A Social Distancing Silver Lining? The Complete Eradication of Small Talk

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If you know me, it shouldn’t be a shock to you that this social distancing thing feels specifically tailored for me—-a bespoke social mandate. (If you don’t know me, I’m a Capricorn and apparently an INTJ; distinctions that greatly matter to the people they matter to, and don’t mean shit to anyone else.)


Of course I’m saddened that I exist in a basketball-free universe now. I can’t play it because all the gyms are closed, and I can’t watch anything but old highlights because Rudy Gobert is Typhoid Mary.

Also, I know this isn’t quite part of the social distancing thing, but Panama was right. Not touching your face is fucking hard, man. Especially if you have a luscious beard and obnoxious glasses (like I do), and you’ve developed an entire ecosystem of pretentious personality affectations (like I have) that revolve around you stroking your beard and adjusting your glasses. PLUS IT ITCHES ALL THE TIME SO WHAT ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO WHEN THAT HAPPENS BECAUSE WASHING MY HANDS FOR THE ENTIRE FIRST VERSE OF “TRIUMPH” JUST TO BE ABLE TO SAFELY SCRATCH MY CHEEK FEELS WASTEFUL!

But man! Since I’m in the house all day every day now, I finally get to rock hoodies all day everyday now too. Which finally gives both a practical application and financial justification for my proclivity for hoodie buying sprees—I own 29, enough for every mood and activity. I have expensive hoodies for when bookstores want to Skype. Black hoodies for when I’m listening to Mobb Deep and doing pushups. Orange hoodies for when I’m eating eggs. Pink hoodies for when a nigga’s just in the mood for a pink hoodie. I even have two sleeveless hoodies, just in case I want to show off my tattoos to the zero people in the street now while I’m getting the mail.

I’m also not spending $30 a day on food and snacks and drinks from whichever coffeeshop or bar I choose to work, which means I can put all that extra money in a savings account for my kids or something. And by “my kids or something” I mean “sneakers.”

But mostly I’m just happy that this has completely eradicated the useless, dumb, stupid, shitty practice of small talk.

For decades I’ve struggled with the mundanity of everyday social interaction, where polite society expects you to make—or just pretend not to abhor—the mindless conversation that often occurs when people are existing next to each other.

So this weather outside is something, ain’t it?” says the cardigan-clad man in line behind me at Whole Foods. “Yes...it’s something. There are clouds today” I reply, as I fantasize about snatching the avocado out of his hand and stuffing it into his nostril.


This disease even infects useful interactions, as we sometimes feel compelled to begin serious conversations with thoughts about gum and shit. But now? No one has time for your random gum thoughts. And even if we did, WHY ARE YOU STANDING SO CLOSE TO ME, JOHN? TAKE SIX STEPS BACK BEFORE I SPRAY YOU WITH THIS OFF-BRAND CRAN-BANANA JUICE THAT WAS THE ONLY THING LEFT AT GIANT EAGLE LAST NIGHT.

It’s actually a shame that I’ve decided to just stay in the house as much as possible now, because I’d have such a ball existing in a small talk-less world. I’m verklempt at the thought of all the rote things I wouldn’t need to say and all the “eh” questions I wouldn’t need to answer now. And, just so you’re clear, I am not exempting myself from indictment. I also pollute the atmosphere with shit that never needed to exist. Sometimes it’s nervous energy. Sometimes I just really want to ask a stranger about soup. But no more of that from me, either!


Of course, this doesn’t mean that I want to suspend all forms of small talk, forever. Sometimes it’s entertaining, sometimes it’s informative, and sometimes it is necessary to alleviate tension. It’s just now, because of the social distancing thing and the “everyone’s worried that we’re living the first 20 minutes of World War Z” thing, if you want to talk to someone in person, you just need a damn good reason to. And I’m all for damn good reasons to do things.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)


kidelo (i have a tiktok)

I’m this (-) close to using my Samuel L. Jackson voice on these dumbass people who left NYC to come and overpopulate my small town and tell them not only to “KEEP your SOcial DIStance” but “Do NOT pet my damn DOGS.” That’s my small talk.