Monday, December 10, 2007

Talking shop

There's often nothing more pleasurable than talking shop with one's coolest colleagues or professional friends. And believe you me: I can yammer on and on about scholarly and pedagogical issues with the right people and in the right setting--especially if there's food or alcohol involved.

But there's this thing called "knowing one's audience." Do my non-academic friends want to hear me talk about the above issues in quite as much detail (or any detail)? No. And do my friends in other fields want an earful about, say, the appalling things the Marlowe scholars are up to these days? No, they do not.

So for the love of humanity: if we're not in the same field, please do not assume that I want to know the extreme minutiae of whatever it is that you do--whether that be corporate finance or analytic philosophy. I like people and I like knowing about their lives, so I will certainly ask you questions. And when I ask you questions, it is either because I genuinely want to know the answers, am enjoying our conversation, or both.

But. . . when I stop asking questions, you could maybe notice that fact. You could be alert enough to recognize when you've been dominating conversation for some time. It could occur to you to wonder why I'm spinning my wineglass in my hands and staring vaguely across the room.


It might be a sign that I need more wine. More likely, I'm willing the restaurant kitchen to catch fire and force an immediate evacuation.


Renaissance Girl said...

I quote from the poet James Galvin's poem "Little Dantesque":

"Hard by the hinges of Hell,
A faculty party."

'Tis the season for being thrust into social occasions with abstracted bores from many, many fields.

Flavia said...

What a wonderful quotation!

(This wasn't a faculty/professional event, however--had that been the case, there might have been a more convenient means of escape.)

Sisyphus said...

Heh heh ---- that sounds like a not-very-good first date, is what it sounds like to me.

Ah, don't you just wish that sometimes you could tell someone exactly what's on your mind without any future consequences?

Or maybe you could have just whipped out a pen and played tic-tac-toe games on the napkin.

kfluff said...

Oh man do I hate this particular intellectual disease! (Even as I secretly fear that I'm guilty of it. But doesn't that worry automatically disqualify me? Perhaps I should meditate on the nature of truth to figure it out...)

In situations like these, I often fantasize about faking a seizure.

medieval woman said...

Oh, man - am I with you on this!

But *adjacent* fields can be fun - especially when you know some of the same people! Sorry - I was just reminded o four last blogger meet-u when we were like, "Oh, I know, he annoys me too!!!"

Academic snark crosses all boundaries... :)

Flavia said...

Sisyphus: why yes indeed, although it was actually a second date, shame be upon me.

But, one is weak. And sometimes one convinces oneself that cuteness and smartness can triumph over social and other forms of obtuseness. Hasn't proven so yet, though.

Kfluff: I think that fearing one is a bore does mean that one, ipso facto, is not a bore. So I absolve you.

And finally MW: wasn't that fun? I suspect that particular individual may just have special, woman-annoying properties--my male friends/acquaintances seem to like him, but I've never yet met a woman who didn't make an "ugh!" face upon hearing his name. Maybe he just emits a noise pitched too high for men (or, alternately, women) to hear?