I think if I could sum up all my annoyances with other people, it would be:
STOP MAKING MOUTH NOISES.
Currently though, it’s, “stop making mouth noises and glaring at me for sitting near you when I was here first and your boyfriend is wearing cuffed jean shorts and talking to you in a baby voice.”
It’s at this point that I do the Temper Tantrum Checklist.
Am I hungry?
Am I tired?
Do I need a change of clothes/scenery?
(All of the above.)
I would really like to believe that we are all just walking each other home, or whatever other romantic quote expresses well the intent to connect, but then I spend so much time trying to avoid snacking sounds and unwanted stares and the general grab-iness that is strangers in public.
When I worked in retail for a hot second*, we were encouraged to connect with guests through “authentic conversation.”
"Avoid the tired, 'can I help you find something,'" we were told.
Rather, we were to treat our job as if we were hosting a cocktail party, and therefore greeting our friends.
This for me turned into a lot of shallow compliments.
“Ooh I love that bag!” I would say.
Or, “Gah, I have that shirt in black and I wish I got it in every color.”
I mean, it was retail so it wasn’t strange to be talking about clothes and accessories. But even a week or so in I was thoroughly annoyed with my own voice. This cannot be what anyone means by “authentic.”
Before I went off to France the second time, I read an article about how truly American it is to compliment external things so frequently in public. It is second-nature as an American to smile at other people, to tell them we like what they are wearing. French people don’t do this. If they give you a compliment, it doesn’t mean they are casually striking up a conversation or trying to make sure you know they are friendly.
The close-held opinion means something. It carries weight. And a smile should be earned.
I would very much like to not rely on the cheap and easy ways in which we commodify relationships, and when I put these wants together with hope and belief in the best of humans? Well, this is the work then. Because it is a difficult conversation to start.
*I worked for a holiday season at a popular and much-maligned yoga retailer. While I am not cut out to be good at selling pants, it was a much more valuable experience than I intended it to be.