It’s getting peopley again

I never was great at small talk. You know the stuff. “What do you think of the weather?” “How about them (fill in the local sports team)?” and the OMG I can’t believe you actually said that “What’s your sign?” (For the record, my sign is “caution: steep cliff ahead.”)

I’ve lost the art of the introductory chatter you use to find common areas for a real discussion. I never really had it but could fake it when necessary. It’s a waste of time but required to get the introduction that may or may not develop. (If I know you have a pet, I can chatter with you until the cows come home! Just ask the beloved husband. Maybe my go to question should be “do you have a pet?”)

A long time ago, when I met my good friend Gail, we were part of a bridge group. Everyone took a turn hosting, and it was my turn. She spent a nanosecond in my house and asked about my window treatments. In great detail. The detail only a professional would know. I had made them, and they were all unique. We bored everyone until someone asked if we could do lunch for that conversation and stick to bridge.

We became fast friends. She worked at a place that made high end draperies and I learned a lot from her. We were never at a loss for words and after the initial conversations, it wasn’t about draperies. We had a lot more in common. (Who would have thought window treatments would kick start a friendship?) We are still friends but she has moved across the country.

I had a work friend who would say that there are all kinds of friends. Some are for a reason and some for a season. Sometimes they help you get through something, or you share an endeavor like work or a hobby or kids’ activities. When that ends, the friendship falls apart unless you have other connections. I still consider her a friend but it’s unlikely I’ll ever see her again. Our real connection was work and discussions on the inner workings of people. (That’s a hazard of being in human resources. You always want to understand the motive that makes people do things.) I’m not sad about it as we shared many good times. Not every friend will be long-term. It sounds sad but it’s not.

My high school bestie died many years ago. I had a few others, but none survived. I’ve made some friends in my new neighborhood. We are all retired and at the same stage in life. Time will tell. Reason or season…to be determined.

59 thoughts on “It’s getting peopley again

  1. I have many friends, including friends that go all the way back to Kindergarten. Hard to imagine for some people, but I do! The difference at this stage of my life, however, is that we mostly correspond by email, texting (just checking in with each other) and very occasional phone conversations. And this seems to be enough for us. If we see one another every couple of years we pick up right where we left off, but we just don’t have the emotional energy to do more. They get me through some tough times, but from “a secure and remote location.” That’s for this season. Who knows about the future!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Since I live in a big city that has great weather, many of my childhood/school chums still live in the area. Facebook allows us to keep in touch but, even though we are FB “friends,” I don’t consider many true friends. I am still good friends with my very first friend, although she is one of those who moved away – the the other side of the country. When we do get to see each other, I feel completely understood… she knows my history and I know hers. The bonus is that our husbands get along too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a timely post, Kate. It’s getting peopley but there’s been a definite shift in the friendship circle in the past 2 years. Pandemic restrictions curtailed IRL contact leaving phone or social media contact. Relationships with the “bubble” contacts have deepened. When restrictions were lifted temporarily, there was a “recycle” with some old work friends. The most significant came with a shift in a friendship of >25 yrs. There were some ideological differences but more than that, there was an unwillingness to discuss the ideologies that left me with a feeling of unfulfillment. I felt left out and unheard. When you live alone it’s easy to say you’re a nice person and I have to be cognizant of my role in a friendship. There are different definitions of “friend” and it probably behooves each of us to examine our personal definition as well as what we bring to and get from friendship.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So true. We lost contact with some friends completely. Zoom didn’t really work for us. We tried it a few times and it seemed so contrived. Even our grandkids didn’t seem to know what to say on screen. I suspect that our definition will change or it will take a while to repair friendships.

      Like

  4. working virtually there is now a new pinch point – small talk over Zoom. That fakey joshy stuff where employees on the call have to pretend to be interested in the a sports team playoff, the new TV series the head honcho is absorbed by, or a song he wants to play for all of us. Seriously. And you have to be on camera. So picture that — there are the typical ring-kissers who guffaw and slap their knee but the rest of us paste a half smile on our faces and try not to look like we smell something bad. Oh, and the days are pretty much always 10-12 hours long. My daily walks – in silence – save me. -MJ

    Liked by 1 person

    • Argh! When I worked we had a Monday morning exec meeting. There always was 30 minutes of weekend sports catchup at the beginning. I called it the cocktail hour. Hated it. Complete waste of my time although they considered it “bonding.”

