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I don’t have a lot of tolerance for small talk. I can do it. In fact, pretty well. I once had a 22 minute conversation about throw pillows. I really don’t know anything about throw pillows.

But small talk can leave me feeling empty. I want to feel a connection. I want to know more about people.

In the last few years since we left New York City, I have met many new mom friends. Just using the term “mom friends” makes me feel like I’m in a TV commercial trying to sell you my spring fresh laundry detergent. But I’m truly grateful for these friends because I had some very lonely months when I first arrived in town.

But I often find myself longing for more depth in these relationships. What did these moms do professionally before they stood on the playground waiting for their first grader to come out of school? What do they dream about when they aren’t wrestling their toddler into a down jacket. (The hat and mittens? Ugh. Not even worth the effort.)ย  Are they happy? Did they marry the right person? Do they have a moment they wish they could live over? Are they close to their parents? I want to know their story.

I blog. So for those who read it, my life is on display. Somewhat. But most moms I meet don’t have blogs (And you thought EVERYONE had a blog) so how am I supposed to know them?

I realize it’s not always possible to have deep, involved conversations. Kids interrupt, play dates are waiting and sometimes all we really want to do is complain about the weather and go home. (Ok, it’s been a MILD winter. I’m still sick of it. So there.) But it is so nice when conversations are less superficial and you feel like you are truly getting to know someone.

I was recently talking to a mom from one of my daughter’s classes and she was discussing her role as a step-mom and some of the challenges. I was fascinated. The discussion had meaning. I need more of that.

I guess this is why the death of Jeffrey Zaslow effected me so much. He is a writer and father of three daughters who wasn’t even on my radar screen. But my husband sent me a link to a story about his death in a car accident and I just couldn’t stop reading about this guy.

He is a well known writer, co-authoring books with the former Congresswoman and gun shot victim Gabrielle Giffords, Chesley B. Sullenberger III, the pilot who landed an airplane on the Hudson River and professor Randy Pausch, who delivered the famous “Last Lecture” when he was dying of cancer.

Zaslow was also a columnist for the Wall Street Journal and was so talented at writing about people and the things that mattered. Like when his daughter’s date to the homecoming dance ended up not taking her at all, Zaslow wrote about it. In the Wall Street Journal. Think that kid regretted not taking her to the dance?

But the article was about the importance of raising our sons well and teaching our daughters to settle for nothing less than what they deserve.

As I read through some of Zaslow’s columns, I felt like I truly knew the people he was writing about. I felt like I knew him. I was so touched by his realness.

And I guess, ultimately that’s what I want from my life and my friendships.

Less throw pillows. More realness.

45 Responses to when friendships get real

  • I’m wondering if the Internet (and blogging in particular) has raised the bar on what we expect to be able to talk about with people?

    But I have found that if I share something personal or at least not superficial (in real life), that encourages the other person to do the same.

  • Jenn says:

    Skatlam (can’t even convert that from Afrikaans into anything remotely English!) what would you do without throw pillows?!?

    That aside – I’m right there with you. I’m a totally open book, which is probably to my detriment, but I think it’s because I am the WORST at taking a hint – don’t imply something with me – come out with it, so I pretty much treat my blog and my friends the same way – I say what I feel (Unless it’s about The Ex (his)) because how the heck are you going to know what I MEAN if I don’t tell you? Or how are we to become friends in anyway if you have no clue ‘who’ you’re talking to… EG: All I know about throw pillows is that they land up THROWN on the floor by teenagers (which is probably where they got their name from).

  • with my longest-time friends (I can no longer use the term “old friends” because we all are. old.) – with them, our conversations can go from throw pillows to throw up (babies, drunken evenings) to throw down (husbands, partners, bitches in the PTA), to shoes, wallpaper, books, sex, recipes (and recipes for better sex). It’s the ease of it, and the awareness that we’re all comprised of various bits – the idiotic home decor bits, the deep & soulful bits, the bits that covet ridiculous shoes. Deep friendships allow it all to happen organically. Blogs allow us in to one another’s lives, but in a more measured and controlled way that happens in real life. Blogs keep me from being miserable in the middle of the night when I can’t call actual people – but actual people are what keep me going most of the time. This post is quite wonderful. I bet you are a good friend.

