The Art of Conversation

When I was in high school, I used to offer to braid people’s hair all the time. This may sound weird to you, but I went to an all girls school, where the length of your skirt, weight you had gained or lost and the huge pimple on your head you hoped no one would notice, smothered in make up, were all open to conversation, judgement and uncomfortable probing. (Now, every time I get a large pimple I hope no one will notice, a little voice in my head says “my school would have,” and I leave it be.)
So really, saying “you have pretty hair, would you like me to braid it?” wasn’t so out of the question.

The best thing about it, far from the feel of unwashed hair in my hands, was the conversation that sprung up from it. Like having dinner with someone, or chatting while the two of you play video games, people open up when they aren’t looking someone in the eye, and they forget their inhibitions, distracted. I’ve mentioned more than once I was a loner towards the end of high school, and I found myself starved of interaction, until the day I learned I was a fine braider.
Nowadays, it’s not that easy.

People at university don’t have time for you to braid their hair. Most of them come fully done, their make up and hair so perfect they look like they’re headed to formal dinners (men included). I sometimes worry I have missed the chance to break into groups and start random conversations- now it seems I had to have “been there that time”. At church it’s a little easier- you can ask them what they thought of the sermon, what they did that week, about upcoming events and, if all else fails, note that the cookie selection is not particularly to your tastes, save the mint slices. It seems I have still not mastered the art of conversation. There was one particularly fateful camp where I became known as “facts with Patty”, because all of the random knowledge I have stored up over years became the only thing I could think to mention. Tonight I did whip out that stockings started off at socks, until it became fashionable to wear them higher and the gentry couldn’t get any higher than stockings. Anyway.

I think, if this post is to have a point, it would be this. That, I have been the loner. Indeed, in my current state at uni, I am in danger of once more being so. And it’s not that I don’t have things to say, and it’s not that I don’t want to say them. It’s just that I get a similar feeling around everyone the way I do around a crush. They’re always busy, or talking to someone else, or what you had planned to say has no relevance now, and you’re not quite sure how to start, so you blush, and curl up into a ball in the corner or resort to chatting to a well known friend like wrapping yourself in an old blanket. When I actually have a crush, I just wait for it to die from a lack of attention before I even bother thinking of something to say.

Oh yes, the point.

Well, I’ve been a loner and it was no fun.

It was easy, and I had books and schoolwork and stuff, but constantly feeling left out of stuff when deep down I knew no one knew I wanted to be let in felt bad. Avoiding someone you like, and never knowing how they feel about you (or whether they know you exist) feels bad. Being alone in a room full of people you feel cut off from feels bad. And one day, you run out of fun facts and realise all it took was a little leap.
I just need to find something better than, “can I braid your hair?”


3 thoughts on “The Art of Conversation

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  1. A question I ask myself regularly, as a 26 year old woman, is ‘how do I make friends as a grown-ass adult?’ Like… sure, in school there were commonalities with your peers, but now, other than in uni, I feel like I don’t know how to relate to others? My opener is either ‘have you watched anything good on Netflix recently?’ or ‘read any good books lately?”. But sometimes those just fall flat and you’re still left in an awkward kind of state of pretending you’ve heard of the show or book they mention and then it just kinda spirals off into nothing.

    Or at least, that’s what’s happened to me 😅


    1. Ah, too true. “I don’t have Netflix…” “Uh, I guess I’ve been reading some stuff on the course outline?” Wish I had some twenty something tenacity myself. 🙂 thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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