The Much Maligned and Often Underrated Small Talk

I’ve been noticing lately that people have been shitting on small talk. I get that. We live in turbulent times, and often times the weather pales in comparison to the political climate. These are the days of radical slogans emblazoned across T-shirts, protests and picket signs, tweets declaring one side or the other. Who has time for small talk? I want to know where your allegiances stand.

Small talk. Benign. Vapid. Insipid. Perhaps social media has supplanted the need for small talk. I already know how your kids are (seen the pictures), I know you were on vacation (also seen the pictures), and I’m aware of your opinion on the latest Nike ad (already unfollowed you). No need for small talk. No need for talk at all, really. I already know what’s going on without you ever opening your mouth.

But maybe that’s the thing. Maybe the art of small yet cordial human interaction has fallen by the wayside. Perhaps I can admit that maybe I’m not supposed to know about and care about the political convictions of my 1,389 Facebook friends, many of whom I don’t remember how I met. Maybe I’m allowed to have real time cursory relationships with people, and maybe there’s a beauty in that. It’s not that these relationships lack depth. It’s that these relationships by design don’t need depth necessarily. Maybe I’m supposed to be able to function around people who don’t agree with me. Maybe my social interactions with someone who doesn’t agree with me isn’t a life or death matter (unless they’re white supremacists, because: fuck them). What if the great thing about small talk is not its lack of polarization but its ability to be a small act of unification.

Yeah, you’re right, I’d rather talk about anything other than whatever small talk it is we’re having. But I can’t jump straight into my ultra radical comment threads in real life the same why I do on the Internet. Real life requires a bit of pretext. I appreciate that small talk is what leads up to the big talk. The real talk.

Anyone who doesn’t appreciate small talk probably doesn’t appreciate the subtleties of talking about things that have no moral or political context. Tell me about the weather. Tell me about your day. Tell me how you’ve been doing lately. Anyone who doesn’t appreciate the small pleasantries of quick paced communications might not understand the importance of acknowledging each others’ human dignities. Caring doesn’t start with grand gestures. It starts with, “Hello. How are you?”

I get that small talk can be insipid. It can lead nowhere. Small talk can be banal and boring and a waste of time. Small talk can be the distraction before you go do what you really want to do. In bathrooms, on elevators, at work, getting coffee. It’s not particularly important. But, without small talk, who are we?

I truly appreciate all the wonderful conversations I get to have on a daily basis. I’m surrounded by intelligent people who have a lot of interesting things to say. To engage in small talk doesn’t mean that people are necessarily small minded – it means more that our relationships are small, and while that might be fitting in certain contexts, if I want more, I ask for more. I talk more. I talk about bigger things.

Anyone who maligns small talk clearly can’t see the hope that small talk can bring. Solidarity can be built on small talk. Camaraderie can be built on small talk. Community can be built on small talk. Small talk can lead to big things: romance, business, revolution. Whatever your heart desires – it can start with small talk. To be truly creative is to see the potential of small talk, to see all you can accomplish with a, “Hey, what do you think of this?” You could rule with world with small talk. But only if you tried.

Miss Me

Traipsing between two worlds, as usual. Trying not to feel torn, but definitely not feeling mended. Somebody else’s expectations loom. Or, rather, everybody else’s expectations loom. It is impossible to please, and people who like to spew out vapid aphorisms might remind me that “You can’t please everyone.” But they forget to acknowledge that I would like to please everyone. That would make me feel good – to have no enemies, to be loved by all. Really, they should say, “Everybody hates somebody – doesn’t it feel good to be somebody?”

To be more specific (and, my apologies for being vague): the rift is many things. It is ethnic, it is cultural, it is class, it is professional, it is social. The line is drawn down the middle of everything about me. To the left, a world of chaos. To the right, some law and order. It’s a metaphor I embrace fondly when I need to explain away my human nature and the ensuing hypocrisies that I act out daily. I am large, I contain multitudes. I am a woman, please no fat jokes.

I would like to think that the schism between these parts of me are breachable rather than cataclysmic. I try to think of the duality within me as a strategy rather than a weakness. This is a hard thing to do when you live in a world of moral absolutes and ethnic purity. Everyone is riding around on a high horse, and, well, this has nothing to do with my inner duality, but I would just like to state for the record that I am perfectly content with being down low in the gutter with the rest of my friends.

