Does this resonate? You are out (obviously this is a very rare occurrence) and some well-meaning soul (who clearly possesses little talent for conversation) asks you, ‘So, how’s work going?’ And your heart sinks. Yet, somehow, at the same time as sinking, it starts to pound with panic. Because you don’t want to TALK about work. Because if you TALK about work then it means you have to THINK about work and you need to not THINK about work tonight because it’s too stressful and simultaneously boring which is a deadly combination. You’ve switched off. Can they not SEE that you are switched off? But also you feel you have nothing to say and you are not successful enough and also how work is going is kind of private, in a weird way. So you just mumble, ‘Fine. Trundling along’ and then feel weird for the rest of the evening or the rest of your life.
Other people (are they the normal ones?) are able to answer this question in full with serenity and aplomb. This is because they are always on. And the disturbing thing about these fully-functioning humanoids is that they are not ‘on’ in that familiarly deranged, manic, heading-for-a-catastrophic-nervous-breakdown way that we know so well. They are just healthily engaged, able to respond to weekend or night-time emails in a professional, detached manner without feeling immediately triggered and spiralling borderline out of control.
These ‘always on’ types do not operate on a basis of frenzy or collapse whereby they are either entirely focussed or infuriated by the idea that anyone would dare to ask them to think when they just want to have a few drinks and talk about First Dates Hotel or – at a push – Succession.
Anyway, to insure against this, perhaps the best thing to do is to announce, at the start of the evening/holiday/relationship that the only proof of excellent conversation is when no one asks about work. That way it can organically come up if it’s meant to but no one gets pinned to the wall when all they need is to switch the hell off.