I wish people would ask each other original, thought-provoking questions when they first meet, such as, "Do you think a pterodactyl would win in a fight with an eagle?" or "Do you have a survival strategy in case of a zombie apocalypse?" But no. Small talk consists of repeating the same dull questions with everyone you meet.
Apparently, when someone sees a girl who appears to be between the ages of 18 and 42, the first thing they ask is, "Are you in school?" I used to naively long for the day when I could proudly announce, "I graduated!" But the conversation that follows is even worse now. I immediately get a sympathetic look that roughly translates as, Oh, and you're still working as a cashier. Probably wondering what horrible decision I made to bring such a fate upon myself, they now ask, "What did you major in?"
I resist the urge to crawl underneath the sales counter, unfold one of the largest paper bags, and shove it over my face, before finally answering, "crtv wrtng," hoping that if I say it really fast they won't realize I said "creative writing" and will instead assume I said "nuclear engineering" or "theoretical physics."
But they do understand my garbled response, and now a look of dawning comprehension crosses their face.
"And what do you plan to do with that?" they asked smugly, the same way you might catch a thirteen-year-old sneaking into an R-rated movie and say, "And where do you think you're going?"
I've tried every possible response to this question. I've tried telling the truth and saying I write a blog. They never know what a blog is, and when I try to explain the crude collection of sentences and occasionally-disturbing drawings that is this blog, their eyes just fill with even more pity. I've tried saying I'm working on a novel, assuming "novel" is a more palatable word than "blog," but then they ask, "What's it about?" and I'm stuck trying to explain the definition of "dystopia" to a middle-aged man who has never heard of Ray Bradbury.
It doesn't matter what I say. They aren't asking the question because they want an honest answer; the question is their way of saying, "I disapprove of your life choices and you should regret them." Nothing I can ever say will satisfy them. Except maybe this.
Then there are the people who assume that because I studied literature in college (creative writing was a concentration within the literature major), I can identify, from memory, every poem ever written. They start rattling off some obscure poem that made an impression upon them during the one literature class they took their freshman year of college, as though the fact that they know a few lines from this one poem will make me exclaim, "Finally, someone I can talk to! All these years, I've been waiting for a genius such as yourself to show up and quote some Keats to me!"
As much as I hate small talk, some of the worst questions come from people I actually know. My close friends and family know I hate being asked how my writing is going, but plenty of well-meaning acquaintances innocently believe I'll feel special and appreciated if they ask, "How's your book going?" or more sadistically, "Is your book finished yet?" That's all fine, until they act completely shocked to discover I still haven't finished writing my entire novel in the three weeks since we last spoke.
Some people go so far as to ask if they can read my unfinished manuscript. That would be like me showing you guys a bunch of half-finished drawings and swearing they'll make sense eventually.
Actually, trying to read someone's unfinished manuscript would be even worse than that, because that was surprisingly fun.
This is why I want to spend the rest of my days in a blanket fort drawing cartoons and writing about how much I hate people.