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inconsequential conversations

quick take: another rant on red state/blue state stuff, this one in the form of a concession speech. familiar territory, but worth reading.

and on the subject of familiar territory, for some reason today i started thinking about the comfort of familiar conversations.

i’m sure to some people they are not familiar conversations, they are banal conversations. i have them anyway, with people i know well and people i don’t know at all, either by way of getting the conversation going or in lieu of an actual conversation. they usually go something like this:

jamie: “hi agnes” (i don’t actually know an agnes. but i like old-school names.)

agnes: “hi jamie”

jamie: “how’s it going? how was your weekend?”

agnes: “pretty good. how about you?”

jamie: “i didn’t do much. just like i like it.”

and so on. it’s kind of like the generic “how are you?” that you ask someone and don’t really expect an answer other than “fine”, and are really irritated when someone actually thinks you wanted to actually know, and tells you in detail. there’s a code to these conversations, and that code is mutual comfort.

you lie if necessary and tell people that you are fine, and you are told in return that they are fine. thus you are mutually enveloped in a fake but reassuring blanket of normalcy. even though your life is actually going to hell in a handbasket, or -cart, you momentarily have the illusion that all is well.

and these conversations, at least for me, are never boring. even though i may have an identical conversation, with little variance, with the same person every day, and even though i may have the same conversation with multiple people on the same day. there’s a great deal of comfort to be found in the repetition.

another version of this is my slightly-OCD-ish habit of saying certain precise things at certain times of the day. each night, for instance, the last thing i say aloud before going to sleep is “sweet dreams”. i say this to kirk if he’s there, and to no one in particular if i happen to be by myself. if kirk says something to me after i say “sweet dreams”, then i have to say it again, even if he’s already left the room and can’t hear me.

i also have the “what did you accomplish” conversation, but only with certain people who appreciate this sort of thing, and value having accomplished things. this is less a conversation than a list. instead of “how was your weekend”, the question is “what did you do this weekend”, and the appropriate response is all of your various accomplishments. i cleaned out my hall closet. i put all of my loose pictures into photo albums. i pulled out the stove and cleaned underneath it. and so on.

the attraction here is not a reassurance that all is well, but rather that all of the crappy stuff you did someone else was doing as well, instead of spending time at a glamorous party or with famous celebrities or whatnot.

the point of all this repetition about repetition is a general announcement. if i have these conversations with you, you should know that i am capable of quite a bit more depth given the inclination. i assume you are too. but neither one of us are seemingly so inclined, and i get a great deal out of these conversations, even though on the surface i may seem not to.

and i hope i haven’t ruined these conversations for anyone by overanalyzing them.

update: as i learned a couple of hours later through randomly finding a story on the daily kos site, there’s a term for this: phatic communion. ain’t it nice how the universe takes care of you every now and then?

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