Tuesday, 2 November 2010

How Not to Be Boring Part 1

I, Seraphic, can be incredibly boring. Don't look so surprised. It is true. Sigh a sigh of sympathy for my poor husband, who is the one person in the entire world who cannot escape when I am being boring. Fortunately he had no clue as to how boring I could be before we got married. One more argument for short engagements, ha ha ha!

Now, there are many ways in which a person might be boring to another. The most obvious is talking on and on about oneself and people one knows, people totally unknown to the hearer. And then there is being completely ill-informed, a stranger to current events, history, literature and any music written before 1950. (I have never been so bored as I was bored at a dinner where the conversation was dominated by a fan of the TV series "Jackass." The conversationalist described episode after episode of "Jackass," and there was no stopping him.) Then there is banging on and on about a topic that is absolutely fascinating to oneself, but not to the hearer.

When I am boring, it is usually because I have fallen into the third great trap. Being a Catholic writer, who spends most of her time thinking and writing about Catholic stufff, I tend to forget that not everyone is as fascinated by the Catholic world as I am. And when occasionally I slip from the Catholic ghetto to talk to Protestant neighbours, especially ones who don't talk a lot, I tend just to bang on about the Catholic world. And if I realize that I am boring (or, in the case of religious Protestants, offending) my hearers, if they are women, I panic and switch into my other great topic, which is Boys.

You'd think Boys would no longer be a topic for a Married Woman, but you would be wrong. The whole pressing question of whether X is better-looking than Y is a subject that can keep me spellbound for hours. So many permutations! So many "On the one hands" and "on the others"! The great problem with this though, is in the case of Married Women, it can cause Scandal. If you are too enthusiastic about X or Y your hearer might think you are on the verge of running away with him. So consider your poor audience. Married Women, if in public, discuss these things in low voices, observations punctuated with shrieks of eldrich laughter.*

Where was I? Oh, yes. Being boring.

Yesterday a new reader, a male reader, countered my confession that I find many men boring with his observation that he finds many women boring. I'm assuming that was an honest statement and not merely pique. And why shouldn't it be? Many women do bore men, in part because women forget that men don't get that conversation is a lovely warm security blanket that people knit together to keep warm the bonds of friendship, and not just a way to trade information (update: or compete)**. Most men just do not see the point of two-hour long telephone conversations, unless the conversation is about themselves. They don't mind those ones so much---but only, of course, when something big has happened to them, like a break-up. One must be fair.

This male reader, who has a flattering idea about how much influence I have over the women of the world, has asked that I tell women how not to be boring. As a matter of fact, a book that most men seem to hate, The Rules, is full of this kind of information. In the words of my fellow Canadian Alanis Morrisette, isn't it ironic?

Tomorrow I will instruct men on how not to be boring, a daunting task because I am not a man and will risk tearful accusations of misandry, despite the fact that I have always maintained that men are the caffeine in the cappuccino of life. But today I will throw up some points to women on how not to be boring and hopefully I will remember to carry them out myself.

1. Always remember that most men don't think of conversation as a nice warm security blanket that two people knit together to warm the bonds of friendship. This is particularly true on the phone. Never talk to a man on the phone for more than ten minutes. For some men, this is too long. If you are Single, think twice before you call a man at all. If you have a crush on him, you simply can't. Sorry.

2. Men hold cheaply that which they get easily and dearly that which they have to work for, which is why Freud charged so much for sessions, he said. So don't chase men. It's so much more fun to be chased, and apparently they prefer it that way deep down in the super-macho kernel of their hearts.

3. International Women of Mystery are apparently more interesting to men than women who like to keep it real by sharing every last detail about ourselves, right down to our ingrown toenails. So don't tell men personal stuff until they drag it out of you, if they do. By the way, in general, men do not want to hear about your ex-boyfriends. At best they will huff and puff with masculine rivalry. At worst they will take the cue from their fellow men and treat you the way your ex-boyfriends did.

