Even as a little girl, long before a wider world I knew, something was not quite right with me.

I recall large family gatherings, the ones where endless amounts of feeling-stuffing food was passed around freely, yet not a single word of meaningful conversation ever went alongside. “Mmm. This sure is good,” was about the extent of any verbal exchange. No matter how tasty the food was, the emotional emptiness left me longing for more. My young and yearning heart wondered what was the point of this full-blown charade. Why bother? I wanted satisfying food. I wanted to stand up and scream, “is anyone having a real thought or feeling? Am I the only one that wants more here?” But, I never did. I was too cowardly. Or too well-trained. So, I learned to swallow my unhappy feelings and my desire for deeper connection along with the green beans, mashed potatoes and pecan pie.  

When I left home and wandered north, I discovered that superficiality is not just a southern quality. I had a former in-law who, I swear, epitomized the phrase “psychotic chatter.” That woman could talk incessantly about everything while talking about absolutely nothing that would lead to emotional connection between herself and another person. She never even looked up to see if you were paying attention. Let’s just say, I did a lot of knitting during those years.

Ironically, as I grew to appreciate my need for in-depth contact and learned the skills to engage in such, I have grown more tolerant of the value of small talk. It can start conversations and build rapport. But, at least for me, it will only ever be an appetizer.

Tantalize my taste buds but bring me home to some substance. Something I can put a fork in and it will stick to my bones. Don’t leave me with talk of the weather and the latest office gossip. I want to know what stirs your heart. What you have lost. What you dream about. What keeps you up at night and what gets you up in the morning. Take me to those places and then we can truly dine over a real meal. Together.

Yes, that. Pass me that, please, even on a flimsy paper plate and I will be dining like a true queen.