How to Succeed at Comps Without Really Trying, Week 2

One week into comps and I’ve given up on pants. Apparently, if I’m going to hack my way through this jungle of words, I’m going to do it in basketball shorts. I don’t see any reason to wear anything else. I can do all my required activities in them: read, sleep, run. My reading schedule by and large keeps me clear of any social event that might require something with a belt. So far I’ve managed to put a shirt on each day, but this practice may to go by the wayside.

Classes, finals, my papers, my students papers all seem like they are part of another world, a world in which I had things to do other than stay awake and flip pages. Because of this, I feel my social skills atrophying at an alarming rate. I’m a social person. I often joke that a person’s abilities to write are closely tied to their ability to bullshit. I love to shoot the shit, sling lies, crack wise, make dubious statements just to see if I can make ‘em stand up in an argument. But all this reading numbs my brain so that I have the wit and social grace of a dying slug.

For instance, my sister had a birthday bbq a few days ago. I like her friends, mostly in the medical field or businessmen and women, but I don’t especially know them. These are, by definition, the people which you are required to bullshit. But that evening my conversations were all a distorted version of this one:

Sister’s Blond Friend: How are you?

Me: Good. You?

SBF: Good. What have you been doing?

Me: Comps.

SBF: (stares blankly.)

Me: Reading my ass off.

SBF: (searches over my shoulder.)

Me: Read some Blake Butler today. It was awesome.

SBF: (finishes drink) I need a refill.

The little, day-to-day things that fill our lives (getting a flat, staying at work late, finding $20 bucks in a shoe, seeing an ex at a restaurant, wandering into the wonder that is the outdoors) are the very bits of ammo that we fire off when making small talk while sucking beer at a barbecue. The exquisite bullshitters are the ones who are able to spin these pieces of info in an interesting/amusing/charming/flirtatious/unexpected way. So unless I’m talking with someone about the intricacies of Elisabeth Sheffield’s Gone (fantastic), I’m shit out of luck. And considering the reading habits of the public at large, I’m not hopeful that this situation will present itself anytime soon (unless I’m talking to my classmates, but considering they’re in the same mental state I’m in, the conversation isn’t going to be grand anyway).

Thus, I’ve developed two strategies to compensate with my lack of everyday actions:

Strategy 1: Really make the few things I’ve been doing besides reading seem epic in scope. Everyone’s been getting an earful of my grocery shopping excursions (the sale price of peanut butter, the old lady who parked her cart so I couldn’t get at the taco seasoning, the length of the checkout line) and ultimate frisbee experiences (I have discovered in myself the ability to give complete play-by-plays of entire games).

Strategy 2: Flat out make things up (Climbed Mount Elbert today, yeah, it was pretty bad ass).

If I get really desperate to keep a conversation from trickling into silence I’ll resort to peppering my companion with questions. I don’t mean polite, soft-pitch questions, but aggressive, in your face, Barbara-Walters-fuck-yeah kind of questions (What’d you do last night? Where’d you go? Was it a date? What was his name? He has slicked-back hair doesn’t he? Did you guys practice making babies? At your place?  His place?  The car? What’s he drive? Was it good? Hypothetically, was it good? You going to have his babies? Are you guys a thing? Why not? Who said his mother mattered anyway? How would you like it if she disappeared? What do you mean you need another drink? Is that a lie?).

Thankfully most people really like to talk about themselves.

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