Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012...10:16 pm

#159: Don’t Talk To Strangers

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Want to make your kids so embarrassed by you that their faces burst into flames and they attempt to sink right down into the grime-covered floor?

Then go to a restaurant with them, spend some time acting like a normal person — you know, ordering a glass of wine, surveying the menu — and then, just when they’re starting to relax a little bit and think that this time being out with you might actually be fun, turn to those people next to you — yes, those absolute strangers — and start talking to them.

I mean, like you’re friends.  Yeah, like you are actually at the restaurant together.  Ask them what they do for work, where they live, how they heard about the place, whether their food is any good.  Then maybe move on to their marital status, fertility issues, money troubles.

This happened to us tonight.  We were in Brooklyn, in Williamsburg, feeling all cool and young and hip, even though most of the other people in the restaurant were actually too young to be our children.  We were seated at a communal table but that was okay, since everybody was ignoring us, or if not ignoring us, being extra nice to us, as if we were visiting dignitaries from a faraway planet.

And then in walked a father and his teenage son, who sat down next to us.  I’ll call them G and K, because those are their initials (hi, G and K!).  And then….

Well, how did it start?  I guess we’re old, and we just can’t help ourselves.  We made some comment, and then the dad G made some comment, and pretty soon we were talking about where we lived and where we worked and whether we preferred ice cream or potato chips and what we were doing in 1982.

Meanwhile, poor 16-year-old K bore the whole thing pretty well, I thought, much better than our kids would have.  Our kids would have been mortified and would have been shooting us veiled yet pointed looks letting us know that they were going to punish us for all this random friendliness.

As soon as they were alone with us again, they would have hissed, Don’t you know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers?

But hey, G ended up buying our dinner: Thank you so much, G!  And so I invited him to my book party, you know, the one for that new novel of mine, The Possibility of You, that you were just about to buy.  And so it can happen that when you talk to strangers, they become friends, as long as you’re old enough to handle it.

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  • But if the kids were to strike up a conversation with some other cooler than cool kid(s)–well–that would be copacetic, no?
    I wonder when it becomes a desired acquired skill–this talking to strangers. Maybe when the kidos discover that the human resources guy across the table is a stranger who definitely needs to be impressed by his/her verbal interactions. lol.
    Thanks for the fun blog. :)
    Christine London
    christinelondon “dot” com

  • Pamela Redmond Satran
    February 23rd, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Thanks, Christine. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, because the kids are too cool, or too shy-pretending-to-be-cool, to talk to anyone they don’t know.

  • The best way to not seem old is to, for God’s sakes,


    It’s only the old who act young. Don’t try to appear fit, and sit upright in your chair. Young people hang back, with their legs up.

    Act as lazy and uninterested as you can, and you will definitely seem young.

  • I have always been an extrovert. I talk to everyone. When our daughter was little (she’s still young, so I can’t use that description for this tale), she would tell me, “don’t talk to people.” She also said, “don’t sing,” so I paid little to no attention to her requests. She is now a lovely young mother of two tiny people, and she is a minister. When I am out with her, she practically stops people on the street to talk to them. She is much more brazen about it than I was or am. Yet, she still says to me, “don’t tell people everything you know.” I’m waiting…

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