I have this acquaintance, a friend of friends really, who is a very nice person, but I kind of dread hanging out with him. Why should that be? Today I realized it’s because he tells two-couple stories in four-couple settings. There are different expectations of story quality depending on the size of the group. When it’s just four people and you’ve got hours to fill before the check, it’s understood that not every story recounted is going to be a humdinger. You don’t have to have a winning hand to play the round. But when it’s 8 people sharing the floor and you’re taking it away from 7 others, you better have some grade A material.
This guy I know takes up well over his share of the conversation and most of the time with tedious, mundane stories about his kids. Not that stories about kids are bad. They’re just not all worth sharing in a big group setting.
On the other end of the spectrum is my friend Angela. In Victorian times, she would have been known as a wit. Most of the conversation, she sits back punctuating other people’s stories with one-liners at the end–totally stealing the show, but if she starts in on a story, you know for sure it’s going to have a beginning, middle, and pay-off at the end. If you’re going to take away the floor from Angela in a four-couple setting, have something to say.
My blog is a one-on-one conversation with the attendant expectations. When I was posting twice a week, my quality was higher. Now that I post nearly 5 times a week, it’s understood that sometimes lameitude such as yesterday’s post is going to happen, which is when you click through to the related posts, and hope for something better tomorrow.
Conversations since I’ve started blogging have a new facet, that I’m still negotiating. When I start in on a story, I’m reading people’s faces to try to judge whether they’ve read this on my blog already. If they have, I might be boring them, or they might consider it auto-plagarism, or it might sound rehearsed if I use the same set-up and punch that I did on my blog. But you don’t want to ask, “Did you read this on my blog?” though. No! If they didn’t, then they feel weird about saying, “Listen, honey, I don’t know who you think you are, but I have better things to do with my internet than read your blog.” And if they did, well then they’re afraid to admit it because you might think they’re a stalker. So you don’t ask. You just look for the tells.
A couple of years ago, I read some listicle about conversation etiquette that told me that if you get interrupted in the course of any story, and the listener doesn’t go back to your story, you assume they weren’t interested and don’t force them to listen to the rest with, “as I was saying.” Even if you know it is a good story, you’ve been telling it wrong. You need to edit the set up or start it with a spoiler that’s going to keep people with you. I think I’ve been a better conversationalist for knowing this, but honestly, it has been two sad years of me thinking, “Awww, nobody likes me” when listeners don’t ask me to pick up the thread after an interruption. Stupid article. Now I’ve ruined conversation for all of you as well.
Also, I’ve been trying out a new line to save a bad story. Instead of tacking on “and then I found twenty dollars” to the end of a sinking tale, a couple of times I’ve tried “and then we made out.” People definitely snap to attention, but not really in a good way.
Which reminds me. Clive Owen is going to play a surgeon? In a Soderberg TV series? Is it like, my birthday or something? Goody, goody, goody, goody.