Hey FM Ethicist! How do you handle those awkward convos when you don’t really care about someone’s summer?
Over the summer, Harvard students write novels while sitting on Tahitian beaches, form future international conglomerates, and help starving sub-equatorial children learn about women in business. But when it comes to spinning the tale, style murders substance.
Picture it. You vacantly smile after an aborted hug with someone whose name you sort of remember, and then listen to one of those stories about the inconvenience of travel and how in New York everyone’s merging and acquiring or whatever. Blah.
The summer holiday story is the inevitable gutter-fodder of September social interactions. You won’t remember what she did. You don’t care where he worked. You don’t admire the orange tan, and certainly don’t want to air-hug whomever lurks beneath it.
So how do you avoid these crap exchanges?
For one—FM’s favorite—just end the conversation before it starts. Immediately after saying hi and where you’re going with that case of beer, smile like Vanna White and say “Okay, bye!” Better yet, point over your friend’s shoulder, whisper “Bees!,” and run away.
Or, avoid the subject wholesale by focusing intently on the present. Point to the splatter of vomit plastered on Quincy’s ceiling or your senior tutor’s feet, and do the whole wide-eyed wonder thing. Tease tourists. Gossip.
You can also avoid dealing with your orange acquaintances by fake-talking loudly on your cell phone. Repeat something inoffensive, like
“I know!” or, if it’s Saturday, “Where’s the party at?!,” and then smirk, wave, and pass right by them.
And if worst comes to worst, ask your tanned compadre to get lunch or coffee, and really sort out what Namibian toddlers know about the glass ceiling.