Friday, 20 December 2013

Five places I shouldn't have to make conversation

Recently I have been watching Sex and the City in its entirety. So far I am up to Season 2.  Don't judge me. It's non-ratings period and I've already watched all of Mad Men, most of Breaking Bad, all of Nurse Jackie and am currently waiting on season 2 of Newsroom.

There was nothing left that appealed to my current state of mind, so I went retro with it and decided to give Carrie Bradshaw a whirl: if only for SJP's big hair and her slightly horsey face which manages to be ordinary and beautiful at the same time.

But the series, apart from Carrie smoking like a bogan* throughout every episode, is still surprisingly contemporary in its themes.

Recently I watched the episode where Miranda's new boyfriend wanted her to do some dirty talking in bed.  Miranda was aghast:

"It's the one area in life where I don't have to talk or make conversation."

To this, I concur.  And I'm not so much talking about the dirty sex talk part, but just about life in general. There are certain areas in life where we should all be absolved of making conversation with people.

Here they are:

1. The supermarket checkout 

I have flagged this before in a very controversial piece entitled, "Supermarket Etiquette." In return, a few checkout operators piped up and claimed that as part of their job, they are required to make conversation with customers.

But honestly, if I get asked one more time by a 15 year old checkout operator,

"So how's your day been?"

I am going to tell them how my day has actually been in mind-numbing detail.

The other more leading question they often ask is this:

"So, what are you up to for the rest of the day?"

Umm ... let's see... how about, none of your business, Boy Who Doesn't Even Shave Yet?

Am I supposed to answer this question?  Is there a stock answer to give to this? If there is, I haven't found it yet.

If I give them a bit of "Oh this and that .." they seem offended at my lack of effort.  So sometimes I feel bad and try to go with it:  I tell them what I'm doing for the rest of the day, which is when their eyes glaze over as if to say,

 "Alright, lady, I'm not actually interested, I was just making a noise with my mouth." 

2. The hairdresser

I know other women love a bit of chit chat at the haidresser because I HEAR THEM MAGGING ON AND ON ABOUT INANE THINGS as I am cowering beneath the hum of the blowdryer hoping my hairdresser doesn't feel left out because I don't talk to her.

I have a regular hairdresser and she knows I am not big on the chit chat. So she generally doesn't talk to me beyond, "How've you been?" And "What are we doing with your hair today?" And then at the end ... "How are we blowdrying? Straight with a bit of movement?"

But recently she got a bit comatose with my haircut and started cutting my hair in her sleep. By which I mean, she didn't listen when I said, "I would like you to cut it properly this time and not leave a big Quasimodo hump of hair at the back of my head."  (Perhaps because I didn't keep her mind active with inane chit-chat). So I had to change things up and ask for someone else.

At which point the inane chit-chat started up again.

"So, you going out this weekend?" The trendy young hairdresser asked me, eagerly anticipating some fabulous response where I was going to a gallery opening or some hipster party in a silver lame dress and kitten heels.

Do I look like I'm going out this weekend? 

I'm a 43 year old woman with three kids. Women in my demographic generally don't "go out" much on the weekends. We just collapse on the couch and watch reruns of Sex and the City so we can wear comfy pants and watch other women go out every weekend trussed up in their Spanx and heels.

Even if I am going out on the weekend, it's rarely to some fabulous Carrie Bradshaw-style party. It's just to a friend's house for dinner, or out to a cheap Thai restaurant with my girlfriends.  My social life, even when it's active, is just not that interesting.

In fact it's often so disappointing as a response that it's a conversation stopper.  (As I discovered the one time I was actually going somewhere and I gave an honest answer: "Oh just out to dinner with some friends."  She virtually dropped the blowdryer on my head in her utter lack of enthusiasm for the concept of "going out for dinner with some friends.")

3. The Blow Dry Bar

Recently I have taken to getting my hair blow dried at the Blow Dry Bar. It's cheap, very quick and it means that for at least a week, I don't have to deal with the nightmare-on-my-head that is my unruly, recalcitrant hair.

It has become patently clear to me that other women only go to the Blow Dry Bar if they have a special function on.  Because every time, every time:

"Going somewhere special tonight?"

No.  I just like getting my hair blow-dried. I'm weird like that.  Again. It's a real conversation stopper that nearly results in the blowdryer being dropped on my head.

4. Clothes shops

The other place I don't think I should have to make conversation is when I am in a clothes shop.

"Got the day off today?"

No. No. I haven't. I work from home and I'm skiving off. There's a million things I SHOULD be doing but here I am floating around David Jones. Thanks for reminding me.

5. Taxis

I have an Eliza Doolittle thing for cabs. I love getting cabs. But I don't like talking to the driver, not because I don't think he's worthy of my conversation. I just don't like talking when I get in a cab: I like to zone out and stare out the window and feel happy that I've just outsourced one of the worst things about living in Sydney; driving in traffic.

I especially don't like talking if I am going to the airport, which I do a lot, not because I'm fabulous but because I am a working musician and I tour with a comedian (my sister.)  It's just part of the gig; going to the  airport, fighting with the check-in dolly about whether or not we've paid for our extra baggage, bunching up with the general pubic and getting my hairspray confiscated again, getting on a plane and going to some weird regional town with a big theatre to put on a show.

Apart from the two weeks every two years where we go to the Melbourne Comedy Festival, it's just business as usual, and there's actually not much glamorous about it.

But every time, every time.

"Where are you off to today?"

Oh some butthole town in north Queensland.

"Business or pleasure?"


This question of "business or pleasure" with regard to where I am going every second week with my guitar, is a bit like the double flush button on a toilet: suddenly I have to stop and define something I don't really want to think that much about.

If it's "business," then I've clearly lost my performer's mojo.  And if it's "pleasure" what right do I have skipping town without my kids every second weekend? Am I a bad mother, or what? 

But there is a place for inane chit chat.  

And if you do it right, it can be a very satisfying exchange with a fellow human being.  It's not  about vague questions that demand fabulous answers that I cannot give, but rather, it's about being specific.

A few weeks ago, I was in the checkout queue and was served by my favourite checkout boy.  He's clearly a friend of Dorothy (even if he doesn't know it yet) and he's a faaaabulous inane chit-chatter.

Instead of saying, "So ... how's your day been?"  and then checking out of the conversation once my mouth started moving, he cast his eye over my groceries and said:

"Oooh!  Maggie Beer ice cream. I haven't tried that flavour, is it nice?"

"It's delicious!" I replied, really warming to the idea of talking about food. "Sometimes I stand at the freezer at 3 o clock in the afternoon and just eat it straight out of the tub. It's the ultimate afternoon pick me up."

"Ooh and raspberries!" He virtually squealed with delight.  "They're expensive! You're really treating yourself today!"

And so finally,  this virginal conversational flower was "opened up" by a chatty homosexual boy.

You've gotta love The Gays.

* This observation was flagged by my friend Liz Winters; who coined the phrase, "smoking like a bogan" and should be credited here.


  1. You left out public-toilet-queue chit chat. I mean really. Why? Why? I have to focus on my bladder here lady!

    1. Of course! toilet queue chit chat is a big no no. I concur wholeheartedly.