One the most arduous social tasks is turning the wheel of conversation with a single hand. I have often said, both to myself and to others, that it is totally ok to sit silently in a social setting, responding politely to any comment or question addressed to one, but not contributing anything spontaneously. It is ok. There is no moral imperative to be merry and chatty, there is no onus on you to inquire in an interested, charming tone of voice about the holidays and the travels of people with whom you have been more or less randomly, by the exigencies of your job or your family or whatever, been thrown together.
But yet, but yet. I confess, I cannot do it, gentle reader. I cannot sit silently when with others, however random and supremely uninteresting they may be. It may happen that while I step out to the washroom, the person sitting next to me or across the table from me may be wiped off from the face of the earth- I would barely notice. But while we are in each other’s physical presence, I cannot keep my mouth shut, to my utter surprise and dismay, I feel my tongue wagging and noises coming through my lips “How lovely! You stayed at home and baked cookies? That is so interesting! And your sister visited? Fascinating!”
Not only that I cannot stay silent myself, I feel growing rage and fury at my interlocutor, should they choose not to play with me. You cold uptight bitch, runs through my mind, it is your turn. Ask me how my holidays were, whether I like Halifax, what my field is. After all, fate has brought us round this table tonight. How can you sit so silently? How can you not even deign to pretend some social interest? Who do you think you are, to be so indifferent and to have no qualms about displaying your indifference? Why don’t you just stay at home and watch reruns if you have such a blatant desire not to socialize?