I’ve never cared for small talk.
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Small talk in the dentist’s chair is even worse.
“So where do you work?”
“Where do you live?”
“Do you have kids?”
Meanwhile, I’m thinking the answers and then spitting them out in between suctions. Lovely conversational flow.
Through the broken small talk I manage to answer that I have a 4-year-old son and then the inevitable next question comes… the one I never quite know how to answer correctly: “So, any plans for a second kid?”
I think to myself: “Yes, there were plans and there was another child but he didn’t arrive. And, yes, I still want another, but I’m scared.”
I know this is NOT the answer she (or anyone else who asks during small talk) is looking for. I know it would be too much and so I usually push the real answer away and, for the sake of keeping the conversation going, just say what’s easier: “Oh yeah, sure, probably one day here soon.”
But I hesitate this time giving the canned response because even just thinking it brings up that familiar pang of guilt: I’ve glossed over my experience with my unborn (but not non-existent) second son as if he didn’t matter — exactly what I feared would happen when we first learned we had lost him.
Maybe I had too much time to think in between suctions on this one or maybe I was just tired of trite conversation, but I decided to respond differently this time — to risk her possibly feeling uncomfortable in order to honor him and my own feelings. “We did want another and were expecting him this past February but we learned that we lost him early in the second trimester.”
She didn’t stiffen or stumble on her words; instead, she stopped what she was doing, pulled her mask down, and leaned in close. She whispered, “I’m so sorry, I know that feeling, I had the same experience in between my two children. I’m so glad you said something because no one ever wants to talk about it.” And that’s when the REAL conversation began. The energy between us became completely different, we talked like two girlfriends at a slumber party: wide-eyed and leaned in close and finishing each other’s sentences. Not because we’re excited about what happened but because we found someone who could not only relate but was willing to talk about it.
When I headed out to leave we smiled and nodded to each other. We were no longer strangers but connected in some unspoken way.
The point is this: had I passed on truth in favor of small talk and surface-level conversation, we could’ve talked for 20 minutes yet still left strangers. It makes me wonder if this is part of why so many of us feel disconnected from each other. It makes me wonder what would happen if we all traded small talk for being a little more real and vulnerable with each other. We’d probably find we have a lot more in common than we think.
This story originally appeared on Krissy Brynn Jackson, Teacher-Mom Blog
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