Category Archives: Life

Don’t Let Small Talk Kill Us

I had a busy social calendar in February. I went out to bars and coffeeshops every weekend, where I chatted and flirted with both friends and strangers. I kind of miss those days.

Nor surprisingly, COVID-19 was rarely mentioned in these conversations. 

Americans are notorious for shying away from unpleasant topics in conversations. As the saying goes, “never talk about politics, religion and death.”

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Vox’s David Roberts, notes how “small talk” in conversations between strangers or at social events serves a purpose of social bonding, rather than conveying information. Thus, small topic focuses on “topics of reliable comity, and stresses fellow feeling rather than sources of disagreement.”

However, as my past life experience shows, keeping our conversations light and cushy prevents us from confronting issues of grave importance.  

Imagine if we had talked about COVID-19 at the bar. We might have thought about social distancing earlier or even demanded answers from officials hesitant to tell the truth. 

Source: Wallpaper Flare

In the long run, Climate change poses an even greater threat to our existence, but is still considered too awkward and “nerdy” for the cocktail party

By neglecting such topics of social importance, we fail our civic duty as citizens of a democracy to stay informed on the issues we vote on. 

Some might argue that you can only have a good conversation with a person who is knowledgeable of the subject at hand. Yet, conversations about the weather are a core part of small talk, and we aren’t all meteorologists…

This is not to degrade small talk’s role in facilitating social bonding. A certain exchange of niceties at the beginning of a conversation is psychologically needed to initiate contact. This opening small talk should be differentiated from the dominance of superficial yet agreeable topics in many conversations. 

Indeed, American small talk’s aversion to uncomfortable topics discourages people from opening up about their personal troubles or struggles. By foregoing topics that make them vulnerable, participants in a conversation lose an opportunity to establish a deep connection. By pushing discomfort, pain and anguish under the rug, conversational norms further a harmful stigmatization of mental health. 

Having struggled with Obssessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Asperger’s traits for much of my life, I can vouch for the last point being far from trivial. 

Much of the pain and depression I have experienced in my adult life might have been assuaged if I felt more comfortable sharing my feelings with others.


In the current crisis, let’s resist the urge to deflect conversations and shame “negativity” or geekiness. 

Source: Flickr

Let’s give ourselves (and others) space to share and listen, to love and to learn.

And to support.  

Source: PickPik

Why is Flirting a Man’s Job?

February 15 brings a sigh of relief:) For singles of all genders, Valentine’s Day can be a cause for anxiety. 

Source: Times of India

Since I have borderline Asperger’s symptoms and tend to miss indirect and non-verbal cues, the pressure I feel to flirt in February can jitter my nerves. I have a feeling that many other men feel the same.

Source: Reddit. 

Why is it that, in the era of #metoo, straight guys are expected to pursue girls and not the other way around? 

Evolutionary psychologists would argue that it is “natural” for a woman to choose the partner because she’ll end up having to carry his baby for nine months.  

And yet, being the smart apes we are, our personality and “character” traits likely have as much to do with social conditioning as with evolutionary hard-wiring. 

Source: Imgflip Meme Generator

Indeed, a study conducted ten years ago found that when women were given the initiative to approach men as part of a speed dating experiment, they were as assertive as men who were told to approach women.

I can’t speak for the experience of women, so I won’t attempt any answers. The speed dating experiment article noted that the large size of women’s accessories makes it harder for women to be mobile at speed dating events. I wonder what role slut-shaming (by stigmatizing female sexual expression) and women’s safety concerns (e.g. the risk of being a victim of assault/ harassment) play?

Regardless, I think there are some major problems (based on my experience talking with other guys about the subject) with the expectation that men should initiate relationships.

It makes flirting and courting stressful for guys like myself, who fall on the spectrum or have other issues that impede social interaction. Male mental health is an often overlooked subject: The role flirting plays in this should be taken seriously.

I also feel that it reinforces some toxic male behaviors.

Source: FairyGodBoss

The belief that men’s “success” in dating depends on how strongly they pursue a partner can lead men to coerce women into sex.

The pressure for men to be witty and interesting when flirting encourages patronizing displays of expertise (i.e. “man-splaining”). 

In a recent study of sexuality in young men, Psychologist Peggy Orenstein expressed shock at finding that  “It was still all about stoicism, sexual conquest, dominance, aggression…. athleticism, (and) wealth.” All of these characteristics are–to one degree or another–seen as enhancing men’s ability to “win over” attractive women. 

Readers, do you agree with my perspective?

What has your experience with flirting as a cis/trans guy/girl been like?

Leave a comment below!