Thursday, June 28, 2012

Better Left Unsaid

I am by nature a very open person, sometimes to a fault.  I don't often conceal or hide as much as I should.  But there are just certain things of a highly personal nature that, if you have to ask, you probably don't have any business knowing.

I won't claim not to be guilty of this myself at times, and I understand the desire to connect, to make small talk, to develop an understanding & open the lines of communication...  But if a relationship is truly blossoming, then those answers will be divulged on their own in due time.  And, if not, or if used to pass judgment or to confirm an assumption, then those questions are probably better left unsaid.

Some examples include:
Where are you from?
Where did you go to school?
Where do you go to church?
What do you do for a living?  Does it pay well?  How much do you make?
Is that your spouse / husband / wife / boyfriend / girlfriend / significant other...?
Are you married?
Do you have kids?  Are you going to have kids?
When is the baby due?  When are you due?

And though I'm all for reassessing and breaking taboos, I don't personally find that small talk is necessarily the best vehicle for doing so, especially among strangers.  Some things are by nature very personal, private and loaded with other implications.  Thus many taboo topics, including politics, religion and sex, are generally best often left untouched unless you're open-minded, non-judgmental, willing to debate and are able to accept whatever response you elicit.


Kate Freeman said...

Where are you from? St. Louis

Where did you go to school? Riverview Gardens Senior High

Where do you go to church? I go church where ever and when ever I perceive people need to hear the sermon of Kate . . . whether they want to hear me go church or not.

What do you do for a living? Does it pay well? How much do you make? I’m a Plant Recorder. No. Not enough.

Is that your spouse / husband / wife / boyfriend / girlfriend / significant other...? Mel is my better half.

Are you married? Yes.

Do you have kids? Are you going to have kids? No. Probably not.

When is the baby due? When are you due? I’m not pregnant.

I was riding in a car with some people the other day that all grew up outside of St. Louis. They talked amongst themselves as I listened. They seemed to all agree that it was bizarre that people who grew up in St. Louis often stayed in St. Louis. They also seemed to agree that it was bizarre that people often asked you which high school you attended in order to sum up ones social/economic status.

I remember thinking that I found it bizarre that these people might not view staying in one places as having deeper roots and a feeling of devotion (or connection, as I often here it expressed) to their home or the land. I also found it odd that people in their hometowns wouldn't ask the high school question. But the more I thought about this, I realized that I had not been asked the high school question in years. I am more often asked about what neighborhood I live in currently. The high school question might be moving toward irrelevance in summing up social/ economic standing. . . but where one currently stays gives people a better feel for one's class status. I wondered what questions these out-of-towners used for the class division summarization. I realized that before I even knew what these people were most passionate about (and I think I did get a feel for that later) I knew which colleges they attended and what degrees they held. I didn't ask for this information. It was literally the first things they choose to offer up.

I had a conversation with a friend not too long ago about how people were getting angry with him for expressing his political point of view. While I do not agree with this friend on most issues, I think I would not have the level of respect I currently have for him if he stuck to simple topics like yoga or health foods. This view was later reinforced when I found myself referring to a woman I know as an "apolitical strumpet". Sometimes it's easier to get along with people I disagree with as long as I know they have taken the time to form some opinion even when they are obviously wrong. ;)

So what is the point of my long-ass comment? I don't know if there are too many questions worth asking that do not touch upon religion, politics, and/or sex/gender. People can only talk about the weather and the Cardinals for so long.

ChaoticBlackSheep said...

Thanks Kate,

Those were hypothetical questions, but you were welcome to answer if you wish, as you did. That is really my main point - not that those topics of conversation shouldn't be discussed, but I feel the context is better when such topics are breached by one divulging the information on one's own accord, not because of being asked or put on the spot.

I have been asked all of the aforementioned questions by total strangers, often at inappropriate times (like standing in line at the store). And I just don't think they make for good small talk, since many of them are highly personal and the wordage can come across poorly or be easily misconstrued.

As for a greater sense of community devotion, I find that all too many people are dependent upon following their jobs, careers, work... wherever those may lead them. Especially after all of the layoffs and difficulties in finding employment, not to mention other circumstances that drive people even further from their homelands, like war, gentrification, disease, famine... It's not that people don't have deep roots or a strong sense of homeland, but that they have to reconcile that sense of connection with what is available to them there, and unfortunately communities can fall short with what they have to offer or simply just don't resonate.

I still feel that people will divulge as much as they are comfortable with, as few of us want to talk about just weather and sports forever, even if the weather can be unpredictable and extreme. But I'm just personally not into prying into others' lives and business beyond what they're comfortable offering on their own, especially if that prying builds on preconceptions or assumptions about relationships, faith, family, etc. Given enough time, I figure that information will be divulged as a greater connection evolves and develops.

ChaoticBlackSheep said...

Just found out about a relevant call for art:

Free zinemaking workshop at the Samizdat Zine Library at Star Clipper Comics, called "Let's Talk About the Weather." The workshop will be Sunday, July 8th from 1:30pm until 2:30pm. Star
Clipper is at 6392 Delmar in University City, St. Louis, MO. Modest supplies provided, feel free to bring your own. All are welcome!

Together we will respond to a series of interconnected writing and drawing prompts, some collaborative. We'll write about small talk, weather as metaphor, and about the real, wild events in our atmosphere that have been
filling up our newspapers and our day-to-day lives. We'll drink lemonade, play with recycled art supplies and have fun.

Drawings and text produced at the workshop will be compiled into a zine distributed at Star Clipper on Free Zine Day, July 28th.

In the spirit of zines, collaboration and friendship, you are welcome to bring your own ideas or deviate from our workshop's activities. This will not be a class!

Much much love to everyone,
Nicky Rainey