I thought there would be a word for this but I put it into urban dictionary, and couldn’t find anything.
I hope to invent one during this blog.
If you’ve ever watched Bridget Jones you’ll remember that toe curling moment when she joins the group of posh wankers chatting about current affairs and ‘important things’, and has no idea what the fuck they are talking about. Well, you and me both Bridge: “Does anyone know where the toilets are?”
It is so often, especially at Uni that I feel so utterly clueless during a conversation, that I can’t even listen to the conversation to attempt engagement as I’m racking my brain for any excuse as to why I can’t respond/have to leave/oh my god I’m going to have to just pass out if anyone looks at me or god forbid asks me: “What do you think?”
I’m doing a module at Uni called ‘A History of Resistance in the Modern Middle East’. I often feel this as a middle class white woman, that no matter how much I read about anything I’ll never really get it, and it will always be tainted by my innate privilege. I dread even opening my mouth in case I say something wrong, or stupid, or ignorant. The trouble is, I then don’t learn anything because I really do spend the entire time playing up to the cliché of my hair colour.
Most of the people that I hang around with at Uni or even in the pub are extremely well read, or if they’re not well read, then they’re extremely opinionated about what they think they know. I, like many politicians, can blag it to a certain extent but after a while I’m scraping the barrel for quotes I’ve picked up from documentaries or the person that I was speaking to just before them, cue THE TOILET. It’s so horrible feeling inadequate in conversation and it almost always leaves me feeling pretty rubbish about myself and the extent of my intelligence. (Except when someone has been arrogant, because then I just feel sorry for them.)
So, this is what I would like to do when I’m next in this situation, rather than asking where the loo is or contemplating a fake faint.
Well read, intelligent person says: “Oh G, Did you hear, blah, blah, blah, big word, laugh, big word, blah, blah, on the news, blah, blah, I read somewhere, blah, laugh, what do you think?”
I say: “God, do you mind if I ask what the hell you’re talking about Michael? Because actually I didn’t see that on the news, and I haven’t read about that, but I would love for you to tell me about it because it sounds really interesting!”
I’ve noted that this sounds so insincere, but that’s what we should be saying. I’ll never learn if I don’t ask questions, I’ll never form an opinion if I spend the entire time wishing something would fall from the sky, on to their head so that the conversation would stop. Also, I always find that if you’re speaking to the right people, and you do say something politically incorrect, they politely correct you, or tell you why it’s wrong. I often just laugh and brush it under the carpet if someone says something misogynistic for example. But I now want to stop, open the dialogue, and really politely ask why they think that what they said was funny. They’ll probably reply with “oh god lighten up” or “take a joke” or “God, you can’t say anything anymore”. But that’s totally fine, because once the joke has gone down like a lead balloon once, twice, maybe three times, hopefully they won’t use it again.
Jokes are also my go to armour for conversation inadequacy (can this make it onto urban dictionary? too formal? maybe? I kind of like it!) I just brush off the fact that I have no idea what to say by making a joke. But then you have the group of people, where all they do is make jokes and you’re left behind, circa me trying to run cross country in year 7 (I was so overweight.) Then by the time you do think of something kind of funny, you deliver it with pride and NOBODY LAUGHS, even though Dave made a shit joke earlier and everyone pissed themselves!
To this I think I would like to just take the back seat, relax, let someone else drive. And if everyone thinks that I’ve got no bant, because I didn’t pipe up with a funny, then that’s ok. Because I know, deep down, I’ve got all the bants, for when I can get a word in edgeways and the pace is a little slower.
Nobody ever should be made to feel inadequate in conversation. Those with greater knowledge on certain subjects (because there will be some that you know far more than them on, e.g what Kim Kardashian had for lunch?) should be so excited to speak to someone that wants to learn and listen to them like they’re God for a whole five minutes. Being honest in not understanding is so much easier than pretending to faint or saying something stupid because you’re acting like you know what’s going on. It also opens up a dialogue that will inevitably irradiate ignorance, because no longer will anyone duck out of a sticky situation by asking where the toilet is.
What Bridge should have replied was: “I don’t really have an opinion, as I don’t know much about it, would you enlighten me?”
Trade Mark: Conversation inadequacy.