pat him on the back for it? What I’m saying is, when I wash the dishes that I made dirty, I don’t make the rest of the people in the house thank me for cleaning up after myself.
This wonderful thought was met with sounds of silence, and I was left pondering by myself as the rest of the group slunk away from me.
I still fail miserably at the craft of small talk. I can’t seem to wrap my head around how to have a conversation about nothing. So I’m learning sometimes the best thing to do is abandon your efforts. Throwing in the towel has some dignity to it. I’m alright with knowing I won’t ever be able to properly handle myself in a situation where small talk is needed. On the upside, if the topic of conversation floats towards the inappropriate, I’m your guy.
Tim Drugan-Eppich is a junior majoring in English.