Thursday, December 29, 2005

You Didn't? You Did? (And Why am I Smiling?)

It seems to me that one of the useful things about ritual is the degree to which we are aware it is devoid of content.

(I have never understood what's so bad about the idea of "running on empty." Now stopping on empty -- that's different. But running on empty is a consumation devoutly to be wished. Right. Right? Unless you don't think so.)

Nothing seals our indifference to the thing ritualized more than understanding the empty motions of the ritual even as we enact it. That's why I suppose New Year's resolutions are so popular. No one makes the mistake of thinking we mean them. New Year's resolutions are a joke at the expense of a genuine belief in the possibility of change, so of course I make them. I make them ironically since my friends will understand them ironically no matter how I intend them.

Having said that and maybe I have should have led up to this in a different way, I feel like making a more or less serious resolution. I would obviously prefer not to make it at the present time, but it is the circumstance of the holiday season that causes it to arise in my thoughts so finally whateryagonna do: Wait for warm weather? I mean really no one will take me any more seriously then actually which I'm glad you mentioned not so much mentioned but looked at me, well, knowingly, so I will make the resolution now.

How did I ever get started on this? (I know what it means when you look away.)

Oh, I'm just making small talk.

That's my resolution by the way, to pay closer attention to people who make good small talk so that I can learn how to make better small talk. It's not just how I sometimes bore people that I want to learn how to remedy. It's that when I get intimidated by the failure of the small talking it makes me feel ....


I mean, when you start to agree with things you more or less don't believe in or disagree with things you more or less do believe in just because the conversation has started to veer, and you want to be one of those people who is able to move gracefully out of one conversation and into another but to feel that you will be welcome back in the original conversation later on.

Smooth, you know. Sequential.

And I mean smooth making small talk with people whose guts I hate -- one glance and I am ready to pound their heads though not you obviously. I want to be able to talk to loathsome strangers for periods of three-to-five minutes under the influence of one-to-three glasses of wine -- or vice versa -- in a spirit of hypocritical cordiality. I want to be able to listen with feigned interest and respond in ways so deftly ironic that the people who I want to get it get it and the people I don't want to get it are somewhat baffled but unaroused.

In short, I want to be able to talk about Brokeback Mountain in a way that is both crushingly ironic and wittily, even brittily, dismissive but also deeply sympathetic and evolved because it gets cold at night and look at the Greeks.

If you had just heard me say this, you would say, "That is some crappy small talk, mister."

So I guess I have my work cut out for me.

What do you think?



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B. Wieder said...

I'm sorry...what we're you saying?