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My circle of friends has really dwindled over the years. My boss and I left the law firm and went out on our own; that firm closed a year later. Former co-workers scattered to the wind. Even friends from high school that were “besties” are no longer in touch. I discovered one of those high school friends through a robo-call a year ago and blogged about it. We talked for many hours that night, yet I never spoke or e-mailed to her again and yes she follows my blog. Go figure. I’ve come to prefer my company more and more.

    But … as to friends, this week has been a little chilling.

    A friend I knew years ago through our advertising agency jobs, but we had kept in touch online since 2000, suddenly went off the grid in late Fall. He and his wife moved to New Mexico in 2017 after both retired. We still kept in touch. He had two small strokes after moving to NM and wrote me about it – he recovered, just not as strong as before. He visited northern Michigan in September for an annual get-together with his poker buddies and wrote me he was home safe (he traveled alone) and that was the last I heard from him. I sent him an e-card for Hanukkah and the card went unopened. He did not wish me Merry Christmas – something I found odd and then I began to worry. No way to reach him as he was not on social media and I did not know his wife. I whined about the Michigan Winter and I was envious of his perfect weather in two e-mails … no response. I began Googling his name -obituary notice. On the local radio news on Monday morning, they reported his death. He had been on the radio in different gigs through the years. He died Sunday of complications from a stroke and COVID. I wrote him a final e-mail to say “I’m not surprised so I guess I steeled myself for this outcome.”

    The very next day, mid-day I got a phonecall. On my caller I.D. it said “Janice Bennett” – a common name, but also someone I worked with at the ad agency and had not seen since October 1979. I don’t have voicemail on my landline, so hesitantly I picked up. She said she dreamed I had died – a vivid dream. She told me she Googled me years ago and had been following my blog on the side. She knew a lot about me from reading my blog, but most disturbing is, despite my AT&T home number that is supposedly unlisted, she learned my phone number and e-mail address by Googling my name. She was on her lunch hour – I was working, but we talked about people we knew (some who died) but in that hour, we didn’t talk about ourselves and she was flinging the obscenities around … I realized we have nothing in common. I’m no prude but I sure don’t talk like that. I was glad her lunch hour was over. The next time I won’t pick up.

    Kind of sad in both instances. Sorry for the long comment, but I’ve dwelled on these two people all week and have told no one about them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve done the obit googling myself when I wonder what happened to someone. Some of my acquaintances from work are on Facebook so I see them. It’s harder to track down women. Married names (that I don’t know), lots of moves, make it harder to track. The wife of a colleague died this past week. It was in the local paper. My last memory of her was from about 20 years ago. She was perky and very outgoing. I can’t imagine her dying. The sad part was that she was his whole life so I don’t know how he’ll do. Both are mid-70s.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, sad to resort to obit sleuthing isn’t it? At least I know what I suspected and won’t wonder anymore. There is a site on Facebook called “Lincoln Park High School (Michigan) Deaths” … several of my high school friends I discovered when I joined Facebook pointed me to the site. Talk about a morbid site – we’re losing about 5-6 classmates a year and have lost about 100 to date. We had 613 in our June 1973 class. My neighbors were devoted to one another, married about 60+ years when he died of cancer and she soon was put into assisted living after developing dementia issues. She didn’t know who I was when she saw me outside and called over to ask me the time, day of the week and my name. I’d tell her and go back to my yardwork and a few minutes later, she’d call over and ask me the same questions. It was upsetting.

        Liked by 1 person

          • Terrible. In the Facebook site about our graduating class, someone posted today about a classmate who died suddenly of a heart condition she didn’t know she had. It hits home hearing all these deaths from people my age.

            Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve always been terrible at small talk. I don’t find myself interesting so I’m naturally inclined to stay quiet. Now pet stories – pet stories are great for safe conversation in my family. Even if you can barely talk to someone without arguing, we could share pet stories. Plus, pet stories are funny!

