I love being from the South.
I love the pace of life here. I love the words people use, and the way our humor combines exaggeration and (a touch of) sarcasm.
Southerners love words. We tend to play around with words and phrases in order to get our point across. With the right combination, we can sum up an entire story in one phrase. Or if we need a word that doesn’t exist, we have no problem declaring a new one into existence.
Conversations with Southerners take up time, because we have a formula of sorts that most of us use. And that formula begins with small talk. Now, I know some people despise small talk and see it as a waste of time. But it plays a very important role. Small talk is approaching a conversation like you would a creek on summer day. The water seems inviting, but you don’t just go jumping in without checking it out first.
How cold is the water? How fast is the current? And most importantly, are there any snakes around? (Always remember to check for snakes!)
Similarly, small talk allows you to ease into a conversation. It allows you to stick a toe in the water, so to speak, and see if you even want to jump in.
Does the other person want to talk? Do we have time to talk? Is that person safe to talk to? (Always remember to check for snakes!)
If the answer to any of these question is no, we can stay on small talk until the cows come home.
However, if the conversation is moving alone fine and we don’t detect any snakes, we don’t mind going to a deeper subject. Sometimes it takes a while to get good and comfortable, but when we do go deep, treasures are found!
Personally, I am suspicious of people who don’t participate in small talk. They’re the ones who just jump into a conversation with a list of questions right after the hello. That’s like jumping into a freezing cold creek without wading in. It’s just too direct.
For example: You cannot jump in with “Why in the world was Tracie Sue wearing that skanky outfit at the Piggly Wiggly yesterday?” and get a real answer. It just won’t happen. It’s too direct.
However, if you ease into it, here’s what it might sound like:
“How are you?”
“Tolerable. How are you?”
“Oh fine. How’s your momma and em?”
“They are doing fine. Bobby’s been fishing every morning since the time change.”
“Really? He catch anything?”
“Oh yeah. A good mess of fish! You know the time change has me all tired.”
“Me too. But I like it getting light later in the evening.”
“ Me too. Hey, how is Tracie Sue doing?”
A sympathetic shake of the head. “Bless her heart, she’s had such a hard time with that new baby. He cries all the time and she is just beside herself.”
“I saw her at the Piggly Wiggly yesterday.” One eyebrow is raised for effect.
“Oh my. She was wearing THAT outfit wasn’t she?”
“Yep.” The tone in which you say “Yep” and breathe out implies the exact nature of said outfit.
“She’s just can’t seem to lose that baby weight. And you know that husband of hers…”
See? Wasn’t that much more fun than just jumping in and splashing around? Since you waded into the conversation all proper like, the information flows freely.
Small talk can also be extremely helpful in parenting. If you suspect your child has done something wrong but aren’t sure of the details, with a little creative small talk, you can get them to come clean. Never, ever give away that you were unclear on the details.
Every Southern Mama has a line to use after confessions to imply that she is omniscient and omnipresent. When I was a kid my Mama often said, “Honey, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, and you can never fool your Mama.”
I’d love to know your thoughts on small talk, or your favorite “Mama quote.”
Ya’ll have a great day!