My oldest son writes a column for his campus newspaper. He is quite witty and his columns about a pet cockroach in his dorm room (named Peepo) have evolved into a comic strip.
It’s quite a big deal on campus. And hilarious.
To say I am a bit proud is an understatement. I have never fancied myself as a great writer and I’m more than grateful (and somewhat surprised) when people mention this column. However, I think my son is a pretty good writer and I look forward to reading his work.
So, when he visits home, he brings us a stack of past issues of the paper to read through at our leisure. He leafs through some of them and shows us various articles he’s proud of. He, like the rest of the staff, has been enlisted to take photographs from time to time and I’m amazed that a group of students can take such good pictures.
Leisure time is rare, so I pick up an issue from the stack when I can and leaf through it, often reading it cover to cover over the course of a few days. When I’m finished, I put it on the bottom of the stack and go the next one. I get a feeling of nostalgia and remember college life, recalling how hard I thought it was back then, but now looking at those years as mostly fun, carefree times.
As I was perusing the other day, I came across my son’s smiling face and the glaring headline of his column: Small Talk. Oh my. Now, if you’ve read my column, you’ll know I often talk about how I despise small talk. “How was your weekend?” “Boy, your kids are getting big.”
I really can’t for the life of me figure out why small talk is so irritating. It shouldn’t be and I’m rather ashamed of how it makes me feel. It’s not hurting me, is it? The things I’m being asked are not offensive. So, really, I ought to get over myself.
My son and I share similar views on a lot of things, and I felt mixed emotions when I read that headline. Have I impressed my curmudgeonly behavior on this young man already? Have I spoken about my distaste for small talk so much that I’ve passed it on to him?
Another part of me felt validated and justified. Here is my son, a smart kid, who is agreeing with his old dad and supporting one of my pet peeves.
But I hadn’t yet read the column. Just the headline.
So I read on, and in the course of a few paragraphs, learned my intelligent son was chastising himself for his distaste of small talk. He went on to say that small talk is often the way a person approaches you. Small talk can be the way a relationship starts.
Maybe the person who starts a “small talk” conversation with you wants to build confidence with you and talk about deeper issues. Maybe the person approaching you needs salvation and wants to hear your views about Jesus. Maybe this person really needs a friend.
This person may care for you quite a bit and simply want to know some of the mundane things going on in your life. My son wrote all that.
Basically, his column said that those of us with a disdain for small talk need to get over ourselves and view it as a positive instead of a negative.
I felt about three inches tall after reading it, and so I folded up the paper and put it aside.
OK, son. Point taken. Even if you weren’t writing it for the benefit of your grouchy old dad who often wants to isolate himself from society because people sometimes wear him out.
I’m almost afraid to read his next one.