    You would think that I’d be better at small talk. I talked to people for a living. But that’s a whole different hat. I get that friends travel with us on our journey for a while. I understand that some come and go. But I still find it sad. I hate situational friendships most of all. I feel like these people are real friends and the minute we are not in that situation anymore, I never hear from them again.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Female Friendships in Life & Literature – Retirement Reflections

  8. I am likewise not great with starting conversations. My go-to question is “Have you read anything interesting lately?” If they are a book person, then that’s all you need to say. I will also converse about cats, knitting, tea, and true crime. Otherwise, I am not interested 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved human resources. It was always challenging and interesting. Many years ago when the H1N1 flu strain was over in Asia and moving around, we had a techie on our “security group.” He was a bit of a chicken little and told us we had to gear up for a pandemic which was coming. (Of course we mocked him in good humor.) Ultimately we took a lot of steps at that time (mid 2000s) with hand sanitizer stations, hand washing signs, etc. We also started setting up for work at home programs. His advice was the spot one. I’m sure it wasn’t as difficult for my old company as it was for some this time around. Many people don’t like HR because it’s the hand of “no.” I viewed my job as an employee advocate because if people didn’t like working there, the company wouldn’t be successful. It was a balancing act. I should post some of my best HR stories. I have a ton of them.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I remember going around one holiday season and asking those with ‘religious’ items out to please put them away because we’d received complaints. I made a lot of positive changes including a cafeteria and gym, but I wouldn’t want to be doing it today with all the various groups upset over something or other.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I had some of that too. One young woman who had 3 children in 3 years by 3 different men kept complaining about a gay guy that worked near her. There was a morally condemning tone to her complaint. Yeah, my eyes rolled back so far that I wasn’t sure they’d come front again. The worst was the woman who smelled bad. I had to talk to her three times over about 5 years. I even paid for a doc visit for her. She’d be good for a few weeks afterward but would go back to her bad hygiene self. She was a nice person and not a troublemaker but didn’t shower enough. She left the company for another job. Her co-workers rejoiced. In today’s intolerant world, it is harder because everyone has their “rights.”

          Liked by 1 person

  9. I have friends, but only a few are people that I consider close friends. Those close friends are important and I love them. They are my soul sisters. A couple I only see once in a great while, but when we do get together, it’s like we just talked yesterday. It is harder to make new friends now, I guess because of age, not working, or belonging to clubs and organizations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is harder when you don’t work or have someplace you routinely go to. I met some people walking but I’m not really close to any of them. Same for the gym. We had fun when we were there but no socializing outside of it. My old neighborhood started to turn over and we found ourselves loners there too.

      Like

  10. I find it much harder to make real life friends. Honestly, it is hard to manage a relationship in real life. Got to do the small talk, see if you have enough in common to keep it going. I just don’t seem to have the emotional energy anymore. I have some wonderful online friends and I feel that they are pretty dang real and I know if I need to talk to them they are there and I hope they know I am there for them. We go out with some “couples” friends and it’s good to go out but I wouldn’t call any of them close friends. I have a very dear friend I have known since second grade, we remain close and I see her once a year or more if we are lucky. I like “reason or season… to be determined.”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. My mom always said the hardest part of aging is losing people. She was so right. So many of my real friends have died. There are only 2 or 3 left who were for more than a season. My childhood bestie is still around. And the 40 year bestie who started out as a needy neighbor. And those I love who live near are more important than ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. “Friends for a reason, friends for a season.” I like that. I have a lot of acquaintances but very few have earned the title of friend. I think my definition of friend might be stricter than most peoples’. Being considered my friend is a life sentence, as I like to joke (I’m not joking though 😁). I would rather have only 1 good friend than a giant bagful of shallow relationships that don’t meet my qualifications for true friendship. I’m not one for small talk either, Kate.

    Deb

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I seem to have far more acquaintances, than friends, whose number remains small. As an introvert, that’s ok (and probably understandable). Each of the people in the inner circle seem to ebb and flow as both of our lives permit. Like you, the magic sauce for conversations revolve around pets. It’s an easy icebreaker and everyone seems to love to share something about the fur-baby. I doubt I could carry a convo in a bag otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I “get that”…..I’m not overly comfortable starting conversations with people I don’t know. I also think there’s something to that “friends for a reason” thing. I have friends I “surface talk” with – just about basic stuff nothing overly personal…..and I have “deep friends” with whom I can talk about anything. Now that our period of more than usual isolation (!) is over, I’m learning just about everyone has trouble getting their footing again just talking to people period! Interesting isn’t it.

    Hugs, Pam

    Liked by 1 person

  15. There ARE all kinds of friends. High school friends, College friends. Neighborhood friends. Mom friends. I had work friends, once upon a time. Some of those friends made the cut to real friends, the kind you call instead of murdering relatives (or maybe to help you hide the bodies of those relatives).

    I hope some of your new neighborhood friends make the cut!

    Like

Don't be shy, I'd love to hear what you're thinking!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s