Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Grammy-San and the Art of Gracious Conversation

"It is a poor sort of memory that only works backwards, the Queen remarked."
- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872

My Grammy is 92. She's got a 9th degree black belt in working a room. A warm trail of breezy calm spritzes out the backs of her shoes.

Let's just say you plan to have a party. You plan to invite some passive-aggressive masterminds and the evening promises a real shitshow of conflicting plot lines. You plan to invite estranged relatives and their ex's and their stepmothers. You plan to invite people who get mad when someone eats the cranberry Danish another one had his eye on.

This is when you need my Grammy. You call her up on her large analog telephone and implore her to hurry up and get somebody to drive her over before violence erupts.

I attempted to uncover my grammy's secrets in an exclusive interview granted only after some serious cajoling.

Although I'm not as fluent in Grammy as others (Tom exhibits innate talent), I have attempted to translate for those of you philistines who will miss the point.

What are your favorite conversation-starters?
First, I like to ask about the weather and how it was getting to the party. Then I listen a lot. I listen to what they're saying.
Translation: You can't listen if you're talking.

Any taboo topics?
Politics and religion. I learned that from a very wise woman.
Translation: Listen when your grandmother tells you something.

Why do some older people tell the same story over and over?
Maybe because they can't remember if they've told you before. I read this article about the presidents and their affairs. JFK... Jimmy Carter. The article only mentioned Jimmy Carter because he didn't have affairs. But FDR had a very famous affair with Eleanor's secretary. Lucy Mercy was her name. Why did they leave that affair out? I want to write and ask the author why.
Translation: Change the subject if the interviewer brings up a sour topic.

Maybe some older people are only interested in themselves. That's why they only talk about themselves.
It's easy to drift into the past. You want people to know what your life was like in the past. I wish I had asked my parents many things about their lives that I will now never know.

I'm interested in Whitney's new job. What she's doing at work. I don't tell her this, but she has so many more opportunities than I did. I mean a young woman in my day could have had opportunities, been a doctor or something, but only if she were really bold. I could have had more opportunities if I had been bolder.
Translation: If you expect people to learn about you, you need to learn about them. Be bold and don't make excuses.

Why do you think some people, older or young, wallow endlessly in their problems?
I'm much more interested in current events. You know all this Jamestown business. It's the 400th anniversary of Jamestown. Lots of things previously published, turns out, are not true. Why did it take 400 years for someone to figure this out?
Translation: Drama Queens hellbent on bitching are boring and too cheap to pay a therapist. Analyzing these narcissistic whiners is a big pit of pointlessness.
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