You Know My Coffee Addiction, You Don't Know Me

You sit there at the breakfast table, listening to a friend of a friend disclose the details of her crazy Saturday night. Between spoonfuls of yogurt you chime in with strategically timed gasps and Oh my God, no’s. At some point, you notice that the guys and girls you’re sitting with have burst out in laughter, so you join in out of habit, the crinkles missing from your eyes. You’re laughing with your friends, now. To any observer it looks like you’re part of just another group of friends, joking about past hookups and the girl who vomited in the back of lecture. But even amidst your own laughter, your mind wanders and you can’t stop yourself from wondering, What am I doing here?

 

To those around you you’re that girl from Twitter. You’re Grey’s Anatomy and coffee girl. You’re the girl in class who is way too loud and animated when talking to her friends before lecture; you’re the girl who never talks and stares down at her phone screen, while different groups of friends chatter all around you until the professor arrives. When people run into you they point out the coffee in your hand. And for lack of a better conversation topic (or the lack of courage to introduce one of substance) you happily draw out the discussion of your beverage choice for three or so minutes, before transitioning to your hefty opinions about the weather.

But you are more than just the things that the people around you understand you to be. You are the goofy voices you make around those you feel comfortable with. You are your hopes and your aspirations, your childhood memories, and your childhood traumas. You are your convictions about fate and demons and miracles and life after death. You are the secrets you keep tucked away in the deepest chamber of your heart, those that you’d be willing to disclose if someone only asked for the key. You are all those big little things that society convinces you are unbecoming to share with someone you’re just beginning to know. So you’re left sitting there laughing half-heartedly, while the other half of your soul stands like a noiseless patient spider, ceaselessly musing in hope that the gossamer thread it flings will catch somewhere—someone.

And maybe that’s why you feel that your newest friends don’t really know you. And that you don’t really know them. How are you expected to become close with someone when the discussions necessary to build that intimacy are topics broached only by those whose close friendship has already been established?

Recently, I read an article titled “The End of Small Talk”, which was published in the Modern Love section of the New York Times. The author, Tim Boomer, tells a thought-provoking account of the no-small-talk policy he implemented, first during his re-entry to the dating scene, and then with his colleagues. In the piece, he argues for the abandonment of continual and unvarying small talk in an effort to form meaningful connections with those around us. Articulating what I’ve been feeling for the past few years, he writes,

 “Why can’t we replace small talk with big talk and ask each other profound questions right from the start? Replace mindless chatter about commuting times with a conversation about our weightiest beliefs and most potent fears? Questions that reveal who we are and where we want to go?"

So let’s skip the jabber about the soup du jour and initiate something beautiful.

 You are sitting on a friend’s couch beneath mounds of fleece blankets, drinking peppermint hot chocolate from mugs shaped like dinosaurs. You rest your head on your friend’s shoulder, while another shares the story of her grandmother’s death. The fire crackles behind you. At some point, a marshmallow gets thrown across the room, and pretty soon you are all laughing. The more you realize how not funny it was, the harder you laugh. You are laughing with your friends now, laughing so hard that tears are streaming down your face. You’re doing that ugly laugh-cry where your mascara is running and your nose is snotty and you’re gasping for air and you look so ugly but you don’t care because you’re friends are doing it too. Except they aren’t ugly. They’re beautiful to you because they are your dearest friends; they hold the key to the inner chamber of your heart and you carry a piece of their souls with you everywhere you go. These are your breathtaking childhood friends, but it does not have to take half a lifetime for the people you meet today to share in that intimacy. As Tim Boomer said, “All it takes is a willingness to dive into conversations that may make us uncomfortable or that many believe to be inappropriate for first encounters.”

 

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Images: 1, 2, 3, 4

Works Referenced: "The End of Small Talk" by Tim Boomer. (Jan. 14, 2016)