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So tell me about you?

So there we were, old friends, sitting and talking about nothing as old friends do. Because that’s the glue, you know. The nothing. Not the crises and the break-ups and the redundancies and the infidelities and the arguments and the dilemmas and the dramas. It’s the nothings that make the friendship, punctuated by the somethings. And not, as ambulance chasers would have you believe, the other way around.

So there we were when suddenly this old, old, dear, dear friend drew herself up to her full height, and said, “So tell me about you?” And I was low level horrified. First off all, it’s the kind of grim ‘reach out’ Americanism that entirely shuts me down but also, how to answer a question that should only exist in a rather gauche job interview situation?

And, to my slight shame, I didn’t attempt an answer. I was so floored I just said, “That’s a terrible question.” Thus shaming her and compromising the easy joy of the nothing chat in one fell, faintly aggressive swoop.

But we need to be careful of this stuff. ‘So tell me about you?’ is not conversation. It is not connection. It is not laughter or love. It’s a lazy kind of investigation. It incites a kind of mannered transmission rather than the kind of natural chat that strengthens a bond. ‘So tell me about you?’ will not unveil truth. It paralyses. It formalises. It only serves to get in the way. And there is so very much getting in the way of connection these days that we must be vigilant. Talk. Don’t present. If even friendship becomes corporately homogenised then where does that leave us? Alone. And don’t you feel alone enough?

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