There are certain conversation topics that tactful people generally avoid — politics at Thanksgiving dinner, your glitzy new job in front of your unemployed friend, the obvious weight your sibling gained at college. It’s a matter of not stirring the pot, keeping people at ease. As we get older, we tend to pick up on these taboo subjects and keep them to ourselves. However, we simultaneously accrue some conversation topics that are so un-taboo that they’re not even worth discussing.
The first subject that practically everyone will talk about, ad nauseum, is how cute their dog or cat is. Let’s face it; we all think our pets are the most lovable, hilarious, sweet creatures that exist. No one else’s pet can be as good as our pet. Even though we hold this view, we still continue to gab about that clumsy thing that Sparky the border collie did the other day, or the snuggling session we had with Raisin the dachshund. Lord knows I talk about my fluffy corgi, Chowder, on a daily basis. But the reality is, no amount of detail or number of pictures of our pets is going to impress anyone else—because they’re already obsessed with their own pet.
Another topic really not worth mentioning is the dream you had last night. You are not special for having some weird, mildly terrifying situation occur in your brain during the wee hours of the night — it happens to everyone. The only exception to this rule is if you’re telling someone about a dream in which they play a part. Otherwise, you’ll go into excruciating detail about how you were saving the world from spaghetti monsters while riding a tiger, and conclude, “Isn’t that crazy?” And nine times out of 10, your listener (if they listened at all) will respond with, “Mm.” Just keep your dreams to yourself.
One story that everyone has to tell is their “horrendous” airport/flight experience story. Once again, you are not unique if you’ve had to spend an exorbitant amount of time at the airport, nor if you’ve sat through truly terrifying turbulence. Almost as soon as someone brings up a crappy flying experience, someone chimes in with their own awful story, as if it’s a competition. It’s not; we will all suffer at the hands of United, or Delta, or some other airline at some point or another.
Which brings me to the final topic that CC students in particular love to discuss: how much work they have. It’s another topic where as soon as someone complains about their reading, paper, or exam, someone immediately has to butt in and top it, as if having more work makes you somehow better, or smarter, or worthier of sympathy. The fact of the matter is, we all have lots of work to do; we go to a highly competitive liberal arts college. Just because your friend is sighing over staying in to prepare for a presentation does not mean that you must conjure up tears over getting not only a presentation, but a paper done, too, while juggling three extracurriculars and two work-study jobs. Really, the best we can do is stop complaining about our work and just do it.
I am all for being politically correct and avoiding touchy subjects when they may damage an already sensitive environment or conversation. Nevertheless, I don’t believe we should turn to subjects that are so relatable that they’re not even interesting. Talking about your dog, your dream, your flight, or your homework is too easy — no one will listen actively to those stories, because they too are living them. It’s time we dug deeper and got to the real stuff — like if your dad was a breakfast cereal, which one would he be?