Saturday, June 20, 2009

The beauty of facebook and to a much lesser extent myspace and twitter, is that it allows you to reconnect with people who you have not seen or spoken to in 5, 10 or even 20 years. The annoying part about those sites is that you have to engage in substantive conversations with people you haven't spoke to or seen in 5, 10 or even 20 years. Its not that I'm a pompous ass who thinks anyone who has not spoken to me recently is beneath me, its just an arduous task to navigate through. Allow me to explain..

When you haven't seen someone in 5 years, it is much easier to break through the wall of small talk, and get to the meat of things. You aren't bogged down with the "What's been ups?" or the "What's goods?" or any of that. The questions are specific and to the point like, "Are you still dating so and so?" or "Do you still work at 7-11?". These are the types of questions that can easily segue into other conversations, and before you know it, three or four emails have been traded and you're all caught up and squared away. Once that common bond is met and the good feelings are reciprocated, you can go back to ignoring one another for 5 years.

When you haven't talked to someone since college, the challenge is much much greater. First off, in my case, its been 13 years since I received my degree, so there is large chasm between who I am now, and who I was when I walked off that graduation stage. So any attempt to fill that in is destined to fall short. But then on top of that, you have to play the "Do you still talk to __________ ?" game. Since this person already has limited knowledge of who you are and what you're about, they find solace in linking you with folks you hung out with when you were 22. Sometimes it segues into something else, but most times it stalls, and both parties are annoyed, and any attempt to get to know another fades into Bolivian . Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying its impossible to have a "normal" conversation, there are just a lot traps along the way.

The MOST difficult conversations to have, are with people you haven't spoken to since high school, jr high or middle school. Half the time I'm amazed these people even remember me, given how quiet and awkward I was in my youth. But once you get over the initial shock and excitement that someone you've "known" for so long is now back in your life, the conversation is just bad. "What's been up?" is too broad. "Have you talked to ______?" is too unreasonable. "How are parents and brother?" seems like a safe place to start, but given the amount of time that has elapsed since you've talked to this person, parents could be divorced and deceased and relationships with siblings could be strained. Its just a mine field man, and for someone like me who thinks, over thinks and over thinks again, it drives me crazy.

But I keep doing it. Why? When you finally wade through the b.s. and you settle into a comfort zone with that person, you realize that you can strike some common ground, you can learn, and whether you like it or not, this person is a small chapter in the larger book of life you continue to write. And yes that last line was corny.

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