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March 26, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Mulled Whine with H.G. Beattie

“Do you like… Stuff?” “Actually, Broseph, THe Herald Online has better syntax.”

I recently attended a wedding. Things began with a relatively clean slate, given that the last time I rocked up to some nuptials, I conned the jukebox into playing P!nk’s ‘Don’t Let Me Get Me’ four times in a row. Needless to say, their kids aren’t named after me. I remain determined to bestow this legacy. (What do you mean, you don’t want to name your child after a mountaineer in a lady suit?)

The ceremony was beautiful. If I might, though, just quietly pick a bone with this fine joining of families? Actually, it’s wider than that. WHAT is this CONSTANT NEED for SMALL TALK in SOCIAL SCENARIOS at any INTERVAL of longer than five SECONDS? (More IMPORTANTLY, is it as ANNOYING as my NEED to CONVEY INTONATION using the CAPS LOCK key?) Everyone’s all “how do you know the happy couple? What do you do? Are you next?” (This last accompanied by a hearty nudge.) To which my answers are a woeful “I just do, chief”,” “I study heartless, thinking-of-the-future subjects” and “Bite me.” C plus, at best.

Small talk refers to conversation for its own sake. It was first studied in the 1920s by an anthropologist named (this is good) Bronisław Malinowski. And, materially, it is hideous. I think
we can all agree that at a wedding (if not everywhere else), any spare time should be spent either (a) perving, (b) smugly holding your partner’s hand or (c) contemplating a long walk off a short pier because you’re going to die alone and you don’t really care but still it would be nice not to. Whatever. It shouldn’t be spent half-smiling at strangers that are sick of repeating themselves to you because you’re going deaf. And who don’t want to hear about your going deaf. Surprisingly.

Topics of choice for the nefarious small talker include the weather, mutual friends, and current events. The latter is subject to the qualification that your political and religious views be omitted. As should tales of your weight, their weight, sex, lack thereof, cat videos, kids these days and their ‘pre-loading’, the song ‘Hot Knives’, your (okay, my) hypothesis that h2go outsells pump because the bottle looks like a nipple … the list goes on. You don’t really know until you cock it up.

The hardest bit is knowing when to withdraw. I ended on less than a high note with the father of the bride. “well, sir, I think you’re expected to circulate and I’m expected to stand in a corner with a come-hither expression.” He laughed, but it didn’t work as a close then, and it barely does now.

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