By Destiny Bryant
Oh, small talk. Probably invented by the same bastard that also created the appetizer. Why go straight to the good when we can create an awkward transition to it? I hate, dislike, no extremely dislike small talk. It’s like a closed caste system with near every topic discussed is so repetitive and dull it’s a forced routine. Perhaps small talk is just an art I have yet to master. Or I manage to get the short stick every time I partake in it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for meeting new people and exchanging information, but small talk really seems to to slow that down when it comes to developing relationships.
Relationships are built on memories, time spent together and the like. So, surprisingly there is little if not nothing to say of the first encounter with someone because there is no foundation for you to work with. The foundation is being built. But humans are social creatures and every relationship was once just a pair of strangers. They had to start somewhere. Someone had to make that awkward first move and get the ball rolling. And what’s the quickest and most effective way to do that? Get the other person to talk about themselves.
With that in mind people usually start off with the physical basics. In my case, that’s usually my afro (I named it Bessie.) Most people especially upon their first encounter with me are very curious about Bessie and how she goes about life. They can’t help but ask in wonder.
Bessie’s been through a lot. She’s traveled from sector to sector throughout the hair empire. From braids to extensions relaxers, she’s seen it, done it, and has quite a few nightmares stories to share about it. One day, I was so fed up and thought, “Why don’t I let Bessie do what she was going to do anyway?” Fast forward five years and Bessie has been doing just that. Chilling on top of my head following the destiny assigned to her by good ol’ biology. Newcomers want to know of Bessie’s travels. They think they hide it well but over years I’ve learned to see the signs. They ask the same questions.
“How long is your hair when straight?”
Maybe because the hair standard is straight so they need to know as a means of conversion? Like going from the standard to the metric system? Either way, I don’t wear my hair straight so this question comes off as pointless to me. However, I ballpark it for them because I know the answer will keep them up at night otherwise.
“No way! It’s not that long!”
Usually a response to the question above, the curious bystander suddenly becomes the all-natural hair extraordinaire in all of sixty seconds. (They do have a master’s degree in the subject you know.) Their knowledge, experience, and depth in the matter spread so far and wide that they are more than qualified to answer the question their damn selves and only asked you because they wanted to see if you knew. You failed and now they are giving you the correct answer for future reference. After all, how could you know that about your own hair? It’s not like it’s your hair that you’ve had your whole life to become familiar with it while they only known your Bessie for three minutes tops. Tisk, Tisk. You should’ve studied. Thank goodness this fine specimen of person has a master’s degree and the means is here to give you the answer. Whatever would we do without their guidance? Be lost in space and time that’s what.
I’d imagine that I come off as some self-righteous dodo bird who takes things too seriously. I have a habit of making a terrible first impression on people. In all seriousness though, I come in peace and I’m sure those on the other side do as well. It’s just that the ideologist in me can’t help but wonder and fascinated by the impact culture has on even the smallest bits of conversation.