I don't know if there is something in the water they give you at large private universities like not-Yale, or something in the air, or some subliminal signal they implanted in my sesame street, but I have to say, I'm good at the shmooze. While generations past may have attempted to disregard social conventions and overturn Emily Post, my own peers and I seem to have decided that if there is a cocktail hour happening we are damn well going to be a part of it, and not only because we are resessionistas, but because talking with people twice our age about subjects beyond our comprehension is really what we do best. We as a generation when asked what we are rebelling against can calmly give answers like "racism" or "global warming" or "low rent vodka", rather then upsetting a small town and driving away on a motorcycle (do you know the mortality rating on those things? Incidentally, aren't these horsd'oeuvres fabulous?) Reading social cues and bantering about political situations is the way we roll. Or at least, I thought it was.
I recently was out to brunch with my brother,who is himself a champion level shmoozer, and we ran into an acquaintance of mine who is the sibling of my brother's friend in LA. Now, this young person is, with the exception of their west-coast origins, nearly identical to many of the people I know, private school educated, recently graduated from a high profile college, clearly intelligent, not a terrible dresser. But the thing is, well, the thing is, this kid just can't play the game.
Now, let's be clear here, I'm not saying that I myself don't have my share of awkward moments. I actually probably have more then my share of awkward moments. I could open an awkward moment store and sell some off and still really have enough left for the rest of my life, just to give you an image of my awkward moment reserves. But I at least can carry on a conversation without feeling like I need to phone a friend.
But perhaps I'm being harsh, here. Perhaps I've been deluding myself all these years in thinking that the people around me know what they are doing in public. Perhaps lots of us are struggling to make conversation as they wait in line at the grocery store or for more canapes at a party. Perhaps it's only the weather that is preventing humanity from leaving their homes naked each day because they can't be bothered to dress. And so, for those secret struggles out there, unable to discuss topics which they neither know nor care about at length with virtual strangers, I provide for you now a practical guide to shmoozing:
1. Gently mock yourself. It makes other people feel instantly superior, and therefore, at ease.
2. Once you find out where the other person is from, inquire about that location. For example: You're from Iowa? Wow, is it weird for you to be in a building over two stories and not made of corn husks?
3. When discussing someone else's job, it's wise not to react badly when you find out they do something you neither understand or respect, like hedgefunders or people who make handbags.
4. Talk about T.V. Everybody loves T.V.!
5. If they don't love T.V. just walk away. It's not you, it's them.
Leah Franqui is a fairly interesting person/director/writer/reader/eater/drinker. She likes ugly dogs and dislikes her hair in the morning. She's a sucker for environmental causes and plays hardball with deals on chewing gum. She is a struggle.