Friday, November 13, 2009

too much information

I'm a news junkie. I love my Morning Edition on NPR, weekly visits to the BBC News website and my daily newspaper. I like to know where our president is visiting, what bills are stagnating while money pours into Congressional wallets, what scientific breakthroughs are happening, how long the bridge downtown will be out. I'm a girl in the know.

Socially, I know the big news about all my friends--vacations, illnesses, children's accomplishments, favorite new restaurants, what shoes they covet at Macy's, when their husband's knee surgery is scheduled. I know intimate details and I know meaningless fritter because they are my friends and this is the stuff that melds and welds us together.

Perhaps it's my open, honest expression. Maybe it's the respectful way I listen to others. People I don't know well at all share way too much. All the time.

I believe in reciprocal exchanges of information.

I say, "My allergies are bad lately. I've had to use my inhaler twice a day all week." You say, "Wow. My husband has hayfever and it sure seems like his eyes have been watery, too." I say, "Does he use Claratin?" You say, "He used to, but he just got a new prescription from his doctor."

I say, "I love that sweater. I found one similar at Old Navy." You say, "I got mine at Land's End for $40 last weekend." I say, "It looks soft." You say, "It is," and you offer your arm for me to feel.

I say, "We watched Mad Men Sunday night. It's going to be a long wait until next season. I hope Don and Betty work things out." You say, "Have you seen Sons of Anarchy? I love that show too. When my uncle was in a biker gang he lived that life and I find it so fascinating." I say, "Mr. D watches that show. He loves it. I think Katey Segal is a great actress." You say, "She's nice too. I sat behind her in an airplane once."

I say, "Your garden looks awesome. My tomatoes look like crap this year." You say, "I think it's because we added fish guts to the soil. I have good luck with tomatoes, but I can't grow peppers to save my life." I say, "I'll trade you peppers for tomatoes if you're game." You say, "Cool. Got any onions?"


That's all good. In every situation we stay on topic, appropriate amounts of personal information get exchanged. Except this is what I usually experience:

I say, "I gained and lost my body weight once over with three pregnancies." You say, "I got a boob job so my stomach would look smaller. I always wear a bikini because I paid for this body. My boobs look great." I say nothing because I am rendered speechless.

I say, "I like how they redid the dining room here. It looks nice." You say, "I stayed out until four o'clock last night. I got so drunk and then Pete wanted to get busy when we got home." I say nothing because I choked on my forkful of salad.

I say, "That PTA meeting went really well last night." You say, "My husband had his hours cut at work so I've got another job at night. My ex-husband just bought his new wife an Escalade and their kids are total brats and he never takes our oldest son to do anything." I say nothing and a long awkward silence follows while I try to conceive a polite, yet sympathetic response.

I say, "(actually nothing, I merely smile and nod at a fellow shopper)." You say, "You can poke your eye out easy. Did you see that program about the lady and her pet chimp? It was on the news the other night. The chimp turned on her one day and attacked her--there's not a part of her face that remotely resembles anything human. They had to cut a hole so she could sip through a straw. And you can't find a decent shoe box anymore." I say, "Wow."

Granted, that last exchange might have taken place with a senile old woman. But people's need to share way too much information has me covering my ears and singing "lalalalalala."

Tell me, reader, are you ever in this situation? What do you say? I've been at a loss way too often lately.

16 comments:

  1. Having been the person who has been so consumed by the stress and turmoil in my own life, I can understand why a person might forget about the social contract when talking with someone.

    (Seriously, when my father was first diagnosed with cancer, I ran into a fellow PTO mom at the store. She commented that it was her birthday and I in turn burst into tears over how my father might not have anymore birthdays. Not one of my finer moments.)

    In general though, I try to keep conversations appropriate and two-sided. Nothing too deep with strangers and not all me-me-me with friends.

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  2. This happens to me A.Lot. In fact I am struggling right now with how to handle a situation where I was given too much information just yesterday. Now the person wants to know what I think. Really? Really, I think she would be happier if I didn't tell her what I thought. I'm pretty sure what I really think is NOT what she wants to hear at all. Sigh.

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  3. You probably don't know it, but I have bunions. And, man! Do they itch like crazy. .... they itch so much, as a matter of fact, that just scratching with fingernails isn't enough. I usually use a salad fork and just go to town every night while I'm watching T.V.

    If I'm lucky, the dog'll come on over and give 'em a chew. I just sit back and let her -- aahhh, sweet relief!

    Anyway... thanks for reminding me to share. You're so easy to talk to...

    ;-) - Julia

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  4. I am an over-sharer. I am mindful of it, though, and try to rein it in.

    But mostly I'm completely grossed out by Midwest Mom's imaginary bunions. Remind me to never eat salad at her house.

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  5. I am laughing too hard at Midwest Mom and Violet to post anything worth reading...
    Doesn't a salad fork hurt?
    What shows would you watch while scratching your bunions with that now toxic salad fork..LOL!

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  6. Ya know, I like when people share too much information. Thier "craziness" reminds me that I am not so crazy.

    And GG--I love sharing all the info with you!

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  7. I think a blank smile is the universal sign for TMI.

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  8. That's what makes a good counsellor. People pout it all out. You need to make a file in your brain that's called "Other people's business", file it all in there and forget about it. Otherwise it gets to be a BIT much.

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  9. Midwest Mom, I'm so glad I haven't eaten salad today.

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  10. Wait. Back up a few paragraphs. I can PAY someone to get me into bikini-wearing condition? Who? Is this really possible? Nah, I don't believe it. Um, what were we talking about here?

    :-D

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  11. I love this post...very entertaining! I can't say this happens to me a lot, but I'm pretty careful about eye contact. I think my body language says, "tell me too much, and I'll write about it." :-) That said, I wonder if people are oversharing more these days because of the stressful economy?

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  12. I normally come out with something corny and blank like "well, there ya go!" or "Good for you!" because I'm normally at a loss for words.

    This happens alot in my classroom, since sophomores LOVE to share any and all information they have and never ever think before they talk. So I say alot of "Well, there ya go." in a day at work.

    And...Midwest Mom? Jack Nasty. Hilarous, but nasty. :)

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  13. I'm too out of it right now to think of any specifics. However, based on all your early conversations, I soooo wish we lived closer so you could be my friend! :)

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  14. I'm a good listener, and generally enjoy hearing what people have to say.
    However, for TMI situations, I have benefitted immensely from this stellar advice from a friend who teaches in a verrrry stressed neighborhood: Simply lean forward, look the person right in the eye, and say "wow!"
    You've acknowledged the info, and essentially stopped the conversation. mnr

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Spill it, reader.