As much as I enjoy chatting with most anyone - particularly commiserating with fellow parents about kids and parenthood - I’m paranoid of becoming one dimensional in my reservoir of topics for random conversation.
We were up in Vermont for a big party thrown by our friends last weekend. It was a good opportunity to catch up with close buddies and their kids whom we hadn’t seen in a while. The visit was also an occasion where we socialized with friends of the host family friends whom we never met before or did not know very well from prior interactions. As I’ve reflected on my conversations with some of those less familiar faces, the video replay of my brain taunts me internally by saying that I was too lame, boring, and/or negative in my interactions with the masses. In other words, I spoke or complained about my kids too much.
While I chalk up this paranoia most likely to just being out of the loop from shooting the shit with less familiar acquaintances, I so don’t want to be that guy who is only capable of discussing topics somehow related to their kids. While I’m un-embarrassed and even proud to be a sort of “daddy blogger” – not to mention actually being a father – I still desire to simply being, well, at least nominally interesting I guess.
So that’s my awkward transition and inspiration for the direction of this week’s post…
Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship knows that facial expressions alone can communicate sometimes even more effectively than a verbal exchange. The longer the history with the significant other, of course the more extensive the non-verbal language.
I’ve compiled a non-exhaustive list of these talking eyeball communiques, so feel free to supplement with any of the more common examples I’ve omitted.
For starters, let’s go with a universal lay-up that everyone knows and employs. You and your mate are across the room from each other at a group event. Lots of chatter or other ambient noise deters you from just blurting out a loud “Hey, how are you?” inquiry that may suddenly focus unwanted attention on the both of you. Instead, you exhibit the very simple smile acknowledgment in the direction of your partner along with a simultaneous backwards nod. Essentially, you’re saying without saying: “whattup because I care?”
The corresponding response to this question also speaks volumes. You hope for the reciprocal smile back so you know all is well in their neck of the woods. Less encouraging is the shoulder shrug with twisting open hands and the mouth contorting to one side. That says “comme ci, comme ca.” The worst response, though, is the wide open eyes and slow head side to side. That of course means all is not good in the hood.
Now picture the two of you are attending a party hosted by your companion’s family or friend. You’ve reached your limit and would really like to go, but you don’t want to be the guy or girl who’s conspicuously rushing to leave. (This is especially true in the early period of dating when first impressions are still forming.) An overt departure could easily invite gossipy speculation amongst those remaining behind. No one wants to be the inspiration for the dreaded “I don’t think he/she was having a good time, so he/she shanghai’d the other into leaving early” whisper by the resident pot stirrer.
The solution of course is the more subtle “are you ready to leave this party yet?” look, when the coast is clear. Generally accompanied by raised eye brows and maybe even a twist of the head, it’s an expression that shouldn’t last more than three seconds so as to minimize risk of discovery by a passer-by. If you’re getting this look at the party of your relative/amigo, but you’re still having a good time, you might ignore this look altogether and carry on. (This is a textbook move by guys in particular who are on their sixth or seventh beer who are looking to double the intake by night’s end, and would prefer to do keg stands in the absence of their date.)
The much wiser response is the ole private check-in when out of earshot to request a “ten more minutes” extension, which is always parlayed into at least another half hour minimum.
Or maybe you too are ready to go, so you simply nod and announce “hey, we’ve got to hit the road because we’ve got that thing to go to.” The resident pot stirrer of the group will still probably speculate that the new significant other was to blame for the early departure, but at least the cover story will stand.
What else? Well, we certainly can’t overlook the “what-u-talking-bout’-Willis” glare. Usually, this is just a playful gesture of dismay or perhaps a feigned display of dissatisfaction with one’s significant other. Perhaps you’ve just openly criticized the other’s cooking or sense of fashion. It’s kind of an assurance to any bystanders that “I’m just kidding about being annoyed right now, but I can’t let that comment pass without at least objecting publicly.” Okay we’re losing steam. Two to go.
This next one might just be unique to my experience, but who knows? It’s the “did you seriously just fart right now at this most inappropriate moment – slash – is the carcass of a dead mammal decomposing in your colon because it smells so bad” glare and frown of disgust. What? Doesn’t look like I’m getting many amens on that one. Truth be told, I’m the flatulent one in this example (shocked you are, I’m sure) that unfortunately occurs at an alarming frequency. Elevators, small medical offices, cars, bed, phone booths (yes the two of us often enter one to make calls together – on a side note, is there anything more distracting than having a cell phone conversation at the same time as someone else five feet or less away), and generally any confined space with a dearth of air circulation are essentially like kryptonite to my sphincter. Other than the “did you seriously just puke from drinking too much at a 3 year-old’s birthday party?” look of horror/shame, that ranks as one of the most dreaded expressions of all time.
Last but not least, and perhaps not the smoothest departure point from a fart discussion, there’s the “I’m frenching/undressing/seducing you with my eyes right now, so don’t fall asleep” smirk and slow nod with smoldering (not Rene Zellweger) squint. If all has gone well, this look will be followed by the “come hither because it’s time to get after it and we’ve got a hotel room so we’re sleeping late and not making the bed tomorrow” grin. If all has not gone well, the look will transition into an exaggerated eye roll or possibly even the furrowed brow/scowl that nobody likes to inspire. Here’s hoping you see the “come hither” next time opportunity knocks.
There. I am now leaning back in my chair with arms behind my head slowly rocking back and forth with self-satisfaction. This week’s post is complete. End of discussion.