But, quickly, before I get off topic. I am coming to accept that I have an inner complexity that cannot be expressed in 280 characters. My opinions don’t make sense on comment threads or message boards. My appeal and my charm are diluted when drowned in the sea of everyone else on the Internet. I don’t really make sense there.

I have come here to please no one other than myself. Anyone who is like me or who likes me will be happy with the results, and everyone else can scream into the ether as much as they want – I will not be around to hear it. I am aware of the public square and the judgment being dealt here – I have come here not to participate but to sell everyone their own venom back to them. I have no interest in the outcome, merely in the perpetuation of commotion.

I am aware that this moral ambiguity is sickening. I have no qualms with it. I am both lover and hater, sinner and saint, fighter and pacifist. I am at the whim of my own service, and to be me is to love me, so, I don’t know what else I’m supposed to say. You can’t please everyone, and it displeases me that you aren’t pleased with me, so carry on with your charade while I slink to the back and do whatever I please.

True Love in Paradise

I loved him. I really fucking loved him, didn’t I? And now what. I’ve got nothing to show for all that love I poured into him, which makes me feel like a fool because that means I gave my love away for free. For nothing in return. There’s no house, no kids, no ring, no Facebook albums filled with sunny vacations or even some small trinket I can put on my nightstand and look at when I want to think of him. He gave me nothing but STDs. Yet I still loved him.

I’d like to think that I’m a hopeless romantic, and there’s something whimsical and quixotic about the way that I loved him. I have to think that, because if I don’t think that, I’ll be left with the stark reality of: did I get played? Yeah, I got played. I’m a player in the game, and really, now I’m a loser. I loved a man who never truly loved me back, and here I am, sitting pretty, all done up in lip liner and rhinestones, with my perfectly fat ass that I got after months and months of working out at the gym, and I also have my nice designer hand bag that I bought for myself because I work hard and got a promotion and a raise and I can afford to do nice things for myself like buy $16 cocktails and designer hand bags. Yet I’m the fucking loser.

This doesn’t feel fair. All of this – for what? So he could dick around and make me feel inadequate, even though where’s his designer hand bag, and he doesn’t even have a car, and he could definitely use some time at the gym. I realize now that I am too good to be made to feel like I will never be good enough, especially by a man who is lesser than me. The fucking nerve.

The Importance of Female Acknowledgement

I have always had a great appreciation for women who compliment me on the street. In this era where we decry catcalling as a crime against femininity, I would like to take the time to examine the other side of the equation: women talking to each other on the street.

When I was younger, it always disarmed me when anyone talked to me on the street. However, I noticed that when women were talking to me – usually offering some sort of nice compliment about my outfit – it wasn’t the same as when the men did it. When the men did it, it was a power move, a way to leer at me, a sexual invitation. (Sometimes just a greeting, and usually harmless, but that’s a different conversation altogether.) With the women, it was a nod of solidarity. Or, at least, that’s how I have come to interpret it. It was a way for one woman to say to another, “I see you.” And by responding, I am saying, “I see you, too.”

Women talking to each other in the street is a way for us to not be invisible in public. When our visibility in public is generally reduced to a sexualized object of power play, affirming each others’ presence in public space is an act of radicalism. It’s a way to say, “You belong here. You are safe here. I see you. I got you.”

This is something that I have seen men do for each other in myriad different ways. Most commonly, I think of being asked out to dinner by a male companion. The male server or bartender approaches us, and my conversation is briefly interrupted by this strange but universal rapport that men seem to have with each other, this natural ease, this automatic gliding into familiarity and conversation. I am cut out for a moment, and then it’s back to the task at hand.

If we examine the small ways that men signal the security of their status to each other, this is a prime example. Despite the fact that the bartender or server is by the very nature of this dynamic here to serve us, the nod of familiarity between server and served repositions the woman in the conversation as an outsider. On the other hand, if the server were a woman, then she would be dismissed by the man (who, of course, is in charge of steering this dining experience to his liking) and the equivalent of the female nod of acknowledgement doesn’t even happen.

Enough of that. Women, we need to acknowledge each other in public spaces. As our servers, our cashiers, our bus drivers, our bank tellers, whatever it is. We need to put in the extra work to say hello to each other. We need to talk to each other. Ideally, by creating this basic undercurrent of acknowledgement we can grow on top of that a solid sense of being on the same team. We can get to know each other, and in knowing each other, we can know each others’ strengths and problems.

