Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Failure of the Day: Words

I’m a lousy correspondent. Every once in a while I get an email from someone who I am genuinely happy to hear from, and regardless of whether I have seen this person in the last 15 days or not for the last 15 years, after not very long at all, I just plum run out of things to say to them.

Part of it is that I lack the ability to make small talk for more than about 30 seconds. I just flat out can’t do it. I am faced with the cavernous hollow of my blank brain echoing around each rough curve of my skull. I got nothin’. I am a thing-to-say pauper. This is even more true in letter writing than in face-to-face party chatter (at which I am also cold death on a stick) because although “Really? What’s that like?” almost always works at a party, how many times can you type it in a letter?

Compounding the problem of my empty head is that I can never figure out the appropriate level of disclosure for any given discourse. As a function of my personality, I’ve always defaulted to FULL, with, uh, various levels of success. My instincts tell me that “Really? That’s like the time I was up all night screaming while my gall bladder ruptured!” is the right thing to say sometimes. And it never, ever is.

I recently tried having an email correspondence with a woman I was vaguely friendly with in high school and with whom I had a nice time talking at the reunion. She sent me a chatty “the last 20 years in a nutshell” letter and I responded in kind. She had all kinds of interesting jobs and travel and finally, a husband and a kid to tell me about. I told her about how the state of California paid for my education because I was crippled. I swear to god, I told the story in the most positive, golden, sunshiney way I possibly could, and I still never heard from her again.

Neither my life nor my disposition are geared to casual chatter. That’s the way it goes. I think that I am destined to leave in my wake a trail of awkward silences and very short-lived pen-palships. And that is in fact exactly why I started this blog. And also why I developed my patented party sentence: “How’s the dip?”
In case you were wondering.

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