I don’t know what you’re talking about

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you feel completely unequipped to participate in the conversation? And, despite it (likely) being a matter of subject and not a reflection of your own intelligence, you start feeling really… stupid? You begin questioning everything about yourself, from career choices to the clothes you happen to be wearing. On a certain level, you know that a single conversation isn’t an accurate way of quantifying the power of your brain, but on the other hand you feel so LOST.

So this weekend…

On Saturday night we attended a party. It was thrown by a couple that Tall Guy and I are both friends with. He is a graphic artist and digital guru, she is currently in law school. They’re both insanely great people and always a good time. We arrived at their party and every guest we met was super-friendly and welcoming. Tall Guy wandered off to the outside while I stayed inside and mingled a bit. I have a slight tendency to panic when left alone with a group of people that I don’t know, but it wasn’t a problem on Saturday. Everyone was just so dang nice! As people finished grazing and began sitting down, I wandered outside. I rejoined Tall Guy and was able to catch up with another friend, from out-of-town, who had recently arrived. Things were going fairly well for some time. The patio group dwindled to four, including me. It was Tall Guy, host and out-of-town friend.

Emma Stone thumbs up

After some time, the talk turned to graphics, computer programs, lighting, cameras, memory, etc. Basically, their work. All three of these gentlemen are in the same field. At one time they had all worked in the same office together. I stuck around for a while but, not having anything to add, opted to move indoors and see what everyone else was doing.

The remaining partygoers were all seated in the living room. As I arrived, they were finishing a conversation about grammar. BRING IT!

But the conversation turned, as conversations tend to do. One of the guests is a prop master for a local theater company. They recently closed a production of Harvey. I LOVE Harvey! However, since it just ended, they began talking about the next item on the schedule. An adaptation of The Tempest.  While I’m aware that The Tempest is Shakespeare… that actually concludes my knowledge of The Tempest. This particular adaptation is going to be a one-man show set in Cuba. The group all began discussing the adaptation and how creative and unique it would be. I had nothing. Since the talk of the adaptation referenced the original, but not without any actual explanation, I couldn’t even begin to relate what the upcoming show will look like.

As that guest left, the conversation morphed again. To law school. I was now in a room with two people attending law school, one law professor, and the dean of a law school. Topics were specific courses, different styles of teaching law and the best path to take (classes, bar exams, general career guidance). Everyone talking was passionately (possibly drunkenly) involved in the discussion. I worked for civil litigation attorneys for seven years, but law school and working in law are totally different. Once again, I had nothing. I began worrying that someone might ask me a direct question and expect an answer.

Worse, I began panicking that someone would notice I wasn’t a law student and ask what it is I do.

I’m a blogger.

I have tried that phrase on, out loud, exactly once. It happened to be earlier that same evening, when meeting some new people outside. A woman had asked what I do. When I told her I was a blogger, she looked at me with a blank stare and a slight frown. It didn’t seem to be entirely that she didn’t understand what a blogger was, but possibly that she didn’t really think it was something someone could be. She turned to her husband and said, “Oh. Blogging. You do that, right?”, and he said, “No.” Thankfully, someone interjected something and the blogging issue was left behind. Between that woman’s reaction, outside, and the fact that I was now, inside, surrounded by incredibly smart people discussing the law – THE LAW – I began feeling very small. And stupid.

At that point, if someone had asked me to explain what it is – exactly – that I do, my response would have been: “I write stuff and post it on the internet. No single topic, mostly whatever pops into my head, but nobody really reads it.” Not impressive. On a normal day, doI believe that blogging, in general, is impactful? Yes. Do I think that my writing is worthwhile? Sometimes. But at that moment, it felt like being the kid in class who eats glue and picks their nose. That kid knows that no-one wants to play with them. So I held my breath and tried to look as involved as possible without drawing too much attention to myself.

I would like to impress that the party was fun, the hosts were amazing (as always) and the group was dynamic. The only person I’m blaming for my discomfort is me. Yet, four days later, I’m still not sure how I could have handled the situation differently. How do you truly participate in an exchange where you have literally no context? Is it possible?

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16 Comments
  • Carry O.
    May 13, 2015

    I run into this all the time at work events! I’ll be talking to people I have nothing in common with. The best way to be a great conversationalist is to ask questions, listen, and let the other person do all the talking. Just continue along the thread that’s going (eg, “What was that class like? Why did you like it?” Or “Why did the director choose Cuba? How do you think that will change the play’s impact?”). It can be boring as hell but the other person will love it because you seem so interested. And then you might remember some fun nugget like, “Did you know that The Tempest is based on the life of Stephen Hopkins, and 10% of Americans are related to him, including me!”

    • Jeans and a Tank Top
      May 13, 2015

      Some fun nugget that I picked up from Carry O, who seems to have a nugget for everything? 😉 I did try questions, for a while. Although as the alcohol set in (with the conversationalists), it seemed dangerous to interrupt the flow. At least I have the listening part down!