I would like to think that in an ideal world, I can walk into a restaurant, build rapport with my server, and have a functional relationship, woman to woman. (Let’s throw this “man to man” aphorism in the trash, ladies.) Too often, women are harassed on the job, and sometimes that harassment is in plain sight. So many times, I have seen female workers harassed by not only bosses but also patrons. By actively engaging with each other, we can support and protect each other. In the worst case scenario, we can use this trust to call out someone we see who is abusing female workers. On a day to day level, we should be able to ask the female workers in our society, “Is your boss treating you fair? Did you get that raise you asked for? Were you considered for the promotion?”

We can build on the basics of female acknowledgement so that we can further acknowledge: are we being respected in our public facing careers?

It’s just an idea for a first step, a small thing that we can do to further undermine a system that none of us believe in.

Sheltered American

I am sitting in this house with my face pressed against the window, wondering how the fuck do I get out when the door is right there. I can hear them killing people in the next room over, but I cannot see it, so I ask myself: can I live with the sound of people dying? I can drown it out if I sing to myself, right? I can pretend that it is not happening.

I look out the window and I long to be out there, but I have also heard so many tales about how scary it is out there, that everyone out there hates me already, and I do not want to be there. People are hammering on the door, begging to get in, but little do they know that there is murder in this house. I just so happen to be lucky enough to be in this sunny, clean room where everything is pretty okay, except that I can hear people getting murdered in the next room over.

What is it like out there. Can I survive in here. When they are done killing people in the next room over, will they come for me next? Will they cut off my feet if they know that I am dreaming of running away?

Will someone out there save me? Or will they burn this entire house down with me in it. If they stop the killing in the next room over, will they drag me out and keep me warm? Or will I be tried as guilty for sitting here in silence with the sound of murder in my ears.

Oh, how I wish they would stop killing people in the next room over. It sounds atrocious. I wonder – am I the one who has to go in there and stop it? I look around at everyone else in the room – if none of them are doing anything about it, why am I the one who should start? I am not the strongest or the swiftest among us. If these people who are much wiser and quick than I – if they do nothing to stop it, maybe I should sit here, too, rocking back and forth and quietly humming. If I burst into that room and demand they stop, they will probably just kill me, too.

Why is the world like this, and why I am here in it, like this, right now? This is such a beautiful room to sit in, but I am still dying to get out.

The Devil Within Me

I am still gripped by this old fucker, his hands wrapped tightly around my soul. For a few months there I thought he had left me, that I had found a quiet escape route and managed to slink away unharmed. I was wrong. The demon wrath was just quietly sleeping while I wrestled in the darkness with the demon depression.

The demon wrath is back.

I have never found a good way to deal with him. He screams chaos inside my head at all hours of the night, nudges me out of bed in the morning with the good idea to get out there and hurt somebody, he tucks me into bed at night with sweet dreams of destruction. He guides me, tenderly, lovingly, through my waking days, and I can feel myself crumbling beneath him. This constant war against him, which I guess is just a war against myself. Entropy is increasing, and I am withering away on the sidelines.

Wake up in the morning. Everything is a wreck. Everything feels like a wreck. I try to justify myself to myself, but these excuses are anemic and faltering beneath the heat of my own breath.

What happens to me. I have always wondered this. Where am I supposed to go. What am I supposed to do. In earlier times, I would be burned at the stake. Drawn and quartered. Locked up and tortured. But I live in a world of these so called freedoms, and if there’s anything I can do, it’s hold onto these false freedoms that somehow still imprison me. I would like to be truly free with me and my demons, but I’m pretty sure no one else wants that for me. I don’t even know what that would look like.

Instead, I only know what it looks like to be here, halfway into this half free world, and failing. Waiting patiently for my demise. Watching as the building I am sitting in starts falling to the ground. I know that no one wants me here. I know that no one can stand to be around me.

Where I am supposed to go. I am here, now, and somehow that’s not good enough. I know I am supposed to be quiet, to be contained, but the wildness within me has outstripped even my own best intentions.

I came here years ago because this was supposed to be the place that I could be free: Oakland. Oh, and I was madly in love with Oakland, too. We were perfect together, me in my rein of terror and Oakland without it’s pretensions or guise of laws or social decorum. We were wonderful.

