Friday, July 3, 2015

the small and short of it

We like to keep a lot of things short--meetings, doctor appointments, to-do lists, illnesses, lectures.
One of my particular quirks is the length of my fingernails. If they get even a millimeter too long I cannot rest until I cut them short. Seriously. I despise long nails, I keep mine short and bluntly cut. Filing gives me the heebie jeebies and though I remember admiring my mother's perfect oval-shaped nails when I was young, I square off my grownup nails by cutting straight across so I don't have to shave away with a nail file. No polish, no buff, no muss, no fuss. Sometimes some dirt gets beneath them, but I can fix that by washing dishes, right?

fresh cut two hours ago
Speaking of short, dig this picture of Mr. T and me at his Eagle Board of Review. Notice how short I am next to him now. Mr. B and I nearly see eye to eye these days, too. Soon I'll be the smallest member of our family.

bonus: a patriotic photo for the 4th of July

Finally, I have a short list for my comrades in conversation. As previously mentioned, I'm wretched at making small talk and it sounds like many of you share this problem. We'd rather really talk to someone about ideas, books, movies, philosophy, politics, art. My week in Baltimore was so wonderful because I was surrounded by my ilk, women who write and have great ideas about writing, publishing, society, religion and reading. We never found ourselves short on topics to discuss. Heck, we barely came up for air!

This problem of small talk--well, it's not going away anytime soon. I'm going to be stuck making it again so instead of dreading it, I'm going in prepared. This month alone I see at least five occasions when I'll need to bring my "A Game" to a conversation. I found this link to be helpful in formulating a list of Topics for Small Talk. My list is short and doesn't include divisive issues (like politics--it's pretty easy to stick one's foot in one's mouth when you live in Wisconsin, although I could go on and on if tapped on this subject).

Five Small Talk Topics:

1. Tell me about how you and _________ met. How long have you been friends/married/lovers/business partners?
2. Do you have vacation plans?
3. What projects are you working on these days?
4. When/how did you become a _________ fan? (saving this one for a sporting event)
5. What's your dream occupation?

Spill it, reader. What do you like short? What's your go-to small talk topic to add to this list?


  1. I'm totally with you: short fingernails, must be cut the second they are beyond the skin of my fingertips.

    Beyond that: I always like meetings at work to be short...preferably to the point of non-existence.

  2. Short fingernails! Yes! I can not stand it when they get even a little bit long. I have short wide nails that look ridiculous with polish, so that might be part of why I feel this way :-)

    I love the story (in the book Quiet by Susan Cain) about the man who always wrote down topics or funny stories on index cards and kept them in his pocket. He'd excuse himself from the table, check one of his cards, and then when he came back he'd use that for his next required conversational tidbit. Sounds like a good idea to me!

  3. I dread small talk too. I'll have to remember your suggested topics the next time I'm in a small talk situation.

  4. Piano players have short fingernails.

  5. I wonder if long and glamorous nails is a sign that you don't use your that really so wonderful a statement?

  6. I keep my nails very very short as well. To many years of playing the piano.

    Small talk is manageable (and sometimes enjoyable) if you think of it as an interview and really finding out about that person. Giving them a chance to open up and then following the breadcrumbs they drop.

  7. Before going anywhere, I write down several topics on an index card, things that happened recently, funny story about the dogs, even if I'm saying something about what happened to me, it can get others to chime in. I hate it when I hear crickets. I do love it when I find someone who has a really cool hobby or job, so I sound sincere when I ask questions.
    I worked for several years in a small office, and there was a rule - no politics, no religion. Sports was always a safe topic.

  8. That is a good small-talk list of questions/topics. I should probably memorize it.
    Here's hoping that your illness is as short as both of our nails!


Spill it, reader.