  • Marinka says:

    I so agree with you about small talk. Life is so fleeting and we waste so much of it with filler instead of genuine connections.

    I’m forever grateful to the blogging community for giving me real conversation.

    Thank you for this perspective.

  • Michelle says:

    I know what you mean. I remember feeling pretty isolated and empty during those in-between moments when I had time to think. There weren’t a lot of them. But now? Now that my kiddos have flown the nest (and are having children of their own squee!), I have a lot more moments where I wish I could have a discussion deeper than “what would you like for dinner?” I get some of my satisfaction by participating in an on-line debate board (with stepparents and bioparents, ironically). It’s hard to meet people, it’s hard to maintain those relationships, and it’s hard to find the time to just sit and talk when you do have them. No answers, but I can commiserate at least.

  • Meredith says:

    Thank you so much for sharing all of this. I just started reading some of his articles, and having a daughter of my own, it all resonates.

  • Lanie says:

    Perfect timing Kelc, I was just gearing myself up for a weekend of small talk. After certain things have happened in my life small talk is so excruciating at times. Thank you so much for your very real friendship. Beautiful post. xoxo

  • MN Mama says:

    I read his wonderful book The Girls from Ames. It is a wonderful true story about women and the amazing friendships they share. I highly recommend. Keep writing Kelcey! I appreciate you.

  • annie says:

    Thank you for this post and the links. I struggle with this a lot because people usually give me a “How ARE you” combined with the “OMG are you dying yet?” look. Even tho I blog a lot about my cancer, it’s not something I want to talk about everytime I see people. And yes, throw pillow talk just doesn’t cut it. Which does not mean I’m having sex with these people on the couch.

  • Wendi says:

    Wonderful post, Kelcey.

    Although I have to say, I’ve often had conversations with other moms and have been amazed by how much they tell me about their life and feelings without really knowing me. Maybe it’s easier with a stranger? Or they’re lonely? Or I have a trusting face? I don’t know, but it happens quite often.

  • What is in the air?!?! I totally get this. I am new to blogging but I am already shocked that I can find more of a connection with a writer living in CO than I can with any of the moms at my son’s preschool.

    I need more of that “realness” too. Doesn’t everybody? So why is it so hard to find?

    I am thankful for the tiny glimmer of real connection I see so far through blogging.

    Great post.

  • Jackie says:

    oh man, you made me feel stupid for my post yesturday. I’m writng about missing my son today. I haven’t had time to finsh it but will. Sorry for the beding post.


    • Kelcey says:

      No, no, no. There is nothing wrong with writing about bedding! I’ve actually written about bedding! And didn’t I write about my kid dunking his head in a fountain just a few days ago?! Not everything needs to be serious and deep. I love lighthearted too. I just want to know about your bedding AND how you miss your son.

        • Jackie says:

          BTW I wasn’t offended by this post. It was just thought pravocing is all. I’m sure that is what most peoples comments are about. After my dad passed it took a while before I could write about it. Heck it took a while to even want to write again. But, I’m slowly getting back into it.

  • I’ve been lucky to make few close friends in my neighborhood – one in particular who is by far one of the most entertaining and outspoken people I know (which i would never have guessed when we were in the small talk phase). I can do small talk too, but it took me YEARS how to learn and it still bores me to tears. I say invite the stepmother over for an afternoon play date and open a bottle of wine. She sounded promising.

  • Issa says:

    I love this post so much. This is why I blog. This is why I keep doing this, even when it hurts to be so honest. Because I long for the realness. It’s something I am seriously lacking in my real life.

  • Ann says:

    My tolerance for playground small talk has nearly vanished. I’d rather be quiet than debate tire tread mulch vs. woodchips.