But Oakland has changed, and I remain the same. I hate to admit that I have fallen out of love with my best friend. That a city is what defined me and my sense of safety and belonging. All of a sudden I am too crazy for Oakland. Oakland no longer wants me. And I am lost to wonder the desert, just me and my demons, looking constantly for a home but still never being able to leave.

No, I cannot admit to myself quite yet that things are not working out with me and Oakland. And it’s not Oakland, it’s me.

Where the fuck am I supposed to go. I have tried being someone else for so long, and that has never worked. This is it. This just is who I am now.

Am I supposed to die? I wonder that at times. It seems like the world wants to tacitly tell me yes, even though, let’s be honest, I tried that one time and it didn’t work.

I am a spiritual expatriate from the Kingdom of Heaven in Oakland, California. I am a monster with no home. The beast on my back is crushing me, but not enough to kill me. I am a human with no comfort and no peace. It is just me and my devil, cruising through this planet, looking for a place that cannot be destroyed by the chaos we bring.

Devil’s Three Way

So, in a reprisal of a theme from Fuck Feast, I am here to tell you the story of me propositioning something that is not a dictionary definition of a devil’s three way, but it gets pretty close.

Readers of my previous blog will remember the recurring character Gangsta Boo. He’s an erstwhile lover that left the Bay a while back, but we’re still on good terms. I’m pretty sad that he left the Bay, but it’s for the best. Also, some of his friends are sad that he left the Bay. One in particular. I’ll call him Suga T (because he’s a sweetheart and his name doesn’t start with T).

A while back, there was a rumor that Gangsta Boo and Suga T were gay for each other. Yes, I had someone come up to me at a party and tell me that. Both Gangsta Boo and Suga T loved that rumor (mostly because they love attention), and I liked it, too, because, oh, I don’t know, I’m a bit of a fucking freak and, yes, it’s true, I did masturbate to that fantasy more than once. However, it’s just a rouse. They’re merely really good friends. Which is fine.

Now I’m sure you think you know where I’m going with this whole “Devil’s Three Way” theme, but hold your horses for just a second. Let’s back it up a bit. For years, Suga T has been coming onto me and pretty much directly asking me to sleep with him. I relented for all this time, mostly because I knew that all he really wanted was to suck the taste of Gangsta Boo’s dick out my pussy, and afterwards I’d have to suffer through Suga T asking me who’s better in bed, him or Gangsta Boo. Meh, pass. I didn’t need the bootleg version of Gangsta Boo dick because I had the real deal. There was no no point in fucking Gangsta Boo’s best friend because I’d just be thinking of Gangsta Boo the whole time, and I honestly don’t need that in my life.

Last night, I ran into Suga T. Both Suga T and I are sad that Gangsta Boo is gone. That, however, is not enough for me to want to sleep with him. Of course, he propositioned me again, which is fine, but I had to level with him. I told him, straight up, that I didn’t want to fuck him because I didn’t want us to fuck each other and just think about Gangsta Boo the whole time. Suga T said he didn’t mind.

I considered it. I thought: what would it be like to fuck Suga T? Probably good, I guess. But the looming idea of Gangsta T in the room just killed the vibe of the potential sex scene.

Then I got to thinking: Suga T doesn’t mind the idea of Gangsta Boo being in the room. All those gay rumors. And I know Suga T hella loves and misses Gangsta Boo. What if…what if we played that out sexually?

Yup, that’s right: what if I put on a Gangsta Boo mask and made Suga T fuck me and call me Gangsta Boo the whole time?

Oooh, I’m getting wet just thinking about it. It would check a lot of boxes for me: my straight bait fantasies, missing Gangsta Boo, it’s a good way to clear the awkwardness of fucking Gangsta Boo’s best friend (because, honestly, no, Gangsta Boo would not care if I fucked his best friend). Plus I have a pretty in depth of knowledge of Gangsta Boo’s bedroom habits, and I think it would be fun to try to replicate that in a pseudo-gay sex scene.

And you know what else I wanna do? Film it and send it to Gangsta Boo.

This is my devil’s three way.

I texted Suga T asking if he’d be down, but, so far, no response. Honestly, I just wanna slap this guy in the face with a fake dick and make him put it in his mouth…but, will I get to act out my weird, gender bending, kinda gay fantasies? It remains to be seen.