“Sometimes people say things and I don’t know what to do with my face.”- David Sedaris
I have a very expressive face, which is a pleasant way of saying that I can be kind of an asshole when people say something that I find stupid or disgusting or banal. I don’t mean to be, but the longer someone tells me about cleaning out their refrigerator over the weekend, the more I can feel my eyes widening and my mouth falling open in shock that this is an actual story that they believe must be told.
I try to hold this in as much as possible, but over time I have come to resent that the burden is put on me to stop you from feeling badly about the insane things you are saying. Yes, I should learn more tact, but you should reconsider some of your anecdotes. So I’d like to expand on Rip’s worst topics of conversation and discuss the five things that I wish you would just stop telling me.
5. Your Zodiac sign and how it explains your personality
Remember last year when they came out with the “new Zodiac” that changed all the signs around and everyone freaked out because now everything they believed was wrong and their tramp stamps were suddenly meaningless? What happened to all that? Did they reverse it due to the uproar of the new age community? Because I sort of thought that would be the end of Zodiac signs. Yet I still meet people who ascribe all they are and all they will be to the date that they were born.
Mostly this is just annoying, but in some cases it’s worrisome. People who describe themselves as “textbook Gemini” are describing behavior patterns that sound eerily similar to bipolar disorder. And I never know when in a conversation it’s appropriate to suggest that they put down their horoscope and make an appointment with a mental health professional.
4. Something sad that happened to a distant acquaintance of yours
I wrote about a certain kind of person in my This is Why You’re Bad at Facebook post who seems to be more affected by the general tragedy of the world than others. I call these people “Sadness Sponges,” because they absorb the misfortune of others that the rest of us ignore in the name of living our lives. Their dedication to always having a tragic tale to tell is commendable, but it forces me to think very hard about my facial expression when talking to them. Because when Sadness Sponges tell me how upset they are about their wife’s boss’ son’s appendicitis, I have a tough time looking as concerned as they seem to think I should be.
Maybe I’m insensitive, but if there’s nothing for me to actually do in response to your story except be concerned about the parties involved, then I don’t know what to do with the information. How worried am I supposed to be about a stranger that’s three people removed from my hairdresser? By that logic, Kevin Bacon would literally never be able to stop worrying.
3. Why your child’s latest developmental milestone proves that he/she is a genius
There are many firsts in a baby’s life, and my level of enthusiasm for each is, in my opinion, appropriately proportional to how well I know said baby’s parents and the importance of the first. My sister’s child takes her first step? Hooray! I welcome that phone call. My co-worker’s baby learns to use a straw? Oh. Cool. Now he can drink Capri Suns and look effeminate in a bar one day. Good for him.
Where I lose patience is when parents draw absurd conclusions based on the speed by which their child learned his colors or discovered how to grab and hold objects, exclaiming to everyone who will listen that this proves that the child is advanced. Yes, it’s great that your child is developing normally, or even ahead of schedule. But I have yet to meet an adult who hasn’t mastered the use of his own hands, so I assume it’s something most babies will figure out sooner or later. And it’s tough to accept that your kid is a genius when he keeps insisting he’s going to grow up to be a fire hydrant.
2. Anything you won’t tell me while I’m eating
There is nothing I hate more than being halfway through a sandwich when someone starts telling an ominous story – a person walking barefoot through a nail-ridden work site, the sushi they ate that didn’t quite smell right – before pausing, glancing at my food and saying, “I shouldn’t tell you this while you’re eating. I’ll wait.”
Now I have to eat my sandwich knowing that a disgusting story awaits as soon as I take the last bite. Even though I’ve lost my appetite in anticipation of your story, I continue to chew slowly, delaying the inevitable. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that if a story is too gross to tell me while I’m eating, don’t tell me as soon as my stomach is full. Better yet, please don’t tell me at all.
1. The cleanse you’re doing
Can you imagine trying to explain the concept of a cleanse to a person from a third-world country? How would you describe the need to flush toxins in order to raise your overall energy to a child living under the very real threat of cholera? I don’t mean to lay a bunch of first-world guilt on you, except that I kind of do because you are just so goddamn pleased with yourself for pooping.
Just because you put a fancy word on it and ordered it from Gwenyth Paltrow’s personal line, doesn’t make me think of bowel movements any less. So the next time someone tells me about the activity in their colon and how good it feels to be natural, I will allow my face to respond naturally.