In all fairness, I should confess that I spent much of Sunday Lunch asleep in front of the fire. There were men all around, all talking non-stop, but I completely zoned out and before I knew it--zzzzz. This was due in part to the exceedingly comfortable bean-bag in which I was reposing. Meanwhile, the hostess is a very kindly and broadminded woman, so eventually she brought me a pillow, two more large bean-bags, a quilt and a glass of cherry brandy. My goodness, I have rarely been so happy. It was like being six and grown-up all at once. I drank the brandy in perfect earthly bliss and then--zzzzzz.
Now this is considered VERY BAD MANNERS in most social circles, and the reason why I got away with it is that, ripped from the tender bosom of my birth family, I have made my parish friends my marriage family, and if you can't fall asleep in front of the fire surrounded by your marriage family, what did we fight the war for, eh?
Meanwhile the men were having their usual conversations, which go like this:
"...and you can tell he is Catholic from the themes of the novel although not so clearly as in Vinland. Have you got a copy of Vinland?"
"I have a first edition of Vinland that I got from Armchair Books that day I saw Richard Holloway in the Grassmarket. It cost £7"
"With the dust jacket?"
"Of course--although it is a little frayed I'm afraid." (He adopts Dame Clara Butt voice.) "I'm afffrrrrraid it's frrrrrayed, dear boy. I'm afffrrrrraid it's frrrrrayed."
"Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha! We should sing."
"...and he reminded me of Martin McCorquedale. What a nightmare he was. RUAIRIDH!"
"What was it that Martin said about whadeyecallim at Saint Salvador's?"
"Oh no. Don't tell them that story. What rubbish."
"It's no'. It's interestin'. Anywee, ah said to him, ah said 'If yer that bothered about attractin' wifies to the choir you should go down to Tollcross.' And Richard said to me, he said, 'Young man, this is the bishop of Brechin.' And ah said, 'Then ah suppose he'll be needin' a map.'"
"Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!"
"Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!"
"Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!"
"Drink up. We should sing."
"And I said, 'Look, old boy, I am in complete sympathy with you and Cordelia but the fact remains that your wife is the innocent party. And he said, 'But Woggle, isn't there anything you can do?' And I said, 'Well, look, I'll call up Roger and maybe we can sort something out between us." So I called Roger--I had a bl**dy time getting past his secretary, too, the old bat--and I said, "Roger, if it's a question of the maintenance, my client is willing to pay. And Roger said, "Woggle, old chap, I am in complete sympathy with your client, but my client simply doesn't want to be divorced.' And I said, "Well, bl**dy hell, Roger, whether she wants to be divorced or not, she's going to be divorced, and to be frank with you I am as happy as the next chap to tot up the hours, but my client is not made of money, and I feel for the poor b*stard--pardon my French, Seraphic. What the devil are you doing at the piano there, Aodh? Oh, you're going to sing. Jolly good."
Unfortunately the purveyors of Conversation D ("The Latest Thing I Bought On E-Bay") and Conversation E ("Women are Evil") are currently in England. This makes me very sad, especially as "Women are Evil" likes to collect evidence for his worldview by asking me my thoughts on such sin-stained topics as the early films of Roman Polanski. And thus sometimes someone actually wants me to speak.
Anyway, as you can see, trying to get men to talk is not really a problem that I have. This has made me a trifle LAZY about jollying along shy boys to flights of eloquence. However, when you have a shy boy at your elbow, it is very rude not to say anything, especially if he looks terribly nervous, as young men sometimes do around me, and no wonder.
So what do you do? Well, first you must determine if he is the sort of man who likes to talk or the sort of man who likes to listen to women witter. You can do this by asking the shy boy the following question,
"Are you the sort of man who likes to talk or the sort who likes to listen to women witter?"
The great thing about this question is that it actively seeks information, which is what I am told men use talking for and completely believed before I moved to Scotland. I think perhaps it might be true of American men. That reminds me, "witter" is a very local expression meaning, in American "gas on", or in Canadian "chat about their day."
The other great thing is that it will reveal whether or not the shy boy has a sense of humour--for if so, he will smile--or is even shyer than you imagined, for if so, he will look terrified. But most of the time, by saying something vaguely self-deprecatory, you will disarm him. And if he actually says, "I like to listen to women witter", you can say your version of: "Good! Because I need a guys-eye view on something. I was in the MALL with my FRIEND JANICE and we saw this SKIRT and I said 'I like that skirt' but JANICE said 'Only a HO would wear that skirt' and I said 'Excuse me, we say HO now?' Do you think the word 'ho' is okay?"
Shy Boy (thinks very hard): There are nicer words.
You: That's so true.(If he's cute and you can see yourself having coffee with him one day, touch his arm at the word 'true'.) Well, I tried on the skirt, and Janet said it's too short, but I said, 'Brevity is the soul of wit and skirts.' Do you like Shakespeare?
Shy Boy: Sometimes.
You: I wonder what Shakespeare would make of modern fashions. Anyway...
Now that I think about it, though, you need almost an insane level of confidence to ask men what they think of women, so if you don't have it, I recommend asking him some other open-ended question that he absolutely must have an opinion on. Pick the most recent scandal that nobody can get enough of. "What do you make of this fuss about Miley Cyrus?" was good for at least three weeks, and gave the questioned the opportunity to denounce either the fuss or Miley Cyrus, as he chose. Do not silently despise the man for not knowing what you are talking about. Instead, praise him at once: "You are lucky not to know! Are you a television fan or have you slung yours out the window?"
As discussed yesterday's combox, "So what do you do?" is not an ideal question in this terrible economy. Also, as mentioned, it can be answered in one word. Never try to get a conversation started with questions that can be answered with one word.
We moan about boring men, but as a matter of fact, no man or woman can be truly boring because each one is a little universe of memories, feelings and facts. The Blessed Trinity willed him or her into being, and the Second Person took on flesh just like his or hers (and more like his, let's face it) and actually died for him or her. If you were shipwrecked on an island with a boring-seeming man and flock of baby kittens, it would be your job to help the boring-seeming man, not the baby kittens, stay alive, and probably by cooking the baby kittens for him to eat. Incidentally, that would be an entertaining thought to have the next time you are trying to talk to a boring-seeming man. Instead of laughing, though, ask him what he would do if he were stranded on a desert island with a flock of baby kittens; would he eat them or what? If he asks what prompted this strange thought, make up something about the meat dish on offer or the kebab shop you passed on the way and how cows get less sympathy than baby seals.
I hope this is helpful. I will think up more suggestions for tomorrow. My final thought for today is that men's minds sometimes actually go blank when they have to talk to women. Actually blank, like mine when I have to speak Polish to a Polish stranger. So you must help them out, the way the nice Polish strangers help me out, and feel flattered, as do the kindly Poles, that they are trying to speak your language at all.