Sometimes people (men) are a bit simple. They need help to talk to other people in a way that isn’t shitty and awful. Gem Wilder has provided this easy guide to not being a urine-soaked bag of burnt popcorn.
So you’re talking to a woman. Congratulations! Isn’t she glorious? All women are. Most of them know it, too. They know they’re incredible goddesses because they tell each other all the time in their private message groups. They run into each other in the tea room at work and say things like “Your hair looks great like that!” and “I love your dress!” They just straight up say that shit, to each other’s faces, and they manage to do it without sounding like creeps. And then they give cryptic replies, like “It only cost $5 from the Sallies,” or “It has pockets!”
Anyway, you’re talking to a glorious woman, she’s someone you’ve just met, or someone you don’t know very well. You’re trying to keep the conversation going. You desperately try to remember what women like. Babies! Women love babies, don’t they? They’re always talking about sniffing them. And you’ve got a couple of kids at home. You’re practically an expert. You even changed some nappies. So you ask: “Got any kids?”
“No,” she replies. Just no. Nothing more than that. Shit. The talk is really stalling now. You have to do something.
“Planning on having any?”
There’s a pause. An icy breeze ominously dances across the nape of your neck. You could swear you saw her roll her eyes as she slowly turns towards you, taking a long swig of her drink. She seems to be fighting the urge to sigh. “Not right now,” she mutters, bored. You try to change the topic, but it’s too late. She’s already decided she doesn’t want to indulge you by having a conversation of any sort. You can see her eyes drifting, scanning the room for a more worthy companion.
Goddammit, why did you have to go and lead with babies?
So, next time you find yourself talking to a woman you don’t know very well, here are a few conversation starters you could try that have nothing to do with whether or not she has a uterus and whether or not she plans on growing anyone in it.
Politics. Or more specifically, American politics. Usually politics is off the table as a conversation topic with someone you don’t know particularly well. American politics has become the exception. Pretty much anyone with functioning brain cells will agree that the orange goblin is just really fucking awful. So maybe kick off with:
“Did you see what Trump tweeted yesterday?”
Or “On a scale of 1 to The Only Reason I Can Get Out Of Bed Every Morning Is Because I’m On A Lot Of Prescription Drugs, how terrified are you of nuclear war right now?”
Y’know, just some light banter over cocktails. Simple.
Climate Change. Seriously, why doesn’t anyone ever ask me what I think about climate change? I HAVE A LOT TO SAY ABOUT IT! So maybe do some learning, and flex your muscles with some cold hard facts. Like:
“Did you know that over the next 30 years hundreds of thousands – possibly well over a million – Pacific Islanders could be displaced or forced to migrate due to climate change?”
If she’s not interested in vanishing coastlines she’s quite possibly a dick fritter, but you may catch her interest with the refugee aspect of climate change. It’s hard to have missed the refugee crises taking place around the globe over recent years. Climate change takes those news items and those boats and transports them into the future in our very own backyard. It’s a depressing conversation topic, for sure, but at least you’ll be talking, right? Heated debates beat awkward silences hands down.
Pop culture. It’s so easy. Honestly. Easy as pie. Easy peasy lemon squeezie. Easy like a Sunday morning.
“Seen any good movies lately?”
You can substitute movies for books or TV programmes. You can ask for music recommendations. Honestly, write down a few of her favourite songs and tell her you’ll go home and look them up. You don’t have to, but hey, she doesn’t need to know that. And you could. You might discover that actually you far prefer Lana Del Ray’s Lust For Life to Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life. What have you got to lose?!
But there’s a catch. Once you’ve asked a woman a decent question, you have to actively listen to her answer. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity to then butt in and bore her by rehashing the Wikipedia page on Environmental issues in Kiribati that you’ve memorised. After all, it’s possible she’s been there and may have a PhD on this very subject. Be open to the idea that a conversation is a two way transaction. If she’s really into the topic ask her follow up questions. Let her talk. Don’t, for the love of all that is good and holy, mansplain at her.
The theme here is that women, like men, like being asked their opinion on things. They like learning new things. They like engaging and interesting conversations. They don’t like sharing personal information about their lives with strangers. Yet so often people expect them to. A woman walks down the street and is told to “Smile,” by some seedy old bastard. She goes to work without makeup one day and five colleagues ask her if she’s sick. She gets rightfully pissed when her partner isn’t pulling his weight and he responds with juvenile snark about PMS.
Shit gets tiring, you hear?
So maybe, just maybe, be the guy who treats her like the smart, capable adult she is. She is worthy of your time. Make sure you’re worthy of hers.
Gem Wilder is a writer, mother, DJ, dancer, and arts lover. She grew up in Lower Hutt in the 80s and 90s, where not much had changed since the infamous Mazengarb Report days.
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