Summer is rapidly winding down, and that means people are going to try to take advantage of the remaining days of warm weather and have as many major summer blowouts as they can. So forget your plans for idle August days. You will be jumping from one party to another, likely of the outdoor variety. There will be beach and decade-specific themes, lots of mojitos, and if you’re lucky, plenty of jorts.
All this means you’ll be barraged by small talk from people you’ve never met before and may never see again. If you’re like me, you can agree that small talk is paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaainful. Regardless if you’re an introvert or an extrovert, having conversations with a bunch of people you don’t know can be tedious and repetitive. For instance, the standard opening line to such small talk in New York City is “what do you do?” Because you know, we’re all defined by our jobs. Usually at a party, the last thing I want to talk about is work, so I’ll give a vague answer of “I work at a nonprofit”, which more times than not triggers the follow up, “oh which one?” Now, allow me to rant a little. I don’t get why the question of “which one?” is automatically triggered by my purposely vague description of “what I do.” Chances are you won’t know which one. Also, if I wanted you to know, I would have said so, right? So I usually respond in one of three ways: 1) I’ll explain a bit about what I do, 2) I’ll say “oh it’s really small and you’ve never heard of it,” or 3) I’ll quip “eh, it’s my day off, let’s not talk about work.”
Okay, rant over. And that third response is what leads me to share some valuable information for dealing with small talk at your summer-ending festivities: something I like to call “Fun and Interesting Topics for Party Conversation.” Or, more succinctly, “Party Non-Sequiturs.” Below are a few interesting topics you can (and should) discuss at your summer parties besides the obligatory “hot enough for you?”
- In five words or less tell me: what do you like to do?
- Did you hear about the Curious Mars Rover/Mohawk guy/something else NASA related? (If this gets a non-response, try asking what their favorite flavor of astronaut ice cream is).
- Did you know that due to the earthquake that rocked Japan in 2011, the rotation of the earth sped up by a fraction of a second? How does that make you feel, knowing that natural disasters can kill not just people but also time itself?
- When did you first learn your parents were actual people?
- Have you ever been in a subway car by yourself? What did you do and how worried were you it might end up on youtube?
- How about them (local sports team)? (Note: avoid discussing the Mets)
- Can you swim? (Note: avoid asking this while standing at water’s edge at a pool party)
- Do you remember when 30 was old? (Note: avoid asking this to someone potentially under 30, unless you’re at a pool party and want to test their answer to above-mentioned question)
- What do you think Meatloaf won’t do for love?
- Would you date someone with different social media beliefs than you?
- Are you a coffee or tea drinker?
- What is your pet peeve? (This should probably get people talking!)
- What are your thoughts on the prolonged violence in Syria, both as to how it relates to the Middle East specifically and the world at large? (This is to throw them off with some serious-ish)
- Can you believe Tom and Katie got divorced? Do you think that love is now officially dead?
- Who is your favorite musician that died this year?
- Would you consider yourself a reader?
- Who is the person you like least at this party? Really? Oh, I kind of like him/her.
- Start to play an informal game of marry/bang/kill, where the person that you’re speaking to doesn’t realize and is increasingly uncomfortable with you saying who at the party you would spend the rest of your life with and who you would throw off the Williamsburg Bridge.
- Did you read that article in [fill in a pretentious magazine here]? (Pretentious magazines are to people our age what knowing obscure bands is to early 20-somethings).
- Also another fun trick: make up a magazine like “Cromulent Weekly.” See how many people claim to have read it too.
- What’s your favorite dinosaur?
- Have you ever worn colored contacts? If so, what are you trying to hide…..?
The list can really go on and on, however these few conversation starters should serve to help you on your way to becoming the life of the party and dominating the small talk that we all dread!