Time spent with people that does not also include conversation is not really time spent with people.
I didn’t know this was a weird perspective to have until moving to the Grand Rapids area and spending most of my time with friends instead of family.
Behold this picture from an Open Dorm night during my Junior year of college. This, my friends, is a party. It’s a party because more than three people who enjoy each other’s company are gathered to talk, and because there’s food, even if it’s only an apple.
During the growing-up years at home, I attended cookouts and reunions and birthday parties and holiday celebrations. The two things that made these gatherings fun was 1) the food, and 2) the conversation.
Conversation. Sitting around and talking. Catching up (even if it’d only been a couple days, or only thirty minutes). Discussing people and politics and current events. Arguing, not to fight, but to attempt to change a person’s mind, or better understand why you think the way you do. Sharing memories, stories, thoughts, opinions.
During my college years, “fun” was people coming over to your room to hang out and talk. A good time was sitting in the cafeteria for hours, eating and talking with your table-mates. I didn’t make friends with the students who did things with me. I made friends with the students who talked to me, who seemed to enjoy talking to me, who I enjoyed talking to, and who kept on talking to me.
When I visit my best friend, we . . . talk. Like, I’ll go to her house at 10 in the morning and leave at 4 in the afternoon and during those six hours we’ll have not ceased talking, nor will we have anywhere near finished talking. When I visit the Farm, and my parents, and my sisters, we sit and talk. When I visit my mother-in-law, we talk. When I visit Dallas, to see my friend-who-moved-away-and-it’s-fine-I’m-fine-people-can-move-away-I’ll-live, we talk, and we talk with her family, and that’s just the best thing, the funnest thing. (Also, have you seen Dallas? It’s gorgeous down there.)
The Random-Boy charmed his way into my life by – take a guess – talking to me. Asking me questions. Caring about my opinion. Sharing things he thought were funny or interesting and expecting me to do the same. I loved that. I eventually began to love him.
Anyway, it’s kind of taken me a while to understand that when people use words like, “party,” “hang-out,” “fun,” or “visit,” I immediately picture “sitting around+talking+maybe food” and get really excited without realizing that this is my expectation.
Turns out that sitting around and talking isn’t really fun for a lot of people. Like, they would rather do something else. Often it’s “play a game.” This is so weird to me. Like, why would you interrupt the conversation? Isn’t conversation the point?
Apparently not, as the Husband and I have discussed:
The Husband (baffled but trying to understand): “How is watching a movie with someone or playing a game with someone not spending time with them? You’re together! You’re doing something together!”
Me (struggling to explain something that has never needed to be explained before): “But you’re not talking to each other – it doesn’t count.”
The Husband (now mildly offended): “It doesn’t count?”
Me: “If you’re playing cards or whatever it’s just something to do with your hands while you talk. But if you’re playing one of those long, involved board games you can’t talk because it’s too complicated or you’re pretending to be someone else. A character. You’re spending time with my made-up character, not me.”
The Husband: “But it’s still you. People are spending time with you.”
Me: “Kind of? But not really.”
The Husband (sighing): “I think your family is just different.”
Me: “But it’s not just my family. It’s my mom’s side and my father’s side and my parents’ old friends and the best friends I made at school and their families and your family too. Don’t even start with this ‘your family is different.'”
The Husband: “What if we got you some drinking buddies?”
Me: *storms off to talk to my cat*
I wonder if this is one of the reasons my family members have mostly remained friends with other family members. When we go looking for people who like to converse as much as we like to converse, we end up back with each other.