I often find myself in conversations with people I don’t know that well. I knew having kids meant an increase in responsibilities, love, financial outgoings and pretending I’m OK with missing out on the last chocolate Hobnob, but I had no idea it would involve so much talking to people.
There’s waiting at school gates or standing beside sporting fields or parent information evenings at the school or some kind of parent class catch up. There’s a lot of small talk.
Add that to casual pleasantries shared with neighbours and idle chitchat at work – not with the people I know well, but with the people I only ever see in the tea room – and the fact I must have one of those faces strangers start chatting to (I’m the woman everyone asks directions from).
Then to top off all those people there’s family, friends and colleagues.
I talk to a lot of people in one day and I’m finding there is a recurrent theme in my exchanges.
Most people don’t seem happy. They are busy, but not happy.
When I ask the stock standard conversation opener questions — Do you think the weather will hold out? Have you been at the school/sporting club/dancing school for long? Is your daughter doing French? So is mine — the answers have lost all lightness, all social lubrication.
They may start out sky blue, but the longer we chat the subjects turn greyer and inclement and within 10 minutes I’m listening to issues and problems and life’s unfairness and some man I’ve never met before telling me his very acrimonious divorce story.
I went to a school parents meet and greet the other week and all of us in the room are extremely lucky people - on the outside - and as I moved from group to group these were the conversation topics:
Issues with teachers
Issues with sports bus
Issues with the speed of food service
Issues with child's moods/friends