I reckon at one point or another we’ve been in that conversation where the tumbleweed comes rolling out and the crickets have never been louder.
For those who perhaps haven’t seen the first Bridget Jones’ Diary, there is a scene – a few actually – where she is ‘working the room’ at a book launch.
BRIDGET: (internally) Ignore Daniel, and be fabulous with everyone else. I am the intellectual equal of everyone else here.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: It’s like a whole theory of short fiction… and of the novella,you know? And, of course,the problem…with Martin’s definition of the novella…is that it really only applies to him.
MAN: That doesn’t sound like Martin. Not.
RUSHDIE: I could be wrong. What do you think?
BRIDGET: Uh…do you know…[Inhales]. . .where the toilets are?
I find I attract these sorts of conversations regularly and I have to say, if you say something with enough conviction, you’re usually ok for about three seconds, then you have to rapidly exit the conversation so you aren’t asked to follow up what ridiculousness you’ve just spewed.
It’s hard when it’s your boss. In a small, open-plan office. With only a handful of staff. You can only run out of the office like about three times before it looks odd.
However, there are two situations where I know I’ll be wigged out. Two situations where I expect that feeling of flight will overcome me but am not supposed to run away to the nearest bushy shrub and cry out the awkward.
One is meeting a new mother.
Even if this new mother is a friend, I will be like I’ve entered a giant Woolies without a shopping list. I can’t remember anything (and if I was in Woolies I would head straight to the cheese section).
You look at her, smile, say ‘nawww’, smile and say ‘so how are you, you look good….?’
Everything is a question because I don’t have children.
I have warned pregnant friends that this will happen and usually there is some kind of contingency that we will talk about shoes or Mad Men or Operation Repo (anything, clearly) to transition to the baby stuff.
Because it’s changed. Not in any kind of way, other than it’s changed. I worry that Im not going to have anything in common with my friend anymore as ‘things have changed’. And silly me, I’ve already anticipated it. It leaves everyone feeling awkward.
I tried to make a joke once about this diary my friend had on her baby – sleep patterns, types of crying, which nipple was last used in the feeding, (what time Seinfeld was scheduled on 7mate that day, I think that was part of the joke)… you get the idea.
‘And how would you know?’ was the unexpected shut-down.
OK, you know what? She was right, I didn’t know, but she knew that I didn’t know, so she could’ve cut me some slack. It’s kind of ruined me when it comes to talking about children, so I usually just say how much I hate it. Trust me, it’s just bravado. The thinnest form.
It’s just that I turn into Bridget Jones – with other women.
The same deal with brides.
So, you arrive at the wedding of your closest friends. You sit in the church or garden or whatever. Hey, you might even stand. The bride comes down the aisle, they say their vows, ring on finger, they kiss. It’s done. Hooray.
For me, it’s at this very moment I turn into Bridget Jones.
There is usually a lineup after the wedding ceremony. You approach the gorgeous new Mr and Mrs. They’re your friends, you’re so happy for them. You move further up the line. They look amazing. The detail of her dress is breathtaking. You move further up. You start to think….. what the hell am I going to say to them?
You scuttle up the line. Alarmed. You’re the next person.
You can’t help but smile and then you say.. ‘congratulations, you look so beautiful’.. then, well, that’s it.
At another wedding, I tried it again, but this time I cunningly made myself the last person in the lineup.
It was worse.
I said ‘congratulations, you look beautiful’
The bride and I just stared at each other.
I said, ‘soooo did you catch Mad Men the other night?’
Here we are, fantastic friends, and we had no idea what to say to each other.
I thought, ergh, ‘do you need a drink? I sure do…’ but her bridesmaid was already on it.
‘OK, I’ll catch you later, at the…. you know, the thing’
It was like Baby Houseman from Dirty Dancing, ‘I carried a watermelon…?’
So a back-up plan is needed.
I need a list of appropriate questions, like the time I whipped out my question list at speed dating one time.
It has to be full of clichés – but genuine clichés – as normal questions like ‘aww man, did you see that link I posted this morning on Facebook?’ or ‘So anyway, I eventually had that talk with my boss but it just brought up this new problem of….’ don’t seem appropriate..
- How long did it take to get your hair so gorgeous?
- How did your mum/dad go when she saw you in your dress for the first time?
- Where are you getting your photos done? How long do you think that will take?
- Let me see your gorgeous ring?
- Can you just quickly point the parents out for me? What are their names again?
- I’m sure your bridesmaids are on it, but do you need anything?
- Show me your shoes, did it take long to break them in?
- What’s your something borrowed/old/blue?
These are very genuine, thoughtful clichés that will get you through this very precise, but awkward moment.