Being an introvert makes social situations a little challenging at times.
Even when it is with people I like or want to know better, I find gatherings quite hard to deal with.
It’s not that I hate people, mind you. Even though I do prefer the company of animals to most humans, that is not it.
No, it’s the small talk that does me in.
I loathe small talk.
I can talk at length about things that range from random trivia to deeper subjects but the tedious ‘getting to know you’ questions and chatter drive me batty.
Mainly because the mundane conversation can be used to judge and people have sorely forgotten how to be polite and inquiring without belly flopping right into someone’s personal life.
“Are you married? Do you have kids?”
If you answer no to either question, you can bet the next question is: “Why not?”
People sometimes forget one is not necessarily a precursor to the other, which can make for some uncomfortable exchanges.
But perhaps the most annoying one is: “What do you do?”
Such a simple question really.
But one that is very loaded.
Depending on your answer, people are going to decide how to treat you.
If you say you are a doctor or other professional, people will treat you with respect.
If you say you have a blue collar job, their reaction may be a little different.
It’s wrong, but it is something I have witnessed far too often.
I was raised to treat everyone equally, and to not let their job title dictate the level of respect they received.
Yet, that one simple question carries a tremendous amount of weight to it.
Many times, people feel like titles and what they do for a living defines them, and sometimes it can.
We do tend to get caught up in our jobs and worry about the image we are projecting into the world.
I have met a few people who let you know with every breath what they did for a living and how important they were.
And, I have known folks who were humble and down to earth that did not need any kind of recognition for their positions.
In parts of Europe, it is considered rude to ask someone what kind of work they did. It is a matter of pre-judging someone.
Deciding if the person was worth getting to know. Evaluating if the person’s net income would put them on equal footing with us.
And trying to size up if the person can be valuable to us in any way.
I hate this question and it’s kind of hard to avoid it when you are in most social situations.
“I don’t care what someone does for a living,” I told Mama one day. “I don’t care what their level of education is or if they have a big, important job. And if their opinion of me is only based on how I earn a living, they can stick it.”
Mama gently agreed. “Well, Kitten, you can tell a lot about a person by how they treat their wait staff in a restaurant. If they are rude to them, they will be rude to others, too. You weren’t raised to be that way so it is a bit hard for you to understand.”
It reminds me of how someone I knew once whined she was ashamed of her fiancé’s job and didn’t know if she could marry someone who “wore his name on his shirt.”
“Lots of people have their names on their uniforms,” I tried telling her.
“Like who?” she sniffed.
“Doctors, for one. Cops have name badges, too. There is nothing wrong with wearing your name on your uniform.”
She never saw my point, but I am sure she is the type that uses the small talk question of “what do you do” to decide if someone was worthy of her or not.
The good thing about small talk is people usually aren’t listening; they are waiting to respond with more stuff about themselves.
“What do you do for a living?” someone asked me recently.
“Whatever it takes,” I replied.
Thankfully, they didn’t even notice.
Sudie Crouch is an award winning humor columnist and author of the recently e-published novel, “The Dahlman Files: A Tony Dahlman Paranormal Mystery.”