My apology comes on two fronts. First, I’m sorry to people who ask me this question.
You don’t really know me and you’re trying to maintain conversation through the inevitable lull. You pull out the old faithful “so, what do you do?” expecting a good fifteen minutes where you can just coast on me nattering about how being a vet or a lawyer or a real estate agent or whatever is just great and is really taking off for me right now and blah blah blah. You probably feel a bit good about yourself for offering me a hefty turn in the conversational spotlight.
But it doesn’t go that way. Because I’m not a vet or a lawyer or a real estate agent. I’m not even a whatever.
And even if you have the guts (and I love these people, please have the guts) to keep the conversational ball rolling without changing the subject or jumping out the nearest window (and even though I don’t love the people who do this, I can sympathise), it doesn’t get any better.
Because I end up sad-bombing the conversation.
Second, I am sorry for asking that question.
Because I know it’s bad. And I can see it in a person’s face when that was the wrong question. They go very still while they mentally navigate the minefield ahead, looking for the best route, or they give me this quick, sad look like I’ve betrayed them in some unforgivable way. It’s the same look our pet Jack Russel gave us whenever we filled the plastic baby’s bath and got out the dog-shampoo.
Maybe because they are worried that I won’t think what they do is good enough. Maybe they think they should be doing more. Maybe they just don’t want to sad-bomb me.
And I always want to fix it.
But I just met the person, or don’t know them very well, and maybe if I was a charismatic extravert I could go back on it, derail that train I just set in motion. But I can’t. I don’t know how. I ride it to the end of the line because I’m an introvert with social anxiety disorder and terrible at small talk.
So I’m sorry.
But I think the world would be better and people would be happier if “so, what’s your favourite dinosaur?” was an acceptable conversation starter, and “so, what do you do?” wasn’t.