Meeting new people is hard. It's even harder when we only have the same 7 conversations every time.
It doesn't matter whether you're at a barbecue or a birthday party or a funeral, someone will always be trying to figure out how close you are to the host like you're both contestants on America's Next Top Friend of Steve's. You better hope you're a friend or family, because otherwise you'll feel like a weird interloper for being there as "the friend of a friend's roommate's former landlord's adult taekwondo instructor's niece." Especially if it's a funeral.
The only situation in which this is ok: If you're in church, you can ask someone if they've met their lord and savior Jesus Christ because the Catholic Church encourages it and I think it's cool to pretend that Mass is a big party that Jesus is hosting.
There are only two options for the rest of the sentence: something you've heard a million times before, or something you've never heard before that's way off but still weirdly upsetting. Best case scenario, you murmur, "Yeah, I've heard that one before," as the conversation peters out. Worst case scenario, you're crying in the coat room because someone thinks you look like "the middle Animorph of John Travolta turning into an otter."
The only situation in which this is ok: If you see someone that looks strikingly similar to someone who is objectively hot, like Brad Pitt or Disney's fox version of Robin Hood.
Uh-oh, here comes this jokester, ready to burn ya like he's the clown prince of comedy, birthed straight from Don Rickles' loins and swaddled in a Spencer's Gifts t-shirt. Don't bother trying to connect with him on a human level, because he's already got a decades-old reference to whip out that's only tangentially related to your name. Your name is Annie? "It's a hard knock life, for us." Your name is Jessie? A creepy old dude is now singing about how he wants your girl. Your name is Elmer Fudd? Like, straight up? Just Elmer Fudd? I'm sorry, man. That must suck.
The only situation in which this is ok: If you meet someone named Jeremy, you can let loose an Eddie Vedder impression and sing, "JEREMY SPOKE IN CLASS TODAY" because honestly fuck anybody named Jeremy, they're all lacrosse coaches and they're hitting on your girlfriend right now.
"Oh, cool, you went to Michigan State. I actually know a couple people who went there! Do you know-"
Probably not, there are like 50,000 people who go to-
"Too late, I've already unfurled this mental scroll and I won't stop listing people with confusing nicknames until we reach someone that you saw once in your economics class freshman year. Do you know Sweet Rico? Mustard Janice? Steven "The Zodiac Killer" Jenkins? White Cody? Benjamin "Not That One" Franklin? Gre-"
The only situation in which this is ok: You guys went to the same college, and you are wondering what happened to Mustard Janice. (She's in debtor's prison.)
"Oh, cool, you're from the state of Michigan. I've actually been there a couple of times! Have you ever been to Grand Rapids?"
Yeah, once or twice.
"Cool. Me too."
"You see the uh, the Gerald Ford Museum? Pretty cool."
Yeah. Lots of stuff about Gerald Ford in there.
*1,000 years of silence as you both realize that nothing went wrong in this conversation, this is just the best you could've hoped for. This is the absolute ceiling for conversations about Grand Rapids, Michigan. You're there. And it feels like drowning.*
"Very clean airport."
The only situation in which this is ok: You're Superman, and you just met someone else that has memories of Krypton. Also, why are you having small talk if you're Superman? You should be out there doing cool shit, like using your eye lasers or standing in windy places with your cape.
This shaman of polite conversation doesn't do small talk. Nope, he does big talk. Big talk like asking a question that is straight up impossible to answer. Unfortunately for this deep thinker, the only people walking around with a quick, exciting synopsis of their entire life ready to go are narcissists and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. You'll sputter out something about your parents and he'll nod sagely, before immediately turning the conversation back to himself. See, like all great stories, this one has a twist: He only wanted to talk about his story all along!
The only situation in which this is ok: You're a jaded, old-timey editor giving an intrepid young reporter his first chance in the newspaper business.
Small talk is bad. It's universally bad, and if you have to nod at another person talking about where they work you'll explode. You've already met everyone you would've wanted to meet at this party, right? I bet you can slip out the back door now if nobody is looking. Quick- create a distraction. Ok, well, knocking over that vase seems a little rash- run! run!
Phew. You made it out. You're safe. Now you have an entire, blissful day of avoiding social interactions stretched out ahead of you. It's just going to be you, and Netflix, and- well, uh...
Hm. It's a little lonely.
Maybe you should try meeting some new people.