Nov 22, 2014

The Seven Things You’re Not Supposed to Talk About

No one cares.

Mark and I just came back from a visit with my childhood friends —friends of 50 years or more.  We spent a lot of time just hanging out.  Early in the visit, someone brought up the seven things you are not supposed to talk about.  The list was evidently put together by a French woman, who passed it on to an American woman, whose daughter  Sara was interviewing her and filling in for Ira Glass on This American Life.  Some of the things are obvious, some not so obvious, but I will share the whole list here.

The first, and most offensive, said Sara’s mother, was “route talk.”  The very idea of telling someone how you got there –to wherever –was at the top of the list of colossally boring subjects.  No one wants to know how you got there.  No one wants to know about traffic.  About getting lost.  About stopping along the way.   Sara’s family, for some reason, sometime ago, had invited Robert Redford to their home.  And when he got there the first thing he did was engage in route talk: “how he got lost and asked someone for directions, and they recognized him and asked for his autograph, and so on.”  According to Sara’s mother Redford’s recitation of route took as long as it took him to get there — two hours.   Sara asked her:  Is he dead to you now?  Her mother replied:  Pretty much.

Money was a big one, and we all know about that.  I can’t imagine any one who was brought up without knowing that talking about money is rude.  And, yet, says Sara’s mother, that is all that Americans do.  (Including her, she admitted).

One applies to only half the population, and it’s easy to understand.  Never, ever talk about your period.

Then there is your health — no one, says Mrs. Mattheison — is interested in your health.  The only exception is a serious illness, and among friends.

After that there is diet.  Especially offensive at the dinner table.  That includes whether you are trying to lose weight, what you’re eating, what you can’t eat, what you don’t eat.  Vegans, beware.  I understand this one, because my brother, who is incredibly healthy and skinny, will inevitably take a bite of dessert and comment that he shouldn’t be doing it.  I, of course, do not talk about how I should not eat dessert, even though I shouldn’t.

We’re on to sleep.  It’s boring to talk about how you slept, or didn’t sleep.  Boring to everyone, but maybe you.

And finally, there are dreams.  No one cares about your dreams.  For Sara’s Mom the pinnacle of boredom could be Dream Groups.

Having learned all of this, I, along with my friends, did our very best to bring up the seven things you don’t talk about in every conversation we had.

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Gloria. Circa 1955.

Gloria. Circa 2012.

Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.

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