      • Carry O.
        May 13, 2015

        Ugh. Sometimes that happens. Especially when people are drinking! It is awkward. I had that happen a couple of weeks ago. Thank god someone eventually brought up wedding dresses!

        • Jeans and a Tank Top
          May 13, 2015

          WEDDING DRESSES FOR THE WIN! You’re the one who brought them up, aren’t you?

  • Alana Livingston
    May 13, 2015

    That has definitely happened to me before! Heck, I’ve had conference calls at work that the direction of the conversation changed so much that I didn’t even know how to respond and I’m a Marketing Coordinator with a Master’s in MARKETING. It is certainly an awkward situation!

    • Jeans and a Tank Top
      May 13, 2015

      Ha! Good to know I’m not alone! It’s funny how a singular circumstance can throw you for such a loop, right? You’re suddenly not even sure which end is up!

  • Kasey
    May 13, 2015

    I hate when people ask what I do like it defines who I am. Why don’t you ask what I’m interested in or what I’ve been reading or LITERALLY anything else? but maybe that’s because I blog to escape my real, boring yooob.

    • Jeans and a Tank Top
      May 13, 2015

      Actually, Kasey, you may have nailed why this bothered me so much. Maybe I’m afraid that the answer does define who I am, and I’m not yet confident calling myself a blogger. Instead of being that kid eating glue, I’m suddenly the kid claiming that Batman is my father. Like everyone knows I’m lying and they aren’t buying it. You know, there may be a lot more issues here than I realized.

      • Kasey
        May 19, 2015

        I think there really is more to it. Maybe it’s because I don’t love my job, I guess when I loved my job I was all about telling you what I do. But now I don’t ask people, I let them volunteer that information because I hate saying “well I’m in a transition + honestly it’s really tough on me.” because no one wants to hear that at a party! (every party needs a pooper!)

        • Jeans and a Tank Top
          May 19, 2015

          Funny thing is, if you did answer with the transition response, I’d be even more interested. Not in an effort to make it tougher on you, but to learn more about you and what you want. Plus, talking things out can be helpful. While every party DOES need a pooper, I’m fairly certain you’re not it. (It’s not you?)

  • brookejones
    May 13, 2015

    Oh I’ve totally been in situations like this before! I understand that when a group of people who all do the same thing are together, they’re probably going to talk about work, but it does make for an awkward situation when you’re the odd one out. My boyfriend used to work for an asphalt emulsion company and I ended up at a bonfire once with nobody else but the people who also worked there. At first the asphalt talk was fine, but then it went on for hours! At one point I think someone noticed that I wasn’t saying a lot and asked me a question about asphalt. I’m pretty sure the look on my face said, “You all know that I know nothing about asphalt!” I certainly do after that night though haha I usually just try to chime in with questions when I’m not sure what to say, but yeah, I ran out of asphalt questions lol

    • Jeans and a Tank Top
      May 13, 2015

      Ha! Brooke, thinking about a group of people around a bonfire talking about asphalt, for hours on end, makes me laugh. I did offer questions, initially, but at some point it turned into a heated debate – long past the point of interrupting with questions. At least, that’s the way it felt. Hey, and now I know who to go to with asphalt questions! It’s just those random kinds of things that seem to help. You know, an asphalt anecdote in a non-asphalt discussion could be very useful!

  • Laura @ Life with Lolo
    May 14, 2015

    This happens to me more than I like to admit. I like to think of myself as a bright, well educated person, but then often times things fly right over my head. I blame being a blonde. It doesn’t help that the BF is in IT and I don’t know anything about computers and the internet outside of blogging and social media. Plus he knows all about cars too – also not my genre. Maybe I just need to make sure I have other people around to converse with once he starts into it with other people. Then there’s work where everyone here raises livestock or rodeos. Also a lot of conversations I get left out of and then stand there in silence just because I want to be a part of it, but don’t know enough to be. And the list could go on and on…

    • Jeans and a Tank Top
      May 15, 2015

      Exactly, Laura. And look out on that whole livestock thing. All the hipsters are getting into having their own chickens, even in the city. Everyone is going to be talking about it!

  • Stephanie Smallsen
    May 14, 2015

    Oh this happens far too often. But I find I just don’t associate with people I don’t like. So If Ive decided we don’t click, I could care less when they question my career. I remember last summer Nick dragged me to his coworkers BBQ and it was literally a hillbilly redneck gongshow. I was the only ‘lady’ there and they were all whispering that Im having a ‘diva wedding’ and not the kraft dinner menu inspired one that they couldn’t seem to stop talking about – while chain smoking. and they wonder why we haven’t gone back.

    • Jeans and a Tank Top
      May 15, 2015

      Oh man, “hillbilly redneck gongshow” is my new favorite phrase! What, exactly, about your wedding did they consider diva-esque?

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