  • Annie says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. There is a lot of surface talk and sometimes it is hard to get below the skin. It is sad to think that Zaslow, a man I just discovered, is gone…leaving a family to mourn his love, insights, and maybe even a chance to one day walk his beautiful daughters down the aisle. Thanks for a terrific post. May we all move pass the pillows!

  • Kerri says:

    Wonderful post Kelcey! The world has lost another good person. However, he & his wife shared in raising their children so they too will, in their own way, carry a part of him with them.

  • Kelly S. says:

    Your post today really resonates with me. Zaslow’s writing will be missed, for sure. I just pulled one of his quotes to remind me of what’s important … thanks for this paying forward to all of us today.

  • Kara says:

    I feel you. My newer friendships are throw pillow friendships. Nothing deeper than kids struggles and milestones, with the occasional husband irritation thrown in. Somewhat empty friendships. As if motherhood wasn’t lonely enough sometimes. It starts so early at the mommy and me classes where you don’t even have real names, only “K’s mom.” I just keep hoping the next stage with provide deeper conversations and deeper connections.

  • Carol says:

    Thank you for this post. I appreciate you and always look forward to reading your blog. Small talk makes me tired. I would rather be home reading a book. I mean, small talk for a couple of minutes is ok but don’t we all yearn for that kind of connection where we can enjoy real conversation, sharing, exposure to different ideas and viewpoints? I would love to have just 3 friends that after a good “visit” with them I would feel full and satisfied and content…like after a wonderful meal. A conversation that included humor but also something more sometimes. After retiring I found myself in a pretty isolated world with no one to have a real conversation with, outside of my family, and that is partly why I blog.

  • Maura says:

    Great post. Very thought provoking.

    Also, thanks for linking to the articles… With a deep sigh, I’m going to go hug my twins. My goodness, life is so short.

  • Angela says:

    Hi, delurking to comment. Great post! I had this conversation with a friend this week. Life is too short for just throw pillow talk. I have a small group of friends, who I don’t get to connect with very often but our talks are meaningful and honest. Am so grateful for them rather than the shallow talks with acquaintances. In this day and age it’s so hard to find people you truly connect with and can trust. Thank you very much for the links, so very sad he’s gone, what a wonderful writer.

  • Dorothy says:

    Also de-lurking to comment. I completely agree with you. Basically I hate small talk. “How are you?” “Fine.” But if you dare to answer differently the person is off, gone, not listening. So why did you ask if you don’t really want to know????
    As a child I was very quiet (mostly still am). My mom would ask me why I wasn’t talking? Umm, nothing to say? If I had nothing of value to contribute, I was quiet. Have always been that way because small talk is painful to me lol. Never have mastered that in over 50 years.

    So I tend to overshare or not at all. Come talk to me Kelsey, we can do as much deep talking, connecting you can handle!

    The “friends” I made as a young mom never lasted when the kids grew up, the coworkers never lasted when the job changed, the “close” friend I had stopped staying in touch after we moved away, so I hear you. Blessed are those who find another who shares their heart and soul with them, a person who is real and sticks around to deepen the friendship. I have only two of those in my life, the rest are my blogger friends who, like me, overshare!!

    Thanks for this thoughtful post,
    Hugs to you Kelcey,
    and I mean it.

  • Mary says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Thanks for bringing this up. I honestly think most people long for deeper connections and more meaningful conversations. Sometimes people worry they will put people off if they share too much or reveal too much. But I’ve always believed that when we share our vulnerabilities it only brings us closer. I tend to ask people a lot of questions to get things going. Sometimes it really works and sometimes people think I’m just being nosey. But hey, when it works it’s so much more enriching than superficial talk. Don’t get me wrong – I can do small talk too. Sometimes that can be a great warm-up. Thanks again.

  • Sometimes I want to come to the park with a sheet that says:

    Son’s Name= Gus
    Gus’s Age= 3
    Total Number of kids = 0
    Preschool Attendance = Yes
    Potty trained = Yes
    Work= work from home

    I’d just hand it out and then say, “Can we please talk about something else?”

    “The child psychologist who thought she had all the answers to parenting until she became one herself”…www.themommypsychologist.com

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kelcey kintner