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.