Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Making small talk

Dear T-,

One great irony of being human is that small talk is hard work and talking heavy is great fun.  Small talk is either foreplay or outright avoidance.  A no-man's land of the soul, or maybe a demilitarized zone -- barbed wire up and land mines galore; a tip-toeing around the true-self and a putting on of costume.  People are very bad at it because (thank God) they're very bad at lying.  It takes too much imagination to be a small talker -- to talk about things you don't want to think about and in truth aren't interested in.  You have to think first of all about something that's neutral for at least two of you.  This means on some level you're afraid, and that you don't trust the other person; but you can't show it.  So the longer it goes the more nervous you get.  The more chance you have of slipping up and looking bored; or that the tip-toeing goes wrong and you run into a land-mine; or that you run so far and so long into banality that you wonder if the other party wants to ditch you.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

On being half white

Dear H,

What does it mean to be white? Being half Hispanic has led me to think lots on this subject, and I've found that to answer in the positive is impossible.  Almost, anyway.  Like all the racial categories, it only comes into focus when you compare it with the other races.  The Native Americans were culturally as different as the Chinese and the Italians until we showed up and made them feel similar; and France and England hated each other until Islam arrived and made the Catholics shake hands -- occasionally.  To be a race isn't so much to be a race as to not be the other races.  It's an act of identity that only happens when someone else is even stranger.