4. Try to listen as much as you talk. With women friends, you can let yourself go, but with men you have to be strategic. Ask them intelligent questions about their favourite topics, in so far as you know them or share them, and listen intently. Is there anything more interesting than an handsome man talking about something that vaguely interests you and that he is passionate about?

I once read a very funny anecdote about an older man who talked to a very young women at a dinner party for hours, and afterwards he commented to the hostess on what a very good conversationalist that nice little Miss X was. She had scarcely said a word.

5. Nix on negativity. If you go on a first date, your life is officially perfect. You love your mother and all other blood relations dearly, your ex-boyfriends were all good chaps, deep down, your job has some great challenges, and that's enough about you. Do you enjoy football, Mr Date?

6. Know the latest news, including the sports news, either from blogs or the radio or the newspaper. Have a smattering of general knowledge, and never fake your way through a subject by talking about it. Fake your way through by asking intelligent questions about it.

7. Look your best and change your look from time to time. Men are so bloody visual. Wear bright colours and at least a leetle make-up.

8. Find people who share your interests. If you are a female world expert on LINUX, there are about a zillion Single men who would like to meet you.

I will probably think of more later, but now I must go to Mass. Comment moderations will be up as Auntie will be away from her computer, and I don't want you smacking each other over the head with toys.

*Although I personally don't do much of that these days, although I enjoy a good round of "Polish men are better-looking than Scotsmen.--No, they're not.--Yes, they are.--What about X?--Ah, X. In Poland he would be considered average."

Update: Moderation off, as I am home. Be kind to each other.

**Update 2: Clare C rightly observed that men enjoy banter. I suspect this is because banter is a sport, a sport rather like tennis, actually. Among eligible men and women, it hovers on the border of flirtation. In polite company, one should always consider whether a mildly insulting comment from the opposite sex is actually a friendly invitation to banter.


Clare C said...

I completely agree with most of this; only the silence-is-golden thing just doesn't jive with my personal experience. I love talking, and I've found that men seem to really enjoy lively conversation, banter, whatnot. I think the energy one brings to the conversation, one's ability to handle many different subject matters and tones, efforts to cater to the personality and preferences of one's conversational partner, and a rhythm that draws a man out and makes the conversation mutual are the things that leave a lasting impression. I'm not sure it can be boiled down to a simple rule about how much you should(n't) talk.

And for what it's worth I don't use such obnoxious syntax in real conversations. Hope this made some kind of sense. :)

Seraphic Spouse said...

Clare C, you are absolutely right. There is no point completely clamming up either. It's all about a golden mean.

You are especially right about banter. Men enjoy banter, in part because it is competitive. Banter is a game, quite a fun game, too, if all involved are playing, and playing with a sense of sportsmanship.

Anonymous said...

Seraphic and Clare,

You are right. Banter is THE funnest game around. A man who can play well is never boring and almost always attractive (to me, anyhow) regardless of his looks or financial situation.

We're all boring sometimes. My favorite people are lawyers, because we can argue spiritedly about something just for mental exercise, then disengage and go to lunch as friends. Advanced banter?
I love it. Nobody stays mad and sometimes we switch sides just for fun.

Mea culpa if I was mean. What I meant to say was looks fade, you can lose your money, but wit and the ability to carry on a conversation? Priceless.

Isabella of the North

KimP said...

I would venture a guess that any person you are meant to marry probably won't be boring to you. So if you find someone boring, that might be a Sign this person isn't for you.

When it is obvious that a woman is sizing up a man on a first date trying to measure his husband potential, I suspect that the man in question would find this boring. Men want to be appreciated for themselves, and not as a commodity to be weighed and sold.

I think the best way not to be boring is to positively answer any questions he might ask you, and ask interesting questions about him, as long as they don't relate to his take home pay and how many children he wants to have someday. : )

dark but fair said...

Dear Kate P,

Thank you for bringing up that bit about answering and asking only appropriate questions when on a date!

Kate P said...

Just to be clear, KIM P said that, not me (KATE P)

(Most often, Kim's got the better ideas. . .)